He saw a bather carried along

Plate 11 for the November 1874 installment of the Cornhill Magazine serialization of Hardy's novel.

For the first time in the series, in the November instalment of The Cornhill Magazine we see the result of Helen Paterson's having married the poet William Allingham on 22 August, 1874, for in the lower- left corner of the initial-letter vignette is "H. A.," and in lower-right corner of the full-page plate "He saw a bather carried along in the current." (facing page 617) is the signature "H. Allingham." Thus, only the November and December illustrations were completed after date, although whether on her honeymoon or subsequently in her new London home at 12 Trafalgar Square, Chelsea, is uncertain. The main plate illustrates a passage at the end of Ch. 48: "At that time he [Dr. Barker of Budmouth] saw a bather carried along in the current outside the mouth of the cove [Lulstead Cove -- contemporary image], and guessed in an instant that there was but a poor chance for him . . ." (p. 620); thus, the Helen Allingham has selected for illustration an incident very early in the eleventh instalment rather than one of the more striking moments later, either Troy's stealing Pennyways' note from Bathsheba's grasp from under the tent or Troy's enacting the role of highway Dick Turpin on Black Bess before an audience that contains many fair-goers from Weatherbury, including the sole person in the reserved seats, Bathsheba.

The initial-letter vignette depicts Bathsheba in a private room of the Three Choughs Inn, where she awakens after her swoon, whereupon her preserver, Boldwood, leaves the room (top of page 619). The juxtaposition of the eleventh plate and vignette implies that, Bathsheba, her former impetuosity subsumed by her recent domestic anguish into a "Patient Griselda" pose, is contemplating (and perhaps even attempting to visualise) the circumstances of her husband's reported drowning. The accompanying text on the first page of the November instalment transports back to the point before she learns of Troy's accidental death in "Carrow" (in later versions, "Lulwind") Cove. In the vignette, she is sitting at a window which overlooks a cityscape (that of Casterbridge) rather than the Weatherbury landscape. The position of her hands implies resignation, but there is nevertheless an expectant expression on her face. When Bathsheba refuses to credit the news of her husband' s death, the reader wonders whether she is actuated by a superior intuition or by the all too human tendency to deny personal catastrophe. Perhaps the absence of an actual body is responsible for her being "full of a feeling that [Troy] is still alive" (p. 620). Ironically her conviction is 'shaken' by the newspaper account furnished by the only "eye-witness" (p. 620), for Dr. Barker of Budmouth was unable before the onset of dusk to gain a vantage point that would have enabled him to give definitive testimony about Troy' s demise. Not part of the letter-press is Troy's waving, a gesture suggesting that he may be signalling for help. Prominent in the illustration among the dark rocks and finely etched lines indicating the sand of the shore is the swimmer's clothing, which for some undisclosed reason offers Bathsheba hope that her husband had not intended to commit suicide; the white and black pile, stage left, balances the figure of the sole spectator in respectable straw hat, downstage right. The obvious presence in the plate constitutes a problem in narrative-pictorial congruence, for had the clothes been in such an exposed position they would probably have been retrieved by Dr. Barker himself rather than the "coastguardsman" (p. 618) later.

Although Jackson criticizes the plate for its "flat and wooden delineation" (82), it is one of the few landscape studies in the sequence, and certainly one of the most forceful depictions of Hardy's Wessex. Usually, Paterson-Allingham depicts nature as mere backdrop to the human drama: in the February plate, for instance, the figures in the fore- and middle-ground dominate, the works of humankind are of secondary, and the woods and hills of tertiary importance. In contrast to the large figures and generalised woodland background of the February, April, May, June, July, August, and September plates, the setting is virtually the major figure in the composition of the November plate. Its wild and craggy fierceness are wholly appropriate as a context for Troy's disappearance. Indeed, the tempestuous and Romantic character of the place is augmented by literary associations, for here at Lulworth Cove in September, 1820 (or nearby), the consumptive Keats landed on his final journey to Rome, and wrote the sonnet "Bright Star," a tradition of which Hardy was well aware, although he did not make the occasion the subject of a literary text until 1920, when he wrote the lyric "At Lulworth Cove a Century Back." Since Paterson-Allingham's having actually visited the spot herself is unlikely, she was probably working from a description and perhaps even a rough seascape provided by Hardy himself. What Paterson-Allingham shows us of the cove, prominently marked on Thomas Hardy' s 1895 map of the Wessex of his fiction, is consistent with the physical description afforded by The Dorset Page:

Situated about 8 miles east of Weymouth is Lulworth Cove--a cove which has a very smooth, almost semi-circular shore-line. The geology of the area is most unique with exposed twisted rock strata indicating the once violent forces which shaped this corner of England. . . . . Stair Hole, just to the west of Lulworth Cove, is a remarkable small cove with natural arches cut into steeply-dipping Portland and basal Purbeck limestones. Through these arches and a gap where one has collapsed the sea enters to erode the softer parts of the Purbeck limestones and shales.

Although the illustrator has provided an example of such erosion just left of centre, the plate's version of the cove does not contain the "pillars of Hercules to this miniature Mediterranean" (Ch. 47) at its mouth, a feature peculiar to the place that Hardy would utilise again in The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid in The Graphic (25 June, 1883), when he describes this as the cove where the Baron (another dark, foreign interloper who comes between hero and heroine) has anchored his steam yacht.

Last modified 12 December 2001