When editorial clashes spill into the print pages of “Hearts Insurgent”

By Theresa J. Malloy

Victorian author Thomas Hardy had a strong aversion toward the serialized publication of his story, “Hearts Insurgent,” which appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in December 1894 through November 1895. The serial became a hit early on, earning special promotion by a famous author and improved editorial treatment in the magazine. However, Hardy lashed back about censorship from his editors as readers became disillusioned with his story. He went as far as encouraging his readers to ignore the serial version, promising revisions would appear soon in a novel form, according to Linda K. Hughes and Michael Lund in The Victorian Serial (Hughes and Lund 231). Harper’s editor H.M. Alden held firm on the magazine’s family standards. Clashing with Hardy, Alden informed him in a letter that nothing published in the magazine could not be read aloud in a “family circle” (231). Hardy saw this as censorship as a limitation of his work. However, the serialization fell flat with readers despite Hardy’s laments and promises for a new version. In fact, Hughes and Lund suggest, “Heart Insurgent, for some readers, ended in September 1895 (or even earlier) with the tenth installment in Harper’s. Finding contradictions between author’s text and their own expectations so fundamental and so absolute, much of Hardy’s audience abandoned him in the middle of Hearts Insurgent, asserting their will to live against his pessimistic forecast” (243). An examination of the editorial treatment of the serialized story reveals editorial choices that reflect a waning readership, particularly when it comes to the placement of the installment in the publication, while also correlating to the struggle between editor and author.  

Even before the serial went to press, Hardy fought with Harper’s editorial decisions. He entered his contract with Harper’s in December 1893. According to Dennis Taylor, editor of the 1998 Penguin edition of Jude the Obscure, “In April 1894, Hardy proposed to Harper’s that the serial be withdrawn because of the the direction the story was taking, but he turned it down” (Taylor xxviii). Hardy claimed to have the serial “in hand” in September 1894, and he worked on his revisions for the novel while it ran in Harper’s (Taylor xxxviii – xxxix). In turning the pages of Harper’s Magazine, it is evident editors began to bury “Hearts Insurgent,” giving it less attention and prominent positioning midway through the series. The story was immediately rebranded after its first installment, which debuted in the December 1894 edition of Harper’s under the title, “The Simpletons.” The story in that first installment was publishing near the middle of the magazine without any pictures or special lettering, unlike the stories and poems that precede and follow it. The first installment appears as a text-heavy, two-column format across more than a dozen pages.

By the second installment though, in the January 1895 edition of Harper’s, the story is handled differently in a format that is repeated throughout most of the remainder of its publication. The title was changed to “Hearts Insurgent” with an editor’s note: “The author’s attention having been drawn to the resemblance between the the title ‘The Simpletons’ and that of another English novel, he has decided to revert to the title originally selected” (vol. 90, 188). This note is the first hint of editorial dispute, suggesting Hardy was dissatisfied with the decision to rename the piece. More notably, the placement of the story in this installment is now in the front of the magazine as the second article. This prime real estate the story occupies shows a good reader response to its debut. The editors have also invested in a full-page illustration, which bookmarks the end of the installment. Editors hope to draw readers into the story at its early stages, which would encourage subscriptions to the exclusive content. The next installment, the third, gets similar treatment in terms of placement, appearing near the front of the magazine with a full-page illustration of Jude and Sue returning to see Mr. Phillotson with the caption “A knock brought him to the school-house door” (vol. 90, 365). The illustration leaves readers hopeful Jude may continue his path toward higher education and the promise of a romance with Sue; but reader’s hopes quickly unravel in the following installments.

While the plot may have dissatisfied readers at this point, editors were not yet ready to push “Hearts Insurgent” to the back of the magazine. The fourth and fifth installments are moved to the middle of the magazine and each feature is accompanied with one more full-page illustration. However, by the sixth installment – the midpoint of the series, “Hearts Insurgent” is now near the back of the magazine. In fact, the sixth installment published in May 1895 has no illustration and appears just as text-heavy as the first installment. This pattern of position continues through subsequent installments as more readers are departing from the story. The plot of these installments primarily involves complications in Sue and Jude’s relationship. Notably, the word “husband” is not used to describe Jude with the frequency in the serialization as it is in its later book form. The Harper’s editors have chosen to refer to the two as “cousins,” which is perhaps more suitable for the family read-aloud standards. Taylor writes, “the serial is famous especially for Hardy’s bowdlerizing of his original sexual references. The sexual relation of Sue and Jude is omitted, and they are merely cousinly friends; their children are adopted” (xxxix). As a direct response to this treatment, Hardy pushed back at Harper’s. Around the time the seventh installment was released, The Bookman published on a notice about “Hearts Insurgent” in its “News Notes” as the lead story. Atop the front page of its June 1895 edition, the brief article addresses Harper’s censorship of Hardy. The note reads, “We understand that Mr. Thomas Hardy’s story, at present appearing in  Harper’s Magazine, under the title, ‘Hearts Insurgent,’ has been considerably modified for the purpose of serial publication. It will, of course, be restored to its original state when published in book form by Messrs, Osgood, McIlvaine and Co. It will be included in the 6s. Series of Mr. Hardy’s books now being issued by that firm.” If readers saw this note, they may decided to abandon the story and await its book publication, questioning the storyline that was already poorly received. More importantly, this statement undermines the serialization and editorial choices Harper’s has made for its readers without providing context as to why the censorship has occurred. Harper’s editors would be less inclined to promote this story or give it special treatment with Hardy so publicly pushing back.

