A hair shirt is an undergarment made of coarse animal hair, designed to irritate the skin and thus cause pain to the wearer. It is worn as a kind of penance by Christians who regard themselves as sinners.
In the period of 1866-1867, the parties led by Gladstone and Disraeli clashed over voting reform. While Gladstone and his Liberal (Whig) Party were officially in favour of allowing more people voting rights, and Disraeli and the Conservative (Tory) Party were opposed to this, both voted for and against different reform bills in this period. Disraeli's Conservatives voted against Gladstone's 1866 bill, but voted for Disraeli's own, similar bill in 1867.
The reason for this was political. Athough this was immensely unpopular with much of his own party, Disraeli calculated that those enabled to vote by his bill would reward his party by voting for them at the next election. Gladstone's party wanted to avoid this happening. The gamble did not pay off: the Conservatives lost the next election.
The Fallen One is a name for the devil, referencing his origin in Christian myth as an angel who rebelled against God.
Maid Marian is the female companion of Robin Hood in many of the folk tales surround this figure. In 20th century versions of the stories, she is frequently portrayed as an excellent archer.
A Pasha was a high-ranking man in the Ottoman Empire. The culture and Muslim religion of the Ottoman empire permitted men to have several wives, who had inferior social status and less power than their husbands.
As Fowles describes, Caroline Norton (1808-1877) was far from insipid. A famous society beauty in her youth, Caroline married a man who became an abusive husband. His behaviour after their separation (which included taking her earnings from writing and refusing to allow her to see her children) inspired her campaigns for social reform, particularly women's rights.
A complete fascimile of The Lady of La Garaye can be found at Google Books.
Criminal conversation was part of British civil law against adultery. It was based on the principle that a wife is her husband's property and an adulterer trespasses upon or damages that property. This law was abolished in 1857 when more modern divorce laws were passed.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a nurse who became an idol of ministering Victorian womanhood for her care of injured soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-1856). She made important contributions to medical care and founded the first professional school for nurses.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a English philosopher and politician. His work on liberty, individual freedom from external controls and utilitarianism was and is highly influential. He was a proponent of women's suffrage and is considered one of the first male feminists.
Fowles is not quite correct, although Punch's cartoon for this week in 1867 does refer to John Stuart Mill's proposal. The text below the image is 'Mill's Logic; or, Franchise for Females. "Pray clear the way, there for these - a - persons."'
The movement in support of giving women all the privileges of citizenship available to men was roundly mocked by Punch in ways very similar the cartoon described by Fowles. Examples can be found here.
The "Gibson Girl" takes her name from the illustrator Charles Gibson, whose drawings of women set the fashionable ideal in the late 19th and early 20th century in the USA.
The Gibson Girl style included hourglass curves, narrow waists, tall stature and hair piled on top of the head. The Gibson Girl character was independent (by the standards of the time), lively and youthful.
Johann Lavater (1741-1801) was a Swiss physiognomist and populariser of this pseudoscience through his Essays on Physiognomy. Physiognomy is based on the belief that a person's character can be deduced from an examination of his facial features and body type.
Gustav Flaubert's first novel recounts the life of Emma Bovary, a provincial doctor's wife and a fantasist. To escape the banality of her life, Emma commits adultery and spends wildly. She is selfish and pretentious, but her desire for a life wider and richer than the one available to her makes it easy to sympathise with her. In this article, the writer A S Byatt describes the beauty and significance of Madame Bovary.
Flaubert's famous remark about his character, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi" ("Madame Bovary is me"), is similar to an observation about writing made by Fowles: "You are every character you write." (source)
"We visited the room by day-light, and felt almost as if it were afloat, for nothing but blue sea and sky was to be seen from its many windows. From the wide recessed window at the end, however, we got a glimpse of the sands and of the harbour and Cobb beyond." (source)