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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Davies’

AgnesLookingatWindowblog
From Andrew Davies’s mini-series Mr Selfridge (based on Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction, and Mr Selfridge

I do not believe in recovery. The past, with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be — Lillian Hellman

It is not true that in time you get used to it — Simone de Beauvoir

“The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness — C. S. Lewis

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve not blogged in over a week because I’ve been busy with various projects, most of which I am not ready to write on as yet, or I have to wait to write on because something else will be due earlier. My good past gone, I move to a new framing.

I finished reading Musiol’s important book on Vittoria Colonna but feel I must work on it carefully and during the day, that it will take much thought to review usefully (or why bother?): the description on line leads one to think it’s mainly on Michelangelo’s drawings possibly of Vittoria Colonna, when it is rather a detailed biography in the context of the religious and military politics and other literary works of her age.

Other projects nearing conclusion (coming out of list-serv life): LeFanu’s short stories and Wyvern Mystery (plot-designs and characters emerging from interior pathways through melancholy); Lillian Hellman’s 4 memoirs (Unfinished Woman, Pentemento, Scoundrel Time, Maybe).

But before doing that I have to make one or two syllabi for a possible position teaching in the Humanities part of a BA program. Since I’ve never taught courses which match the requirements of their core curriculum, this will take some doing. And a not so small obstacle here is I just ordered the books, so even with expedited shipping for a couple of them, have to wait. Paradoxically though I’m closer to being able to teach a course in the Enlightenment (one of the two offered), as 1) the 18th century is my primary area; 2) I used to teach a survey on the first half of British literature, one third of which I devoted to the long 18th century, I actually have more recent anthologies for the Victorian Age (my other choice).

LongmanAnthologblog
Pre-Raphaelite image, Millais (on the cover of the Longman Victorian Age)

Right now I’m thinking I should have for each syllabus a single readable (entertaining too) volume of general history (G. H. Young’s Portrait of an Age [Victorian]), an anthology which will give selections from many topics and a variety of texts and authors, and perhaps one or two whole single texts. Some of these anthologies I see have extended texts on-line which may form the equivalent of single texts. I don’t want to make the students pay extravagant amounts of money. For the Victorian Age one, I’m hoping the Broadview anthology comes quickly because it has a lot of Anthony Trollope in it, but I very much like the Longman (rich in traditional texts) and am drawn to the documents in Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain, ed. Antoinette Burden (with pieces by slaves and all sorts of extraordinary exposures of the condition of people at the time all over the globe which would (I hope) set students thinking.

AbingdonasPrude71REynolds
Reynolds’s portrait of Abingdon as Miss Prue (on the cover of the Longman 18th century anthology)

For the eighteenth century, Enlightenment one, I find I can think of a set of individual books, one of which might be a poetry anthology, but the outline of the course suggested asks that the instructor to have a core corpus of philosophical texts, some of which must debate attitudes towards religion (certainly central to the Enlightenment is the spread of secularism) so I’ve ordered Kramnick’s anthology of continental and English Enlightenment philosophical texts, and am thinking about single volume anthologies called Enlightenment (Roy Porter, or Dorinda Outram), to which I could add a good novel or travel memoir; or the Longman or Norton anthologies.

I hope all the ordered stuff arrives as I’m supposed to have these syllabi by New Year’s Day (January 1st). Meanwhile along with my etext edition of Ethelinde (slowly typing it still) and my return to Emma, Austen’s novel, for calendar study, and the Emma movies, which I suppose I must put aside for now, or go slower, late into the night I’m enjoying myself watching Andrew Davies’s Mr Selfridge and endlessly re-watching the 3 seasons of Downton Abbey, which I never seem to tire of: partly it’s that so much money and care and the intense art that results from that, & the many characters gone into with all their parallels and ironic contrasts inside evolving stories — makes slow re-watching rich in ever new insights. Partly the depth of feeling the characters show towards one another satisfies an endless need in me:

MrMrsBatesatBeachblog
Mr (Brendan Coyle) and Mrs (Joanne Froggart): on the beach (4th season)

If Jim were still alive, I’d not be returning to teaching; I’d probably stay with Emma, the Austen movies and Ethelinde, and maybe for fun turn to Winston Graham and historical fiction. Be going out to plays, operas, concerts, walking with him, talking. Travel, say to the Lake District, Venice — but I do know he was beginning to not want to do these things — himself aging, weakening (perhaps that horrible disease cancer that ate him up showing itself). I would have done that paper on Anne Finch and retirement. Lillian Hellman says in her memoirs (which I’m almost ready to write about, just have to finish the fourth and a couple of essays on it) that when you are driven to give up an old way of life, when it’s destroyed, you are spared stagnation, staying in one frame or sameness of place, growing even older than your years.

Can I tell myself (like Hellman) that what was then, is there still now, and the years between, and the then and now are one? No it’s not one, now and the long (now feeling all too short) time with Jim. And what happened to make this raw rip was unspeakable. Here we were, innocent in a landmark house, Amos Brown’s, Vermont, what turned out to be our last summer:

AmosBrownhouseEllenreadingfrontblog

AmosBrownhouseJiminkitchenVermontblog

Before I read with him, now in order not to read all alone, and be utterly desolate in my heart and inner being, I have to turn the reading into socially useful, acceptable patterns and paths.

“Aussi triste qe soit un livre, it n’est jamais aussi triste que la vie” — Chantal Thomas [as sad as a book is, it's never as sad as life], Souffrir

Ellen

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PaulCriticalofRogerblog
TWWLN (Pt 2, Ep 12): fierce quarrel between Paul Montague (Cillian Murphy) and Roger Carbury (Douglas Hodge)

Dear friends and readers,

I am happy to be able to say the paper on “Masculinity and Epistolarity in Andrew Davies’s Trollope films” is finished, and accepted as excellent and fitting in very well with a projected volume on British costume and popular serial drama as a whole. (There are four essays on Downton Abbey, two on the Poldark series, one on The Forsyte Saga in it.) In order to keep the paper to 6700 words, I had to omit a bibliography and cut some parts of my argument; the parts chosen were about how Davies alludes to, critiques and even seeks to replace previous films adapted from the same book or another book by the same author. Davies extends his influence beyond how to read a particular book or author by alluding to and replacing earlier ones by a given author; he likes to comment on earlier films and mini-series too.

Davies has often described his approach to an author’s text he has adapted into a screenplay for a film or mini-series as “having a little quarrel” with “mine author.” He means playfully to refer to the way he will reverse, qualify and critique some of his author’s points of view and the characters’ acts and personalities. Most of the time Davies seeks to present a far more humane, and sometimes socialistic vision than his verbal sources.

