The Return of the Native
By Thomas Hardy
(Everyman's Library, Hardcover, 9780679417309)
Publication Date: November 3, 1992
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Eustacia Vye longs to escape from Egdon Heath, but the man she chooses to save her longs to stay. Out of their struggle, the unfulfilled passion of his heroine, and the daily rhythms of late-nineteenth-century rural life, Hardy builds a drama fully worthy of the magnificent stage on which he places it.
The Return of the Native is dominated by the brooding presence of Egdon Heath, located in Thomas Hardy’s imaginary Wessex, and in no other book did Hardy’s extraordinary feeling for landscape blend so perfectly with his austere, stoic vision of human fate.
Once more he treats his favorite theme of the mismatched couple with masterly pathos and understatement.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
THOMAS HARDY, whose writings immortalized the Wessex countryside and dramatized his sense of the inevitable tragedy of life, was born near Egdon Heath in Dorset in 1840, the eldest child of a prosperous stonemason. As a youth he trained as an architect and in 1862 obtained a post in London. During this time he began seriously to write poetry, which remained his first literary love and his last. In 1867-68, his first novel was refused publication, but Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), his first Wessex novel, did well enough to convince him to continue writing. In 1874, Far from the Madding Crowd, published serially and anonymously in the Cornhill Magazine, became a great success. Hardy married Emma Gifford in 1874, and in 1875 they settled at Max Gate in Dorchester, where he lived the rest of his life. There he wrote The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). With Tess, Hardy clashed with the expectations of his audience; a storm of abuse broke over the “infidelity” and “obscenity” of this great novel he had subtitled “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” Jude the Obscure aroused even greater indignation and was denounced as pornography. Hardy’s disgust at the reaction to Jude led him to announce in 1896 that he would never write fiction again. He published Wessex Poems in 1898, Poems of the Past and Present in 1901, and from 1903 to 1908, The Dynasts, a huge drama in which Hardy’s conception of the Immanent Will, implicit in the tragic novels, is most clearly stated. In 1912, Hardy’s wife, Emma, died. The marriage was childless and had long been a troubled one, but in the years after her death, Hardy memorialized her in several poems. At seventy-four, he married his longtime secretary, Florence Dugdale, herself a writer of children’s books and articles, with whom he lived happily until his death in 1928. His heart was buried in the Wessex countryside; his ashes were placed next to Charles Dickens’s in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.
“Most of Hardy’s novels, and particularly the early ones, have a Shakespearean power of creating a unique world and climate of being . . . The Return of the Native is . . . thoughtful, valedictory, poetic, tinged with the somberness of an uncertainty which seems to well up from the depths of the author’s own subconscious . . . Hardy’s sense of the tragic life of human beings, mere small fragments of consciousness in a vast uncaring universe, comes directly from his own youthful awareness of the place and circumstances described in the novel.” –from the Introduction by John Bayley