Plate 6 for the June 1874 installment of the Cornhill Magazine serialization of Hardy's novel.
The June plate, the first to depict the melodramatic villain, Sergeant Troy (distinguished by the three chevrons on his arm as described at the end of the May instalment, on page 533), takes us back to the previous episode when Liddy tantalizes Bathsheba by mentioning Troy' s aristocratic origins after she has bumped into him in the dark, in the fir plantation. The last line of the May instalment &mdsh; "It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had never once told her she was beautiful" (534)&mdsh; prepares us for Troy's displacing Boldwood as a potential husband in the sixth number. On the opening page of the sixth part the narrator assesses Troy's character, confirming what we have already deduced from his behaviour earlier with Fanny Robin. The narrator reminds us before the sword-play that, although to men Troy is honest and straight-forward, "to women [Troy] lied like a Cretan" (p. 642).
The classical allusion accords with the article in the same number entitled "Homer's Troy and Schiemann's" (pp. 663-674), which insists that the recently-rediscovered Troy is a fraud and an imposture, and that Schliemann is not to be credited. Troy's deceptiveness is well illustrated by his failing to disclose the real danger in which Bathsheba is placing herself in the sword exercise; the sharpness of the blade is only revealed when he terrifies her by clipping a lock of her hair &mdsh; one wonders later, when he quarrels with Bathsheba over the lock of blonde hair, whether he seduced Fanny Robin in precisely the same manner? In his capacity for mendacity and persuasive flattery, Troy combines the talents of the Odysseus and Sinon, the geniuses behind the success of the strategem of the Trojan Horse whereby the Greeks tricked their way into the citadel that had withstood a ten-years' seige.
"At eight o'clock this midsummer evening" (p. 653) at the beginning of Chapter 28 Troy meets Bathsheba as he had proposed earlier that afternoon. In the sixth plate, she holds the sun-hat that she had hastily put on as she ran up the garden. Paterson has captured an appropriate look of concentration on Bathsheba's face as she struggles (as suggested by the hand that grips the skirt) to remain still, but has failed to suggest the hypnotic force of Troy's sabre upon her because the moment illustrated is just as she takes "up her position as directed, facing Troy" (p. 654). We have a sense in the plate that the blade is somewhat removed from her figure, and that Paterson has avoided attempting to show the blade in motion as "a firmament of light, and of sharp hisses, resembling a sky-full of meteors close at hand" (p. 655). Instead, Paterson objectifies as stage scene what is very much a heightened sensory experience, Bathsheba's moment by moment impressions of inverted rainbows and body-thrusts and the "scarlet haze" (p. 655) that is Troy's sword-arm seen in rapid motion as luminous streams of this aurora militaris" (p. 655). Thus, the illustration fails to suggest the phallic implications that Hardy underscores in Troy's remarking, "My sword never errs" (p. 656). Paterson shows the scabbard lying in the grass, just beyond Troy's left foot; only the swaying of the scabbard-belt on his left hip betrays the speed with which he is about to carve a space in the air immediately about Bathsheba.
The sixth initial-letter vignette, on page 641, seems to have nothing to do with the assignation by the ferns: "In the first mead they were already loading hay, the women raking it into cocks and windrows, and the men tossing it upon the waggon" (p. 643). At this point, Troy appears, proclaiming that he has come haymaking "for pleasure" (p. 643). While the anonymous field- hands must toil in the fields, those above the working classes may indulge in a romantic idyll. By selecting as her husband a man who has no sense of obligation to the farm people, Bathsheba threatens the livelihood of all who depend upon her. In contrast to the sensible sun-hats worn by the labourers in the vignette, Troy's brimless "diminutive cap" (p. 644), mentioned in the text at this point, appears in the sixth and eighth plates. In contrast, the fieldworkers' head-coverings, "tilt bonnets covered with nankeen, which hung in a curtain upon their shoulders" (p. 643), though hardly fashionable or becoming, admirably serve their purpose in the workaday world that Bathsheba temporarily neglects for that of romance.
Last modified 12 December 2001