Jude the Obscure

A novel by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) originally printed in abridged and bowdlerized form in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. When the novel was published in an unexpurgated version in 1895, it was attacked as grossly indecent and overly pessimistic. The Pall Mall Gazette labelled it Jude the Obscene, and the Bishop of Wakefield was so disgusted that he burned a copy. Although Hardy lived for another 33 years, he did not write any more novels. Jude Fawley dreams of studying at university, but this aspiration proves unattainable. Both he and his cousin, Sue Bridehead, become trapped in unhappy marriages. Their decision to flout convention and live together leads to social ostracism and a tragic dénouement.

Thomas Hardy
Full title:
The Simpletons; Hearts Insurgent
Victorian literature
Literary period:

Related articles

An introduction to Jude the Obscure

Article by:
Greg Buzwell
Fin de siècle

Greg Buzwell considers how Hardy's last novel exposes the hypocrisy of conventional late-Victorian society, taking on topics such as education and class, marriage and the New Woman.

Railways in Victorian fiction

Article by:
John Mullan
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The first railway line in Britain opened in 1830, transforming how the public travelled and communicated – and read fiction. Focusing on the work of Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and George Eliot, Professor John Mullan explores the influence of the railway on Victorian novels.

Daughters of decadence: the New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle

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Free-spirited and independent, educated and uninterested in marriage and children, the figure of the New Woman threatened conventional ideas about ideal Victorian womanhood. Greg Buzwell explores the place of the New Woman – by turns comical, dangerous and inspirational – in journalism and in fiction by writers such as Thomas Hardy, George Gissing and Sarah Grand.

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