Jude the Obscure

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Overview

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) wanted his last novel 'to deal unaffectedly with the fret and fever, derision and disaster, that may press in the wake of the strongest passion known to humanity, and to point, without a mincing of words, the tragedy of unfulfilled aims'. First published in its present form in 1895 (although post-dated 1896) after appearing as an abridged serial, the work was met with as much opprobrium as admiration. Critics wrote reviews entitled 'Jude the Obscene' and 'Hardy the Degenerate' because of ...

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Overview

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) wanted his last novel 'to deal unaffectedly with the fret and fever, derision and disaster, that may press in the wake of the strongest passion known to humanity, and to point, without a mincing of words, the tragedy of unfulfilled aims'. First published in its present form in 1895 (although post-dated 1896) after appearing as an abridged serial, the work was met with as much opprobrium as admiration. Critics wrote reviews entitled 'Jude the Obscene' and 'Hardy the Degenerate' because of the novel's explicit content and deliberate attacks on the education system and marriage laws; even Hardy's wife took personal offence. Sparse and bleak, the story follows Jude Fawley, a promising self-taught scholar and village stonemason, as he navigates with increasing difficulty between the prejudices of the class system and two very different women: his wife, Arabella, and his ethereal, disturbed love, Sue Bridehead.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Jude the Obscure created storms of scandal and protest for the author upon its publication. Hardy, disgusted and disappointed, devoted the remainder of his life to poetry and never wrote another novel. Today, the material is far less shocking. Jude Fawley, a poor stone carver with aspirations toward an academic career, is thwarted at every turn and is finally forced to give up his dreams of a university education. He is tricked into an unwise marriage, and when his wife deserts him, he begins a relationship with a free-spirited cousin. With this begins the descent into bleak tragedy as the couple alternately defy and succumb to the pressures of a deeply disapproving society. Hardy's characters have a fascinating ambiguity: they are victimized by a stern moral code, but they are also selfish and weak-willed creatures who bring on much of their own difficulties through their own vacillations and submissions to impulse. The abridgment speeds Jude's fall to considerable dramatic effect, but it also deletes the author's agonizing logic. Instead of the meticulous weaving of Jude's destiny, we get a somewhat incoherent summary that preserves the major plot points but fails to draw us into the tragedy. Michael Pennington reads resonantly and skillfully, his voice perfectly matching the grim music of Hardy's prose, but this recording can only be recommended for larger public libraries.--John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Dale Kramer University of Oregon
"Cedric Watts's edition of Jude the Obscure is one of an extremely interesting set of literary works from Broadview Press, distinguished by wise editorial choices and inclusion of a variety of documents contemporary with the works. Watts is one of our era's most resourceful and level-headed analysts of literature, and his introduction richly sketches the angles of several controversies current in Hardy's time. There are numerous selections from writings which influenced Hardy (science, philosophy, poems, the Bible) excerpts from essays and poems from the late nineteenth century, and materials in categories such as divorce, and university education, all of which amplify and add to Watts' comments, and stimulate thinking about Hardy and nineteenth-century subjects, as well as about our own time."
T.R. Wright University of Newcastle
"This is an informative and scholarly edition of the novel which brings out its explosive nature, why it so scandalised Hardy's contemporaries. Professor Watts provides a clear, lively introduction, helpful notes and a wealth of material on the textual history of Jude the Obscure, its contemporary reception and its intellectual and social context. Readers of Hardy will find it immensely useful."
English Literature in Transition
"Broadview Press and editor Cedric Watts have done a splendid job."
From the Publisher

"Excellent text, appropriate aids (intro, notes), and an incredible price. This is an impressive bargain."--Robert Beckett, Southwest Missouri State University

"Ingham's introduction, editing, and explanatory notes are unusually balanced, sound, and helpful in understanding this pivotal Victorian novel."--Frances Mayhew Rippy, Ball State University

From Barnes & Noble
The story of a man of high ideals but lowly background, who throws himself into a seemingly endless fight against the conventions of his time & who finds himself torn between two women: the seductive, scheming Arabella & the intelligent, iconoclastic Sue.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Thomas Hardy
Cedric Watts is a professor in the English Department at the University of Sussex, and the internationally-renowned author of fifteen critical and scholarly books, including The Deceptive Text; A Preface to Keats; Joseph Conrad: A Literary Life; Literature and Money; and Thomas Hardy: "Jude the Obscure." As well as being editor of this Broadview edition of Jude the Obscure, he is the editor of Broadview's edition of Conrad's Lord Jim.

