Serialized in 1892 and published as a book in 1897, "The Well-Beloved" (full title "The Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament") was Thomas Hardy’s last published novel. Following the furore that surrounded the publication of "Jude the obscure" in 1895, Hardy turned his back on novel writing, and devoted himself to his poetry for the remaining thirty years of his life. "The Well-Beloved" is a work that Hardy himself revised several times.
The main setting of the novel, the Isle of Slingers, is based on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, southern England.
"The Well-Beloved" of the title – is an ideal, a spirit which the central character Jocelyn Pierston, believes comes to temporarily inhabit the physical form of subsequent women and girls. Structurally the novel is divided into three sections, charting Jocelyn’s romantic life at twenty, at forty and finally at sixty, the three stages of his romantic education with three generations of women. It is the story of the sculptor Jocelyn Pierston's search for the ideal woman, through three generations of a Portland family.