Headpiece, "Let not the flowers of spring pass us by let us crown ourselves with roses before they be withered." and Initial "T." [C. M. C.], introducing the four lithographic illustrations by Walter Paget (1863-1935). English Illustrated Magazine, December 1891, page 275. Thomas Hardy's "On the Western Circuit," later collected in Life's Little Ironies (1894).

Passage Introduced

The man who played the disturbing part in the two quiet lives hereafter depicted — no great man, in any sense, by the way — first had knowledge of them on an October evening, in the city of Melchester. He had been standing in the Close, vainly endeavouring to gain amid the darkness a glimpse of the most homogeneous pile of mediƦval architecture in England, which towered and tapered from the damp and level sward in front of him. While he stood the presence of the Cathedral walls was revealed rather by the ear than by the eyes; he could not see them, but they reflected sharply a roar of sound which entered the Close by a street leading from the city square, and, falling upon the building, was flung back upon him. — Chapter 1, p. 275.


As in "To Please His Wife," in "On the Western Circuit," also written in 1891, two women of very different social backgrounds are attracted to the same man, but with a markedly contemporary and urban/bourgeois context. Magazine designer "C. M. C." has provided an ornamental headpiece in the Pre-Raphaelite style ("Let not the flowers of spring pass us by let us crown ourselves with roses before they be withered."), an embellished initial "T" (with a cat and two kittens below and a raven above), and a decorative tail-piece, likely at the instigation of editor Clement Shorter. Despite the central role that the lady, Edith Harnham, plays in the romantic triangle, the illustrations focus on her country maid, Anna, and the urban barrister Charles Raye, both of whom may be symbolically suggested in the "Courtly Love" headpiece. It is unclear how involved Hardy was in determining how the ironic love story would be illustrated for periodical readers.

Additional Resources on Hardy's Short Stories


Brady, Kristin. The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982.

Cassis, A. F. "A Note on the Structure of Thomas Hardy's Short Stories." Colby Library Quarterly 10 (1974): 287-296.

Gilmartin, Sophie, and Rod Mengham. Thomas Hardy's Shorter Fiction: A Critical Study. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. P., 2007.

Hardy, Thomas. Life's Little Ironies, A Set of Tales, with Some Colloquial Sketches Entitled "A Few Crusted Characters". Illustrated by Henry Macbeth-Raeburn. Volume Fourteen in the Complete Uniform Edition of the Wessex Novels. London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1894, rpt. 1896.

Hardy, Thomas. "On the Western Circuit." The English Illustrated Magazine. December 1891, pages 275-288.

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

Johnson, Trevor. "Illustrated Versions of Hardy's Works: A Checklist, 1872-1992." Thomas Hardy Journal 9, 3 (October, 1993): 32-46.

Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.

Page, Norman. "Hardy Short Stories: A Reconsideration." Studies in Short Fiction 11, 1 (Winter, 1974): 75-84.

Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Macmillan, 1968.

Purdy, Richard L. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954, rpt. 1978.

Quinn, Marie A. "Thomas Hardy and the Short Story." Budmouth Essays on Thomas Hardy: Papers Presented at the 1975 Summer School (Dorchester: Thomas Hardy Society, 1976), pp. 74-85.

Ray, Martin. Chapter 22, "'On the Western Circuit'." Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997. Pp. 201-217.

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

Last modified 10 February 2017