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Maria_H
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About the Book & Author

Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge

Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy’s first masterpiece, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a scene of such heartlessness and cruelty that it still shocks readers today. A poor workman named Michael Henchard, in a fit of drunken rage, sells his wife and baby daughter to a stranger at a country fair. Stricken withremorse, Henchard forswears alcohol and works hard to become a prosperous businessman and the respected mayor of Casterbridge. But he cannot erase his past. His wife ultimately returns to offer Henchard the choice of redemption or a further descent into his own self-destructive nature. A dark, complex story, The Mayor of Casterbridge brims with invention, vitality, and even wit.

Discover all titles and editions from Thomas Hardy.

About Thomas Hardy:

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in the village of Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, a market town in the county of Dorset. Hardy would spend much of his life in his native region, transforming its rural landscapes into his fictional Wesses. Hardy's mother, Jemima, inspired him with a taste for literature, while his stonemason father, Thomas, shared with him a love of architecture and music (the two would later play the fiddle at local dances). As a boy Hardy read widely in the popular fiction of the day, including the novels of Scott, Dumas, Dickens, W. Harrison Ainsworth, and G.P.R. James, and in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and others. Strongly influenced in his youth by the Bible and the liturgy of the Anglican Church, Hardy later contemplated a career in the ministry; but his assimilation of the new theories of Darwinian evolutionism eventually made him an agnostic and a severe critic of the limitations of traditional religion.


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Everyman
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Re: About the Book & Author

For those interested in Hardy, Claire Tomalin has written a very well reviewed biography of him which has been on my tbr shelf for some months and I will try to bring forward before this session ends. She also mentions biographies by Michael Millgate, which Michael Dirda calls "one of those thick, well-written biographies one can happily lose oneself in." (It is 638 pages to Tomalin's 475; there is much worth talking about in Hardy's life.)

Although today he is known mostly for his novels, he considered himself first and foremost a poet. After the bitter reception given to Tess of the D'Urbervilles in 1891 and Jude the Obscure in 1895, he gave up novel writing entirely to concentrate on his poetry.

It is perhaps notable that among is pallbearers were George Bernard Shaw, Kipling, Barrie (of Peter Pan fame), Galsworthy, and P. H. Gosse (author of Father and Son and biographer of Ibsen, Gray, Congreve, Swinburne, and others).
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Everyman
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Re: About the Book & Author

I take a bit of exception to the description of Mayor as "Thomas Hardy’s first masterpiece."

Speaking chronologically, Mayor, published in 1886, was preceded by Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and The Return of the Native (1878). I would consider both of those masterpieces, so if the term "first" is meant chronologically I would disagree.

If "first" is meant as "best," it would be an interesting discussion as to whether it is better than the two just mentioned, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, or Jude the Obscure. Those are probably his five best known works, but to chose Mayor as the best of them is a judgment I would want to diswcuss at some length.

So either way you interpret "first," I question the statement made, though that doesn't mean I don't consider Mayor a very fine novel and well worth reading and discussing.
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ELee
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Re: About the Book & Author



Everyman wrote:
For those interested in Hardy, Claire Tomalin has written a very well reviewed biography of him which has been on my tbr shelf for some months and I will try to bring forward before this session ends.

I read it several months ago, and quite enjoyed it.  Although biographies are not my first choice in reading material, I really like the way she writes.  I previously read her work on Katherine Mansfield, and have her Jane Austen on my tbr shelf.
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Everyman
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Re: About the Book & Author

[ Edited ]
Casterbridge is, according to many sources I have read, based on the actual city of Dorchester, just outside of which Hardy grew up. He walked three miles to school in Dorchester, and his first job was working for the Dorchester architect John Hicks.

Even today, when you look at the satellite image of Dorchester on Google maps, it seems that the city remains very compact, without sprawling suburbs but with a very clean line between the city and the country, just as Hardy describes it.

The site of the coliseum is still very visible on the satellite close-up, quire close to the center of the town and at the intersection of Maumbury road and Weymouth Avenue. The open grassy area, the surrounding mounds, and the two entrances are clearly visible.

There is still a Fairground marked on the maps for Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire, England, which according to this interesting site is the site of Weydon Fair.

Hardy apparently used many real locations and accurate geography for his books (contrary to Trollope, say, who invented much of his geography).

Dorchester is about 60 miles southwest of Weyhill, several days walk for Hardy's characters. There is, interestingly, a Casterbridge Lane adjacent to the Weyhill fairgrounds; one wonders whether this was named after the novel, or whether it was there first and inspired the name taken for Dorchester.

Message Edited by Everyman on 06-09-2008 01:20 PM
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Everyman
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Re: About the Book & Author

Here is a wonderful set of photos of the Hardy countryside and other photos relevant to his life. The countryside looks pretty much as it must have in his day. Check out, for example, his birth cottage, Dorchester's (Casterbridge's) High Street, Frome cattle, Lower Brockhampton, and others.
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: About the Book & Author

Thanks, Everyman.  I get an error message, though, when I click on your link.
 
~ConnieK

Everyman wrote:
Here is a wonderful set of photos of the Hardy countryside and other photos relevant to his life. The countryside looks pretty much as it must have in his day. Check out, for example, his birth cottage, Dorchester's (Casterbridge's) High Street, Frome cattle, Lower Brockhampton, and others.


~ConnieAnnKirk




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Everyman
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Re: About the Book & Author

[ Edited ]
Hmmm.

Try cutting and pasting this link.
http://members.aol.com/thardy1001/picindex.html

I see that the link which I embedded went through the B&N website, don't know why unless it was because the link ended in html. The link I just gave doesn't become clickable in Preview Post, but cutting and pasting it into a new browser window works, at least for me. Let me know.

ConnieK wrote:
Thanks, Everyman. I get an error message, though, when I click on your link.
~ConnieK

Everyman wrote:
Here is a wonderful set of photos of the Hardy countryside and other photos relevant to his life. The countryside looks pretty much as it must have in his day. Check out, for example, his birth cottage, Dorchester's (Casterbridge's) High Street, Frome cattle, Lower Brockhampton, and others.






Message Edited by Everyman on 06-10-2008 04:48 PM
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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: About the Book & Author

That worked, Everyman!  Thanks--lovely photos!  It's funny how quickly photos can help set the atmosphere.
 
~ConnieK
 


Everyman wrote:
Hmmm.

Try cutting and pasting this link.
http://members.aol.com/thardy1001/picindex.html

I see that the link which I embedded went through the B&N website, don't know why unless it was because the link ended in html. The link I just gave doesn't become clickable in Preview Post, but cutting and pasting it into a new browser window works, at least for me. Let me know.

ConnieK wrote:
Thanks, Everyman. I get an error message, though, when I click on your link.
~ConnieK

Everyman wrote:
Here is a wonderful set of photos of the Hardy countryside and other photos relevant to his life. The countryside looks pretty much as it must have in his day. Check out, for example, his birth cottage, Dorchester's (Casterbridge's) High Street, Frome cattle, Lower Brockhampton, and others.






Message Edited by Everyman on 06-10-2008 04:48 PM


~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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