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Original manuscript of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy was born 2 June 1840. To mark his birthday the autograph manuscript of Jude the Obscure and the proofs for the first book edition with his own hand-written corrections have gone on display in Gallery 3.

Hardy penned the manuscript of Jude the Obscure between 1893-1895. Today the novel has an iconic status in the history of English literature.

Jude is a key example of the so-called New Fiction, the transitional stage in the development of the English novel between the Victorian and the modern era, and is full of the anxieties of entering a new age. It challenged traditional views on class, education, religion, love, sex, and marriage. The critics were shocked and accused Hardy of ‘immorality’. He gave up fiction and for the remaining thirty years of his life wrote only poetry. Jude the Obscure was the novelist’s swan song.

Hardy was forced to make numerous changes for the serial publication of Jude the Obscure, which appeared between December 1894 and November 1895, lest the family-based audience of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine be scandalized.

He inserted all changes in blue or green ink in the manuscript, leaving the original text perfectly legible and adding the note:

‘Alterations and deletions in blue and green are for the serial publication only and have no authority beyond.’

Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum (1908-1937), set himself the task to create a collection of literary manuscripts unique in the context of fine art museums. In 1911 he wrote to Thomas Hardy asking him to ‘give one of his manuscripts to the Fitzwilliam.’ He was invited to Max Gate, Hardy’s ‘modern villa’ outside Dorchester. ‘He received me most kindly and I spent a couple of hours with him talking about Morris, architecture etc.,’ wrote Cockerell in his diary. He became Hardy’s literary executor and distributed his manuscripts among leading public institutions. For the Fitzwilliam Cockerell chose the autographs of Hardy’s most celebrated novel, Jude the Obscure, and his 1911 collection of poems, Times’ Laughingstock.

2 June 2015

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