Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

3.7 238
by Hardy, Anna Bentinck

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A ne'er-do-well exploits his gentle daughter's beauty for social advancement in this masterpiece of tragic fiction. Hardy's 1891 novel defied convention to focus on the rural lower class for a frank treatment of sexuality and religion. Then and now, his sympathetic portrait of a victim of Victorian hypocrisy offers compelling reading.
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A ne'er-do-well exploits his gentle daughter's beauty for social advancement in this masterpiece of tragic fiction. Hardy's 1891 novel defied convention to focus on the rural lower class for a frank treatment of sexuality and religion. Then and now, his sympathetic portrait of a victim of Victorian hypocrisy offers compelling reading.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Anna Bentinck ratchets up the melodrama for this full-blooded reading of Hardy's classic-a staple of high-school English classes everywhere. Students desperate to penetrate Hardy's notoriously slow masterpiece should turn to Bentinck, who gives it an intense emotional coloring. She makes Hardy sound like a brother to the Brontë sisters: passionate and brooding. Bentinck alternates between a crisp, precise narrative voice that sounds like Helen Mirren, and Tess's own voice, quavering, shallow and meek. Bentinck retains her composure throughout, and her assured performance may be a welcome rescue for struggling 11th graders across the country. (June)

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Product Details

Naxos of America, Inc.
Publication date:
Complete Classics Series
Edition description:
Unabridged, 14 CDs, 17 hrs. 30 min.
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 2.30(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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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 knightlyfamily of the 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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Tess of the D'urbervilles 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 238 reviews.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
An enchanting, yet tragic story, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, has definitely shown its true Realism colors. Demonstrating how a woman's gender and status will always make society belittle her, Tess was a young maiden representing purity, natural beauty, innocence, and virtue. She has shown us the acts of sacrifice for love and her own sex. This story is calling out to woman everywhere, and for all history. Tess was a woman who stood strong no matter how unlucky she had been presented as. For example, when her rich and cynical cousin Alec had seduced/raped her while she was sleeping she had still tried to go on with her life. This shows that Tess was innocent no matter what people thought about her and she only wanted to find happiness in her life. In addition, her child Sorrow had died because it was so unhealthy, but she did stay in remorse. Her baby's name also tells us that her relationship between her and Alec was built with sorrow and sadness and ended in that way. She was also a great woman of virtue. Like from the very beginning she had protected her father from the rude gossipers, even though she knew herself that he was like that. This shows that although her family had put shame upon her, she had still treated them with respect and kindness. Furthermore, before she was about to get hanged, she asked her only true love to marry her sister. This shows, that even though she loved him, she showed no jealousy but desired what was best for him. But most of all, Tess was a woman of sacrifice. For example, when she had stabbed Alec to death in order to gain forgiveness from Angel Clare. This shows that even death and immorality cannot withstand her overflowing romance and love for Angel. In addition, before she gets captured, she sleeps on the Stonehenge; in that time, the Stonehenge was an immoral icon. This shows that she was lying there as if she was a sacrifice to the Heathen gods and in the same way she was sacrificing her life as the police came to arrest her. This fictional character signifies all women that have sacrificed their lives all because of men's greed and pride. Women who have tried to make a difference in this world so that maybe someone could not bias them because of their gender. But Thomas Hardy recognizes them, and asks us to recognize them too. He also aks us as Eves to continue to fight for our rights and their rights even in the 21st century, and all the centuries to come until we have finally reached our goals of being Adam's equal in all society, and in all humanity.
Linybean More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles because, as with most well-written novels, I was instantly endeared to the characters. You truly sympathize with the main character, Tess, and feel all the unfairness life heaps upon her. Hardy's characters come alive with passion and sorrow (and a little sarcasm) and he paints a clear picture of the duplicity of how one action so drastically affects two people. The opinions expressed on religion, morality and humanity give much food for thought. I felt at times the language ran on a little long, but I highly reccomend this book.

