‘a pure woman faithfully presented ’
Upon his return, to England, Hardy was greeted with a greatly increased volume of requests from editors and publishers. H. Quilter wanted a story for the Universal Magazine, and in August Hardy sent him ‘A Tragedy of Two Ambitions’ (published in December 1888). Edward Arnold wanted a novel to serialize in Murray's Magazine; Mowbray Morris would like something more for Macmillan's Magazine; James R. Osgood (London agent for Harper & Brothers) sought Hardy’s help in making arrangements for three illustrations for ‘The First Countess of Wessex’ (to be published in Harper's Magazine); and W. F. Tillotson, head of the newspaper-syndicate firm of W. F. Tillotson & Son in Bolton (a Lancashire town, ten miles from Manchester), requested a novel for serialization in their newspapers. From among these offers, Hardy chose the one from Bolton, probably for no more cogent reason than that the Tillotsons offered better terms. Hardy agreed to supply the syndicate with a novel for serialization a year hence.