The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (Google eBook)
, Jan 1, 2004
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), dreamed since his childhood of becoming a poet. However, he produced several popular works that cemented his reputation as a great novelist of the Victorian period, and earned him the admiration of later writers like D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. Hardy's stories are noted for their nuances of Romantic and Enlightenment thinking, particularly elements of the supernatural. One of what Hardy called his Novels of Ingenuity, "The Hand of Ethelberta" explores the class distinctions of Victorian England through the trials of Ethelberta Petherwin. By the age of 18, the humble governess and daughter of a butler marries well, only to become a widow two weeks later. In order to support her mother and ten siblings, clever Ethelberta quickly learns to navigate the complex social world as a poetess and storyteller, attracting four persistent suitors along the way. She must decide which man to bestow her hand upon while never revealing her humble origins.