Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Anglais) Broché – 25 août 2011
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On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston1 to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.
"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time, and I zaid2 'Good night,' and you made reply 'Good night, Sir John,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that—near a month ago."
"I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"3
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey Roll?"4
"Never heard it before, sir!"
"Well, it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose and chin—a little debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your family held manors over all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls5 in the time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak6 for your loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father to son, you would be Sir John now."
"Ye don't say so!"
"In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with his switch, "there's hardly such another family in England."
"Daze7 my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield. "And here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I was no more than the commonest feller in the parish. . . . And how long hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"
The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all. His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.
"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information," said he. "However, our impulses are too strong for our judgment sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while."
"Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now keep only one. I've got a wold8 silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? . . . And to think that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. 'Twas said that my gr't-grandfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where he came from. . . . And where do we raise our smoke, now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles live?"
"You don't live anywhere. You are extinct—as a county family."
"Yes—what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male line—that is, gone down—gone under."
"Then where do we lie?"
"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble9 canopies."
"And where be our family mansions and estates?"
"You haven't any."
"Oh? No lands neither?"
"None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for your family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another at Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."
"And shall we ever come into our own again?"
"Ah—that I can't tell!"
"And what had I better do about it, sir?" asked Durbeyfield, after a pause.
"Oh—nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of 'how are the mighty fallen.'10 It is a fact of some interest to the local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre. Good night."
"But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength o't, Pa'son Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop—though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."
"No, thank you—not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough already." Concluding thus the parson rode on his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.
When he was gone Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and came near.
"Boy, take up that basket! I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."
The lath-like stripling frowned. "Who be you, then, John Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my name as well as I know yours!"
"Do you, do you? That's the secret—that's the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi'. . . . Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a noble race—it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, p.m." And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.
The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.
"Sir John d'Urberville—that's who I am," continued the prostrate man. "That is if knights were baronets—which they be. 'Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad, as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"
"Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."
"Well, under the church of that city there lie—"
" 'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was there—'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."
"Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us. Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors—hundreds of 'em—in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons and tons. There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's got grander and nobler skillentons11 in his family than I."
"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me immed'ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o' the carriage they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up to my account. And when you've done that goo on to my house with the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell her."
As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that he possessed.
"Here's for your labour, lad."
This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.
"Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir John?"
"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,—well, lamb's fry if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't get that, well, chitterlings12 will do."
"Yes, Sir John."
The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass band were heard from the direction of the village.
"What's that?" said Durbeyfield. "Not on account o' I?"
" 'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John. Why, your da'ter is one o' the members."
"To be sure—I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things! Well, vamp13 on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."
The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .
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On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. Lire la première page
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TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES must be as close to a perfect novel as anyone has written in English. It is a genuine tragedy with a girl/woman as tragic hero. It is about life on earth in a way that transcends mere sociology. It has the grandeur of Milton but concerns itself with the lives of mortal beings on earth, as much with sex as with dirt, blood, milk, dung, animal and vegetative energies. It concerns itself with only essential things the way the Bible does. It is almost a dark rendering of the Beatitudes.
The story is built with such care and such genius that every incident, every paragraph, reverberates throughout the whole structure. Surely Hardy had an angel on his shoulder when he conceived and composed this work. Yet it was considered so immoral in its time that he had to bowdlerize his own creation in order to get it published, at first. Victorian readers were not prepared for the truth of the lives of ordinary women, or for a great many truths about themselves that Hardy presents.
The use of British history as a hall of mirrors and the jawdropping detail of the landscape of "Wessex" make it the Great English Novel in the way we sometimes refer to MOBY DICK as the Great American Novel, though the works don't otherwise bear comparison. Melville's great white whale is a far punier creation.
Hardy's style is like no one else's. It is not snappy, as Dickens can be. It is not fluid and elegant, like George Eliot's. It can feel labored and awkward and more archaic than either. It has no journalistic flavor, but is painfully pure and deliberate and dense, echoing Homer or the language of the Old Testament rather than anything we think of as "modern." Don't start with TESS but with FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, another very beautiful book, where Hardy is at his loosest and wittiest. Once you have the key to his style, then pick up a good edition of TESS with notes, e.g. Penguin, so you get the full richness of all the literary allusions. Hardy's lowly shepherds and farmhands move and breathe in a very ancient literary atmosphere. The effect is not pretentious but timeless.
There is wisdom, poetry and majesty here. Tess stumbling through the dark and taking her last rest at Stonehenge will send chills up your spine like no other reading experience. I wonder if anyone can know why there are novels, why we care about them, or what they are capable of, without reading this one.
This is the first novel of Hardy's I have read, but I chose it after reading "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" by Daniel Pool, a fabulous book about 18th century daily life.
