They Reached the Corner of the Red King's Castle by Walter Paget (1863-1935). Illustrated London News, 10 December 1892, page 743. 17.5 cm high by 23.5 cm wide. Scene from Chapter XXIX, "The Elusiveness Continues" (page 742) in Thomas Hardy's The Pursuit of The Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament. Complete caption: 'They Reached the Corner of the Red King's Castle, Where There Were Some Large Blocks of Loose Rock, Carved with the Initials of Natives of Past Generations. "Do You Think It Well To Go Farther?" Asked the Woman, As If She Were Anxious That He Should Return. "I Fear I Cannot," He Said.'
This illustration (which in The Illustrated London News is placed well after the textual moment realised) is accompanied by a longer caption than that for any other plate in Paget's program. Encountering it at the end of the instalment, after the textual moment realised, one naturally wonders why Paget felt the reader should have to process so much verbiage with such a large-scale plate. The lengthy quotation he must have felt necessary if the reader were to identify the stranger to the right who is overhearing the nocturnal conversation of the man (by his suit jacket, not Pearston but Henri) and the woman under the shadow of the Red King's Castle.
By the time that Jocelyn arrives home, his wife is dutifully awaiting him at the cottage door and a supper has been laid; yet within a half-hour and without Jocelyn's having been aware of a messenger's having arrived, Avice has somehow heard of Henri's having been deposited, unwell, at the inn, and seeks her husband's permission to "see somebody who is ill--I feel I ought to go" (742). At this point, she puts on the hat and cloak in the twenty-second plate and, at her husband's invitation, goes out alone. After some time, owing to her failure to return and the lateness of the hour, he decides to go out and look for her. As he stands in the darkness by the north entrance of Dell-i'-th'-rock Castle, trying to decide which way she will be returning, he detects "two figures--one a man, walking by the aid of a stick [Jocelyn does not yet recognize it for the one he has provided the Frenchman], the other a woman, from whom the man also derived some assistance" (742). Although Jocelyn can hear their voices, he cannot make out clearly what they are saying--but he recognizes the man by his French accent (as the reader-viewer does by the peaked cap that Paget gave him in the previous plate). When they leave the spot and begin to walk down the lane to the castle ruins, Jocelyn feels "justified" in dogging them in the dark--the word "justified" indicating that he has also recognized the woman, for he feels "prostrated" with "heart-sickness" that he is, after all, "no nearer to the third Avice than he had been to the second or the first." After he overhears the words that form the caption of the illustration, Jocelyn is "sure" that the woman is Avice.
As in the text, in the plate the shadowy figure (an objectified figure quite different in effect from that of the letterpress, which is narrated from Jocelyn's perspective) is "standing under the sheer face of the rock" (742). After the husband has heard his young wife indicate she married only to please her mother, we eagerly await Hardy's reading of his protagonist's thoughts to learn what he intends to do. Will he acquyiesce in the lovers' parting, or will de decently try to facilitate their reunion, and in a romantic gesture appease the angry goddess with the sacrifice of all his passionate hopes for the third Avice? With the moonlight reflected on the water (left), and the shadowy rocks, Paget has chosen to place the suffering lovers on a stage washed by moonlight and to marginalize the older man as in his own mind he feels himself alienated and unwanted. Behind the shadowy Jocelyn is a vast cavern (perhaps a visual counterpart to his "heart-sickness") which seems about to engulf him.
Last modified 22 September 2002