His way of extending his readings’ influence in many of his films is to allude to and replace precursor films; for Trollope these include Alan Plater’s 1982 BBC six-hour Barchester Chronicles and Simon Raven’s 1974-75 BBC 26 hour Pallisers. In He Knew He Was Right Davies replaces Trollope’s Exeter and East End London with the décor, church ambiance and costume designs of Plater’s Barchester Chronicles to provide a note of needed cheer. The sets also bring home to us this idyllic matter of the 1980s was not shot through, as this film adaptation is, with gender and class betrayals, and exploitations of women. Something that never comes up in Trollope and Plater’s Barchester Chronicles and is made much of here is the need of a clergyman to be seen to be respectable, maintain a standard of life style and please his parishioners to survive.

DorothyBrookeblog
HKHWR (Pt 3, Ep 4); Dorothy Stanbury (Caroline Martin) reasoning with Brooke Burgess (Matthew Goode)

In Davies’s and Trollope’s HKHWR, the intelligent and candid Dorothy Stanbury (Caroline Walker dressed in a costume whose cut and design harks back to the previous film) tells her suitor who prefers to ignore this motive for her acceptance of him: “The world is filled with people whom nobody cares for, people that nobody thinks about, nobody talks about as if they’re not there … If a man is a nobody, he can make himself into somebody or at any rate, he can try, but a woman has no means of trying. She does not earn anything or do any good in the world.”

An analogous bleak awareness about why women marry, and the consequent “tyranny of husbands” is uttered by the Signori Neroni in Trollope’s Barchester Towers, although given a wistful turn by Plater and Susan Hampshire (the actress). Susan Hampshire playing the crippled Signora Neroni has been listening to her sister, Charlotte Stanhope, urge their penniless brother, Bertie, to court the widowed Eleanor Bold, to marry her for her money if he can. Obstacles include the heavy mourning Eleanor wears. Madeleine speaks a series of utterances which have undergone no change from Barsetshire Chronicles: “I hate such shallow pretenses. I’d let the world say what it pleased and show no grief [for a dead husband] if I felt none – perhaps not show it if I did,” and (when they in effect say nothing) “you both know in what way husbands and wive generally live together. You know what freedom a man claims for himself and what slavery he would exact from a wife and you know how wives generally obey. Marriage means tyranny on one side, and deceit on the other, and a man is a fool to sacrifice his interests to such a bargain. The tragedy is a woman generally has no other way of living” (Cf 1:4, Episode 5; BT 125-26).

BTPt5Madeleineblog
Barchester Chronicles (Pt 5, Ep 4): Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire), disillusioned

This disillusioned awareness about marriage, as found in Trollope’s Barchester Towers and uttered by Susan Hampshire is central to Emily Trevelyan’s dilemma and the two other heroines who have no way of supporting themselves in the book, Nora Rowley and Dorothea Stanbury. Through these heroines Trollope utters and Davies repeats bleak versions of Madeleine’s comment. But Trollope shies away, offers no words which shed light on the novel’s sexual and emotional anxiety, distress, on jealousy, both the male and female’s desire to have unshared physical possession (the latter enshrined in marriage), their need for reassurance and respect, and urge to dominate. All that Trollope’s text contains (repeated many times) are Louis’s religious castigations (which Emily rejects as ugly name-calling) and demands for instant obedience. Davies makes us see that in fact Emily did flirt with Osborne, they talked disingenuously when they justified their implicitly erotic correspondence with one another, and Davies does what he can to reinforce and bring out versions of feminist self-assertion in his films.

One example: Lady Rowley (Geraldine James) trying to persuade Emily to own a fault and submit to her husband at least part way.

Emily: and offer him my humble penitence for sins I’d never committed
Lady R: but to have your home again dear and your little boy
Emily: by telling lies and living a lie
Lady R: you wouldn’t be the first women to do so

Emily stares, her father, Sir Marmaduke rustles his newspaper in discomfort resentful as if about to protest. Then Davies gives Emily a soliloquy by curtained window & flower arrangement to us:

EmilyRefusingblog
HKHWR (Pt 3, Ep 7): Emily (Laura Fraser) reasoning with us

if I simply said the words to him might they work like a spell would he change back to the Louie I first knew I could pretend pretend to be the humble penitent wife he wants (intense resentment understandable) and wait and take my chance and escape with little Louie … but where could we go that he couldn’t find us … then still looking at us

In The Way We Live Now Davies includes scenes which allude to the kind of behavior we find among males in both Barchester Chronicles and The Pallisers: Davies’s younger contemporary males attuned to the contemporary worlds of business and more liberated women expose the older men’s supposed sheerly chivalrous motives in wanting to marry a much younger woman as a mask for carnal appetites and control over everyone within the reach of their patronage; this achieved by treating women as children and presenting themselves as exemplary in all behaviors.

Confrontationblog
TWWLN (Pt 2, Ep 7): again Paul Montague and Roger Carbury confront one another

Four scenes invented by Davies between Sir Roger Carbury (Douglas Hodge) and his cousin-nephew, Paul Montague (Cillian Murphy) are intended as commentary on the supposed chivalrous but actually possessive and repressive behavior of Plantagenet Palliser (Philip Latham) over Lady Glencora McClusky Palliser (Susan Hampshire). Davies’s TWWLN: Part 2, Episode 7: Paul: “For God’s sake, man, she’s not a piece of property for one man to take or another to keep. She has a will of her own and a heart of her own. In the end she will decide. She may not choose either of us”; Part 2, Episode 12: Paul: “You think and you speak of her as a child, Roger, all your intercourse with her has been as a grown man with a child and you offer yourself to her as a lover. How can you regard your advances to her with anything but embarrassment and disgust.”

Palliser’s father-like concern in participating in the forcing of a frustrated thwarted Lady Glencora to marry him forms another common typology in Trollope’s work, one shown to be justified by Trollope and Raven. In a striking scene which set alongside Trollope’s clearly is intended to critique this paradigm, Davies has his less than scrupulous young male hero, Paul Montague turn on Roger Carbury, Paul’s older guardian-uncle when (as in Trollope) Roger disdains Montague for spending a weekend with the married Winifred Hurtle, and accuse Roger of far worse behavior, of distasteful appetites and seeking exploitative control when Roger pursues the much younger and dowry-less Hetta. Roger’s response to this demonstrates how central Davies understands Paul’s direct thrust against Victorian male paternalism (and Trollope’s alter-egos) to be: “I don’t see how our relationship can survive this” (Cf. HKHWR (film), 2:2, Episodes 7, 12 and HKHWR 374-77)

04HKHWREmilyandOsbourne2blog
HKHWR (Pt 1, Ep 3): Emily with Osborne (Bill Nighy), a vision or daily happening?

