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Far From the Maddening Crowd


FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
THOMAS HARDY
I did not anticipate that this application of the word to a
modern use would extend outside the chapters of my own
chronicles. But the name was soon taken up elsewhere as a
local designation. The first to do so was the now defunct
Examiner, which, in the impression bearing date July 15,
1876, entitled one of its articles ”The Wessex Labourer,”
the article turning out to be no dissertation on farming
during the Heptarchy, but on the modern peas ant of the
south-west counties, and his presentation in these stories.
Since then the appellation which I had thought to reserve to
the horizons and landscapes of a merely realistic dream-
country, has become more and more popular as a practical
definition; and the dream-country has, by degrees,
solidified into a utilitarian region which people can go to,
take a house in, and write to the papers from. But I ask
all good and gentle readers to be so kind as to forget this,
and to refuse steadfastly to believe that there are any
inhabitants of a Victorian Wessex outside the pages of this
and the companion volumes in which they were first
discovered.
Moreover, the village called Weatherbury, wherein the scenes
of the present story of the series are for the most part
laid, would perhaps be hardly discernible by the explorer,
without help, in any existing place nowadays; though at the
time, comparatively rec ent, at which the tale was written, a
sucient reality to meet the descriptions, both of
backgrounds and personages, might have been traced easily
enough. The church remains, by great good fortune,
unrestored and intact, and a few of the old houses; but the
ancient malt-house, which was formerly so characteristic of
the parish, has been pulled down these twenty years; also
most of the thatched and dormered cottages that were once
lifeholds. The game of prisoner’s base, which not so long
ago seemed to enjoy a perennial vitality in front of the
worn-out stocks, may, so far as I can say, be entirely
unknown to the rising generation of schoolboys there. The
practice of divination by Bible and key, the regarding of
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valentines as things of serious import, the shearing -supper,
and the harvest-home, have, too, nearly disappeared in the
wake of the old houses; and wit h them have gone, it is said,
much of that love of fuddling to which the village at one
time was notoriously prone. The change at the root of this
has been the recent supplanting of the class of stationary
cottagers, who carried on the local traditions and humours,
by a population of more or less migrat ory labourers, whic h
has led to a break of continuity in local history, more
fatal than any other thing to the preservation of legend,
folk-lore, close inter-social relations, and eccentric
individualities. For these the indispensable conditions of
existence are attachment to the soil of one particular spot
by generation after generation.
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