The Well-beloved with The Pursuit of the Well-beloved, Paperback

The Well-beloved with The Pursuit of the Well-beloved Paperback

Part of the Wordsworth Classics series

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Introduction and Notes by Jane Thomas, University of Hull.

The Well-Beloved completes the cycle of Hardy's great novels, reiterating his favourite themes of man's eternal quest for perfection in both love and art, and the suffering that ensues.

Jocelyn Pierston, celebrated sculptor, tries to create an image of his ideal woman - his imaginary Well-Beloved - in stone, just as he tries to find her in the flesh.

Powerful symbolism marks this romantic fantasy that Hardy has grounded firmly in reality with a characteristically authentic rendering of location, the Isle of Slingers, or Portland as we know it.

Overt exploration of the relationship between erotic fascination and creativity makes this novel a nineteenth-century landmark in the persistent debate about art, aesthetics and gender.

This volume breaks new ground by including in full the1892 serialised version of the novel - The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781840224054


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This is the last novel that Thomas Hardy wrote although the story was serialized in a somewhat different form about five years before. I thought this book was lighter in tone than Jude the Obscure which probably derives from the fact that the idea was conceived before Jude.Jocelyn Pierston, an up and coming sculptor, returns to his birthplace on the Isle of Slingers (the name Hardy gives the Isle of Portland) to visit his father who is a successful stonecutter on the island. He stops in to see his neighbours, the Caros, and young Avice Caro kisses him on the lips as she used to when they were children. She is embarassed to be so bold with him now that he is grown up. This action makes Jocelyn realize that Avice is a lovely young woman and he courts her during his stay on the island. This is not the first time Jocelyn has been in love; he has been in pursuit of the Well-Beloved for years but his female ideal moves from woman to woman often. Jocelyn asks Avice to marry him despite his fear that the Well-Beloved might not continue to be Avice; she consents. When it is time for him to return to London he asks Avice to take one last walk with him. Avice, fearful that Jocelyn will want to follow the island custom by having pre-marital intercourse and only marry if Avice becomes pregnant, sends a note explaining that she will not meet him. As Jocelyn walks over to the mainland he meets another young woman, Marcia Bencomb, who is fleeing her father. Mr. Bencomb is the chief business rival of Jocelyn's father. A storm forces them to take shelter together and Jocelyn's habit of falling in love with a new woman causes him to fall in love with Marcia. He asks her to marry him and she assents. Before they can be married (but possibly after they have had intercourse as Hardy seems to hint) Marcia goes back to her father and they leave the country on a long journey. Meanwhile Avice has married a cousin.Jocelyn continues to remain a bachelor although his "Well-Beloved" appears a number more times. He becomes an Academician and his sculpture is admired. When he is forty he hears that Avice has died and he returns to the island for her funeral. There he meets her daughter and falls for her as well. Circumstances prevent him marrying her. Again when he is sixty he returns to the island and meets the third Avice. Although he is forty years older than Avice Three he falls in love with her.This being Hardy there is no happy ending for Jocelyn and Avice but the ending is not completely bleak.This edition also contains the earlier serialized version which is called The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved. I haven't read the entire thing but glancing at the ending it seems that it is quite different from the novel. Obviously Hardy edited quite a bit before it was published.

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