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The classic novel about love and ambition set in the countryside of England from the beloved author of Jude the Obscure.
The rural tranquility of the heather-covered English countryside is the setting for this moving novel of conflicting aspirations and tragic destiny. Clym Yeobright returns from Paris to the village of his birth, idealistically inspired to improve the life of the men and women of Egdon Heath. But his plans are upset when he falls in love with a passionately beautiful, darkly discontented girl, Eustacia Vye, who longs to escape from her provincial surroundings. A book of classic dimension and heroic design, The Return of the Native is the forerunner of the modern psychological novel—poetic, vivid, and universal.
With an Introduction by Jane Smiley and an Afterword by Jeffrey Meyers
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Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born on Egdon Heath in Dorset, near Dorchester, England. A delicate child, he was taught at home by his mother before attending grammar school. At sixteen, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect before becoming one himself. For several years, architecture was his profession, although poetry, which he wrote in his spare time, would prove his first and last literary love. By 1874, he was convinced that he could earn his living as an author and retired from architecture, married, and devoted himself to writing. An extremely productive novelist, Hardy wrote an important book every year or two. In 1896, disturbed by the public outcry over taboo subjects broached in two of his greatest novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, he announced that he would never write fiction again—he would write only poetry. In later years, he was awarded many honors, and upon his death, he was buried with much ceremony in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. It was as a poet that he wished to be remembered, but today critics regard his novels as the more memorable contributions to English literature.
Jane Smiley is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of more than twenty books, including the novels A Thousand Acres, Moo, Private Life, and Some Luck, as well as Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, a study of fiction. Among the honors she's received is the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.
Jeffrey Meyers has published forty-five books and 630 articles on literature, film, and art. A distinguished biographer, he has written lives of Hemingway, Lawrence, Conrad, Poe, Fitzgerald, Frost, Orwell, Bogart, and Modigliani. He has had twenty-five works translated into twelve languages and published on six continents. He is one of ten Americans who are Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2005, he received an Award in Literature “to honor exceptional achievement” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
A SATURDAY afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the earth with the darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath wore the appearance of an instalment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky. Looking upwards, a furze-cutter would have been inclined to continue work; looking down, he would have decided to finish his faggot and go home. The distant rims of the world and of the firmament seemed to be a division in time no less than a division in matter. The face of the heath by its mere complexion added half an hour to evening; it could in like manner retard the dawn, sadden noon, anticipate the frowning of storms scarcely generated, and intensify the opacity of a moonless midnight to a cause of shaking dread.
In fact, precisely at this transitional point of its nightly roll into darkness the great and particular glory of the Egdon waste began, and nobody could be said to understand the heath who had not been there at such a time. It could best be felt when it could not clearly be seen, its complete effect and explanation lying in this and the succeeding hours before the next dawn: then, and only then, did it tell its true tale. The spot was, indeed, a near relation of night, and when night showed itself an apparent tendency to gravitate together could be perceived in its shades and the scene. The sombre stretch of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom in pure sympathy, the heath exhaling darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it. And so the obscurity in the air and the obscurity in the land closed together in a black fraternization towards which each advanced half-way.
The place became full of a watchful intentness now; for when other things sank brooding to sleep the heath appeared slowly to awake and listen. Every night its Titanic form seemed to await something; but it had waited thus, unmoved, during so many centuries, through the crises of so many things, that it could only be imagined to await one last crisis—the final overthrow.
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