Re-creating an American Reading of Thomas Hardy's Novella The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid (1883)

Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

[The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid appeared in Harper's Weekly 30 June-4 August 1883.]

Looking back on the June 1883 issues of Harper's Weekly, one naturally wonders what sort of publication and what kinds or articles and plates form the context for the opening of Hardy's story. The June 30th issue, for example, whose banner head proclaims the magazine as the "Journal of Civilisation" at ten cents a copy, begins with a full-page plate entitled "The Coronation of the Czar of Russia. The Czar Placing the Imperial Crown upon His Head in the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Kremlin, Moscow" (p. 409), leading one to conclude that foreign as well as domestic news was a staple of the weekly illustrated magazine. Immediately following the June 23rd instalment of Hardy's story, one finds Ch. XXVII of Miss Betham-Edwards' story Disarmed!, a novel of the silver-fork school, so one concludes that serial fiction by American authors was another salient feature of the publication. Following the June 30th instalment of Hardy's story, one finds Margaret Ettinge's humorous poem "An Odd Fellow. Tom to Will at Saratoga," another instalment of Disarmed!, and details about the Czar's coronation, so the mixture of genres and styles seems analogous to that of London The Graphic on the other side of the Atlantic. The journals are of comparable dimensions (The Graphic's pages are 11" x 15.5", while those of Harper's are 11.25" x 16" each) and are therefore equally capable of reproducing large-scale graphic material.

One sharp difference between the two periodicals, however, appears in Harper's anti-British sentiment. In fact, these weeks' issues of Harper's make such anti-British feelings a common theme throughout. For example, the cover of the July 21st issue features W. A Rogers' large-scale cartoon entitled "What are we going to do about it?" The headline below, "Britannia having been rebuked for leaving her starving children at our front door, now drops them slyly over our back fence," introduces an article about the problem of poor British immigrants' entering the ports of Montreal and Quebec City: "Most of this class are paupers who have been assisted in procuring passage, and are ticketed to points in the western part of the United States."

This editorial tone seems at variance with the literary content of the paper, which was running Thirlby Hall by W. E. Norris (also in The Graphic at this time) as well as Hardy's The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid in serial. Thus, while Hardy's text extols the romantic purity of rural Dorset before the railway era, political commentary simultaneously denounces the emigration and foreign policies of modern, industrial Britannia and her colonial minion, Canada. In other words, Harper's expected its readers to regard the culture of Britain, as represented by Hardy and other writers whose works it serialised, as worthy of interest and emulation, but to reject the social policies of Britain (again reflected in the July 28th cartoon captioned "The Sparrows Must Go! Another case of assisted immigration" at the bottom of columns 3 and 4, p. 475) when these impacted negatively on the United States. In short, Harper's anticipated that its readers could be Anglophiles and Anglophobes simultaneously.

Each part begins with a running title and Hardy's name, and establishes him as the author of three best-sellers (A Laodicean, serialised in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1880-81; Far from the Madding Crowd, serialised in the Cornhill Magazine, 1874; and The Return of the Native, serialised in 1878) so that we are by implication promised a work of similar quality, length, and popularity. The magazine makes plain the connection between Hardy's story and "Little Red Riding Hood" (intimated in Hardy's text by Margery's delivering butter to her grandmother and by her "stroll[ing] through the flower beds coolly" on page 390) with the running subtitle "'Where are you going, my pretty maid?' 'I'm going a milking, sir,' she said" (p. 389, 405, 426, 437, 458, 474, and 490). This exchange is, in fact, never reported in the text, although the Baron asks both, "What do you here?" and "What were you doing here at this hour of the morning?" (Collected Stories 792). While the tone of the first speaker (the Baron) is somewhat patronizing and aloof for one caught in the contemplation of suicide (an intention which Hardy masks in the serial), the second speaker's replying in dialect prepares us for the class divisions between the two that colour the story.

