Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

3.9 69
by Hardy, Imogen Stubbs

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Introduction by Patricia Ingham  See more details below


Introduction by Patricia Ingham

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Hardy's classic 1891 novel, about a young woman's attempt at redemption following a scandal, demonstrates his fatalistic view regarding free will. Audie® Award winner Simon Vance's reading is straightforward, well paced, and clear, even when the characters speak in West Country dialect. This is an excellent choice for public libraries wanting to boost their classics collections, and the accompanying fulltext PDF ebook (which can be played in tandem with the MP3 recording) makes it useful also for high school and academic libraries. [Audio clip available through www.tantor.com; alternate recordings recently available from Blackstone Audio (12 CDs. unabridged. 2008. ISBN 9781433214998. $110; 1 MP3CD. ISBN 9781433215001. $44.95) and Naxos AudioBooks (14 CDs. unabridged. 2008. ISBN 9789626348673. $89.98).-Ed.]
—Nann Blaine Hilyard

From the Publisher
“[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

Product Details

Naxos Audiobooks Ltd.
Publication date:
Classic Fiction Series
Edition description:
Abridged, 3 CDs
Product dimensions:
5.57(w) x 4.86(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

ON an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

'Good night t'ee,' said the man with the basket.

'Good night, Sir John,' said the parson.

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.

'Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time, and I zaid 'oGood night', and you made reply 'Good night, Sir John', as now.'

'I did,' said the parson.

'And once before that--near a month ago.'

'I may have.'

'Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?'

The parson rode a step or two nearer.

'It was only my whim,' he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: 'It was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family ofthe d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey Roll?'

'Never heard it before, sir?'

'Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose and chin--a little debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your family held manors over all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father to son, you would be Sir John now.'

'Ye don't say so!'

'In short,' concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with his switch, 'there's hardly such another family in England.'

'Daze my eyes, and isn't there?' said Durbeyfield. 'And here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I was no more than the commonest feller in the parish . . . And how long hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?'

The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all. His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.

'At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information,' said he. 'However, our impulses are too strong for our judgment sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while.'

'Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now keep only one. I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? . . . And to think that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. 'Twas said that my gr't-grandfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where he came from . . . And where do we raise our smoke, now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles live?'

'You don't live anywhere. You are extinct--as a county family.'

'That's bad.'

'Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male line--that is, gone down--gone under.'

'Then where do we lie?'
'At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies.'

'And where be our family mansions and estates?'

'You haven't any.'

'Oh? No lands neither?'

'None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for your family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another at Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge.'

'And shall we ever come into our own again?'

'Ah--that I can't tell!'

'And what had I better do about it, sir?' asked Durbeyfield, after a pause.

'Oh--nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of 'how are the mighty fallen'. It is a fact of some interest to the local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre. Good night.'

'But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength o't, Pa&rs'n Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop--though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver'.'

'No, thank you--not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough already.' Concluding thus the parson rode on his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.

When he was gone Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and came near.

'Boy, take up that basket! I want 'oee to go on an errand for me.'

The lath-like stripling frowned. 'Who be you, then, John Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my name as well as I know yours!'

'Do you, do you? That's the secret--that's the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi' . . . Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a noble race--it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, P.M.' And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.

The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.

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From the Publisher
“What a commonplace genius he has; or a genius for the commonplace—I don’t know which.”—D. H. Lawrence

