Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
published 1874 chapter 51
Bathsheba was at this time in her room, dressing for the event. She had called for candles, and Liddy entered and placed one on each side of her mistress's glass.
"Don't go away, Liddy," said Bathsheba, almost timidly. "I am foolishly agitated -- I cannot tell why. I wish I had not been obliged to go to this dance; but there's no escaping now. I have not spoken to Mr Boldwood since the autumn, when I promised to see him at Christmas on business, but I had no idea there was to be anything of this kind… I am the reason of the party -- I. If it had not been for me, there would never have been one. I can't explain any more -- there's no more to be explained. I wish I had never seen Weatherbury."
"That's wicked of you -- to wish to be worse off than you are."
"No, Liddy. I have never been free from trouble since I have lived here, and this party is likely to bring me more. Now, fetch my black silk dress, and see how it sits upon me."
"But you will leave off that, surely, ma'am? You have been a widow-lady fourteen months, and ought to brighten up a little on such a night as this."
"Is it necessary? No; I will appear as usual, for if I were to wear any light dress people would say things about me, and I should seem to be rejoicing when I am solemn all the time. The party doesn't suit me a bit; but never mind, stay and help to finish me off."
observations: She’s not wrong about the party bringing more trouble – this book has a driving, melodramatic and rather satisfying plot. Bathsheba makes several men fall in love with her, and she is a convincing femme fatale, a great example of character drawing by Hardy. As Christmas parties go this is going to be a cracker.
One odd thing about the book is the chapter headings – they resemble the author’s notes, summarizing the chapter contents more than is usual – you can see a list here – so in a rather modern manner they end up looking like a cinema shooting script – night, interior, interior, scene.
Links up with: Bathsheba has featured before. Black dresses for Chekhov heroines discussed here. More heroines in black silk dresses here and here, and Anna Karenina is briefly happy in black velvet. The Marchioness-to-be wore a black dress in this entry last week.
The painting of a Russian princess can be found here. It is by Winterhalter, who specialized in beautiful women in beautiful dresses.