Tess Durbeyfield is the oldest child of John and Joan, uneducated peasants living in an impoverished rural village in Wessex, during the Long Depression of the 1870s. One day, her father is given the hint that they may have noble blood and that they are successors of a noble Norman family D’Urberville. Tess’s fortune is changed after one accident and she decides to visit Mrs. D’Urberville, a rich widow who lives in the nearby town, and “claim kin”. Though now considered a major nineteenth-century English novel and Hardy’s masterpiece, Tess of the d’Urbervilles originally received mixed reviews because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society. While Hardy regarded himself primarily as a poet, initially he gained fame as the author of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Most of his fictional works were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances.