This Day In Literary History
On November 23rd, 1874, Far From The Madding Crowd, the classic novel by the legendary English writer Thomas Hardy, was published in London.
It first appeared in a serialized format, published by Cornhill Magazine, which at the time was the main rival of All The Year Round, the literary magazine founded by Charles Dickens.
Far From The Madding Crowd is not only one of the greatest love stories ever written, it's also a classic tale of rural English life during the Victorian era. It tells a tale of true love complicated and delayed by stubbornness, pride, and circumstance.
Gabriel Oak is a successful sheep farmer nearing thirty years of age who falls in love with Bathsheba Everdene, a proud, vain, determined, and independent woman eight years his junior who has come to live with her aunt.
Bathsheba grows close to Gabriel - she even saves his life - but when he proposes marriage, she refuses, as she values her independence more than his love. She moves away miles out of town.
When Bathsheba and Gabriel are reunited sometime later, things have changed drastically for both of them. Gabriel is ruined when an inexperienced sheepdog runs his flock over the edge of a cliff.
After being forced to sell off all his possessions to settle his debts, Gabriel wanders about looking for work. He happens upon a dangerous fire ravaging a farm and helps to put it out.
When the owner of the farm comes over to thank him, it turns out to be Bathsheba, who inherited her uncle's estate. In need of a capable shepherd, she hires Gabriel, although it makes her uncomfortable.
Bathsheba has another admirer - a lonely, repressed, middle-aged farmer named William Boldwood. She decides to play a joke on him and sends him a valentine with the words "Marry Me" written on it. Boldwood, not realizing that it's just a joke, proposes marriage.
Bathsheba doesn't love him, but toys with the idea of marrying him. Despite his shortcomings, he's also affluent and the most eligible bachelor in town.
Instead of accepting Boldwood's proposal right away, she puts off giving him an answer and plays with his affections. When Gabriel finds out, he chides Bathsheba for her thoughtlessness. She fires him.
Later, when bloat threatens to kill all of her sheep, Bathsheba is finally forced to swallow her pride and beg Gabriel for help. He saves her flock, she hires him back, and they become friends again.
Soon, however, Bathsheba falls for a dashing soldier, Sgt. Francis "Frank" Troy. Gabriel tries to discourage her from marrying him, telling her that she'd be better of with William Boldwood. In love with Troy, Bathsheba elopes with him.
When they return from their honeymoon, Troy is approached by Boldwood, who offers him a huge bribe in exchange for Bathsheba. He refuses, and Boldwood vows revenge.
Unfortunately for Bathsheba, her gallant husband soon shows his true colors - he's a compulsive gambler in love with another woman, whom he was going to marry. Her name was Fanny Robin.
On their wedding day, Fanny accidentally went to the wrong church. Mistakenly believing that she jilted him, a humiliated Troy called off the wedding, not knowing that Fanny was pregnant with his child.
Months later, Troy meets Fanny on the road. A destitute wreck about to give birth, Troy takes pity on her and gives her all the money he has on him. He plans to support her and their child, but she dies in childbirth, along with the baby.
Gabriel tries to conceal all of this from Bathsheba, but she finds out and has the coffin brought to her house. She opens it and sees both mother and child. Troy kisses Fanny's corpse.
Telling Bathsheba, "This woman is more to me, dead as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be," Troy leaves her. He takes a long walk to the coast, strips off his clothes, and bathes in the ocean. A riptide carries him out to sea and he's presumed dead.
William Boldwood still determines to marry Bathsheba. This time, out of guilt over all the pain she's caused him, (and others) she agrees to marry him in a few years, when she can have her husband declared legally dead. What she doesn't know is that he's still alive.
When Troy learns that Boldwood has forced Bathsheba to marry him, he returns on Christmas Eve to claim her. He finds her at Boldwood's house and she screams in horror when she sees him.
Boldwood, refusing to give her up, shoots Troy and kills him. He attempts suicide and is later sentenced to hang. Boldwood's death sentence is commuted on the grounds of insanity after his friends petition the Home Secretary for mercy.
Through all of her tribulations, Bathsheba came to rely more and more on her oldest and dearest friend, Gabriel Oak. But one day, he gives notice that he's resigning from her employ.
When she presses him for an explanation, Gabriel reluctantly admits that he's quitting to protect her good name, as people are gossiping that he wants to marry her.
Bathsheba finally realizes that he is the only one who ever truly cared about her - the only one who really loved her. When he summons the courage to ask for her hand again, she accepts without hesitation, and they quietly marry.
A huge hit with Victorian readers and critics, Far From the Madding Crowd would become an all-time classic novel, adapted for the stage, screen, radio, and television.
Thomas Hardy would write more classic novels, including Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895). He died in 1928 at the age of 87.
Quote Of The Day
"The business of the poet and the novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things." - Thomas Hardy
Today's video features a complete reading of Thomas Hardy's classic novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. Enjoy!