The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the beautiful Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet bytourist or landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the summits of the hills thatsurround it-except perhaps during the droughts of summer. An unguided ramble into its recessesin bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways.This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are never brown and the springsnever dry, is bounded on the south by the bold chalk ridge that embraces the prominences ofHambledon Hill, Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. Thetraveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score of miles over calcareous downsand corn-lands, suddenly reaches the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised and delightedto behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing absolutely from that which he haspassed through. Behind him the hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give anunenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the hedges low and plashed, theatmosphere colourless. Here, in the valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller andmore delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from this height their hedgerowsappear a network of dark green threads overspreading the paler green of the grass. The atmospherebeneath is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists call the middle distance partakesalso of that hue, while the horizon beyond is of the deepest ultramarine. Arable lands are few andlimited; with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass and trees, mantlingminor hills and dales within the major. Such is the Vale of Blackmoor
Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, including the poetry of William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native South West England. Many of his novels concern tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances, and they are often set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex; initially based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Hardy's Wessex eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England. Two of his novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, were listed in the top 50 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.