Wessex Folk (subsequently renamed A Few Crusted Characters) in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (May 1891): 894. Lithograph, 8 cm high by 10 cm wide.by Charles Green — an illustration for Thomas Hardy's "The Winters and the Palmleys," first appeared in the framed-tale series
'At first she said he might have them for all that she cared, and took them out of the bureau where she kept them. Then she glanced over the outside one of the packet, and suddenly altering her mind, she told him shortly that his request was a silly one, and slipped the letters into her aunt’s work-box, which stood open on the table, locking it, and saying with a bantering laugh that of course she thought it best to keep 'em, since they might be useful to produce as evidence that she had good cause for declining to marry him.
'He blazed up hot. "Give me those letters!" he said. "They are mine!"
"No, they are not," she replied; "they are mine."
"Whos'ever they are I want them back," says he. "I don’t want to be made sport of for my penmanship: you've another young man now! he has your confidence, and you pour all your tales into his ear. You'll be showing them to him!"
"Perhaps," said my lady Harriet, with calm coolness, like the heartless woman that she was. [Wessex Folk, "The Winters and the Palmleys," in the Osgood, McIlvaine edition of Life's little Ironies, 280]
Readers of Hardy's "The Winters and the Palmleys" may sympathize with the hapless, small-town ex-lover, Jack Winter, who he demands the return of his ill-spelt love-letters from the haughty, Exonbury-bred Harriet Palmley. However, readers become uncomfortable when, after Harriet has adamantly refused, Jack subsequently breaks into the Palmleys' house to retrieve them. Green's Jack Winter does not seem especially heated, nor his Harriet particularly truculent. Their less than convincing passions slightly diminish the motivational aspect of the scene that lays the groundwork for Jack's unintentional crime and unjust execution for a theft he was not aware he was committing (he purloins, not the letters, but a few coins Harriet's aunt kept in the sewing workbox in which Harriet has locked the correspondence). Coincidence once again plays a significant role in the story since, had Harriet not locked them in the workbox when Jack requested them or had Jack been able to open the workbox while in the house, the outcome would have been very different. His chagrin at the possibility of being made fun of for his poor handwriting and Lady Harriet's "heartlessness" ironically cost the hot-headed young man his life.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Brady, Kristin. The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy: Tales of Past and Present. London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1984.
Hardy, Thomas. "The Winters and the Palmleys." [May 1891] Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales with Some Colloquial Sketches Entitled "A Few Crusted Characters." London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1894. 274-86.
Hardy Thomas. Wessex Folk (subsequently renamed A Few Crusted Characters) in Harper's New Monthly Magazine 81 (March-May 1891): 594, 701, 703, 891, 894; 82 (June 1891): 123.
Ray, Martin. Chapter 25, "A Few Crusted Characters." Thomas Hardy: A Textual Study of the Short Stories. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997. 228-58.
Created 21 May 2008
Last modified 18 April 2020