'Scholarly, ambitious and scrupulous'. This is how the TLS recently described the Oxford Reader's Companion Series.
In September 2000, the book which pioneered the series, The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, came out in paperback.
Now the Oxford Reader's Companions to Trollope, Hardy, Conrad, and George Eliot will follow on from its success.
In this format each of these books, designed specifically to appeal to students of literature, contains a more comprehensive and accessible range of information than any other reference work on these writers.
Interest in the writing of Thomas Hardy never seems to falter, not just in scholarly circles but also among a wide variety of readers of English literature.
His work is not only valued in terms of literature, but also in terms of the history, sociology, philosophy, folklore, and religion of his times.
Hardy was a very prolific writer of both prose and poetry.
He started writing in his teens and continued literally until the day he died.
The first attempt to write a 'dictionary' of Thomas Hardy was made in 1911.
This was even before he had written many of his most famous poems.There have been attempts since then but none can claim the comprehensiveness of the Oxford Reader's Companion to Hardy.
Over 40 contributors have come together combining their insights and understanding of all aspects of the studies of Hardy to write more than 300 entries.
The result is a unique synthesis of knowledge, incorporating different national interests and traditions of scholarship.
Entries include: Novels: Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Woodlanders Stories: 'A Changed Man', 'Enter a Dragoon', 'An Imaginative Woman', Wessex Tales Non-fiction: letters, notebooks, speeches Poems: Late Lyrics and Earlier, Satires of Circumstance, Wessex Poems Themes in Hardy's work: characterization, humour, imagery, irony, tragedy People: Max Beerbohm, A.
E. Housman, E. M. Forster, H. G.Wells Places Dorchester, London, Oxford, Wessex Contexts: agriculture, alcohol, marriage, politics, astronomy, ghosts, religion, folklore, music, theatre Publishing: censorship, reception, serialization, translations In addition to A-Z entries, the book includes extra material: a chronology of Hardy's life, an index of his poems, lists of place-names and characters in his works, a glossary of dialect words and expressions, a listing of cinema, television, and radio adaptations of Hardy's work, and an extensive bibliography.