HARDY, Thomas (author). H. MACBETH-RAEBURN (etching by). The Well-Beloved, A Sketch of a Temperament. London; Osgood, McIlvaine and Co. 1897.
Large 8vo. Finely and richly bound in full tan morocco, spine with 5 raised bands, decoratively ruled in compartments and lettered, and dated, direct in gilt, with double panels to boards and decorative cornerpieces in gilt in triple-line gilt fillet, top edges gilt, others untrimmed, decorative gilt dentelles and marbled endpapers, by Birdsall of Northampton; pp. [iv], [v]-viii + [ii] + 337 + [i], with original cloth covers laid down and bound in to rear; illustrated with a frontispiece etching by H. Macbeth-Raeburn and a map of Wessex; a very nearly fine, and remarkably handsome, copy with just a touch of rubbing to joints and edges, internally uninscribed, and fresh, save offsetting from gilt dentelles to edges of free endpapers.
First edition in book form of this often-overlooked Hardy novel which was published as volume XVII in the Wessex Novels series. It is Hardy's penultimate novel which appeared previously in serialised form as The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved in The Illustrated London News in 1892. Here it was considerably revised, for book publication. The setting for the work, as with so much of Hardy's fiction, is Dorset; in this case the Isle of Portland which is referred to here as the Isle of Slingers. With a fairy tale feel the novel tells the story of the sculptor Jocelyn Pierston who falls in love, over twenty-five years, with three generations of the same family - the first woman a romantic ingenue, the second a worldly coquette, the third a shy, well-educated virgin. Unsurprisingly the novel has been subject to much psychological interpretation over the years, centring around the subject of male desire.