Far from the Madding Crowd
was first published in 1874 and was sold out in just over two months, surprising even the publisher. The critics were not quite so enthusiastic, though they all agreed on its power, and Henry James wrote: 'the only things we believe in are the sheep and the dogs.'
Henry James was wrong. Far from the Madding Crowd, perhaps the best-loved and most humorous of Hardy's novels even though the familiar themes of suffering and betrayal are evident, is the product of Hardy's intimate and first-hand knowledge of the attitudes, habits, inconsistencies and idiosyncracies of rural men and women. It would be very difficult indeed to match his portrait of mid-Victorian Dorset before the railway.
The mainspring of the book, nonetheless, centres around Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. And, in portraying her caprice and wilfulness gradually crushed by bitter self-knowledge and rejection, Hardy makes his own point about sexual love. 'Romance', he says, should grow up 'in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality.'
Original title: Far from the Madding Crowd
Genre: Fiction→ General Fiction→ Literary Fiction/classics