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Back from holiday, still mesmerised by the bonkers but brilliant Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, I thought you might all enjoy looking at these two films about Hugh Thomson. He, of course, illustrated all six of Jane Austen’s novels at the turn of the last century. He created the most beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice, and my posts about his life and his work on Sense and Sensibility, which I wrote last year, still remain very popular with visitors to this site.

The first film is a short overview of Thomson’s life and works produced by Culture Northern Ireland, presented by Helen Perry:

The second is a longer and a very informative and detailed film on the life and works of Thomson, again presented and narrated by Helen Perry.  It concentrates on examining some of the 700 of  Thomson’s works which were recently  purchased for the Coleraine Museum with help for the Heritage Lottery fund.

If you go here you can also explore part of the Thomson archive for yourselves: 71 of his illustrations, book bindings and letters etc., are available to online visitors via the Coleraine Museum’s website. No Jane Austen illustrations are included as yet, but the exhibits are  interesting despite this, and I particularly admired the sumptuous  binding for Cranford by Mrs Gaskell.

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.”

Chapter 44

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. 

Chapter 44.

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.”

Chapter 46

This is a very sweet illustration showing the Dashwood sisters talking to the children who live at the nearby farm. Classic Thomson territory, as we have discovered.

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.

Chapter 47

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.”

Chapter 48

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.

This week we have a varied and interesting group of illustrations to consider. The first, above, from Chapter 38, illustrates Nancy Steele’s conversation with Elinor Dashwood in Kensington Gardens after all has been discovered. And of course, all was discovered due to her attempt to tell Fanny Dashwood all about Lucy and Edward:

“I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do anything else for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and put in the feather last night. There now, you are going to laugh at me too. But why should not I wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it is the Doctor’s favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he did like it better than any other colour, if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me! I declare sometimes I do not know which way to look before them.”

Chapter 38

I confess that, to me, the choice of subject is odd: why, amongst all this drama -Lucy raging,Nancy being cowed, possibly, – did Thompson decide to show Lucy placidly trimming a bonnet for Nancy? It’s a pretty picture, but an odd choice, in my humble opinion.

The next is far more apt: it shows Nancy Steele’s prefered information gathering technique: listening at doors.

“No indeed! not us. La! Miss Dashwood, do you think people make love when anybody else is by? Oh! for shame? — To be sure you must know better than that.” (Laughing affectedly.) — “No, no; they were shut up in the drawing-room together, and all I heard was only by listening at the door.

Chapter 38

Upright Elinor is appalled by her behaviour, but we are amused. I think this illustration -again a comic incident in the plot- suits Mr Thompson’s style. He is far happier showing the comic and not the tragic,as ew have discovered. This week’s illustrations certianly reflect that discovery.

The next picture is perfect: it illustrates the moment when Mrs Jennings and Elinor finally begin to understand each other, at a point in their friendship where neither is ready to take offense. Mrs Jennings has assumed that all the comings and goings with Colonel Brandon are indications that he wants to marry Elinor, and is courting her, not that he is kindly giving the impoverished Edward Ferrars the  living at Delaford. Elinor has to correct her. The result is “considerable amusement” .

“My dear ma’am,” said Elinor, “what can you be thinking of? — Why, Colonel Brandon’s only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars.”

“Lord bless you, my dear! — Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!” The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation immediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusement for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, for Mrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another, and still without forfeiting her expectation of the first.

Chapter 40

A darkly comic moment also succeeds: this illustrates the moment Elinor received a very backhanded compliment from John Dashwood. He imports to her the rather insulting news that Mrs Ferrars would have been far less vexed had Edward marry Elinor and not become engaged to Lucy. How charming are this section of the Ferrars family.

“Of one thing, my dear sister,” kindly taking her hand, and speaking in an awful whisper — “I may assure you: and I will do it, because I know it must gratify you. I have good reason to think — indeed I have it from the best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwise it would be very wrong to say anything about it — but I have it from the very best authority — not that I ever precisely heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself but her daughter did , and I have it from her — That, in short, whatever objections there might be against a certain — a certain connection — you understand me — it would have been far preferable to her, it would not have given her half the vexation that this does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light — a very gratifying circumstance, you know, to us all. ‘It would have been beyond comparison,’ she said, ‘the least evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound now for nothing worse.’ But, however, all that is quite out of the question — not to be thought of or mentioned; as to any attachment, you know — it never could be — all that is gone by. But I thought I would just tell you of this, because I knew how much it must please you. Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well — quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately?

Chapter 41

Elinor’s expression says it all…..and the sycophantic nature of John Dashwod is also revealed in his stance. The sting on the tail being that he and the Dashwoods are attempting to be pleasant to Elinor now they think that she might be on the point of marrying the well-to-do Colonel Bradnon.  Disgusting toads.

The next illustration is again a puzzling one: in the midst of the passage from Chapter 42 about Marianne Dashwood torturing herself by walking  about the grounds of Cleveland to catch a glimpse of Willoughby’s home, Thompson decided to ignore the drama and draw a sweet picture of Charlotte Palmer showing her baby to her housekeeper.  All technically fine but ignoring the main drama at this point in the story is a baffling decision to me. I think it does show that Thompson was far more comfortable dealing with pleasant or comic scenes. And of course Jane Austen’s stories can be thought to contain only those,but , as we know, they offer far more to the careful reader than that. And in this case not even the careful reader, as the main part of the text is concerned very much with Marianne Dashwood and her sufferings, self inflicted or otherwise:

Marianne entered the house with an heart swelling with emotion from the consciousness of being only eighty miles from Barton, and not thirty from Combe Magna; and before she had been five minutes within its walls, while the others were busily helping Charlotte shew her child to the housekeeper, she quitted it again, stealing away through the winding shrubberies, now just beginning to be in beauty, to gain a distant eminence; where, from its Grecian temple, her eye, wandering over a wide tract of country to the south-east, could fondly rest on the farthest ridge of hills in the horizon, and fancy that from their summits Combe Magna might be seen.

Chapter 42

The last picture is, I suppose, justified in the text.  Charlotte Palmer is, of course, a hopeless mistress of her home, finding everything too amusing for rational thought, and on her return from London she listens to her gardener’s Lamentations Upon Blights – for we gardeners always have lamentations, but especially about blights-with much amusement and very little comprehension.

