Friday, January 20, 2023

Judging Book by Its Cover: The Woodlanders (Thomas Hardy)

It's yet another new feature in Fanda Classiclit, where I'd analyze book cover, compare it with the content, as well as with covers from few other editions.

The Woodlanders

My copy is a Penguin Classics 1998's edition, which used a portrait for its cover. It is a photo of Alice Liddell, taken by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1872. It's Mrs. Sarah Coller @ Belle's Library who first pointed out that the cover art is "grown up Alice Liddell - Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland".

As I scrutinized the portrait, I saw a rebellious, headstrong, dissatisfied face of a young woman looked back at me. And I thought: that's Marty South, the center and most relatable character of The Woodlanders! - more so with her long hair and leaves around her head, which implies someone who spends a lot of time in the forest and is intimate with the nature.

When I first bought this book, I actually disliked the cover art as it looked rather mystical to me (at first sight). But after knowing the real young woman in the portrait, and especially after reading the book, I think it's the perfect cover!

But let's pick two other covers from different editions before we conclude; who knows, we might find a better version, and a new champion!

Penguin Classics - revised 1998's edition

It's a painting of a lady sitting alone in the forest. While the forest fits woodland description, the lady does not. She seems like just a lady taking a stroll to the forest, maybe while contemplating her worldly problems, and feeling tired, sits there for a while. She might be assumed as Grace Melbury from The Woodlanders, who's born on the woodland - true - but at heart not a true woodlander. So, this cover might represent one of the characters, but it's not a perfect representation of the whole book/story.

Oxford Classics 2009's edition

It's a painting of two women taking a walk in the forest - a lady with her hatless friend? They are far from woodlanders; walking on a woodland doesn't make one a woodlander! So, the cover doesn't represent the book at all.

In the end, I'm satisfied with the cover of my copy, it is the winner!

What about you? Which cover do you like better?


  1. I'm with you! The Julia Cameron photo is the winner. I think she had connections with all those Arthurian pre-Raphaelite painters & what I've seen of her pictures do look a little mystical, which doesn't entirely fit Hardy, but somehow seems closer in this case.

    1. I felt that The Woodlander is a bit different from Hardy's usual. Like there's a quality of mysterious depth throughout the story. Maybe that makes the cover art fits perfectly with the book.

  2. I prefer the second cover bc of the nature feature, but if are considering the story, then it makes sense that the cover reflect some aspect of it. This is one Hardy I have not read; so I take your word for it.

    1. The second one is more artistic too, I can see that it would be more appealing if you want to sell the book. And that's what book cover's one of many functions after all. Good choice, Ruth!

  3. The photo of Alice Lidell as capturing Marty's character makes sense, but I do like that in the second one, the wood too reflects even if the lady represnts Grace rather than Marty.

    1. The 2nd one would be my second choice too, I guess. After all, The Woodlanders isn't all about Marty, so one can say that the 2nd cover represents the woodlanders in general. Good choice, Mallika!


What do you think?