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kev67
06-22-2012, 07:50 PM
I read someone say that Thomas Hardy collected newspaper articles of tragic events and used them in his stories, so I looked on the internet for who may have inspired the story for Tess.

Apparently, one inspiration seems to have been the Elizabeth Mart (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/browne.html)ha Brown, whose execution Hardy witnessed himself as a 16-year-old.

Another happier inspiration seems to have been Augusta Bugler (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1057408/Revealed-The-18-year-old-milkmaid-inspired-Hardys-Tess-dUrbervilles.html), who he first spotted when she was an 18-year-old milkmaid.

Thomas Hardy seems to have been as lecherous as Alec d'Urberville.

kev67
06-28-2012, 06:51 PM
I thought when I read about Hardy having watched Elizabeth Matha Brown's execution as a youth, that she deserved more leniency than Tess would have. She killed her husband with an axe after he'd hit her with a whip. It was said she may have received a reprieve if she hadn't maintained a false story about a horse kicking the victim in the head. The incident did not seem very similar to Tess's, so I looked up on the internet for other incidences of female hangings (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/index18.html). Looking through these did not seem to provide many models for Tess neither. Many tended to be child killings, while others were poisonings, not spur of the moment acts. So I looked up the incidences of reprieves and I was surprised to read the majority of capital punishment sentences on women were in fact reprieved (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/reprieve.html).


Women and the death penalty.
Between 1829 and 1899, 231 women were sentenced to hang in the British Isles including Ireland. 101 of these women were executed, 97 for murder, one for attempted murder, one for conspiracy to murder (in Ireland) and two for arson. Three women were found insane and respited to Bedlam or Broadmoor. One was given a free pardon and one committed suicide in the condemned cell. Over the period, the reprieve rate was 56.3%. From 1861 to 1899, there were to be 119 women given the death sentence of which 28 were to be hanged (all for murder) giving a reprieve rate of 73.5%.


I wonder whether Tess would in fact have hung. It seems more likely she would have had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

kev67
06-29-2012, 08:49 AM
I am becoming convinced that Tess would not have been hanged.

This (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/25/victorian-female-prisoners-records-genealogy) newspaper article mentions a woman called Elizabeth Ann Staunton. Not only does her offence seem worse than Tess's, she also received parole after only six years.

Sentences were frequently reduced. The online records concern parole licences and show that all 56 murderers listed had their death penalties commuted to imprisonment instead.

They included Elizabeth Ann Staunton, 29, found guilty in September 1877 of murdering Harriet Staunton, her brother-in-law's wife, who was starved to death at a house in Kent. The Victorians were reluctant to hang women and there was sufficient forensic doubt for both her and her brother-in-law to be reprieved after their convictions. A neat copperplate note records: "Her Majesty having been graciously pleased to extend her grace and mercy unto said Elizabeth Ann Staunton and to grant her a pardon … on condition of her being kept in penal servitude for the term of her natural life."

In the event she served only six years – probably a shorter term than she would have received today. The file contains a letter from her mother about the campaign to free her, which she was not allowed to see.

Staunton may have been released early because she intervened when a warder was attacked. The parole licence notes laconically that in 1879 "this prisoner rendered prompt assistance in protecting an assistant matron when assaulted … in the Protestant chapel during divine service".

kiki1982
06-29-2012, 01:20 PM
I don't know about that.

The case you cite may have had some inconsistencies and therefore, a parole or conversion could be asked for and granted. In Tess's case, it was pretty clear cut.

Old lover turns up at house where she stays with new lover, she sends old lover away, has an argument with new lover about old lover in the bedroom and suddenly new lover is stabbed and dead. In the mean time, the Tess has left the house. I believe the landlady also heard the argument, I'm not sure. Even if she did not, she as a witness would still have declared that there was no-one in the house apart from her and the two lodgers. Therefore, new lover cannot have stabbed himself, the landlady wasn't in the room, because she saw a heart-shaped blood stain on the ceiling of her drawing room/parlou (located under the lodgers' bedroom) and she discovered the body. So that only leaves one person who can have done it.

And Tess admitted that she did kill him.

Maybe Angel was questioned as a witness and said what she told him when he was going to get on the train (?).

It is also pretty difficult to determine whether someone died of imposed starvation or not. For that to be called murder, there should be clear evidence that the person wasn't given any food so they would die. Otherwise, it is 'only' manslaughter.
And then there is still the question whether this woman Staunton did not act under orders of her brother or someone else.

Victorians would have been reluctant to hang women, I guess, because they were aware that they were not creatures who could take their own decisions. Both because they thought they were not intelligent enough and were too emotionally unstable (this is why they did not grant them the vote), but also because they were effectually inferior to men. If your husband or brother demanded you did something as a woman, you felt compelled to. Conversely, if your brother or husband decided he wanted to kill someone, you could not demand he did not.

