Page 278. " Candlemas Fair "
Simeon's song of praise by Rembrandt van Rijn
Public DomainSimeon's song of praise by Rembrandt van Rijn

Celebrated on 2 February, the Christian feast of Candlemas commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the ritual purification of Mary after giving birth. In the Jewish faith, women are considered unclean after they have given birth and must be purified, a practice also reflected in the Christian faith in previous centuries, but which has since fallen out of fashion.

During the visit to the temple, Jesus was blessed by the old man Simeon, who recognised his holiness and said that he could now die in peace, having seen the saviour of the world. These poetic words, known as the Nunc dimittis, have been set to music by many composers (hear the setting by Charles Villiers Stanford below), and are sung at evensong in churches throughout the world.

In rural 19th century England, the church and secular calendars were closely aligned, and religious feasts like this would often be marked with secular fairs. These fairs would have many entertainments, distractions and stalls, and, as Hardy writes, would often be the place where agricultural workers signed contracts for the coming year. One of the best descriptions of such a fair comes at the beginning of another of Hardy's novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Candlemas was also believed in folklore to be a yardstick by which people could judge what the weather of the coming months would be like, as the following rhyme suggests:


If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Come winter, have another flight;

If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,

Go winter, and come not again.



Page 279. " the Sermon on the Mount "

The most famous of Jesus's teachings is set out in chapters 5-7 of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament.

The Sermon includes the Lord's prayer, the most famous Christian prayer, used in church services throughout the world.


Page 280. " ranging from the 'Dictionnaire Philosophique' to Huxley's 'Essays' "
Public DomainVoltaire

These were two of the more controversial philosophical texts available at the time, and they would have been very familiar to Angel Clare.

Published in 1764, Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique is a collection of articles, many of which criticise institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church.

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) was an English biologist closely associated with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, which he helped promote and defend.

Page 281. " dear damned witch of Babylon "
The Whore of Babylon by William Blake
Public DomainThe Whore of Babylon by William Blake

More commonly called the Whore of Babylon, a term too strong for Hardy's Victorian readers, this figure is mentioned in the biblical Book of Revelation.

She is thought to be a symbol for corruption, and probably represents the Roman Empire, which controlled much of the known world at the time.

Page 282. " the threshing of the last wheat-rick "

To thresh means to separate out the grains of wheat from the straw and husks.

The machine that Izz and Tess worked on would have been something similar to this:



Page 283. " a creature from Tophet "

Tophet is thought to have been a part of Jerusalem where Canaanites burnt children as sacrifices to the heathen god Moloch. For many people, the place took on hellish associations.

Page 288. " The words of the stern prophet Hosea "
The prophet Hosea
Public DomainThe prophet Hosea
One of the twelve prophets of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, Hosea lived through a dark period in Jewish history, in the 8th century BC.
Page 295. " as Abraham might have mourned over the doomed Isaac "
The Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt
Public DomainThe Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt

One of the most famous episodes in the Old Testament, the story of Abraham and Isaac illustrates the loyalty that believers owe God.

Having finally been granted a son after decades of childlessness, Abraham, who has been told that he will be a "father of nations", is visited by an angel who instructs him to sacrifice Isaac to God. Grief-stricken, Abraham takes his only child to the sacrificial altar, binds him and prepares to kill him. But at the last minute the angel reappears to stop the sacrifice, telling him God is pleased with his obedience.

Page 298. " Was not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abi-ezer? "

The phrase comes from the Old Testament Book of Judges (8:2). It is a metaphor used by Gideon to compare the military approaches of Ephraim and his own family. The implication here is that Tess's leftover grapes are better than the finest harvest of the other girls.