In interviews Davies has said both The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right are about “strong, confident ['modern'] women.” He sees Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right as “about a strong woman who is seeking to make her own decisions and lead her own life, and a rather fragile man who can’t stand up to her” (Walsh), an astonishing stance when placed in relationship to most essays about the book, which Davies clearly has read (e.g., Nardin 203-11).

LouisEmilyblog
HKHWR (Pt 1,Ep 3): Emily overmastering Louis (Oliver Dimsdale)

Although Davies eliminates some of the worst explicit violence against women in Trollope’s novel, it’s Trollope’s dramatization of women’s subjection, caged delusions, sense of self, fierce materialism in conflict with their need for love, and tendency (as he sees it) to submit and sacrifice themselves to others that Davies turns to mildly subversive advantage in the stories of the partly re-characterized unchaste as well as chaste young heroines. The character Trollope meant to be one of the corrupt and deluded focuses of the book, Lady Carbury (in Trollope’s scathing view, a marketplace “female literary charlatan” if ever there was one, [Kincaid 173-74; McMaster 69, 76]), becomes an often sympathized-with vulnerable and sensual career woman.

LadyCarburyMrBrounblog
TWWLN (Pt 1, Ep 9), Lady Carbury (Cheryl Campbell) making up to Mr Broun (David Bradley) at her salon

Davies was attracted to The Way We Live Now by two male characters: “Sir Felix Carbury, so pathetic, yet very attractive to women. He’s utterly contemptible really, and is my favorite character”; “my character of Sir Roger [Carbury] is Trollope writing in a great fire of indignation about every aspect of English society” (PSB Website). Integrity as an element in male emotional weakness, and empathy with mean, vicious male characters have long been found in Davies’ filmic oeuvre (Cardwell, Davies 159-66, 84-94, 148-57), but the conventions and characterizations in Davies’s Trollope represents show Davies unsympathetic to Trollope’s moralisms, staid realism and specific characters in the 1974 Pallisers (which Davies sought to replace).

JauntyWalkblog
TWWLN (Pt 1, Ep 6): Felix’s jaunty walk (Matthew Macfayden)

Felix Carbury is a type found throughout Trollope’s fiction: the ne’er-do-well drone attractive to women because he can be brutal to them, e.g., Burgo Fitzgerald whom Barry Justice plays (Pallisers 1:1–3:6) as a poignant tragic hero, a view consonant with Trollope’s text: Raven’s pathetic scene of Burgo as genuinely grief-stricken and abused, wounded in a justified pride (Pallisers 3:6, Episode 28) includes dramatic language taken directly from Can You Forgive Her? (690-700). Matthew MacFayden as Felix ends complacently playing cards, drinking whiskey, and is last seen chasing a flirtatious woman around a door, apparently content with life on a remittance in small European town (at least behaving no differently than he ever did). Neither Raven nor or Alan Plater (scriptwriter for the Barsetshire Chronicles) ever question the supposedly admirable motives of Trollope’s alter egos.

Davies’s particular brand of mild feminism within a masculinist perspective calls out for study since he has been so influential on how people respond to the books he’s adapted. He feels for weaker woman, e.g., in TWWLN Madame Melmotte’s nervousness is contrasted to Hetta (Paloma Baeza) and Mrs. Hurtle (Mirando Otto) as strong women: Madame Melmotte (Helen Schlesinger) clutches her hands in a characteristic gesture signaling a helpless woman listening to Melmotte’s last pragmatic advice: “You’d better pack up your jewels . . . pack ‘em up small, ready to hand . . . you might have to …”

MadameMelmotteblog
TWWLN (Pt 4, Ep 11): she wrings her hands

Not all is sombre; strength in woman can make gay scenes too. A mark of Davies’s real talent for play-writing (scripts for TV too) is the ability to convey a story through dialogue and make the dialogue itself of interest in different ways and at the same time create human sympathy for the characters. I was struck by this sparkling dialogue written by Davies for Caroline Spalding and Mr Glascock to speak to one another in their flirtatious phase at Florence; there is no such dialogue in Trollope, but it articulates the conflict of values between the two, and presents as sharp a critique of the US as the UK — which self-critique the American Senator Gotobed (American Senator) fudges:

Reparteeblolg
HKHWR (Pt 2 Ep 9): Miss Caroline Spalding (Anna Louise Plowman) holds her own; they begin their witty flirtatious debate with Caroline suggesting to Glascock (the name is deliberately parodically allegorical) he would not enjoy a visit or life in the US:

Repartee2blog
Mr Glascock (Raymond Coulthard)

Caroline: You wouldn’t like it [the states]
Glascock: Why not?
Caroline: Because you’re an aristocrat
Glascock: And why should that prevent me from liking it
Caroline: One half of the people would run after you and the other half would run away from you on principle
Glascock: Revolutionary principle?
Caroline: Democratic principle
Glascock: And may I ask which half you’d be in [-- gets sly and sharp look now]
Caroline: The second half of course
Glascock: You’re not running away from me now
Caroline: No I’m not, am I? but I think I shall have to before too long
Glascock: Oh that would make me sad
Caroline: It would make me sad too but there we are I think it has to be done the old world and the new are like oil and vinegar you see we may be polite to each other in society but deep down you believe we’re an inferior race and
Glascock: mouths oh
Caroline: Deep down we’d like to smash your outdated snobbish institutions and make you like us free and equal
Glascock; Well, all Englishmen are free and we’re all equal in the eyes of god
Caroline: Oh and doesn’t that excuse a great deal of iniquity we freed our slaves Mr Glascock
Glascock: We never had slaves Miss Spalding
Caroline: No you just traded in them
Glascock: Well not me personally and my father was very active in the abolition movement (getting insulted now)
Caroline: None of this is personal, Mr Glascock
Glascock: I’m relieved to hear it.

The juxtapositon of this fresh love of Caroline and Glascock is cast odd light on by previous utterances about love and courtship by the 5 or 6 other couples of the novel (dependent on how you count them) and also Emily and Louis’s love: What will this couple be in a few years, we are led to ask. A deep scepticism about erotic love in this film is part of Davies’s presentation of male sexual anxiety too — she says this will end in tears. Then we get this witty half -challenging dialogue about old world and new aristocracy and democracy. Davies probably thinks of himself as outdoing his predecessor even in the area of naturalistic dialogue where Trollope is a past master too.

Ellen

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AllingtomGerouldsblog
The Allington Estate, big & small house & grounds (The Small House at Allington)

Dear friends and readers,

I’m delighted to be able to announce a third essay by me on Anthony Trollope is now on the Victorian Web.

The latest is my Mapping Trollope; or Geographies of Power (see Geographies of the Book). What differentiates this text from the one on my website is the maps are much larger and clearer and you can click on them to further enlarge them. For example, here’s Trollope’s drawing of Barsetshire enlarged. The Victorian Web also has software which allows the scene I transcribed from the BBC 1974-75 Pallisers, Part 9, Episode 8, Madame Max (Barbara Murray) conferring with Mrs Meager (Sheila Fay) as a separate clear document. As in the other two essays, the footnotes are far more accessible: you can click on the raised number and go rapidly from text to footnote, and in this new set-up the notes and bibliography are to the side.

