Hands Were Loosening His Neckerchief (facing page 1) vertically-mounted, 10.4 cm high by 15.8 cm wide, signed "H. Paterson" in the lower-right corner. Helen Patterson Allingham, initial illustration for Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd Cornhill Magazine (January 1874), Plate 1. Chapters 1 ("Description of Farmer Oak: An Incident.") through 5 ("Departure of Bathsheba: A Pastoral Tragedy.") in Vol. 29: pages 1 through 26 (26.75 pages in instalment); plates: initial "W" (5.9 cm wide by 7.6 cm high) signed "H. P." in lower-left corner. The wood-engraver responsible for this illustration was Joseph Swain (1820-1909), noted for his engravings of Sir John Tenniel's cartoons in Punch. [Click on the image to enlarge it; mouse over links.]

Right: The initial-letter vignette and first full page of the story: W.

In the opening chapter, Hardy describes young Farmer Oak, and since the opening vignette and plate also show a young woman, the serial reader reasonably assumes that the two figures will meet in the accompanying letter-press. The plate's caption, "Hands Were Loosening His Neckerchief," and the youth's comatose condition suggest that the young woman is responding to a medical emergency, although, in spite of her overturned pail (which is apparently full in the vignette, suggesting that the plate is illustrating an incident later than that illustrated by the vignette), the woman's demeanour betrays neither inner turmoil nor panic. That the interior of Oak's hut is the backdrop in the plate is confirmed by the presence in Chapter 2 of "the small stove, where a can of milk was simmering" (p. 8). The darkness beyond the door implies that Oak has succumbed to some malady during the hours of the night, when help is less likely to appear. The precise nature of the affliction is not not clear, forcing the reader to wait to learn the cause until the plate's moment is realised in the letter-press. Hardy defers that realisation by introducing the young woman and her aunt, who are up in the middle of the night attending to their cow Daisy and her new-born calf.

As Gabriel has not yet been able "to get a distinct view of her countenance" (p. 10), the reader is left to judge whether Bathsheba's beauty (as Allingham has interpreted it) is worthy of the shepherd's interest; however, neither the plate nor the vignette suggests her strength of character, so clearly implied by her determination to ride the horse using a man's saddle (which posture foreshadows her later becoming her own estate-manager). In short, the artist has failed to communicate Bathsheba's adolescent independence and mirthful teasing so evident in the proposal scene, but has admirably captured the girl's classic facial features in the plate and her "graceful" (p. 9) deportment and "bright air and manner" (p. 12) in the vignette. Both Hardy's narrator (reading Gabriel's thoughts at the bottom of page 3) and turn-pike keeper describe Bathsheba as "handsome" rather than "pretty" (the adjective which Troy uses in Ch. 41 to describe Fanny Robin), but both imply that the heroine is immature, the former by terming her a "girl" and the latter a "maid." In the accompanying illustrations, she is dressed in the high-necked fashion Hardy describes as appropriate to a modest country-raised young woman of respectable, middle-class origins; furthermore, Allingham's visuals establish her "graceful and proportionate figure" (p. 12), although she appears thinner in the vignette. The plate conveys the tenderness of her manner and fineness of her skin, but displaces mirth with solemnity in depicting her solicitousness.

Scanned images and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned them and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Volume One: 1840-1892; Volume Three: 1903-1908, ed. Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978, 1982.

Hardie, Martin. Water-colour Painting in Britain, Vol. 3: The Victorian Period, ed. Dudley Snelgrove, Jonathan Mayne, and Basil Taylor. London: B. T. Batsford, 1968.

Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd. With illustrations by Helen Paterson Allingham. The Cornhill Magazine. Vols. XXIX and XXX. Ed. Leslie Stephen. London: Smith, Elder, January through December, 1874.

Holme, Brian. The Kate Greenaway Book. Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 1976.

Jackson, Arlene M. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981.

Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998, 2001.

Created 7 November 2009

Last updated 22 October 2022