Hardy and Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Dennis Smale and David Bailey follow the title character of Thomas Hardy’s tale of hypocrisy and double-standards
Published in March ’11
Hardy’s subtitle to Tess of the D’Urbervilles of A Pure Woman gives little indication of the depredations to be wrought on the book’s protagonist. Tess follows the trials and travels of Tess Durbeyfield across Dorset and across time as she is seduced, loses a child, marries, is abandoned, is installed as a mistress, turns murderess and, all-too briefly, finds happiness and contentment, before the novel’s inevitable conclusion. Covering from Salisbury Plain to Dorchester and from Beaminster to the New Forest, Tess is both literally and metaphorically the story of the journey, across the length and breadth of Dorset, of an ill-fated woman. The sense of place in Tess is a crucial part of Hardy’s work. Each significant event is in an appropriate place, be it bleak, serene, lush, bitter, or a place of sacrifice.
Marnhull was Hardy’s Marlott, where, in the Pure Drop Inn ‘there’s a pretty brew in tap’. Little altered since Hardy’s time, and with a ‘Pure Drop’ bar, the Crown Inn is the ‘Pure Drop’ of Tess, and figures many times in the book.
The Chase, Cranborne Chase, is the scene of the first tragedy in Tess’s odyssey, where she minds herself at the mercy of Alec D’Urberville. ‘Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around… and about them stole the hopping rabbits and hares.’
Hardy’s Vale of the great dairies, the Frome valley, where ‘the world was drawn to greater patterns,… enclosures numbered fifty acres instead of ten, the farmsteads were more extended, the groups of cattle formed tribes hereabout.’
The Wellbridge Manor of Hardy’s novel, Woolbridge Manor House, shown with the Frome and the Elizabethan stone bridge, parapets somewhat battered by World War 1 tanks, standing in the foreground
Tess’s cottage at Evershot, with the parish church beyond. In Hardy’s Evershed, Tess ‘made a halt…, and breakfasted… not at the Sow and Acorn, for she avoided inns, but at a cottage by the church.’
From Evershot, Tess journeyed on for another seven or so miles to Beaminster in what Hardy describes as being ‘through a more gentle country’
The Blackmoor Vale, Hardy’s Vale of little dairies ‘lacked the intensely blue atmosphere of the rival vale (Frome valley) and its heavy soils and scents; the new air was clear, bracing, ethereal.’
The real-life Turberville family’s coat of arms in Bere Regis church, with the Purbeck marble tomb immediately below it. According to Tess’s father, John Durbeyfield: ‘Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors – hundreds of ‘em – in coats of mail and jewels.’
‘Like a fairy place suddenly created by the stroke of a wand, and allowed to get a little dusty,’ Hardy’s Sandbourne, the real-life Bournemouth, is the location of the great tragedy of the book