On June 23rd, 30th, and July 4th, a 9" x 12" plate occupies all three columns and 7/8 of the page, but has been rotated so that stage-right faces towards the bottom of each page of Harper's. Thus, to peruse the illustration the reader must turn the page so that the text is a right angles. The quotation serving as the caption at the bottom of the first plate, "With one hand he was tightly grasping his forehead, with the other his knee" [Chapter II, top of column 2, p. 390 in Harper's) prepares us for the moment when, late in the initial episode, the trespassing Margery unexpectedly encounters the odd, obviously aristocratic stranger -- "a fine-framed dark mustached gentleman, in a dressing gown and slippers, . . . sitting there in the fog without a hat on" ("mustachioed" [also p. 4, Graphic] and "damp" appear instead in the Collected Stories text, p. 791). 1 Hardy's description of "one of those curious summer shelters" (bottom of column 1, p. 390) alerts us to the fact that we are approaching the moment illustrated, which arrives at the top of column 2, in the second sentence of Chapter II.

The order of introduction and the strong association between Margery and the geographical setting suggest that she is the protagonist, and the Baron the antagonist. Through the details of her dress, by the top of page 390 we have surmised the identities and relationship of two two characters whom C. S. Reinhart has depicted. The handkerchief around the bonnet is related to Margery's girlish concern with appearance -- she doesn't want the boughs dripping on her ribbons (suggestive of her personal vanity). By the curtain of the first instalment, mid-way through Chapter III, the Baron has intimated that he will arrange to take this bucolic Cinderella to a ball, even though her dance-steps are old-fashioned, and we are left in suspense as to whether or not he will carry out his intention after he has made enquiries about the forthcoming ball: "The Baron mentioned an evening and an hour when he would be passing that way again; then mounted his horse and rode away" (Harper's, column 1, p. 391; Collected Stories, p. 798). We are concerned that her antiquated country dancing (bottom of column 4, p. 390) will prevent her going, or prevent her from enjoying herself, should she go.

The plate which opens the second instalment immediately answers the question: Margery (stage-right) and the Baron (stage-left, the position that Margery had occupied in the first plate) are both formally dressed; for the first time, we see Margery's face, no longer obscured by a hat, as in the first plate. Consequently, the second plate promises that we will also 'read' Margery in a fuller, womanly light in Hardy's text. And, once again, C. S. Reinhart's plate captures a moment of suspension and dilemma as once again Margery is blocked or thwarted, not merely by the hollow tree which prevents her leaving her native environment (as represented by woods that serve as the backdrop) for the other, as yet imagined and unrealised world of the ball, but also by the low décolletage of the ball gown as she tries in vain to prevent a male seeing more of her body than she is accustomed to show. Consequently, the illustration simultaneously answers last week's question, but also raises a new one: will outward and inward hindrances, the hollow tree and her self-consciousness, prevail over her desire to accompany the Baron to the ball? Again, the literal text alerts us to the moment realised in the plate when we read that "the cavity within the tree formed a lofty circular apartment" (bottom of column 2, p. 406). And, again, Margery is depicted in a moment of crisis, for, having changed into a voluminous ball gown, she cannot exit as she entered, the rustic dressing room being inconsistent with the identity that the fashionable dress has conferred upon her. The pictured dress of high 'urban' fashion symbolizes those imaginative and materialistic yearnings which seduce Margery in ensuing chapters with aspirations beyond her social class and regional background.

The curtain of instalment two, "The natural result followed: she fell asleep" (column 1, page 407), mid-way through Chapter V, creates a different sense of apprehension in the serial readers from that experienced by The Graphic's readers at the end of the fifth chapter, which leaves us wondering what impact her night's adventures will have on her engagement to Jim, whom she will now regard as a mere lime-burner. Rather, in Harper's, we are concerned that Margery's ominous reflection in Chapter IV ("Suppose he is a wicked man, who is taking me off to a foreign country, and will never bring me home again") will prove to be a species of foreshadowing. In short, the serial curtain implies that her cigar-smoking companion may exert "his mysterious influence" upon her, leading her into a sexual surrender she consciously fears but subconsciously desires. Here the serial readers seem to be promised a "romantic" adventure indeed!

