It’s Words Wednesday! Today we’re looking at one of our favorite English authors, Thomas Hardy.
This poignant Thomas Hardy quote comes from his 1891 novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles takes place in Wessex, a fictional region that Hardy uses in several of his works. It follows the titular character, Tess (whose surname is actually Durbeyfield, a lower take on the original noble form). Through Tess’s experiences with romance, courtship, and loss of virginity, we see the difficult social expectations and sexual double standards that women faced at that time.
Throughout the novel, Hardy questions the nature of morality, worded thus by Tess’s deserting husband Angel:
What arrested him now as of value in life was less its beauty than its pathos. Having long discredited the old systems of mysticism, he now began to discredit the old appraisements of morality. He thought they wanted readjusting. Who was the moral man? Still more pertinently, who was the moral woman? The beauty or ugliness of a character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims and impulses; its true history lay, not among things done, but among things willed.
Like many works of Victorian literature, Tess of the d’Urbervilles was originally published in serial form. If you aren’t too familiar with this once-common form of publishing, you may be surprised to learn how many famous works were originally serialized.
Here’s the full paragraph from which this Thomas Hardy quote is taken (emphasis is ours):
In time she reached the edge of the vast escarpment below which stretched the loamy Vale of Blackmoor, now lying misty and still in the dawn. Instead of the colourless air of the uplands, the atmosphere down there was a deep blue. Instead of the great enclosures of a hundred acres in which she was now accustomed to toil, there were little fields below her of less than half-a-dozen acres, so numerous that they looked from this height like the meshes of a net. Here the landscape was whitey-brown; down there, as in Froom Valley, it was always green. Yet it was in that vale that her sorrow had taken shape, and she did not love it as formerly. Beauty to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.
-Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles