The nine stories collected in this volume were written during the period 1874-1888. Beautiful in their own right, these stories are also testing-grounds for the novels of Hardy's maturity in their controversial sexual politics, their refusal of romance structures, and their elegiac pursuit of past, lost loves. In the title story Rhoda Brook, the abandoned mistress of Farmer Lodge, is jealous to discover details of his new bride. Hardy's first story, "Destiny and a Blue Cloak, " was written fresh from the success of Far from the Madding Crowd. Several of the stories in The Withered Arm were collected to form the famous volume Wessex Tales (1888), the first time Hardy denoted "Wessex" to describe his fictional world. This volume also includes the stories "The Thieves Who Couldn't Help Sneezing, " "The Distracted Preacher, " "Fellow-Townsmen, " "The Three Strangers, " "The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid, " "Interlopers at the Knap, " and "The Waiting Supper."