When Elfrise Swanston meets Stephen Smith she is attracted to his handsome face, gentle bearing and the sense of mystery which surrounds him. Although distressed to find that the mystery consists only in the humbleness of his origins, she remains true to their youthful vows. But societal pressures, and the advent of the superior Henry Knight, eventually displace her affections. Knight, however, proves to be an uncompromising moralist who, obsessed with fears about Elfride's sexual past, destroys her happiness. Writing of the struggle between classes and sexes, Hardy drew heavily on his own relationships, and in the introduction, Pamela Dalziel discovers fascinating parallels between Hardy's life and his art.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.