In this manuscript copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy's revisions to speech are revealing. Many represent a change from Standard English to dialect – a process repeated throughout the manuscript. On the first page shown here, Hardy has extended John Durbeyfield's first spoken dialogue to include 't'ye' and 'well as I know 'ee by sight'. The same page also reveals Hardy's original title for the novel, later crossed out: 'A Daughter of the D'Urbervilles'.
Following the compromises to the text which Hardy had to make during the publication of Far from the Madding Crowd, he was aware that publishers might require changes to the text of later novels.
In 1889 Hardy had a contract with Tillotson’s Fiction Bureau for the story of Tess to be published in serial form; he had started work on the book in 1888, but the publishers objected to the overt sexuality of the text and the contract was cancelled. Hardy then offered the text to the editor of Murray’s Magazine, but they refused to publish ‘stories where the plot involves frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations’. The editor of Macmillan’s Magazine objected on similar grounds: ‘You use the word succulent more than once […] Perhaps I might say that the general impression left on me by reading your story […] is one of rather too much succulence.’
The Graphic newspaper eventually offered Hardy serialisation, and the work appeared on 4 July 1891 in England and Australia, and two weeks later in America, in Harper’s Bazaar. But the editors required several edits for this publication, including the seduction/rape scene, and all references to Tess’s child; the scene where Angel Clare has to transport the milkmaids across the stream to church is altered so that, instead of carrying them bodily, he takes them across individually in a wheelbarrow.
Hardy resented having to make these cuts and the original versions of these events are restored in the book publication which came out in late 1891.
Hardy continued to edit the text in later editions from 1900, and he worked on revisions up to his death in 1928.