By Ian Scott-Kilvert
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Extra resources for BRITISH WRITERS, Volume 6
It was still such that it could be presented idyllically, with the rhythmic pattern of a pastoral poem. If the course of true love is not quite smooth, it is only so little troubled as to make the smoothing pleasant. The village, which is the scene of action, stands for all the English villages where life is cast in the traditional mold. But Hardy has moved on when he comes two years later to Far from the Madding Crowd. The country life is in essentials the same, though we see it on a larger scale.
In the next phase she succumbs to the superior qualities of her lover's rather priggish friend. By a series of accidents the third lover discovers all that has happened, suspects more, and leaves her. Lovers number two and three travel together to Elfride's village on a train, and find that it carries a hearse and her body. She had married a fourth lover and then died. Thus baldly outlined, the story sounds melodramatic and absurd, and in fact it is not without these defects. Yet Elfride is done well enough to gain our sympathy, and Knight to earn our dislike.
At the age of sixteen he began to study architecture under an architect much of whose work was concerned with church restoration. He read books omnivorously, studied Latin and French, and later, with the help of a friend, Greek; and he wrote poetry. It was in Dorchester that he came to know William Barnes, who as pedagogue gave him advice on grammar, and as poet stimulated his poetic interest in Dorset. In literature, poetry was Hardy's first love, as it was his last. When he went to London at the age of twenty-two to pursue his profession of architecture, he worked conscientiously at it but continued to write poetry, though he had no success in getting it published.