We are nearly at the end of our series of posts on the illustrations of Hugh Thompson the Ulster-born artist, for Sense and Sensibility.
This week’s illustrations are all very different, but they all show scenes that happen off -stage. The first is one of my favourites. It shows, in flashback, Mrs Jennings tending to her late but much beloved husband, who so enjoyed a glass of Constantia wine, especially when he was suffering from gout:
In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired, she was soon joined by Mrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass, full of something, in her hand.
“My dear,” said she, entering, “I have just recollected that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house, that ever was tasted — so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poor husband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his old cholicky gout, he said it did him more good than anything else in the world. Do take it to your sister.”
“Dear ma’am,” replied Elinor, smiling at the difference of the complaints for which it was recommended, “how good you are! But I have just left Marianne in bed, and, I hope, almost asleep; and as I think nothing will be of so much service to her as rest, if you will give me leave, I will drink the wine myself.”
Mrs. Jennings, though regretting that she had not been five minutes earlier, was satisfied with the compromise; and Elinor, as she swallowed the chief of it, reflected that, though its good effects on a cholicky gout were at present of little importance to her, its healing powers on a disappointed heart might be as reasonably tried on herself as on her sister.
Mr Jennings looks as if he really is being cosseted by his loving wife, his feet raised on a foot stool to try to ease the pain of the gout. She is treating him to a glass of the sweet dessert wine which used to be (and now still is) made near Cape Town in South Africa. It was a very popular drink in early nineteenth century Engalnd..more on this soon….
The next illustration also shows a scene that is reported to us: that when he still thought quite well of him , Sir John Middleton had offered Willoughby one of Folly’s puppies. Sir John on hearing that Willoughby was indeed a blackguard had a reaction that only he could have :
Her carefulness in guarding her sister from ever hearing Willoughby’s name mentioned, was not thrown away. Marianne, though without knowing it herself, reaped all its advantage; for neither Mrs. Jennings, nor Sir John, nor even Mrs. Palmer herself, ever spoke of him before her. Elinor wished that the same forbearance could have extended towards herself, but that was impossible, and she was obliged to listen day after day to the indignation of them all.
Sir John could not have thought it possible. “A man of whom he had always had such reason to think well! Such a good-natured fellow! He did not believe there was a bolder rider in England! It was an unaccountable business. He wished him at the devil with all his heart. He would not speak another word to him, meet him where he might, for all the world! No, not if it were to be by the side of Barton covert, and they were kept waiting for two hours together. Such a scoundrel of a fellow! such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met that he had offered him one of Folly’s puppies! and this was the end of it!”
Here we have Sir John with his rather servile looking groom, chatting amiably to Willoughby ,about the next litter one of his hounds. Typical of Jane Austen, she reveals the essential nature of the man in his enthusiasms. Sir John is a typical country gentleman who no doubt hunted, shot and fished. His disgust at Willoughby’s behaviour, is now revealed, and is couched in his own terms of reference. Folly’s puppy had, in his opinion, a great escape, comparable to Marianne’s. And this is of course not the first time Sir John reacted in this way. When asked by Marianne about Willoughby’s character when they first met, Sir John could only wax lyrical about Willoughby’s pointer:
And is that all you can say for him?” cried Marianne, indignantly. “But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents and genius?”
Sir John was rather puzzled.
“Upon my soul,” said he, “I do not know much about him as to all that. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest little black bitch of a pointer I ever saw. Was she out with him to-day?”
But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby’s pointer than he could describe to her the shades of his mind.
The third and final illustration this week, is another humorous one:
“Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Jennings, “and how did you travel?”
“Not in the stage, I assure you,” replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation; “we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we’d join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did.”
“Oh, oh!” cried Mrs. Jennings; “very pretty, indeed! and the Doctor is a single man, I warrant you.”
“There now,” said Miss Steele, affectedly simpering, “everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest; but for my part I declare I never think about him from one hour’s end to another. ‘Lord! here comes your beau, Nancy,’ my cousin said t’other day, when she saw him crossing the street to the house. ‘My beau, indeed!’ said I, ‘I cannot think who you mean. The Doctor is no beau of mine.'”
“Aye, aye, that is very pretty talking — but it won’t do — the Doctor is the man, I see.”
“No, indeed!” replied her cousin, with affected earnestness, “and I beg you will contradict it, if you ever hear it talked of.”
Mrs. Jennings directly gave her the gratifying assurance that she certainly would not , and Miss Steele was made completely happy.
I love the simpering Nancy and the ever so slightly disapproving Lucy in this illustration. It has a lively feel, with the ostler’s men taking down the luggage from the post-chaise behind them. As ever I feel that Thompson works best when he can illustrate an amusing passage. What do you think?