This is not applicable to anything Tess did.

kev67
06-29-2012, 02:50 PM
I think the article did point out there was some forensic doubt in the Elizabeth Ann Staunton case. Still, looking through the other cases, it seems mostly the premeditated murders that were punished the most harshly. Reading them it was hard to feel much sympathy with the perpetrators. Obviously there would be no doubt that Tess committed the act.

I am not sure Angel's evidence would count, because at the time husbands and wives could not be made to testify against each in court.

BTW Kiki, nice to see you again. I've missed you.

kiki1982
06-30-2012, 04:29 AM
Yes, I forgot that about Angel. I learned that from Downton Abbey of all things!

Although maybe it depended on a good lawyer whether your death sentence was converted into life in prison or not. Angel came of a good family, but let's say he cannot afford a lawyer of the same stature as Lord Grantham could afford for Mr Bates in DA. Loose from the fact as well that Bates could only be proven to have bought the rat poison his wife killed herself with. The rest was circumstancial evidence that he wished his wife dead, nothing more.

A good lawyer can put a credible good spin on things. It doesn't seem to be about the Truth in court, but rather how the Truth is presented, or something.

But that aside :), I think Tess, indeed could be excused for killing Alec in a fit of passion after he provoked her (so it was not premeditated), but it is murder nonetheless. These days, you would maybe not get life, but you would get a substancial number of years, depending on your age probably.

However, I think we are missing the point a bit.

I think the idea is that Tess would have come to her end in that way anyway, as she was never going to be free from Alec as long as he was alive (and maybe as long as she herself was alive). To me, the ending of Tess left me with an immense empty feeling of indignation at the Victorian law system (did she really have to die for Alec?) and towards her life itself. Couldn't God have let her die before, if that was the inevitable end she was moving to all along?
Let's say she would have died on the scaffold anyway, whether 20 years later or then. That's quite sad.

The question is why Hardy doesn't say anything about this ater the police have arrested Tess. To me it seems as if he essentially declares she was innocent. The only crime she committed was that she yielded to years of torment by Alec and killed him in an attempt to be free from him. Of course, the police does not care about what the victim has done. Who wouldn't kill such a tenacious and creepy man like Alec? But Alec can no longer talk, of course.
It also seems, to me (again ;)), that Hardy implied some kind of mishap of Justice. Not only did they convict Tess for murder in the face of the story we just read (the police never ever gets absolutely the whole picture), but they probably had prejudices against her because she was poor and she was Alec's mistress. IF they knew that she was married to another man (they could have checked that easily) and lived with Alec, that would not have spoken in her favour, although the reader of course knows better.

Naturalism implies that she was going to be hanged whatever, that she would have killed someone or even just Alec whatever and that the whole of her life was there in front of her when she was born. That in fact, life itself is useless and that it has already been determined, in spite of all the choices you ca make as a human being, that they will inevitably lead to the same lot.

Makes you go cold :cold::frown2:
But once in a while I love that.

I've missed you too! I had a lot of translation work, so I couldn't reply, but now I'm back before some more :D.

kev67
06-30-2012, 09:03 AM
Yes, I forgot that about Angel. I learned that from Downton Abbey of all things!

Although maybe it depended on a good lawyer whether your death sentence was converted into life in prison or not. Angel came of a good family, but let's say he cannot afford a lawyer of the same stature as Lord Grantham could afford for Mr Bates in DA. Loose from the fact as well that Bates could only be proven to have bought the rat poison his wife killed herself with. The rest was circumstancial evidence that he wished his wife dead, nothing more.


I have not been watching that, but Mr Bates was in real trouble if he was suspected of using poison. There was an unwritten rule that murderers who used poison or firearms were not reprieved. Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England, killed her boyfriend with a revolver.



A good lawyer can put a credible good spin on things. It doesn't seem to be about the Truth in court, but rather how the Truth is presented, or something.

But that aside :), I think Tess, indeed could be excused for killing Alec in a fit of passion after he provoked her (so it was not premeditated), but it is murder nonetheless. These days, you would maybe not get life, but you would get a substancial number of years, depending on your age probably.

However, I think we are missing the point a bit.

I think the idea is that Tess would have come to her end in that way anyway, as she was never going to be free from Alec as long as he was alive (and maybe as long as she herself was alive). To me, the ending of Tess left me with an immense empty feeling of indignation at the Victorian law system (did she really have to die for Alec?) and towards her life itself. Couldn't God have let her die before, if that was the inevitable end she was moving to all along?
Let's say she would have died on the scaffold anyway, whether 20 years later or then. That's quite sad.



I am not sure about this. I suppose most readers would be left with a feeling of the indignation towards the Victorian law system after reading Tess, but Hardy was taking some artistic licence. Home Secretaries were not as inhuman as the President of the Immortals.