Hardy's title, as quickly becomes evident, is tongue-in-cheek (he is author of my favorite title of a book, Jude the Obscure, which I haven't yet read) is ironic and mocking. Tess, the lovely and somewhat educated daughter of a cottager in Hardy's British district of Wessex, has the last name of Durbeyfield, but in the first pages of the book, her father, the ne'er-do-well, learns that he is descended from Norman aristocracy, the D'Urbervilles, and there aren't many of them left, except his clan, as the local reverend informs him. He instantly thinks himself very grand and takes it as an excuse to go carousing, which causes Tess and one of her many younger siblings to have to make an early morning journey with the horse for the family's means of making money. Sleeping on the journey, Tess wakes to find the horse impaled in a wreck and killed. Feeling guilty, she agrees to be sent as a poor relation to the Stoke-D'Urbervilles to seek assistance of some kind. (They are "new money" and have bought the name "D'Urberville" to build position for themselves, so they are actually no relation.)
There she encounters Alec D'Urberville, who pursues her vigorously, though she repeatedly eschews his attentions. She takes a job for his mother, watching her fowl, but one evening, separated from her friends in the village on the way home from a Saturday night out in the village, Alec stops accepting no for an answer.
Later she falls in mutual love with a gentleman (the son of a minister) who has rejected the pulpit himself in favor of learning the trade of dairy farming so that he may run his own farm some day. Angel Clare does fall in love with Tess, but at the same time, he doesn't seem to really know her, or want to... he thinks of her as a pure country maid, and has no idea about her past. When she tries to tell him, he shushes her, thinking he knows all about her. When she finally confides in him after the marriage, the results are disastrous and Tess is once again dealing with harsh reality.
I won't recount the rest of the story, but it's clear that the bourgeois (Alec) and the gentry (Angel) have a great deal to do with the pain and hardship of Tess's life; they inflict the poverty penalty on her. The idea of the fluidity of the aristocracy in the 18th century -- Tess is descended from them, but has no rights thereof, Alec has taken the name due to his money, and Angel has rejected the career of his familial role in favor of farming whilst entertaining a very aristocratic (and inaccurate) view of the "peasantry" -- is prominent in the novel, with Tess's inability to care for herself and fulfill her perceived familial goals without resorting to asking for help from those who don't have her bloodline at all. The town of Kingsbere, where Tess's ancestors are said to be buried, figures somewhat in the novel, and one cannot help but think that this symbolizes their use to her as being just as dead as they are.
There are some motifs of paganism in the book... Tess meets Angel for the first time at a May dance, a pagan rite, and she has another climactic plot moment at Stonehenge toward the end of the book. Angel himself seems to reject his father's Christian teachings, and the beliefs of Tess and her society are often deemed superstitious or quaint and encompassing of pagan belief systems. Tess often wishes to be free of her life of burdens, and who can blame her? She didn't cause the horse's death that plunged her into this chain of events, and yet she is punished and punished and punished.
Hardy's writing is beautiful and engaging. The book, though long, seems to quickly move from event to event, and the author's descriptions are enlightening and complete. I really liked this book and look forward to reading more by Hardy.
As the novel begins, Tess Durbeyfield's irresponsible wastrel of a father is casually and jokingly informed by the local minister that he is a descendant of a long-degenerated and disenfranchised noble family, the D'Urbervilles, whose influence stretches back to the Norman invasion. This simple, careless act, nothing more than a name, wreaks such havoc upon everyone in the novel, that I'm actually having a hard time right now even looking at the title - the name itself, now having read the novel, is such a powerful condemnation of status, of privilege, of reputation, of all the injustices of English society from the eighteenth century through the time of this novel, almost the dawn of the twentieth. Sent by her nearly indigent parents, whose heads have swelled with the possibilities of lineage, Tess leaves her home in Marlott, going to claim kinship with the last apparently wealthy D'Urberville, in the village of Trantridge. There she meets Alec D'Urberville, who seduces her. The rest of this powerful novel shows Tess Durbeyfield attempting to piece together a reputable life out of a situation and a condition in which respectability is fundamentally denied her.
"Tess" is a novel steeped, perhaps even choked, with tradition - history, literature, theology, philosphy, economics - Hardy's frame of reference calls all of these to account through the course of the novel. Tess, ostensibly a simple country girl, is forced to reckon with the accumulated weight of human knowledge and thought, no small burden for a girl with only the kind of basic education available in a small rural town. As readers, we are asked to measure the applicability, the efficacy, of the Bible next to Shakespeare, next to Greek mythology next to art - to determine if any of these are capable of fathoming what it means to be human, to endure the myriad experiences of human life, both good and ill.
