Illustrated headpiece with title for Thomas Hardy's "A Committeeman of 'The Terror'" by H. Burgess. Lithograph, rregular form, 18 cm high by 25.7 cm wide. The Illustrated London News (November 1896): 3. Scanned image, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham; html and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]
Late in the century, when The Illustrated London News featured "A Committee-Man of 'The Terror'" in its extra Christmas Number for 1896, lithographs had generally displaced woodblocks for large-scale illustrations in mass-market British periodicals. Such is unfortunately the case here. Despite Burgess's logical selection for scenes, realistic costuming, and firm sense of composition, the headpiece and three illustrations are disappointing in their clarity and detail. Though economically establishing in impressionist terms the crime of Monsieur B— against Mademoiselle V— (the public execution of almost her entire family during the French Revolution), the headpiece does not do justice to the horror of the young woman's recollection. Although photographic in its indistinctness, the initial illustration captures the mood of the scene on the scaffold: dark clouds, suggestive of storm and conflagration, complement the bold striations cutting diagonally across the picture and swinging up towards the title. The mood of violent change thus evoked is appropriate to the resuscitating of the era in which revolutionary currents swept across Europe a century before the story's publication. The four figures on the platform occupied by the guillotine are, the reader presumes, the executioner (nearest the gruesome device) and Mademoiselle V—'s father, brother, and uncle. However, if this whispy image in shades of grey is a projection of her faded memory of the event, as is suggested by her remarking to the Committee-Man "I saw you in years gone by, when you did not see me" (5), then the fourth figure might be taken as Monsieur B— himself, since she accuses him of having "guillotined my father, my brother, my uncle" (5), rather than merely having consigned her immediate male relatives to liquidation. As opposed to the almost photographic reality of the succeeding lithographs, the blurry headpiece is difficult to "read," except as an outline or precise of the event that involved the story's principals ten years earlier. Burgess, the illustrator, would perhaps have justified the blurriness as implying the nature of Mademoiselle V—'s repressed memory of that traumatic and life-changing event.
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Hardy, Thomas. "A Committee-man of 'The Terror'," il H. Burgess. The Illustrated London News, Christmas Number. 22 November, 1896: pp. 3-8.
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Last modified 17 April 2010