Bathsheba flung her hands to her face

Plate 7 for the July 1874 installment of the Cornhill Magazine serialization of Hardy's novel.

The seventh plate and vignette, for July (Chapters 30-33), illustrate incidents in Ch. 31 and 32 respectively. In "Bathsheba flung her hands to her face." (facing page 1), Helen Paterson has selected a moment that the reader initially expects will occur in Ch. 30, "Hot Cheeks and Tearful Eyes." However, the moment depicted occurs in Ch. 31, "Blame: Fury." The subject is Bathsheba's distress after her interview with Boldwood (seen disappearing into the distance), who she believes intends to assault Frank Troy. Hardy had furnished her with little enough on which to base the illustration other than the heroine's gesture indicative of emotional conflict, and the general setting, on a road three miles from her farm at twilight amidst "leafy trees" (p. 10). The Helen Allingham has passed over the dramatic confrontation between the heroine and her jealous lover to focus on her reaction to his accusation that she has unwisely allowed herself to become smitten by a a gallant outward appearance -- the "brass and scarlet" (p. 9) of a sergeant's uniform. She fears that Boldwood means to harm Troy, and blames herself for provoking this jealous passion through her foolishly sending Boldwood the valentine.

Although Paterson's background details seem inconsistent with Hardy's Wessex, Bathsheba's white dress and hat set her off from the gathering gloom in sky and woods. Paterson has not depicted the "heap of stones by the wayside" (p. 10) on which Bathsheba sits after her encounter with Boldwood. She has, however, supplied a high wooden fence of a type not commonly seen in Wessex, and large conifers that block out the letter-press's "coppery cloud which bounded a green and pellucid expanse in the western sky" (p. 11).

The initial letter vignette complements the full- size plate by focusing on the exterior action of the narrative in the following chapter, "Night: Horses Tramping," as Jan Coggan and Gabriel Oak mistakenly pursue an unknown thief who has stolen Dainty, tracking the horse and gig during the small hours of the night. The connection between the two illustrations is that Bathsheba's concern about Troy' s safety has prompted her to travel to Bath, where he had said he would be visiting relatives. The faint light as Jan inspects the tracks at the cross-roads, the fact that the pursuers are riding bareback, and the darkness of the woods all contribute to the sense of mystery and suspense, compelling the reader first to get through the instalment to the moment realised, then on to its resolution, when Coggan and Oak confront the driver of the gig at the tollgate. That Bathsheba and not a gipsy is the driver comes as something of a surprise to the reader, who then interprets Bathsheba's rashness and haste in undertaking the journey by night as the direct consequence of her emotional conflict in the early part of the seventh instalment.


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Last modified 12 December 2001