de Stancy shares his umbrella with Paula

"De Stancy Screened Paula With His Umbrella As They Stood With Their Backs To The Wind." by George Du Maurier for Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1880). Plate 10. Thomas Hardy's A Laodicean. 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. ]

The eleventh plate could be using as its backdrop almost any litoral in the world; in fact, Paula Power and William de Stancy share an umbrella on a Dutch beach near the Hague at Scheveningen. Within the same instalment, Paula begins to take de Stancy's marriage proposal more seriously at several other far more picturesque locations: a Rhine steamboat near Mainz, gliding past Braubach and Oberlahnstein, climbing Ehrenbreitstein's heights, standing in the terrace of Heidelberg's Schloss-Garten, "looking across the intervening ravine to the north-east front of the castle which rose before them in all its customary warm tints and battered magnificence" (Book V, Ch. 7). Hardy's eye for scenery and his architect's sense of place infuse these romantic backdrops with an inner life that Du Maurier failed to grasp, or, perhaps, given his failing sight, felt unequal to. Alfred Parsons would have been the illustrator better suited to capturing the other moment when Paula and de Stancy find themselves alone, that scene on the great terrace of the Schloss-Garten which Hardy seems to be cuing his artist to depict by his narrator's effusive description and by his having de Stancy remark:

This is a spot, if any, which should bring matters to a crisis between you and me, he asserted good- humouredly. [Book V, Ch. 7]

As matters stand, Du Maurier conveys little of Hardy's description of the Dutch dune as the couple stand with their backs to the wind, for in showing us their faces he has omitted the panoramic scene before them: "the red roofs of the village within the sea wall, and . . . the long grass which by some means found nourishment in the powdery soil of the dune." The landscape Hardy describes in these terms is thus a comment upon de Stancy's building romantic castles out of the few straws that Paula has grudgingly given him over the course of their trip from the Mediterranean. Hardy has de Stancy point out the emotional significance of the scene:

It always seems to me that this place reflects the average mood of human life. I mean, if we strike the balance between our best moods and our worst we shall find our average condition to stand at about the same pitch in emotional colour as these sandy dunes and this grey scene do in landscape.

Last modified 11 May 2001