Biography

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in the village of Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, a market town in the county of Dorset. Hardy would spend much of his life in his native region, transforming its rural landscapes into his fictional Wesses. Hardy's mother, Jemima, inspired him with a taste for literature, while his stonemason father, Thomas, shared with him a love of architecture and music (the two would later play the fiddle at local dances). As a boy Hardy read widely in the popular fiction of the day, including the novels of Scott, Dumas, Dickens, W. Harrison Ainsworth, and G.P.R. James, and in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and others. Strongly influenced in his youth by the Bible and the liturgy of the Anglican Church, Hardy later contemplated a career in the ministry; but his assimilation of the new theories of Darwinian evolutionism eventually made him an agnostic and a severe critic of the limitations of traditional religion.

Although Hardy was a gifted student at the local schools he attended as a boy for eight years, his lower-class social origins limited his further educational opportunities. At sixteen, he was apprenticed to architect James Hicks in Dorchester and began an architectural career primarily focused on the restoration of churches. In Dorchester Hardy was also befriended by Horace Moule, eight years Hardy's senior, who acted as an intellectual mentor and literary adviser throughout his youth and early adulthood. From 1862 to 1867 hardy worked in London for the distinguished architect Arthur Blomfeld, but he continued to study -- literature, art, philosophy, science, history, the classics -- and to write, first poetry and then fiction.

In the early 1870s Hardy's first two published novels, Desperate Remedies and Under the Greenwood Tree, appeared to little acclaim or sales. With his third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, he began the practice of serializing his fiction in magazines prior to book publication, a method that he would utilize throughout his career as a novelist. In 1874, the year of his marriage to Emma Gifford of St. Juliot, Cornwall, Hardy enjoyed his first significant commercial and critical success with the book publication of Far from the Madding Crowd after its serialization in the Cornhill Magazine. Hardy and his wife lived in several locations in London, Dorset, and Somerset before settling in South London for three years in 1878. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, Hardy published The Return of the Native, The Trumpet-Major, A Laodicean, and Two on a Tower while consolidating his pace as a leading contemporary English novelist. He would also eventually produce four volumes of short stories: Wessex Tales, A Group of Noble Dames, Life's Little Ironies, and A Changed Man.

In 1883, Hardy and his wife moved back to Dorchester, where Hardy wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge, set in a fictionalized version of Dorchester, and went on to design and construct a permanent home for himself, named Max Gate, completed in 1885. In the later 1880s and early 1890s Hardy wrote three of his greatest novels, The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbevilles, and Jude the Obscure, all of them notable for their remarkable tragic power. The latter two were initially published as magazine serials in which Hardy removed potentially objectionable moral and religious content, only to restore it when the novels were published in book form; both novels nevertheless aroused public controversy for their criticisms of Victorian sexual and religious mores. In particular, the appearance of Jude the Obscure in 1895 precipitated harsh attacks on Hardy's alleged pessimism and immorality; the attacks contributed to his decision to abandon the writing of fiction after the appearance of his last-published novel, The Well-Beloved.

In the later 1890s Hardy returned to the writing of poetry that he had abandoned for fiction thirty years earlier. Wessex Poems appeared in 1898, followed by several volumes of poetry at regular intervals over the next three decades. Between 1904 and 1908 Hardy published a three-part epic verse drama, The Dynasts, based on the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century. Following the death of his first wife in 1912, Hardy married his literary secretary Florence Dugdale in 1914. Hardy received a variety of public honors in the last two decades of his life and continued to publish poems until his death at Max Gate on January 11, 1928. His ashes were interred in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in London and his heart in Stinsford outside Dorchester. Regarded as one of England's greatest authors of both fiction and poetry, Hardy has inspired such notable twentieth-century writers as Marcel Proust, John Cowper Powys, D. H. Lawrence, Theodore Dreiser, and John Fowles.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Far from the Madding Crowd.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      June 2, 1840
    2. Place of Birth:
      Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England
    1. Date of Death:
      January 11, 1928
    2. Place of Death:
      Max Gate, Dorchester, England
    1. Education:
      Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks

Read an Excerpt

Part First at Marygreen

“Yea, many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women. . . . O ye men, how can it be but women should be strong, seeing they do thus?” —Esdras.