She returned just in time to join the others as they quitted the house, on an excursion through its more immediate premises; and the rest of the morning was easily whiled away, in lounging round the kitchen garden, examining the bloom upon its walls, and listening to the gardener’s lamentations upon blights, — in dawdling through the green-house, where the loss of her favourite plants, unwarily exposed, and nipped by the lingering frost, raised the laughter of Charlotte, — and in visiting her poultry-yard, where in the disappointed hopes of her dairy-maid, by hens forsaking their nests, or being stolen by a fox, or in the rapid decease of a promising young brood, she found fresh sources of merriment.

Chapter 42

And that ends what I think will be the penultimate post in this series. Next week, the final tranche.

Let us resume our series looking in depth at Hugh Thompson’s illustrations for the Macmillan edition of Sense and Sensibility. We are nearing the end of this series and then will continue looking at other illustrated editions of Sense and Sensibility, in order to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its first publication. Do remember that all the illustrations can be enlarged simply by clicking on them, in order to examine the detail.

Our first illustration this week is from Chapter 36, and shows the point when poor Elinor is introduced to Robert Ferrars by  her half brother, John Dashwood, and Elinor recognises him to be the dandy who was ordering a fancy toothpick holder at Greys, the jewellers in Sackville Street. This gave her her first opportunity to compare Edward with his younger brother. The comparisons she drew were not very flattering to Mr Robert:

Mr. Dashwood introduced him to her as Mr. Robert Ferrars.

   He addressed her with easy civility, and twisted his head into a bow which assured her as plainly as words could have done, that he was exactly the coxcomb she had heard him described to be by Lucy. Happy had it been for her if her regard for Edward had depended less on his own merit, than on the merit of his nearest relations! For then his brothers bow must have given the finishing stroke to what the ill-humour of his mother and sister would have begun. But while she wondered at the difference of the two young men, she did not find that the emptiness and conceit of the one, put her at all out of charity with the modesty and worth of the other. Why they were different, Robert explained to her himself in the course of a quarter of an hour’s conversation; for, talking of his brother, and lamenting the extreme gaucherie which he really believed kept him from mixing in proper society, he candidly and generously attributed it much less to any natural deficiency, than to the misfortune of a private education; while he himself, though probably without any particular, any material superiority by nature, merely from the advantage of a public school, was as well fitted to mix in the world as any other man.

The body language is quite fascinating in this picture: John Dashwood is portrayed as extremely proud and sensible of the great compliment he is paying to Elinor by introducing the “fabulous family favourite”, Robert to her. Robert is hardly making a “scrape” , the insolent fool that he is, and Elinor is  very glad to be hiding behind her fan….

Note that this illustration was used as the page facing the frontispiece of my edition, and is therefore edged in red ink, unlike the other illustrations, in order to fit in with the design of those two pages.

Our next illustration is from Chapter 37, and shows the moment Mrs Jennings is made aware, by Mr Donovan, Mrs Palmer’s surgeon that Mrs Fanny Dashwood was ill due to shock brought on by her discovery Lucy and Edward’s secret engagement:

 So then it all came out; and the long and the short of the matter, by all I can learn, seems to be [this]: — Mr. Edward Ferrars, the very young man I used to joke with you about (but, however, as it turns out, I am monstrous glad there never was any thing in it), Mr. Edward Ferrars, it seems, has been engaged above this twelvemonth to my cousin Lucy! — There’s for you, my dear! — And not a creature knowing a syllable of the matter except Nancy! — Could you have believed such a thing possible? — There is no great wonder in their liking one another; but that matters should be brought so forward between them, and nobody suspect it! 

What price patient confidentiality?!! How times have changed. I love Mrs Jennings stance in this illustration. She seems to have stopped in mid movement, hardly able to belive what Mr Donovan is telling her.

The next illustration, again from Chapter 37 continues this part of the story: it shows John Dashwood calling on Elinor and Marianne to tell them of Lucy’s perfidy:

and paying them back handed compliments to boot:

“Your sister,” he continued, “has suffered dreadfully. Mrs. Ferrars too — in short, it has been a scene of such complicated distress; but I will hope that the storm may be weathered without our being, any of us, quite overcome. Poor Fanny! she was in hysterics all yesterday. But I would not alarm you too much. Donavan says there is nothing materially to be apprehended; her constitution is a good one, and her resolution equal to anything. She has borne it all, with the fortitude of an angel! She says she never shall think well of anybody again; and one cannot wonder at it, after being so deceived! — meeting with such ingratitude, where so much kindness had been shewn, so much confidence had been placed! It was quite out of the benevolence of her heart, that she had asked these young women to her house; merely because she thought they deserved some attention, were harmless, well-behaved girls, and would be pleasant companions; for otherwise we both wished very much to have invited you and Marianne to be with us, while your kind friend there was attending her daughter. And now to be so rewarded! ‘I wish with all my heart,’ says poor Fanny in her affectionate way, ‘that we had asked your sisters instead of them.'”

Here we have John Dashwood being so self important, and so very serious.  Can you just see that in his stance? So indignant ! Taking Mrs Ferrars side in her stupid  and crude attempts to force Edward’s hand with the prospect of an estate in Norfolk if he would renounce Lucy and marry Miss Moreton, then in the end preparing to disinherit Edward to the benefit  of Robert, who was after all her favourite son:

“Well!” said Mrs. Jennings, “that is her revenge. Everybody has a way of their own. But I don’t think mine would be to make one son independent because another had plagued me.”


Our fourth and final illustration this week, again from Chapter 37, is of news related to us by John Dashwood:

If he would only have done as well by himself,” said John Dashwood, “as all his friends were disposed to do by him, he might now have been in his proper situation, and would have wanted for nothing. But as it is, it must be out of anybody’s power to assist him. And there is one thing more preparing against him, which must be worse than all — his mother has determined, with a very natural kind of spirit, to settle thatestate upon Robert immediately, which might have been Edward’s on proper conditions. I left her this morning with her lawyer, talking over the business.”

