The elegant engraving as the frontispiece of the rocky, windswept quay at Castle Boterel (depicting Bocastle, Cornwall) prepares the reader for the various coastal scenes of the novel, first published in Tinseley's Magazine from September 1872 to July 1873 with monthly illustrations by James Abbott Pasquier. The tranquil seascape occurs in both the 1895 Osgood, McIlvaine volume and that published by Harper and Brothers in New York, but the American volume lacks the caption. In his brief March 1895 "Preface," Hardy notes that literary tourists are flocking even to this remote knook of "Off-Wessex" in search of the real-world settings of his stories: "The shore and country about 'Castle Boterel' is now getting well known, and will be readily recognized. The spot is, I may add, the furthest westward of all those convenient corners wherein I have ventured to erect my theatre for these imperfect little dramas of country life and passions" (v). 8.5 x 12.3 cm, framed, in Hardy's 1874 novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, volume four of the Osgood, McIlvaine Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels, in eighteen volumes (1895-1897).

Scanned image and text 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.]

Text on facing page

The "Castle Boterel"
of the Story
Drawn on the spot

Caption on the title-page

'A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
No more.' [Laertes to Ophelia about the fickleness of Hamlet's affection; Shakespeare's Hamlet, I, iii, 8-10].

  • Title-page
  • Commentary

    The distinctive "Off-Wessex" landscape of A Pair of Blue Eyes was an interesting feature of the eleven original Tinsley's Magazine wood-engravings by James Abbott Pasquier in 1872-73, although the cove near Elfride's house is not one of Pasquier's subjects. In particular, the earlier illustrator focussed on the thrilling scenes that transpire against picturesque seascape backdrops in On the Cliffs (October 1872) and Elfride's Attempt to Help Knight (February 1873).

    Hardy in his 1895 preface indicates that the resemblance between any actual Cornish setting and that fictional (or fictionalized) setting of the early romance

    is of little importance. The place is pre-eminently (for one person at least) the region of dream and mystery. The ghostly birds, the pall-like sea, the frothy wind, the eternal soliloquy of the waters, the bloom of dark purple cast, that seems to exhale from the shoreward precipices, in themselves lend to the scene an atmosphere like the twilight of a night vision.

    One enormous sea-bord cliff in particular figures in the narrative; and for some forgotten reason or other this cliff was described in the story as being without a name. Accuracy would require the statement to be that a remarkable cliff which resembles in many points the cliff of the description bears a name that no event has made famous. — T. H. March 1895, vi.

    In Chapters 19-21, architect Stephen Smith arrives back from India, where he has been trying to earn enough money (and social status) to marry Elfride; meanwhile, one of his rivals, Henry Knight, has fallen down The Cliff without a Name, and is being rescued by her in serial chapter XXI (the last of three in the February 1873 instalment).​In the dramatic series of eleven wood-engravings, this is the most dramatic, falling at the end of an instalment curtain when the fates of both Henry Knight and Elfride Swancourt lie in the balance on the wind-swept cliff. However, instead of attempting so dramatic an incident, Macbeth-Raeburn, at Hardy's instigation, has selected a quiet port scene into which the eiron of the love triangle is about to arrive. As he sets foot on the dock near Endelstow, Stephen sees Henry Knight and Elfride running towards him. In Chapter 25, when Smith returns the harbour, he is even more determined to confront Elfride. As Stephen lingers on the quay, Hardy describes the twilight scene impressionistically rather than in the graphic terms of Macbeth-Raeburn's daytime view of the scene.

    Passage Anticipated by the Frontispiece

    By the time he took his return journey at the week's end, Stephen had very nearly worked himself up to an intention to call and see her face to face. On this occasion also he adopted his favourite route​—​by the little summer steamer from Bristol to Castle Boterel; the time saved by speed on the railway being wasted at junctions, and in following a devious course.​

    It was a bright silent evening at the beginning of September when Smith again set foot in the little town. He felt inclined to linger awhile upon the quay before ascending the hills, having formed a romantic intention to go home by way of her house, yet not wishing to wander in its neighbourhood till the evening shades should sufficiently screen him from observation.

    And thus waiting for night’s nearer approach, he watched the placid scene, over which the pale luminosity of the west cast a sorrowful monochrome, that became slowly embrowned by the dusk. A star appeared, and another, and another. They sparkled amid the yards and rigging of the two coal brigs lying al​o​ngside, as if they had been tiny lamps suspended in the ropes. The masts rocked sleepily to the infinitesimal flux of the tide, which clucked and gurgled with idle regularity in nooks and holes of the harbour wall.

    The twilight was now quite pronounced enough for his purpose; and as, rather sad at heart, he was about to move on, a little boat containing two persons glided up the middle of the harbour with the lightness of a shadow. The boat came opposite him, passed on, and touched the landing-steps at the further end. One of its occupants was a man, as Stephen had known by the easy stroke of the oars. When the pair ascended the steps, and came into greater prominence, he was enabled to discern that the second personage was a woman; also that she wore a white decoration —​apparently a feather​—​in her hat or bonnet, which spot of white was the only distinctly visible portion of her clothing. — Ch. 25, "Mine own familiar friend," p. 283-284.

    Relevant illustrations from other 19th editions, 1843-1910

    The original Pasquier engraving​ of the landscape​in the serial, left: On the Cliffs (October 1872); centre: the highly dramatic rescue of the inattentive birdwatcher, Elfride's Attempt to Help Knight (February 1873); right: Once again, the Cornish scenery is mere backdrop, and is not foregrounded, in Elfride's Freak on Endelstow Tower (January 1873). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

    Related Materials


    Flynn, Susanne Johnson. "Hardy and the Creation of Wessex." Accessed 14 January 2017. Gettysburg College.

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

    Hardy, Thomas. A Pair of Bluye Eyes. Illustrated by James Abbot Pasquier. Tinseley's Magazine. Vols. XI-XII (September 1872 — July 1873).

    Hardy, Thomas. A Pair of Bluye Eyes. Illustrated by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. Volume Four in the Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels. London: Osgood, McIlvaine; New York: Harper & Bros., 1895.

    Kay-Robinson, Denys. The Landscape of Thomas Hardy.Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1984.

    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.

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

    Vann, J. Don. "A Pair of Blue Eyes in the Cornhill Magazine, January — December 1874." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pages 82.

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

    Last modified 29 January 2017