I.-i.

The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry. The miller at Cresscombe1 lent him the small white tilted cart and horse to carry his goods to the city of his destination, about twenty miles off, such a vehicle proving of quite sufficient size for the departing teacher’s effects. For the schoolhouse had been partly furnished by the managers, and the only cumbersome article possessed by the master, in addition to the packing-case of books, was a cottage piano that he had bought at an auction during the year in which he thought of learning instrumental music. But the enthusiasm having waned he had never acquired any skill in playing, and the purchased article had been a perpetual trouble to him ever since in moving house.

The rector had gone away for the day, being a man who disliked the sight of changes. He did not mean to return till the evening, when the new school-teacher would have arrived and settled in, and everything would be smooth again.

The blacksmith, the farm bailiff, and the schoolmaster himself were standing in perplexed attitudes in the parlour before the instrument. The master had remarked that even if he got it into the cart he should not know what to do with it on his arrival at Christminster, the city he was bound for, since he was only going into temporary lodgings just at first.

A little boy of eleven, whohad been thoughtfully assisting in the packing, joined the group of men, and as they rubbed their chins he spoke up, blushing at the sound of his own voice: “Aunt have got a great fuel-house, and it could be put there, perhaps, till you’ve found a place to settle in, sir.”

“A proper good notion,” said the blacksmith.

It was decided that a deputation should wait on the boy’s aunt—an old maiden resident—and ask her if she would house the piano till Mr. Phillotson should send for it. The smith and the bailiff started to see the practicability of the suggested shelter, and the boy and the schoolmaster were left standing alone.

“Sorry I am going, Jude?” asked the latter kindly.

Tears rose into the boy’s eyes, for he was not among the regular day scholars, who came unromantically close to the schoolmaster’s life, but one who had attended the night school only during the present teacher’s term of office. The regular scholars, if the truth must be told, stood at the present moment afar off, like certain historic disciples, indisposed to any enthusiastic volunteering of aid.

The boy awkwardly opened the book he held in his hand, which Mr. Phillotson had bestowed on him as a parting gift, and admitted that he was sorry.

“So am I,” said Mr. Phillotson.

“Why do you go, sir?” asked the boy.

“Ah—that would be a long story. You wouldn’t understand my reasons, Jude. You will, perhaps, when you are older.”

“I think I should now, sir.”

“Well—don’t speak of this everywhere. You know what a university is, and a university degree? It is the necessary hall-mark of a man who wants to do anything in teaching. My scheme, or dream, is to be a university graduate, and then to be ordained. By going to live at Christminster, or near it, I shall be at headquarters, so to speak, and if my scheme is practicable at all, I consider that being on the spot will afford me a better chance of carrying it out than I should have elsewhere.”

The smith and his companion returned. Old Miss Fawley’s fuel-house was dry, and eminently practicable; and she seemed willing to give the instrument standing-room there. It was accordingly left in the school till the evening, when more hands would be available for removing it; and the schoolmaster gave a final glance round.

The boy Jude assisted in loading some small articles, and at nine o’clock Mr. Phillotson mounted beside his box of books and other impedimenta, and bade his friends good-bye.

“I shan’t forget you, Jude,” he said, smiling, as the cart moved off. “Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can. And if ever you come to Christminster remember you hunt me out for old acquaintance’ sake.”

The cart creaked across the green, and disappeared round the corner by the rectory-house. The boy returned to the draw-well at the edge of the greensward, where he had left his buckets when he went to help his patron and teacher in the loading. There was a quiver in his lip now, and after opening the well-cover to begin lowering the bucket he paused and leant with his forehead and arms against the frame-work, his face wearing the fixity of a thoughtful child’s who has felt the pricks of life somewhat before his time. The well into which he was looking was as ancient as the village itself, and from his present position appeared as a long circular perspective ending in a shining disk of quivering water at a distance of a hundred feet down. There was a lining of green moss near the top, and nearer still the hart’s-tongue fern.

He said to himself, in the melodramatic tones of a whimsical boy, that the schoolmaster had drawn at that well scores of times on a morning like this, and would never draw there any more. “I’ve seen him look down into it, when he was tired with his drawing, just as I do now, and when he rested a bit before carrying the buckets home! But he was too clever to bide here any longer—a small sleepy place like this!”

