Chapter 25

Synopsis of chapter 25

Angel is somewhat shocked by his behaviour towards Tess and realises he must not compromise her. He tells Crick he will take a few days off and visit his family, perhaps to sound them out about marrying someone more fitted to being a farmer's wife than Mercy Chant, the clergyman's daughter they would like to see him marry.

Hardy introduces us to Angel's two brothers, both High Church clergymen, and both totally wrapped up in their professional lives. By contrast, the parents are shown to be devout and pious, committed to the care of their parishioners. But all of their beliefs are a hundred miles away from Angel's, as is their experience of life. Even the gifts Angel has brought them from Mrs. Crick are given away to needy parishioners rather than accepted and enjoyed by the family.

Commentary on chapter 25

A new section begins that is clearly going to trace the development of Angel and Tess's relationship, and its 'consequence'.

The chapter divides into two:

  • The shorter, first part traces the reaction of the dairymaids as they learn not only of Angel's visit, but also that his time at the dairy is drawing to a close
  • The second part deals with the Clare family. The language shifts to a much more difficult and erudite register, with many allusions.

It is possible that Hardy modelled the Clare family on the Moule family of Dorchester, from when he was a youth. He had been greatly helped by one of the sons, the father being vicar of a poor parish on the edge of the town. However, Hardy makes it clear that the family are not going to be sympathetic to Angel's attachment to Tess.

Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman: American poet, an older contemporary of Hardy's. The lines quoted are from his Crossing Brooklyn Ferry ll.3-4.

an unsympathetic first cause: Hardy gives us an insight into his own beliefs (see An alternative belief framework in Challenges to established religious belief). The idea here supposes an impersonal and unfeeling Creator of the universe, something like a blind Fate in Greek mythology. No human being, therefore, gets any favours. For a wider discussion, see Determinism and free will.

'pleasure girdled round with pain': quotation from another older contemporary, Algernon Swinburne, who shared much of Hardy's pessimistic view of life. The line comes from his most famous long poem, Atalanta in Calydon ll.1069-70.

court-patched: at one time it was fashionable for ladies at court to wear patches of material on their faces (to cover up the scars of smallpox). The dairymaids' faces are patched with something rather less fashionable!

cambric morning-gown: a long coat made out of fine white linen that serves also as a dress.

great at Antinomianism: Mercy was quite an expert on a set of Christian beliefs that stresses grace rather than law, and even discounts living by the law. At times, such beliefs were deemed heretical. Hardy makes it clear that Mercy is quite legalistic herself and as far from such beliefs as possible (ironic given her name).

classical scholar: an expert in ancient Greek and Latin language, literature and civilisation

Fellow and Dean: At Oxford and Cambridge universities, college faculties were called Fellows. They had to be unmarried and live in college. A Dean here would be the head of faculty, often a rotating post.

direct line from Wyclif.....: the four names mentioned were all reformers, the first two precursors of the Protestant Reformation; the latter two being the main reformers. In other words, Mr Clare is totally Protestant, in contrast to his two sons who have embraced certain aspects of Catholic ritual and practice.

a Conversionist: someone who believes in the necessity of a personal and decisive experience of God to become a Christian. All Evangelicals would accept this position, often referred to as 'being born again' or 'the new birth'.

Apostolic simplicity: the Apostles were the early disciples of Jesus, excluding Judas but including Paul. They had the reputation of living simply (See Acts 2:42-47).

loved Paul of Tarsus....: the names mentioned are all the supposed writers of letters, or epistles, in the New Testament. (In fact, Philemon received a letter rather than wrote one). Mr. Clare much prefers Paul's epistles, as his Evangelical beliefs are based on their theology. James is despised because it seems to be much more based on good works proving faith rather than a conversion experience (James 2:14-19). In this he followed Martin Luther, who thought it 'an epistle of straw'.

less a Christiad than a Pauliad: more an epic written round Paul than round Jesus Christ. In other words, he bases his beliefs and preaching on Paul's epistles rather than on the Gospels.

determinism....renunciative philosophy...Leopardi: not the easiest sentence to understand!

