This is the extended annotated edition including a rare biographical essay on the life and works of the author. In "The Woodlanders" we have the intimate sense of the mystery and the passion of nature; again we have the wonderful power of describing rural characters; again we have the closely knit and powerful action; we even have glimpses of the old humor.
Still there is an indefinable something that separates the author of "The Woodlanders" from the author of "Far from the Madding Crowd." Twelve years have made Mr. Hardy a more practised writer, they have given him a wider experience, but they have not made him any more in love with life. On the contrary, as has been indicated, they have frequently made him see little in life except a purposeless struggle in the coils of an implacable fate.
And so Giles Winterbourne in "The Woodlanders" fails in the pursuit of his love, which is his life, when Farmer Oak, in "Far from the Madding Crowd" succeeds. Honesty, loyalty, and love meet death for their reward; while a barely decent repentance on the part of a rather repulsive personage is rewarded by the love of a heroine who though scarcely noble is worthy of a better fate. It, therefore, matters little when we view
"The Woodlanders" as a whole, whether the descriptions of the forests to be found in its pages are unexcelled in truth and beauty even by Mr. Hardy himself, or whether the scene which describes Marty South dressing the grave of Winterbourne is the finest in the whole range of our author's novels; for the total impression produced by the book is painful because the fate that rules its characters is to Mr. Hardy, as well as to his readers, the relentless fate of alien times and peoples.
And yet how powerful and original the book is, and who else among modern Englishmen could have written it!
About the Author
Thomas Hardy, OM (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. Charles Dickens was another important influence. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.
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 novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). However, beginning in the 1950s Hardy has been recognised as a major poet; he had a significant influence on the Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Philip Larkin.
Most of his fictional works – initially published as serials in magazines – were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy's Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much ofBerkshire, in southwest and south central England.
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