Paula and Somerset Ascend the Hill

"What An Escape!" He Said." by George Du Maurier for Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1880). Plate 3 Thomas Hardy's A Laodicean. [Paula and Somerset Ascend the Hill from the Railway Tracks, Where They Have Just Narrowly Escaped Being Run Over by a Train.]

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The third plate fails to capture any of the visceral thrill of the couple's brush with death at the opening of the railway tunnel. The face of neither figure conveys much feeling. Paula does not seem to be repressing emotion, for there seems to be no emotion to repress. Somerset has a studious, unruffled air hardly appropriate to a man who has just experienced a narrow escape. Although the foliage and the pathway are well realized, the railway tracks are barely recognizable as such (perhaps owing to an absence of sleepers), and the Avernian tunnel, which Paula is supposedly regarding, must be enshrouded by the foliage behind her. This pleasant pair of fashion plates for the latest mode of respectable walking costume hardly suggest a man and a woman in the throes of an adrenaline rush. Thus, even though Du Maurier has revealed his sensitivity as a reader, selecting one of the key moments in the third instalment and deftly detailing the natural backdrop, his limitations as an illustrator are manifest since he has failed to convey the dominant emotions of the figures or the correct juxtaposition of key background elements.


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Last modified 11 May 2001