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.
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’.
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 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.
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.
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’.
Traces the story's possible allusions to a folk ballad, The Daemon Lover, and to fairy tales, Milton and Shakespeare.
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.
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’.
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'.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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').
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’.
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 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.
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'.
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.
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)]
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 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’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’.
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.
A textual history of the story. For an online version,
A slightly emended version is reprinted in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories.
For an online version, click
A slightly emended version appears in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories.
There is no cosmic irony in the story. The use of legend and Christian symbolism stresses the innate importance of human beings.
Thorough and detailed account, principally describing dialect as indicative of social class. A linguistic rather than literary appreciation of the stories.
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’.
Eloquent praise of Hardy’s dramatic skill in ‘The Three Wayfarers’, an adaptation of his short story.
A welcome, very detailed and largely thematic analysis of this volume of short stories, with their ‘disarming simplicity’.