Tess of the d'Urbervilles


There have been numerous biographies as new aspects of Hardy's life have been discussed and researched. Two recent ones are:

  • Pite, Ralph: Thomas Hardy: the Guarded Life (Picador, 2006)
  • Tomalin, Claire: Thomas Hardy (Penguin Books, 2007)

Critical texts on Hardy

There has been an abundance of critical works over the 20th and 21st centuries:


  • Williams, Raymond: Culture & Society 1780-1950 (Open University, 1983).

Handbooks and companions

These types of books give a good deal of background and are useful for an historicist reading:

  • Kramer, Dale ed. The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Hardy (Cambridge University Press, 1999). This includes a good essay by Linda Shires: 'The Radical Aesthetics of Tess'
  • Pinion, F.B.: A Hardy Companion (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1968).

Structural approaches

  • Gregor, Ian: The Great Web: the Form of Hardy's Major Fiction (Faber & Faber, 1975)
  • van Ghent, Dorothy: The English Novel: Form and Function (New York: Reinhart & Co.,1953). This has an excellent chapter on the colour symbolism in Tess.

Feminist approaches

  • Blake, Kathleen: 'Pure Tess: Hardy on Knowing a Woman' in Dale Kramer ed. Critical Essays on Thomas Hardy: the Novels (Boston: G.K.Hall, 1990)
  • Boumelha, Penny: Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form (Harvester Press, 1982).

Romantic approaches

  • Enstice, Andrew: Thomas Hardy: Landscapes of the Mind (New York: St Martin's Press, 1979)
  • Lodge, David: The Language of Fiction which contains an important chapter 'Tess, Nature and the Voices of Hardy' (London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1966).

Philosophical and religious approaches

  • LaValley, Albert J. ed.: Twentieth Century Interpretations of Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Prentice-Hall Inc., 1969). (This includes Arnold Kettle's Marxist reading)
  • Qualls, Barry: Secular Pilgrims of Victorian Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1981)
  • C.H.Salter: Good Little Thomas Hardy (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1981). This has a good opening chapter on modernity.

Website resources

The Victorian Web: A useful website for all Victorian literature.

The Thomas Hardy Society (UK): The website for the U.K. based Hardy Society. If you prefer to write to them, their address is:

PO Box 1438,

The society has a number of publications and sometimes runs conferences.

The Thomas Hardy Society (USA) : The website for the U.S.A. based Thomas Hardy Association. Among other publications, they produce the journal The Hardy Review.

Thomas Hardy Country: A website providing images and background information regarding the settings in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. (Click on main image to access the website)

Films and DVDs

Each of the film versions has its enthusiasts and its detractors. Suitable landscapes have not been hard to come by, but the character of Alec has proved sometimes a little problematic.

Tess: the Oscar-winning film version directed by Roman Polanski in 1979. He cast a youthful German actress Natassja Kinski as Tess. She brought out both Tess's naivety and her physicality, though not with a West Country accent. Peter Firth played Angel and Leigh Lawson a suitably villainous Alec. The film was set in Brittany, a geographically similar area to Dorset.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles: the 1998 television mini-series made for the American TV channel A & E had Justine Waddell as Tess, and was directed by Ian Sharp. Jason Flemyng was a dandyish if not very evil Alec, and Oliver Milburn played Angel.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles: a second television mini-series was made for BBC in 2008 by David Blair. Gemma Arterton played an intelligent Tess. Eddie Redmayne as Angel and Hans Matheson as Alec were perhaps too similarly cast for dramatic contrasts to be made. The opening club walking scene is disconcertingly set on a cliff top.

Tess: the Musical: the play was actually dramatised during Hardy's lifetime and he was involved in a production in Dorchester. Annie Pasqua has carried on this dramatic tradition with a rock musical, in which Tess is sung by Jenna Pasqua.

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