Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in the county of Dorset. His father was a stonemason and his mother educated him until age eight. His family was too poor to pay for university, so he became an architect's apprentice until he decided to focus on writing. His stories are generally set in the Dorset area. In 1874 he married Emma Gifford, and her death in 1912 had a profound effect on him. In 1914 he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale. His first few novels were unsuccessful, and even his later works were controversial and often censored. Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure drew strong disapproval for their sexual frankness and social criticism that Hardy stopped writing fiction, focusing instead on his poetry. He is best known for Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. He died in 1928, at the age of eighty-seven.
Virginia Woolf noted some of Thomas Hardy’s enduring power as a writer: “Thus it is no mere transcript of life at a certain time and place that Hardy has given us. It is a vision of the world and of man’s lot as they revealed themselves to a powerful imagination, a profound and poetic genius, a gentle and humane soul.”
Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) was Thomas Hardy's first major literary success. It originally appeared anonymously as a monthly serial in Cornhill Magazine, where it gained a wide readership.
The novel is the first to be set in Hardy's fictional county of Wessex in rural south west England. It deals with the themes of love, honour and betrayal, against a backdrop of the apparently idyllic, but often cruel, 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 improvident soldier Sergeant Troy.