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Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy - click to see full size image

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Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a novel by Thomas Hardy that was first serialised in The Graphic newspaper in 1891, and in book form in 1892. When it first appeared, it was in a censored version due to the way it challenged the sexual morals of Queen Victoria's England. The book is set in Wessex (Hardy's fictional area of South and Southwest England) and the story revolves around Tess, a 16-year old girl, and daughter of John and Joan Durbeyfield. Living in a rural area, the family is not in very good financial condition. John Durbeyfield finds out that he is the blood descendant of the ancient noble family, the d’Urbervilles. On the same day, Tess participates in the May Day dance, where she first sees Angel Clare, a young man, and son of Reverend James Clare. The plot begins when Mr. and Mrs. Durbeyfield decide to send Tess to the d’Urberville mansion so she can claim kin. The story revolves around Tess's bad experiences with Alec d'Urberville and his attempts to seduce her, and then her meeting with Angel Clare, the boy from the May Day dance, and her subsequent marriage with him. After the marriage, both tell each other about their past, but although Tess forgives him, Clare doesn't. The story progresses with the death of Tess's father and the return of Angel, but ends in tragedy as Tess is forced to come to terms with her past once more.

The subtitle of the book is 'a pure woman faithfully presented', and indeed Tess is an innocent throughout the book, being wronged through no fault of her own. Even the ending comes about as she feels her hand has been forced.

Some have seen Tess as a symbol for a type of Earth goddess, or the personification of nature - this is because the book makes numerous pagan references about her. Tess of the d’Urbervilles has been adapted into theatre, television and film - with Hardy himself writing a theatre adaptation in 1924.

№ 21 in Goodreads 100 Best Nineteenth-Century British and Irish Novels.

№ 23 in Anne Haight's List of Banned Books.

№ 51 in The BBC's 100 Greatest British Novels.

This book has 306 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1892.

Production notes: This ebook of Tess of the d’Urbervilles was published by Global Grey on the 9th September 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Moorland landscape' by Archibald Thorburn.

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