Hardy distrusted nineteenth-century efforts to systematize history, and in The Trumpet-Major he presents the qualities of desire and conflicting loyalties which he saw as constantly undermining such attempts. The courtship of Anne Garland by her three suitors, the trumpet-major John Loveday, his sailor-brother Bob, and Festus Derriman of the yeomanry cavalry, takes place against the backdrop of England's conflict with Napoleon. Yet for Hardy his characters' loves and sorrows are as much the material of history as any record of emperors and generals. The result is a novel which both utilizes and evades historical fact in a complex manipulation of genre which was later to find its fullest expression in Hardy's great verse-drama The Dynasts. This edition is the only one to be based on the novel's manuscript, and it restores Handy's original punctuation and removes the bowdlerisms forced upon him by the editor of the magazine in which it first appeared.
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