Page 202. " ruins of the Cistercian abbey "
Tintern Abbey
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeTintern Abbey - Credit: Hotlorp

Cistercians are a religious order of Roman Catholic monks and nuns. The first monastery was founded in the 11th century and the order spread throughout Europe over the next 100 years. Traditionally, Cistercians were self-sufficient, supporting themselves by working the land and rearing their own cattle.

Perhaps the most famous ruined Cistercian abbey in the UK is Tintern Abbey in Wales, which was made famous by Wordsworth in his poem of the same name.

Page 207. " Indeed I cannot "

In the 19th century, divorce laws were very restrictive. At the time that Hardy was writing, a man would have had to prove his wife had been unfaithful in order to secure a divorce. As Tess's affair with Alec happened before she and Angel got married, it would not be grounds for divorce.

Nevertheless, men had it easier than women when it came to divorce laws. While infidelity was sufficient grounds for a husband to divorce his wife, it did not allow a woman to divorce her husband. A husband had to have committed incest, bigamy or cruelty, or to have deserted his wife, for the courts to grant her a legal separation.  

Page 212. " M. Sully-Prudhomme "
Public DomainSully-Prudhomme
A French poet and essayist, René François Armand Prudhomme was the first ever winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded in 1901. Trained as an engineer, he set out to create scientific poetry for the modern world. Like many of the writers Hardy admires, Prudhomme had a pessimistic outlook and, in his most dark work, expresses the view that to be born is to be sentenced to suffer.
Page 217. " like a Samson shaking himself "
Delilah cuts Samson's hair
Public DomainDelilah cuts Samson's hair
Samson is a character from the Bible's Old Testament. Superhumanly strong, Samson is able to perform extraordinary tasks, such as wrestling a lion and killing a whole army using nothing but a donkey's jawbone. He is a great warrior in the Israelites' struggle against the Philistines.

But Samson has one secret weakness. If his hair is ever cut, he will lose all his strength. When he marries a Philistine woman, Delilah, Samson falls victim to her charms and reveals his secret. While he sleeps, Delilah cuts his hair and hands Samson over to his enemies.

Page 221. " God's not in his heaven: all's wrong with the world! "
Robert Browning
Public DomainRobert Browning

Angel Clare has rewritten poet Robert Browning's lines: "God's in his heaven/All's right with the world!" The lines come from Browning's 1841 dramatic poem Pippa Passes, which the poet intended to be the first of a series of similar pieces and which focuses on a young innocent girl who passes through a corrupt society, influencing the reprobates she meets for good.

As well as the famous lines which Angel misquotes, the poem is remembered for an embarrassing mistake near the end, where Browning writes: "Then, owls and bats, cowls and twats,/Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods". It seems that Browning mistook the word "twat" to mean a nun's headdress, which goes to show there's hope for us all. 


The full poem

Page 225. " a Wiertz Museum, and with the leer of a study by Van Beers "
The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz, 1854
Public DomainThe Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz, 1854
The Antoine Wiertz Museum is an art museum in the Leopold district of Brussels. When it opened in the nineteenth century, it evoked mixed feelings in its visitors, who were frequently shocked by the macabre nature of its paintings. It was named after the artist Antoine Wiertz, who was famed for his grotesque works.

Jan van Beers (1852-1927) was a Belgian painter and the son of a poet of the same name. His poised studies often have a sardonic edge, suggesting that there is more going on beneath the surface than meets the eye. 


Peter Benoit
Public DomainPeter Benoit - Credit: Jan van Beers