Far From the Madding Crowd
by Thomas Hardy
There is in England no more real or typical district than Thomas Hardy's imaginary Wessex, the scattered fields and farms of which were first discovered in Far From the Madding Crowd. It is here that Gabriel Oak observes Bathsheba, the young mistress of Weatherbury Farm, fall victim to her amorous caprices. He stands by her through one marriage to a handsome, corruptly sentimental sergeant. Selflessly altruistic, he sees her through another betrothal to her compulsive, puritanical neighbor--as unaware as she of the stroke of Fate that will effect their ultimate union.
Published anonymously and first attributed to George Eliot, Far From the Madding Crowd won Hardy immediate success; it combines an architecturally perfect plot with the philosophical overtones that were to set the theme for all his later works.