  • For determinism, see Determinism and free will
  • A renunciative philosophy is one based on the idea that we have to give up, or renounce, all personal desires in order to reach truth
  • The German philosopher Schopenhauer and the Italian poet Leopardi, both living at the beginning of the nineteenth century, shared the same pessimism that a search for personal happiness and freedom was doomed to failure
  • Mr. Clare's renunciation is based on the belief that people need to surrender their lives and desires to God, who has already chosen them and the good works they are to do in life (See Ephesians 1:11-12). He expresses the Christian belief that discovering the truth for an individual's life is based on discovering God's will for that life.

the Canons and Rubric, swore by the Articles: The Thirty-nine articles are the set of beliefs governing the Church of England. The Canons and Rubric are the laws governing how the church is run.

Greece...not Palestine: comparisons of Greek and Hebrew (Jewish) civilisations were common at the time, largely through the writings of Matthew Arnold, whose popular Culture and Anarchy (1869) had discussed British Victorian civilisation as a conflict between the two.

transcendental aspirations.....nadiral hell: not an easy sentence. Hardy seems to be using abstruse terms for the sake of it, as a sort of gentle mockery of simple Mr. Clare. Hardy is suggesting Mr. Clare's world-view is medieval in its religious beliefs and in the symbolic geography of heaven (up above) and hell (down below), with earth in the centre.

nymphs and swains: terms used in traditional pastoral literature to denote young women and men.

the lathe of a systematic tuition: a lathe is a tool which cuts or shapes. Hardy is conveying that their education had been mechanical and uniform, turning out exactly the same product at the end.

Wordsworth...Shelley: both Romantic poets; a reference to literary tastes.

Painting by Diego ValazquezCorreggio's....Velasquez: two painters: one Italian, one Spanish, both Catholic, who often painted religious scenes and people.

Diocesan Synod and Visitation: a synod is a governing body in the Church of England. Each diocese has one as well as there being a General Synod for the whole church. The synod regularly inspects each church in the diocese, usually through the visit of the Bishop.

in the devolution of theology: in the way theology has developed. 'Devolution' suggests the opposite of 'evolution', as though theology were running down rather than developing.

high thinking may go with plain living: a reference to Wordsworth's poem Written in London, September 1802, in which the poet suggests the two virtues no longer co-exist. Hardy suggests they do in Mr. Clare.

dapes inemptae: Latin for 'unbought meal'. A reference to a poem by Horace, a Roman poet, in which he praises country living.


apostrophising: addressing

black-puddings: a type of spicy black dried sausage made with blood

delirium tremens: uncontrollable shaking, often accompanied by hallucinations, usually caused by alcohol poisoning

heterodoxy: unorthodox thinking

mead: fermented honey (not to be confused with pasture!)

noctambulist: night walker

pachydermatous: thick-skinned, like an elephant

phlegm: one of the four humours of the body in Classical medicine, associated with an unemotional character

prig: someone who is very conscious of his superior class

prude: someone who is over-refined or sexually inhibited

substratum: foundational layer

unimpassioned: lacking in strong emotion

vestry: small side-room in a church, used by the clergyman or choir

Investigating chapter 25

  • Explain 'feeling had smothered judgement that day'.
  • What does Angel feel it best to do now he has declared his love?
    • Does the reader get the sense that this will help the situation?
  • Angel is shown as living between two worlds: that of the farm and that of his family.
    • How do they contrast with each other?
    • Do we sense there is anything in common between them at all?
  • Look at the paragraph beginning 'This consciousness...'
    • Is it Hardy or Angel who is commenting?
  • How does Angel's attitude to Tess differ from Alec's?
    • What other thoughts and attitudes of Angel about Tess are given in the chapter?
  • Look back at the previous references to Angel's family in Ch 2 and Ch 12.
    • How much do these earlier references anticipate this chapter?
  • How sympathetic do you think Hardy is to Mr. and Mrs. Clare?
    • Give examples of his judgements on them.
    • Are these judgements ambivalent?
  • Find examples of the different language registers in the two parts of the chapter.
    • Why do you think Hardy switches register?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.