The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy:

A Selected Bibliography

Return to The Thomas Hardy Association: Short Stories page

Priority has been given in this bibliography to book-length studies of the short stories and to journal articles about them.
The listing is alphabetical by author.

Please forward suggestions for items to be included to Martin Ray at

Primary Texts

King, Kathryn R., ed.

Wessex Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). The World's Classics edition. Includes an Introduction, Note on the Text, Select Bibliography, a Chronology, Explanatory Notes and a Dialect Glossary.

Manford, Alan, ed.

Life's Little Ironies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). The World's Classics edition, with an Introduction by Norman Page. Also includes a Note on the Text, Select Bibliography, a Chronology, Explanatory Notes and and a Dialect Glossary. Three appendices give i) The 1896 Preface ii) Textual Variation in 'On the Western Circuit' iii) The First Draft of 'Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver'.


Secondary Criticism

Bates, H. E.

The Modern Short Story: A Critical Survey (Boston: The Writer, 1941), pp. 37-43, 81-2, 169, 217.

Hardy’s short stories are ‘choked crudely to death’ by his Latinate style and tendency towards moralising; he is like a man ‘trying to paint a picture with a dictionary’. A vivid criticism of Hardy, but little analysis of the short stories.

Beachcroft, T. O.

The Modest Art: A Survey of the Short Story in English (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), passim.

Like D. H. Lawrence, Hardy seems uninterested in the formal properties of the short story. At his best, though, Hardy is a ‘poet of the story’, as in ‘The Trampwoman’s Tragedy’.

Benazon, Michael

‘Dark and Fair: Character Contrast in Hardy’s "The Fiddler of the Reels"’, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 9:2 (April 1978), 75-82.

A rather schematic set of oppositions is drawn between Mop and Ned, who represent the rural and the urban, the old and the new, the lover and the husband. Such a contrast of characters is similar to that in The Mayor of Casterbridge between Farfrae and Henchard. Mop Ollamoor (‘all amour’) is a romantic archetype offering sexual fulfilment, but Car’line chooses the security of Ned instead.

Benazon, Michael

‘"The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid": Hardy’s Modern Romance’, English Studies in Canada, 5:1 (1979), 56-65.

Benazon regards this tale as one of the more successful of Hardy’s short fictions, with its keen psychological analysis of female behaviour and its neo-Shakespearean world of fantasy and romance.

Brady, Kristin

The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy (London, Macmillan, 1982).

The first book-length study devoted to Hardy's stories, and still the only one which is a work of literary criticism. Brady stresses the coherence and unity of Wessex Tales, A Group of Noble Dames and Life's Little Ironies, and she emphasizes Hardy's formal innovations and manipulation of narrative perspective. There is a wealth of background information throughout, and Brady is consistently acute and perceptive. There is also a chapter on A Changed Man and Other Stories. This is the best place to begin a study of the short stories.

Carpenter, Richard C.

‘How to Read A Few Crusted Characters’, Critical Approaches to the Fiction of Thomas Hardy, ed. Dale Kramer (London: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 155-71.

A welcome and eloquent plea not to neglect Hardy’s minor works. Adopts a ‘reader response’ approach to examine ‘how the work moves as the reader encounters it, what happens in the process of reading’.

Doel, Geoffrey

'The Supernatural Background to "The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid" by Thomas Hardy', Somerset and Dorset Notes & Queries, 30 (1978), 324-35.

Traces the story's possible allusions to a folk ballad, The Daemon Lover, and to fairy tales, Milton and Shakespeare.

Fischler, Alexander

‘Theatrical Techniques in Thomas Hardy’s Short Stories’, Studies in Short Fiction, 3 (Summer 1966), 435-45.

Hardy likes to produce dramatic tableaux and to manipulate or ‘direct’ characters to indicate their lack of free will. A valuable insight into Hardy’s use of narrative distance and perspective.

Gatrell, Simon

‘The Early Stages of Hardy’s Fiction’, Thomas Hardy Annual No. 2, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1984), pp. 3-29.

A detailed textual study of Hardy’s working practices, showing how he would progress from source notes to plot outlines, then to half-developed sketches, draft manuscripts and fair copy. Most of the discussion concerns the genesis and evolution of ‘A Few Crusted Characters’.