In 2006 I wrote my second conference paper, this time in accordance with the conference’s theme (Trollope and Gender), about how male sexuality and norms of manliness and/or masculinity are presented in Trollope, Trollope’s Comfort Romances for Men: Heterosexual Male Heroism in Trollope. I am finding that this aspect of his work is central to the film adaptations still available: Raven, then Plater and now Andrew Davies explore the problems of having to abide by norms of masculinity and manliness in Victorian society, presented as not all that much different from analogous problems today.

RogertoPaulblog

PaultoRogerblog

Upon finding Paul Montague [Cillian Murphy] at Lowestoffe (2001, TWWLN, Part 2, Ep 12) with Mrs Hurtle (a woman whom Paul was formerly engaged to and will be led to have sex with that night in their shared room), Roger Carbury [Douglas Hodge] (an older cousin-uncle) berates Paul scornfully for sexual faithlessness and for abusing Hetta Carbury to whom Paul has now engaged himself and Paul replies:

‘You think so little of me (near tears). Are you so proud of your own dealings with Hetta? … you think of her and speak of her as a child, Roger, all your intercourse with her has been as a grown man with a child and now you offer yourself to herself as a lover? How could you regard your advances to her as anything but an embarrassment and with disgust (anger in his voice rising) that is what I mean …

I’ve learned to understand how Mark Turner’s book, Trollope in the Magazines shows the importance of male audiences to Trollope’s narrator’s sexual stance. What I now realize is Trollope’s novels are not as comforting to men as I had thought. And modern film adapters see the contradictions, cruelties and human tragedies in the conceptions of masculinity enacted in Trollope (say the Pallisers where a young Lady Glen is married off, sold to the much older Plantagenet) and bring these out.

breakfastlettersblog
G. H. Thomas, “She read the beginning — Dearest Grace”, Breakfast Scene, The Last Chronicle of Barset

My first paper on the Web is of course still there: are “Partly Told in Letters: Trollope’s Story-telling Art, which I wrote some 13 years ago now. As the years progress I become more and more convinced that epistolary narrative in a genuinely conceived epistolary situation is central to Trollope’s creation of insightful interiority: the readers, reader and character, cannot know what will happen next, the letter readers’ response is as important as the letter itself, and the letter is presented with an awareness of all the surrounding conditions and internal lying (posing) it brings, how it is also potentially an incriminating document.

Both my first and most recent paper, letters and maps in Trollope, became part of Trollope’s art partly because was himself a postal employee, himself literally mapping Ireland and southwestern England, and cared intensely about everything having to do with letters. From his Autobiography:

Early in 1851 I was sent upon a job of special official work, which for two years so completely absorbed my time that I was able to write nothing. A plan was formed for extending the rural delivery of letters, and for adjusting the work, which up to that time had been done in a very irregular manner. A country letter-carrier would be sent in one direction in which there were but few letters to be delivered, the arrangement having originated probably at the request of some influential person, while in another direction there was no letter-carrier because no influential person had exerted himself…

It was intended to set this right throughout England, Ireland, and
Scotland; and I quickly did the work in the Irish district to which I was attached. I was then invited to do the same in a portion of England … the object was to create a postal network which should catch all recipients of letters. In France it was, and I suppose still is, the practice to deliver every letter. Wherever the man may live to whom a letter is addressed, it is the duty of some letter-carrier to take that letter to his house, sooner or later. But this, of course, must be done slowly. With us a delivery much delayed was thought to be worse than none at all. In some places we did establish posts three times a week, and perhaps occasionally twice a week …

It is amusing to watch how a passion will grow upon a man. During
those two years it was the ambition of my life to cover the country
with rural letter-carriers. I do not remember that in any case a rural post proposed by me was negatived by the authorities; but I fear that some of them broke down afterwards as being too poor, or because, in my anxiety to include this house and that, I had sent the men too far afield. … I would ride up to farmhouses or parsonages, or other lone residences about the country, and ask the people how they got their letters, at what hour, and especially whether they were delivered free or at a certain charge. For a damnable habit had crept into use, which came to be, in my eyes, at that time, the one sin for which there was no pardon, in accordance with which these rural letter-carriers used to charge a penny a letter, alleging that the house was out of their beat, and that they must be paid for their work. I think that I did stamp out that evil … (Chapter 5, pp 87-90)

I love book illustrations, and to immerse myself in the worlds of books, and have been fascinated by the intersection of these with Trollope’s texts since I began reading him. when the Sharp people announced their topic would be maps, I knew I had to write about these in Trollope. And my long interest in epistolary narrative (I wrote my dissertation on Richardson’s Clarissa and Grandison), just love of reading novels told in letters and 1st person subjective narrative novels and studies in the 18th century also led me to take this perspective. I’m now interested in filmic epistolarity, how historical films imitate earlier illustrations and acquire interiority through the use of letters, voice-over, flashbacks, montage, all attached to letter writing, receiving, reading.

04Emilyreadingthenwritingblog
Soft focus: Emily (Laura Fraser) writing Colonel Osborne and saying she would like to see him again, he can come any time, after we have heard his voice-over in a letter to her (2004 HKHWR, Part 1, Ep 5)

And I’ve also shorter piece on the Victorian Web: The Art of Biography, Modern Style: Thackeray, with a response by Peter Shillingsburg. I do love life-writing.

All gratifying. I am very grateful to the people on the Victorian Web who made this possible.

Ellen

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SharpSteyneblog
Marquis of Steyne (Gerard Murphy) the one strong man in the film who sees through Becky (Natasha Little) as a liar, thief but wants her intensely (1998 BBC/A&E Vanity Fair, scripted Andrew Davies, directed Marc Munden)

BeckySteyneVanityFair2004blog
The Marquis of Steyne (Gabriel Byrne) propositions Becky (Reese Witherspoon), played for comedy (2004 Focus Vanity Fair, directed Mira Nair, scripted Julian Fellowes)

the Dobbin figure, though apparently clumsy, yet dances in a very amusing and natural manner: the Little Boys’ Dance has been liked by some and please to remark the richly-dressed figure of the Wicked Nobleman, on which no expense has been spared — the Manager

Dear friends and readers,

I recently re-watched Andrew Davies’s magnificent film adaptation of Wm Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and felt I had walked into a terrain shared by Anthony Trollope & Thackeray too. In Davies’s depiction of the male characters in Vanity Fair he makes visible what drew Trollope to Thackeray and where Trollope’s texts resemble Thackeray’s. So much criticism and ordinary reader commentary concentrates on Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley This criticism marginalizes a large group of characters by Thackeray given equal importance: Dobbin, George Osborne and his father; Joseph Sedley and his and Amelia’s father; Rawdon and Rawdon’s son (made more important in all the movies), the Marquis of Steyne; the older and younger Pitt Crawleys, not to omit Becky’s memories of her drawing master alcoholic father (and how no one else forgets such a man was her father).

