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Ornamental headnote with a vignette of Hardy (left) from Thomas Hardy's "To Please His Wife" in 21.1 Black and White: A Weekly Illustrated Record and Review (27 June 1891): 678 (surmounting the first page of text).
An obvious imitator of the highly successful London Graphic, this "folio" (large-scale) illustrated weekly entered a crowded market in 1891 and survived until only 1912. According to J. Don Vann and Rosemary VanArsdel in Victorian Periodicals: A Guide to Research, Vol. 2 (89), the publishers of the Black and White: A Weekly Illustrated Record and Review were aiming at the market first served by the Illustrated London News (1842); it described itself as "The best engraved, the best written and the best illustrated paper in the World" (p. 19), and was a great consumer of both serial novels and short stories, as well as a new poetic form, the dialogue, "much admired by [its] editor, Oswald Crawfurd" (p. 24). Hardy had already sold the story to the American publisher S. S. McClure on 17 September 1890, probably before he had actually written it, according to Martin Ray in Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories (1997), p. 218.
No sooner had the last monthly instalment of Wessex Folk appeared in Harper's than the British periodical-reading public had placed before it another fatalistic tale of romance, jealousy, class status, and materialism culminating in tragic loss and alienation. The vehicle for "To Please His Wife" (written in late 1890 or early 1891 according to Martin Ray), the Black and White, was a large-scale, illustrated periodical featuring new fiction, domestic and foreign news, literary criticism, commentary on contemporary celebrities, and (of course, as one would judge from its title) high-quality, large-scale pen-and-ink drawings transformed by the latest photomechanical process into woodcuts. The editor of the recently-founded weekly magazine must have been pleased to acquire the serial rights to another tragic Wessex tale by the author of The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Woodlanders (Tess of the D'Urbervilles not yet having commenced its weekly serialisation).
The illustrator's ornamental headnote with a rectangular vignette of a middle-aged Hardy (p. 678) on the left-hand side, apparently studying the reader and thereby extending the picture into the reader's world, pays tribute to fifty-one-year-old Hardy's status as both a gifted story-teller and one of the country's leading men of letters, Hardy being recognized as one of the last great nineteenth-century British writers. His image, with receding hairline and respectable frock-coat and cravat, is a hallmark of literary quality, the artist implies. On the opening page, before one can even read the title of the story in the right-hand register of the headnote, one is confronted by Hardy in a modern, photographic frame (4 cm high by 3 cm wide), studying the reader from the ornate headpiece by "LFD," a paisley-like elaboration of plumed pens implying the author's being one of the fin de siecle's greatest living authors in the great tradition of drama, poetry, and fiction, genres which have contributed to certain features of the story.
A member of the Aesthetic Movement, Lewis Foreman Day (1845-1910) was technically a designer rather than an artist. He was the author of such pieces as "Victorian Progress in Applied Design," in the Art Journal (London), June 1887. However, his contribution to Victorian graphic art was considerable, for he was a versatile designer with a considerable range, and his designs reflect the influence of art nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite concerns with line drawing, although his chief legacy is in the fields of wall-paper and tile. His contemporaries would have recognized Day as author and critic, F. S. A. Decorative artist, and Vice-President of the Society of Arts and Master of the Art Workers' Gild. In particular, at the time of the story's publication, his initials would have been associated with the superb draughtsmanship behind heraldic ornamental calendars printed in Germany. His design for the story's headpiece places Hardy's image in the midst of a swirling ornamental border of the type used in domestic wall-paper designs, placing Hardy in the context of late nineteenth-century high art, and perhaps implying the intricacy of even such minor works as "To Please His Wife," whose movements are structured in terms of balance and contrast. More than this, the ornamental border presents Hardy as a contemporary artist who is participating in a mixed media production which fuses literature and the graphic arts.
Last modified 6 July 2016