Perhaps the best placed plate in the entire sequence is that of Overcombe Mill, a framed line-drawing in the middle of page 5, and moreover in the middle of its letterpress. The centre of the picture the end of the mill that presents "the appearance of a hard-working house slipping into the river," but we can see two gables and the chimney of the respectable, middle-class end: "an idle, genteel place, half-cloaked with creepers at this time of the year, and having no connection with flour" (5). Looking carefully at the plate, the reader can detect someone in the mill doorway, but as with the dimity curtains a few lines earlier, the reader must revert to the printed text to discover more detail. Thus, the picture momentarily takes the reader away from the text before propelling him back into it as he is taken behind the mill door, where so much of the novel's action will occur. The building's divided nature and inner tensions (factory versus cottage; the Lovedays = working class/rural versus the Garlands = middle class/sophisticated) explains so much about Anne's rather contrary disposition.

The second plate continues this process, showing us an inmate of one of the "genteel" rooms looking out of the window, where the reader had been situated just three pages earlier. This second plate is as poorly placed as the first is well placed, for it occurs in the middle of the second chapter, but illustrates the scene in the first in which we are introduced to the story's real protagonist, despite the novel's title. As Arlene Jackson explains,

The first visual presentation of the novel's heroine attempts to establish character, and to some extent succeeds. With its view of Anne Garland anxiously looking out the casement window [perhaps one of the two depicted in the first plate], the scene captures a mood and depth of character not often apparent in this young woman, and does provide an initial focus for the novel's movement, since Anne will move out into the life she is now passively contemplating. (Arlene Jackson, Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy [1981], p. 122)

The connection between the inner domestic world of Anne Garland (largely female-controlled) and the almost exclusively male-oriented outside political-military-and-commercial world (whose sounds and sights are about enter Anne's realm of experience) is made manifest by the open windows in the first plate, illustrating Chapter Two, which become the open leaded-panes in the second. Collier's desiring the reader to make this movement may explain why he has introduced Anne after the mill, even though Hardy reveals Anne first. The caption suggests that Collier is not thinking of a single moment, but rather a whole paragraph which begins "On a fine summer morning" and ends four sentences later with "rather than idleness led Anne to look rather frequently from the open casement" in Chapter One.

The first two plates represent two of the four modes in which Collier is working: although framed, his illustration of the mill is a simple line drawing with much white space few hatch marks to imply photographic shadow or depth; the second, marked off by a heavier frame, has almost no white space because it is attempting to convey a sense of three dimensions, with shadings, close lines, and hatch marks to give us Anne (in late eighteenth-century "housekeeping" rather than "visiting" dress) in the round, surrounded by the few material objects that constitute her personal space.

The third plate in the first instalment, the vignette of Miller Loveday in his fine clothes, represents the third mode in which Collier has chosen to work: the field of the small-scale, unframed plate fades out into the printed text, implying a connection rather than a separation. The plate has neither caption nor page reference, and so the reader must search for the moment realised, which in this case is directly below the plate: "somebody knocked at the door, and directly after the elder Loveday himself was admitted to the room. He was dressed in an intervening suit between sober and gay, which he used for such occasions as present" (p. 11). Unfortunately, Collier has neglected "his low-crowned hat" which signifies that the miller is knocking at an outer rather than an inner door, implying that the two households maintain the fiction of two separate establishments.

The final mode in which Collier presents his visual program is a large-scale, framed "dark" plate suggesting a photograph of a staged scene There are five such full-page plates (in each instance, with no text on the verso, but with both a caption and a page reference under the plate) distributed throughout the twelve serial instalments. The first of these, "'Welcome, Master Derriman.' Page 106." (unpaged, facing page 106), establishes that such large-scale plates will deal with the relationships between major characters and will have detailed backdrops. On 20 November 1879, Collier wrote to thank Hardy for a sketch of "the interior of the old kitchen" and to enquire what his source was for the period costumes. "The Mill kitchen mentioned in Collier's letter seems almost caricature, as features and bodies of Miller Loveday's friends have little relation to reality in their distortion" (Jackson 123). The flickering of the firelight and the minimal illumination afforded by the candles on the mantlepiece and the lantern above the table may account for some of "distortion" in the assemblage, but surely some of the quality of caricature must be attributed to the fact that Collier is attempting to catch the mood and the substance of the scene as the sheltered Anne experiences it as she talks to John, right of centre. The gathering itself is a novelty, to which are added the foreign uniforms and accents of Germans and Hungarians.

A more realistic and sympathetic treatment of Festus Derriman occurs in the preceding plate, on page 105; although his posture is the same as he sings "When hus-bands with their wives a-agree" (p. 106), Festus seems more natural and less wooden in the vignette. The particulars of Hardy's description ("The new comer was of florid complexion, red-haired, and tall") are subordinated to details of uniform; certainly, as a vocalist he seems more serious and less whimsical than Hardy suggests. Since neither plate represents the cap which he has just waved above his head, we may assume that Collier did not feel constrained to confine himself to details that Hardy provides in the printed text. Although the degree to which artist and author collaborated on the plates is difficult to assess, since Hardy had sent Collier a sketch of the Mill kitchen, we may assume that such details as the flagstone floor, the free-standing cupboard, the grandfather clock, the bed-warming pan, and the cartoon of "Bony" on the wall all have authorial sanction.

Related Materials

References

Hardy, Thomas. The Trumpet-Major. Good Words. January-December 1880.

Jackson, Arlene M. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981.


Victorian Web Victorian Book Illustration John Collier Thomas Hardy

Last modified 20 July 2001