Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset in 1840, the eldest of four children. At the age of sixteen he became an apprentice architect. With remarkable self discipline he developed his classical education by studying between the hours of four and eight in the morning. With encouragement from Horace Moule of Queens' College Cambridge, he began to write fiction. His first published novel was Desperate Remedies in 1871. Thus began a series of increasingly dark novels all set within the rural landscape of his native Dorset, called Wessex in the novels. Such was the success of his early novels, including A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), that he gave up his work as an architect to concentrate on his writing. However he had difficulty in getting Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1889) published and was forced to make changes in order for it to be judged suitable for family readers. This coupled with the stormy reaction to the negative tone of Jude the Obscure (1894) prompted Hardy to abandon novel writing altogether. He concentrated mainly on poetry in his latter years. He died in January 1928 and was buried in Westminster Abbey; but his heart, in a separate casket, was buried in Stinsford, Dorset.
Hardy's 1866 novel gets the red carpet treatment here. Like Broadview's recent edition of Dracula (Classic Returns, LJ 1/98), this includes a scholarly preface and introduction, a chronicle of Hardy's life, and several appendixes. All that for $9.95 makes this an absolute steal.