Thomas Hardy was shy to a fault. He surrounded his house, Max Gate, with a dense curtain of trees, shunned publicity and investigative reporters, and when visitors arrived unexpectedly he slipped quietly out of the back door in order to avoid them. Furthermore, following the death of his first wife Emma, he burnt, page by page, a book-length manuscript of hers entitled What I think of my husband, together with letters, notebooks, and diaries - both his and hers. This behaviour of Hardy's therefore begs the question: did he have something to hide, and if so, did this `something' relate to his relationship with Emma?
Thomas Hardy: Behind the Mask pierces the veil of secrecy which Hardy deliberately drew over his life, to find out why his life was so filled with anguish, and to discover how this led to the creation of some of the finest novels and poems in the English language.