A tear rolled from his eye into the depths of the well. The morning was a little foggy, and the boy’s breathing unfurled itself as a thicker fog upon the still and heavy air. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden outcry:

“Bring on that water, will ye, you idle young harlican!”

It came from an old woman who had emerged from her door towards the garden gate of a green-thatched cottage not far off. The boy quickly waved a signal of assent, drew the water with what was a great effort for one of his stature, landed and emptied the big bucket into his own pair of smaller ones, and pausing a moment for breath, started with them across the patch of clammy greensward whereon the well stood—nearly in the centre of the little village, or rather hamlet of Marygreen.

It was as old-fashioned as it was small, and it rested in the lap of an undulating upland adjoining the North Wessex downs. Old as it was, however, the well-shaft was probably the only relic of the local history that remained absolutely unchanged. Many of the thatched and dormered dwelling-houses had been pulled down of late years, and many trees felled on the green. Above all, the original church, humpbacked, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard-stones to fences, and rockeries in the flower-beds of the neighbourhood. In place of it a tall new building of modern Gothic design, unfamiliar to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certain obliterator of historic records8 who had run down from London and back in a day. The site whereon so long had stood the ancient temple to the Christian divinities was not even recorded on the green and level grass-plot that had immemorially been the churchyard, the obliterated graves being commemorated by eighteen-penny cast-iron crosses warranted to last five years.


From the Paperback edition.

Copyright 2001 by Thomas Hardy
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Table of Contents

Part First: at Marygreen, I–XI; Part Second: at Christminster, I–VII; Part Third: at Melchester, I–X; Part Fourth: at Shaston, I–VI; Part Fifth: at Aldbrickham and elsewhere, I–VIII; Part Sixth: at Christminster again, I–XI.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 30 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2012

    19th Century soap opera?

    With some events that are shocking even today and its contrast between two very different women who consume the initially sympathetic Jude, this novel is fairly absorbing. It's a pretty quick read (though longer than I expected) and it was fun to give my husband periodic updates on what happened to poor Jude in the next installment....

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Captivating

    Between 'Far From the Madding Crowd', 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', and 'Jude the Obscure' I am becoming a true Thomas Hardy fan!(more emphasis put on the latter two)

    Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead really bring the book to life, but lurking in the background are numerous others waiting to uproot the lovers happiness. With the curious nature of Father Time and his sinister mother, Arabella, deceit is always around the corner. However, Richard Phillotson, takes a different approach to contol Sue by using his good nature and an unexpected tragedy against her.

    There are too many plot twists to go into too much detail, however, this book is definitely worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Very Good Story, Very Bad Scan

    This is a very good book. Unfortunately, when Google scanned this one, their OCR software did a terrible job of translation. You're better off getting another copy elsewhere -- perhaps Project Guetenburg.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2005

    A Great Tragedy!

    I had to read this book for school, and I have to say, I don't like it very much! The conflicts are some what ironic and obscure. The book overall is great piece of liturature, however, it's too frustrating for those who are depressed, has frequent headaches or heart problems! Otherwise, enjoy! Also, the names of the two women are Sue and Arabella ( not Isabella)lol.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2002

    Meh

    I can`t honestly say what attrached me to this book, nor why I continued to read it to the very end. The relationship between Jude and Sue is absolutely frustrating, mostly due to Sue`s capricious nature. There are times in the book during which I had the strong urge to strike her. I suppose Sue and her ideals were revolutionary in a way, but not as much as I was led to believe. Her descent in the end completely negates her earlier virtues, and I feel it was almost out of place. The character stopped being Sue. As a comment to the children being trivialized, I agree entirely. All the children, aside from Father Time, aren`t even named, so while the turning point in the characters` lives is affective, the children`s anonimity detracts from the reader`s sympathy. All in all, even though I wasn`t completely thrilled with this novel, it has some redeeming values, and I would recommend it if you had nothing better to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2001

    'Deadly War Waged between Flesh and Spirit'

    I agrees to the writer in saying it 'the tragedy of unfulfilled aims'.its a tragic story about a villager Jude who marries Isabella.afterwards he is attracted towards his cousin Sue and they lived togather but parted to gain mental peace and almost succeeded.the story ends in peace,one gaining the peace of mind in different way and the aother gaining it beyond the ethereal things.The story is full of contasts but the ending is better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 18, 2009

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