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HARDY, Thomas. Tess of the d'Urbervilles. A Pure Woman.
London: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine and Co., (1891). In three volumes. First edition, first impression with the date ‘1891' on the verso of the title and all the textual points noted by Purdy. 8vo., recently rebound with a red calf spine, waxed marble boards, raised bands, leather spine labels. With the half-titles. A fine copy. Purdy p.67-76.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles, written at Max Gate between the autumn of 1888 and late 1890, was published in an edition of one thousand copies during the week of 29 November 1891, with a second revised impression of five hundred copies appearing in early February 1892. Hardy took the opportunity to restore most of the manuscript readings that had been bowdlerized for the serial in deference to editorial fastidiousness. The text continued to evolve down to, and in some degree beyond, the 1892 publication of the first cheap single volume edition (known confusingly as the ‘Fifth Edition,' intervening impressions being referred to by Osgood McIlvaine as ‘editions.' On publication, Tess received mixed reviews, most praising its compassion and seriousness of intent, many identifying it as Hardy's greatest novel, but others offended by its questionable morality. Of these, none was more excoriating than the notice in the Quarterly Review by Mowbray Morris, who had rejected it for serialization in Macmillan's Magazine. He declared it to have told ‘an extremely disagreeable story in an extremely disagreeable manner', provoking Hardy to write, somewhat prophetically, in his diary: ‘A man must be a fool to deliberately stand up to be shot at.' Its controversial subject helped to generate brisk sales, with seventeen thousand copies of the cheap edition printed before the end of 1892. Its lengthy evolution from manuscript through serial to three-decker and then single-volume form, with significant authorial modifications at each stage, makes Tess the most editorially complex of Hardy's novels. Its status in the front rank of his fiction, and as one of the nineteenth century's most influential and socially challenged novels, is reflected in its placing as the first volume in all collected editions of Hardy's work.


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