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This is the first complete scholarly edition of one of Hardy's greatest novels. The Return of the Native engages ambitiously with contemporary ideas and problems of existence, and would go on to become one of the major 'Wessex novels'. When composed in 1878, however, Hardy's Wessex did not yet exist, and this edition, which is based on meticulous analysis of Hardy's holograph manuscript and every significant print edition of the novel to appear in his lifetime, situates The Return of the Native within the historical context of its first publication, encouraging readers to trace its evolution over the following four decades. Tim Dolin provides a wealth of supporting materials, including an original, authoritative text, comprehensive annotation, commentary and glossary, and illustrated appendices of both Arthur Hopkins's illustrations and the topography of Egdon Heath, thus creating an invaluable tool for students and scholars of Hardy and nineteenth-century literature alike.
When Basil: A Story of Modern Life was published in November 1852, the name of its author, W. Wilkie Collins, was familiar to a handful of readers and reviewers of his only two other works: a biography of his father, the late distinguished painter and Fellow of the Royal Academy, William Collins (1848); and a historical romance, Antonina (1850), which showed, among other signs of promise, that the RA's son had inherited 'a painter's eye for description'. Understandably, then, when reviewers were faced with the unenviable job of reviewing Basil alongside William Makepeace Thackeray's great historical novel, The History of Henry Esmond (published in the same month), many of them seized on what they knew about Collins's family background to draw an analogy between fiction and the fine arts. As Bentley’s Miscellany put it at the end of 1852:
There is the same difference between them as between a picture by Hogarth and a picture by Fuseli. We had well nigh named in the place of [Collins] one of the great painters, whose names are borne by the author of Basil [Collins was named after his godfather, the renowned genre painter, Sir David Wilkie]. But in truth the writer of that work ought to have been called Mr. Salvator Fuseli. There is nothing either of Wilkie or Collins about it.
(CH, p/ 45)
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