Life has been chugging crazily along, but I did find time to devour my first Thomas Hardy novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles .  It’s a good thing I am writing, rather than speaking, about Tess; I never did decide how to pronounce “d’Urbervilles.”

I chose these two passages as my Excerpts of the Week because I was amazed at Hardy’s invention of details.


Their gauzy skirts had brushed up from the grass innumerable flies and butterflies which, unable to escape, remained caged in the transparent tissue as in an aviary. Angel’s eye at last fell upon Tess, the hindmost of the four; she, being full of suppressed laughter at their dilemma, could not help meeting his glance radiantly.

He came beneath them in the water, which did not rise over his long boots; and stood looking at the entrapped flies and butterflies.


After loading there was a long delay before the horses were brought, these having been unharnessed during the ridding; but at length, about two o’clock, the whole was under way, the cooking-pot swinging from the axle of the wagon, Mrs. Durbeyfield and family at the top, the matron having in her lap, to prevent injury to its works, the head of the clock, which, at any exceptional lurch of the wagon, struck one, or one-and-a-half, in hurt tones.


When I read details like this, I have to wonder whether they were invention or perhaps notes jotted down from some real life observation.

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4 thoughts on “Tess of d’Urbervilles: the Devil’s in the Details

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