Whereas Hardy's 1896 illustrator, Henry Macbeth-Raeburn, in the Osgood, McIlvaine frontispiece King's Hintock Court offers an unobscured view of the mansion, enforcing suspension of disbelief in the romantic and decidedly fanciful tale presented as local history, periodical illustrator Alfred Parsons in Bannerhead for "The First Countess of Wessex" in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Volume 80, December 1889) shows the same country-house from a greater distance, much of the Elizabethan edifice obscured by trees. The frontispiece for Hardy's A Group of Noble Dames — That is to Say "The First Countess of Wessex," "Barbara of the House of Grebe," "The Marchioness of Stonehenge," "Lady Mottisfont," "The Lady Icenway," "Squire Petrick's Lady," "Anna, Lady Baxby," "The Lady Penelope," "The Duchess of Hamptonshire"; and "The Honourable Laura", volume fifteen of the Osgood, McIlvaine Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels, in seventeen volumes (1895-1897), 8.6 cm high by 12.4 cm wide, framed. [Title-page ]

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Text on facing page and title-page

"King's Hintock Court"
in "The First Countess of Wessex"
Drawn on the spot.

"King's-Hintock Court . . . one
of the most imposing of the
mansions that overlook our
beautiful Blackmoor or Blake-
more Vale." — Page 3.

That is to say, The First Countess of Wessex, Barbara of The Hose of Grebe, The Marchioness of Stonehenge, Lady Mottifont, Squire Petrick's Lady, The Lady Icenway, Anna, Lady Baxby, The Lady Penelope, The Duchess of Hamptonshire; and The Honourable Laura

". . . Store of Ladies, whose bright eyes, rain influence."​— L'Allegro​.

Passage Illustrated

Dame the First — The First Countess of Wessex

By the local historian

King's-Hintock Court (said the narrator, turning over his memoranda for reference) — King's-Hintock Court is, as we know, one of the most imposing of the mansions that overlook our beautiful Blackmoor or Blakemore Vale. On the particular occasion of which I have to speak this building stood, as it had often stood before, in the perfect silence of a calm clear night, lighted only by the cold shine of the stars. The season was winter, in days long ago, the last century having run but little more than a third of its length. North, south, and west, not a casement was unfastened, not a curtain undrawn; eastward, one window on the upper floor was open, and a girl of twelve or thirteen was leaning over the sill. That she had not taken up the position for purposes of observation was apparent at a glance, for she kept her eyes covered with her hands. — p. 3.

From the June 1896 Preface

More, the careful comparison of dates alone — that of birth with marriage, of marriage with death, of one marriage, birth, or death with a kindred marriage, birth, or death​— will often effect the same transformation, and anybody practised in raising images from such genealogies finds himself unconsciously filling into the framework the motives, passions, and personal qualities which would appear to be the single explanation possible of some extraordinary conjunction in times, events, and personages that occasionally marks these reticent family records.​— Page v.


King's Hintock Court. Melbury House, near Melbury Sampford, north of Evershot. Portions of the house, which is situated in a large wooded park, belong to the fifteenth century. It belonged to Lord Ilchester, who was descended from Stephen Fox (see Reynard), the husband of Elizabeth Horner (Dornell, Betty). He became the first Earl of Ilchester (Betty became the first 'Countess of Wessex'). — F. B. Pinion, p. 381.

Additional Resources on Hardy's Short Stories

Literary and Artistic Relations


Gatrell, Simon. Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

Hardy, Thomas. "The First Countess of Wessex." Illustrated by Alfred Parsons and C. S. Reinhart. Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Vol. 80 (December 1889): 20-40.

Hardy, Thomas. A Group of Noble Dames. Illustrated by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. Volume Fifteen in the Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels. London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1896.

Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.

Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Macmillan, 1968.

Purdy, Richard L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954, rpt. 1978.

Ray, Martin. Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. London: Ashgate, 1988.

Seymour-Smith, Martin. Hardy. London: Bloomsbury, 1994.

Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy. A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File, 2002.

Last modified 3 February 2017