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The Woodlanders (1887) was Thomas Hardy's own favorite among his stories, and no other book of his more fully represents the many sides of his genius. This portrait of five people in an English village who are tangled in a drama of passion, betrayal, poverty, and pride of place richly demonstrates all of Hardy's distinguishing qualities-his intimacy with rural England, his feeling for nature, his frankness about physical desire, and his gift for rendering, in the most specific way, the mystery at the heart of things.
This Everyman's Library edition is set from the text of the 1912 Wessex edition and includes Hardy's map of fictional Wessex. (Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)
Thomas Hardy, whose writing immortalized the Wessex countryside and dramatized his sense of the inevitable tragedy of life, was born at Upper Bockhampton, near Stinsford in Dorset in 1840, the eldest child of a prosperous stonemason. As a youth he trained as an architect and in 1862 obtained a post in London. During his time he began seriously to write poetry, which remained his first literary love and his last. In 1867-68, his first novel was refused publication, but
Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), his first Wessex novel, did well enough to convince him to continue writing. In 1874,
Far from the Madding Crowd, published serially and anonymously in the
Cornhill Magazine, became a great success. Hardy married Emma Gifford in 1878, and in 1885 they settled at Max Gate in Dorchester, where he lived the rest of his life. There he had wrote
The Return of the Native (1878),
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886),
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and
Jude the Obscure (1895).
With Tess, Hardy clashed with the expectations of his audience; a storm of abuse broke over the “infidelity” and “obscenity” of this great novel he had subtitled “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” Jude the Obscure aroused even greater indignation and was denounced as pornography. Hardy’s disgust at the reaction to Jude led him to announce in 1869 that he would never write fiction ever again. He published
Wessex Poems in 1898,
Poems of the Past and Present in 1901, and from 1903 to 1908, The Dynast, a huge drama in which Hardy’ s conception of the Immanent Will, implicit in the tragic novels, is most clearly stated.
In 1912 Hardy’s wife, Emma died. The marriage was childless and had been a troubled one, but in the years after her death, Hardy memorialized her in several poems. At seventy-four he married his longtime secretary, Florence Dugdale, herself a writer of children’s books and articles, with whom he live happily until his death in 1928. His heart was buried in the Wessex Countryside; his ashes were placed next to Charles Dickens’s in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.