She stood up in the window-opening, facing the men (facing page 513) vertically-mounted, 10.5 cm high by 16 cm wide (4 ⅛ by 6 ¼ inches), framed; signed "H. Paterson" in the lower-right corner. Helen Paterson Allingham's fifth full-page wood-engraving for Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd in The Cornhill Magazine (May 1874), Chapters 21 ("Troubles in the Fold: A Message.") through 24 ("The Same Night: The Fir Plantation.") in Vol. 29: pages 513 through 534 (23 pages in this instalment); initial "G" (7.1 cm high by 6.2 cm wide; 3 ¾ by 2 ½ inches), signed "H. P." in lower-left corner. The wood-engraver responsible for this illustration was Joseph Swain (1820-1909). [Click on the image to enlarge it; mouse over links.]

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

No matter what the printed text seems to suggest about the likelihood of Gabriel's leaving Bathsheba's employ, Allingham's fifth plate establishes that he will be present at an agricultural supper at which she plays the host, and at which Gabriel plays his flute as after-dinner entertainment. Most of those who will be seated at the supper table on p. 525 Hardy lists at the start of the shearing (p. 518). The abundantly flowering rosebush, not mentioned by Hardy, may be Allingham's emblem of the purity and disinterestedness of Gabriel's devotion towards his mistress — how appropriate it would be if these were either dog roses, indicative of Gabriel's pleasure mixed with pain, or musk roses, symbols of capricious beauty appropriate to Bathsheba. Immediately beside the rose bush and at Bathsheba's right hand, Gabriel Oak is playing his flute; to her left, in the parlour stands Boldwood, arms crossed as he listens to the music and studies Bathsheba in profile; in the plate, he does not appear to be singing, but rather watching and listening.

The rather timid youth nearest the parlour window is probably Cainy Ball (termed "assistant shearer" on p. 518). The other six men, all clad in smock-frocks, including "Mr. Jan Coggan, the master-shearer," cannot be distinguished, even when one compares their faces to those in other illustrations, but then Hardy himself fails to discriminate between them in the letter-press. Had she been of a more architectural frame of mind, Allingham might well have shown the group at work in the Shearing Barn (which stands to this day as the mediaeval "Tithe Barn" at Glastonbury), but only in the November plate does the illustrator depict with accuracy one of the sites of Hardy's Wessex as anything but a generalized backdrop.

The time of the year is warm enough for the sheep-shearers' supper to be held outdoors, at a table improvised outside the parlour-window. Boldwood has moved from his earlier place, at the bottom of the table, and should now be "sitting" (p. 527) rather than standing beside Bathsheba inside. In addition to the workers already mentioned, Hardy indicates that the ex-bailiff, Pennyways, and Jan Coggan's son, Bob, are seated at the table, making the number at least nine rather than the seven depicted. As Bathsheba, standing rather than "enthroned," sings "Allan Water," the old ballad about the soldier with the "winning tongue" (surely intended by the author as a foreshadowing the arrival of Boldwood's rival, the dashing Sergeant Troy), Gabriel accompanies her on his instrument while Boldwood sings "bass in his customary profound voice" (p. 528).

The illustrator subtly reinforces the sacramental nature of the moment by showing that the workers have left their hats under the bench. Long-stemmed pipe, pitcher, jugs, and ceramic drinking cups are all plausible, though Hardy does not actually mention them; while the candles that Liddy has brought, though not shown cast a bright light on the table and the faces of the agricultural labourers but leave Gabriel in the shadows. Only the two men in front appear to be reclining against each other, although Hardy describes all those seated at the table as doing so. There is, as in the letter-press, a perfect stillness, an enchanted harmony, and a social unity that accord well with the edenic backdrop, still partially illuminated by the setting sun. The arcadian flautist enchants his peasant auditors, but for the viewer-reader Gabriel, like the piper in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn," plays "Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared, . . . ditties of no tone" (lines 13-14).

If this plate commemorates the kind of fragile, ephemeral perfection that Giorgione painted, a brief Golden Age for Boldwood-Adam and Bathsheba-Eve, it also implies the impending entrance into this bucolic paradise of the Satanic Sergeant Troy, who will blight Boldwood's prospects and threaten the economic security of the farm and its employees by his expensive tastes and dissolute habits. Her farm guarded by the ever-watchful Gabriel as God's throne is guarded by the archangel Gabriel ("Strong Man of God," mentor of hopes and dreams, in the Bible the router of Sennacherib's invading armies, and in Milton's Paradise Lost, IV, 549, chief of the angelic wardens of Eden), Bathsheba is spared the calamity that befalls her neighbour, whom she had promised to wed then rejects in favour of the dark, fascinating, eloquent (and partly foreign) Sergeant Frank Troy. Made careless by the preference of the fickle Bathsheba (ironically meaning "Daughter of the Oath") for the soldier with the winning tongue, a despondent Boldwood lets his own property go to ruin as he fails to protect his ricks as Bathsheba nearly fails (through Frank's getting the men drunk) to protect hers.

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.]


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 1 December 2001

Last updated 8 November 2022