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Overview

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 is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141040332
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/27/2009
Series: Penguin Clothbound Classics
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 123,098
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840. In his writing, he immortalized the site of his birth—Egdon Heath, in Dorset, near Dorchester. 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 died on January 11, 1928, and 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.

Margaret Randolph Higonnet received her doctorate from Yale University in 1971. She is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut and an Affiliate of Harvard's Center for European Studies. She is the author of prize-winning literary criticism on topics in nineteenth century and children's literature, and the author of several books including British Women Poets Of The Nineteenth Century (Meridian).

Date of Birth:

June 2, 1840

Date of Death:

January 11, 1928

Place of Birth:

Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England

Place of Death:

Max Gate, Dorchester, England

Education:

Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks

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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Thomas Hardy: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Appendix A: General Preface to the Wessex Edition of 1912

Appendix B: Bowdlerized Passages from the Graphic

Appendix C: Hardy’s “Saturday Night in Arcady” (1891) and “The Midnight Baptism” (1891)

Appendix D: Hardy’s Map of Wessex (1895)

Appendix E: Hardy’s “Tess’s Lament” (1911)

Appendix F: Contemporary Reviews

  1. From Unsigned, Pall Mall Gazette (31 December 1891)
  2. Clementina Black, Illustrated London News (9 January 1892)
  3. From Unsigned, The Athenaeum (9 January 1892)
  4. From Unsigned [R.H. Hutton], The Spectator (23 January 1892)
  5. From Andrew Lang, The New Review (February 1892)
  6. From Unsigned, Review of Reviews (February 1892)
  7. From Unsigned [Mowbray Morris], The Quarterly Review (April 1892)
  8. From Unsigned, Novel Review (March 1892)
  9. From Grant Allen, Novel Review (July 1892)
  10. From Andrew Lang, Longman’s Magazine (November 1892)
  11. From D.F. Hannigan, The Westminster Review (1892)

Appendix G: Contemporary News

  1. “Execution of the Convict Martha Brown” (14 August 1856)
  2. “Accident” (17 October 1872)
  3. [“The Turberville Coach”] (4 June 1885)
  4. “Shocking Suicide” (2 August 1888)

Appendix H: Contemporary Debates on Women, Sexuality, and Fiction

  1. From Unsigned, “Outrages on Women,” North British Review (May 1896)
  2. From Eliza Lynn Linton, “The Wild Women as Social Insurgents,” The Nineteenth Century (October 1891)
  3. From Eliza Lynn Linton, “The Partisans of the Wild Women,” The Nineteenth Century (March 1892)
  4. From Mona Caird, “A Defense of the So-Called ‘Wild Women,’” The Nineteenth Century (May 1892)
  5. From Unsigned, “Men’s Women in Fiction,” The Westminster Review (May 1898)
  6. From D.F. Hannigan, “Sex in Fiction,” The Westminster Review (1895)

Appendix I: Hardy’s “Candour in English Fiction” (1890)

Appendix J: Excerpts from Hardy’s Autobiography

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Audie Award winner Simon Vance's reading is straightforward, well paced, and clear." —-Library Journal Audio Review

Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think Thomas Hardy chose the subtitle "A Pure Woman"? How does Hardy define "pure, " and in what sense does Tess personify purity? Does Hardy idealize Tess? Is she a victim or does she participate in her own undoing?

2. Discuss the roles of Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare in Tess's life. Consider the ways in which Hardy describes them and how his choices influence the reader's impressions of them.

3. What is the significance of the seven phases into which the book is divided? Tess of the d'Urbervilles was serialized in a newspaper before it was published. Do you think the divisions relate to the serialized breaks? What else might the junctures represent and what episodes do they separate? What is the meaning of Hardy's use of the number seven?

4. In the course of the novel, Tess Durbeyfield becomes a d'Urberville. In what ways does Tess's transformation from "field" to "ville"-and her move from a country farm to a mansion in a larger town-mimic the change in English agrarian life in the wake of the Industrial Revolution?

5. In Hardy's hands, Tess and the landscape seem to have a reciprocal relationship. How does the landscape represent and reflect Tess's outlook and her situation? How do Hardy's descriptions of Tess mirror what is happening to the countryside from which she hails?

6. Before devoting himself to writing full-time, Hardy apprenticed with an architect and intended to become one himself. How do the principles of architecture inform the structural elements of the novel?

7. Thomas Hardy seems to work both within and without the traditions of theliterature of his day. What are some of the hallmarks of the writing of the time? In what ways does he break with the styles and themes of many of his contemporaries?

8. Hardy once said that he refused to "[end] a story happily merely to suit conventional ideas." Indeed, his novel took an unconventional moral stance and shocked readers upon its publication. In what ways might Tess of the d'Urbervilles have been controversial? What were some of the mores that governed and epitomized the Victorian age?

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