Miss Havisham and Estella
Approximately 10 cm high by 7.5 cm wide (framed)
The seventh illustration in Dickens's Great Expectations in the single volume A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations in the Ticknor & Fields (Boston, 1867) Diamond Edition.
In this final dual, full-page character study for the second novel in the compact American publication, the mature beauty that Pip initially fails to recognise and her mentor in the game of breaking hearts sit before the fire as Pip enters the room at Satis House.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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No longer is Estella merely a beautiful girl. She has matured physically to the point that Pip does not initially recognise her — until she turns her eyes upon him. The moment realised occurs relatively late in the story, in chapter 29, but Eytinge utilizes many earlier passages that convey a sense of the reclusive heiress. His representation of her lacks the subtleties of those by John McLenan (1861), Marcus Stone (1862), and F. A. Fraser in the 1870s Household Edition.
In Marcus Stone's short series of eight woodcuts for the Illustrated Library Edition of the novel in 1862, Miss Havisham appears twice, initially (in the frontispiece) as a radiant beauty in a wedding dress, the fairy godmother who will raise Pip out of working-class poverty, in "Pip Waits Upon Miss Havisham, and later as an elderly woman playing cards in "A Rubber at Miss Havisham's". Neither illustration depicts one of the novel's central relationships, namely that between the wealthy recluse and her adopted daughter. John McLenan, illustrator for the 1860-61 Harper's Weekly sequence, seems to have been far more interested in Miss Havisham's other pivotal relationship — that with Pip himself — as is reflected in his eleventh and thirteenth full-page plates "Who is it?" said the lady at the table. "Pip, Ma'am." and "It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!" (22 December 1860 and 5 January 1861 respectively). For the May 4 instalment, however, McLenan depicted Miss Havisham as a wasted, alienated figure carrying a lighted taper in a dark, mouldering room in "She carried a bare candle in her hand">, an illustration pointing towards her accidental immolation. Rather more interesting and emotionally charged is the scene of mutual forgiveness in F. A. Fraser's "I entreated her to rise", the twenty-fifth illustration in the 1877 Household Edition, but again, like all the other original illustrators except Sol Eytinge, Fraser avoids realising any scene that would serve as a visual comment upon the relationship between Miss Havisham and her acolyte. His illustration is noteworthy in that it combines two widely separated moments in the text, namely Pip's first impression of Miss Havisham as a waxworks horror and his much later impression of her as Estella's proud parent, displaying the product of her misanthropic teachings. That Eytinge has both moments in mind he signals by Estella's maturity and Miss Havisham's touching her heart when Pip first visits Satis House as a "common labouring boy":
She was dressed in rich materials — satins, and lace, and silks — all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on — the other was on the table near her hand — her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.
It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if I could.
'Who is it?' said the lady at the table.
'Mr. Pumblechook's boy, ma'am. Come — to play.'
'Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close.'
It was when I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, that I took note of the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
'Look at me,' said Miss Havisham. 'You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?'
I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer 'No.'
'Do you know what I touch here?' she said, laying her hands, one upon the other, on her left side.
'Yes, ma'am.' (It made me think of the young man.)
'What do I touch?'
She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards, she kept her hands there for a little while, and slowly took them away as if they were heavy. [Chapter 8]
However, Eytinge is not depicting this incident — Pip's initial impression of the weird heiress — because her companion, subsequently revealed as Estella, is a mature woman in this illustration, so that the incident realised is clearly the following in chapter 29:
'Come in, Pip,' Miss Havisham continued to mutter, without looking round or up; 'come in, Pip, how do you do, Pip? so you kiss my hand as if I were a queen, eh? — Well?'
She looked up at me suddenly, only moving her eyes, and repeated in a grimly playful manner,
'I heard, Miss Havisham,' said I, rather at a loss, 'that you were so kind as to wish me to come and see you, and I came directly.'
The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes and looked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella's eyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, so much more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made such wonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as I looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her! [Chapter 29]
Although the illustration appears late in the Diamond Edition volume, Eytinge is utilising the earlier description and gesture of Miss Havisham in this character study based on chapter 29. His sublimating the descriptive passage, particularly Miss Havisham's gaunt and withered physical condition and her dessicated wedding dress and veil, in depicting her in the later scene effectively means he is presenting two widely separated narrative moments at once. But what of Estella's knitting, which does not occur in either passage? It is a logical past-time for a genteel lady of the mid-Victorian period, but it may also have symbolic significance in that Eytinge may be implying that her destiny is intimately bound up with Pip's, or even that, like the member of the Classical Fates (Greek "Moirai," or Scandinavian "Norns" from Shakespeare's Macbeth), Lachesis, who measures the thread of life allotted to each person.
That there is no chair between Miss Havisham and Estella in Eytinge's illustration, as there is in Dickens's text, may easily be accounted for by the illustrator's having to juxtapose the figures as part of the exigencies of the compact design. Eytinge has given Estella a dark dress and a more modern hair-style to contrast her with Miss Havisham to suggest not merely Estella's youth but also her sense of fashion acquired in Paris. Then, too, in Eytinge's illustration, while Estella stares off right, presumably at the fire, Miss Havisham seems to be entreating the viewer (Pip). In the text, she specifically plays with Estella's hair, an action that is inconsistent with the tight hairstyle Eytinge has given the younger woman. The most effective touch is the older woman's gesturing at her heart with a skeletal hand as she reaches for Estella with the other.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Il. John McLenan. Vol. V. 22 December 1860, and 5 January 1861.
Dickens, Charles. ("Boz."). Great Expectations. With thirty-four illustrations from original designs by John McLenan. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson (by agreement with Harper & Bros., New York), 1861.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Marcus Stone. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1862.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. F. A. Fraser. The Household Edition, vol. 6. London: Chapman and Hall, c. 1877.
Last modified 4 October 2011