“Jude the Obscene,” huffed one critic. “Simply one of the most objectionable books that we have ever read in any language whatsoever,” raged another. “The most indecent novel ever published,” declared a third. The 1895 publication of Jude the Obscure created a furor rarely seen in the literary world; bishops and critics, librarians and poets were scandalized by Thomas Hardy’s last novel, which follows Jude Fawley’s futile quest to obtain a university education and his ultimately fruitless love for Sue Bridehead. The unfolding of the plot challenged the bulwark of late Victorian religious beliefs and, more important, broke ground in its frank portrayal of sexuality in the complicated relationships between men and women.
(Fiction; 1895; repr., Oxford World’s Classics, 2002)