Born in Dorset, Thomas Hardy wrote about his native region all his life, calling it "Wessex" in his novels. Hardy was apprenticed to an architect at 15, but began to write novels in his spare time when he was in his 20s. His first novel was rejected by George Meredith, a reader for the publisher he sent it to, but he was considered promising, and Meredith encouraged him to try again. Hardy, who had also been writing poetry, gave it up temporarily for fiction, and his first novel was published three years later. He abandoned architecture for the life of a writer, producing a series of masterpieces that ended with "Jude the Obscure" in 1896. That novel's frankness and unsparing bleakness met with such a hostile reception that Hardy returned to writing poetry, which he continued to produce until the end of his life. His novels are strongly determinist, demonstrating the ways in which the forces of nature shape human existence: People are at the mercy of their passions; fate and chance rule their lives, and the only heroic path is endurance. His poetry contains similar themes, and all of his work is permeated with a melancholy that often turns to tragedy.
From the Publisher
In THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE, the story turns on that staple of Victorian literature, a love triangle. Clym Yeobright, the "native" of the title, returns to the countryside where he was born--much as Hardy himself, after a stint in London, returned to his native Dorsetshire to write. Clym falls in love with his cousin, the beautiful but cold Eustacia Vye, who is fatally attracted to the faithless, irresponsible Damon Wildeve. Much of the action is propelled by fate in the form of coincidence, but the characters also have a hand in the catastrophes that befall them. Like much of Hardy's best work, THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE evokes the countryside around Dorset, which Hardy called by the fictional name of Wessex--a landscape that Clym reveres and Eustachia detests and wishes only to escape. The novel was also notable when it was published (in 1878) because its ending does not conform to the Victorial ideal of a happy one with all the ends tied up, and because most of the major characters cannot be termed admirable. However, THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE has always been one of Hardy's most popular novels, and perhaps the one most expressive of his own view of the world.
A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the fast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment.