Thomas Hardy

The Well-Beloved

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The Well-Beloved (1897) is A Sketch of a Temperament by Thomas Hardy. The novel tells the story of a sculptor's search for the ideal woman, through three generations of a Portland family. From the Preface: "The peninsula, whereon most of the following scenes are laid, has been for centuries immemorial the home of a curious and well-nigh distinct people, cherishing strange beliefs and singular customs, now for the most part obsolescent. Fancies, like certain soft-wooded plants which cannot bear the silent inland frosts, but thrive by the sea in the roughest of weather, seem to grow up naturally here. Hence it is a spot apt to generate a type of personage like the character imperfectly sketched in these pages—a native of natives—whom some may choose to call a fantast, but whom others may see only as one that gave objective continuity and a name to a delicate dream which in a vaguer form is more or less common to all men, and is by no means new to Platonic philosophers."
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