There's not a soul in my house

Plate 8 for the August 1874 installment of the Cornhill Magazine serialization of Hardy's novel.

Cainy Ball's mention of High Church and High Chapel at the end of the July instalment leave the reader concerned that Bathsheba's infatuation with Troy will lead her to marry him in the August instalment, an apprehension increased by the sexual implication of the pose and caption of the August plate: "There's not a soul in my house but me to-night." (facing page 233). In the vignette opposite, a pensive Gabriel Oak looks the other way (anticipating as well his status as detached observer at the harvest supper in Ch. 36), while in the horizontally- mounted plate a broad-shouldered Troy takes Bathsheba (clad in the same costume as that worn in plate 7 for the sake of narrative-pictorial continuity) in his arms as Boldwood (presumably unseen though present in the text) looks on, aghast, his vicious leer foreshadowing, according to Arlene Jackson, his gradual descent into madness.

In the seventh plate, Boldwood's threat left her nowhere to turn, appealing to the viewer for sympathy; now she is turned away from the viewer, finding comfort in the tall, solid, tower-like figure of Troy in uniform. However, in attempting to have the reader see Troy as Bathsheba sees him, the Helen Allingham fails to reveal character traits which Hardy feels are significant, namely Troy's insensitivity and deviousness, evident in this episode when Troy deceives Boldwood about his intention to marry Bathsheba and about his not having married Fanny Robin. In the Helen Allingham's rendition of Sergeant Frank Troy there is little of what Hardy specifically identifies in Troy here or elsewhere; we see neither his "devil-may- care" manner nor his being a mean-spirited "trickster" (p. 235) who relishes Boldwood's anguish (mixed in the plate with grim-faced anger at being duped). Based on textual detail, the plate reveals the "old tree trunk under the hedge immediately opposite" on which Troy proposes that he and Boldwood sit, but implies in Troy's stalwart figure neither the malicious joy evidenced in his interview with Boldwood, nor the obstructive pride that impedes Gabriel from saving the ricks on the night of the harvest supper later on the instalment. Thus, the reader must mediate between the letter-press and the illustrations to form an accurate assessment of Hardy's villain.

Equally misleading in the text and in the caption of the plate, however, is the wanton sexuality of Bathsheba implicit in her remarking to Troy that she has dismissed all her household servants for the night "so nobody on earth will know of your visit to your lady's bower" (p. 237). Hardy's text and the accompanying illustration promise the reader the titillation of premarital sex--indeed, the plate thus captioned underscores this possibility in true Sensation Novel style; Hardy, pushing the limits of what sexual activity a family magazine would permit, then frustrates that expectation when Troy, now safely inside Bathsheba's house, reveals the reader and Boldwood that, since they are already married, there is nothing improper in their spending the night together alone.


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Last modified 12 December 2001