'Elfride Swancourt was a girl whose emotions lay very near the surface.'Elfride is the daughter of the Rector of Endelstow, a remote sea-swept parish in Cornwall based on St Juliot, where Hardy began the book during the first days of his courtship of his first wife Emma. Blue-eyed and high-spirited, Elfride has little experience of the world beyond, and becomesentangled with two men: the boyish architect, Stephen Smith, and the older literary man, Henry Knight. The former friends become rivals, and Elfride faces an agonizing choice. Written at a crucial time in Hardy's life, A Pair of Blue Eyes expresses more directly than any of his novels the events and social forces that made him the writer he was. Elfride's dilemma mirrors the difficult decision Hardy himself had to make with this novel: to pursue the profession ofarchitecture, where he was established, or literature, where he had yet to make his name?