Charlotte's Eyes At Once Forsook The Portrait To Dwell On Paula's Face

Charlotte's Eyes At Once Forsook The Portrait To Dwell On Paula's Face by George Du Maurier for Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1880).

Image scan, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. ]

Although the remaining plates are undistinguished, Number Ten, "Charlotte's Eyes At Once Forsook The Portrait To Dwell On Paula's Face" (technically incorrect since the photograph is no longer on the floor, but in Paula's hand), captioned simply as "It Was a Portrait of Somerset" in the European edition (Book V, Ch. 4 in both), underscores an important moment in the plot and the whole issue of true and false representation in pictures. The figures represented, left to right, are (presumably) Abner Power, Aunt Goodman (sewing by the window of the drawing-room), William Dare, Paula Power, and Charlotte de Stancy--had Du Maurier read the text more carefully (or had Hardy not been too ill to review the illustration carefully), he would have realized that Mrs. Goodman is not present in this scene, having "gone out to a neighbouring shop" at the beginning of the chapter. Paula's uncle has his paper on his knee, as the text indicates just before this passage. In the American edition, the photograph is still on the floor on page 779, facing the plate; as the reader turns the page, he will encounter the moment captured in the plate. The only emotion evident in the picture is indicated by Paula's lips; "she dissembled whatever emotion was in her." Dare, holding the chair-back as he leans over (apparently studying the photograph rather than Paula's reaction to it), is as cool as Hardy indicates. Seen clearly for the first time in the narrative-pictorial sequence, Charlotte seems far older (and plainer) than one would gather from Hardy's text. The composition by virtue of the gazes of the characters and the pyramidal disposition of the figures draws the eye towards Paula's head and the counterfeit photograph, begging the questions, "Will Paula be deceived by the photograph?" and "What will she ask Dare about the picture?" If she is taken in, will she be prepared to dismiss Somerset from her thoughts and replace him as a lover with Captain de Stancy?

Last modified 11 May 2001