A Knock Brought Him to the School-House Door
17.9 cm high by 12.1 cm wide
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, XC, page 365
Illustration for Thomas Hardy's Hearts Insurgent afterwards Jude the Obscure
[See commentary below]
Scanned image, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham
Reproduced courtesy of Dorset County Council Library Service
In the third instalment (February 1895) of Hearts Insurgent (afterwards, Jude the Obscure, the artist subtly connects the lighted figure of Jude's former schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson (left) and his cousin, Sue Bridehead (right), through the use of white on their faces, the teacher's shirt front and collar, and Sue's bodice, in his realisation of the first meeting of Phillotson and Sue (Ch. 15). Completing the romantic triangle, Jude symbolically remains in the dark as he stands (centre) between them, a heavy chiaroscuro obscuring his features in the candlelight. Jude has already achieved part of his dream by moving to Christminster (Oxford), albeit as a stonemason rather than a university student. According to Dennis Taylor's chronology of events in the Penguin edition, Jude is about 22 years of age now, Phillotson is about 45 years old, and Sue is four years older than Jude but eighteen years younger than Phillotson (about 25 at the time of the scene at the Lumsdon teacherage); the trio meet (as in Plate 3) in 1877; see "A Note on the Novel's Chronology" (p. 475) in the Penguin edition of Jude.
Early in the third instalment, Jude receives "a nervously anxious letter from his poor old aunt" (Ch. 13), who, convinced that a curse hangs over any Fawleys who marry, entreats him not to attempt to establish a relationship with his cousin, Sue, who works in an ecclesiastical supply shop in Christminster. However, the illustration makes it clear from the fist that Jude will do exactly what his aunt fears. Hatherell has made her a contrast to the raw-boned Arabella of plate 2 in the sweetness and delicacy of her facial features and expression: "she was light and slight, of the type dubbed elegant" (Ch. 13), but we have no sense of the nervous energy with which Hardy imbues her.
Through her, Jude has learned late in the third instalment that Richard Phillotson has not achieved his goal of becoming an Oxford scholar, and is still a village schoolmaster. Together, they have gone to visit him at Lumsdon, with the intention of procuring Sue a position as an under-teacher. "A knock brought him to the schoolhouse door, with a candle in his hand, and a look of inquiry on his face" (Ch. 15). Hatherell has given Phillotson a round face, one not especially "thin and careworn," as in Hardy's letter-press. Ironically, although he has served for over ten years as Jude's role model, Richard Phillotson does not recall Jude as one of his pupils in 1866, when the eleven-year-old boy had helped him pack up; he admits to having given up his ambition to become a university man and theologian "years ago." In the plate, Phillotson's figure, though not "spare" as Hardy's narrator remarks, is wearing "a black frock coat," as in the text.
Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure, ed. Dennis Taylor. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998.
Last modified 16 February 2003