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Tryphena Sparks (20 March 1851 - 17 March 1890), born in Puddletown, Dorset, the youngest child of James and Maria Sparks, was Thomas Hardy's cousin and possible lover, when she was 16 and he was 26. Hardy's mother suggested that Tryphena was not actually his cousin but his niece and he was thus prevented from marrying her. There are also suggestions that she had Hardy's child, a son called Randolph. The relationship ended when Hardy became engaged to Emma Gifford.
Sparks was the inspiration for Hardy's poem Thoughts of Phena at News of Her Death in which Hardy describes her as his "lost prize". She may also have inspired Hardy's story that later became Far from the Madding Crowd. Other Hardy poems have been connected to Sparks, including At Rushy Pond, A Spot, The Wind's Prophecy, To an Orphan Child. The character of Sue Bridehead in Hardy's book Jude The Obscure is also thought to have been based on Sparks.
Sparks is the subject of a number of books by author Lois Deacon, Tryphena, Thomas Hardy and Hardy's Sweetest Image and Providence and Mr Hardy published in 1966.
Sparks became headmistress of Plymouth Day School in 1872. In 1873 she met Charles Frederick Gale, a publican from Topsham, Devon and they were married on 15 December 1877 at Plymouth. She was known in Topsham for the charitable work she did for the local fishermen. She had four children: Eleanor, Charles, George and Herbert. She died from a rupture caused by childbirth and is buried in Topsham, Devon. Hardy and his brother Henry visited her grave, leaving a note saying "In loving memory -Tom Hardy".
- Kalmanson Lauren (1996). Jude the Obscure (MAXNotes Literature Guides). Research & Education Association. p. 5. ISBN 978-0878910250.
- "Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited - Michael Millgate - Google Books". books.google.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
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- Deacon Lois (1966). Providence & Mr. Hardy. Hutchinson.
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- Harvey Geoffrey (2003). Thomas Hardy (Complete Critical Guide to English Literature). Routledge. p. 37. ISBN 978-0415234917.
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- "Rare Books and Maps - Lois Deacon Collection - Library - University of Exeter". as.exeter.ac.uk. 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Simkin, John (2015). "Tryphena Sparks". spartacus-educational.com. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Exeter Memories - Drakes in Topsham". exetermemories.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Cornforth, David. "Drakes in Topsham". Exeter Memories. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "ThomasHardy - thomashardy.pdf" (PDF). pdf.js. 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
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