Thomas Hardy


Thomas Hardy

Easton Press Thomas Hardy books

The Mayor of Casterbridge - 1964
Jude the Obscure - 1977
The Return of The Native - 1978
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - 1984
Far From The Madding Crowd


Franklin Library Thomas Hardy books

The Return of The Native - 100 Greatest Books of All Time - 1978
Wessex Tales - Collected Stories of the World's Greatest Writers - 1982
The Return of The Native - World's Best Loved Books - 1980


Thomas Hardy biography

Thomas Hardy, born on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, and passing away on January 11, 1928, was an English novelist and poet. Hardy is renowned for his novels that depict the struggles of individuals against the forces of fate and societal expectations. His works often explore themes of love, class, morality, and the inexorable passage of time. Hardy's early life was rooted in rural Dorset, and his experiences in the picturesque landscapes of Wessex would later influence much of his fictional work. Despite coming from a humble background, Hardy was a voracious reader and largely educated himself. In 1862, he moved to London, where he worked as an architect, but his passion for literature led him to pursue a writing career.

Hardy's literary career can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, he gained fame as a novelist, producing works such as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). These novels, set in the fictional region of Wessex, earned Hardy acclaim for his vivid portrayals of characters and the harsh realities of rural life. In the latter phase of his career, Hardy turned to poetry, producing collections such as Wessex Poems (1898), Poems of the Past and Present (1901), and Moments of Vision (1917). His poetry delves into themes of nature, love, and the human condition, reflecting a more introspective and philosophical approach.

One of Hardy's best-known novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, reflects his exploration of the tragic consequences of societal expectations and the limitations placed on individuals, particularly women, in Victorian England.

Despite facing criticism and controversy for the perceived immorality in some of his works, Thomas Hardy's contribution to English literature has been widely recognized. His novels and poetry have left an enduring impact, and his nuanced understanding of human nature and the social dynamics of his time continue to resonate with readers. Thomas Hardy's legacy extends beyond his literary achievements. In 1928, he was interred in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey, a testament to his significance in the world of English literature. His novels remain staples in literature curricula, and his influence on subsequent generations of writers is evident in their engagement with his themes and narrative techniques.

The Re/turn of The Native

The Return of The Native

The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy's tale of love and loss on the wilds of Egdon Heath, demonstrates the peak of his descriptive and lyrical powers. Passionate beauty Eustacia Vye wants to be adored by a man who will liberate her from the tedium of the heath and hopes Clym Yeobright, just returned from glamorous Paris, is the man.

One of Hardy's classic statements about modern love, courtship, and marriage, The Return of the Native is set in the pastoral village of Egdon Heath. The fiery Eustacia Vye, wishing only for passionate love, believes that her escape from Egdon lies in her marriage to Clym Yeobright, the returning "native," home from Paris and discontented with his work there. Clym wishes to remain in Egdon, however a desire that sets him in opposition to his wife and brings them both to despair. Behind the narrative of The Return of the Native lie the tragic fates of Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Oedipus, and in writing the novel Hardy endowed his ordinary characters with the status of tragic heroes, seen especially in the ill-fated lovers and Damon Wildeve, who spoil their chances to master their own destinies.

Eustacia Vye is as wild and beautiful as the landscape that surrounds her grandfather’s house on Egdon Heath. Dark-haired, tempestuous, and haughty, she yearns to escape her rural corner of England, and believes that by marrying Clym Yeobright, a native of the heath just returned from Paris, she will find the romance and adventure her heart craves. But Clym’s interests run in the opposite direction—toward comfort, community, and tradition and the young couple’s happy union soon turns miserable. When a former suitor pays a fateful visit, Eustacia must decide whether to break her vows to Clym or forego her exotic dreams forever.   One of Thomas Hardy’s most beloved novels, The Return of the Native brilliantly evokes the dangerous allure of romantic fantasies. Rich in mythological allusions yet grounded in the hard realities of nineteenth-century village life, it is one of the most heartbreaking tragedies ever told.

Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s. Their unhappy marriage causes havoc in the lives of those close to them, in particular Damon Wildeve, Eustacia’s former lover, Clym’s mother and his cousin Thomasin. The Return of the Native illustrates the tragic potential of romantic illusion and how its protagonists fail to recognize their opportunities to control their own destinies.

"Do I desire unreasonably much in wanting what is called life -music, poetry, passion, war, and all the beating and pulsing thatis going on in the great arteries of the world?"

A haunting tale of romantic self-deception, The Return of the Native focuses on mismatched lovers who see in each other only what they want to see, and decidedly not what is actually there.


The Mayor of Casterbridge

One of Hardy’s most powerful novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a shocking and haunting scene: In a drunken rage, Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to a visiting sailor at a local fair. When they return to Casterbridge some nineteen years later, Henchard having gained power and success as the mayor finds he cannot erase the past or the guilt that consumes him. The Mayor of Casterbridge is a rich, psychological novel about a man whose own flaws combine with fate to cause his ruin.

In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town.

Under the powerful influence of rum furmity, Michael Henchard, a hay-trusser by trade, sells his wide Susan and their child Elizabeth-Jane to Newson, a sailor, for five guineas.

