The Knot There is No Untying, p. 308
14 cm high by 10 cm wide
Fourteenth illustration for Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree, facing page 308.
See below for passage illustrated and commentary.
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham
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"And then, of course, when 'tis all over," continued the tranter, "we shall march two and two round the parish."
"Yes, sure," said Mr. Penny: "two and two: every man hitched up to his woman, 'a b'lieve."
"I never can make a show of myself in that way!" said Fancy, looking to Dick to ascertain if he could.
"I'm agreed to anything you and the company likes, my dear!" said Mr. Richard Dewy heartily.
"Why, we did when we were married didn't we, Ann?" said the tranter; "and so do everybody, my sonnies." [Part the Fifth, "Conclusion," Chapter 1, "The Knot there's no Untying," page 324]
Since the illustration precedes the passage realised by some sixteen pages, the reader must anticipate that passage, and probably, once the reader has encountered it, thumbs through the pages to compare it to the plate. The title of the illustration, like that of the penultimate chapter, is derived a song entitled "How Delicious is the Winning" by Thomas Campbell (1774-1844), an ominous suggestion perhaps that Dick and Fancy's marital journey will not be without its challenges, not the least of which will be Fancy's vanity and concern with fashionable appearances. Her modernity, in fact, prompts her to reject the notion of circuiting the parish, and only the sound advice of her friends and seniors to honour the custom persuade Fancy to acquiesce. Moreover, although the illustrator has depicted the immediate aftermath of the wedding as the congregation greet the newly married couple as husband and wife, Hardy chooses to avoid narrating the wedding itself, and focuses on the parade through the idyllic woods, and simply concludes: "and in the space of a a quarter of an hour Fancy found herself to be Mrs Richard Dewy, though much to her surprise, feeling no other than Fancy Day still" (325). This marriage, then, promises to be a contest of wills.
In the dialogue between members of the rustic chorus, the normative voices and judgments of the musicians in the Mellstock quire, Fancy's participation is dissonant as she frets over "showing herself" in the parade of the bridal party around the parish of Mellstock, whose church tower and the general disposition of the building, grounds, and entrance in Knight's illustration resemble those of Hardy's own parish church at Stinsford in Dorset. Curiously, Knight has not moved in for a close-up to emphasize the figures in the wedding party, but rather has subordinated these tiny figures to the massive block of the country church, as if to emphasize the overaching importance of tradition. The open gate in the right foreground suggests that, like Adam and Eve leaving paradise in Milton's seventeenth-century epic poem, all the world lies before the newly married couple. Knight, connecting the gateway with the wedding party (centre) through the ivy that engulfs the churchyard wall (lower left) brings the eye well forward from the background figures to focus on the open gate, between which and the church lie the graves of the participants' forebears. This is the second time in the narrative-pictorial sequence that we see Dick and Fancy standing together, the first occasion being Going Nutting, in which the couple are nearly the same height, whereas here Dick is clearly taller — perhaps a suggestion that, whatever her inclination, Fancy will be his subordinate from now on.
Hardy, Thomas. Under The Greenwood Tree. A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (1870). Il. R. Knight. London: Chatto and Windus, 1878.
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. [All citations from the 1878 Chatto and Windus edition have been checked against this following readily available paperback edition.]
Kay-Robinson, Denys. The Landscape of Thomas Hardy. Exeter: Webb and Bower, 1984.
Pinion, F. B. A Hardy Companion: A Guide to the Works of Thomas Hardy and Their Background. Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1968, rpt. 1984.
Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 2002.
Last modified 13 July 2014