The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

by

Thomas Hardy

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Phyllis Grove is the story’s protagonist, and the character who relays the story to the narrator many years later. She is a young woman who lives with her father in the countryside in Dorset, southwest England. Phyllis is so shy that she blushes when she sees other people, and when she becomes engaged to Humphrey Gould, a dull bachelor of slightly higher social standing, those around her see it as a miracle. Phyllis doesn’t feel any great affection for Humphrey, who soon leaves the village for the unusually long period of a year, and she’s very quick to believe rumors that he has neglected the engagement. This allows her to justify and demonstrate her affection to Matthäus Tina, a German soldier posted nearby who walks past her garden wall in the evenings. Phyllis continues these trysts against her unaffectionate father’s wishes, and when Tina invites her to escape to Germany with him where they will marry, it’s her father’s overbearing nature that pushes her to overcome her fear and agree. But Phyllis finds herself drawn back into a life of constraint when she learns that Humphrey has returned to bring her a gift and apologize for his absence. She immediately regrets her disloyalty to him, and her fears of social instability and scandal cement her decision to stay in England without Matthäus Tina. She has a brief moment of potential courage when she watches Tina walking away from her and longs to run after him—but her caution leads her to return home. She soon learns that Humphrey has brought her the gift, an ornate mirror, not to prove his loyalty to her, but to appease her before he shares that he has secretly married another woman. Phyllis is relieved to learn this, valuing an unmarried life more than an unhappy marriage. When she later sees Matthäus Tina and Christoph shot in the military camp, however, her feelings betray her: she faints, remaining unconscious for days and delirious for weeks. For the rest of her life, she tends the graves of the two soldiers, and when she dies, she is buried nearby.

Phyllis Grove Quotes in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion quotes below are all either spoken by Phyllis Grove or refer to Phyllis Grove. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
).
Part 1 Quotes

The oblivion which in her modesty and humility she courted for herself has only partially fallen on her, with the unfortunate result of inflicting an injustice upon her memory; since such fragments of her story as got abroad at the time, and have been kept alive ever since, are precisely those which are most unfavourable to her character.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Phyllis Grove
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The daughter’s seclusion was great, but beyond the seclusion of the girl lay the seclusion of the father. If her social condition was twilight, his was darkness. Yet he enjoyed his darkness, while her twilight oppressed her.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Phyllis Grove, Dr. Grove/Phyllis’s Father
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

Ever since her childhood it had been Phyllis’s pleasure to clamber up this fence and sit on the top—a feat not so difficult as it may seem, the walls in this district being built of rubble, without mortar, so that there were plenty of crevices for small toes.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Phyllis Grove
Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Phyllis used to say that his English, though not good, was quite intelligible to her, so that their acquaintance was never hindered by difficulties of speech. Whenever the subject became too delicate, subtle, or tender, for such words of English as were at his command, the eyes no doubt helped out the tongue, and—though this was later on—the lips helped out the eyes. In short this acquaintance, unguardedly made, and rash enough on her part, developed and ripened.

Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The stone wall of necessity made anything like intimacy difficult; and he had never ventured to come, or to ask to come, inside the garden, so that all their conversation had been overtly conducted across this boundary.

Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3 Quotes

This account—though only a piece of hearsay, and as such entitled to no absolute credit—tallied so well with the infrequency of his letters and their lack of warmth, that Phyllis did not doubt its truth for one moment; and from that hour she felt herself free to bestow her heart as she should choose. Not so her father; he declared the whole story to be a fabrication.

Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:

Phyllis had not the smallest intention of disobeying him in her actions, but she assumed herself to be independent with respect to her feelings. She no longer checked her fancy for the Hussar, though she was far from regarding him as her lover in the serious sense in which an Englishman might have been regarded as such. The young foreign soldier was almost an ideal being to her, with none of the appurtenances of an ordinary house-dweller; one who had descended she knew not whither; the subject of a fascinating dream—no more.

Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

“My dear friend, please do forget me: I fear I am ruining you and your prospects!”

“Not at all!” said he. “You are giving this country of yours just sufficient interest to me to make me care to keep alive in it. If my dear land were here also, and my old parent, with you, I could be happy as I am, and would do my best as a soldier. But it is not so.”

