What it's all about: Convention, natural religion vs Christianity, hypocrisy, mangle-wurzels and milch cows. Tess, a pure, radiant spirit, also suffers from what Hardy calls "the ache of modernism".
What they thought of it then: Created a storm. Most people loved it but the usual Gummers and Whitehouses objected to the indecency of the situation, the symbolically steamy, lush descriptions, and the implicit criticism of Christian morality. One sentence caused big trouble: " 'Justice' was done, and the President of the Immortals... had finished his sport with Tess."
What we think of it now: "All that crap about natural purity! He [Angel] hasn't got the nerve to admit that Tess is interesting to him because of her experience, not in spite of it. If he'd been honest he would have given Tess to Alec on every page." (The verdict of a character in Howard Jacobson's novel, Peeping Tom.)
What would happen now: Alec would have been had up for sexual harassment before he'd have had a chance. Tess would have sold her story to the tabloids (MY NIGHT OF SHAME WITH SAUCY TOFF) and ended up in a semi on the outskirts of Melchester. Alec would have gone into politics (his description suggests Michael Portillo with a moustache). The President of the Immortals would have been subject to an enquiry.Reuse content