Tess of the Durbervilles

Tess of the Durbervilles

by Thomas Hardy
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Overview

Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Edited with Notes by Tim Dolin and an Introduction by Margaret R. Higonnet

Author Biography:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9788182520318
Publisher: Book Sales, Inc.
Publication date: 02/28/2006
Pages: 493

About the Author

An English Victorian author of novels, poems, and short stories, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is best known for the classic books Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Set mostly in the semi-imagined region of Wessex, Hardy’s fictional works retain their popularity thanks to an accessible style, Romantic plots, and richly drawn characters.

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

PHASE THE FIRST

THE MAIDEN

I

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston1 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 zaid2 'Good 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?"3

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, ofStagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family 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?"4

"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 Rolls5 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 Oak6 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."

"Daze7 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 wold8 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-marble9 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.'10 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'son Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop--though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."

"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 'ee 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.

"Sir John d'Urberville--that's who I am," continued the prostrate man. "That is if knights were baronets--which they be. 'Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad, as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"

"Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."

"Well, under the church of that city there lie----"

" 'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was there--'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."

"Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us. Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors--hundreds of 'em--in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons and tons. There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's got grander and nobler skillentons11 in his family than I."

"Oh?"

"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me immed'ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o' the carriage they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up to my account. And when you've done that goo on to my house with the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell her."

As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that he possessed.

"Here's for your labour, lad."

This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.

"Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir John?"

"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,--well, lamb's fry if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't get that, well, chitterlings12 will do."

"Yes, Sir John."

The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass band were heard from the direction of the village.

"What's that?" said Durbeyfield. "Not on account o' I?"

" 'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John. Why, your da'ter is one o' the members."

"To be sure--I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things! Well, vamp13 on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."

The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills.

Copyright© 1984 by Thomas Hardy

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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Tess of the D'urbervilles 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 243 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.
SarahJo4110 7 months ago
alyssama121 More than 1 year ago
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, and knew little about it except that it was a classic and it was tragic. So, I was surprised that it’s actually a fairly feminist work. It’s a little slow, as most of the novels from this time period are; Hardy takes his time to set the scene and make sure the reader is fully immersed in the context of the story. I was thoroughly bored for the first part of it, but it does pick up speed as the story continues; and, it’s worth it, because I was emotionally with Tess as she went through her life and found herself in horrible situations. What really hit home for me were a few key concepts that Hardy argues: Sex education is necessary in order for a person to protect themselves and know exactly what they’re getting into when they have “relations” with someone There is an unequal standard of “purity” for what is expected of women and men Some men are just plain batshit crazy and blame their own inadequate impulse control and super-heightened sense of entitlement on women for “tempting them.” (Side note: This was scarily relevant to current events and I couldn’t help but see some parallelism between “Entitled Character Guy” and a certain US politician.) I’m still shocked that these were issues brought up in the 19th century and we’re still very much in the middle of trying to fix these problems in our own society and culture — although, the more I read of feminist literature from the 19th century, the more I’m starting to realize that the problems we are currently dealing with have been problems for A LONG TIME and some people have been talking about them for A LONG TIME, but people haven’t been listening, because you know — meh, who really cares about women problems? Suffice it to say, I was angry as I was reading this book — livid at times — but I do think that this is an important novel to read simply because of that. The story itself is enjoyable; it’s interesting to read about life during that time, especially getting a different perspective in the English countryside and learning more about the farm life rather than the city life. Tess is an incredibly sweet, kind character, which makes it all the harder to read about how ill treated she is by the men in her life. While my review mostly focuses on the concepts that shone for me, the story doesn’t hit you over the head with it, which I really appreciate. I like just having the story being told without didactic exposition about what I’m supposed to learn for it; for that reason, a different reader could get something totally different out of this. This is an important book that I think is worthy of being called a “classic,” and people should definitely make an effort to read it if they get a chance. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not thrilling, but it is enjoyable and it hits on important issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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