It shows the dreadful Mrs Ferrars in conversation with her attorney, cutting Edward out of the Ferrars family fortune, which she was well able to do, having been left her husbands estates and interests without any legal fetters:

As a lawyer myself I recognise the expression on the attorney’s face…how to do all Mrs Ferrars bidding and wonderful if he had really explained all to her, and that once it was given away legally she could not change her mind etc……

We have three more posts left in the series. I promise that I will post one each week over the next three weeks,and apologise that other matters have taken precedence recently.


at Bonhams auction house in New York on the 22nd June in a sale of 20th century original book and magazine illustrations.


It is in fact one of the illustrations we have already discussed in our series on Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility. ( go here to see). Entitled Offered Him One of Folly’s Puppys, it shows Sir John Middleton offering Willoughby ( boo-hiss) one of the puppies recently brought forth by his favourite dog. The groom or huntsman is shown holding the tiny pup. The illustration was first drawn in 1896, and was included in Macmillan’s edition of the novel. Do click on the illustration to enlarge it and appreciate the fine and delicious detail.

It is being offered in a Lot with one more illustration by Hugh Thomson, Oi Goes to Market wi’ Vather’s Hay, but this is not related to Jane Austen. The estimate for the Lot of two illustrations is $800-1200 USD and I must admit I’m tempted at that price. Go here to see the auctioneer’s details of the lot, and here to see the details of the sale as a whole.

The catalogue’s contents, as a whole,  makes my mouth water, I have to admit! On offer are some of Hans Christian Anderson’s famed silhouettes,


a marvellous “hollyhock” by Walter Crane from his book Flora’s Feast, and Ernest Shepherd ‘s Winnie the Pooh ( the companion of my childhood!) amongst other treasures.

I’ll keep an eye out for the results…..and let you know if I bid!

Our selection of Hugh Thomson’s illustration this week include some of his best efforts, in my very humble opinion.

The first is of that dreadful creation, John Dashwood, seeing his half sisters into Mrs Jennings’ carriage in Sackville Street. He is clearly only interested in meeting Mrs Jennings because she is rich. Odious man.

John Dashwood was really far from being sorry to see his sisters again; it rather gave them satisfaction; and his inquiries after their mother were respectful and attentive.

 Elinor found that he and Fanny had been in town two days.

 “I wished very much to call upon you yesterday,” said he, “but it was impossible, for we were obliged to take Harry to see the wild beasts at Exeter Exchange: and we spent the rest of the day with Mrs. Ferrars. Harry was vastly pleased. This morning I had fully intended to call on you, if I could possibly find a spare half-hour, but one has always so much to do on first coming to town. I am come here to bespeak Fanny a seal. But to-morrow I think I shall certainly be able to call in Berkeley Street, and be introduced to your friend Mrs. Jennings. I understand she is a woman of very good fortune. And the Middletons too, you must introduce me to them . As my mother-in-law’s relations, I shall be happy to shew them every respect. They are excellent neighbours to you in the country, I understand.”

 “Excellent indeed. Their attention to our comfort, their friendliness in every particular, is more than I can express.”

 “I am extremely glad to hear it, upon my word; extremely glad indeed. But so it ought to be; they are people of large fortune, they are related to you, and every civility, and accommodation that can serve to make your situation pleasant, might be reasonably expected. And so you are most comfortably settled in your little cottage and want for nothing! Edward brought us a most charming account of the place; the most complete thing of its kind, he said, that ever was, and you all seemed to enjoy it beyond anything. It was a great satisfaction to us to hear it, I assure you.”

 Elinor did feel a little ashamed of her brother; and was not sorry to be spared the necessity of answering him, by the arrival of Mrs. Jennings’s servant, who came to tell her that his mistress waited for them at the door.

 Mr. Dashwood attended them down stairs, was introduced to Mrs. Jennings at the door of her carriage, and repeating his hope of being able to call on them the next day, took leave.

Chapter 33.

The next illustration shows that meeting taking place….

His visit was duly paid. He came with a pretence at an apology from their sister-in-law, for not coming too; “but she was so much engaged with her mother, that really she had no leisure for going any where.” Mrs. Jennings, however, assured him directly, that she should not stand upon ceremony, for they were all cousins, or something like it, and she should certainly wait on Mrs. John Dashwood very soon, and bring her sisters to see her. His manners to them , though calm, were perfectly kind; to Mrs. Jennings, most attentively civil; and on Colonel Brandon’s coming in soon after himself, he eyed him with a curiosity which seemed to say, that he only wanted to know him to be rich to be equally civil to him .

Chapter 33

This is a masterly passage. Mrs Jennings’ uncomplicated kindness  is expressed perfectly in her statement that ” they were all cousins or something like that”… friendly and cordial relationships are what matter to her not the depth of someone’s pocket. And Thomson portrays this genial openness very well in the illustration,above.  For John Dashwood being kind and genial depended very much upon the material worth of the company before him. He is only now using his relationship with his sisters to expand his acquaintance of wealthy people. He really is detestable.


And talking of detestible…here we see that dreadful woman, Mrs Ferrars, who truly  is a sour, dried up, bitter fruit.

Mrs. Ferrars was a little, thin woman, upright, even to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect. Her complexion was sallow: and her features small, without beauty, and naturally without expression: but a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong characters of pride and ill-nature. She was not a woman of many words: for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas; and of the few syllables that did escape her, not one fell to the share of Miss Dashwood, whom she eyed with the spirited determination of disliking her at all events.

Chapter 34

This is  one of Thomson’s best illustrations in the book. He has captured this proud and hateful woman’s character perfectly.

And finally we see the sweet innocent nature of Marianne,perfectly captured in this illustration, who simply cannot understand why Edward wants to leave Elinor’s company. Whereas we know exactly why Edward just wants to run as fast as he can……to be as far away as possible from the woman with whom he is secretly engaged, Lucy, and the woman he truly loves….   Just look at the tension in Edward’s shoulders…

“Going so soon!” said Marianne; “my dear Edward, this must not be.”

   And drawing him a little aside, she whispered her persuasion that Lucy could not stay much longer. But even this encouragement failed, for he would go; and Lucy, who would have outstaid him had his visit lasted two hours, soon afterwards went away.

   “What can bring her here so often!” said Marianne, on her leaving them. “Could she not see that we wanted her gone! How teasing to Edward!”

   “Why so? — we were all his friends, and Lucy has been the longest known to him of any. It is but natural that he should like to see her as well as ourselves.”

