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ClassicsOnline Home » HARDY, T.: Far from the Madding Crowd (Abridged)
In a remote corner of early Victorian England, where traditional practices remain untouched by time, Bathsheba Everdene stands out as a beacon of feminine independence and self-reliance. However, when confronted with three suitors, among them the dashing Captain Troy, she shows a reckless capriciousness which threatens the stability of the whole community. Published in 1874, and an immediate best-seller, Far From the Madding Crowd established Thomas Hardy as one of Britain’s foremost novelists.
Far from the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy was born near Dorchester on June 2, 1840. It
was in 1862, when he moved to London to pursue a career in architecture, that
he began to write, but he did not begin his first novel until he moved back to
Dorset in 1867 to become assistant to John Hicks, an architect and church
restorer. Only fragments survive of this first novel, The Poor Man and the
Lady, but he continued to write and in 1871 Desperate Remedies was published,
followed by Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873). In
1874 Hardy married his first wife, Emma Gifford, and in the same year Far from
the Madding Crowd was published to considerable acclaim. Four years later he
moved back to London; The Return of the Native was published in the same year
and he became a prominent figure in literary circles.
Returning again to Dorset in 1885, Hardy continued his
regular output: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887) and a
collection of short stories, Wessex Tales (1888). Tess of the d’Urbervilles was
published in 1891 and his last novel, Jude the Obscure appeared in 1895.
Towards the end of his life, Hardy turned to the writing of poetry. Emma died
in 1912 and in 1914 he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale, with whose help
he began his autobiography, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy. This was published
posthumously, as he died on January 11, 1928. His ashes were laid in Poet’s
Corner in Westminster Abbey and his heart was buried in the grave of his first
wife at Stinsford, next to the tomb of his parents.
Hardy believed the purpose of writing fiction lay in giving
pleasure to the reader by expressing rare events, whilst "disguising"
their "unlikelihood" within a strongly naturalistic style. Such a view was partly conditioned by
the demands of the monthly magazines in which Victorian novels often made their
first appearances. The idea of narrative subterfuge was vital as writers were
forced to try to communicate plots and ideas forbidden by the rules of these delicate
publications. It is partly for this reason that Hardy's work is so remarkably
multi-layered. Comedy hides tragedy, love violence.
Characters also represent an elaborate weaving of styles.
Whereas Gabriel, who represents the archetype of The Faithful Shepherd, blends
in with the landscape, Troy appears as an outsider whose red coat stands out in
contrast against the greenery of the village. Whereas Gabriel is a bringer of
life, saving the lives of the bloated sheep, Troy is a destroyer, using his sword
primarily to impress and seduce Bathsheba. She of course is the most fluid
character of them all. She is a shimmering creation that, by turns, represents
sex, property, authority, and vulnerability. Our perception of her constantly
shifts as we see her through the eyes of her three different suitors, until we
become a suitor ourselves, fascinated and compelled by this most complex of
Thus Hardy transcended the demands of literary subterfuge to
create a world in Far from the Madding Crowd that by its pluralist nature comes
close to matching our own. Like Shakespeare, Hardy understood that the world is
best expressed as something rich, varying and surprising, and that the best
kind of art disguises as it reveals.
Notes by Heather Godwin
Neville Jason trained at RADA where he was awarded the
Diction Prize by Sir John Gielgud. He has worked with the English Stage Co.,
the Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as in films and
In television he has appeared in popular serials such as
Maigret, Emergency Ward 10 and Dr. Who, as well as playing classical roles such
as Orestes and Horatio. Formerly a member of the BBC Radio Drama Co., he is
frequently to be heard on radio.
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HARDY, T.: Far from the Madding Crowd (Abridged)