Last week we learnt a little of the life of Hugh Thomson, the Ulster born artist who was one of the most influential illustrators of Jane Austen’s works. In this year of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility, I thought you might like to see all his illustrations for that book, and this is the first of  ten posts I will be writing about them.

All the illustrations have been taken from my copy of Sense and Sensibility – the cover of which is shown above – which was published by Macmillan in 1911. Hugh Thomson began his work on the series of illustrations of Jane Austen’s works for Macmillan in summer of 1895. It was first published, along with an edition of Emma also illustrated by Mr Thomson in 1896.

M. H. Spiellman who wrote the memoir of Hugh Thomson, Hugh Thomson: his art, his letters,his humour and his charm, with Walter Jerrold wrote of his preparation for illustrating the Austen novels:

For about two years the artist may be said to have lived in those social circles so delicately and humorously set forward by the novels( of Jane Austen,jfw)-and to have depicted them with a delicacy and a humour akin to her own.

The first illustration,which we have discussed before, is from Volume 1,Chapter 1, and is used as the illustration to the frontispiece of my edition of the novel.

This is the passage from Chapter One that it illustrates:

The old Gentleman died; his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew; but he left it to him on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son; but to his son, and his son’s son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision, by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old: an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all the attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to be unkind however, and, as a mark of his affection for the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.

Inserting the reflection of Fanny Dashwood, watching the Old Gentleman becoming very attached to her son, is a very clever little detail, in my view. It paves the way for the comic but truly dreadful exchange between Fanny and her husband John when they interpret exactly what  financial arrangements they were compelled to honour as a result of John’s deathbed promise to his father. Chapter 2 of the novel is almost wholly taken up with their reasoning away their responsibilities, and part of the debate  is illustrated here:

To be sure it will. Indeed, to say the truth, I am convinced within myself that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all. The assistance he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season. I’ll lay my life that he meant nothing farther; indeed, it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did. Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a-year a-piece, and, of course, they will pay their mother for their board out of it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a-year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expences of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a-year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.”

And, of course, as a result of having no carriage, no horses, hardly any servants and being dependant on others for a home, Fanny very carefully fails to mention that the Dashwood ladies would have had to lead very constrained lives socially. Not excessively comfortable at all. She is a mistress of spin.

The third and last illustration for this week is from Chapter 6, showing the visit of the disappointingly cold Lady Middleton to the Dashwood ladies on the second day of their living at Barton Cottage :

Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old, by which means there was one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity, for they had to inquire his name and age, admire his beauty, and ask him questions, which his mother answered for him, while he hung about her and held down his head, to the great surprise of her ladyship, who wondered at his being so shy before company, as he could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either; for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of the others.


The illustration gives a hint as to the deficiencies of Lady Middleton in her profession as A Mother, something we experience later in the novel when we meet the other members of her brood. The looks on the faces of Elinor and Marianne speak volumes, don’t you think?