   Marianne looked at her steadily, and said, “You know, Elinor, that this is a kind of talking which I cannot bear. If you only hope to have your assertion contradicted, as I must suppose to be the case, you ought to recollect that I am the last person in the world to do it. I cannot descend to be tricked out of assurances that are not really wanted.”

   She then left the room; and Elinor dared not follow her to say more, for bound as she was by her promise of secrecy to Lucy, she could give no information that would convince Marianne; and painful as the consequences of her still continuing in an error might be, she was obliged to submit to it. All that she could hope, was that Edward would not often expose her or himself to the distress of hearing Marianne’s mistaken warmth, nor to the repetition of any other part of the pain that had attended their recent meeting — and this she had every reason to expect.

Chapter 35.

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.

Chapter 30.

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.

Chapter 9.

The third and final illustration this week, is another humorous one:

Here we have a glimpse of Nancy Steele’s “beau”, The Doctor, Dr Davies,who had accompanied Nancy and Lucy to London in a postchaise:

 “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?

This week we reach the high point of this passionate tale of first loves…but before we see poor Marianne at that terrible moment when she is about to be snubbed by Willoughby, we must first meet Elinor’s nemeis,Lucy Steele.

The first illustration this week is of the incident in Chapter 22 when Lucy reveals that she is engaged to Edward Ferrars:

   “I dare say you are, and I am sure I do not at all wonder at it. But if I dared tell you all, you would not be so much surprised. Mrs. Ferrars is certainly nothing to me at present — but the time may come — how soon it will come must depend upon herself — when we may be very intimately connected.”

   She looked down as she said this, amiably bashful, with only one side glance at her companion to observe its effect on her.

   “Good heavens!” cried Elinor, “what do you mean? Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars? Can you be — — ?” And she did not feel much delighted with the idea of such a sister-in-law.

   “No;” replied Lucy, “not to Mr. Robert Ferrars — I never saw him in my life; but,” fixing her eyes upon Elinor, “to his elder brother.”

   What felt Elinor at that moment? Astonishment, that would have been as painful as it was strong, had not an immediate disbelief of the assertion attended it. She turned towards Lucy in silent amazement, unable to divine the reason or object of such a declaration; and though her complexion varied, she stood firm in incredulity, and felt in no danger of an hysterical fit, or a swoon.

Here I think Thomson conveys Lucy’s sly sideways  glance toward Elinor well, but shows Elinor in some distress, putting her hand to her mouth which,  I think , betrays too much of her emotion. Jane Austen makes it quite clear that Elinor does not betray any of her deeply felt feelings,save for her complexion changing colour. What do you think?

The second illustration is from Chapter 24 where Elinor is again being taunted by Lucy, who is really playing with her like a cat with a mouse, telling her all the pertinent details of her engagement with Edward, while Anne Steele, Lady Middleton , Margaret and Mrs Jennings are playing cards neaby. Marrianne is, of course, playing the newly tuned pianoforte and does not hear then over the noise she is producing by playing her powerful, magnificent concerto.  Anne Steel hears them talking of Beaux and interrupts them…

Strangely Thomson only gives half the quote in the illsutration. This is what Mrs Jennings says in full:

 “I can answer for it that Miss Dashwood’s is not,” said Mrs. Jennings, laughing heartily; “for he is one of the modestest, prettiest behaved young men I ever saw. But as for Lucy, she is such a sly little creature, there is no finding out who she likes.”

Poor Elinor would surely have preferred Lucy to have remained silent on this point…..

The last illustration in this week’s article is my favourite of the three, for I think it reveals very subtly, the different reactions of the sisters.; the joy Marianne is feeling,and the caution that rules Elinor. It is of course, that fateful moment at the party  in Chapter 28 when Marianne spots Willoughby and thinks he has at last come to claim her as his own:

They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her, or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her; and then continued his discourse with the same lady. Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her sister caught hold of her.

   “Good heavens!” she exclaimed, “he is there — he is there — Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot I speak to him?”

   “Pray, pray be composed,” cried Elinor, “and do not betray what you feel to everybody present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet.”

Poor Elinor….trying desperately to have Marianne not betray her feelings for Willoughby to the whole room, and poor Marianne who is just about to have her heart broken not a thousand tiny pieces…..

The latest tranche of Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility are an interesting bunch. The first is a complex drawing and portrays for more than the quotation,

“I declare they are quite charming”

suggests. Mrs Palmer is referring to the drawings adorning the room in Barton Cottage where she and Mr Palmer have just been brought to meet the Dashwoods. If you will allow  I’ll quote the passage in full for you, below so that you can judge the complexity of the drawing for yourself.


“You may believe how glad we all were to see them,” added Mrs. Jennings, leaning forwards towards Elinor, and speaking in a low voice as if she meant to be heard by no one else, though they were seated on different sides of the room; “but, however, I can’t help wishing they had not travelled quite so fast, nor made such a long journey of it, for they came all round by London upon account of some business, for you know” (nodding significantly and pointing to her daughter) “it was wrong in her situation. I wanted her to stay at home and rest this morning, but she would come with us; she longed so much to see you all!”

Mrs. Palmer laughed, and said it would not do her any harm.

“She expects to be confined in February,” continued Mrs. Jennings.

Lady Middleton could no longer endure such a conversation, and therefore exerted herself to ask Mr. Palmer if there was any news in the paper.

“No, none at all,” he replied, and read on.

“Here comes Marianne,” cried Sir John. “Now, Palmer, you shall see a monstrous pretty girl.”

He immediately went into the passage, opened the front door, and ushered her in himself. Mrs. Jennings asked her, as soon as she appeared, if she had not been to Allenham; and Mrs. Palmer laughed so heartily at the question as to shew she understood it. Mr. Palmer looked up on her entering the room, stared at her some minutes, and then returned to his newspaper. Mrs. Palmer’s eye was now caught by the drawings which hung round the room. She got up to examine them.

“Oh! dear, how beautiful these are! Well, how delightful! Do but look, mama, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming; I could look at them for ever.” And then sitting down again, she very soon forgot that there were any such things in the room.

