16 cm high by 10 cm wide
Illustration for Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree
See below for passage illustrated and commentary
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham
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Although Fancy Day is introduced early in the novel, in the musicians' conversation in the third chapter, "The Assembled Quire," in "Part The First: Winter," the new schoolmistress does not actually make her entrance until the seventh chapter, "The Tranter's Party":
But the comely, slender, prettily-dressed prize Fancy Day fell to Dick's lot, in spite of some private machinations of the farmer, for the reason that Mr. Shiner, as a richer man, had shown too much assurance in asking the favour, whilst Dick had been duly courteous.
We gain a good view of our heroine as she advances to her place in the ladies' line. She belonged to the taller division of middle height. Flexibility was her first characteristic, by which she appeared to enjoy the most easeful rest when she was in gliding motion. Her dark eyes — arched by brows of so keen, slender, and soft a curve, that they resembled nothing so much as two slurs in music — showed primarily a bright sparkle each. This was softened by a frequent thoughtfulness, yet not so frequent as to do away, for more than a few minutes at a time, with a certain coquettishness; which in its turn was never so decided as to banish honesty. Her lips imitated her brows in their clearly-cut outline and softness of bend; and her nose was well shaped& mdash; which is saying a great deal, when it is remembered that there are a hundred pretty mouths and eyes for one pretty nose. Add to this, plentiful knots of dark-brown hair, a gauzy dress of white, with blue facings; and the slightest idea may be gained of the young maiden who showed, amidst the rest of the dancing-ladies, like a flower among vegetables. [77-78 ]
Fancy Day, dressed in the style of the New Woman of the Seventies, is surrounded by scenes and characters from the novel, connected by wedding bells and Christmas Holly. Her wedding occurs lower right, and she drives off with Dick in his carrier's wagon, lower left. In the upper right, she plays the organ introduced by the minister after his dismissal of the quire. The engraving's spirits as well as the dominating bells at the top suggest the influence of the 1844 illustrations for Dickens's second Christmas Book, The Chimes: A Goblin Story (Bradbury and Evans), particularly Daniel Maclise's ornate frontispiece, The Tower of the Chimes. The motif of the seasonal greenery that surrounds or frames Fancy in the frontispiece continues throughout the narrative-pictorial program, suggesting that Tinsley did intend this volume for the Christmas market of 1875, although as Purdy points out, the December book is dated "1876," as was consistent with the general practice of the English nineteenth-century book-trade. For all but the frontispiece, Knight has framed the figure or scene depicted in an archway of holly and berries, not merely to underscore the Christmas-time context of the opening scenes but also to suggest the vicissitudes of Dick Dewy's infatuation with the coy school-mistress who, unbeknown to Dick, is being pursued by two other suitors.
The village romance which dominates the story reflects both that of Hardy's first, unpublished novel, The Poor Man and The Lady and Hardy's own with Emma Gifford, the rector's sister-in-law whom Hardy as a young architect met when visiting the parish church in St. Juliot, Cornwall. Emma's independent spirit, social aspirations, musical nature, and fashion sense match those of the educated gamekeeper's organist daughter, Fancy Day; two years after the publication of the novel Hardy was personally able to enact Dick Dewy's role at the novel's end by marrying Emma.
Another candidate for the real-life model for the novel's musical and flirtatious school mistress is Hardy's cousin Tryphena Sparks, also a school mistress:
Fancy is subtly drawn character, who gives clear indications of Hardy's attitude to women at this stage in his life. As a very young man he had an impressionable nature and was romantically attracted to various young women, some of whom he only knew from passing them in the lane near his home or in the neighbouring towns. He was very fond of his cousins in Puddletown, the Sparks family, and even wanted to marry two of the girls, Martha and Tryphena, and became engaged to the latter before he met his his first wife,mEmma. One can see in Fancy the first sketch of a very Hardyish heroine, who may well be based on his cousin and develops into more complicated characters . . . . [Winchcombe, 22]
How much of Hardy's personal history the publisher and illustrator would have been aware of is the subject of mere speculation. One suspects that the character of Fancy Day is an amalgam of the thirty-year-old, blonde-haired Emma Lavinia Gifford and the twenty-year-old school mistress, the book having been written, as Purdy notes, at Weymouth and Higher Bockhampton "in the early summer of 1871" (7). Having described Tryphena as the "muse" of Hardy's sensatrion novel, Desperate Remedies,Paul Turner makes the case succinctly that Hardy's fictional schoolmistress in the short novel is based on his knowledge of his Puddletown cousin and quondam fiancée, eleven years his junior:
Not surprisingly [in April 1871], with Tryphena in the last stage of teacher training, it was about a village girl who becomes a schoolmistress. 
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree. A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1870). Il. R. Knight. London: Chatto and Windus, 1878.
All citations from the 1878 Chatto and Windus edition have been checked against the following readily available paperback edition:
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree, or, The Mellstock Quire — A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1872). Ed. Anna Winchcombe. Houndmills, Basingstoke, and London: Macmillan Education, 1978.
Purdy, Richard Little. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1954, rpt., 1968.
Turner, Paul. Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Last modified 24 June 2014