One word of warning though...it's not a happy-ending book, and I was pretty depressed the whole of the next day. That being said, I'm still glad I read it and am looking forward to seeing the mini-series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book over and over again many times during the past 10 years and each time I read it, I come away with something that I missed the previous time. I feel that Thomas Hardy is a genius and Tess is his greatest character. This story of a young woman wronged by society still rings true in our day. No matter how much women are given equal rights, it's still a man's world. Take the time to read this book and I promise that it will become one of your favourites as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and found that it had a lot of unexpected turns. At times I found it a little hard to relate to the main character but enjoyed it all the same. Unfortunately I am finding that the classics do not alway end 'happily ever after'!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It is actually my favorite. Tess's story is tragic, as many others have pointed out. She's manipulated, used, abused, and eventually just breaks. The story is more or less a psychological study of this poor girl. I recommend this book to everyone who ever asks me. It's beautifully written and truly a wonderful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy was way ahead of his time, and Tess is one of the most memorable characters in literature. One can't help but become emotionally involved and reminded of many of the problems with society that have changed little a century later.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I somewhat enjoyed this novel. However, at times I was confused about what was going on because of the descriptiveness of the writing. This novel seems to have a deeper meaning but it was kind of hard to pinpoint it. At times the writing is very bland and boring, but the dialogue is very enjoyable. It was extremely emotional and touching.
Di-DiDL More than 1 year ago
This book is required reading for upper division English in Colleges and Universities.  To call it depressing is dismissive and sophomoric .  Of course it's depressing, most Hardy novels are depressing by nature, but he examines the human condition from a vulnerable, innocent, well meaning character's point of view.  Some might feel it goes a little over the top in terms of misfortune, but I have always seen this as a testament of strength of the character.  What ironically breaks her is when utmost desperate, she commits murder, which plunges her into the depths of despair.  The use of Stonehenge as a symbol of sacrifice makes the situation all the more poignant .  Anyone who says she is bored with this needs to stop reading action novels and start looking a little deeper than 2 inches.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great change of pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Truely the only book that I've actually cried at the ending.
lit-in-the-last-frontier More than 1 year ago
What can I say-I love Hardy. Why do I love an author whose books seem to move from one heartbreak to another? He is definitely not one you read for a light pick-me-up, that is for certain. But his writing is so nuanced that it feels as if I am floating down a quiescent rural stream; I know turbulent water lies ahead-I can feel the increasing pull beneath me-yet there seems to be no urgency to try to pull away in opposition. Going there just seems to be the natural flow of life. So why do I love this man whose plots I willingly follow into the very depths of despondency? Because the prose...oh, the prose! Thomas Hardy is a master of every literary element. For him, setting, especially, takes on such presence that it becomes an amalgamation of every place you have ever been. All of your senses become engaged. You hear the church bells peal across the meadow. The flank of the cow against Tess' cheek feels warm and fluid beneath your own. As she toils in the field you feel the grit of harvested grain in the sweaty crease of your neck and taste its dryness in your mouth. You feel refreshed by the wind and gladdened by the birds in flight. When it comes to character, Hardy is the consummate teacher. We don't just know that Tess' mother is hard at work on wash day. Her weariness is palpable. We aren't told that Tess is a good daughter. She pitches in just where she is needed, time and time again. Each character, major and minor, is presented so completely through their speech and actions that the narrator need fill in very little. For me they each even acquire a distinctive voice in my head. So if you have shied away from Hardy for lack of interest in his wrenching plots, I urge you to give one of his novels a try and experience the power of his incomparable prose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, you can really get attached to Tess as a character a feel for her and what she is going though. I cried a lot reading this book and there were times where I had to take a break from it. Over all I liked the book. If you like Classics go for it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing style, characters, and plot were all excellent, but the ending was very depressing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a well written book, but if you are going to read it, be prepared because it is one of the most tragic books i have ever read. Don't expect a happy ending, it concludes, so you aren't left hanging, but like most books during this time period. It is depressing. For like a whole day after i read it, i felt very down. BUT if you can handle it, it is good. I don't regret reading it.
I_am_Heathcliff More than 1 year ago
Can be a bit slow and lengthy at times but overall is a very good read. The characters seem so real and you can't help but hoping that everything will turn out well for Tess. You begin to love some characters while completely hating others. Tess is so naive and helpless at times that you just want to jump into the novel and help her. However, it is definitely not the easiest of reads; but for those who love classic literature and are ok with having a box of tissues near them when they're reading, it's definitely a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the part where Tess was trying to figure out a way to support her parents after their horse died.
Kaila-Hubbs More than 1 year ago
So tragic and frustrating, it makes you glad you live in the 21st century. All of the opportunities lost by Tess and her companions due to misunderstandings and 'coincidences' make you feel the bitter pain of Tess' hardships as if they were your own. Thomas Hardy probably never imagined that he would be making young maiden girls weep at the horrible beauty of his story decades after it was written! I recommend this book only to those who don't mind heartache - this book certainly brings its share.
TessieSS More than 1 year ago
This novel had me frustrated at times but I did love it very much! I do not want to spoil the story, but I wish there was more forgiveness for Tess since it was not her fault. At times I found the language a bit too much, and could not make out what things meant and had to use spark notes for references- I would not have known what happened to Tess with Alec if I did not use the cheat! Overall the story is great, and I felt for the protagonist very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are whole paragraphs in this edition that seem not to have been transcribed well. Sentences don't make sense, punctuation is missing, weird symbols appear in random places. Sometimes a page will just end midway with no period. The next page moves on normally, but it makes me wonder what I'm missing. If this were a hard copy I would return it to the store. Not sure if that's possible with e-books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tess of the D'Urbervilles is both tragic and beautiful. Through this work of art, Thomas Hardy speaks of sin and redemption, love and sacrifice. I do not recommend this story if you are lacking either time or patience. Pieces of the story tend to move slowly, but I believe that this serves to better connect the reader with the characters, which makes the faster-paced sections of the tale more exciting and heart-wrenching. I often say that a story is well-written if it causes the reader to feel something (anger, frustration, saddness, joy, etc.). Based on this standard, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read Tess multiple times and looking forward to the next time, too. The enchanting scenes (when Angel carries Tess across the water) and emotionally shocking scenes (the ending, beginning with Angels return) draw you in. Yes, the novel is tragic but beautiful all the same.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
30 hours of reading over the course of 15 days. This was one of the most frustrating books I've ever read. I'm giving it four stars even though that doesn't accurately reflect how I feel about this book. So, the story was absolute crap. Tess was the most mealy mouthed, weak, pitiful female character ever written. Alec was an overgrown frat boy. And Angel was the most self-righteous prig. And don't even get me started on the end with Tess's sister. That was just awful. So, if I was grading this solely on the characters of this novel - it would be a two. Maybe - maybe even a one. There are minor characters which bump it to a 2 - namely Tess's dad. He's a hoot. So, here's where the frustration sets in. It's so beautifully written. The prose is amazing and the Thomas Hardy's description of just about everything transported me to the South of England. It might have almost been better if Hardy would have just described everything in sight and left out almost every character in this book! Hence, my frustration. And hence, my mixed review. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago