"Far from the Madding Crowd" (1874) is Thomas Hardy's fourth novel and his first major literary success. It originally appeared anonymously as a monthly serial in Cornhill Magazine, where it gained a wide readership.
Hardy took the title from Thomas Gray's poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751):
"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."
The book describes the farmer Bathsheba Everdene, her life and relationships—especially with her lonely neighbor William Boldwood, the faithful shepherd Gabriel Oak, and a soldier known as Sergeant Troy. Throughout her tribulations, Bathsheba comes to rely increasingly on her oldest and, as she admits to herself, only real friend, Gabriel. When he gives notice that he is leaving her employ, she realizes how important he has become to her well-being. That night, she goes alone to visit him in his cottage, to find out why he is deserting her. Pressed, he reluctantly reveals that it is because people have been injuring her good name by gossiping that he wants to marry her. She exclaims that it is "... too absurd – too soon – to think of, by far!" He bitterly agrees that it is absurd, but when she corrects him, saying that it is only "too soon", he is emboldened to ask once again for her hand in marriage. She accepts, and the two are quietly wed.