Tryphena Sparks

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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.[1][2] Hardy's mother suggested that Tryphena was not actually his cousin but his niece and he was thus prevented from marrying her.[3] There are also suggestions that she had Hardy's child, a son called Randolph.[4][5][6] The relationship ended when Hardy became engaged to Emma Gifford. She is considered by John Fowles an "important figure in both his emotional and imaginative life"[7] and author Nicholas Hillyard considers that the affair is important in relation to Hardy's start as a novelist and poet.[8]

Sparks was the inspiration for Hardy's poem Thoughts of Phena at News of Her Death[9] in which Hardy describes her as his "lost prize".[10] She may also have inspired Hardy's story that later became Far from the Madding Crowd.[11] Other Hardy poems have been connected to Sparks, including In A Eweleaze Near Weatherbury,[12] At Rushy Pond, A Spot, The Wind's Prophecy, To an Orphan Child,[13] and To a Motherless Child, which is addressed to Tryphena's daughter whom he had met when visiting Topsham.[14] The character of Sue Bridehead in Hardy's book Jude The Obscure is also thought to have been based on Sparks[15][16][17] and in the book's preface Hardy says that the circumstances of the novel had been suggested by the death of a woman in 1890.

Sparks is the subject of ten separate 1960s publications[18] by author Lois Deacon including Tryphena, Thomas Hardy and Hardy's Sweetest Image and Providence and Mr Hardy published in 1966.[19]

Having attended Stockwell Training College from 1870 to 1871,[20] 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.[21][22] She was known in Topsham for the charitable work she did for the local fishermen.[22] 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".[23]


  1. ^ Kalmanson Lauren (1996). Jude the Obscure (MAXNotes Literature Guides). Research & Education Association. p. 5. ISBN 978-0878910250. 
  2. ^ "Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited - Michael Millgate - Google Books". 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Universidad Complutense de Madrid (2014). "119-2014-02-19-Thomas Hardy.pdf" (PDF). pdf.js. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Lost Prize Randy". 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Hardy and the Rasa Theory - Rama Kant Sharma - Google Books". 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Deacon Lois (1966). Providence & Mr. Hardy. Hutchinson. 
  7. ^ Fowles John and Draper Jo (1984). Thomas Hardy's England. Jonathon Cape. p. 83. 
  8. ^ Hillyard Nicholas (2014). About Tryphena: Hardy and His Young Cousin. FastPrint Publishing. ISBN 978-1780357782. 
  9. ^ Millgate, Michael Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited (2004) Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-927566-1
  10. ^ Harvey Geoffrey (2003). Thomas Hardy (Complete Critical Guide to English Literature). Routledge. p. 37. ISBN 978-0415234917. 
  11. ^ "montford-productions". 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "In A Eweleaze Near Weatherbury". 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "Deacon Reviews". 2003. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  14. ^ O'Sullivan Timothy (1975). Thomas Hardy an illustrated biography. Macmillan. p. 144. 
  15. ^ Rintoul M.C. (1993). Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction. Routledge. p. 850. ISBN 978-0415059992. 
  16. ^ Pite Ralph (2007). Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life. Picador. p. 354. ISBN 978-0330481878. 
  17. ^ Blake kathleen (1978). "Sue Bridehead, "The Woman of the Feminist Movement"". Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 Rice University. 18 (4): 703–726. 
  18. ^ Morgan, Rosemarie (2015). "Project MUSE - Thomas Hardy". Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Rare Books and Maps - Lois Deacon Collection - Library - University of Exeter". 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. Lois Deacon 
  20. ^ Bartle, G. F. (August 1983). "SOME FRESH INFORMATION ABOUT TRYPHENA SPARKS -- THOMAS HARDY'S COUSIN". Notes & Queries. 30 (4): 320. 
  21. ^ Simkin, John (2015). "Tryphena Sparks". Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Cornforth, David. "Drakes in Topsham". Exeter Memories. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  23. ^ "ThomasHardy - thomashardy.pdf" (PDF). pdf.js. 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 

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