Sunday, April 5, 2020

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

Under the Greenwood Tree
Thomas Hardy
Published 1872
English novel

This is one of Hardy's earliest novels, typical of Hardy's style with great attention to the natural, pastoral setting. His characters are very familiar -- homely and ordinary. They want the simple things in life. And yet, not typical of Hardy is the overall lighthearted, tender, sweet, and even comical flow of the story. 

A group of church musicians and choir members were informed by vicar Maybold that they had been  permanently replaced by a new charming and attractive organist, Fancy Day. Instantly, the lovely maiden entranced one of the choir members, Dick Dewy. When she later expressed interest in him, too, they pledged their love for each other and were secretly engaged -- secretly because Fancy's father had higher hopes for his daughter than for her to marry a lowly musician. It took some creative scheming of Fancy's to convince her father that it was essential to her well being that she be free to love Dick Dewy, in the plan to soften her father's heart and accept their engagement. 

Fancy Day

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Mr. Maybold of Fancy's commitment, the vicar assertively pursued Fancy, promising her a comfortable future. He proposed marriage, and under pressure (or impulse) she accepted his proposal. 

Soon after, during a passing conversation with Maybold, Dick revealed his plan to marry Fancy, causing Maybold to immediately send a letter to Fancy, inquiring of the shocking truth. She admitted it and withdrew her acceptance to Maybold, requesting that he forever keep her hasty consent a secret. He pleaded she be open and honest with Dick about her quick judgment: Dick loved her so...he would surely forgive her.

Did Fancy take Maybold's advice and tell Dick what she did?

Well, on their wedding day, Dick declared,
Fancy, why we are so happy is because there is such full confidence between us. We'll have no secrets from each other, darling, will we ever? No secret at all.
She replied,
None from today. 
Suddenly, when Fancy was startled by a noisy nightingale, this reader got the impression that Fancy was regretful; that maybe her little secret won't be so easy to live with after all.

And furthermore, knowing the works Hardy would produce here after, I sensed that little twist of a sweet story was a taste of what was to come. Nothing would have a perfectly happy ending with him, except maybe Far From the Madding Crowd. But what a reader would have to endure before she came to the ending!

Overall, Under the Greenwood Tree is full of Hardy's charming writing style and definitely shines with character, joyfulness, sweetness, and pleasure. It's a keeper.


This Hardy is harmless. If you want a taste of Hardy, if you want to go even further back than Far From the Madding Crowd, try this one first. Especially if you like a more naturalist setting to your classics, you cannot go wrong with Hardy.


  1. Great wrap-up. It was certainly a rare, light-hearted read from Hardy, and fairly quick. I wasn't Fancy's greatest fan, but she got her man :) I felt sorry for the musicians, but it was all in the name of progress, even in such a long-ago era and rural setting.

  2. PAULA: Thanks. Have to agree....Fancy was difficult to warm up to, and she didn't leave me with a good feeling. But maybe I shouldn't be so hard on her.