Round Her, Leaning Against Branches, or Prostrate on the Ground, Were Two or Three Individuals

Round Her, Leaning Against Branches, or Prostrate on the Ground, Were Two or Three Individuals by George Du Maurier. The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 32 (September 1876), facing page 257 — 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. .]

The subject of the third plate, Ethelberta's rehearsing a sensational tale, is significant in that it foreshadows the success that she will have as a professional story-teller after Lady Petherwin's untimely demise. Ethelberta's attempting to assist her mother-in-law in rescuing the will from the flames at the very close of Chapter 11 (10 in the revised text) would have been as significant and much more dramatic — and certainly an illustration of Christopher's encountering Picotee at the portal of Arrowthorne Lodge would not merely have been more romantic, but would have served to establish the girl's infatuation with Christopher as an important strand in the novel's plot. When she indicates Mrs. Petherwin "is in the plantation with the children" (Ch. 12), we are alerted to the imminent arrival of the moment realized in the third plate. "The boughs were so tangled that he [Christopher] was obliged to screen his face with his hands," the scene in the initial-letter vignette, precedes his discovery of the natural amphitheater. Ethelberta's practice audience is "five or six individuals" — Sol and Dan ("young mechanics"), Joey ("a boy about thirteen"), "and two or three younger children." The illustration contains two inaccuracies. First, Du Maurier has made neither of Ethelberta's grown-up brothers look much like "a carpenter" (in fact, both are so respectably dressed that the reader would hardly think them "mechanics." Du Maurier when working on this plate was probably not in possession of a proof of the following instalment, in which Hardy specifically identifies Ethelberta's nine siblings: Joey and Emmeline "of that transitional age" (12-14), "the two youngest children, Georgina and Myrtle," the absent grown-up sisters in domestic service (Gwendoline and Cornelia), the young workmen (Dan and Sol), and, of course, the pupil-teacher, Picotee. Du Maurier's third plate, then, is fundamentally incorrect, not merely in the fashionable costuming of the Chickerel family, but in their ages and numbers. If Dan and Sol are to the picture's extreme right and left, and if Georgina and Myrtle are on Ethelberta's left, the boy standing downstage must be Joey. Since Picotee is back at the cottage, attending her invalid mother, the last child, seated to the right, must be Emmeline, and not a boy. Hardy specifies in the next part that the family consists of "seven girls only" (p. 145)


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Last modified 16 January 2006