As Hardy’s last novel has recently been doing the rounds at a cinema near you, fronted by those contemporary late-Victorian ‘Simpletons’1, Christopher Ecclestone and Kate Winslet, it seems appropriate to take another look at Jude the Obscure the novel before Jude the film forever puts a frame round it. (A ‘postscript’ on the film itself follows this essay for good measure.) And where better to start than with the novel — of all Hardy’s fiction — that may well have replicated most closely the mindset informing Jude: his famously ‘lost’, first-written fictional work, which was never published and the manuscript of which at some point destroyed.
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