Chapter 19

Thomson of course , (how could he possibly resist ?) shows us the taciturn Mr Palmer buried in the newspaper, and, or so it seems to me, the conversation Mrs Jennings has with Elinor about her worries for her daughter health during her  pregnancy, quoted  in the passage above. Here, I think Thomson gives us a hint about Mrs Jennings true nature- that she is above all a kind woman, and this is the first hint we have in the text that she is not just a matchmaking gossip.When the chips are down, Mrs Jennings knows how tobe a nurse and a true friend. As the reader will discover much later in the book. I’m glad to see that Thomson gives, in his illustration, a hint to the reader too…

The second illustration really needs no explanation. It shows the sycophantic and  socially ambitious Miss Steeles being tormented by the spoilt and indulged children of Lady Middleton.

When their promised visit to the Park and consequent introduction to these young ladies took place, they found in the appearance of the eldest, who was nearly thirty, with a very plain and not a sensible face, nothing to admire; but in the other, who was not more than two or three and twenty, they acknowledged considerable beauty; her features were pretty, and she had a sharp, quick eye, and a smartness of air, which though it did not give actual elegance or grace, gave distinction to her person. Their manners were particularly civil, and Elinor soon allowed them credit for some kind of sense, when she saw with what constant and judicious attentions they were making themselves agreeable to Lady Middleton. With her children they were in continual raptures, extolling their beauty, courting their notice, and humouring all their whims; and such of their time as could be spared from the importunate demands which this politeness made on it, was spent in admiration of whatever her ladyship was doing, if she happened to be doing anything, or in taking patterns of some elegant new dress, in which her appearance the day before had thrown them into unceasing delight. Fortunately for those who pay their court through such foibles, a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous; her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow anything; and the excessive affection and endurance of the Miss Steeles towards her offspring, were viewed therefore by Lady Middleton without the smallest surprise or distrust. She saw with maternal complacency all the impertinent incroachments and mischievous tricks to which her cousins submitted. She saw their sashes untied, their hair pulled about their ears, their work-bags searched, and their knives and scissars stolen away, and felt no doubt of its being a reciprocal enjoyment. It suggested no other surprise than that Elinor and Marianne should sit so composedly by, without claiming a share in what was passing.

Chapter 21

I do think the Miss Steeles ought to look a little bit more pleased about the shenanigans of the Middleton children….what do you think?

The last illustration for this week is very subtle but good, in my opinion. This is the passage to which it refers:

To do him justice, he (Sir John Middleton-jfw) did everything in his power, to promote their unreserve, by making the Miss Steeles acquainted with whatever he knew or supposed of his cousins’ situations in the most delicate particulars, — and Elinor had not seen them more than twice, before the eldest of them wished her joy on her sister’s having been so lucky as to make a conquest of a very smart beau since she came to Barton.

“‘Twill be a fine thing to have her married so young, to be sure,” said she, “and I hear he is quite a beau, and prodigious handsome. And I hope you may have as good luck yourself soon, — but perhaps you may have a friend in the corner already.”

Elinor could not suppose that Sir John would be more nice in proclaiming his suspicions of her regard for Edward, than he had been with respect to Marianne; indeed it was rather his favourite joke of the two, as being somewhat newer and more conjectural; and since Edward’s visit, they had never dined together, without his drinking to her best affections with so much significancy, and so many nods and winks, as to excite general attention. The letter F — had been likewise invariably brought forward, and found productive of such countless jokes, that its character as the wittiest letter in the alphabet had been long established with Elinor.

Chapter 21

SIr John is shown at the head of his table , throughly enjoying himself, raising a glass with which to toast Elinor taking the opportunity each time to tease her about her supposed affection for Edward Ferrars. He is not being malicious, because he really does very simply consider that it is entirely natural for every girl to have or want a “beau”. But poor Elinor…look at her body language. Stiff but slightly bowed. She is mortified. I think this illustration is one of the best in the book. And just look at the servant hovering by the screen. Sir John’s pleasantries will be reported downstairs, of that  we can be certain….

Today we reach the third in our series on Thomson’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility, which we are working on as part of our year of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first publication of the book. Out first illustration this week shows a very startled Mrs Dashwood, Elinor and Margaret, witnessing Marianne’s burst of emotion on quitting the room where she had been talking alone with Willoughby.(Do note the illustrations can all be enlarged by clicking on them)

Mrs. Dashwood’s visit to Lady Middleton took place the next day, and two of her daughters went with her; but Marianne excused herself from being of the party under some trifling pretext of employment; and her mother, who concluded that a promise had been made by Willoughby the night before of calling on her while they were absent, was perfectly satisfied with her remaining at home.

On their return from the park they found Willoughby’s curricle and servant in waiting at the cottage, and Mrs. Dashwood was convinced that her conjecture had been just. So far it was all as she had foreseen; but on entering the house, she beheld what no foresight had taught her to expect. They were no sooner in the passage than Marianne came hastily out of the parlour apparently in violent affliction, with her handkerchief at her eyes; and without noticing them ran up stairs. Surprised and alarmed, they proceeded directly into the room she had just quitted where they found only Willoughby, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his back towards them. He turned round on their coming in, and his countenance shewed that he strongly partook of the emotion which overpowered Marianne.

Chapter 15

Marianne’s distress (and that of Willoughby)  indicate in the text that something truly dreadful has occurred while they were alone. It is the first real clue given to the reader that Willoughby might not be all that he seems. In Thomson’s illustration we are only shown Marianne’s acute emotion,and the reaction of the Dashwood ladies. Who only look slightly stiff and not particularly surprised. I would have liked to have seen a view into the parlour of Willoughby standing at the mantle piece in distress….what do you think? And why only partially show Margaret? This illustration does not really work for me I confess.

Our next illustration shows the moment that Marianne realises the gentleman on horseback is not Willoughby,and is eventually shown to be Edward Ferrars,who is at last calling on the Dashwood family at Barton Cottage.

She walked eagerly on as she spoke; and Elinor, to screen Marianne from particularity, as she felt almost certain of its not being Willoughby, quickened her pace and kept up with her. They were soon within thirty yards of the gentleman. Marianne looked again; her heart sunk within her: and abruptly turning round, she was hurrying back, when the voices of both her sisters were raised to detain her, a third, almost as well known as Willoughby’s, joined them in begging her to stop, and she turned round with surprise to see and welcome Edward Ferrars.

