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Fellow Townsmen


Thomas Hardy is one of Britain’s greatest authors. Among his most famous works are Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. For a long time Thomas Hardy's short stories have suffered from critical indifference, perhaps, in part, because of the influence of assessments such as Irving Howe's that Hardy "seems to have regarded the writing of stories as mere journeyman's work by which to earn a living, and thus to have dashed them off with the casualness of purpose and desire to please a large audience." But Hardy's short stories have little to do with the main line of the modern short story. They might be described as tales because they are told in a more easy-paced and amiable mode of narrative that we can usually find in the modern short story. Published in 1888, Wessex Tales contained five stories. A focal point of all the short stories is that of social constraints acting to diminish one's contentment in life. Fellow Townsmen is both a meticulous record of English provincial customs and a melancholic reflection on the brevity of human happiness. Barnet and Downe are old but estranged friends. Barnet, a prosperous merchant, has been unlucky in love. Downe, a poor solicitor, has made a radiantly happy marriage. One night, they meet by chance in the street - and a train of events is set in motion which change their lives. You can listen online to the free English audiobook “Fellow Townsmen” by Thomas Hardy on our website.