Phyllis, Humphrey, and Matthäus Tina each struggle with loyalty throughout the story, and their decisions about where they place their loyalty are ultimately what decide their fate. Phyllis is loyal to Humphrey for the first year of their engagement, but when she hears that Humphrey may not be honoring the engagement in the same way, her loyalty to him weakens, and she allows herself to think of Matthäus Tina as her lover. But when she overhears Humphrey talking with his friend about his plan to bring Phyllis a present and apologize for his behavior, her loyalty to him is immediately restored. Meanwhile, Humphrey has disregarded the engagement in order to secretly marry his love match—meaning that Phyllis’s loyalty to him is misplaced. Matthäus Tina’s relationship with loyalty is complicated, too. He feels no great loyalty to the army he serves, preferring to stay late at the garden wall with Phyllis rather than to ensure his promotion in rank. He makes the decision to desert England and his battalion, partly because of his homesickness—a kind of loyalty to his country—and partly due to an acute loyalty to his friend, Christoph, who will be sabotaged if Tina does not go through with the plan. Tina is simultaneously loyal and disloyal, and this duplicity, though it comes from a pure longing for home and the desire to do right by his friend, ends fatally for him.
Through these myriad complicated decisions and changes of mind, Hardy implies that loyalty is not a black and white issue. Loyalty given under duress, as it is by Phyllis, does not yield a happy result; disloyalty motivated by selfishness, as shown by Humphrey’s actions, can, unfairly, end in satisfaction for the disloyal party. Not even the purest loyalty to one’s family, country, or friends, as shown by Matthäus Tina, holds the guarantee of a reward.
Loyalty Quotes in The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion
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.
“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.”
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.
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.