Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, originally serialised in The Graphic in 1891 and, with some significant changes, published as a complete novel in 1892. The book was controversial even before serialisation, rejected by one publisher as too overtly sexual, to which a second added it did not publish ‘stories where the plot involves frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations.’ Hardy’s description of Tess as ‘A Pure Woman’ in 1892 incensed some Victorian readers. He resented having to censor some of his scenes in the early versions, including references to Tess’s baby following her rape by Alec d’Urberville, and even to a scene where Angel Clare lifted four milkmaids over a flooded lane (substituting transportation by wheelbarrow).

The image above, from the 1891 edition, is captioned ‘It Was Not Till About Three O’clock That Tess Raised Her Eyes And Gave A Momentary Glance Round. She Felt But Little Surprise At Seeing That Alec D’urberville Had Come Back, And Was Standing Under The Hedge By The Gate’.

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  • Dinah Birch 13 episodes
    Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Liverpool
  • Francis O'Gorman No other episodes
    Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds
  • Jane Thomas 4 episodes
    Reader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of Hull

Reading list

  • Thomas Hardy: A Critical Study
    Lascelles Abercrombie (Secker, 1912) Google Books →
  • Haunted Hardy: Poetry, History, Memory
    Tim Armstrong (Macmillan, 2000) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form
    Penny Boumehla (Barnes & Noble, 1982)
  • Thomas Hardy: The World of his Novels
    J. B. Bullen (Frances Lincoln, 2013) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy, from Serial to Novel
    Mary Ellen Chase (Russell & Russell, 1964) Google Books →
  • Talks with Thomas Hardy at Max Gate, 1920-1922
    Vere H. Collins (Duckworth, 1978) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: The Critical Heritage
    R.G. Cox (ed.) (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy's 'Studies, Specimens, Etc. Notebook'
    Pamela Dalziel and Michael Millgate (eds.) (Clarendon, 1994)
  • Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography
    Simon Gatrell (Clarendon, 1988) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: Interviews and Recollections
    James Gibson (ed.) (Macmillan, 1999) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: Distracted Preacher? Hardy's Religious Biography and Its Influence on His Novels
    Timothy Hands (Palgrave Macmillan, 1989) Google Books →
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles
    Thomas Hardy (ed. Scott Elledge) (W. W. Norton, 1979) Google Books →
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles
    Thomas Hardy (eds. Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell) (Oxford World's Classic, 2005) Google Books →
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles
    Thomas Hardy (eds. Phillip Mallett and Jane Thomas) (Norton, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy: A Sourcebook
    Geoffrey Harvey (Routledge, 2003) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy, Authors in Context
    Patricia Ingham (Oxford University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Reading Hardy's Landscapes
    Michael Irwin (Macmillan, 2000) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: The Forms of Tragedy
    Dale Kramer (Wayne State University Press, 1975) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Hardy
    Dale Kramer (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy and his Readers: A Selection of Contemporary Reviews
    Lawrence Lerner and John Holmstrom (eds.) (Bodley Head, 1968) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Source Book
    Scott MacEthron (ed.) (Routledge, 2005)
  • Thomas Hardy in Context
    Philip Mallett (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy
    Rosemarie Morgan (Routledge, 1988) Google Books →
  • The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy
    Rosemarie Morgan (ed,) (Ashgate, 2010) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited
    Michael Millgate (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Blackwell's Critical Guide to the Victorian Novel
    Francis O'Gorman (Blackwell, 2002) Google Books →
  • The Oxford Reader's Companion to Hardy
    Norman Page (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life
    Ralph Pite (Picador, 2006) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy, Femininity and Dissent: Reassessing the 'Minor' Novels
    Jane Thomas (Palgrave, 1999) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy and Desire
    Jane Thomas (Palgrave, 2013) Google Books →
  • Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man
    Claire Tomalin (Viking, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Life of Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography
    Paul Turner (Blackwell, 2001) Google Books →
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles: New Casebooks
    Peter Widdowson (ed.) (Macmillan, 1993) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Thomas Hardy
    Keith Wilson (ed.) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b078zcrr

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b078zcrr

Auto-category: 823.8 (English fiction–19th century–Victorian era)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles first appeared in 1891, serialised each week in The Graphic from July to November, and simultaneously New York and Sydney.