The opening of the third instalment offers no helpful illustration to confirm or reject our worst fears, through which we have pleasurably suffered from July 1st through July 6th, 1883. However, the action shifts our focus from "romantic adventure" to "romantic confusion" as Margery experiences a sense of isolation or alienation from her caste and from Jim. The night's dancing has awakened desires and tastes very much at variance with marriage to a lime-burner. By the curtain of the third instalment, mid-way though Chapter VII, Margery is clearly torn between satisfying her father's and Jim's expectations on the one hand or entering a liaison with the Baron, although he has not offered her such a relationship. Jim's sharing the house, furnished in "so plain and old-fashioned" a manner so disconsonant with her newly-acquired tastes, as well as the lime business with Mr. Vine is now wholly repugnant to Margery. Jim wishes to continue his arrangement with Mr. Vine; "Margery knew of this wish, and of Jim's concurrent feeling, and did not like the idea at all" (Collected Stories, p. 821; Harper's, column 2, p. 427). "Will this repugnance lead to her severing her engagement, and in turn to her becoming the Baron's mistress?" are questions that must have plagued the American serial readers, and which Reinhart's third plate, on July 14th, did little to answer.

Certainly, the abstracted expression of Margery and the distraught gesture of her father, as well as the caption, "What! Ye Have Dared to Come Back Alive, Hussy!" (p. 437; repeated verbatim in the middle of column 4, p. 438), seem to imply that, having abandoned Jim, Margery has been seduced and then abandoned by the Baron. In fact, of course, nothing so titillating has occurred, as we shortly learn. However, the artist has once again captured Margery in a moment of crisis as she must now explain to her father how she missed her own wedding to attend the ill Baron. The curtain of this fourth instalment‹"'I have done that innocent woman a great wrong!' he murmured. 'Deprived her of, perhaps, her only opportunity of becoming mistress of a happy home!'" (Collected Stories p. 832; Harper's, column 1, p. 439) -- prepares us for the ensuing action of the story, in which the Baron, benign and no rake at all, tries to rectify the error into which he feels he has led Margery. At this point, then, the astute American serial reader intuits how Hardy will deliver a socially-acceptable conclusion to these "romantic adventures." As Martin Ray points out in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories (p. 336), in the closing Margery neither makes an overt statement respecting her preferring the Baron to Jim nor remarks somewhat self-centredly, "It would be so unfair to baby" (we note that she says nothing of its unfairness to her husband); these unsettling aspects Hardy added to the ending in 1913. Rather, in the Harper's serial , "she added, hearing the baby cry, 'he would not move me now'" (column 3, p. 491). Finally, since both The Graphic (p. 25),

HW and later collected editions quote George Sand's description of 'la jalousie rétrospective' in the final paragraph, which is rendered in the MS. . . . as 'his retrospective jealousy' (Ray, p. 338)

we may assume that Hardy did little to alter the draft (or possibly the Graphic's proofs) that he sent to New York, and therefore that the American edition offers little of the authorial re-thinking that would be completed when Hardy prepared the text for the 1913 Macmillan collected edition.

Related Materials

Selected List of References

Allingham, Philip V. "The Initial Publications of Thomas Hardy's Novella "The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid" in the Graphic and Harper's (Summer, 1883)." The Thomas Hardy Journal 16, 3 (October, 2000): 45-62.

Benazon, Michael. "'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid': Hardy's Modern Romance." English Studies in Canada, 5:1 (1979), 56-65.

Brady, Kristin. The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982.

Cassis, A. F. "A Note on the Structure of Thomas Hardy's Short Stories."Colby Library Quarterly 10 (1974): 287-296.

Champlin, John Denison, Jr. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. New York: Empire State, 1927. Vol. IV.

Graves, Algernon. A Dictionary of Artists Who Have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions from 1760 to 1893. London: Henry Graves, 1895.

Greer, Russ. "To Philip Allingham." Unpublished e-mail correspondence, 25 August, 26 August, 2 September, and 17 September, 1999.

Hardy, Thomas. The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid. The Graphic , Summer Number (pub. 25 June) 1883, pp. 4-25; Harper's Weekly, 23 June-4 August, 1883; Collected Short Stories, ed. F. B. Pinion. London: Macmillan, 1988. pp. 788-868.