Chapter 16

Again I find there is something lacking in this illustration: if I have a criticism of Thomson’s work it is perhaps that he fails to adequately convey moments of high drama/ distress. Marianne looks merely slightly started here, not almost crushed by disappointment. I feel that Mr Thomson’s best work involved humour and  not moments of drama…..what do you think?

This is again evidenced I think by the third of our illustrations today. Here we have the ever genial Sir John and his ally in all things involving gossip, Mrs Jennings, arriving at Barton Cottage to get that all important first viewing of the Dashwood’s hitherto unknown male guest.

Before the middle of the day, they were visited by Sir John and Mrs. Jennings, who, having heard of the arrival of a gentleman at the cottage, came to take a survey of the guest. With the assistance of his mother-in-law, Sir John was not long in discovering that the name of Ferrars began with an F, and this prepared a future mine of raillery against the devoted Elinor, which nothing but the newness of their acquaintance with Edward could have prevented from being immediately sprung. But, as it was, she only learned from some very significant looks, how far their penetration, founded on Margaret’s instructions, extended.

Chapter 18

This is perhaps my favourite of today’s illustrations,and I think shows that Thomson’s genius lay in portraying the amusing incidents/characters of the book. You can just see the delight on their faces as they weigh up the situation-a new man,whose name begins with an “F”….what sport  we will have now… wonder one of the Dashwood’s loyal maids looks on almost pityingly…

The best representation of the two and of this passage in particular, in any adaptation(, in my very humble opinion ) is in Emma Thompson’s 1995 film version where Elizabeth Spriggs, of blessed memory, and Robert Hardy taunt Elinor, egged on by Margaret innocently joining in the fun. My only problem with the illustration is the age Thomson has decided to attribute to Mrs Jennings and Sir John: would they really have looked that old? Sir John is described in the text as being near forty years old. (This is  something the film accentuated too)

Since I began the series of posts about Hugh Thomson’s illustrations for Sense and Sensibility, (accessible here and here) they have generated a number of emails and comments, both here and on Twitter, about the correctness or not of the costumes worn by the characters. What period do they reflect? Are they accurate ? And how do they relate to the text? I thought it might be helpful and interesting to discuss them and to compare them with costumes of the period.

The style of the clothes, particularly the clothes worn by the female characters in the illustrations, suggest to me that  Thomson set the novel very firmly in the period of the mid 1780s to the mid 1790s. To my eye none of the clothes worn by the female characters reveal any details of the fashions of the late 1790s, and certainly no one wears any dress that could  be described as having the raised waist of the revolutionary Empire style. These waistlines are defiantly placed  by Thomson along the line of a natural waist and are not raised to just below the bust line in any way.

So…why did Thomson use this period and not the costumes of the later period to reflect the time when Jane Austen was writing, adapting, revising the book in the mid to late 1790s and finally publishing her novel in 1811? It might be helpful, at this point, to look at the history of the evolution of this novel.

According to Cassandra Austen’s memorandum Sense and Sensibility was composed by Jane Austen in 1797.  James Edward Austen Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt , first published in 1869, contains this passage about the novel and the work upon which it was based:

It was, however, at Steventon that the real foundations of her fame were laid.  There some of her most successful writing was composed at such an early age as to make it surprising that so young a woman could have acquired the insight into character, and the nice observation of manners which they display.  ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ which some consider the most brilliant of her novels, was the first finished, if not the first begun.  She began it in October 1796, before she was twenty-one years old, and completed it in about ten months, in August 1797.  The title then intended for it was ‘First Impressions.’  ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was begun, in its present form, immediately after the completion of the former, in November 1797 but something similar in story and character had been written earlier under the title of ‘Elinor and Marianne;’ and if, as is probable, a good deal of this earlier production was retained, it must form the earliest specimen of her writing that has been given to the world.

It is thought that Jane Austen began Elinor and Marianne sometime in 1795:

If so she may have used it ( her writing desk-jfw) during 1795 when she embarked on her first full length project- ‘Elinor and Marianne’ the prototype ‘Sense and Sensibility’. Family tradition recalled that this too was written in letters and read aloud in this from….

(see Jane Austen: A Family Record by Dierdre le Faye, page 89)

Apart from the “flashback” scenes recounted  by Colonel Brandon, and possibly this passage in Chapter One of the novel which relates to events ten years prior to the beginning of the action in the novel, below, I cannot find any justification in the text for setting the novel as further back in time than 1795:

The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew, Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it.

However, I think that it may have been possible  that Thomson was aware in 1895 when he was working on the illustrations, of the novel’s history, and  that the novel had evolved from the first serious adult  work that Jane Austen wrote in 1795. This may explain why  he  chose to depict a period of fashion prior to the mid to late 1790s. It is my opinion that he chose an earlier time period, which had a distinctly different dress style to that of 1811 when Sense and Sensibility was first published, to pay tribute to the history of this publication.( Of course, I may be completely wrong in my speculations…..)

We ought now to consider if  the costumes as depicted were accurate for the time frame (1785-1795)that  Thomson chose.

Let’s look at some examples from the period and compare them with the Thomson illustrations. I think you will see that there are many similarities between them but some important differences.

This is a drawing by Rowlandson of the actress, Mrs Abingdon, reclining on a couch circa 1786.

These are real examples of clothing from 1785, the costumes are part of the Kyoto Costume Institute’s collection.

This is Gainsborough’s famous portrait of Mrs Siddons dating from 1783-5…

And here is thomson’s Lady Middleton wearing a very similar style, including the hat….One of the first comments I noticed made about the costumes on Twitter was that , the hats are bigger than you will recall. Not necessarily so, bearing in mind the period Thomson was using.

And this is another work by Gainsborough, again dating from 1785, showing Mr and Mrs William Hallett in their Morning Walk……

Mrs Hallett’s gown is similar in style to the gown worn by Fanny Dashwood in this illustration.

And again the flounces found on some of Thomson’s  dresses reflect those to be found in  this  Angelica Kauffman depiction of Lady Elizabeth Forster, companion of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, in 1786

Looking at the hairstyles we can see that Thomson tried to emulate the fashion of the pre- Revolutionary era, especially if we compare Marianne’s hairstyles with Gainsborough’s 1785 portrait of Miss Catherine Tatton, below.

