Wessex did not spring full born from Hardy's imagination when he began to write. The first part of this book reveals in detail how Wessex became what it is, geographically, socially and culturally, beginning with his first poem in the 1860s and ending with "Winter Words", his last collection of verse. The second (briefer) part is an account of the impact of Hardy's vision of Wessex on 20th-century English culture, offering an explanation for Hardy's endurance as a popular novelist.
SIMON GATRELL is Professor of English at the University of Georgia, USA. He has previously studied the development of the texts of Hardy's fiction in a number of essays, in critical editions of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Under the Greenwood Tree and The Return of the Native, and in a full-length account: Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography. His most recent book was Thomas Hardy and the Proper Study of Mankind, and he is currently completing a biography of the Irish poet William Allingham.