I began to realize how in his Thackeray, Trollope’s perspective on Thackeray derived from how Trollope was consciously looking at Thackeray from the point of view of his success as a novelist and more generally as a man: Trollope had in mind criteria of masculinity and what makes a man admired. Trollope measured Thackeray from the point of view of the man’s career and unlucky marriage. In the sections in Thackeray on Thackeray’s novels Trollope shows a fascination with Thackeray’s strong women (Rachel and Beatrice as well) and ethical men. Thackeray’s is a strongly gendered fiction as is Trollope’s and Davies strongly gendered films.

Strong women, weak men — a development of this kind of contrast is central to Davies’s films, Thackeray’s VF and Henry Esmond, and some of Trollope’s novels, but especially He Knew He Was Right, one of the two Trollope novels that Davies has chosen to do, and the choice is highly unusual because of the explicitness of the theme of the partly despised because anguished male. I’d been reading Trollope steadily once again for months now, criticism, writing papers & proposals, and watching Davies’s movies. A couple of months ago I returned to Thackeray through Trollope’s literary life of him, and feel that it was Trollope’s life of Thackeray enables me to see a shared territory between the three of them in a nervous exploration of real men’s lives and psyches against what is expected of them.

The blog is about how one can see the convergence of Thackeray and Trollope’s points of view in the way Davies adapts them. As I’ve gone over these themes in other blogs on Trollope, I’ll concentrate on Vanity Fair here, one where the exploration of masculinity’s ordeals and losses is insufficiently emphasized, especially given how prevalent it is in the book & films.

*********************

BeckyandherfatherVanityFairblog
First shots & male: POV child Becky looking at her sick, impoverished dying drawing master father (1998 BBC/A&E Vanity Fair, scripted Davies)

So, memory too a bitter desire for revenge may be part of Becky’s motives in Davies’s film, brought out as partial explanation for her coldness; but its source for Davies is her relationship with her father which Davies’s film begins with. This father is referred to many times in the film adaptation as that which in her background makes her unacceptable: Thackeray did make her a daughter of a drawing master and everyone refers to it at some poit. Who was her grandfather? In the film Becky’s memory is this picture. She’s getting back.

The young men are tied to and dependent on the women in this book and film:

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George Osborne (Tom Ward) about to collapse into Amelia (Emmy’s) arms the night before Waterloo (Davies’s VF)

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Lady Jane (Sylvestre le Touzel tells young Pitt she’ll leave him if he allows Rebecca to be part of their lives again (Davies’ VF)

Older men are part of the continuum. An unexpectedly powerful thread in the story-line of Davies’s film is a contrast between the anguished failure of Amelia’s father and the seething loneliness and self-hatred of George Osborne’s father in his scenes first with his son, then bullying his daughter, and then trying to reach his grandson (hopelessly) through drink:

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Grief striken Mr Osborne (Tim Woodward) with his grandson (Davies’ VF)

The depiction of Mr Osborne is extensive: his grief for his son George and his mis-bringing up his grandson — he is but a child and cannot drink with his grandfather the way the son did.

Thackeray gave Davies’s the trajectory of the abject Dobbin finally at the close realizing he’d wasted his life in worship of a small foolish woman too late:

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Philip Glenister brilliant in the part (Davies’ VF)

Where Thackeray neglected a potentially tragic male, Davies built the character up: Davies gives us Rawdon and Becky’s courtship, Rawdon’s becoming subject to Becky, sharing, giving his all, trusting her naively (while not naive in any other area of his life), then gradually awakening to her coldness (to his boy) and unconcern for him. Rawdon cries. His becomes the moving story of the movie:
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Rawdon (Nathaniel Parker) looking at her, saying I gave you all (Davies’ VF)

In a sense he dies of the loss (escape is his solution, but Coventry is a death sentence) giving the boy to Lady Jane who not having a child of her own, ironically the boy Rawdon becomes the owner of the estate

The accent is on heterosexual males except perhaps Joseph Sedley who modern critics tend to turn into the book’s closet (or unaware) homosexual, his debonair plumpness and lack of military prowess and woman companion inviting this.

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The awkward Joseph (Jeremy Swift), the films first shot (Davies’ VF)

Some critics go so far as to suggest it’s not Dobbin or George Osborne Thackeray has put part of himself in, but Joseph Sedley with his love of gourmet eating too. At any rate, the sexual angle in Davies’s Vanity Fair brings home the vulnerability of males to female sexuality; the males whatever their orientation are presented as enthralled and subject to women again and again, even where it’s not admitted or maybe especially.

Characters degraded, debased, become, however sordid and ugly, poignant in their vulnerability to loneliness: thus the aging Pitt (David Bradley) whose children by his 2nd wife Becky first becomes governess to and is a harsh semi-grotesque character is pitiable when we last see him and he’s lost Becky:

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Old man (David Bradley) lonely at desk (Davies’s VF)

Nair and Fellowes pick up the depiction of comic lechers in Thackeray as shattered pitiable. Davies gives Steyne insight into Becky’s lies, thievery, ridiculous veneration of ribbons and the highest-ranking people.

In my paper Trollope’s “Comfort Romances for Men” I argued Trollope was developing an unconventional portrait of manliness out of identification and concern; last week I came across similar approaches to a continuum of males in Trollope: from Gordon Ray and Peter Shillingsburg to Joseph Litvak (Strange Gourmets); I’ve been aware for a long time how Davies’s key identifications are with the non-macho transgressive males, the inept and inadequate, the Oedipal struggle, gay men. This is not the first time Davies has made me aware of an underlying stratem in work no one ever wrote about before.

I know that Davies changes the story. For his exploration of masculinity I’d call it (the term would be manliness in Victorian times), the story of Rawdon and Becky’s relationship is much extended and show more centrally — to the point that when Rawdon is rowed away to Coventry (and we know death), the series seemed to suddenly collapse for a moment or so; we had reached its natural ending. Davies though picks up strong with the reappearance of Dobbin and bringing Emmy centrally onto the stage, and again he has changed the story as it’s not until very late in the book that Emmy realizes the piano was from Dobbin. The way Davies at first shows them as clearly a pair after Dobbin returns from India, with Emmy appearing to fall in love with Dobbin is not in Thackeray

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Dobbin (Glenister) given more dignity by having Emmy (Frances Grey) in love with him and her boy look up to him in Pumpernickel (Davies’ VF)

so that in the film adaptation Dobbin gets two powerful scenes of her betrayal while (if I’m remembering right) there is but one in the book, and Dobbin’s disillusion is omitted except that the words used in his second betrayal are about how she is not worth his devotion much more emphatically. The men’s bullying their wives is given full play — the way men treated women in the 1820s. Admittedly this is not in Trollope except late in his career (it’s in The Way We Live Now but early books has women liable to bully men) — that’s a real part of Thackeray’s and Davies’s feminism.

