decorated initial 'A's Hardy's correspondence from 1880 makes plain, George du Maurier was not in fact his first choice as illustrator for the Harper's New Monthly Magazine serialisation of A Laodicean. On 4 June, 1880, he wrote directly to the bride of poet William Allingham, Helen Paterson Allingham, the illustrator of Far From the Madding Crowd in its Cornhill serialisation, enquiring as to whether she were interested in providing a similar pictorial programme for "a serial story of mine that will begin in the Autumn of this year in a prominent American Magazine" (Letters I: 73). Hardy implies that the quality of her work will play a part in Harper's achieving its aim of achieving "an English circulation equal to that of our native magazines" (74). Not merely to flatter her but certainly to induce her to take the commission, Hardy notes that "The payment would be liberal; & my great admiration for your drawings induces me to address you in hope that you may be able to undertake the work." As editors Richard L. Purdy and Michael Millgate add at the foot of Hardy's letter, she replied the next day, declining his "flattering invitation" because "she had entirely given up book illustration" (74). On 11 June, 1880, Hardy proposed to Harper and Brothers that George du Maurier be awarded the commission, indicating he has already approached the artist himself:

As I felt, with you, that it would be important that the [new] English edition should start with every possible advantage in the way of an artist, I applied to Mr. George du Maurier (who has often told me he would like to illustrate another story of mine) & who, as you are aware, is by far the most popular illustrator here — especially since he has achieved such wide celebrity by his "English society at home" sketches, reprinted in Punch. He agrees to do the drawings, provided I can instruct him soon for the early ones. [Letters I, 74]

In his previous letters to Harper and Brothers regarding A Laodicean (16 April, 1880) Hardy had promised to "furnish the artist with hints, rough sketches &c. Precisely as I should do for an English magazine" (72), but the artist he had had in mind at that point seems to have been Helen Paterson Allingham and not George du Maurier. In the 11 June, 1880, letter to his American publishers, Hardy proposes that they remunerate du Maurier at twenty guineas for each of the thirteen large drawings required for the wood- photogravure process. Hardy informed du Maurier in a letter dated 22 June, 1880, of Harper's decision (just received via telegram from New York) of the publisher's awarding of the commission to him, promising to give the artist "a photograph or two for the chief characters" (76) when they lunch together at the Savile Club in London. On 12 July, 1880, Hardy, acceding to Du Maurier's request, proposes to Henry Harper that they have lunch at the artist's house in order "to see the grouping of his drawing for the story, before he finishes it off" (76). Presumably, this was the drawing for the initial plate, which du Maurier has produced after reading the first instalment in manuscript. By 10 September, Hardy was already returning the corrected proofs for Part I of the novel to Richard Rogers Bowker, Harper and Brothers’s London representative, and promising to forward the corrected proofs for Parts II and III by September 20th. On September 16th Hardy wrote Bowker about providing proofs of Part III for Du Maurier. Although Hardy's correspondence with Bowker throughout the period of August, 1880, to October, 1881, deals exclusively with proofs and revises of the various monthly parts of A Laodicean, he ventures no criticism of du Maurier's work.

Conclusions about du Maurier's Ethelberta and Laodicean Illustrations

Given his choice of holiday destinations, du Maurier's utilizing seashore settings in five out of twenty-two pictures (plates 2, 7, 10; and vignettes 9 and 10) is hardly surprising in The Hand of Ethelberta (1876). In the same serial he has a drawing room as the backdrop for four out of twenty-two pictures (plates 4, 5, and 9; and vignette 6). Five years later, du Maurier shifted his preference from exterior or outdoor scenes, of which there are five (plates 3, 7, 11, 12, and 13), to interior or indoor scenes, of which there are eight (plates 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10), mostly of fashionable interiors, drawing- rooms and dining-rooms in particular. Jackson contends that du Maurier did not favour doing scenes of two people conversing (in contradiction to the author whom he illustrated); however, the plates in these novels suggest that he favoured scenes involving the romantic hero and heroine. In The Hand of Ethelberta, the eponymous character is in ten of the eleven full-size plates; in A Laodicean, Paula Power appears in eleven out of thirteen plates. Although Julian Christopher is not so significant a figure in the 1876 novel, in whose eleven full-size illustrations he appears but three times, the romantic male lead in A Laodicean is featured nine times--all but one of the plates in which he does not occur feature Somerset's romantic rival, Captain de Stancy, and the object of their affections, Paula. Two of the eleven Ethelberta plates contain six or more figures, du Maurier's preference in that novel being scenes of two figures (seven out of eleven full-size plates), whereas seven out of the thirteen Laodicean plates contain seven or more figures, and only three plates two figures each. Thus, over the course of five years as his eyesight failed, du Maurier shifted his narrative-pictorial interests from scenes of dialogue containing two figures towards scenes in which the speakers are observed by or interact with a number of other characters

Related Masterials


The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Eds. Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978. Vol. One: 1840-1890.

Last modified 11 May 2001