Far From The Madding Crowd (1874) is English writer Thomas Hardy's fourth novel.
The novel is the first to be set in Hardy's fictional county of Wessex in rural south west 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 farmer Bathsheba Everdene, her life and relationships - especially with her lonely neighbour William Boldwood, the faithful shepherd Gabriel Oak, and the thriftless soldier Sergeant Troy.
Hardy's growing taste for tragedy is also evident in the novel. According to Virginia Woolf, ”The subject was right; the method was right; the poet and the countryman, the sensual man, the sombre reflective man, the man of learning, all enlisted to produce a book which . . . must hold its place among the great English novels.”
The book is often regarded as an early piece of feminist literature, since it features an independent woman with the courage to defy convention by running a farm herself. Although Bathsheba's passionate nature leads her into serious errors of judgment, Hardy endows her with sufficient resilience, intelligence, and good luck to overcome her youthful folly.
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 an Oscar-nominated 1967 film directed by John Schlesinger.
On publication, critical notices were plentiful and mostly positive. Hardy revised the text extensively for the 1895 (this) edition.
Total Running Time (TRT): 14h, 10 min.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth.
Charles Dickens is another important influence on Thomas Hardy. Like Dickens, he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.
Initially 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). However, since the 1950s Hardy has been recognized as a major poet, and had a significant influence on The Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Phillip Larkin.
The bulk of his fictional works, initially published as serials in magazines, were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex and 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 of Berkshire, in south west England.