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Steyne terrorizing his otherwise snobbish aristocratic wife by implicitly threatening to tear her ear with her earring (Davies’ VF)

Gambling and cheating (in all its aspects) are elements in the build up of perverted men, destroyed men (by the system they live in). Gentlemen must not work and when disinherited are simply without funds to carry on because they must inherit money as gentlemen or are businessmen, but they must not fail as Mr Sedley (David Ross) did:

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His mind shattered, he clings to rolls of paper

This would have been George Osborne’s case had he lived. The woman are oddly not destroyed and remain strong psychologically — that is very much Davies, I am not sure about Thackeray not having read him enough but do remember how strong Beatrice was in Henry Esmond and something I read by Sutherland suggests the strong woman who is amoral and yet a heroine is what struck Thackeray’s contemporaries.

Gambling is bisexual in the sense that Rawdon acts with Becky until she goes too far and betrays him — and that life’s a gamble in the book.

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First shot of Becky and Rawdon married — she’s counting up his winnings (Davies’ VF)

Davies shows how Rawdon allows himself to be corrupted and is cheating for Becky for years; but Becky has been stealing since she first left Miss Pinkerton’s and the stash of jewels found by Rawdon are many years in the making. This is re-emphasized in the coach when Lady Jane recognizes Becky’s super expensive shawl as a shawl that was in Queen’s Crawley years ago and has (she now realizes) gone missing. Becky does gamble to live by the end.

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I have meant this blog to be about a convergence of themes in Trollope, Thackeray and Davies, so some areas I’ve not looked into as yet: for example Thackeray’s distaste for snobbery that Davies shares but Trollope defends. Seen in the light of depiction of problems of masculinities, its false materialistic values, “snobbery” destroys people — ethically too. Thackeray shows us how sentimental folk turn away from financially ruined snobs especially.

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Davies’s Melmotte’s (David Suchet) downfall: he wanted to be an English gentleman: part 2 of film opens with dumb show of him having himself painted with a gun, dog, and backdrop of country house and curtain (2001 TWWLN, scripted Davies, directed Diarmuid Lawrence

Another is the characters’ urge to find a high status as a gentleman and the demands this elite image makes. Robin Gilmour’s 1981 book, *The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel*, contains a long chapter on Thackeray’s gentlemen, focusing on the shift from dandyism and military glory to domesticity. It’s the kind of book summaries don’t help with as the insights are intricate to the argument and come fast and many over each page. The best review I could find was by Alexander Welsh, half of whose review is on Mark Girouard’s Idea of Chivalry.

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The nervous edgy violence of Jonathan Rhys Meyers captures this aspect of Osborne best (Nair’s VF)

Simon Raven’s book about the death of the ideal and type of gentlemen in the UK is relevant because Raven wrote the first The Way We Live Now script (1969), which I suspect Davies’s based his adaptation on — but I cannot get to see as I cannot travel to London this summer.

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Emily (Laura Fraser) and Louis (Oliver Dimsdale) fail to cope with the arch rake, Colonel Osborne (Bill Nighy) who knows just how to insinuate himself (2004 HKHWR, scripted Davies, directed Tom Vaughn)

I’ll close on parallel concerns with masculinity between Thackeray’s and Trollope’s books: He Knew He Was Right dwells on internal psychological intangible states as brought out in psycho-social dynamics, all shaped by sexuality, social norms and fears (especially male anxieties, ego needs), and money and power; The Way We Live Now an analysis of the larger forces of society as we see them enacted by individuals, not just prophetic of today, but enacting the same patterns we see today albeit different costumes.

Trollope’s attitudes emerge as closely similar through his paradigms and voice-presence. Davies of course saw this in his choice of the two and the ways he handled them, though his TWWLN reminds me of modern mini-series like the 1991-5 House of Cards, the modernity of his and Hooper’s Daniel Deronda and subversion of costume drama’s pieties in Davies’ Moll Flanders; HKHWR takes on some cheer and strong women from Plater’s Barchester Chronicles. Davies though specifically has his younger males, like Paul Montague, repudiates the model of the “mature” man marrying the girl (she forced into it) as tyrannical, egotistic, appetitive disgusting (so much for Plantagenet Palliser ….)

Davies in his one original novel, Getting Hurt, gives us a man as uncertain, anxious and shattered as Louis Trevelyan. And as lonely as Dobbin. Our aloneness another theme angled similarly in Trollope, Thackeray and Davies.

Ah! Vanitas Vanitatem! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? — Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets for our play is played out — the Manager

Ellen

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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.

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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.

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Walhalla, Victoria 19th century print

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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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 ….

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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.

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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.

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The Stanleys (very much the sort of couple Trollope writes about).

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

Ellen

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The photo is by Margaret Cameron, the hat the one Trollope traveled in and the emails for him and his characters invented by me

Dear friends and readers,

It’s never too late. I’ve had a third official — published — review of my book, Trollope on the ‘Net, and I am so chuffed. Tyler Tichelaar alone took seriously and described “the other half” of my books, the part about my and other people’s experiences in cyberspace, mostly reading Trollope novels. That’s what’s revolutionary (as John Letts’s introduction says). I place as of equal interest and weight to that of scholars, the views of the other readers and myself on the list-serv the discussions occurred on between 1995-6 and 1997 (a majordomo list-serv managed by Elizabeth Thomson).

He’s placed it on his website: The Gothic Wanderer

and on the Amazon site where used copies are still for sale.

I’m so pleased by what he says in an immediate way when he refers to how Trollope is still denigrated as simply writing for money, not out of an irresistible powerful creative imagination. Just the other day on the Trollope Society face-book someone quoted Jane Smiley who had trotted out that prejudice: his routine shows he was was somehow mechanical. No one who has read Trollope’s books with their mind alive and experienced his characters, stories, dramatic scenes, narrator’s presence, just spilling over and intertwined could think this. One of the members of the face-book group quoted one of Trollope’s powerful descriptions of his experience of his imagination. I did try to counter this in my book — I’ve a chapter on An Autobiography as a book which contains a remarkable percipient description by Trollope of his own reveries: he had a pictorial dramatic imagination and would see a character in a dramatic scene identified as say “the brother” or “the sister” and from that evolve a situation, and from that a story.

