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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, which challenged Victorian morality and made Hardy's fortune when published in the 1890s.

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'.


Dinah Birch
Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Liverpool

Francis O'Gorman
Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds


Jane Thomas
Reader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of Hull

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

47 minutes

Last on

Thu 5 May 2016 21:30


Francis O'Gorman at the University of Leeds

Jane Thomas at the University of Hull

Thomas Hardy – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Thomas Hardy Society

The Victorian Web – Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria

A Thomas Hardy Gallery: Places Important in His Life and Writings

Thomas Hardy – Wikipedia



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Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man (Viking, 2006)

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Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Dinah Birch
Interviewed Guest Francis O'Gorman
Interviewed Guest Jane Thomas
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 5 May 2016 09:00
  • Thu 5 May 2016 21:30

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