Wessex Tales: Pastoral Histories

  • Kristin Brady


Until recently, Thomas Hardy’s short stories have been ignored by critics and readers alike. Yet the tales occupy an important place in Hardy’s career and an interesting, if minor, one in the development of narrative form. They were written between 1865 and 1900, a longer period than he devoted to novel writing and a time when the genre of the short story was only beginning to be accepted in England. Hardy himself used the terms story, tale, and novel interchangeably, and appears to have made no strict theoretical distinction between the novel and short story as literary genres. For him, a story ‘worth the telling’ (LY, 158) was the single criterion for good fiction, and form was more a matter of ‘shape’1 than of length. In practice, however, he was forced to distinguish between short stories and novels because the two genres were differently perceived by the British public. When he began to write in the 1860s, the three-volume novel, preceded by magazine serialization, was the standard and most lucrative form of publication, while publishers were in general more reluctant than in America or on the Continent to print serious short fiction.2


Pastoral History Short Story Oral Tradition Actual Spectator Rural Life 
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© Kristin Brady 1982

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  • Kristin Brady

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