I’m writing this blog partly to say I have about 3 boxes of the books left (maybe 36) from the original print-out beyond the ones sent to the members of the Trollope Society the year the book was published (2000). I’d be happy to send a copy to anyone for the literal cost of the book and postage ($15). My email: ellen.moody@gmail.com. Honestly it’s not for the money but because I’d like to make more people aware it’s about the Internet and takes an unorthodox view because of its dual context.

As Tichelaar says, this is not to say it’s not scholarly. The two official reviews — published — I had thus far paid tribute to that part of the book. In one of the yearly round-ups of Trollope studies, Mark Turner devoted two gracious paragraphs to it, like Tichelaar commending my chapter on Trollope’s illustrations of which I am (I admit) particularly proud since I did most of my original research there — including wonderful days spent at the Library of Congress examining over 460 illustrations. Many of Trollope’s novels were published in instalments and it was these that got the illustrations. They were a way of selling the numbers. Customers were attracted by putting some of the full-page pictures in shop windows. I am hoping to give a paper on these illustrations at a coming Sharp-l conference (fingers crossed). But he felt that the “other half” of my book got in the way, took up too much space. I’ve since been told by other scholars my opening chapter would traditionally place my outlook in the context of other scholars instead of placing it in the context of how I came to get on the Internet and lead reading groups. I held scholarly contexts off to every other chapter when after whatever book we read is covered, I put that book in its Trollope context (as Trollope’s Irish novels, or as Tichelaar, says his novellas, books under 300 pages of which Trollope was very proud).

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A well-known illustration by Phiz for Can You Forgive Her?: see see Burgo’s casual generosity to the desperate beggar girl — this one was a favorite of John Letts and the frontispiece for my book

Margaret Drabble (astonishingly) read my book — she was a friend of Letts, and came to Trollope meetings, and she paid tribute to the readings of the novels. But she was amused at the Internet groups and thought reading on the Net might be like adult education. It’s not.

I call these official because they are not my only reviews. Since my book was published I’ve had letters and notes from all sort of people on the Net saying mostly kind things about my book. Occasionally someone has put a review of it on a list-serv. Like Jane Austen (and probably others) I’ve saved each and every one and have a folder of them (not that slender).

Nowadays the list-serv is called Trollope19thCStudies and is equally on other Victorian writers, and has been so (though the accurate name is recent) since around 1997-98 when Michael Powe opened a new list-serv on Yahoo, partly so that we could expand beyond Trollope. We moved four times: Mike handled it off of his own server; my husband ran the group using French software, but it’s very hard for individuals to keep up (as Elizabeth Thompson presumably found) and so we are back at Yahoo once again. And we carry on with Trollope too, and this past fall read Castle Richmond and starting in February we’ll be reading An Autobiography again. We are now only one of several groups reading Trollope: another on Yahoo (just called “Trollope”), several on the Trollope society site. I’ve been told of other Yahoo groups reading Trollope novels (19th century literature at Yahoo), I remember a third site I was told of (though not where it was). And there are other commemorative sites beyond mine: a teacher read the Barchester novels with her students looking for classical references. There are a mighty number of them, enough to keep high school students busy making a website: Apollo

In physical space, who knows how many library and home reading groups there are. The two Trollope societies (really one, but located on either side of the Atlantic, NYC and London) have lectures: one is coming up in February in NYC which I am now hoping to attend: Nicholas Birne on Trollope’s La Vendee (a book we’ve read twice in our Yahoo group.

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Judge Staveley walking with his daughter, Madeleine: by John Everett Millais for Orley Farm, this is one of my favorite illustrations (Trollope loved Millais’s illustrations for this novel too) and is one of 24 positioned throughout my book

As Tichelaar notes, and I say as the opening statement of my website where I have much on Trollope: “Anthony Trollope is one of the greatest nineteenth-century novelists with who (oddly) the majority of readers come into contact on their own.” And in spite of the “rise” of minor and women writers, and changes in the canon which have helped Trollope’s reputation there is still a stubborn tendency to omit Trollope from syllabi except for advancd English majors and graduate students. I put it down to his original reception in part: he was not seen as the towering figure Dickens and Thackeray were, and his refusal to allow himself to write his fiction to a particular agenda. He is willing to buck his readers. In Dr Wortle’s School, he tells his readers he has a couple living together outside marriage so it they don’t want to read about such a pair, then shut the book. Trollope loves to be self-reflexive and ironically half-break the spell of reverie and tell us much of what’s going to happen at the end. We should read his novels for how a thing happens, not what.

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The force bethrothal of Plantegenet (Philip Latham) and Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) from 1:1

I’ve grown to love the film adaptations of his novels, all of them that I’ve seen and written about them too. I find others love these films, especially the two mini-series, earlier (1974) Pallisers and (1982) Barchester Chronicles (alas only 2 of the six adapted). See He Knew He Was Right out of Moll Flanders.

But enough. As Shakespeare’s friends to whom we are so indebted for the plays, John Heminge and Henry Condell, say of Shakespeare,

read him … and againe and againe: and then if you doe not like him, surely you are in some manfiest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you need them not, you can lead your selves, and others. And such Readers we wish him.

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Trollope in his mid-40s, a rare photo

I like to think my book is one place where you will gain such understanding. It’s intended for his real readers wherever they are.

Ellen

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Phineas (Donal McCann) famously humiliated and harassed by Mr Clarkson (Sidney Bromley) who urges him “Do Be Punctual” (Pallisers 4:7)

Dear friends and readers,

Another in the same spirit as my last. Again on Victoria someone asked for citations of debt in Victorian novels, so I wrote as follows:

As he often mirrors common reality, Trollope has so many instances and characters driven, worried and occasionally (rarely but it happens) exploiting debt in different ways it’s impossible to catalogue briefly. The most common and well-remembered plot device is of the man who counter-signs a bill for someone else and then the other person doesn’t pay it. Phineas Finn lured and pressure by Lawrence Fitzgibbon in Phineas Finn, but also Mark Robarts in Framley Parsonage who co-signs for Lord Lufton who can much better afford living on more than he has.

Larger versions of this include male characters who owe a lot of money and hide this or that their business is failing or non-existant: this leads to suicide — Melmotte and Lopez and Dobbs Brougton. Debt collectors can sometimes hound women and they seek to sell jewels or use them as insurance (Lizzie Eustace). The “blaggard” type male who we are to have contempt for is the man driven to take money from a woman (though we may be led to understand why he does): George Vavasour dragging money out of Alice Vavasour because he has to pay huge election bribes, and then breaking his sister’s arm when the grandfather dies and it’s discovered he had left just about everyone to George’s sister, but in trust so he cannot get at it.


Kate Vavasour holding her broken arm after George has fled (from the original illustrations of Trollope’s novels, this one by Miss Taylor, a scene in Can You Forgive Her?)

