From The Telegraph:
Hardy, who wrote his first three novels at the cottage, was forced out into the world by his marriage. For 10 years the couple moved between lodgings in London and the West Country, waiting for children who never came and dealing with the books that did. These were Emma’s years as muse and helpmeet to her husband, making fair copies of his manuscripts and taking dictation when he was ill. But increasingly Hardy was moved to establish a distance between his work and his wife, and decades of estrangement would pass before Emma, by virtue of her sudden death and the storm of remorse it provoked, became useful to her husband once more.
Is it possible that Emma was an essential buffer zone between Hardy and the background which continued to supply his material once he had left it behind? In the 10th year of the marriage the prosperous man of letters bought a plot of land outside Dorchester just an hour’s walk from his humble birthplace. He designed the house himself and commissioned his father and brother to build it. “They had just built a new house, which he recoiled from,” reported Fanny Stevenson in the autumn of 1885.