Gatrell, Simon

Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

Gives especially detailed attention to the textual history of A Group of Noble Dames, 'A Few Crusted Characters' and 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid'.

Gatrell, Simon

'Topography in "The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid"', Thomas Hardy Journal, 3:3 (1987), 38-45.

A detailed study of the topography of the story's serial version, where there is a mixture of 'the vague and the precise, the recognisable and the unrecognisable'. In the collected edition of 1913, Hardy moved the story to Exonbury to avoid having to correct all the inconsistencies in its original setting.

Gibson, James

'Notes and Queries', Thomas Hardy Journal, 5:1 (January 1989), 93.

Desmond Hawkins has pointed out an anomaly in 'The Waiting Supper': Nicholas's cousin first appears in the story as a woman and then becomes male.

Giordano, Frank R.

‘Characterization and Conflict in Hardy’s "The Fiddler of the Reels"’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 17 (1975-76), 617-33.

This story shows Hardy’s moral ambiguity and narrative irresolution. It has an allusive mode of characterization, a ‘mytho-poeic exhibition of Wessex "history"’ and a representation of irreconcilable conflicts, the central one being the ‘clash of Hebraic and Pagan Greek values’.

Haarder, A.

‘Fatalism and Symbolism in Hardy: An Analysis of "The Grave by the Handpost"’, Orbis Litterarum 34:3 (1979), 227-37.

A reply to critics of Hardy’s pessimism. The tale uses Christian symbolism to express Hardy’s longing for a lost faith, coupled with his awareness of its extinction.

Herzog, Toby C.

'Hardy's "Fellow-Townsmen": A Primer for the Novels', Colby Library Quarterly, 18:4 (1982), 231-40.

In the story's 'character geometry', Hardy 'begins with individuals, proceeds to couples and conventional love triangles, and then reverses the process'. This structure echoes earlier works and anticipates The Mayor and Jude.

Johnstone, H.F.V.

'Thomas Hardy and Old Poole', Thomas Hardy Yearbook, no. 2 (1971), pp. 84-7.

Discusses the sources of 'To Please his Wife'. The surnames of all four characters can be found on monuments in St James's Church, Poole ('Havenpool').

Keys, Romey T.

‘Hardy’s Uncanny Narrative: A Reading of "The Withered Arm"’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 27:1 (Spring 1985), 106-23.

This story is a striking example of Hardy’s ‘manipulations of narrative form and theme’. It cannot easily be classified as a supernatural tale, since ‘an interpretive knot woven of narrative gaps, recurrences, and shifting levels of reality bedevils the reader’. Indeed, Hardy intended here to subvert the supernatural tale, producing a collision of forms which urge us to read it as ‘an essay in the pathology of sexual jealousy, a story built around coincidence, and/or a psychological fable’.

King, Kathryn

'Hardy's "A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four" and the Anxiety of Invention', Thomas Hardy Journal, 8:2 (1992), 20-26.

Did Hardy know the legend of Napoleon's landing in Dorset before he wrote the story, or did the story itself give rise to the legend? King analyses Hardy's inconsistent claims.

Lanning, George

'Hardy and the Hanoverian Hussars', Thomas Hardy Journal, 6:1 (1990), 69-73.

Lanning shows that the York Hussars were not the same as the German Legion: indeed, the two regiments never existed simultaneously. Hardy was therefore historically inaccurate in entitling his story, 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion', since its hero is quite correctly portrayed as a member of the York Hussars.

Manford, Alan

'Life's Little Ironies: The Manchester Manuscripts', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 72 (1990), 89-100.

Thorough and meticulous analysis of the manuscripts of three short stories which are in Manchester libraries: 'For Conscience' Sake', 'On the Western Circuit' and 'A Tragedy of Two Ambitions'.

O’Connor, William Van

‘Cosmic Irony in Hardy’s "The Three Strangers"’, English Journal, 47 (May 1958), 248-54, 262.

The story is not successful, since there is no necessary connection between the action and the tale’s meaning, but it does exhibit Hardy’s ironic perspective in the conflict between man’s desire for happiness and his wish to make restrictive laws.