But……despite being mainly true to the period he decided to adopt, there is something slightly amiss, isn’t there? To my eye the silhouettes drawn by Thomson reflect those of the women of his own era, the late Victorian. The Sense and Sensibility ladies are corsetted within an inch of their lives, and their waists seem far smaller than the more realistic waistlines of the clothes of the period, as is shown in this robe a l’anglaise circa 1790, again from the Kyoto Costume Institute’s collection:

And I do think that there is something indefinably late 19th century about the faces and the hats of the characters Thomson depicts.

Joan Hassell, the marvelous illustrator of Jane Austen for the Folio Society volumes which were published  in the 1970s, had quite a lot to say about illustrator’s desperate attempts to be historically accurate, in an address she gave to the Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting in 1973. Her comments which are pertinent to this discussion, and if you will allow I will quote her here:

It is a fact that the artist cannot detach himself from the period in which he lives. However hard he persuades himself that everything is historically accurate, there is always a give-away somewhere even though it takes a later generation to see it. It is most often to be seen in the ladies hair styles and a general favour in the type of figure; and this is also true of theatre productions where Edwardian ladies in carefully designed historic costume have discarded neither hair padding nor corsets. Nowadays we may pride ourselves as having more specialised knowledge ,but I have a suspicion that future ages will be able to spot the date of our work by the 70s-ish slant to which we ourselves are blind

(Folio,the Quarterly Magazine of the Folio Society, Summer 1975 pp 3-4)

And this I think is what has happened here. The hair styles are nearly correct, but not quite. The wasitlines are smaller than corsets of the 1780s-1795 would allow….the same with the crowns of the hats…and the flounces.

Thomson quite rightly tried to convey to the reader the fact that  the novel was of a long gestation period, and dated the clothes from the period immediately proceeding its composition and publication to reflect this. Though he was generally accurate in depicting the clothes of the period 1785-1795, in my view he could not escape the influences of his own period, that  of the late Victorian, and it is the tiny differences in the stylistic details that do not ring true to us today.

Today we continue our series of posts on the illustrations made by Hugh Thompson for the Macmillan edition of Sense and Sensibility in the late nineteenth century. Do remember that they can all be enlarged , in order to examine the detail, merely by clicking on them.

In the first we see Marianne and Willoughby at the pianoforte, in Chapter 10:

Willoughby, on his side, gave every proof of his pleasure in their acquaintance, which an evident wish of improving it could offer. He came to them every day. To inquire after Marianne was at first his excuse; but the encouragement of his reception, to which every day gave greater kindness, made such an excuse unnecessary before it had ceased to be possible by Marianne’s perfect recovery. She was confined for some days to the house: but never had any confinement been less irksome. Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne’s heart; for, with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind, which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond everything else.

His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.

Chapter 10

These illustrations, early in the book, are quite clever, for they do not give any indication of any real impropriety by Willoughby. He is depicted as a handsome, fashionably dressed fellow, clearly devoted to Marianne and their joint pursuits.

The next illustration, from Chapter 12, might send alarm bells ringing faintly in the reader attuned to Jane Austen’s moral code. Willoughby takes a lock of Marianne’s hair, an intimate action, suggesting that their relationship at the very least was on the verge of becoming formalised by an engagement, or indeed, that such an  agreement had already been settled between them:

Margaret related something to her the next day, which placed this matter in a still clearer light. Willoughby had spent the preceding evening with them, and Margaret, being left some time in the parlour with only him and Marianne, had had opportunity for observations, which, with a most important face, she communicated to her eldest sister, when they were next by themselves.

“Oh! Elinor,” she cried, “I have such a secret to tell you about Marianne. I am sure she will be married to Mr. Willoughby very soon.”

“You have said so,” replied Elinor, “almost every day since they first met on High-church Down; and they had not known each other a week, I believe, before you were certain that Marianne wore his picture round her neck; but it turned out to be only the miniature of our great uncle.”

“But indeed this is quite another thing. I am sure they will be married very soon, for he has got a lock of her hair.”

“Take care, Margaret. It may be only the hair of some great uncle of his .”

“But indeed, Elinor, it is Marianne’s. I am almost sure it is, for I saw him cut it off. Last night after tea, when you and mama went out of the room, they were whispering and talking together as fast as could be, and he seemed to be begging something of her, and presently he took up her scissars and cut off a long lock of her hair, for it was all tumbled down her back; and he kissed it, and folded it up in a piece of white paper, and put it into his pocket-book.”

From such particulars, stated on such authority, Elinor could not withhold her credit: nor was she disposed to it, for the circumstance was in perfect unison with what she had heard and seen herself.

Chapter 12

And now the alarm bells are beginning to ring even louder with the third of our illustrations today from Chapter 13. Here we have Mrs Jennings happily relating to all and sundry the rather surprising news that Marianne toured Allenham with Willoughby (without having first been introduced to Mrs Smith, the owner), contradicting their story that their day had been spent riding about the lanes in the countryside, after the visit to Whitwell had been cancelled:

It was settled that there should be a dance in the evening, and that everybody should be extremely merry all day long. Some more of the Careys came to dinner, and they had the pleasure of sitting down nearly twenty to table, which Sir John observed with great contentment. Willoughby took his usual place between the two elder Miss Dashwoods. Mrs. Jennings sat on Elinor’s right hand; and they had not been long seated, before she leant behind her and Willoughby, and said to Marianne, loud enough for them both to hear, “I have found you out in spite of all your tricks. I know where you spent the morning.”

Marianne coloured, and replied very hastily, “Where, pray?” —

“Did not you know,” said Willoughby, “that we had been out in my curricle?”

“Yes, yes, Mr. Impudence, I know that very well, and I was determined to find out where you had been to. I hope you like your house, Miss Marianne. It is a very large one I know, and when I come to see you, I hope you will have new-furnished it, for it wanted it very much, when I was there six years ago.”

Marianne turned away in great confusion. Mrs. Jennings laughed heartily; and Elinor found that in her resolution to know where they had been, she had actually made her own woman enquire of Mr. Willoughby’s groom, and that she had by that method been informed that they had gone to Allenham, and spent a considerable time there in walking about the garden and going all over the house.

Chapter 13

Again this is another rather clever illustration: Thomson shows us only the backs of the figures of Marianne and Willoughby, but shows the wicked glee with which Mrs Jennings relates her gossip, and the startled nature of Elinor’s reaction( she is shown sitting next to Mrs Jennings, if I interpret this scene correctly).

