Frontispiece: The High Street — Casterbridge
12.4 x 8.5 cm
Facing the half-title page in Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Volume 3 of the First Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels, with illustrations by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. London: Osgood-McIlvaine, 1895.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Elizabeth-Jane and Susan Newson, having tracked Michael Henchard to Casterbridge from Weydon-Priors, arrive at dusk some eighteen years after the wife sale with which the novel opens.
They came to a grizzled church, whose massive square tower rose unbroken into the darkening sky, the lower parts being illuminated by the nearest lamps sufficiently to show how completely the mortar from the joints of the stonework had been nibbled out by time and weather, which had planted in the crevices thus made little tufts of stone-crop and grass almost as far up as the very battlements. From this tower the clock struck eight, and thereupon a bell began to toll with a peremptory clang. The curfew was still rung in Casterbridge, and it was utilized by the inhabitants as asignal for shutting their shops. No sooner did the deepnotes of the bell throb between the house-fronts than aclatter of shutters arose through the whole length of theHigh Street. In a few minutes business at Casterbridge wasended for the day. — Chapter 4, p. 33.
In his February 1895 preface, written especially for this edition of the 1886 novel, Hardy emphasizes the importance to the country as a whole in the 1840s (prior to the repeal of the Corn Laws by Sir Robert Peel in 1846) of the domestic production of wheat, and by implication the centre of that production, the Corn Exchange at Dorchester (the "Casterbridge" of the tale). The phrase "drawn on the spot" opposite Macbeth-Raeburn's view of the High Street just opposite the church and the Corn Exchange with its distinctive clock-tower, taken with this preface, almost implies that this is not fiction, but a documentary:
Readers of the following story who have not yet arrived at middle age are asked to bear in mind that, in the days recalled by the tale, the home Corn Trade, on which so much of the action turns, had an importance that can hardly be realized by those accustomed to the sixpenny loaf of the present date, and to the present indifference of the public to harvest weather.
The incidents narrated arise mainly out of three events, which chanced to range themselves in the order and at or about the intervals of time here given, in the real history of the town called Casterbridge and the neighbouring country. They were the sale of a wife by her husband, the uncertain harvests which immediately preceded the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the visit of a Royal personage to the aforesaid part of England. — T. H., February 1895, v.
Ironically, the Exchange's dominant feature, the clock-tower (much in evidence in the engraving), was added in 1864; and the building itself was not completed until just after the repeal of the Corn Laws, and its portal not added until 1876. Thus, although readers can still visit some of the places mentioned in the novel, its Casterbridge remains a fictional construct, like "Wessex" itself.
In the original 1886 serialisation in the Graphic, Robert Barnes effectively graphed the multiple plotlines of the story through the weekly wood-engravings dropped into the text. The majority of these are interior scenes, and therefore offer few exterior geographical settings that would relate the fictional "Casterbridge" of the 1840s to the actual Dorchester of the 1880s. However, Barnes does employ as realistic backdrops the Ring (Maumbury Rings) in "I don't drink now — I haven't since that night" (30 January 1886) and Grey's Bridge, at the foot of the High Street, in Henchard turned slightly, and saw that the comer was Jopp, his old foreman (3 April 1886). The illustration for the second weekly instalment, when Elizabeth-Jane and her mother arrive in Casterbridge, focuses on their overhearing the conversation in the next room between Farfrae and Henchard in the next room at The Three Mariners' Inn (16 January 1886) rather than what Casterbridge sights greet them as they arrive in the precincts of the ancient borough.
Text associated with the Half-Title and Title-Pages
The High Street Casterbridge Drawn on the spot
"This antiquated borough, the borough of Casterbridge." — Page 31.
The Mayor of Casterbridge A Story of A Man of Character by Thomas Hardy With an etching by H. Macbeth-Raeburn and a map of Wessex.
Relevant illustrations from the 1886 serialisation
Left: Robert Barnes' dramatic realisation of Elizabeth-Jane Newson's encountering Mrs. Goodenough, the furmity-vendor, at Weydon-Priors in the second serial instalment (9 January 1886), The hag opened a little basket behind the fire, and, looking up slyly, whispered, "Just a thought 'o run in it?". Right: Robert Barnes' depiction of Susan and her daughter at the Three Mariners', where they have been given the room next to Farfrae's, Her mother whispered as she drew near, "Tis he." (16 January 1886). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Gatrell, Simon. Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.
Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge: A Story of a Man of Character. Illustrated by Robert Barnes. The Graphic. 2 January—15 May 1886.
Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge: A Story of a Man of Character. Illustrated by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. Volume Two in the Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels. London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1895.
Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.
Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Macmillan, 1968.
Purdy, Richard L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954, rpt. 1978.
Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.
Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy. A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Vann, J. Don. "The May of Casterbridge in the Graphic, 2 January—15 May 1886." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pages 86-87.
Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File, 2002.
Last modified 10 February 2017