Images from the famous 1967 movie

The classic 1967 movie, with Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terence Stamp, was restored and re-released four years ago.  It’s probably just as well not to have seen the film before we read the book, as I imagine the faces of the cast would have made an indelible impression upon our imaginations.  In spite of the stellar credentials of the director (John Schlesinger) and the writer of the screenplay (Frederic Raphael), I can’t help wondering whether the melodrama of the story and the glamor of the casting overpowered the subtleties (and charms) of Hardy’s novel … but The Guardian published a rave retrospective about the movie in 2015, which I attach below.
Guardian Review, Far From The Madding Crowd (2015 retrospective)

Original Illustrations by Helen Allingham


Helen Allingham (1848-1928) drew twelve full-page engravings for the first edition of Far from the Madding Crowd (1874).  The Victorian Web has very full descriptions of these illustrations, as well as a biographical note about Allingham.  (If the Slide Show doesn’t work on your computer, you can scroll down the page and access the images individually.)


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Individual Images

Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

[British] Schoolchildren used to learn this resonant memorial to humble rustic folk, and they still should – Carol Rumens, The Guardian (UK), January 2011

Here are some excerpts from Gray’s Elegy, the poem from which Hardy derived the title for his fourth novel.  Below this, I’ve attached PDFs of the complete poem and of a fine introduction to the Elegy written by poet Carol Rumens as part of The Guardian’s long-running Poem of the Week series.


From Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth, e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. . . .

. . .

Th’ applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet even these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. . . .


Carol Rumens on Gray’s Elegy, The Guardian Poem of the Week (Jan 2011)

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray (complete)

Farmer Oak (Hardy), John Farmer (Thoreau), and Flute Music

While reading the beginning of Chapter 2 in Far From the Madding Crowd [Penguin edition, p. 9-10], I found myself in a surprisingly familiar scene. Gabriel Oak is playing his flute while Hardy philosophizes around the music.  We’ve been here before – in a book published twenty years earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic.  When reading Walden, we encountered John Farmer sitting in his doorway listening to a flute while Thoreau philosophized around him.
Below is the last paragraph of “Higher Laws” in Thoreau’s Walden.  As Hardy’s passage is considerably longer, I’ve not posted it here but have put together a PDF file that contains both excerpts.

John Farmer sat at his door one September evening, after a hard day’s work, his mind still running on his labor more or less. Having bathed, he sat down to re-create his intellectual man. It was a rather cool evening, and some of his neighbors were apprehending a frost. He had not attended to the train of his thoughts long when he heard some one playing on a flute, and that sound harmonized with his mood. Still he thought of his work; but the burden of his thought was, that though this kept running in his head, and he found himself planning and contriving it against his will, yet it concerned him very little. It was no more than the scurf of his skin, which was constantly shuffled off. But the notes of the flute came home to his ears out of a different sphere from that he worked in, and suggested work for certain faculties which slumbered in him. They gently did away with the street, and the village, and the state in which he lived. A voice said to him,—Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you? Those same stars twinkle over other fields than these.—But how to come out of this condition and actually migrate thither? All that he could think of was to practise some new austerity, to let his mind descend into his body and redeem it, and treat himself with ever increasing respect.

Final Paragraph of “Higher Laws” in Thoreau, Walden

John Farmer (Thoreau) and Farmer Oak (Hardy) (PDF file)


P.P. (Pedant’s Point) Speaking as a former flute player, I can’t avoid mentioning that flutist is the original form of the word (first appearance, according to the OED, was in 1603).  By contrast, flautist first occurred in 1860.  As I understand it, this change was instigated by 19th century English musicians and writers of program notes in order to distinguish their flute players from the French (flûtiste).  I’ve always thought (and been taught) that American flutists didn’t need to indulge in such Francophobic affectation.