In her dealings with the changeable Alec D'Urberville, the almost-modern Angel Clare, the farm-hands Izz Huett and Marian, her poor, practically minded mother, Joan, Tess experiences so much of life, mostly of the harshest kind. For me, this is the key facet of the novel. Tess endures. Despite all of her hardships, which are hard indeed, and in the face of the worst kinds of scrutiny and deprecation, both from others and from herself, Tess exhibits a kind of composure, threshold for pain, and strength that are all quite amazing. Daniel Defoe's eighteenth-century "Moll Flanders" is the first character that immediately comes to mind, just in terms of comparable pluck in the face of such overweaning odds.
Though many may disagree with me, I think that Tess, more than simply being the protagonist of the novel, is a real heroine. She is so insistently admirable, so determined to live despite all the forces and pressures arrayed against her from the very outset of the novel, when as a 15 year old girl, she is asked to restore the family's fortunes - it is really just astounding. I regret that I had never read "Tess" before, but I am supremely glad that I have had the chance to do so now. A novel cannot get a higher recommendation from me.
I'm going to argue, that yes, of course it is - if not simply to illustrate how lucky we are to no longer live in a world where a woman can be utterly destroyed through the hypocrisy of the society she lives in. However, there's considerably more to it than that, particularly as the remnants of this ideology remain to this day; and since one of the central themes of the novel is the negative effect of past traditions on the present, this bears keeping in mind.
Tess Durbeyfield is a simple country lass, easily manipulated and with a limited education, but with a keen intelligence and insight into human nature. However, when her foolish father is casually told by the village minister that he is the offshoot of a once-noble family, Tess is thrown into her parent's ambition mechanizations. Made to leave her home and younger siblings, Tess begins work tending chickens at a relative's house whilst attempting to ward off the unwelcome attentions of her devious cousin Alec D'Uberville. However, her resolve slips one night when she is alone with Alec, lost and (as the text suggests) intoxicated, and he takes full advantage of her vulnerability.
Having borne his child and lost it soon after (all without Alec's knowledge) Tess seeks employment elsewhere, and finds a sense of peace and security as a milkmaid in a neighboring village. That is, until she meets the parson's son Angel Clare, a very different kind of man from Alec D'Uberville. Falling in love, (along with every other girl on the farm!) Tess finds herself in a new moral crisis. Should she reveal her secret to Angel? Would he accept her if he knew? Her family (not to mention her common sense) warn her to keep her mouth shut, but can any relationship last if it is based on a lie? Shouldn't she have faith in Angel's testimonies of love to her?
However, you've probably already guessed that the story doesn't have a happy ending, and this is a tragedy in the old grand tradition. When young Tess is seduced by a man her fate is sealed. She is a fallen woman, carrying the shame of her indiscretions throughout the rest of her life. However, the novel is remarkable because of Hardy's ability to find light amongst all the grimness. In the depths of Tess's drudgery and despair, we feel her moments of tranquility and appreciation of the beauty that surround her. Likewise, in moments of joy and peace, there is the underlying dread of the secret threatening to rare its ugly head. The emotions stirred in reading this novel are relentless - not to put anyone off from reading this novel, but I was in a constant state of agitation and discomfort in reading; that's how vivid the circumstances of the novel were. I mean that as a good thing of course; books these days are like movies - you sit, you watch, you more often than not feel nothing. But I was truly moved by "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" and her story; and I can't remember the last time I became so invested in a character and her happiness. Despite the pain it brought me in reading it, "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" was worth every agonizing word.
In many ways this is a feminist novel, and although I would hate to put too modern a spin on it, it is very easy to see that Thomas Hardy's sympathies lie with Tess, writing in a letter: "I lost my heart to her as I went on with her history." It is impossible not to feel a swell of indignation when Alec D'Uberville makes Tess swear not to tempt him anymore (as if his lust for her attractiveness is somehow *her* fault!) and a sense of bitter frustration at Angel Clare's inability to accept Tess's indiscretion, particularly when he himself is guilty of the same crime. When his lofty image of Tess as his pure `child-bride' is taken from him, you can't help but feel he's doing it just as much out of injured pride than any sense of propriety.
But this propriety is all-powerful in the novel; a heavy weight upon Tess that destroys her life. Hardy brings forth the idea that this is indeed a fallen world, but that it is so because of mankind's own structures of tradition and circumstance, rather than any divine ordination or original sin. To be free of some of them is a great release, though there are plenty that remain in this and other cultures around the world. The story is one of endurance; enduring the condemnation of others, the physical trials of manual labour, the suffering of a broken heart, the terror of encroaching death. We cannot control any of these aspects of our lives - all we can do is endure them, as Tess did.