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The meaning and origin of the expression: Far from the madding crowd

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Far from the madding crowd


A quiet and rural place.


stoke poges churchyardThis phrase is best known as the title of one of Thomas Hardy's most successful novels. Hardy took the title from Thomas Gray's poem - Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, 1751:

'Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.'

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'Madding' - a word hardly ever used outside this expression.
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It is possible that Gray was also alluding to earlier works: by William Drummond, circa 1614:

"Farre from the madding Worldlings hoarse discords."

or by Edmund Spenser, 1579:

"But now from me hys madding mynd is starte, And woes the Widdowes daughter of the glenne."

Whether Gray was referring to a specific churchyard isn't clear. It is well recorded though that Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was written, at least in part, in a churchyard at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire.