A summary of an overlooked Hardy novel
Here’s a question for you. What was Thomas Hardy’s last novel? Easy, some might say: Jude the Obscure, the 1895 book whose hostile reception convinced Hardy to abandon novel-writing and return to his first love, poetry. But in fact, Jude wasn’t Hardy’s last ever novel – at least, not exactly. For in 1897, two years after Jude’s appearance, a final novel was published: The Well-Beloved. It’s an overlooked novel, but deserves more attention and analysis – not to mention a wider readership – than it tends to receive.
We say ‘not exactly’ because The Well-Beloved wasn’t an entirely new work. Instead, it was a reworking of an earlier novel, The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved, which had been serialised in 1892. The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament appeared in the Illustrated London News between October and December 1892, but was only reprinted when Penguin Classics reissued both the original serial version and the later 1897 rewrite, The Well-Beloved. This is the edition we recommend for the devoted Hardy fan: The Pursuit of the Well-beloved and the Well-beloved (Penguin Classics). There are suggestive plot differences between the two versions of the novel. Read the rest of this entry