Why do Hardy's novels often have illustrations in periodical but not book form?

Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead University (Canada)

decorated initial 'S' mith, Elder did not use the serial plates for the triple-decker edition of The Trumpet-Major (26 October 1880). The omission of serial illustrations was usual, but by no means absolute. While the three-volume edition of The Return of the Native in 1878 did not include any of Arthur Hopkins' Belgravia plates, the Smith, Elder edition of The Hand of Ethelberta (two volumes, 1876) used both Du Maurier's Cornhill vignettes and his full-page plates. Although Smith, Elder (the publishers of The Cornhil) utilized all twelve of Helen Patterson Allingham's full-page plates from their magazine for three-volume edition of Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) , they reproduced none of her vignettes. On the other hand, Du Maurier's Laodicean plates from Harper's (1880-1), Reinhart's Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid plates from The Graphic (1883), Paget's Well-Beloved plates from The Illustrated London News (1892), Hatherell's Jude the Obscure plates for Harper's (1894-5), and most notably Herkomer and associates' plates for Tess of the D'Urbervilles in The Graphic (1891) did not appear in the subsequent volume editions of those serialised novels. In the instance of The Graphic plates, the large-format illustrations did not lend themselves to the medium of the conventional volume.

Such an explanation, however, is not feasible for the plates of either The Return of the Native or The Trumpet-Major since Belgravia and Good Words were small format literary monthlies whose plates could easily have been adapted to suit volume publication. Norman Page suggests that "the illustrating of serialized fiction was a publishing convention rather than a deliberate choice made by the novelist" (456). If Hardy published in a non-illustrated journal such as The Atlantic Monthly, there were naturally be no illustrations prepared for the serial. Illustrator George Du Maurier offers a further explanation for the general lack of illustrations in the volumes of Hardy's Wessex Novels: the more affluent (and, therefore, presumably better educated) reader of books "visualises what he reads (at the moment of reading) with the mind's eye . . . in a manner so satisfactory to himself that he wants the help of no picture; indeed, to him a picture would be a hindrance" (349). The preponderance of the reading public, including the majority of serial readers, argues Du Maurier, "do not possess this gift, and it is for their greater happiness that the illustrator exists and plies his trade."

Yet another theory as to why illustrations for Hardy's novels in periodicals did not always find their way into the first volume edition is advanced by Arlene Jackson, who asserts that the double or triple-column format of Victorian literary magazines made possible a more precise positioning of plates than book layout permitted.

While greater care could be given to book illustrations, there were certain aesthetic advantages in magazine illustration. One of the disadvantages of book illustration was the separation of the engraving from the text when it was printed on a separate page, particularly when it was printed on a different and better grade of paper than that used for the text. Often a blank page or a sheet of facing tissue separated the book illustration from the text. Sometimes the format called for the book to be turned sideways in order to view the illustration.

In the magazines, and especially newspapers such as The Illustrated London News, the engraving often appeared on the same page as the text, and was thus well integrated with the story it accompanied. (28)

Thus, the illustrated Victorian periodical achieved a narrative-pictorial synthesis that book publishers found it difficult to emulate, the exception being the Christmas Books of Charles Dickens, small, expensive propositions that featured illustrations dropped with great accuracy into the accompanying (and complementary) letter-press. Thus, rural and working class readers in Great Britain (and presumably immigrant English-as-Second-Language readers in America) found that the illustrated magazine supported their reading more than did conventional books, cost far less than bound volumes, and offered better value in that, in addition to a serial instalment, the magazine would feature a plethora of other articles and illustrations, often of the "educational" or "improving" type such as John Wood's on natural history. The principal consumer of published books (particularly novels) in the United Kingdom were fee-based commercial circulating libraries such as Mudie's Select Lending Library (1842-1937); in 1880, this firm actually chose to purchase bound copies of Good Words in order to stock its regional centres with copies of The Trumpet-Major instead of buying the Smith, Elder triple-decker‹ironically, the very book format favoured by libraries such as Lane's Minerva, Booth's, and Mudie's, which bought at substantial discount from publishers. Apparently Walter Besant, concerned that his All in a Garden Fair (1883) was about to meet the same fate from Mudie's as The Trumpet-Major, had telegraphed Hardy to clarify what had happened to his book three years earlier. Hardy replied:

I have been trying to recollect since more particularly about the Trumpet Major‹but I can only recall the fact that I was disappointed in the number Mudie subscribed for‹considering the general success of the book‹& it is probable that I now know for the first time the true reason‹that they were waiting for the magazine‹but did not say so. . . . . Now that nearly all the magazines are pubd at 6d it will be very awkward for us‹Country subscribers to the libraries are often supplied with a serial story cut from the magazine‹& bound up. (Letters VII: 99)

Little wonder, then, that of the initial run of a thousand copies printed by Smith, Elder on 26 October, 1880, by "the beginning of 1883 there remained unsold 250 unbound quires and 53 cloth-bound sets of the novel" (Nemesvari, intro. the Oxford World Classics edn. of The Trumpet-Major xxv).


Victorian Web Thomas Hardy

Last modified 11 August 2001