2 August 2016


In 1858 Augustus Egg, famously, painted a triptych depicting the discovery and disastrous consequences of a wife’s adultery on a middle-class Victorian family. It was very much influenced by Holman Hunt’s 1853 The Awakening Conscience (here) and was originally called by the names of the three paintings – Misfortune, Prayer and Despair – but after Egg’s death given the title Past and Present 1, 2 and 3. It’s a pity one of the great Victorian novelists did not write a novel based on the three paintings (2 and 3 will be on the Post tomorrow and Thursday) but perhaps they realised there would be no ‘plot’, since the outcome was already known, and certainly no happy ending. The short story that this painting brings to mind is the extraordinary and unforgettable ‘Wednesday’ by Dorothy Whipple (in The Closed Door and Other Stories).