Summary (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Thomas Hardy began writing Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the fall of 1888, under contract to a large conservative newspaper syndicate in England. After reading drafts of the manuscript this publisher decided certain scenes were indecent and asked Hardy to rewrite them. After Hardy refused, his publisher canceled his contract. For financial reasons Hardy needed to sell his book as a serial. He tried to sell the manuscript to two more magazine publishers, but both magazines rejected it.
Hardy undertook the revision of the text himself. His second draft won the approval of the Graphic magazine, except for two scenes. Tess of the D’Urbervilles appeared as a weekly serial between July 4, 1891, and December 26, 1891. It appeared in book form, with nearly all its original text restored, in November, 1891. The Wessex edition of 1912 was the first complete edition. The novel encountered mixed reviews upon publication, but sold quickly enough to go into a second edition within months.
The scene that had raised the strongest objections is Tess’s seduction by Alec D’Urberville. Hardy revised this scene to have Tess believe that she is married to D’Urberville when he seduces her. The second objectionable scene is the baptism of Tess’s illegitimate child, which Hardy fixed by simply removing the child from the story completely.
Hardy received many requests to dramatize Tess of the D’Urbervilles,...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
It is a proud day when Jack Durbeyfield learns that he is descended from the famous D’Urberville family. Durbeyfield never does more work than necessary to keep his family supplied with meager food and himself with beer, but from that day on, he ceases doing even that small amount of work. His wife joins him in thinking that such a high family should live better with less effort, and she persuades their oldest daughter, Tess, to visit the Stoke-D’Urbervilles, a wealthy family who assumed the D’Urberville name because no one else claimed it. It is her mother’s hope that Tess would make a good impression on the rich D’Urbervilles and perhaps a good marriage with one of the sons.
When Tess meets her supposed relatives, however, she finds only a blind mother and a dapper son who makes Tess uncomfortable by his improper remarks to her. The son, Alec, tricks the innocent young Tess into working as a poultry maid; he does not let her know that his mother is unaware of Tess’s identity. After a short time, Tess decides to avoid Alec and look for work elsewhere to support her parents and her brothers and sisters. Alec, however, manages at last to get her alone and then rapes her.
When Tess returns to her home and tells her mother of her terrible experience, her mother’s only worry is that Alec is not going to marry Tess. She works in the fields, facing the slander of her associates bravely. Her trouble is made worse by the fact that Alec...
(The entire section is 1303 words.)