By August, Hardy has sent his book to the publisher and received his proofs back in the following two months (Taylor xl). In the ninth installment, also in August, readers find out Sue and Jude’s relationship status is more nuanced. The scandal would shock readers, but it also foreshadows what is to come in the even more shocking 10th installment, which Hughes and Lund have flagged as the final departure point for many readers. As Hardy worked on his proofs for the book, Harper’s September 1895 edition buries his story again. For the first time, it does not appear at the top of the page, and the heading is pushed to the bottom third of the page. The story itself is near the end of the magazine. Sue has a conversation with their eldest son, nicknamed Father Time, about the family’s poverty and struggle. She lets the child know another one is on the way, and he reacts violently, wishing he was never born (592 – 593). This child left unattended with Sue and Jude’s children proceeds to hang them, then takes his own life in sacrifice. Interestingly, the illustration in this installment is analeptic, placed much later than the page where the scene plays out. The image shows Sue and Father Time having the distressing conversation about bringing children into the world. The caption reads: “I ought not be born, ought I? Said the boy” (601). It appears after the children die, right before the page where Sue says goodbye to Jude, which is how the installment ends. This could be an editorial trick to draw the attention of wearied readers who might flip through the magazine to bypass the story and see the heart-wrenching, emotional image and wonder what happened. It could potentially bring readers back who have maybe given up. The Fawley family tragedy is a horrifying and gruesome saga. Understandably, it does not seem like great family reading material.  The misfortune was too much for many readers to continue, as Hughes and Lund pointed out.

jude-the-observer-illustration
Source: Harper’s New Monthly Magazine v.91 (September 1895, 601)

The final installment does include one last illustration, but it is the shortest, covering just shy of nine full pages in Harper’s. This is a departure from its original positioning and editorial handling. The movement to push the story back further in the magazine is evidence of the editor responding to the audience’s displeasure with the story as well as Hardy’s public outcries. As its popularity waned, so did its editorial promise, which translates into a direct business risk for the publication. As Hughes and Lund point out, there is a finality to the story. They write, “Hearts Insurgent is in the end a story not to be continued” (236). Indeed, “Hearts Insurgents” was not to be continued, even in its new form as a novel. An advertisement in The Saturday Review published on Nov. 2, 1895, makes no mention of the novel’s prior identity. The advertisement simply calls it: “Thomas Hardy’s New Novel” with its name Jude the Obscure. It is understandable why Harper’s would have been just as eager to close this serialization as Hardy was for its rebirth. Hardy and his book publishers attempted to capitalize on this idea of the magazine censorship as changing his story and its initial reception. With his public comments about the censorship, it is not a far leap to guess that Harper’s editors handled “Hearts Insurgent” with less care in the end of its serialization. For the magazine, it was a pricy investment that fell flat and alienated readers with its continuance. Thus the editorial decisions employed with positioning and other techniques helped control the magazine’s waning appearance of promotion and support for the story as enthusiasm died and Hardy fought back.

Works Cited

“Advertisement.” Saturday review of politics, literature, science and art 80.2088 (1895): 593.
         ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.

Hardy, Thomas and Dennis Taylor. Jude the Obscure. London: Penguin, 1998. Print.  

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 90th ed. 101 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1836-1919.                  Hathi Trust Digital Library. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 91st ed. 101 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1836-1919.

Hathi Trust Digital Library. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Hughes, Linda K., and Michael Lund. “Prefiguring an End to Progress.” The Victorian Serial.           Charlottesville: U of Virginia, 1991. 227-74. Print.

“NEWS NOTES.” The Bookman 8.45 (1895): 69-72. ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy Valine says:

    Thank you for this analysis, Theresa! It’s fascinating to think about how the placement of “Hearts Insurgent” reveals a web of authorial wishes, reader responses, and editorial reaction/manipulation, all influencing one another.

