'Hay-trussing — ?' said the turnip-hoer, who had already begun shaking his head. 'O no.'" by Robert Barnes. Plate 1, Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, which appeared in the London The Graphic, 2 January 1886: Chapter One, p. 17. 17.4 cm high by 22.3 cm wide — 6 ⅝ inches high by 8 ⅞ inches wide. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: The Wayfarers approach Weydon-Priors

But as they approached the village sundry distant shouts and rattles reached their ears from some elevated spot in that direction, as yet screened from view by foliage. When the outlying houses of Weydon-Priors could just be described, the family group was met by a turnip-hoer with his hoe on his shoulder, and his dinner-bag suspended from it. The reader promptly glanced up.

“Any trade doing here?” he asked phlegmatically, designating the village in his van by a wave of the broadsheet. And thinking the labourer did not understand him, he added, “Anything in the hay-trussing line?”

The turnip-hoer had already begun shaking his head. “Why, save the man, what wisdom’s in him that ’a should come to Weydon for a job of that sort this time o’ year?”

“Then is there any house to let — a little small new cottage just a builded, or such like?” asked the other.

The pessimist still maintained a negative. “Pulling down is more the nater of Weydon. There were five houses cleared away last year, and three this; and the volk nowhere to go — no, not so much as a thatched hurdle; that’s the way o’ Weydon-Priors.” [Chapter One, page 17 in serial; volume, pp. 3-4]

Commentary: Detailism in the Opening Flashback

By THOMAS HARDY, Author of “Far from the Madding Crowd,” “A Pair of Blue Eyes,” &c. &c. [17]

Although Barnes does not suggest the couple's weariness and dust-covered dishabille, he has paid careful attention to such details of costume as young Henchard's buttoned gaiters and labourer's boots, as well as to the various types of vegetation in the rural backdrop, in full leaf as is appropriate to end of summer. Henchard's brown corduroy jacket, breeches, tanned leggings, and black-glazed straw hat are all here, as is his rush basket with protruding hay-knife.

Susan, again true to the text, seems "pretty, even handsome" (17) as she looks down at her infant. That the worn-out trio have approached the outskirts of Weydon-Priors is suggested by the building to the extreme left. Henchard waves towards the village with his "sheet of ballads" (surprisingly small in Barnes' rendering, but significant as signifiers of Henchard's being literate) as he questions the phlegmatic turnip-hoer (his implement on his shoulder, but his dinner bag not visible). Already the skeptical hoer has begun to nod his head in the negative in response to the young hay-trusser's query about work. The boots, linen smock-frock, and rumpled hat of the native of Weydon-Priors, although not described in the text, are perfectly consistent with the attire of Dorset labourers of the period of the 1840s, as exhibits in the present Dorset County Museum indicate. Where Barnes has most significantly adjusted Hardy's text to suit his own pictorial sense is in the crisp, clean condition of the wayfarers' clothes. In Barnes' illustration (the first in the series, and on the opening page of The Graphic — and therefore intended to seize the would-be purchaser's attention) Michael and Susan Henchard bear no signs of "the thick hoar of dust which had accumulated on their shoes and clothing" (17), and there is no hint in the illustration of either their "disadvantageous shabbiness" or their near-destitution. They are young, healthy, and clear-complexioned in Barnes's rendering of them.

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.]


Allingham, Philip V. "A Consideration of Robert Barnes' Illustrations for Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge as Serialised in the London Graphic: 2 January-15 May, 1886." Victorian Periodicals Review 28, 1 (Spring 1995): pp. 27-39

Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge. The Graphic 33 (1886).

Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge: A Story of a Man of Character. London: Osgood McIlvaine, 1895.

Jackson, Arlene. "The Mayor of Casterbridge: Realism and Metaphor."Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981. Pp. 96-104.

Created 7 November 2009

Last modified 18 March 2024