Thomas Hardy published his fourteenth novel, Jude the Obscure, as a magazine serial in 1895. It was released in book form in November of that year. Hardy's previous novels and short stories had been extremely popular, with the exception of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which caused some mild controversy due to its relatively explicit sexual content. Similarly, Jude the Obscure scandalized critics and readers with its sexual content and scathing critiques of Christianity and marriage. The Bishop of Wakefield publicly burned copies of the book, and several circulating libraries pulled the novel from their shelves - a move that severely limited the book's readership, since many at this time procured their reading material from libraries. Hardy received hate mail from all over the world, and was so devastated by the novel's reception that he gave up prose fiction entirely, writing only poetry and drama for the rest of his life.
In the years following the book's 1895 release, it became very difficult to obtain uncensored copies of the novel, especially outside of Great Britain. When Jude was published in America in Harper's Magazine, most of the controversial elements were removed, and through the 1920s, copies of the unbowdlerized text were extremely hard to find in the United States; furthermore, complete texts were expensive. In 1912, Macmillan published the definitive Wessex editions of Hardy's novels, and this edition of Jude the Obscure is the one that is usually read today. (Slack)