Everyone in their circle is now assuming what Mrs Jennings is actually articulating, that Marianne and Willoughby must be engaged or on the very point of being so attached, for their behaviour suggests it. The alarm bells are now ringing loud and clear to the attuned reader. And, as a result of their disrespectful and deceitful behaviour, it is evident that Elinor is hearing them loudly and clearly too…

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?

There have been many illustrators of Jane Austen’s works. Some have been more successful than others. My joint favourite, with Joan Hassall who illustrated the complete works for the Folio Society, is Hugh Thompson. I thought you might like to know a little about him, his life and works.

Hugh Thomson was born in Kingsgate Street, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, shown below, on 1 June 1860

I should like to thank the Ulster History Circle for permission to use these two images, the one below showing in detail the blue plaque they affixed to the building to celebrate Mr Thomson’s life and work.

He was first employed in the Ulster linen industry, for which Coleraine was justly famed, as a clerical worker for E. Gribbon and Son.He was however a keen and very talented amateur artist and as a child was noted by members of his family to have been constantly drawing. In 1877, when he was 16, Hugh Thomson produced an illuminated address for the retiring headmaster of Coleraine Model School, James Bresland, see below:

As a result of its beauty he was offered a job in the firm of Marcus Ward and Co of Belfast who were art printers. His work for the firm was so successful that in 1884 he was offered a job at the English Illustrated Magazine,which was published by Macmillan and Co, and which necessitated him moving to London.

He married-above is a picture of Mr Thomson with his father and son- and became a very succesful illustrator for Macmillan, producing illustrations for the Addison and Steele Spectator papers, Days with Sir Roger de Coverley,  Coaching Days and Coaching Ways, by W. Outram Tristram in 1887-8, published in book form in 1878. His biggest hit was illustrating Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford, and this led to him being asked by a different publisher,George Allen and Co., to produce a series of illustrations for Pride and Prejudice in 1893. As he wrote:

This book I am to get £500 for and a royalty of 7d a copy on every copy sold after 10,000.

Work on Pride and Prejudice began in 1893, and despite a debilitating attack of influenza, the 160 drawings  were completed and then published by October 1894. Mr  Thomson seems to have been a very modest and unassuming man of great charm, as is illustrated by this extract form one of his letters:

I saw in the column ‘Books Received ‘that Alllen has sent forth ‘Pride and Prejudice’…I have given up hope of artistic successes now but feel that at my time of life (thirty-four!) I may count myself lucky if one can do good business. In the ardent hope that the golden shekels may roll in I have found refuge.

It was indeed a hit- 11,605 copies were sold in 1894-5 and by 1907 no fewer than 25,000 copies of this edition had been printed.

In 1895 he was ill yet again,but he was then commissioned by his old firm, Macmillan, to work on the other five of Jane Austen’s novels: Emma (1896), Sense and Sensibility (1896), Mansfield Park (1897), Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (1898).

I love the tiny details that Hugh Thompson was able to include in his profuse illustrations for these books. Two of my favourites are below…..The moment when Mrs Elton appears at church in Emma….

And quite possibly my favourite of them all..the moment Mrs Bennet hears from her daughter Elizabeth that she is to marry Mr Darcy. Struck dumb for probably the first time in her life……

she sits, unable to utter a syllable..

From the early 1890s Thomson’s drawings were exhibited on several occasions, beginning with a joint exhibition with Kate Greenaway at the Fine Art Society in 1891. He was able to take advantage of the improvements in publishing technology and  his illustrations for last two volumes in the Cranford series included colour plates, as did many of his later commissions, which included works by Shakespeare, Sheridan, Goldsmith, and Hawthorne, and the popular plays of J. M. Barrie.

J. M. Barrie was a great admirer of Hugh Thomson and his works. Writing to M. H. Spiellman who wrote the memoir of Hugh Thomson, Hugh Thomson: his art, his letters,his humour and his charm, with Walter Jerrold in 1931 he noted:

He was a man who drew affection at first sight, so unworldly , so diffident, you smile over him and love him as if he were one of his own delicious pictures.What the man was came out in his face and in all his attractive ways; it might be said of him that he was himself the best picture he ever made. His heart was the gentlest,the most humourous and so was he….

This observation by Barrie is interesting,because Thomson was said to be the illustrator who revived the humour in Jane Austen’s novels:

I am writing your publisher a testimonial that no sufferer or invalid should neglect a course of Hugh Thompson’s marvellous tonic-the restorative effects on impaired vitality.,etc found in your illustrations to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and no household should be without a case-I mean a bookcase full. You have revivifed(sic)  the gently humourous Jane and given her a new lease of life….

(Letter from Joseph Grego quoted in Hugh Thomson :his art, his letters,his humour and his charm,page 98)

His books had a very special feature: he designed sumptuous covers for them. This is my copy of his Pride and Prejudice (1894) with the famous peacock-tail cover. I’ve had this for years and am frightened to even touch it these days so astronomical is the price it now fetches on the open market….

This is his equally sumptuous cover for Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer

Here are his working sketches for the cover of Sheridan’s School for Scandal, so that you can see how he worked around a continuing theme of  fans….

And here is his finished article. Do note all these illustrations  can be enlarged by clicking on them so you can see all the delicious detail.

Hugh Thomson struggled through the First World War,suffering from il health and decreasing commissions.He eventually died of heart disease in 1920.But he left a vibrant and loved legacy in his illustrations, particularly those he completed for the editions of Jane Austen’s novels.

One of my favourite books is a very tactile edition of Sense and Sensibility published in 1912.

Covered in a sort of suede embellished in gold leaf it is one of my favourite editions of all Jane Austen’s books that I own. Thomson’s illustrations for this book are clever and ingenious. Look at this illustration below, showing how subtle he could be in illustrating this tiny passage from Chapter 1;

….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.

Note the reflection in the looking-glass showing Fanny Dashwood coldly and calculatingly watching the Old Gentleman becoming ever more enamoured of her son…hmmmmm…..

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility I’m going to post a few of these illustrations each week, putting them in context and hopefully adding some interesting comments to them. I find the art of book illustration absolutely fascinating I wanted to be a book illustrator as a young girl,but then I took a completely different career turn! – and I hope you will enjoy some of these posts in the next few weeks.

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