Today we reach the end of our marathon series of posts, reading through Sense and Sensibility while studying Hugh Thomson’s interesting illustrations for the novel, which was first published by Macmillan in 1904. Do remember all the illustrations here can be enlarged, in order that you can examine the detail, simply by clicking on them.
For today’s final tranche of illustrations Mr Thomson is forced to confront some of the most dramatic moments in the novel. During thisseries, we have discerned that he is more at ease with those incidents in the novel that require a lighter touch, and that he much seems to prefer to illustrate the amusing incident in the book. But this week he has no option but to concentrate on the results of the abrupt ending ofMarianne and Willoughby’s affair, and with the unexpected climax to the novel with Willoughby’s sudden appearance at Cleveland, after hearing that Marianne was desperately ill.
Our first illustration shows Elinor discovering that someone had suddenly arrived at the house, quite late,on a dark and stormy night, in Chapter 43:
The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been convinced that at that moment she heard a carriage driving up to the house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did , in spite of the almostimpossibility of their being already come, that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window-shutter, to be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother’s alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.
This illustration seems to have been more laboured than others.The figure of Elinor does not look as accomplished as other versions of her we have seen executed by Thomson. It is of course, Willoughby, who begs an audience with Elinor:
Elinor, starting back with a look of horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room, and her hand was already on the lock, when its action was suspended by his hastily advancing, and saying, in a voice rather of command than supplication —
“Miss Dashwood, for half an hour — for ten minutes — I entreat you to stay.”
The illustrations now come think and fast…during Willoughby’s explanation to Elinor of his behaviour to Marianne ,and the consequences for him of displeasing Mrs Smith when she discovered he had seduced and impregnated Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza. Thompson gives us a view of Mrs Smith’s dismissal of the cad, upon his refusal to marry the girl:
“She taxed me with the offence, at once, and my confusion may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality of her notions, her ignorance of the world — everything was against me. The matter itself I could not deny, and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my conduct in general, and was moreover discontented with the very little attention, the very little portion of my time that I had bestowed on her, in my present visit. In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I might have saved myself. In the height of her morality, good woman! she offered to forgive the past if I would marry Eliza. That could not be — and I was formally dismissed from her favour and her house.
We also see him in Mayfair, explaining how calculated he had to be in order to avoid a meeting with Mrs Jennings and the Dashwood sisters by dashing into any nearby shop:
You would be surprised to hear how often I watched you, how often I was on the point of falling in with you. I have entered many a shop to avoid your sight, as the carriage drove by. Lodging as I did in Bond Street, there was hardly a day in which I did not catch a glimpse of one or other of you; and nothing but the most constant watchfulness on my side, a most invariably prevailing desire to keep out of your sight, could have separated us so long.
So, here we have Thomson finally confronting drama: Willoughby looks very soft, and not as agitated as his speech to Elinor would suggest. I do however like the desperate stance and expression on his face as he darts into Bond Street shops to avoid a face to face meeting with Marrianne….and the contrast with his smart London clothes as opposed to his country garb.
The dramatic climax of the story over,Thomson turns to happier subjects: Marianne’s plan for restoring her health and peace of mind , back at Barton:
“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton Cross, and theAbbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading, at the Park; and there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours aday, I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want.”
But not all the drama is completely over. We have the awful moment to come when the Dashwood ladies suppose that Edward Ferrars has finally married Lucy Steele, all due to them misunderstanding and misinterpreting their manservant’s news:
Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as to the event of his errand, this was his voluntary communication —
“I suppose you know ma’am, that Mr. Ferrars is married.”
Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servant’s inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.
The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood’sassistance, supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself: and Elinor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.
Mrs Dashwood looks genuinely distressed as she takes some food from the proffered dish, and of course, while this moment is tragic fromElinor’s point of view it also has tones of the darkly comic. I can quite comprehend why Thomson chose this incident.
However, luckily for Elinor and the reader’s sake, we soon see Edward Ferrars appear on the scene, on his rather lovely horse:
Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she should hear more; — and she trembled in expectation of it. But — it was not Colonel Brandon — neither his air — nor his height. Were it possible, she should say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted; — she could not be mistaken; — it was Edward. She moved away and sat down. “He comes from Mr. Pratt’s purposely to see us. I will be calm; I will be mistress of myself.”
Of course, it might be said that this is the least dramatic view of the incident: the confusion in the household and Elinor’s reaction would have been a more dramatic choice to illustrate.Instead we get Edward and his steed.
The final illustration in the book is from Chapter 50, and does not show the two newly married couples. No, instead Thompson chooses to show Elinor again being rather insulted by her odious step brother John Dashwood, who really and truly regrets not being able to call Colonel Brandon,”Brother” but only for purely materialistic considerations, and who wants her to orchestrate an alliance between Marianne and the poor man:
“I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister,” said John, as they were walking together one morning before the gates of DelafordHouse — “that would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, everything in such respectable and excellent condition! and his woods! I have not seen such timber any where in Dorsetshire, as there is now standing inDelaford Hanger! And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him, yet I think it would altogether beadviseable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen — for, when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else — and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth; in short, you may as well give her a chance — You understand me.”
John’s wish is eventually granted:
With such a confederacy against her — with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness — with a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after it was observable to everybody else, burst on her — what could she do?
And so we end our series on Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for this fascinating novel.
I do hope you have enjoyed looking at the intricacies of his work. Next, some posts on Joan Hassell who illustrated the Folio Society’s editions of Jane Austen’s works.