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Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 and wrote both poetry and novels, including The Mayor of Casterbridge, Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. He died in 1928.
June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on Thomas Hardy... For me, no other writer so definitively captures both the beauty and challenges of Britain - its landscape, weather, village life versus city life and of course the class system. But most of all I love the way that landscape is not merely a backdrop in Hardy's writing, but a leading character in it – something that has become a crucial element of my own writing. I love the paintings of Millet – the unpatronizing dignity he imbued his scenes of rustic life. This is so true of Hardy too and nowhere is this more compelling than in Tess of the D’Urbervilles - one of my all time favourite books.
The arrival of two newcomers in the quiet village of Mellstock arouses a bitter feud and leaves a convoluted love affair in its wake. While the Reverend Maybold creates a furore among the village's musicians with his decision to abolish the church's traditional 'string choir' and replace it with a modern mechanical organ, the new schoolteacher, Fancy Day, causes an upheaval of a more romantic nature, winning the hearts of three very different men - a local farmer, a church musician and Maybold himself. Under the Greenwood Tree follows the ensuing maze of intrigue and passion with gentle humour and sympathy, deftly evoking the richness of village life, yet tinged with melancholy for a rural world that Hardy saw fast disappearing.
Anne Garland, who lives with her widowed mother in a mill owned by Miller Loveday, has three suitors: the local squire's nephew Festus and the miller's two sons, Robert and John. While Festus' aggressive pursuit deters the young woman from considering him as a husband, the indecisive Anne wavers between light-hearted Bob and gentle, steadfast John. But as their Wessex village prepares for possible invasion by Napoleon's fleet, all find their destinies increasingly tangled with the events of history. The Loveday brothers, one a sailor and one a soldier, must wrestle with their commitments to their country and their feelings for Anne. Lyrical and light-hearted, yet shot through with irony, The Trumpet-Major (1880) is one of Hardy's most unusual novels and a fascinating tale of love and desire.
When country-girl Grace Melbury returns home from her middle-class school she feels she has risen above her suitor, the simple woodsman Giles Winterborne. Though marriage had been discussed between her and Giles, Grace finds herself captivated by Dr Edred Fitzpiers, a sophisticated newcomer to the area - a relationship that is encouraged by her socially ambitious father. Hardy's novel of betrayal, disillusionment and moral compromise depicts a secluded community coming to terms with the disastrous impact of outside influences. And in his portrayal of Giles Winterborne, Hardy shows a man who responds deeply to the forces of the natural world, thought they ultimately betray him.
The daughter of a wealthy railway magnate, Paula Power inherits De Stancy Castle, an ancient castle in need of modernization. She commissions George Somerset, a young architect, to undertake the work. Somerset falls in love with Paula but she, the Laodicean of the title, is torn between his admiration and that of Captain De Stancy, whose old-world romanticism contrasts with Somerset's forward-looking attitude. Paula's vacillation, however, is not only romantic. Her ambiguity regarding religion, politics and social progress is a reflection of the author's own. This new Penguin Classics edition of Hardy's text contains an introduction and notes that illuminate and clarify these themes, and draws parallels between the text and the author's life and views.