Round Her, Leaning Against Branches, or Prostrate on the Ground, Were Two or Three Individuals

Round Her, Leaning Against Branches, or Prostrate on the Ground, Were Two or Three Individuals by George Du Maurier. The Cornhill Magazine, 32 (November 1876), facing page 513 — Illustration for Thomas Hardy's The Hand of Ethelberta.

Image scan, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Matters have progressed considerably by the time we arrive at the textual counterpart of the fifth plate, "It Was a Tender Time." Du Maurier was personally fond of bric-a-brac, so that his interiors usually overflow with pictures, furniture, vases, fireplace screens, and so forth (especially in his plates for A Laodicean), so his situating the farewell between the misunderstanding and misunderstood lovers in a morning room largely devoid of interior decoration may reflect Ethelberta's concerns about how she will pay the bills for her establishment once her novelty of "romancing" has worn off. Picotee stands back exactly as in the text, eyes downcast, torn between sorrow for her sister and expectation that one day Christopher may care for them equally. Preparing to exit, he has taken his hat, and is kissing Ethelberta's cheek "faintly" (p. 189). Certainly the illustration seems to be suggesting the ultimate severing of the relationship, for the reader has already learned that Ethelberta intends to renounce him for Picotee's sake and that he realizes that he is hardly in a financial position to marry (perhaps a self-equivocation since Picotee has inadvertently led him to conclude that Ethelberta is interested in either Ladywell or Neigh as a prospective husband). Although the moment illustrated is significant in terms of plot, it lacks the visual interest that the scene of Christopher's breaking the news of the rupture to his sister Faith amidst the British Museum's bas reliefs from Nineveh possesses.

Last modified 16 January 2006