Hardy’s Universe: Tess of the d’Urbervilles

  • T. B. Tomlinson


Hardy said once that all he really wanted to be was ‘A good hand at a serial’. And of Tess of the d’Urbervilles itself he adds in the Preface to the fifth edition, July 1892, ‘… the novel was intended to be neither didactic nor aggressive, but in the scenic parts to be representative simply, and in the contemplative to be oftener charged with impressions than with convictions … Well, if these statements are meant as some sort of contrast to the muddle that goes on in late Meredith novels, for instance, they are certainly true. They are also true if we think of the genuine complexity of, say, The Portrait of a Lady, first published ten years before Tess (1891). On the other hand, phrases of Hardy’s like ‘representative simply’ cannot possibly cover prose like this:

At half-past six the sun settled down upon the levels, with the aspect of a great forge in the heavens, and presently a monstrous pumpkin-like moon arose on the other hand. The pollard willows, tortured out of their natural shape by incessant choppings, became spiny-haired monsters as they stood up against it. She went in, and upstairs without a light. (ch. xxviii)


Yellow River White Face Dramatis Persona Early Scene Scenic Part 
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Copyright information

© T. B. Tomlinson 1976

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  • T. B. Tomlinson

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