REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » HARDY: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
In Tess Durbeyfield, Thomas Hardy created one of the most tragic heroines of English literature. Against a backdrop of a changing and haunting landscape, Tess battles for her freedom from the penury and abuse. The story of her heroism and fortitude, as her destiny is relentlessly played out, is moving and unforgettable.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy was born near Dorchester on June 2, 1840. It
was in 1862, when he moved to London to pursue a career in architecture, that
he began to write, but he did not begin his first novel until he moved back to
Dorset in 1867 to become assistant to John Hicks, an architect and church
restorer. Only fragments survive of this first novel, The Poor Man and the
Lady, but he continued to write and in 1871 Desperate Remedies was published,
followed by Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873). In
1874 Hardy married his first wife, Emma Gifford, and in the same year Far from
the Madding Crowd was published to considerable acclaim. Four years later he
moved back to London; The Return of the Native was published in the same year
and he became a prominent figure in literary circles.
Returning again to Dorset in 1885, Hardy continued his
regular output: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887) and a
collection of short stories, Wessex Tales (1888). Tess of the d’Urbervilles was
published in 1891 and his last novel, Jude the Obscure appeared in 1895.
Towards the end of his life, Hardy turned to the writing of poetry. Emma died
in 1912 and in 1914 he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale, with whose help
he began his autobiography, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy. This was published
posthumously, as he died on January 11, 1928. His ashes were laid in Poet’s
Corner in Westminster Abbey and his heart was buried in the grave of his first
wife at Stinsford, next to the tomb of his parents.
Thomas Hardy is admired not only for the power of his
storytelling, but also for his evocation of the English landscape. He wrote in
his notebooks: “My art is to intensify the expression of things as is done by
Crivelli, Bellini, etc., so that the heart and inner meaning is made visibly
visible.” He was thus not just interested in the landscape as a mirror for the
mood or circumstances of the characters, but he wanted there to be no
separation between the two, and it is this unity that gives his novels their
particular force and intensity: the tranquil Vale of Blackmoor is Tess’
innocence; the Chase somehow colludes in her seduction; her affair with Angel,
is also a love affair with the Vale of the Big Dairies; Flintcomb-Ash is an
active participant in Tess’ destitution; the altar-stone of Stonehenge offers
itself for her ultimate sacrifice. If the individual were indivisible from the
landscape, it would seem that mechanization also has a part to play, and that part
is invariably malevolent. We see Tess suffer on the threshing machine, and her
long, wet journey to the railway station marks the real beginning of her
inevitable tragedy. In part she is that rural idyll which would soon be
eclipsed, and finally swept away by the turning of the century.
Notes by Heather Godwin
Imogen Stubbs has worked extensively on stage in the West
End and across the UK, with major roles in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite
Jessica Lange, Uncle Vanya, Othello, Heartbreak House and the title role in St.
Joan. Her major film credits include Viola in Twelfth Night, Sense and
Sensibility and Jack and Sarah.
She has been seen on television in her own detective series Anna Lee, as
well as After the Dance, The Rainbow and The Browning Version.
Last Albums Viewed
HARDY: Tess of the d'Urbervilles