I do not think there is a clear answer, but I note that when Angel visited Tess’s family in his search for her at the end of the novel, Tess’s little brother, when he saw Angel, asked “is this the man that is going to marry Tess?” Where would he get this idea? The family had known about Tess’s marriage to Angel already. What would that imply? Maybe the child had heard how Tess was to be married again soon? Alec does not seem the type to be concerned with bigamy if he can get what he wants.

Then Angel finds Tess is in a short term rental at a seaside resort town, suggestive of a honeymoon, living as Mrs. d’Urberville, which was Alec’s adopted last name as well as Tess’s ancestral name. Certainly the use of the same name and appearance of being married would have been required for propriety's sake regardless, but it adds to the mystery.

I’m not suggesting this proves a second marriage, but it suggests the possibility?

1 Answer 1


It is suggested that, at least, they were not actually married, although longer-term intentions are harder to judge. See the opening paragraph of chapter 56:

Mrs Brooks, the lady who was the householder at The Herons and owner of all the handsome furniture, was not a person of an unusually curious turn of mind. She was too deeply materialized, poor woman, by her long and enforced bondage to that arithmetical demon Profit-and-Loss, to retain much curiousity for its own sake, and apart from possible lodgers’ pockets. Nevertheless, the visit of Angel Clare to her well-paying tenants, Mr and Mrs d’Urberville, as she deemed them, was sufficiently exceptional in point of time and manner to reinvigorate the feminine proclivity which had been stifled down as useless save in its bearings to the letting trade.

The parenthetical "as she deemed them" cannot be part of what's written with Mrs Brooks as a viewpoint character. It must, then, be the equivalent of a remark from an omniscient narrator: Mrs Brooks "deemed them" to be Mr and Mrs d'Urberville, suggesting that in reality they weren't.

Also of note is that Tess apparently wasn't wearing a ring:

“He has won me back to him.”

Clare looked at her keenly, then, gathering her meaning, flagged like one plague-stricken, and his glance sank; it fell on her hands, which, once rosy, were now white and more delicate.

When he looked at her hands, surely the text would have mentioned if he saw a wedding ring or engagement ring there. It doesn't, so he didn't - another hint that an actual marriage between Alec and Tess had not taken place.


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