The Ten Years 1890–1899
The 1890s saw Hardy bring to an end his career of nearly thirty years as a novelist. It was a career that ended more with a bang than a whimper. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895) were Hardy’s s two most outspoken and courageous attacks on Mrs Grundy and the Victorian Establishment. In his Preface to Jude, he said, he was attempting ‘to deal unaffectedly with the fret and fever, derision and disaster, that may press in the wake of the strongest passion known to humanity; to tell, without a mincing of words, of a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit; and to point the tragedy of unfulfilled aims.’ Tess and Jude were inescapably a criticism of Victorian prudery, morality and hypocrisy, an attempt, as Hardy wrote in his essay on ‘Candour in English Fiction’ (New Review, January 1890), to reveal what ‘everybody is thinking but nobody is saying’.
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