The writing, publication and initial critical reception of Tess

  • James Gibson
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series


All but the first two of Hardy’s fourteen published novels appeared first as serials in magazines and journals. The immense increase in the reading population which took place in the middle of the nineteenth century had led to a proliferation of new magazines whose readers were as hungry for serials as today’s television viewers are hungry for ‘soap operas’. Hardy was able to add substantially to his income through this serial publication, and when, in 1888, he first conceived the story which was eventually to become Tess, his intention was to sell the story, which was entitled ‘Too Late Beloved’, to a newspaper syndicate. However, on seeing the early chapters, the newspaper proprietors, scared of offending their readers, cancelled the contract. Hardy then offered his novel to two well-known magazines, but its ‘improper explicitness’ led to its again being refused. With what he called ‘cynical amusement’ Hardy then bowdlerised his story, omitting the drunken goings-on in Chaseborough, the seduction scene and Tess’s baby. In the serial she is tricked into having a sexual relationship with Alec by his having gone through a mock marriage with her, and her leaving him is not caused by her pregnancy but by the discovery that she is not really his wife.

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© James Gibson 1986

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  • James Gibson

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