Though Hardy is known more for his novels and poetry, the short fiction canon of Thomas Hardy nearly reaches the half-century mark. The overwhelming bulk are those available in just four collections published between 1888 and 1913: Wessex Tales, A Group of Noble Dames, Life’s Little Ironies and A Changed Man.
Hardy’s aimed was for each of these collections to attain a certain level of manifest coherence as an exploration of theme, character and place. This desire resulted in some stories being edited or removed from later editions to be placed into a different volume. Despite this desire for a evident homogeneity of purpose, the individual stories contained with are capable of varying widely in form and style as well as actual narrative focus being told. Were Hardy less concerned with attaining that aesthetic coherence and instead treated each story he set down to write merely as a thing existing in isolation, he doubtlessly could have produced an output of short fiction that topped the century mark.
Instead, the reader comes to Hardy’s short stories after first discovering him through his novels or poetry will be treated a seamless transition of artistic integrity and master of the genius of precision in the use of language. The price to be paid for a disappointment in quantity is more than made up for with the fulfilling of expectations of quality.