“The greatest tragic writer among English novelists.”—Virginia Woolf

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
theokester More than 1 year ago
Tess is one of the more depressive novels I've read lately. My wife will attest to the fact that I have a strange affinity to depressing stories. With that in mind, let me say that I really enjoyed this book. The writing was at times a bit too much for me for the reason that I get annoyed at many 18th and 19th century novels...namely, that Hardy focuses far too much on minute descriptions and in-depth analysis of setting and location. Don't get me wrong, I love a vivid and lush environment and I much prefer a fleshed out character to a flat one. I just sometimes feel that all of the flowery descriptions slow down the story telling element too much. There were a few paragraphs/pages that I tried to skim through in order to get to the next relevant points of plot. Still, I don't know that I'd want to edit out the descriptive text since it does comment on the narrative itself in a metafictional sort of way. The main characters in this book are wonderfully composed. They are absolutely and completely frustrating but they are superbly crafted nonetheless. I wanted to smack each of the main characters on many occasions. Tess is far too willing to simply be acted upon and then to bemoan her fate. Alec is an absolute pig (although towards the end of our experience with him, it's debatable just how awful he truly is). And Angel is far too inconsistent to be liked at all...at first he seems almost lovable...then he deserves to be hated...then he seems slightly adequate...then he becomes repulsive again...he's just far too wishy-washy in his behavior and ideals to ever be fully redeemable. The story itself falls into the realm of realism taken to its extreme. The plot elements felt almost like the Bible story of Job...whatever could go wrong willgo wrong. And even though Tess was generally found to be almost whining about her circumstances rather than trying to make things better for herself, the story was still rather thought provoking since it makes you wonder just how you would handle horrific circumstances and what can truly be done about them. Is it better to try and solve the problem or better to just let fate and happenstance take its toll. Personally, I try to make the best out of any bad situation...perhaps that's why I like "depressing" stories...they make me realize my life could be worse and they help inspire me to always think of the best possible outcome. I'm sure this book won't be for everyone. Those who want a happy fairy-tale romp through a girl's life would do better to stay away. Those who are easily frustrated by fallen characters, will find themselves hating all of the primary roles in this book. The book isn't terribly lengthy (~300-400?) but some of the longer descriptive passages do crawl by at times. Still, I whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who are willing to look imperfection and awful situations square in the face and come away smiling. It's not a happy book. It's not a terribly fast past book (which can also be frustrating...I wanted to shout Just do it to Tess many times). But it is a wonderfully rich book and definitely worth getting into.
Sneezybee23 More than 1 year ago
Tess Durbeyfield is beset by guilt over the accidental death of one of her family's horses - a main source of family income. In an attempt to create a social connection and to gain financial assistance for her family, she entreats the d'Urbervilles to acknowledge an ancient familial connection. Unfortunately, Alec d'Urberville is taken with Tess and rapes her. Her life is haunted by his sexual assault from that point forward. Eventually, Tess begins to recuperate and finds employment elsewhere as a dairymaid. Her days as a dairymaid are happy and peaceful until she falls in love with Angel Clare. She agonizes over telling him of her tainted past, and when she confesses the truth on her wedding night, Angel is repulsed over her past and her deception of waiting to tell him. Tess is parted from her true love and never fully recovers, even when he returns to her. Tess of the d'Urbervilles is more than a sad story. It pays homage to the type of unhealthy family atmospheres that many children are raised in. The death of the horse is a direct result of her father's drunkenness and irresponsibility, though Tess never realizes this. When her parents hear of her misfortune, her mother reprimands her for not seeking marriage to the very man who raped her. The story also explores the mental effects that sexual assault can have on a person. Tess experiences extreme guilt, depression and feelings of unworthiness - common feelings for victims of sexual assault. In the end, as she is continually subjected to Alec d'Urberville, she experiences insanity which results in extreme actions. This particular edition included an introduction and notes about the text which I found helpful. However, I thought the girl on the cover did not resemble the maiden of the book. The girl on the front is plain and unremarkable, whereas, Tess, according to the text, is remarkable. I can see why this book is considered a literary classic, but I can't say I enjoyed it. That being said, I think everyone should read this book once. Tess is a memorable character that one can not help being fascinated with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was interested in the story until it took forever to be told. Tess could not walk a few feet without an overkill of scenery description. Got tired of skimming through these areas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tess of the d¿Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy enthralls its readers with the life of Tess Durbeyfield and the trials she is faced with. Hardy captivates the reader by characterizing the characters so well that it elicits certain responses to certain characters like sympathizing with Tess, loving Angel, and hating Alec. Tess is portrayed as the naïve, beautiful country girl who is going to live a fairy tale life when a handsome prince will sweep her off her feet. Thus, capturing the hearts of the readers, and immediately setting us against Alec, the antagonist, without a shred of sympathy. Alec pesters Tess with his ¿love¿ and ruins her chances by robbing her of her innocence, forever scarring her. Tess is presented with one chance to right her life with Angel, the love of her life, and her, his. Their unconditional love for one another touches the reader, evoking feelings of hope and optimism for the couple, although their happiness is ephemeral when Alec yet again, dashes it. By this point, the reader is frustrated and seething with anger toward Alec who constantly ruins things. There finally comes a point when Tess and Angel are reunited and the reader breathes a sigh of relief, but Hardy takes an unexpected twist at the end, leaving the reader unsatisfied and discontent. It feels like Hardy has taken us on a great roller coaster, and we¿re climbing up a steep incline, only to slowly glide down a tiny hill, and at the very end, there¿s a sharp turn, jolting the reader. The overall book is fabulously unsatisfying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an EXTRAORDINARY story of how the young Tess Durbyfield is torn between two lovers, a romantic, Alec D'Urberville and a preachers son, Angel Clare. She finds before meeting Alec her troubles begin when she accidentally kills the family horse. After meeting Alec and his blind mother she finds him attractive, and he her. After romancing, she realizes she doesn't love him, it is only infatuation. She returns home before venturing out again after her child dies. She finds work on a farm in a nearby town and meets Angel Clare. She had promised to never fall in love again, although Angel persisted they should be lovers. After turning down many proposals from Angel she finally accepts. On their honey-moon night, eat up with her guilt, Tess confesses her dark and mysterious past to Angel which causes him to become jealous since Alec is still alive. He decides to go away to Brazil until he can forgive Tess. While he is away Tess returns home yet again to tell her parents of what she had done. Tess decides to find and talk to Angels parents but her plan is thwarted. She travels to the near town and over-hears a preacher, but the voice sounds familiar. It is Alec! The two lovers see each other after so long. She refuses to talk to him and tell him of what she has done.....If I continue I will tell the most brilliant climax of the entire novel!!! You must read this book to find out what happens when the two lovers meet again, who forgives who, find out who is murdered, who is executed. The ending of this book is beyond shocking! This book may be a bit difficult to get into at first, but once you begin reading you can't put it down! You only wish to know what happens next!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hardy is an absolute wonderful story-teller, but this book is definately not for the faint of heart. It takes a few chapters to really get into and the climax of the story really doesn't live up to the tale itself. Wonderful writing, but a let-down in the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so hard to read. I have to read it for my high school English class and the dialect is crazy. It is so difficult! I mean, not to spoil it for anyone or anything, but I didn't even realize that she was raped. Really and truly, no idea. If you are going for a book that is not hard to understand and that is enjoyable, I'm sorry to say, but do not go for this book. Have a great life everyone! ~Krysti
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Emotionally draining
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