David Suchet as Melmotte facing them all (from Davies’s 2001 TWWLN adaptation — in the last phase Suchet has in mind Charles Laughton’s moving performance as Quasimodo)
Dear friends and readers,
I’ve returned to Trollope with a plunge. A writer for our time. Like Dickens, a geographer of our imagination, utterly televisual (via Andrew Davies), and aptly post-colonial.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been reading his (magnificent panoramic) The Way We Live Now and his brilliant psychological-social masterpiece, He Knew He Was Right. I had begun them once again (I’ve read both at least twice) and gotten about one-third of the way through each when I wrote a proposal for a paper to be part of a collection of essays on British Historical Costume Drama on TV (from The Forsyte Saga to Downton Abbey), and though I’ve not had an absolute acceptance, it’s as near as firm yes as one can get. The only doubt will be if the group can get enough essay proposal to go forth for a fat volume.
Donald Pleasance played the character whose presence began for Trollope his Barsetshire novels: here he plays his cello (1982 BBC Barchester Chronicles, Alan Plater)
It would not be due until next fall, but my problem now is my proposal for Mapping Trollope was accepted by Sharp, and that will be due mid-summer. To map Trollope, to delve his re-creation of London, the mythic Barsetshire, the counties of Dillborough and surrounding areas from The American Senator (Ayala’s Angel), to say nothing of Barsetshire country (which includes both series, Barsetshire and Pallisers), I shall have to read in detail, taking down specifics from several very long novels. I know from experience the whole picture of Barsetshire first emerges in Doctor Thorne, that the chronology of the Barsetshire and Palliser books is more or less consistent and the mapping say of TWWLN fits into that of the Pallisers. And I did want to include the careful mapping of Western Ireland in Trollope’s 5 Anglo-Irish novels and two stories (consistent with the Phineas books), which are no where well enough known.
One world Trollope.
On top of this from my trip to NYC to listen to a lecture at the NY Trollope Society by Prof Nicholas Birns on Trollope’s La Vendee as historical fiction, I’ve again come into contact with this generous scholar who years ago (really) encouraged me to send him a paper on Trollope’s travel books for his Antipodes: a Global Journal of Australian/NZ literature. He told me he loved my book (I never forgot that), especially the Irish sections where I argued for the central importance of Ireland in Trollope’s life and work. I found myself unable to write the paper because at the time I didn’t understand post-colonial theories and perspectives, and the only thing I could think of was descriptive and that meant (I felt) going to Australia. Jim won’t listen to that (cost, distance), and how could I begin to spend enough time anyway.
Since then I’ve learned about post-colonial theory (see my blogs on Christopher Hodson’s Acadian Diaspora and Diasporic Jane and Indian films) and have been able to come up with a perspective which would enable me to discuss say the relationship between Trollope’s travel book, Australian and New Zealand and his novels set in Australia — without going to Australia, or if I did for a relatively short time (I do long to go). On line I’ve done that for his American Senator and North America, which we read in conjunction with one another on Trollope19thCStudies when it was still Trollope-l.
Trollope’s section on New York City and American culture as fuelled by a worship of money ever relevant (see this week’s New Yorker column, George Packer reading TWWLN).
I told him my idea for “On Living in A New Country: Inventing an Australian Identity” (a play on Patrick Wright’s On Living on an Old Country), and he seemed to like it very much, and more or less told me I could be on his pane, “The Australian Trollope,” in a coming Trollope conference. Yes a group of Trollopians are not waiting another 25 years to get together again (see Exeter conference), and in fall of 2015 plan to meet in Belgium at the University of Leuven. If I did that it would mean reading another set of long Trollope books but some new (and to me) interesting Australian literature which I have grown to love. I should say I was once part of a group looking to publish on Trollope as traveler (this was 10 years ago) when I read AngloAustralian novels (e.g., Henry Kingsley’s Geoffrey Hamlin) and Australian & New Zealand famous classics (Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life, and Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River, Ethel (Henry Handel) Richardson’s enormous trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.
Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin as Ada and Flora McGrath (1993 The Piano, Jane Campion)
The rest of my blog summarizess my proposal to discuss the film adaptations of TWWLN and HKHWR (“Andrew Davies’s Televisual Trollope”) and throws out a few ideas for “On Living in a New Country.”
“Andrew Davies’s Televisual Trollope” will include two great artists, Andrew Davies as well as Trollope. I will show that
in Andrew Davies’s adaptations of Trollope Davies developed sophisticated televisual techniques expressively to convey Trollope’s interior monologues, epistolarity, and panoramic plot-designs and Trollope’s themes of delusional sexual paranoia and anxiety, and economic corruption. TWWLN and HKHWR rely on filmic epistolary sequences, montage, flashbacks and voice-over; Davies also breaks naturalistic conventions to allow for characters directly to address the TV audience, and for the TV screen to picture emblematic allegories. We will also see that Davies engages with Simon Raven’s famous 26 part Pallisers to replace a cynical patriarchal Tory implied author with a humane, liberal feminist one, and while so doing, critiques Trollope’s texts from a feminist and Oedipal standpoint ….
Mr Gilson overpowered by Arabella French’s chignon, and getting back when she says she will do anything he bids her including of course removing it: modelled on one of Marcus Stone’s illustrations (from Davies’s 2004 HKHWR)
The first part of the paper will examine the filmic art, themes, character types, plot-designs of TWWLN and HKHWR as a similar pair: since not enough films made from Trollope in close proximity have survived, Davies cannot (as with his Austen or Dickens films) conceive of these as part of a subgroup of author-connected films. Instead they belong to Davies’s own political satiric type films made from socially-concerned novels … In the second part how scenes and dialogues in TWWLN allude to scenes in Raven’s Pallisers to comment both on Raven’s and Trollope’s work. I will also show that Davies brightens and makes much gayer and more hopeful the perspective of HKHWR by imitating the décor and kinds of gentle caricature created in the Barchester Chronicles
For “On Living in a New Country” my idea would be to follow Trollope’s unusual (so I think) trajectory of dramatizing colonialism not from the angle of the higher echelons but from that of the desperate lower middle, working class person and family, or the angle of the younger son who is not the heir. It’s such people he tells his fiction about, and it was to them he directed his Letters from Liverpool.
In the part of Australian and New Zealand just on New Zealand where he visited the Maoris and went swimming with a group of them, we have Trollope as Bohemian (sort of), but (and now this is vague) I recall I thought he was prophetic in looking forward to how ethnic politics would work out, how these would be a core of conflict, that they would seem to replace class- and money-based politics. (It was an analogous foresight to those found in his Anglo-Irish novels about how communities react to outsiders, the use of scapegoats, and collusive officials.) Trollope saw that the person or people who live in a “new” country (so they see it) have to evolve a new identity, one connected to the old one, but different and while in his novels (John Caldigate) he warns out “gentlemen” could fall to lower ways of life, he was very enthusiastic about this new identity.
20th century illustration for Trollope’s John Caldigate (originally called Mrs John Caldigate)
I was amused to find that Robert Hughes actually ends his great book The Fatal Shore (one of the great books of the 20th century; it can stand alongside Primo Levi’s If this be man) by quoting Trollope’s graphic portraits of two men kept in prison for a very long time. I did want to produce a paper. I remember seeing a film at the time, The Proposition, which seemed to me to go into the areas I was interested in from an angle of high violence — and “Aaron Trowe” (the protagonist villain share’s Trollope’s initials, AT) is a story of high violence; so too Harry Heathcoat. Here’s a wikipedia article on the Australian film The Proposition just about this group of people, which starred Emily Watson and Ray Winstone.
TMI? If you were wondering what I’ve been reading while watching all these films and going to operas, what thinking about and why, there you have it. Next up will be a blog on Trollope’s novels HKHWR and then (separately) the TWWLN