Persuasions #11, 1989                                                                                                                                                        Pages 22-27

Illustrating Jane Austen  

Burnaby, B.C. 

These illustrations and comments are excerpted from a slide lecture given by Keiko Parker at Vancouver and Santa Fe.



Hugh Thomson, 1894, on the above left, and Charles E. Brock, 1895, MacMillan, on the above right.  Since these illustrations came out only a year apart, comparison is inevitable.  Thomson’s Elizabeth looks too juvenile.  C.E. Brock’s Elizabeth is just right – mature enough to lock horns with Mr Darcy.







C.E. Brock of 1895 on the above left, and another C.E. Brock (c. 1930, Nelson) on the above right. C.E. Brock’s younger brother, Henry M. Brock (1898, Dent) on the bottom left.  

The 1895 C.E. Brock offers much to admire in the strength of touch and clever construction. I like the idea of the two protagonists (or antagonists?), Darcy and Elizabeth at both ends of the space, with Sir William soliciting them to dance in the middle in the role of mediator.  

The C.E. Brock of c. 1930 is not as good, with Elizabeth’s figure “lost” in the middle.  

H.M. Brock’s six-colour lithography suffers in black-and-white reproduction such as this, since the line details – of inlaid floor, for instance – look too busy.


Thomson on the above right, C.E. Brock on the left.  Thomson’s illustration is rather static.  C.E. Brock’s shows more “mouvement,” as they say in art criticism.



Joan Hassall’s black and white woodcut prints came out in an edition by the Folio Society between 1957 and 1962.  Having come from the land of Hiroshige and other famous woodcut print artists, I admire the careful detail Joan Hassall put into the bench, the leaves on the trees, the folds of the dresses, and Lady Catherine’s coach in the distance. 



Helen Sewell, 1968, the Heritage Press.  This book is a photographic reproduction of the one originally published for the Limited Edition Club in 1940.  It is in sepia tone, and imitates the etching style, which is said to be more difficult than etching itself.




Lynette Hemmant, 1980, World’s Works Ltd., Surrey (SBN 437-24575-6).  I set down these publication details since this book – among all the recent books – gained the most attention from both the Vancouver and Santa Fe audiences.  Regarding this book I stated, “Jane Austen can be read on several different levels, and there is nothing wrong with a teenager reading PP strictly as a love story.  I for one, would have been delighted if I, as a young girl, were presented with a book like this.”  This comment seemed to strike a sympathetic chord with quite a number of people in my audience. 

This book has many two-page spreads in beautiful colours as well as black-and-white pictures.  The artist allows us to see a wider vista than any others I have seen.  Here the Bennet girls with Mr. Collins meet Denny on their way to their Aunt Phillips’ and get introduced to Wickham.  Note Darcy and Bingley on horseback approaching from the distance.  


Jane Bennet    

Elizabeth Bennet



Chris Duke, 1980, Oxford Library of World’s Great Books.   This Edition contains portraits of seven main characters.  Elizabeth in this portrait certainly has character, but in my mind’s eye I see an Elizabeth who is a little prettier. 

As to Mr. Darcy, I might say (in paraphrasing his words),   “He is handsome, but not haughty enough to convince me.”  And Jane seems too cold – not the Jane Darcy describes as “smiling too much.”



Mr. Darcy


Ian Beck, 1985, Century Hutchinson.  The pointillist approach leaves a certain amount of vagueness.  This is a scene where Darcy and Elizabeth come to a perfect understanding of each other, but just to look at this picture one might mistake it for any number of scenes in PP –  not to mention other JA novels.  I prefer a depiction that is precise enough for any Janeite to recognize immediately the scene and the characters.

The color images have replaced the original black and white images for the on-line edition of this essay, courtesy of Keiko Parker. – C. Moss, JASNA Web Site Manager



Grey, J. David, ed.  The Jane Austen Companion, MacMillan, New York, 1986, contains an article by Joan Hassall (different from the below-mentioned), and another by Maggie Cohn. 

Hassall, Joan.  “On Illustrating Jane Austen’s Works,” an article in the 1973 Annual Report of the Jane Austen Society (England). 

Kelly, C.M.  The Brocks, A Family of Cambridge Artists and Illustrators, Charles Skilton, Ltd., London, 1975. 

Spielmann, M.H. and Walter Jerrold.  HughThomson, His Art His Letters His Humour and His Charm, A & C Black, London, 1931. 

Warner, Sylvia Townsend.  Jane Austen, pub. for the British Council and the National Book League, by Longmans, Green & Co., 1961, contains a select bibliography.

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