Thomas Hardy & Far From The Madding Crowd

Come with me to the beautiful county of Dorset – Thomas Hardy country – to enjoy the company of a spirited heroine, a variety of heroes, comic yokels, and a plot packed with drama. I love Thomas Hardy’s novels, though they often make me cry. Thomas Hardy regarded himself first as a poet, and secondly as a novelist. I adore his poems, especially when read by Richard Burton, but I also love his novels.

Far From the Madding Crowd is a brilliant study of passion and landscape, rivalry and stubborn love. It captures a rural world that was vanishing even as Hardy wrote. It is one of the warmest and sunniest of his novels, though it still contains a good dose of tragedy as well. Rich, evocative, modern and full of psychological insight, this is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives.

“The great advantage of living in a large family is that early lesson of life’s essential unfairness.” – Nancy Mitford

On 2 June 1840 Jemima Hardy gave birth to her first child in the Dorset cottage built by her husband and father-in-law, but it appeared the baby boy was dead. He was put aside while the doctor attended to the mother, but suddenly the little scrap of humanity let out a small cry and so the life of Thomas Hardy began.

Thomas was the eldest of four children born to Jemima and Thomas and he was doted on by both parents. Thomas was a frail child, nursed devotedly by his mother. An early pleasure was going with his father to play the fiddle at country weddings – at such events, he learned about local traditions and the ways of agricultural people.

His mother was a keen reader and soon introduced her boy to stories and books.

Far From the Madding Crowd, like all of Hardy’s succeeding novels, was published in serial instalments that came out monthly. It appeared from January to December in 1874 in the Cornhill magazine, then came out as a book in November 1874. The serial rights alone earned him ₤400.

From the beginning it was admired – Hardy was even compared to George Eliot. He made revisions to the text for the 1895 edition and further changes in 1901. It has remained one of his most popular novels and in 2003 it was listed at no. 48 in the BBC’s survey ‘The Big Read’.

Hardy wanted to show that even people living in isolated parts of the country, could still feel passion, still have wishes that were far from sober, and could lead lives that were anything but “noiseless”.

Learn more about Hardy’s life and writing, the themes, styles and characters in the book, and perhaps enjoy sharing discussion questions with your book group – or even here with me. My Reader’s Guide has all this and more about this entertaining novel. I always love to hear what you think.

Did you enjoy the rustic characters of the novel? If you could choose one of the characters in this book as a lover, who would you pick? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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