This is the annotated edition including a rare biographical essay on the life and works of the author. In the setting of this story we recognize much of our author's old power. The quiet rural town is set as distinctly before us as Cranford is. But the people to whom Mr. Hardy introduces us upon its streets are not the people Mrs. Gaskeil makes us know and love. There is to our mind not a really attractive character in the whole book. The good ones have a tendency to become commonplace, the bad ones can hardly be said to be interesting. It is true that Michael Henchard, the self-made hero, is a remarkable character study from the point of view of a psychologist or a sociologist, but that does not make him a proper hero for a novel, and we are forced to conclude that even the genius of Mr. Hardy cannot long sustain its eagle flight when, to borrow a metaphor from Shelley, its wings are cramped by the constraining folds of the serpent of pessimism.