Years later, Susan, now a widow, arrives in Casterbridge with Elizabeth-Jane, to seek her legal husband. To their surprise, Henchard is now the Mayor of Casterbridge and, following the sale of his wife, took a twenty-one-year vow not to drink, out of shame. Henchard remarries Susan and, as Elizabeth-Jane believes herself to be Newson's daughter, he adopts her as his own. But he cannot evade his destiny by such measures, for his past refuses to be buried. Fate contrives for him to be punished for the recklessness of his younger days.

In this powerful depiction of a man who overreaches himself, Hardy once again shows his astute psychological grasp and his deep-seated knowledge of mid-nineteenth-century Dorset.


Jude the Obscure

In 1895 Hardy's final novel, the great tale of Jude The Obscure, sent shockwaves of indignation rolling across Victorian England. Hardy had dared to write frankly about sexuality and to indict the institutions of marriage, education, and religion. But he had, in fact, created a deeply moral work. The stonemason Jude Fawley is a dreamer; his is a tragedy of unfulfilled aims. With his tantalizing cousin Sue Bridehead, the last and most extraordinary of Hardy's heroines, Jude takes on the world and discovers, tragically, its brutal indifference. The most powerful expression of Hardy's philosophy, and a profound exploration of man's essential loneliness, Jude The Obscure is a great and beautiful book. 'His style touches sublimity.' - T.S. Eliot

Jude Fawley's hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemason, Jude meets and falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead, a sensitive, freethinking 'New Woman'. Refusing to marry merely for the sake of religious convention, Jude and Sue decide instead to live together, but they are shunned by society and poverty soon threatens to ruin them. Jude the Obscure, Hardy’s last novel, caused a public furor when it was first published, with its fearless and challenging exploration of class and sexual relationships.

Virginia Woolf called him “the greatest tragic writer among English novelists,” but Thomas Hardy was so distressed by the shocked outrage that greeted Jude the Obscure in 1895 that he decided to quit writing novels.  For in telling the story of Jude Fawley, whose many attempts to rise above his class are crushed by society or the forces of nature, Hardy had attacked Victorian society’s most cherished institutions of marriage, social class, religion, and higher education.


Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d'Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune.

The chance discovery by a young peasant woman that she is a descendant of the noble family of d'Urbervilles is to change the course of her life. Tess Durbeyfield leaves home on the first of her fateful journeys, and meets the ruthless Alec d'Urberville. Thomas Hardy's impassioned story tells of hope and disappointment, rejection and enduring love.

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

Young Tess Durbeyfield attempts to restore her family's fortunes by claiming their connection with the aristocratic d'Urbervilles. But Alec d'Urberville is a rich wastrel who seduces her and makes her life miserable. When Tess meets Angel Clare, she is offered true love and happiness, but her past catches up with her and she faces an agonizing moral choice.
Hardy's indictment of society's double standards, and his depiction of Tess as a pure woman, caused controversy in his day and has held the imagination of readers ever since. Hardy thought it his finest novel, and Tess the most deeply felt character he ever created. This unique critical text is taken from the authoritative Clarendon edition, which is based on the manuscript collated with all Hardy's subsequent revisions.


Far From The Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy's fourth novel and first major literary success, Far from the Madding Crowd tells the story of Gabriel Oak, a young shepherd, and Bathsheba Everdene, a proud and beautiful young woman. Their paths cross several times throughout their lives, helping one another even as they are plagued by misunderstandings and misfortunes, including bad marriages, secrets, and loss.

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in the fictional county of Wessex, Hardy's novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.

In rural Victorian England, the willful Bathsheba Everdene is courted by three men: her repressed neighbor, a devoted shepherd, and a thriftless soldier. They cross and clash again and again in tragedy, grief, betrayal, misguided affections, and the follies of romantic love. Though far from the fury of the city, the drama they engender is equal to the whole of the universe in madness and passion.

Hardy's powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, "Far from the Madding Crowd" shows the precarious position of a woman in a man's world.


Wessex Tales

In addition to his great "Wessex Novels," Thomas Hardy wrote Wessex Tales (1888), a collection of six stories that, for the most part, are as bleakly ironic and unforgiving as the darkest of his great novels Jude the Obscure. But this great novelist began and ended his writing career as a poet. In-between, he wrote a number of books that many readers find emotionally-wrenching, but which are considered among the classics of 19th Century British literature, including Far from the Madding Crowd, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Readers will experience Hardy's uncompromising, unsentimental realism in Wessex Tales, and for those seeking a taste of the Dorset poet and novelist, they represent an ideal start.

Wessex Tales was the first collection of Hardy's short stories, and they reflect the experience of a novelist at the height of his powers. These seven tales, in which characters and scenes are imbued with a haunting realism, show considerable diversity of content, form and style, and range from fantasy to realism and from tragedy to comedy.

Hardy sought to record the legends, superstitions, local customs, and lore of a Wessex that was rapidly passing out of memory. But these tales also portray the social and economic stresses of 1880s Dorset, and reveal Hardy's growing scepticism about the possibility of achieving personal and sexual satisfaction in the modern world. By turns humorous, ironic, macabre, and elegiac, these seven stories show the range of Hardy's story-telling genius.


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