A Group of Noble Dames is a collection of short stories written by Thomas Hardy. The stories are contained by a frame narrative in which ten members of a club each tell one story about a noble dame in the 17th or 18th century. All ten stories were published in serial magazines before Hardy collected them into book form.
"The Duchess of Hamptonshire" and "The Honourable Laura" were written relatively early in Hardy's career, in 1878 and 1881 respectively. "The First Countess of Wessex" and "The Lady Penelope" were written in 1888-89. Hardy revised all four of these stories significantly before adding them to the collection in 1891.
The remaining six stories were written in early 1890 and published in bowdlerised form in a special Christmas number of The Graphic in December 1890. Hardy collected all ten stories together for the first time in A Group of Noble Dames, which was published in England by Osgood, McIlvaine, & Co. and in America by Harper & Brothers in 1891. The critical reception of the book was mixed.
Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) 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, especially 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.
While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). During his lifetime, Hardy's poetry was acclaimed by younger poets (particularly the Georgians) who viewed him as a mentor. After his death his poems were lauded by Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin.