The Trumpet-Major

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The Trumpet-Major is a novel by Thomas Hardy published in 1880, and his only historical novel. It concerns the heroine, Anne Garland, being pursued by three suitors: John Loveday, the eponymous trumpet major in a British regiment, honest and loyal; his brother Bob, a flighty sailor; and Festus Derriman, the cowardly nephew of the local squire. Unusually for a Hardy novel, the ending is not entirely tragic; however, there remains an ominous element in the probable fate of one of the main characters.

The novel is set in Weymouth during the Napoleonic wars;[1] the town was then anxious about the possibility of invasion by Napoleon.[2] Of the two brothers, John fights with Wellington in the Peninsular War, and Bob serves with Nelson at Trafalgar. The Napoleonic Wars was a setting that Hardy would use again in his play, The Dynasts, and it borrows from the same source material.[3]

Edward Neill has called the novel an attempt to repeat the success of his earlier work Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), after the limited success of his intervening works.[4]


The book is unusual for being the only one of novels for which he wrote preliminary notes, in a pocket book traditionally labelled as 'The Trumpet-Major Notebook'.[1] It is also perhaps extraordinary in the extent to which Hardy aimed for historical accuracy; to that end, he conducted research at the British Museum and consulted various periodicals and newspaper accounts of the time.[3] Richard H. Taylor has noted the accuracy of Hardy's details in the novel.[3]

Operatic version

Thomas Hardy's novel provided the source of Alun Hoddinott's opera The Trumpet Major, with libretto by Myfanwy Piper, first performed in Manchester on 1 April 1981.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Taylor xx
  2. "Hardy and the Trumpet Major". Dorset Life. 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Taylor xxi-xxii
  4. Neill 351


  • Hardy, Thomas (1978). Richard H. Taylor (ed.). The Personal Notebooks of Thomas Hardy. London: Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Neill, Edward (2006). "Mixed Modes in The Trumpet-Major". Essays in Criticism. 56 (4): 35169. doi:10.1093/escrit/cgl008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)

External links