Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

There was a day and age when rural peasants in England scarcely journeyed outwith the sight of their local parish church spire. Young beauty Tess Durbeyfield’s village is Marlot in Dorset. In order to escape her rural poverty Tess (whom Hardy describes as ‘a pure woman’) follows a clue that the family might be connected to nobility. In this pursuit she falls into the clutches of the fiendish Alec d’Urberville and conceives a child which soon dies. Denied the right to bury the baby in consecrated ground Tess is driven to extreme measures. Later, as a milkmaid, she re-encounters the son of a clergyman, Angel Clare. Will Angel be her salvation? What are his expectations of her? Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1892) is classic Thomas Hardy – human tragedy played out in the gloriously depicted landscape of ‘Wessex’. One feels drained yet curiously resigned at the end of at all.  ‘As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport’. Observe the spectacle.

If captivated by this novel reach for Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2003) by Geoffrey Harvey (In the Complete Critical Guide to English Literature series http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Complete-Critical-English-Literature/dp/0415234921/ref=tmm_pap_title_0)

Should you wish to delve further go for Thomas Hardy: The Critical Heritage (1970) edited by Reginald Gordon Cox (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Hardy-The-Critical-Heritage/dp/0415862396/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389003974&sr=8-2&keywords=hardy+critical+heritage)

To deepen appreciation of  Hardy further reach for The Cambridge Companion to Hardy (1999) edited by Dale Kramer. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cambridge-Companion-Thomas-Companions-Literature/dp/0521562023/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389003605&sr=8-1) The bibliographies in this volume should stimulate further reading.

For a recent biography go to Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man (2007) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Hardy-Time-torn-Claire-Tomalin/dp/0241963281/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387029730&sr=1-1&keywords=tomalin+hardy) by Claire Tomalin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claire_Tomalin)

A lifetime of love for, and appreciation of, Thomas Hardy can be pursued in depth with the following:

Lascelles Abercrombie, Thomas Hardy: A Critical Study (Secker, 1912)

Tim Armstrong, Haunted Hardy: Poetry, History, Memory (Macmillan, 2000)

Penny Boumehla, Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form (Barnes & Noble, 1982)

J. B. Bullen, Thomas Hardy: The World of his Novels (Frances Lincoln, 2013)

Mary Ellen Chase, Thomas Hardy, from Serial to Novel (first published 1927; Russell & Russell, 1964)

Vere H. Collins, Talks with Thomas Hardy at Max Gate, 1920-1922 (first published 1928; Duckworth, 1978)

Pamela Dalziel and Michael Millgate (eds.), Thomas Hardy’s ‘Studies, Specimens, Etc. Notebook’ (Clarendon, 1994)

Simon Gatrell, Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography (Clarendon, 1988)

James Gibson (ed.), Thomas Hardy: Interviews and Recollections (Macmillan, 1999)

Timothy Hands, Thomas Hardy: Distracted Preacher? Hardy’s Religious Biography and Its Influence on His Novels (Palgrave Macmillan, 1989)

Geoffrey Harvey, The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2003)

Patricia Ingham, Thomas Hardy, Authors in Context (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Michael Irwin, Reading Hardy’s Landscapes (Macmillan, 2000)

Dale Kramer, Thomas Hardy: The Forms of Tragedy (Wayne State University Press, 1975)

Lawrence Lerner and John Holmstrom (eds.), Thomas Hardy and his Readers: A Selection of Contemporary Reviews (Bodley Head, 1968)

Scott MacEthron (ed.), Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Source Book (Routledge, 2005)

Philip Mallett (ed.), Thomas Hardy in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Rosemarie Morgan, Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy (Routledge, 1988)

Rosemarie Morgan (ed,), The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy (Ashgate, 2010)

Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Francis O’Gorman, Blackwell’s Critical Guide to the Victorian Novel (Blackwell, 2002)

Norman Page (ed.), The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Hardy (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Ralph Pite, Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life (Picador, 2006)

Jane Thomas, Thomas Hardy, Femininity and Dissent: Reassessing the ‘Minor’ Novels (Palgrave, 1999)

Jane Thomas, Thomas Hardy and Desire (Palgrave, 2013)

Paul Turner, The Life of Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography (Blackwell, 2001)

Peter Widdowson (ed.), Tess of the d’Urbervilles: New Casebooks (Macmillan, 1993)

Keith Wilson (ed.), A Companion to Thomas Hardy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

The novel has been brought to the screen often. I’d recommend the 1979 Roman Polanski version. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080009/) That’s probably because of the luscious Natassja Kinski playing Tess. She elevates the act of eating strawberries to an art form. Peter Firth plays Angel Clare and Leigh Lawson plays Alec d’Urberville. Many of the scenes depicting Wessex were actually filmed in Brittany. They are certainly gorgeous to look at. Available on DVD at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tess-DVD-Nastassja-Kinski/dp/B000YN3LZE/ref=sr_1_3?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1374222098&sr=1-3&keywords=tess+polanski

BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ series finally got round to a treatment of Tess on 4th May 2016. With Dinah Birch (Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Liverpool), Francis O’Gorman (Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds), and Jane Thomas (Reader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of Hull). The discussion is chaired by Melvyn Bragg. Available as a podcast here  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b078zcrr

384 pages in Wordsworth Classics paperback edition.

First published 1892

ISBN 978-1853260056

Thomas Hardy

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