If there is any difference, Grandfer is younger

"If there is any difference, Grandfer is younger" by Arthur Hopkins. Plate 5 in Hardy's The Return of the Native, which appeared serially in Belgravia, A Magazine of Fashion and Amusement (May 1878): facing XXXV, 260. 6.375 inches wide by 4.31 inches high.

Text illustrated from :

'To be sure we will,' said Fairway, taking the candle and moving it over the surface of the Grandfer's countenance, the subject of his scrutiny irradiating himself with light and pleasant smiles, and giving himself quick jerks of juvenility.

'You haven't changed much,' said Yeobright.

'If there's any difference, Grandfer is younger,' appended Fairway decisively.

Since the arrival of the hero, himself a sort of young Hardy returned from a sophisticated urban environment, is an important point in the novel, one would expect that Hardy would have had very specific notions as to how Hopkins should depict him. And yet, oddly, in his second February letter to Hopkins Hardy leaves Clym's facial features entirely to his artist's imagination: "A thoughtful young man of 25 is all that can be shown, as the particulars of his appearance given in the story are too minute to be represented in a small drawing" ( Letters I, 55), the May illustration of the mummers. Judging by the pleasure with which he reports having received the August illustration, the third in which Clym appears, Hardy was satisfied with the moustached but otherwise rather unremarkable, slender young man of above middle height that Hopkins created.

Hardy had hoped to see Eustacia given place of prominence in her mummer's disguise in the May illustration, but he conceded that "though pleasant enough to the imagination, [his heroine in boy's clothes] would perhaps be unsafe as a picture" ( Letters I, 54). Cross-dressing as a character in a folk-play seems tame enough, especially if evaluated in light of the tradition established by Shakespeare's comic heroines and the truly seamy features of the bigamous sensation novels, but Hardy had through hard lessons learned in his early fiction--especially Desperate Remedies--what the public would and would not accept. He had, in fact, already received a rejection of The Return of the Native by Sir Leslie Stephen at The Cornhill because of the potentially dangerous relationships that he had sketched in between Eustacia, Wildeve, Thomasin, and Clym. In consequence, an active scene, the mummers in performance, has unfortunately been sacrificed to propriety.

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 person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

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Created 5 December 2000

Last modified 30 December 2019