Page, Norman

‘Hardy’s Short Stories: A Reconsideration’, Studies in Short Fiction, 11 (Winter 1974), 75-84.

Refuses to dismiss the stories as pot-boilers, and argues that they have three areas of interest: they show the range of his writing, they have significant relationships with the novels and they illustrate in miniature ‘some of the complex problems of composition and revision’ typical of Hardy’s work. Especially interesting account of revisions to ‘On the Western Circuit’. Four groupings of stories: the humorous; the romantic or supernatural; the realistic, ironic or tragic, and, finally, the historical. Page concentrates on the second and third of these groups. [Reprinted in slightly different form in his book, Thomas Hardy (1977)]

Peirce, Walter

'Hardy's Lady Susan and the First Countess of Wessex', Colby Library Quarterly, 2 (1948), 77-82.

Using Burke's Peerage, Peirce discusses the genealogy of Elizabeth Strangways-Horner, the model for Betty in 'The First Countess of Wessex'. [Hardy, however, had consulted Hutchins's History of Dorset, where several of the key dates are different.]

Purdy, R.L.

'A Source for Hardy's "A Committee-Man of 'The Terror'"', Modern Language Notes, 58 (1943), 554-5.

Purdy reports that the source of the story was a letter written by Lady Elizabeth Talbot to her sister in 1797, reporting an incident in London:

Hardy came across the letter in The Journal of Mary Frampton (1885), and seems to have made a copy of it.

Quinn, Marie A.

‘Thomas Hardy and the Short Story’, Budmouth Essays on Thomas Hardy: Papers Presented at the 1975 Summer School (Dorchester: Thomas Hardy Society, 1976), pp. 74-85.

Hardy’s art in the short stories ‘is concerned not with the isolated incident but with the collected series’. Good on Hardy’s use of narrators, oral tales and the ‘creation of a story-telling ambience’.

Ray, Martin

Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories (London: Ashgate, 1997).

This book is a textual study of all of Hardy's 37 collected short stories, a substantial number of which are among his most important literary works. A chapter is devoted to each of the individual stories, analysing the history of their composition and revision from manuscripts through serial publication, galleys, revises and collected editions, all stages of which show significant alterations. Hardy revised nearly all the stories at every single opportunity, in some cases over a period of thirty years.

Ray, Martin

'"An Imaginative Woman": From Manuscript toWessex Edition', Thomas Hardy Journal, 9:3 (October 1993), 76-83.

A textual history of the story. For an online version, click here.
A slightly emended version is reprinted in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories.

Ray, Martin

‘"The Waiting Supper": A Textual History’, Thomas Hardy Journal, 10:2 (May 1994), 58–65.

For an online version, click here.
A slightly emended version appears in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories.

Roberts, James L.

‘Legend and Symbol in Hardy’s "The Three Strangers"’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 17:2 (September 1962), 191-4.

There is no cosmic irony in the story. The use of legend and Christian symbolism stresses the innate importance of human beings.

Smith, J. B.

‘Dialect in Hardy’s Short Stories’, Thomas Hardy Annual No. 3, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1985), pp. 79-92.

Thorough and detailed account, principally describing dialect as indicative of social class. A linguistic rather than literary appreciation of the stories.

Wain, John

‘Introduction’, Selected Short Stories of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan, 1966), pp. ix-xx.

Placing Hardy’s stories in the tradition of the country tale, Wain in his introduction argues that Hardy has ‘no respect for the short story as a literary form’. The stories are therefore ‘more satisfying in their incidental qualities than in their overall impression’, although Hardy does excel; as ‘a writer of superb, evocative documentary’.

Wilson, Keith

‘Hardy and the Hangman: The Dramatic Appeal of "The Three Strangers", English Literature in Transition, 24:3 (1981), 155-60.

Eloquent praise of Hardy’s dramatic skill in ‘The Three Wayfarers’, an adaptation of his short story.

Wing, George

A Group of Noble Dames: "Statuesque dynasties of delightful Wessex"’, Thomas Hardy Annual No. 5, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1987), pp. 75-101.

A welcome, very detailed and largely thematic analysis of this volume of short stories, with their ‘disarming simplicity’.