Chapter 18

Synopsis of chapter 18

Angel is described at some length. He has decided to become a farmer since he had religious doubts, and could not agree to become an Anglican vicar. In effect, this meant he missed a university education at Cambridge, since his parents saw no point in one if he were not preparing for the church. Angel had become something of a radical, but, disliking town life, felt he could find his vocation as some sort of farmer, either in Britain or abroad.

At Talbothays Angel has been given a large attic as his personal quarters, but preferred to take his meals with the other farm people. Class etiquette prevents him sitting at table with them all, however, so he takes his meals sitting apart but within earshot. It is in this manner he first notices Tess, having some vague idea he has seen her before.

Commentary on chapter 18

Angel Clare

For the first time in the novel, Hardy does not focus on Tess. Angel is described in a detail denied Alec. He appears to be something of a dilettante, that is, he has no real ambition or drive, but is a pleasant enough young man.

More on Hardy's young men:  Angel is rather like Fitzpiers in The Woodlanders. Typically in Hardy's novels, young men like this do rather more harm than good, but usually escape any permanent damage to themselves. They stand in contrast to strivers like Jude, in Jude the Obscure, who seem destined never to attain the goals they so earnestly seek. For example, Angel's missing a university education affects him little; for Jude it is a devastating blow.

the tenure of a home farm: a home farm was one attached to a manor house, and therefore there is more social prestige in being its tenant.

not to take Orders: not to be ordained as a minister of religion

an untenable redemptive theolatry: a belief he could not hold since it centred on worshipping a God who redeemed or saved humankind through the death of Jesus Christ. Although this is the central belief of traditional and evangelical Christianity, it was being increasingly challenged in the nineteenth century by liberal and modernist theologians, especially from Europe.

sending him to Cambridge: in the nineteenth century, by far the easiest way to be ordained was as a graduate of a university. Cambridge University was still reckoned as somewhat more evangelical than Oxford, which was seen as more High Church. However, Angel's older brothers all became High Church despite attending Cambridge.

a preface without a volume: many books have prefaces or introductions. Mr. Clare sees university as the preface to ordination, which is the book or volume.

theological thimble-riggers: a thimble-rigger is a trickster at a fair who gets the audience to guess which of three thimbles a pea is under. Hardy is satirising theologians who play games with words and call them beliefs, the opposite to the literal but sincere Mr. Clare.

Indeed opine....: a quotation from Robert Browning's Easter Day (1850), which deals with the problem of religious belief.

Article Four: The Thirty-Nine Articles are the statement of beliefs of the Church of England, which all clergymen have to sign on being ordained. Article 4 deals with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

'the removing of those things that are shaken...': as Angel says, quoting from Hebrews 12:27. Angel takes it to mean the church should remove those beliefs over which there is controversy, whereas the meaning in context refers to the old covenant, before Christ came, and which his coming to some extent made obsolete.

the pitiable dummy known as Hodge: Hodge was the common nickname for a country bumpkin or yokel. Hardy, being a countryman himself and knowing the great diversity among country people, hated this Blaise Pascalstereotype, and, through Angel, is showing how false it is.

Pascal: Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and theologian of the seventeenth century. His quotation can be translated as 'the more intelligence you have, the more you find many original people. Ordinary people cannot see the differences between others.'

Miltonic....Cromwellian: the references to John Milton and Oliver Cromwell, leading personages in the Civil War on the Parliamentary side, have as subtext Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751) where he writes:

 'Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest;
 Some Cromwell guiltless of his Country's Blood.'

the road to dusty death: quoting from Shakespeare's Macbeth V.V.22-23

belief in a beneficent Power: that is, a belief in a good God. Hardy picks up on the growing feeling of melancholy and pessimism felt at least by many artistic people in the later Victorian era. He shared this attitude, attributing it to the decline of belief in Christianity. (see Hardy's pessimism in Challenges to establised religious belief.)

the moving power being...: a reference to the cheese-making process. In the absence of machinery, a horse supplied the driving power.

Social setting

The second part of the chapter shows the farm community at mealtime. Angel is the obvious outsider, part of - and yet separate from - the rest of the community. Such class separation would not have been considered at all unusual to Hardy's readership, though to us, it may seem somewhat snobbish. In contrast, Tess seems a real part of her new community, perhaps for the first time.


competency: an adequate income

contiguous: nearby

cramming: studying hard but mechanically for an exam

crooks: hooks

desultory: half-hearted

leads: leaden milk pans

mess: take meals

mullioned: divided into smaller panes by thin stone columns

nebulous: misty, vague

peremptorily: decisively, abruptly

stultified: dazed, appearing stupid

Investigating chapter 18

  • Look at Hardy's description of Angel.
    • How does the physical description give insight into Angel's character?
    • What changes in Angel's character does Hardy suggest he has undergone?
  • How does Hardy portray Angel as someone also on the margins of his society?
    • In what ways can he be compared to Alec and to Tess as outsiders to the farming community?
  • What does Angel Clare's name suggest symbolically?
  • What is it about Tess that first draws Angel's attention to her?
    • What, by contrast, does Alec first notice about her?
  • What more do we learn about Tess' spiritual experiences?
    • How is her 'otherness' highlighted?
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