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.