Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) is Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel and his first major literary success. It originally appeared anonymously as a monthly serial in Cornhill Magazine, where it gained a wide readership.
The novel is the first to be set in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex in rural southwest England. It deals in themes of love, honour and betrayal, against a backdrop of the seemingly idyllic, but often harsh, realities of a farming community in Victorian England. It describes the life and relationships of Bathsheba Everdene with her lonely neighbour William Boldwood, the faithful shepherd Gabriel Oak, and the thriftless soldier Sergeant Troy.
On publication, critical notices were plentiful and mostly positive. Hardy revised the text extensively for the 1895 edition and made further changes for the 1901 edition.
The novel was listed at number 48 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read in 2003. The book finished 10th on The Guardian’s list of greatest love stories of all time in 2007.
The novel has been dramatised several times, notably in the Oscar-nominated 1967 film directed by John Schlesinger.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native South West England.
While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). During his lifetime, Hardy’s poetry was acclaimed by younger poets (particularly the Georgians) who viewed him as a mentor. After his death his poems were lauded by Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin.
Many of his novels concern tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances, and they are often set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex; initially based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Hardy’s Wessex eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England.