Hardy was prolific not only as a Novelist and as a Poet but also as a writer of Short Stories. He began publishing Short Stories in periodicals in 1874 and continued to do so for over thirty years – in total over fifty Short Stories, ranging from the brief narratives of his ‘A Few Crusted Characters’ group – stories told by the occupants of a carrier’s van as they were driven from Casterbridge to Weatherbury, to the long novella ‘The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid’.
He published the main body of his Short Stories in three volumes Wessex Tales (1888), A Group of Noble Dames (1891) and Life’s Little Ironies (1894), collecting the remaining stories under the title A Changed Man and Other Tales in 1913. Unlike anything else Hardy wrote A Group of Noble Dames is a story cycle in which the speakers, forced indoors by inclement weather, tell tales of the eighteenth–century Dorset aristocracy.
A close kinship exists between Hardy’s Short Stories, his Novels and his narrative poems – the plot of many of his short stories would readily expand to fill a complete novel; the stories are thus a condensed but more intense version of the novels – and as such give a fascinating précis of Hardy’s outlook upon and understanding of the world - in which psychological factors are pre-eminent.
This section of the website contains the full text of all of Hardy’s four books of Short Stories, with the tales of ‘A Few Crusted Characters’ presented as a single continuous narrative. An additional fifth folder contains Hardy’s Uncollected and Collaborative Stories.
Hardy wrote in 1893:
A story must be exceptional enough to justify the telling. We tale-tellers are all ancient Mariners, and none of us is warranted in stopping Wedding Guests (in other words, the hurrying public) unless he has something more unusual to relate than the ordinary experience of every average man & woman.
Read on and judge for yourselves!
Tony Fincham 03.02.2019