Summary and Analysis
Chapter 37 - Henchard Greets the Royal Visitor
The town receives word that a royal personage will pass through Casterbridge in the near future. Mayor Farfrae and the council arrange for an elaborate reception. Henchard comes to the council meeting and asks to participate in the reception. Donald, with the concurrence of the council, refuses, whereupon Henchard makes plans to welcome the royal visitor by himself.
The royal visitor is escorted into the packed, spruced-up town by Donald and the members of the council. Lucetta indignantly tells some ladies looking on that Henchard had little or nothing to do with Donald's success. By this time, she doesn't like to be reminded that Henchard exists. Suddenly Henchard steps into the space before the Town Hall, waving a Union Jack (the British flag) and stretches out his arm to welcome the esteemed guest. Because it is Farfrae's duty as mayor to maintain decorum and safety for the visitor, he grabs Henchard by the collar and shoves him roughly into the crowd. The spectators, especially Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane, are shocked by Henchard's low behavior. The royal personage, however, pretends "not to have noticed anything unusual."
The reader learns that the skimmity-ride will take place that night. Jopp confirms the plans and is now acting as a prime mover in the attempt to humiliate the mayor. But two of the townspeople decide to write to the concerned parties and warn them of the impending demonstration.
It appears that Henchard, despite all common sense, still refuses to remain in his place. His character is as mercurial as it ever was, and the request he makes to the town council comes from a deep sense of the loss of his position, esteem, and wealth. He has always been subject to fits of rancor and bitterness, but with the resumption of his drinking these spells become more intense. Henchard's intrusion comes as a surprise to the reader, but Donald's rough treatment of him is considered justified by everyone in the crowd. The reader knows that the public insult will only feed Henchard's fierce bitterness.
fête carillonnée a celebration complete with the pealing of bells (French).
Royal unicorn part of the Royal emblem, or coat-of-arms of Great Britain.
Calpurnia's cheek was pale In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus remarks that the cheek of Caesar's wife — Calpurnia — is pale. The reference is that Farfrae (equivalent to a Caesar among the crowd) has his Brutus.
go snacks wi'en go snacks with him; to eat at his table; to live with him.
hontish high-handed, haughty.
to see that lady toppered to see that lady brought low — brought to shame.