Related Characters: Phyllis Grove (speaker), Matthäus Tina/German Hussar/Soldier (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

Without him her life seemed a dreary prospect, yet the more she looked at his proposal the more she feared to accept it—so wild as it was, so vague, so venturesome. She had promised Humphrey Gould, and it was only his assumed faithlessness which had led her to treat that promise as nought. His solicitude in bringing her these gifts touched her; her promise must be kept, and esteem must take the place of love. She would preserve her self-respect. She would stay at home, and marry him, and suffer.

Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

She looked into it, saw how heavy her eyes were, and endeavoured to brighten them. She was in that wretched state of mind which leads a woman to move mechanically onward in what she conceives to be her allotted path. Mr Humphrey had, in his undemonstrative way, been adhering all along to the old understanding; it was for her to do the same, and to say not a word of her own lapse.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Phyllis Grove, Humphrey Gould
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5 Quotes

The spot at the bottom of the garden where she had been accustomed to climb the wall to meet Matthäus, was the only inch of English ground in which she took any interest; and in spite of the disagreeable haze prevailing she walked out there till she reached the well-known corner. […] She observed that her frequent visits to this corner had quite trodden down the grass in the angle of the wall, and left marks of garden soil on the stepping-stones by which she had mounted to look over the top. Seldom having gone there till dusk, she had not considered that her traces might be visible by day.

Related Symbols: The Garden Wall
Page Number: 18-19
Explanation and Analysis:

Their graves were dug at the back of the little church, near the wall. There is no memorial to mark the spot, but Phyllis pointed it out to me. While she lived she used to keep their mounds neat; but now they are overgrown with nettles, and sunk nearly flat. The older villagers, however, who know of the episode from their parents, still recollect the place where the soldiers lie. Phyllis lies near.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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Phyllis Grove Character Timeline in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion

The timeline below shows where the character Phyllis Grove appears in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
 Phyllis Grove, the narrator’s source for this tale, is a solitary young woman who lives with... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...of money as the reason. Winter approaches and he leaves the country for Bath, promising Phyllis he’ll return in a few weeks. But Humphrey postpones his return, claiming he needs to... (full context)
Part 2
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
...their “foreign air.” They have come to camp in the part of the countryside where Phyllis lives. One day, a German Hussar from the regiment walks along the path that neighbors... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Phyllis thinks about the soldier all day. She can’t get his face—“so striking, so handsome, and... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis and the soldier continue to converse over the garden wall in the following days. Though... (full context)
Part 3
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis hears a rumor that her betrothed, Humphrey, does not consider the engagement between them to... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Though Phyllis does not plan to disobey her father, she believes herself in control of her own... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
The next night, Phyllis does not appear at the wall at the usual time. Matthäus Tina waits for her... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
The next time Phyllis sees Matthäus Tina, he has been demoted from corporal to private for his late return... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Because Phyllis is unhappy within the confines of her father’s house, and does not feel a great... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Soon, however, Phyllis’s father confronts Phyllis about her meetings with Matthäus Tina, and tells her she’ll be going... (full context)
Part 4
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
One night the following week, Phyllis, Matthäus Tina, and Christoph make their escape. The plan is for Tina to meet Phyllis... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
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Phyllis is hiding behind a fence on the highway, waiting for Matthäus Tina, when a stage-coach... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis suddenly realizes that her behavior—her relationship with Tina and her plan to escape—will be seen... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Phyllis watches Matthäus Tina walking away and eventually meeting Christoph further down the highway. She is... (full context)
Part 5
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Gender, Rank, and Power Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Phyllis and Humphrey go for a walk. The conversation is mostly led by Humphrey, which gives... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Phyllis returns home, halfheartedly regretting her decision not to leave with Matthäus Tina. Wrapped up in... (full context)
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
While at the garden wall, Phyllis hears unusual noises coming from the military camp. She is shocked to see the regiments... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
...Dr. Grove, hearing the sound of gunfire, rushes out into the garden where he finds Phyllis lying against the wall, unmoving. Phyllis is taken indoors, but remains unconscious for a long... (full context)
Captivity, Restriction, and Escape Theme Icon
Love vs. Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Secrecy, Rumor, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...lie next to each other in the churchyard, a place the narrator only knows because Phyllis showed him. Phyllis keeps the graves well-maintained for the rest of her life. The narrator... (full context)