That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
& that I be not bury’d in consecrated ground.
& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
& that no flours be planted on my grave.
& that no man remember me.
To this I put my name.
Michael Henchard

In his introduction to Modern Critical Interpretations: Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, Harold Bloom cites the above passage, taken from the novel’s final chapter, as the most powerful and eloquent of all of Hardy’s writing. Indeed, there is a remarkable power and beauty in the simplicity of these lines. Henchard’s will is the tragic last statement of a tragic man whose unremitting doubts regarding his life’s worth not only lead to his death but also follow him there. From the moment Henchard sells his wife at the Weydon fair, he feels a keen anxiety over the value of his name. He pledges a twenty-one-year reprieve from alcohol and sets himself on a course that delivers him to the most honored business and social offices of a small country town. Unsatisfied with this seeming reformation of himself, however, he continues to let his guilt eat away at him and eventually relinquishes the name and reputation he has built for himself. His last wish, to be allowed to die anonymously and to go unremembered, is the ultimate gesture of a man who craves good repute but doubts his own worth.