The Tranter, Reuben Dewy
14cm high by 10 cm wide
Sixth illustration for Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree, facing page 88 (recto).
See below for passage illustrated and commentary.
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham
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Dick Dewy's father, Reuben, [was] by vocation a 'tranter,' or irregular carrier. He was a stout florid man about forty years of age, who surveyed people up and down when first making their acquaintance, and generally smiled at the horizon or other distant object during conversations with friends, walking about with a steady sway, and turning out his toes very considerably. [Part the First, "Winter," Chapter 2, "The Tranter's," p. 9-10]
Despite Hardy's protestations that the characters in his early novels Under the Greenwood Tree and A Pair of Blue Eyes are not reflections of actual friends and family from Stinsford parish, Dorset, that the protagonist of the 1872 novella is of the independent middle class (that is, the class of person that did not work for others, but had their own businesses) of the hamlet of Mellstock and an amateur fiddler, and that his father and grandfather are ikewise musicians who play both in the local Anglican church and at village social events such as birthdays, weddings, and christenings all suggest that Hardy was intent upon misleading his devoted readers in later years about the close connection between the fiction "Mellstock" and the actual "Higher Bockhampton." The "tranter" or carrier Reuben Dewy, Dick's father (tenor violin in the Mellstock quire and a pillar of the community), is a case in point.
The topography of the novel conforms almost exactly to that of Stinsford parish, and Hardy's insistence that the book contained no family portraits cannot expunge the impression that some of his parents' tricks of phrase and quirks of personality are directly reflected in the placidly antagonistic domestic dialogues between Tranter Dewy and his wife. . . . [Millgate, 126]
Hardy's first publisher, William Tinsley, was undoubtedly aware of the autobiographical nature of the setting and characters of the novel from the first, and may well have communicated the Mellstock-Stinsford and Hardy-Dewy connections to his chosen illustrator for the single-volume Christmas book of 1875. Instead of emphasizing the tranter's association with the Mellstock musicians, however, the illustrator has shown Reuben with the apparatus to tap a keg of home-made cider of the very sort that the novelist's father, stonemason and freeholder Thomas Hardy, Senior, was accustomed to produce every autumn. . Consequently, although the illustration is situated much later in the text, the illustrator is clearly communicating Reuben initial appearance in the novel, in the party at "The Tranter's."
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.]
Millgate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2004.
Purdy, Richard Little. Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1954, rpt. 1965.
Wright, Sarah Bird. Thomas Hardy A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 2002.
Last modified 27 June 2014