The Mayor of Casterbridge
141 Installments—Entirely free
After an evening of drinking at the bar, Michael Henchard sells his wife Susan and their baby daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor for five guineas. What began as a joke suddenly turns serious when Henchard wakes up the next morning and searches for his family, only to discover them missing. The rest of Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel explores the ramifications of this horrible act. Eighteen years pass and the sailor dies. Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, looking for Henchard, arrive in Casterbridge, where he is the mayor. In a meeting, Susan and Henchard decide to keep the news of their tragic past from their daughter: they will pretend to court and remarry as if they had never known each other. But the plot thickens as Susan grows increasingly ill and Elizabeth-Jane falls in love with her father’s young employee. In another twist, Henchard begins to treat his daughter coldly when he starts to doubts the legitimacy of her birth. As father and daughter strive to maintain their bond, we are left to wonder if Henchard’s abominable abandonment and sale of his family can ever be overcome.
Back to top
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in Dorset, England, to a working-class family who instilled the value of education in their young son from his earliest years. After completing his formal schooling, Hardy began work as an architect’s apprentice at the age of sixteen. He continued his apprenticeship for a few years, eventually leaving it to attend King’s College, London. Although Hardy gained recognition for his work in school, he still felt that another career was calling him and so returned to Dorset to become a writer. Hardy turned out a number of poems and novels in the years to come, among them Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Far From the Madding Crowd. Hardy’s writing drew both praise and criticism from his readers, with some of them applauding his brutally honest depictions of rural life and modern values, and others decrying his departure from traditionally conservative Victorian literature. Known for his brooding meditations on human desires and destinies, Thomas Hardy’s works remain some of the most highly regarded in English literature.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper Wessex, on foot. They were plainly but not ill clad, though the thick hoar of dust ...