Several years ago, my husband got me the 1940 Heritage Press Edition of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a bit fragile, and the spine is falling apart, so I usually read from my paperback edition instead. However, the other day, I opened it up to look at the illustrations. I couldn’t help giggling out loud as I paged through them. The illustrator, Helen Sewell, picked some of the amusing moments I expected, but she also captured some I didn’t.
I have checked through the copyright records, and from what I can tell, it seems safe for me to share a few of them with you here on the blog. I have skipped over illustrations that have been shared elsewhere on the internet, and I’m hoping the ones I’ve picked show a different perspective than we see in the movies.
This first one is called “On one of the sophas,” and takes place at Netherfield Park while Jane is recovering from her illness. After tea, no one wants to play cards, so Mr. Hurst goes to sleep on the sofa. This is when Miss Bingley invites Elizabeth to take a turn around the room.
Next, is one called “Such very superior dancing”. It features Darcy and Elizabeth dancing together at Netherfield. I love the expressions on their faces. Perhaps, they’re meant to reflect both pride and prejudice.
Next is one called “Lord, how tired I am”, which features Lydia yawning after the Netherfield Ball. I think it captures Lydia’s personality perfectly.
I’m skipping over a few more to get to this one called “Unguarded Moments” that illustrates a part of Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth. Speaking of Wickham, Darcy wrote: “the want of principle which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have.”
Later on in the book, when Kitty and Lydia are spending even more time with the militia, there’s a funny illustration called “Chamberlayne in woman’s clothes”, which shows Kitty and Lydia laughing at one of the soldiers they’ve dressed to “pass for a lady.”
This next illustration also features Lydia and is called “Tenderly flirting with at least six”. It is based on the following quote: “In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. . . . She saw all the glories of the camp; its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.”
A few chapters later, when Lydia runs off with Wickham, Sewell blesses us with an amusing picture of Mrs. Bennet called “Tears and lamentations”.
Then, after all the drama with Lydia has come to a happy end, we find an illustration titled “Wickham’s affection for Lydia”. I love the look on his face here. He’s truly gotten what he deserves. Poor Lydia, though.
ln contrast to Wickham’s displeasure is an amusing picture of Mrs. Bennet. It is called “To whisper it to Mrs. Philips”, and shows how Mrs. Bennet quickly spread the good news about Jane and Elizabeth’s engagements.
In general, Sewell’s illustrations reflect the Bennet family as a whole, rather than focusing only on Elizabeth and Darcy, which I find refreshing. I hope you enjoyed your glimpse as well.