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Wessex Tales (1888)

de Thomas Hardy

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In this, his first collection of short stories, Hardy sought to record the legends, superstitions, local customs, and lore of a Wessex that was rapidly passing out of memory. But these tales also portray the social and economic stresses of 1880s Dorset, and reveal Hardy's growing scepticismabout the possibility of achieving personal and sexual satisfaction in the modern world. By turns humorous, ironic, macabre, and elegiac, these seven stories show the range of Hardy's story-telling genius.The critically established text, the first to be based on detailed study of all revised texts, presents manuscript readings which have never before appeared in print.The stories include The Three Strangers; A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four; The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion; The Withered Arm; Fellow-Townsmen; Interlopers at the Knap; The Distracted Preacher… (més)
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I think what impresses me most in Thomas Hardy's writing is how real the characters and setting become to me, particularly in his longer length stories.

My copy of this collection has 7 stories as was published in the 1919 edition. They were written for magazines between 1879 and 1890. These seem like folk tales written by Hardy to capture stories heard in his youth or told to him. How much of this may be sheer invention is not known to me. I assume most. I read about one a day which gave me time to think about each one and reflect upon the lives and sadness that Hardy relates.

The first two stories although quite atmospheric are not what I think of as great Thomas Hardy. With the third story Hardy revs it up and many of these stories are set in and around Casterbridge.

I would think that Hardy has few equals in telling a sad story. A good example would be the third tale here, a story of the farm girl Phyllis and the German soldier Matthäus Tina who but for a moment brightened each others dismal lives in 1801 in "The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion" before falling further into sadness and despair and death. So the fourth story, "The Withered Arm" is something of a horror story and manages to be even sadder by the end. But it is fascinating in the telling.

If I was hoping that the fifth story, Fellow-Townsmen, might give me a break from melancholy, I would have been disappointed. In painting a portrait of life in the mid 1800's Hardy once again delivers the goods that life is full of sadness and misfortune. To make sure you don't have even have more than a glimpse of happiness, the one happy family in the story is shattered by death. Even to the last few sentences where one hopes for a bit of better, Hardy leads us on to more disappointment.

The sixth story "Interlopers at the Knap" is another take by Hardy on the theme we have just experienced in the prior stories, that of marrying the wrong girl and or not marrying the right girl when you had the chance. Not quite as good as the middle stories but still a very atmospheric read.

The final story felt different than the others and gives us a new portrait of village life in the 1830's and the always present theme of romance. I particularly like an afterword by the author to this story that was first published in April 1879. In May 1912 Hardy writes that the ending of the story was almost de rigueur in an English magazine at the time of the writing. "But at this late date, thirty years after, it may not be amiss to give the ending that would have been preferred by the writer" and then he does. I won't give it away because one never knows how a hardy story will end, but I can see both endings and the original is fine. ( )
  RBeffa | Mar 26, 2022 |
A very enjoyable set of short stories and novellas on very typical Hardy themes. I once again enjoy his female characters, who often have more depth than the men. I also appreciate that within a few sentences, I am firmly placed in Wessex. He creates a place and characters that are very real.
  amyem58 | May 2, 2021 |
Some tales this collection work well, some don’t, while a couple fall somewhere in between.

Still, if you like Thomas Hardy, it’s certainly worth a read. ( )
  PhilSyphe | May 1, 2018 |
Not quite as depressing in short story form as in long form, but not exactly an uplifting set of takes either... ( )
  Helenliz | May 30, 2016 |
Preparing for a trip to South-West England I have lately been reading and watching Thomas Hardy material. His Wessex Stories, a series of magazine short stories, are brilliant, what a story teller he is, these are not your average run-of-the-mill stories, instead Hardy manages to create many-faceted characters even in his short stories, in vivid landscapes, lots of twists-of-the-tale, and very little moralising, except what comes with the time the stories are written and for what purpose they were written. It is funny to read Hardy's notes to the last short story, where he ostensibly has been forced to write a moralising ending that he disagrees with. I enjoyed every single one of the short stories, too bad he didn't write so many others. Look forward to reading his novels. ( )
1 vota petterw | Jun 19, 2014 |
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Thomas Hardyautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Pinion, F.B.Editorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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This is for the post 1912 version of the book containing 7 stories.  Do Not Combine with the 5 story 1888 copy, or either of the 6 story versions, the 1896 compilation or the BBC drama.
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In this, his first collection of short stories, Hardy sought to record the legends, superstitions, local customs, and lore of a Wessex that was rapidly passing out of memory. But these tales also portray the social and economic stresses of 1880s Dorset, and reveal Hardy's growing scepticismabout the possibility of achieving personal and sexual satisfaction in the modern world. By turns humorous, ironic, macabre, and elegiac, these seven stories show the range of Hardy's story-telling genius.The critically established text, the first to be based on detailed study of all revised texts, presents manuscript readings which have never before appeared in print.The stories include The Three Strangers; A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four; The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion; The Withered Arm; Fellow-Townsmen; Interlopers at the Knap; The Distracted Preacher

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