Jude the Obscure

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Thomas Hardy

Jude the Obscure is a novel previously begun and completed as a serial in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. It tells the story of Jude Fawley and his relationship with Sue Bridehead--his cousin and also his love interest. The romantic relationship of the two weave in and out of their separate marriages, divorces and remarriages with each of their other partners. Interestingly, even after they get together, the two spend some time together without any sexual relationship, in respect of Sue's preference. Eventually they do come to sleep together, but although they have two children, they never get married to each other at any point in the duration of their lives.

Thomas Hardy wrote and published the book after Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and in publishing it as a book after the serialization, made some edits to the manuscript to reflect the looser constrainsts of keeping it "decent" for the expectations of the magazine for which he had written it. Although after the book's critical reception he focused mostly on poetry, he did reprint the novel as a second edition after some revision, on 1912.


* The image features the title page of the first edition, and is followed by the postscript Thomas Hardy had added in the second edition in response to some of the criticism he had received in regards to marriage.






‘But you haven't answered me. Will you let me go away? I know how irregular it is of me to ask it—’

‘It is irregular.’

‘But I do ask it! Domestic laws should be made according to temperaments, which should be classified. If people are at all peculiar in character they have to suffer from the very rules that produce comfort in others! … Will you let me?’

‘But we married—’

‘What is the use of thinking of laws and ordinances,’ she burst out, ‘if they make you miserable when you know you are committing no sin?’

‘But you are committing a sin in not liking me.’

‘I do like you! But I didn't reflect it would be—that it would be so much more than that. . . . For a man and woman to live on intimate terms when one feels as I do is adultery, in any circumstances, however legal. There—I've said it! . . . Will you let me, Richard?’

‘You distress me, Susanna, by such importunity!’

‘Why can't we agree to free each other? We made the compact, and surely we can cancel it—not legally of course; but we can morally, especially as no new interests, in the shape of children, have arisen to be looked after. Then we might be friends, and meet without pain to either. O Richard, be my friend and have pity! We shall both be dead in a few years, and then what will it matter to anybody that you relieved me from constraint for a little while? I daresay you think me eccentric, or super-sensitive, or something absurd. Well—why should I suffer for what I was born to be, if it doesn't hurt other people?’

‘But it does—it hurts me! And you vowed to love me.’

‘Yes—that's it! I am in the wrong. I always am! It is as culpable to bind yourself to love always as to believe a creed always, and as silly as to vow always to like a particular food or drink!’

‘And do you mean, by living away from me, living by yourself?’

‘Well, if you insisted, yes. But I meant living with Jude.’

‘As his wife?’

‘As I choose.’

Phillotson writhed.

Sue continued: ‘She, or he,  who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the apelike one of imitation. J. S. Mill's words, those are. I have been reading it up. Why can't you act upon them? I wish to, always.’

‘What do I care about J. S. Mill!’ moaned he. ‘I only want to lead a quiet life! Do you mind my saying that I have guessed what never once occurred to me before our marriage—that you were in love, and are in love, with Jude Fawley!’

‘You may go on guessing that I am, since you have begun. But do you suppose that if I had been I should have asked you to let me go and live with him?’


Chapter number of excerpt
Osgood, McIlvaine, & Co.
Page numbers in original volume

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. London: MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1895. British Library, <http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/jude-the-obscure-by-thomas-hardy>.

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. London: Osgood, McIlvaine, & Co, 1895.

"Thomas Hardy." British Library. British Library. <http://www.bl.uk/people/thomas-hardy>.