There on the gravel lay a white heap

There on the gravel lay a white heap by William Hatherell. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, XC (June 1895) [See page 123 in vol. XCI], page 118. 17.5 cm wide by 12.2 cm high. Scanned image, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. Reproduced courtesy of Dorset County Council Library Service.

The plate accompanying the seventh instalment (June 1895) of Hearts Insurgent (afterwards Jude the Obscure.) in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, telegraphs this textual moment:

Phillotson, horrified, ran downstairs, striking himself sharply against the newel in his haste. Opening the heavy door he ascended the two or three steps to the level of the ground, and there on the ground lay a white heap. [Ch. 31 in serial]

His story thus far having favoured the perspective and fortunes (indeed, one might say the "misfortunes") of Jude Fawley, Hardy now veers off in the seventh instalment (June 1895) to describe the marital sufferings of Richard and Susan Phillotson. Sue's alarmed and alarming response to her husband's absent-mindedly beginning to undress for bed in her room at 2:00 A. M. (after he has agreed to her request that they sleep apart) is the subject of Hatherell's seventh illustration. The wall behind the apparently lifeless body (an artistic red herring since Sue is only temporarily stunned by the fall) is the foundations of the Phillotsons' teacherage, "the dilapidated 'Old-Grove's House'" (Ch. 30). Since Hardy has already established that the gravel roadway running past the seventeenth-century house abutts the building and is only "two or three feet above the level of the parlour floor" (Ch. 30), the serial reader quickly comes to wonder if Sue's fall may not be as serious as the illustration had initially suggested. The moment that Hatherell has realized in the plate occurs at the beginning of the second chapter in the three-chapter monthly instalment; it is unusual in that (apart from the fact that it shows a single figure) it does not depict an incident late in the instalment.

Prior to reading the first chapter in the June instalment, one has the impression that Sue (identified by her face, hair, and nightgown) has been seriously injured and now lies lifeless on the gravel, the shadow under her head easily being mistaken for a pool of blood. This puzzling situation--which the serial reader can be forgiven for thinking an apparent suicide-attempt--is the direct result of Sue's physical aversion to her husband. Indeed, rather than permit him to share her bed (and all that act would imply), Sue recklessly mounts the window sill and leaps out, the distance between the sill and the ground being merely a matter of a few feet, however.

An artist more inclined to the sensational would probably have elected to illustrate the moment that Sue sprang to the window and flung up the sash. But Hatherell seems to have been more interested in describing visually Sue's emotional alienation. Her natural vivacity crushed by a loveless marriage, she lies as one dead upon the public roadway. Although she has "disappeared into the darkness" (Ch. 31) outside her bedroom and her husband has yet to strike a fitful light from the candle in the front hall, the exterior scene is well lit. The observer from Hardy's text, Richard, is not depicted; rather, we view the scene as if it were being presented on stage. It is not given from either Richard's or Sue's perspective since the foundations dominate the area behind the body. While in Hardy's text Old-Grove's House like the marriage it encloses is "dilapidated" or broken-down, in Hatherell's plate the foundations seem solid (as those of the marriage probably do to the people of Shaston); however, the lines of brick imply more the walls of a prison than the footings of an early seventeenth century residence.

The seventh is the only plate thus far in the series that depicts a single figure--namely that of Sue Bridehead. That she avers in the volume form of the novel (1912) to having jumped out of the window as proof of her spiritual faithfulness to Jude suggests that Hardy came to regard this as a key moment in her history. She accuses Jude of having been false to her by having recently stayed with Arabella at the Aldbrickham (Reading, Sussex) hotel and not having told her: "O it was treacherous of you to have her again! I jumped out of the window" (Part 4, Ch. V--this is from a portion of Chapter 32 not in the serial text)

In this strange romance as it existed in serial, Hatherell's seventh plate is pivotal in his visual sequence in that it marks his shift in emphasis from Jude (who is the subject of five of the six plates in the first half of the Hatherell illustrations, but the subject of only two plates in the last half-dozen) to Sue (hitherto depicted only three times, but the subject of four of the last half-dozen plates). The number of times that the story's five most significant characters are represented is given in the following chart:

Sue Bridehead: seven times--plates 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11;

Jude Fawley: seven times--plates 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 12;

Richard Phillotson: three times--plates 3, 5, and 8;

Arabella Donn: twice--plates 1 and 2;

"Father Time" Fawley, Jude's son by Arabella, twice -- plates 9 and 10.

Thus, Hatherell presents the son as having equal importance to that of his natural mother, and balances her appearances early in the pictorial-narrative sequence with her son's in the latter part of that sequence. Certainly, both are significant motivators in the novel's plot, and Arabella does not influence Sue as much she does Jude. The other Fawley children, those produced by the illicit union of Jude and Sue, are never shown. Perhaps Hatherell's interest in Richard Phillotson (depicted three times) stems from his conviction that the old school-master is as moral and as much a victim as Jude. Although Hatherell's shift in emphasis from Jude to Sue in plates six through eleven may seem somewhat misplaced in that we consistently identify with Jude even in the second half of the novel, the artist wisely chooses to focus on Jude alone in the sequence's final and most telling plate.


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Last modified 24 December 2003