HARDY, Thomas. The Woodlanders. London: Macmillan and Co., 1887.
8vo.; 3 vols; original forest-green buckram-grain publisher's cloth with rounded corner frame in black to upper cover, and in blind to lower; lettering gilt to spine; brown coated endpapers; pp. [v], 2-302, [ii, ads.]; [v], 2-328; [v], 2-316; untrimmed, some corner creases and the odd corner roughly opened (not affecting text); internally for the most part clean, a few small stains to page extremities, small tears and creases to lower margin of M4 in vol.1 and Q1 in vol. 2; W. H. Smith subscription stickers to front paste-downs of all three volumes (partially removed in Vol. I), all three volumes with slight shelf lean, the hinges a little weak; bumping to corners exposing a little of the boards; and with pushing to head and foot of spine, where the cloth is a little worn and nicked; Vol I missing a little part of the head-cap; very good copies nonetheless, and unusual in the original cloth.
First edition in book form, One of 1000 copies. The first issue in the primary binding, with the advertisement leaf to the rear of Vol I, as called for. The author's favourite of his novels, first published in monthly instalments in Macmillan's Magazine between May 1886 and April 1887. Only 860 copies of the edition were bound up and despite being well-received 170 copies were remaindered.
The Woodlanders is one of Hardy's 'Wessex Novels', the name given to the series of books he set in south and southwest of England and named after the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom that existed in that part of the country prior to the unification of England. It reflects common Hardy themes; an evocative setting, poorly-chosen marriage partners, unrequited love, and social class mobility. Arthur Quiller-Couch declared it "his loveliest if not his finest book", and George Gissing, who read the novel in March 1888, writes that he did so "with much delight". We humbly agree. The tragedy evolves from the characters, rather than being imposed by impersonal fate as in some of Hardy's other works, and the woodland world he creates is a perfect microcosm of England.