Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) fourth novel, published in 1874, proved popular and successful. Its title was derived from Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’. Set in the fictional region of Wessex, the book conveys the impact on rural society of rapid social change and industrialisation. Gabriel Oak is in tune with the world of nature, a man of the soil. But his future looks bleak when Bathsheba Everdene, a spirited but capricious heiress, rejects his marriage proposal and he unexpectedly loses his farmland. He is further humiliated by having to seek employment from Bathsheba as a shepherd. He watches, dismayed, as she is pursued by the obsessive Mr Boldwood and dashing Sergeant Troy.