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Jude the obscure: autograph manuscript: MS 1-1911

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Current Location: In storage


Jude the obscure: autograph manuscript


Author: Hardy, Thomas (writer)




Jude the Obscure has an iconic status in the history of English literature. 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, it is representative of fin de siècle anxieties. Indeed, Hardy saw Jude the Obscure as the greatest among his ‘novels of character and environment,’ a story ‘of a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit.’

This autograph manuscript, now bound as one volume, is Hardy’s handwritten, fair copy of the text. But when Jude was first published in serial form between December 1894 and November 1895 in the English and European editions of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, he was forced to make numerous and substantial changes to avoid scandalizing its family audience. He entered the changes in blue or green ink on this manuscript, and made it clear that the changes were for this specific purpose only, writing on the first page: ‘Alterations and deletions in blue and green are for the serial publication only and have no authority beyond.’ When the text was published in book form in 1896, he reversed many of the changes. (See the proof copy of Jude the Obscure, also in our collections: PB 7-2008).

The Fitzwilliam acquired this manuscript in 1911, after Sydney Cockerell, Director (1908-1937), set himself the task of creating a collection of literary manuscripts unique in the context of fine art museums. He wrote to Thomas Hardy asking him to ‘give one of his manuscripts to the Fitzwilliam’, and was invited to Max Gate, Hardy’s ‘modern villa’ outside Dorchester. Cockerell’s diary records that ‘He received me most kindly and I spent a couple of hours with him talking about Morris, architecture etc.’. In fact, Cockerell became Hardy’s literary executor and distributed his manuscripts among leading public institutions, choosing for the Fitzwilliam this autograph manuscript of Jude the Obscure, and his 1911 collection of poems, Times’ Laughingstock.

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Presented (1911) by Hardy, Thomas (writer)


Production date: circa AD 1894

References and bibliographic entries

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Identification numbers

Accession number: MS 1-1911
Primary reference Number: 166814
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Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 24 May 2022 Last processed: Monday 25 July 2022

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Manuscripts and Printed Books

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