Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) literary career spanned more than sixty years and includes almost fifty short stories, 948 poems, the publication of fourteen novels, and drama. There are many critical/scholarly works about his novels and poetry, but only since the publication of Kristin Brady’s book The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy: Tales of Past and Present, in 1982, have scholars been increasingly focused on Hardy’s short stories. Since then several additional books (two of which address textual matters) have been devoted solely to the short stories of Hardy, including Pamela Dalziel’s Thomas Hardy: The Excluded and Collaborative Stories, 1992; Martin Ray’s Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories, 1997; and Sophie Gilmartin and Rod Mengham’s Thomas Hardy’s Shorter Fiction: A Critical Study, 2007. Furthermore, chapters about the short stories have appeared in essay collections: in Keith Wilson’s 2009 A Companion to Thomas Hardy (Peter Widdowson’s “ ‘. . . into the hands of pure-minded English girls’: Hardy’s Short Stories and the Late Victorian Marketplace”), in Rosemarie Morgan’s 2010 The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy (Sophie Gilmartin’s “Hardy’s Short Stories”), and in Phillip Mallett’s 2013 Thomas Hardy in Context (Gilmartin’s “Hardy and the Short Story”), demonstrating that robust scholarly interest in Hardy’s short stories continues to grow. From the beginning of this project, the first book-length collection of commentaries on the short stories, international scholars have supported its development, including contributors from five countries and four continents. The present collection of essays showcases Hardy’s stories
as individual carefully crafted compositions while contextualizing them within the evolution of the Victorian short story.