She waited till the vehicle had driven off, starting as she saw the departing shapes of the outside passengers [on the coach] against the starlit sky.
18.3 cm. by 11.9 cm.
Thomas Hardy's "A Committeeman of 'The Terror'." The Illustrated London News (22 November 1896): 8.
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The story reaches a climax with the remarkable scene in which both attempt to leave the "old-fashioned watering-place'" [Weymouth, as identified by Hardy for the sake of illustration] in which the action is set, by boarding what turns out to be exactly the same carriage bound for London, a circumstance that is recognised only subliminally by the heroine when her resolve fails half-way through the journey . . . . (Gilmartin and Mengham 120)
Ironically, despite Hardy's detailed "portrayal of the typography of Budmouth" (Brady 187) and the security arrangements made in conjunction with the king's visit, including what was playing at the local theatre, the illustrator provides no sense of the geographical setting and focuses instead upon the two chief characters, but without much psychological analysis.
Since the final illustration directly depicts the immediate aftermath of her decision to turn back, it should foreground the emotional impact of this most agonizing moral choice on Mademoiselle V—. It does not. The artist has chosen instead to frame the alienated heroine in the period setting of departing stagecoach and inn, preparing the reader for the ironic conclusion. Knowing that their feelings for each other "may be transient only" (8) and will not withstand their political and religious differences, Monsieur B— decides that he must free her from her promise to marry him, but he fails to broach the subject, relying instead upon a letter. Ironically, she perceives his determination to leave as evidence of his superior moral conviction, when in truth his failure to address her in person on the subject has led to a breakdown in communication. "She waited till the vehicle had driven off, starting as she saw the departing shapes of the outside passengers against the starlit sky" (8) depicts the final moment in which she saw him, although only after reading his letter does she realize that he was that "figure among the outside passengers against the starlit sky [which had] caused her a momentary start" (8). The plate is realistically a dark one, so that the street, the coach, and Mademoiselle V— herself are rendered as dark blocks in outline, their particulars obscured. Significantly, Burgess does not want readers to see her face except in profile, under the bonnet, so that again the readers cannot assess her feelings. The picturesque quality of the scene, with its departing coach and conflicted lover standing under the sign of the White Hart, is undermined by the very darkness intended to impart verisimilitude.
Brady, Kristin. The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982.
Cassis, A. F. "A Note on the Structure of Thomas Hardy's Short Stories." Colby Library Quarterly 10 (1974): 287-296.
Gilmartin, Sophie, and Rod Mengham. Thomas Hardy's Shorter Fiction: A Critical Study. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. P., 2007.
Hardy, Thomas. "A Committee-man of 'The Terror'," il H. Burgess. The Illustrated London News, Christmas Number. 22 November, 1896: pp. 3-8.
Johnson, Trevor. "Illustrated Versions of Hardy's Works: A Checklist 1872-1992." Thomas Hardy Journal 9, 3 (October, 1993): 32-46.
Page, Norman. "Hardy Short Stories: A Reconsideration." Studies in Short Fiction 11, 1 (Winter, 1974): 75-84.
Quinn, Marie A. "Thomas Hardy and the Short Story." Budmouth Essays on Thomas Hardy: Papers Presented at the 1975 Summer School (Dorchester: Thomas Hardy Society, 1976), pp. 74-85.
Ray, Martin. Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997.
Last modified 19 April 2010