I don't see why it was inevitable for Tess to die on the scaffold. The only person she was ever likely to harm was Alec, and to me it seemed out of character when she did knife him, although I suppose there were signs.



The question is why Hardy doesn't say anything about this ater the police have arrested Tess. To me it seems as if he essentially declares she was innocent. The only crime she committed was that she yielded to years of torment by Alec and killed him in an attempt to be free from him. Of course, the police does not care about what the victim has done. Who wouldn't kill such a tenacious and creepy man like Alec? But Alec can no longer talk, of course.
It also seems, to me (again ;)), that Hardy implied some kind of mishap of Justice. Not only did they convict Tess for murder in the face of the story we just read (the police never ever gets absolutely the whole picture), but they probably had prejudices against her because she was poor and she was Alec's mistress. IF they knew that she was married to another man (they could have checked that easily) and lived with Alec, that would not have spoken in her favour, although the reader of course knows better.

Naturalism implies that she was going to be hanged whatever, that she would have killed someone or even just Alec whatever and that the whole of her life was there in front of her when she was born. That in fact, life itself is useless and that it has already been determined, in spite of all the choices you ca make as a human being, that they will inevitably lead to the same lot.

Makes you go cold :cold::frown2:
But once in a while I love that.

I've missed you too! I had a lot of translation work, so I couldn't reply, but now I'm back before some more :D.

I have just looked up naturalism on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_%28philosophy%29).

Philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles. These principles include mass, energy, and other physical and chemical properties accepted by the scientific community. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no "purpose" in nature. Such an absolute belief in naturalism is usually referred to as metaphysical naturalism (or philosophical naturalism).[3] In contrast, assuming naturalism in working methods, without necessarily considering naturalism as an absolute truth with philosophical entailments, is called methodological naturalism.[4]

I don't know what to make of this. If Tess is a naturalist novel then what about the evil omens? There was the rooster's afternoon crow, the d'Urberville coach and the cursed relic. These are all supernatural. Why would a disinterested supreme deity bother to fix an inescapable fate on a particular person and then bother to warn her about it through a series of supernatural agencies?

I suppose Hardy believed in a clockwork universe, where everything that happened was always going to happen. Quantum mechanics had not been discovered yet.

kev67
06-30-2012, 10:37 AM
Two more inspirations for Tess:


Mrs Agatha Thornycroft, whose portrait (iirc) can be seen at Thomas Hardy's house. Hardy wrote that she was 'on whom I thought when I wrote Tess'.

Jane Phillips, who was employed by the Hardys as a maid and who became pregnant.


(linky (http://www.victorianweb.org/photos/hollyer/1.html))

However, Norrie Bugler who played Liza Lu in a theatre production directed by Hardy believed her mother was the original inspiration.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/03/2008_38_mon.shtml

(You may need to install RealPlayer to listen to this.)

kiki1982
06-30-2012, 11:59 AM
Philisophical Naturalism is different to literary which I am speaking of.

You can also find it on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_(literature)

There are bad omens, actually. I have often wondered that Hardy knew something about Tarot cards, because the heart-shaped blood stain on the ceiling at the end looks like an Ace of Cups which denotes the start of spiritual awakering and love. Indeed, she joins up with Angel again, in harmony and will be happy until her end.

Earlier in the book, just before she is raped, she is going back with a bunch of others through the wood and one is carrying a pot of treacle on her head which starts dripping. Upon reflection, that looks like an upside-down sword, or Ace of Swords, possibly reversed (there are different opinions as to that). It denotes a powerful force that will also give spriritual understanding, but potentially less positive, it depends who wields the sword. Indeed, Tess will understand a lot more that night, but not for the better... Alternatively, the card when reversed means lack of understanding, etc.

I once wrote a post about this, maybe you can look it up. It was closer to the point that I read the novel, so I remembered more details.

Oh, at the point where she, I think, is about to start with Crick, that could remind of the Two of Wands which denotes plans for the future, having come to the top of the mountain etc.

Mr Bates bought the rat poison because his wife aked him for it and then she killed herself with it out of spite for him (long story). I don't know whether that would have made a difference? The point is of course who killed her? Even now that would be difficult to determine if she took the poison right after he left her.

kev67
06-30-2012, 01:10 PM
Tess certainly seems like an example of Naturalism using that definition.

I came across your post on tarot cards before, very interesting. I have a pack of tarot cards at home. I wondered whether there were any of the major arcana cards (Death, The Sun, The Goddess etc) were indicated as well as the sticks, cups, coins etc. And was Hardy thinking of any particular lay out?

kiki1982
07-01-2012, 05:22 AM
Gosh, now I think about it, on that thrashing machine, does she not attach herself to it, or something?

