A Pair of Blue Eyes was Thomas Hardy’s third novel to be published, but remained so special to its author that he was still correcting its text some fifty years after publication. Most of the novel’s action is set against a background steeped in personal significance for Hardy – the romantic and rugged Cornwall of his own courtship of Emma, his first wife.
The blue eyes of the book’s title belong to Elfride Swancourt, daughter of the rector of Endelstow, a remote ‘sea-swept’ parish. Elfride, who has little to do with society, becomes entangled with two men: the boyish architect, Stephen Smith, and the older (yet equally practically inexperienced) literary man, Henry Knight. Ironically the two rivals have been close friends, Knight being mentor to the younger man who had looked up to him as ‘the noblest man in England’. A chain of dramatic events begins with Stephen’s arrival to survey the church at Endelstow.
This World’s Classics edition is the first to incorporate all Hardy’s later revisions.