---. "Serial Rights in Stories." Athenæum 16 May 1903: 626.

Harris, Wendell V. British Short Fiction in the Nineteenth Century: A Literary and Bibliographic Guide. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979.

---. "English Short Fiction in the Nineteenth Century. III. The rise of the Short Story in England. . . ." Studies in Short Fiction 6, 1(Fall, 1968): 45-57.

Houfe, Simon.The Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, 1978, rev. 1996.

Lewis, Paul. "To Philip Allingham." Unpublished e-mail correspondence, 28 August and 29 August, 1999.

McManus, Diane. "Dance and Ballet." Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. New York: Garland, 1988. 207.

Orel, Harold. Ch. 5 "Thomas Hardy: An Older Tradition of Narrative." The Victorian Short Story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Pp. 96-114.

Ormond, Leonée. George Du Maurier. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

Page, Norman. "Hardy Short Stories: A Reconsideration." Studies in Short Fiction 11, 1 (Winter, 1974): 75-84.

Pennell, Joseph. The Adventures of An Illustrator Mostly in Following His Authors in America and Europe. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1925.

Purdy, Richard Little, and Millgate, Michael, eds. The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978-88. Volume One (1840-1892), 1978.

Quinn, Marie A. "Thomas Hardy and the Short Story." Budmouth Essays on Thomas Hardy: Papers Presented at the 1975 Summer School (Dorchester: Thomas Hardy Society, 1976), pp. 74-85.

Ray, Martin. Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. London: Ashgate, 1997.

Reid, Forrest. Illustrators of the Eighteen-Sixties. 1928. New York: Dover, 1975 rpt.

Reinhart, Charles Stanley. "At the Sow-and-Acorn." Illustration 3 for Thomas Hardy's "The First Countess of Wessex." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 80 (December, 1889), 27. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/wessex3.htm

---. "'The Attitude Bespoke Anguish'." Graphic, Summer Number (pub. 25 June) 1883, p. 19; "With One Hand He Was Tightly Grasping His Forehead, with His Other His Knee." Harper's Weekly, 23 June 1883, p. 389. 8.5" x 11.5"(tilted vertically). http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/romant3.ht

---. "Betty Lay upon the Floor." Illustration 8 for Thomas Hardy's "The First Countess of Wessex." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 80 (December, 1889), 41. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/wessex3.htm

---. "I Can't Get out of This Dreadful Tree!" Graphic, Summer Number (pub. 25 June) 1883, p. 22; Harper's Weekly, 30 June 1883, p. 405. 8.63" x 11.5" (tilted vertically). Signed "C. S. Reinhart" in lower-left corner. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/romant3.ht

---."Jim Stopped at the Kiln, While Mrs. Peach Held the Horse." Graphic, Summer Number (pub. 25 June) 1883, p. 26. 8.5" x 11.5" (tilted vertically).

---. "She Beheld the Object of Her Search Sitting on the Horizontal Bough of a Cedar."Illustration 4 for Thomas Hardy's "The First Countess of Wessex." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 80 (December, 1889), 29. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/wessex3.htm

---. "So He Stormed on till Tupcombe Entered Suddenly." Illustration 6 for Thomas Hardy's "The First Countess of Wessex." Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 80 (December, 1889), 35. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/wessex3.htm

---. "What Be You Here For?" Graphic, Summer Number (pub. 25 June) 1883, p. 23; "'What! Ye Have Dared To Come Back Alive, Hussy!'" Harper's Weekly, 14 July 1883, p. 437. 8.63" x 11.5" (tilted vertically). Signed "C. S. Reinhart 83" in lower-left corner. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/english/thsna/illustr/romant3.ht

---, and Du Maurier, George. Illustrations for Wilkie Collins' The New Magdalen. London: Chatto & Windus, 1889.

Temperley, Nicholas. "Dance Music." Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. New York: Garland, 1988. 208.

Webber, Carl J. "An Editorial Epilogue." Thomas Hardy's An Indiscretion in the Life of an Heiress (1878). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1935. Pp. 145-6.


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Last modified 23 January 2001