Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles


Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles


  • Intro

    Most of Thomas Hardy’s novels are set in the imaginary region of Wessex, centred on his native Dorchester. Against a backdrop of extraordinary social upheaval affecting traditional rural ways of life, Hardy examined the social constraints of Victorian England. His writing explored love and relationships that crossed class boundaries, often using dialect in character dialogue to mark these social distinctions.



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    Here, in the manuscript copy of Tess of the D'Ubervilles, Hardy's revisions to speech are revealing. Many represent a change from Standard English to dialect – a process repeated throughout the manuscript. Here, Hardy has extended John Durbeyfield's first spoken dialogue to include 't'ye' and 'well as I know 'ee by sight'.


    Shelfmark: Add. MS. 38182, ff.15v–16.

  • Transcript

    Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles

    Original text:


    Book First.

    Chapter I.


        On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Stourcastle town by a lane which led into the recesses of the neighbouring Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion: though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, and a patch worn away at the brim where he seized it to take it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

        "Good-night t'ye," said the pedestrian with the basket.

        "Good-night, Sir John," said the parson.

        The man with the basket, after another pace or two, halted, and turning round called to the last speaker.

        "Now, Sir, begging your pardon, and well as I know 'ee by sight, not knowing your name; we met last market day on this road about this time, and I said 'good-night,' and you made reply 'Good-night, Sir John,' as now."


    [page 141?]

        Tess had never before visited this part of the country, and yet she felt akin to the landscape. Not so very far as to the left of her she could discern a dark patch in the scenery which inquiry confirmed her in supposing to be trees, marking the environs of King's-Bere - in the church of which parish the bones of her ancestors - her useless ancestors - lay entombed.

        She had no admiration for them: not a single material thing of all that had been theirs did she retain but the old silver spoon. Yet to diverge from the direct route in order to glance at their nesting-place was a passing courtesy to which they were entitled, and no serious task for so active a walker. Tess entered the church about two in the afternoon, and beheld for the first time in her life the spot whereof her father had spoken or [sung?] [with painfulness?] ever since Parson Tringham's amusement. 

        Here stood the tombs of the D'Urbervilles - formed of grey Purbeck marble; canctified, altar-shaped, and plain; their carvings defaced and broken; their brasses torn from their matrices. Of all the reminders that she had ever received that they were socially an extinct family there was none so forcible as this spoliation.

        She drew near to a dark stone, in which was inscribed:


        -"Ostium sepulchre antiquae familae D'Urberville." 


        Tess did not read Church Latin like a Cardinal ,but she knew that this was the door of her ancestral sepulchre, and that the tall knights of whom her father chanted in his [cups?] lay inside it in their leaden shrouds.

        "Pooh - what's the good of thinking about them!" she said, with a sudden sigh. "I have as much of mother as father in me: all my prettiness comes from her, and she was only a dairymaid."

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