One of Hardy's most powerful novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a shocking and haunting scene: In a drunken rage, Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to a visiting sailor at a local fair. When they return to Casterbridge some nineteen years later, Henchard-having gained power and success as the mayor-finds he cannot erase the past or the guilt that consumes him. The Mayor of Casterbridge is a rich, psychological novel about a man whose own flaws combine with fate to cause his ruin.This Modern Library Paperback Classic reprints the authoritative 1912 Wessex edition, as well as Hardy's map of Wessex.
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December 10, 2005
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Excerpt from The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper Wessex, on foot. They were plainly but not ill clad, though the thick hoar of dust which had accumulated on their shoes and garments from an obviously long journey lent a disadvantageous shabbiness to their appearance just now.
The man was of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect; and he showed in profile a facial angle so slightly inclined as to be almost perpendicular. He wore a short jacket of brown corduroy, newer than the remainder of his suit, which was a fustian waistcoat with white horn buttons, breeches of the same, tanned leggings, and a straw hat overlaid with black glazed canvas. At his back he carried by a looped strap a rush basket, from which protruded at one end the crutch of a hay-knife, a wimble for hay-bonds being also visible in the aperture. His measured, springless walk was the walk of the skilled countryman as distinct from the desultory shamble of the general labourer; while in the turn and plant of each foot there was, further, a dogged and cynical indifference personal to himself, showing its presence even in the regularly interchanging fustian folds, now in the left leg, now in the right, as he paced along.