A detailed and complex tragedy. Hardy's story is perfectly crafted and so is his prose; his descriptions of landscape are nuanced and moving, and so much a part of his characters. This novel is completely immersive and perfectly toned, keeping you emotionally engaged with the story for weeks after finishing it.— Sarah G.
A heartbreaking portrayal of a woman faced by an impossible choice in the pursuit of happiness
When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, subtitled "A Pure Woman," is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.
Based on the three-volume first edition that shocked readers when first published in 1891, this edition includes as appendices: Hardy's Prefaces, the Landscapes of Tess, episodes originally censored from the Graphic periodical version, and a selection of the Graphic illustrations.
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About the Author
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) immortalized the site of his birth—Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester—in his writing. Delicate as a child, he was taught at home by his mother before he attended grammar school. At sixteen, Hardy was apprenticed to an architect, and for many years, architecture was his profession; in his spare time, he pursued his first and last literary love, poetry. Finally convinced that he could earn his living as an author, he retired from architecture, married, and devoted himself to writing. An extremely productive novelist, Hardy published an important book every year or two. In 1896, disturbed by the public outcry over the unconventional subjects of his two greatest novels—Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure—he announced that he was giving up fiction and afterward produced only poetry. In later years, he received many honors. He was buried in Poet’s Corner, in Westminster Abbey. It was as a poet that he wished to be remembered, but today critics regard his novels as his most memorable contribution to English literature for their psychological insight, decisive delineation of character, and profound presentation of tragedy.
Tim Dolin teaches English at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales.
Margaret R. Higonnet teaches English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut.
“[Tess of the D’Urbervilles is] Hardy’s finest, most complex and most notorious novel . . . The novel is not a mere plea for compassion for the eternal victim, though that is the banner it flies. It also involves a profound questioning of contemporary morality.” –from the Introduction by Patricia Ingham