Soon a Funeral Procession of Simpler

"Soon a Funeral Procession of Simpler -- Almost Meagre and Threadbare -- Character Arrived" by George Du Maurier for Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1880). Plate 12. Thomas Hardy's A Laodicean. This plate, from the European and British edition of the magazine, is reproduced courtesy of Dorset County Council Library Service.

In terms of capturing the appropriate underlying feeling of his scene, Du Maurier has better command of his management of figures and backdrop, capturing the scene Hardy has described with almost photographic realism, in the twelfth plate, set early in the next instalment, "Soon a Funeral Procession of Simpler -- Almost Meagre and Threadbare -- Character Arrived" (Book V, Ch. 11). Everything is exactly as Hardy suggests: de Stancy, the only relative present, is followed by four elderly men and watched by the group of village idlers from the churchyard wall. Since the microform which has been most scholarsí vehicle for reading the Du Maurier plates for A Laodicean is based on the American edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, only recently through the Thomas Hardy Association's website has this plate been widely accessible. Because the focal figure, easily identified from previous representations of him as Captain William de Stancy (centre), walks by himself as the principal mourner, the significance of the moment is not lost on the readers even before they encounter it in the printed text. With Sir William de Stancy dead, the title will naturally fall to the captain, rendering him an even more acceptable potential husband, both in the eyes of Paula, the populace (ogling the proceedings from the railing), and Paula's uncle. However, as the reader learns in this episode, Abner Power has discovered Dare's true identity, impelling him to confront the illegitimate de Stancy in the church vestry shortly after the funeral service, a scene far more worthy of illustration if the artist's intention is to complement a textual reading by heightening the suspense from the moment the reader starts the episode.

The dialogue between the villains ends in a stalemate, not merely because they have drawn revolvers on each other (a detail which would have leant the illustration an ironic piquancy and provided tangible symbols of the incriminating information each possesses), but also because they each have the power to have the other unmasked. Thus, while Dare is powerless to turn the former revolutionary over to the authorities, Power is unable to force the inveterate gambler (who is about to become his niece's step- son, in effect) to take a mercantile position in Peru.

Another truly gripping moment that Du Maurier might have illustrated is Paula's demanding that "Sir" William send for the constable so that the swindler, Dare, can be taken into custody: "When he is handcuffed and sent off to jail Iíll proceed with my dressing" (Book V, Ch. 14) carries the threat that Paula will not proceed with the wedding unless Dare is arrested. Du Maurier's chief error in the moment he elected to illustrate is that this instalment's plate fails to alert the reader to the possibility that Dare is about to be called to account for his misdemeanours (sabotaging, in consequence, Captain de Stancy's marrying the heiress), if not through Abner Power's efforts at extortion then through the honest intervention of the conscientious Charlotte de Stancy, who, having learned that Somerset did not send the telegram and that Dare in all likelihood counterfeited the photograph, tells Paula all. The young heiress is anything but a lukewarm Laodicean when de Stancy attempts once again to protect his illegitimate son, but her cancellation of the wedding is not a suitable subject for serial illustration since it is the climax of the instalment.


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Last modified 7 January 2004