"''Well, Lucetta, I've a bit of news for ye,' he said gaily.''"
The Graphic, 27 March 1886
[See commentary below]
Scan and text by Philip V. Allingham
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In this serial illustration, we have a situation that a modern reader of the novel (as revised in 1895 and again in 1912 for The Wessex Edition) would not recognize as illuminating a narrative moment in the present text. In revising the manuscript for volume publication, Hardy must have felt the whole sequence of events that culminates in this April 17th illustration would strain the reader's credulity to no real purpose, other than to engender the effect so sought after in the Sensation Novels of Collins, Wood, and Braddon: the raising to breathless anticipation reader's fear that the duplicity or disguise of the heroine will be exposed. Although the situational and dramatic irony must have been delicious to Hardy, the whole incident for the sake of probability had to go. The paragraph which closes the serial version of Chapter XXXV is the narrative moment realized by the April 17th number's illustration by Robert Barnes, a picture of the apparent domestic felicity enjoyed by Lucetta and Farfrae and rendered almost meaningless to the modern reader deprived of these deleted plot machinations worthy of the author of Desperate Remedies. In "Well, Lucetta, I've a bit of news for ye," he said gaily. "I think poor Henchard is going to console himself by speculating in a wife once more. I met him courting just now" (Chapter 35, illustration in the Graphic, p. 421; text, p. 422), an illustration omitted from the American serial run in Harper's Weekly, Farfrae gives news to his wife, whom he supposes has been at home, that he has just seen Henchard courting, not realizing that the lady whom he saw just minutes before was in fact Lucetta in disguise.
This is just another example of the lying and deceit practiced by certain characters (including Henchard) upon the naive and trusting (including Elizabeth-Jane and her natural father). Elizabeth-Jane, in particular, is lied to and betrayed by characters whom she supports, Henchard (about her parentage, as revealed to him in a letter from Susan) and Lucetta (eager to supplant her in Farfrae's affections), and is even kept in the dark in the true matter of her parentage by her mother, Susan. "Such relationships are present in the text, but the illustrations stress them because of the specific choice of scene: Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane dancing, Lucetta confiding in her, Henchard telling her he is her real father" (Jackson 98-99).
Hardy emphasizes Lucetta's craftiness in the serial version of the novel as she prepares to entreat Henchard for the return of her potentially-embarrassing correspondence. In the revised work, Lucetta hopes that "tears and pleadings" will move her former lover, but in the April 17th instalment of the serial to these she adds "artifice" (421) and "hypocrisy" (422) by cosmetically ageing and "disfiguring" her features through two hours' application and "artifice": The chemist up the street, who eked out a meagre drug trade by scented soaps, cosmetics, and disfiguring ointments of various kinds, was three or four times requisitioned for this proceeding. By the time she had sicklied herself to her mind the hour [for meeting Henchard at the Ring] had arrived. (Graphic, 422; cited in Chase 37)
A further piece of melodrama cut for volume publication is Farfrae's detecting a "female figure" (422) — in fact, his wife Lucetta—emerging from the Ring in company with Henchard. Ironically, Farfrae has "no suspicion as to the personality of his [Henchard's] companion" because she is wearing unfamiliar clothing. Credibility is further compromised by Farfrae's sketching in for Henchard his plans for the seed-shop while Lucetta walks on the other side of Henchard: "They had walked on together through the gloom, Henchard drawing Lucetta's arm through his own to lend a delusive aspect to the rendezvous he had been surprised in, and keeping her on the outside." Wisely Hardy chose to remove this highly awkward scene from the volume, but in doing so also eliminated the line uttered by Donald after Lucetta has surreptitiously crept back into the house and "restored herself to her natural hues. . . ." When she encounters her husband in the dining-room (rather than the sitting-room or front parlour, as the illustration suggests), he cheerfully retails to her the news that Henchard is again wooing, lines which were employed as the caption for the April 17th plate, which, as Jackson notes, contains several interesting pieces of symbolic iconography. As part of a continuing bird-motif that Barnes employs in his interiors as the visual counterparts of a pattern of entrapment that the artist read in the letterpress, water-birds search for prey on the screen immediately behind the seated Farfae. And, on the fabric of the fire-guard, a rampant serpent coils in circles, as Jackson notes:
One "picture" within the illustrations has a very special iconographic significance that goes beyond the metaphoric contributions of those just mentioned. On the tapestry hanging in Lucetta's and Farfrae's sitting room is a serpentine design (Plate 39). This particular design echoes the entanglement in her own life, and even her deceptiveness, since the scene depicted occurs just after Lucetta has met Henchard in secret. Trying to play on his sympathies so that he will return her incriminating letters, she has used makeup to make herself look older and haggard with suffering. The serpentine design is an appropriate comment. 
Last modified 24 February 2008