The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character

The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character

The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character

The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character

Excerpt

Thomas Hardy was in the precisely central year of his long life when he began to write The Mayor of Casterbridge. Sprung of yeoman stock, he was born in 1840 in a tiny hamlet near Dorchester in the South of England. His father's trade of master-builder (or "contractor," as we should say) directed him to the profession of architecture, and this he practiced as a young man at first locally and afterwards for a time in London. But poetry was the native country of his mind and his tastes were for the life of a man of letters; and having failed to secure an audience for his early verse he turned to novel-writing as a livelihood. With this practical purpose in mind he was ready, till near the end of this part of his career, to make such concessions to the requirements of editors of magazines as were supposed necessary in order to conform to the moral conventions of the period and to the expectations of readers of fiction. A first experiment was rejected by publishers to whom it was submitted, and there followed three novels in as many different modes before he won his first great popular success with Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874. The Return of the Native, the first of his four masterpieces, appeared in 1876, and then came four novels of minor interest. Meanwhile he had married, and he and his wife alternated long sojourns in London and occasional visits to the Continent with temporary abodes in one or another place in southern England. In 1883 came the decision to settle permanently in his . . .

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