I heard of this story reading the excellent Neo-Victorian novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. It involves famous Victorian author Thomas Hardy and a really unfortunate, vaguely Flowers in the Attic family secret (you'll totally only get this if you read the prequel, Garden of Shadows–god, I can't believe I'm referencing that
crappy awesome no, definitely crappy series).
It is common knowledge that in 1867 Thomas Hardy returned to his family home in Dorset after studying architecture in London and "fell profoundly in love with his sixteen-year-old cousin Tryphena" (274). He was twenty-seven. No matter how odd that seems to us today, the age difference was perfect and marrying one's cousin wasn't a big deal. Besides, it would take him several years to be able to afford a wife and for her to become old enough to marry.
"They became engaged. Five years later, and incomprehensibly, the engagement was broken. Though not absolutely proven, it now seems clear that the engagement was broken by the revelation to Hardy of a very sinister skeleton in the family cupboard: Tryphena was not his cousin, but his illegitimate half-sister's illegitimate daughter."
OMG OMG OMG just like Christopher and Corrine Dollanganger, who fall in love thinking they're just half-uncle and half-niece (still, EW) and never realize they're actually half-brother and -sister! *LE GASP*
Sorry, I'm having a seriously junior high school moment. Back to Hardy:
"Countless poems of Hardy's hint at it . . . .and that there were several recent illegitimacies on the maternal side in his family is proven. Hardy himself was born 'five months from the altar'. The pious maintained that he broke his engagement for class reasons – he was too much the rising young master to put up with a simple Dorset girl. It is true he did marry above himself in 1874 – to the disastrously insensitive Lavinia Gifford. But Tryphena was an exceptional young woman; she became the head mistress of a Plymouth school at the age of twenty, having passed out fifth from her teachers' training college in London.
"It is difficult not to accept that some terrible family secret was what really forced them to separate. It was a fortunate secret, of course, in one way, since never was an English genius so devoted and indebted to one muse and one muse only. It gave us all his greatest love elegies. It gave us Sue Bridehead and Tess, who are pure Tryphena in spirit; and Jude the Obscure is even tacitly dedicated to her in Hardy's own preface – "The scheme was laid down in 1890 . . . some of the circumstances being suggested by the death of a woman . . .' Tryphena, by then married to another man, had died in that year."