"Like the greatest characters in literature, Tess lives beyond the final pages of the book as a permanent citizen of the imagination." —Irving Howe "What a commonplace genius he has; or a genius for the commonplace — I don’t know which." —D. H. Lawrence "The greatest tragic writer among English novelists." —Virginia Woolf "A singular beauty and charm." —Henry James
Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d’Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d’Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her — on their wedding night — after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act.