Thomas Hardy’s first masterpiece, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a scene of such heartlessness and cruelty that it still shocks readers today. A poor workman named Michael Henchard, in a fit of drunken rage, sells his wife and baby daughter to a stranger at a country fair. Stricken with remorse, Henchard forswears alcohol and works hard to become a prosperous businessman and the respected mayor of Casterbridge. But he cannot erase his past. His wife ultimately returns to offer Henchard the choice of redemption or a further descent into his own self-destructive nature. A dark, complex story, The Mayor of Casterbridge brims with invention, vitality, and even wit.
Phillip Lopate, a professor at Hofstra University in New York City, is best known as an essayist (Bachelorhood,” Against Joie De Vivre,” Portrait of My Body”). He is the editor of the anthology Art of the Personal Essay and has written a novel, The Rug Merchant, and a book of poetry, The Daily Round.