Well, What Did You Think of My Poems?

"Well, What Did You Think of My Poems?" by George Du Maurier. The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 32 (1875), facing page 233 — Illustration for Thomas Hardy's The Hand of Ethelberta. Image scan, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. .]

Commentary

Ethelberta's conversation with Picotee on the beach near Wyndway House, the scene depicted in the second plate, confirms our suspicions that the girl whom Christopher used to encounter on the road near Sandbourne is, in fact, Ethelberta's sister: "She put her arm around the waist of Picotee, who did the same by Ethelberta and thus interlaced they walked backwards and forwards upon the firm flat sand" (Ch. 6). Since Hardy says little about this setting, Du Maurier (whose notion of a summer holidays seems to have been a seaside excursion) has had to improvise. In addition to what we might expect -- seaweed, rocks, and a chalk cliff -- the artist has strategically placed a symbolic tree: the two branches are suggestive of Picotee (the younger and lower, both in stature and social status) and Ethelberta (the older and higher). The similarity in their clothing is accounted for by Ethelberta's passing on her dresses from the previous season to Picotee, whom Du Maurier has made a few inches shorter. The plate also confirms -- if the perceptive reader required such confirmation -- that Ethelberta is the author of "Poems by ME" (in the volume edition, "Poems by E"), a copy which she was responsible for sending Christopher by way of Picotee.


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Last modified 4 April 2001