    You describe how the editors of Harper’s scrambled to protect their publication from the taint of Hardy’s unconventional subject matter and presentation. I’m particularly interested in the editorial note in the June 1895 edition, regarding the upcoming release of “Hearts Insurgent” in book form. You suggest that “if readers saw this note, they may have decided to abandon the story and await its book publication,” which makes me wonder at what point readers made the decision whether to stick with a serial, wait for book publication, or reject a story altogether. In class we talked about how Jude isn’t exactly suited for a serial format, with its cyclical character development and consistently depressing plotline. In that case, would readers who were turned off by the disturbing content of Hardy’s work continue reading each installment as long as they found the plotline engrossing? Or would a poorly constructed yet morally spotless serial find more favor with readers? I suppose the editors had to choose what sort of reader they wanted to please, while making these editorial decisions with “Hearts Insurgent.” Regardless, I don’t envy their job of conciliating discontent readers and seeing “Hearts Insurgent” through to completion.

    Finally, I’m glad you brought up the illustration of Father Time and Sue. I think Father Time in relation to the serial format has possibilities for an entire paper alone. Time is such an integral part of serial publication—time passes deliberately within the story and in between installments, and editorial/authorial decisions on how this time moves has definite effects on readers. We might read Father Time as a reflection of a serial publication’s birth into the world, its hopeful entrance and critical reception. Perhaps Hardy’s editors believed “Hearts Insurgent” ought not to have been born, either.

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  2. I really enjoyed this as a clever and engaging way to do a distanced reading. I think it also plays a lot into what we, as readers, don’t see that happens behind the scene and has a pressing effect on the outcome of stories. To do a critical reading of anything, the reader really has to be able to trust that the author was knowingly and purposefully making decisions about his or her work. Having conflicts with editors throws a lot of that into the air.

    In that vein, I’d be so curious to learn more about how the decisions were being made about the illustrations at this point. As Theresa mentions, some installments did go without illustrations, but it’s curious to me that some still had illustrations; for those, how was it decided what was going to be drawn? How do you draw something that re-engages a reader but is represent of a work that the reader might have already lost interest in?

    The above image of Father Time is one that particularly piques my interest. That illustration correlates with one of the most graphic parts of the books—certainly the part that would have been most unfriendly to a family setting. The image is certainly bleak, no matter how it is being read; Sue is drab, darkly lined, and the world is literally pressing down on her. She, in many ways, already looks as if she’s in mourning. Father Time’s face is etched with lines, making him look like an older man in many ways, although he is also timeless because this is the way he will look forever now. With the line at the bottom, it’s certainly not intended to be a happy image by any means. But in contrast with the scene that it alludes to, it’s also not as graphic. And with a scene so graphic, why include the illustration at all? As Theresa addresses, that image may have drawn readers back into the story, but with that installment being, arguably, the most controversial, would it have been better for readers to have skipped it all together?

    Another thing I’m curious about after reading Theresa’s article is how often serialized stories went uncompleted. I’d assume that there was some contract, and with someone of such fame as Hardy, it would have been difficult to break that contract, but was it ever possible for the press and the author come to some arrangement that it was better to break off? Or was it more common for both the press and the author to struggle to continue through the story?

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  3. Rachel Busse says:

    Theresa, thanks for this very interesting post. Throughout this semester and especially with your post, I’ve been gradually coming to terms with/realizing that so much of what we think of as artful or inspired in literature is touched by economics. Simply put, the stories that didn’t sell were the stories that were cut short. Further, as you point out, if a publisher or editor was worried that some salacious content might keep readership down, they might cut it out (as Hardy experienced). When we consider art or literature in isolation, it’s easy to forge that markets so often determine what gets produced and really change what we experience as readers way down the line. That’s part of why sideways reading is so valuable—it forces us to come to terms with the fact that none of these writers were writing in isolation—they had deadlines, editors, and constant constraints.
    I’m struck with your discussion of the September installment where the gruesome death of the children takes place. You mention that the story is somewhat buried, but at the same time, the illustration included shows the horrid scene. So in a way, it seems like they’re attempting to not draw too much attention to themselves while still including the eye-catching illustration. I have to wonder if they knew that the episode would be controversial/a breaking point for many, and hoped that by not drawing too much attention, casual readers might pass the story by and forget this installment ever happened. I also have to wonder at what point editors were locked into printing illustrations that had been created for the issue—presumably the editor would have final say, but there’s something rather odd and counterintuitive about an editor that publishes a big flashy illustration in a story that’s otherwise buried. It’s nearly impossible to know what was going on, but I think you’ve struck on a particularly interesting line of inquiry!

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