Thinking about it, it kind of gives me the idea of The Devil in the sense that she is stuck and limited in her thinking, etc. Not like when she was with Crick. At Crick's she was free. Although, The Devil does not necessarily need to be bad. It merely denotes a very strong bond... Could be Alec or could be Angel.
There was definitely something to do with the devil itself, but more in terms of an allusion to Milton when Alec turns up at their field in her hometown when it is dark and they are burning weeds. Looks like hell all over.

Upon reminiscing yesterday as well, when she goes looking for Angel and moves through that bit of highly grown grass and stuff when he is playing his harp, makes me think somehow of either The Empress or the Queen of Wands. Both emphasise maternity, fertility, and prosperity.

I indeed wonder whether he knew this.

Any thoughts about the Ace of Pentacles (a coin of some kind) and the Ace of Wands (a staff of some kind).

kev67
03-08-2014, 12:53 PM
I have just finished another of Hardy's books in which a character committed a murder. The character pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death, but the Home Secretary showed clemency and the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Why wouldn't have the Home Secretary have shown clemency in Tess's case too?

Maple
03-20-2014, 01:05 PM
Kev, what's the novel you're referring to? Could it be Far From the Madding Crowd? I dunno about Britain, but the punishment for killing someone in the US during my lifetime encompasses quite a range: from a few years in prison, to life imprisonment to execution. It wouldn't surprise me that there was also a range of punishments for killing in Victorian Dorset, England. Beyond that, some think one inspiration for Tess was in the hanging of Elizabeth Brown who bludgeoned the man she was living with after he was caught with another woman. Hardy was known to have kept a file of sensational events like these likely as inspiration for his future novel plots.

kev67
03-20-2014, 03:21 PM
Kev, what's the novel you're referring to? Could it be Far From the Madding Crowd? I dunno about Britain, but the punishment for killing someone in the US during my lifetime encompasses quite a range: from a few years in prison, to life imprisonment to execution. It wouldn't surprise me that there was also a range of punishments for killing in Victorian Dorset, England. Beyond that, some think one inspiration for Tess was in the hanging of Elizabeth Brown who bludgeoned the man she was living with after he was caught with another woman. Hardy was known to have kept a file of sensational events like these likely as inspiration for his future novel plots.

Yes, FFTMC, which was written before Tess and set in the 1840s, when the penal code was more severe. Hardy witnessed Elizabeth Brown's execution, but it has been said that the reason her sentence was not commuted to life imprisonment was that she kept to her story about a horse having kicked her husband. Hardy must have been aware that a woman like Tess Durbeyfield was unlikely to have been executed in real life, so he must have been taking artistic licence. I wonder why.

Emil Miller
03-20-2014, 05:01 PM
Yes, FFTMC, which was written before Tess and set in the 1840s, when the penal code was more severe. Hardy witnessed Elizabeth Brown's execution, but it has been said that the reason her sentence was not commuted to life imprisonment was that she kept to her story about a horse having kicked her husband. Hardy must have been aware that a woman like Tess Durbeyfield was unlikely to have been executed in real life, so he must have been taking artistic licence. I wonder why.

I haven't read Tess of the D'Urbervilles but I'm wondering why you say that Hardy was taking artistic licence over the execution of of his heroine. The last woman to be executed in England was Ruth Ellis: hanged in 1955 for the murder of her lover David Blakely who had deserted her for another woman.

kev67
03-20-2014, 05:24 PM
I haven't read Tess of the D'Urbervilles but I'm wondering why you say that Hardy was taking artistic licence over the execution of of his heroine. The last woman to be executed in England was Ruth Ellis: hanged in 1955 for the murder of her lover David Blakely who had deserted her for another woman.

Ruth Ellis shot her lover with a gun, so it was premeditated murder. The British judiciary had stopped applying the death penalty except for cases of poisoning and gun crime a long time before. They would be sentenced to death, but then be reprieved. Tess's crime was a spur of the moment thing (although there was a bit of desperate calculation in it). The landlady heard everything. In the real world I doubt she would have died because she would have had a good lawyer, who would have milked her tale of woe for all it was worth.

Edit: according to Wikipedia, Ruth Ellis emptied a revolver on David Blakely. She missed with the first shot, chased him and finished him off when he was lying on the ground.

Maple
03-21-2014, 03:39 PM
I read somewhere that a while after Tess' publication he met an important judge at a social event. When the subject of Tess' punishment came up the judge told Hardythat absolutely her execution was the appropriate punishment, and it would have been his, too. Hardy was reportedly surprised.

Whether Hardy was taking literary license with Tess' fate, I have no opinion. However, there's no question he was willing to go to extremes in his plots. I believe he called these intensifications. More than that, he enjoyed making up words because somehow he felt they added something. Reading any of his prose one can sense he was at heart a poet.