Tess of the d'Urbervilles Additional Summary

Thomas Hardy


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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, but he never did. No London theaters were willing to risk the potential censorship to produce it, although several well-known actresses, including Sarah Bernhardt, offered to play Tess.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 1303 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Tess of the D’Urbervilles centers on Tess’s relationship to the natural world. As that relationship changes, so does her situation. At the beginning of the novel, Tess is a child of nature who is confident that the natural world will protect her and provide her with a value system. When nature fails her, however, she has no value system to which to turn and thus is thrown out of her comfortable world to journey both outwardly and inwardly in search of a way back to her relationship with the natural world.

Tess first appears “at home” in the world of the small hamlet of Marlott, where, in the May Day dance, she manifests her innocence. Tess, however, is not a typical rustic maid; she is more sensitive than her friends. It is this sensitivity that ultimately undermines her. For example, shame for her father’s drunken condition makes her volunteer to take a load of beehives to market, and despair for the laziness of her parents makes her ignore where she is going. As a result, when the family’s only horse is killed, her sense of duty makes her overcome her pride to go to her aristocratic relatives for help. It is her first journey outside her secluded and protected world and her first encounter with the corruption of society.

Alec, her cousin, is a stock figure of the antinatural world, and when they meet, the image is a classic one of innocence in the grasp of the corrupt. When Alec takes Tess into the woods, she is not afraid of him, for she feels that she is in her natural element, and she so trusts the natural world to protect her that she falls asleep, only to be seduced by Alec. The antinatural force and her own innocence conspire to make her an outcast among her people. When her illegitimate child is born dead and the church refuses to give it a Christian burial, Tess renounces her religion and leaves the valley of her home in...

(The entire section is 768 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Part One—An Insignificant Incident and Its Consequences
Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles begins with a...

(The entire section is 1685 words.)