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The Hand of Ethelberta

Thomas Hardy

Book Overview: 

Ethelberta was raised in humble circumstances but became a governess and consequently, at the age of 18, married well. However, her husband died two weeks after the wedding. Her father-in-law, Lord Petherwin, died shortly afterwards. Ethelberta (now 21) lives with her mother-in-law, Lady Petherwin. In the three years that have elapsed since her marriage, Ethelberta has been treated to foreign travel and further privileges by Lady Petherwin but restricted from seeing her own family. The story follows Ethelberta's career as a famous poetess and storyteller. Meanwhile, she struggles to support her family and conceal the fact that her father is a butler. Ethelberta easily attracts four very persistent suitors but is reluctant to give her much-coveted hand. The book is written in serial form.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .iminary steps towards publishing the song that had so pleased her, and had also, as far as he could understand from her letter, hit the popular taste very successfully; a fact which, however little it may say for the virtues of the song as a composition, was a great recommendation to it as a property.  Christopher was delighted to perceive that out of this position he could frame an admissible, if not an unimpeachable, reason for calling upon Ethelberta.  He determined to do so at once, and obtain the required permission by word of mouth.

He was greatly surprised, when the front of the house appeared in view on this spring afternoon, to see what a white and sightless aspect pervaded all the windows.  He came close: the eyeball blankness was caused by all the shutters and blinds being shut tight from top to bottom.  Possibly this had been the case for some time—he could not tell.  In one of the windows was a card bearing the announceme. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Well that made a change. No doom and gloom, no tragic shocks, admittedly a certain amount of heartache, but all quite bearable, and everything works out quite well in the end (although there is a last minute twist to the plot).

When I read the introduction I was quite surprised that this was to be l

A wonderful reread.
Perfect autumn read!

Where do I start? I am astonished that this book is so relatively obscure, how it's not listed with Hardy's other famous novels, how there are hardly any commentaries on it. I think it is an amazing, refreshing, unusual book and I utterly loved it. I was up until three in the morning to finish it.


My aim has been to read through the entire works of Thomas Hardy as he is one of my favored authors. I am very intrigued by him as a person and awed by the details of life from the mid 1800's that would be lost entirely to us were it not for there being recorded in his novels with such poetic detail

Much more fun than anything this forgotten, or with such a title, deserves to be. This is not the Thomas Hardy you might know. There’s no tragedy of Grecian proportions, no revelations of the worst of human nature, no sheep falling off a cliff or wounded pheasants dropping from branches. I like that

I have a fatal weakness for the minor or forgotten work that may turn out to be the proverbial diamond in the dustcart (actually, I think I just made up that proverb). In that spirit, I have been making my way in the past few years through Thomas Hardy’s less visited back list: the novels he himself

“This somewhat frivolous narrative was produced as an interlude between stories of a more sober design...”

This is how Thomas Hardy opens his preface to this novel so no one can say that the reader was not forewarned and so should not be disappointed for not finding here another Jude the Obscure or

Subtitled “a comedy in chapters”, Hardy’s fifth novel production is not a tremendous piece of sustained prose writing, nor a comedy, unless your sense of humour is Sahara-in-summer-dry. As the unforgiving introduction to the Macmillian edition states, Hardy here writes in his “Harrison Ainsworth sty

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