The most interesting instances though are those which enabled us to see the working of finance in the Victorian period: say, the short story, “Why Frau Frohman Raised her Prices” shows an Austrian woman innkeeper’s struggle not to raise her prices:

The Frau had always held her head high,– had never been ashamed of looking her neighbour in the face, but when she was advised to rush at once up to seven swansigers and a half (or five shillings a day), she felt that, should she do so, she would be overwhelmed with shame. Would not her customers then have cause of complaint? Would not they have such cause that they would in truth desert her? Did she not know that Herr Weiss, the magistrate from Brixen, with his wife, and his wife’s sister, and the children, who came yearly to the Peacock, could not afford to bring his family at this increased rate of expenses? And the Fraulein Tendel with her sister would never come from Innsbruck if such an announcement was made to her.

She learns a very hard way that to keep up with inflation (as we would put it, she must must raise her prices. Trollope analyses the workings of a business: how the Frau has to buy things before she makes money by selling them, and how when the price of these go up, she must put her prices up; if she does not, how she must buy inferior goods and then loses customers but when she does, she helps other people do better (who work for her). He does not (unfortunately) go further than that, but it is still an insightful analysis which explicates the workings of capitalism. In Doctor Thorne Roger Scatcherd now an alcoholic and ostracized from people of his own intelligence because he is not of their class grew rich by saving the large amounts he made as a construction worker who opened his own business; he then lent money to others to begin enterprises. In the Victorian period it was very difficult (well nigh impossible) for an ordinary man to borrow large sums to open a business. Charles Darwin’s father grew rich by lending money and charging interest (like Roger) of course.

Novels by Trollope about gambling or fearful of it will be about debt include s a minor gambler in Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, man who is an aristocratic drone type (familiar) and lives off his mistress; Burgo Fitzgerald does very badly at the gambling tables when last seen in Can You Forgive Her and is given an allowance by Plantagenet Palliser who also becomes wrathful when his wife, Lady Glen, congenial with Burgo and still in love with him, wants to gamble too and blamed Alice Vavasour (poor Alice). Quiet prostitution within boarding houses to pay the rent is shown in Trollope’s Miss Mackenzie. How single women really got on.

Other novelists:

Oliphant’s Hester is about the workings of a business and family and thus how well the successful yet lonely, envied and somehwat isolated heroine by the end has handled debt (It reflects Oliphant’s successful career). Gwendolen marries Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda to avoid her mother going into debt; the novel opens with her learning how gambling will not do. In Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, the secondary heroine, Cynthia is hounded by Preston, a ruthless aggressive steward who sexually wants her (and now wants to be allied to her as her mother has married up by marrying Mr Gibson), Preston, I say, tortures her emotionally over a 20 pound debt and blackmailing letters to prove it; he wants to force her to marry him.


From opening shots of Daniel Deronda (director Tom Hooper, scripted by Andrew Davies): next to Gwendoleth an aging women’s bejewelled hands at the gambling table

And so much in Dickens, just to start: Little Dorrit. The Marshalsea prison. Mr and Mrs Merdle destroyed. Arthur Clenham thrown in jail near the end.

And who can forget:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure
nineteen pounds, nineteen six, result happiness. Annual
income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds,
ought and six, result misery. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Debt does never seem to make anyone happy in Victorian novels. It does not make individual people happy in our own day, and that’s why the Republicans can manipulate the populace by arguing the state deficit must be brought down. Corporations are not people; nor are states. Deficits when the money brought in is used by gov’t to expand social services, building roads and schools, providing for lower interest rates really does provide more jobs and a better life for all. Ask Frau Frohmann how capitalism can work well.

Ellen

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Hogarth, the first of 9 engravings, “The Heir”


Stravinsky, Auden, the last scene, “Madness”

Dear friends and readers,

In the last couple of days I’ve watched two operas based on 18th century sources: Kim Witman’s production of Igor Stravinsky & W. H. Auden’s adaptation of 9 engravings by Hogarth, The Rake’s Progress, as performed at Wolf Trap, this summer, and Kaija Saariaho and Amin Maalouf’s Émilie as performed at the Spoleto Festival and Lincoln Center via DVD. Both productions took material very difficult to make appealing thematic dramatic narrative out of, and attempted to make the audience sympathize with the central characters.

The Wolf Trap Rake’s Progress was intended to be a companion piece to the Don Giovanni they did earlier this summer. As with the earlier production, Witman’s half-hour talk gave the game away. Again there was no mention of what the opera could mean, no attention to content.

When I watched the opera, I found the way the narrative developed gave us a story which stigmatized and made the women characters ridiculous and abject (in one case, that of the Baba the Turk, stupidly evil as well as physically distasteful) and we were (somewhat absurdly) asked to regard the wastrel drone upper class male at the center as earth-shakingly important. We are supposed to care whether this guy gambles, drinks, marries an (unacceptable) middle eastern-dressed prostitute, loses all his money. This is the later 1940s after a horrific war across the world. The fable lesson as presented reminded me of Orwell’s famous punitive story, Eric or Little by Little, maybe the 1790s Road to Ruin. Jim said you find no understanding sympathetic interest in women in Auden, and in the 1950s a retreat from politics for religion. There is a certain kind of misogyny and grotesque humor about sexuality typical of male homosexual work found in Auden. But Stravinsky presumably commissioned this libretto.

I was bored in the first act with its moralizing, irritated, grated upon in the second with its focus on an ugly over-sexualized orientalism. Behind me someone said how “hysterical” Margaret Gawryslak was — I’ve learned that is a ill-understood euphemism for expressing amusement at what makes you uncomfortable. The music and acting was distancing. The last act finally had some depth of feeling that was not controlled by puerile didacticism.

Jim said the opera was padded. There is just not enough narratable (capable of turning into a coherent story) material in the 9 engravings. I thought the hollow center of the opera came from the people doing it ignoring the content. The best thing about it was the costumes. Anne Truelove’s hair-do was 1940s big rolls on her head up front with longish page-boy length hair in a net; her clothes looked like an attempt at imitating 18th century clothes using a thrift shop. The chorus at one point were redolent of Guys and Dolls.


The performers were directed to present themselves as emblems: 2 of the young women had men’s suits on and 2 of the young men were in evening dresses, heavy make-up and high heels.

And what shall I say of a company run by three women (beyond Witman at the Barns there’s Beth Krynicki who is production stage manager) who twice this summer have given us productions which have no sense of real contemporary women’s lives or social types. Don Giovanni’s rapes were treated as trivial joking. Last summer they gave us a Goldoni play turned into an opera where we had these misunderstood men and harridans of women.

If next year Witman and company give us Cosi Fan Tutte with some other misogynistic story, I will begin to suspect there’s a hidden agenda at the Barns. Let’s do all we can to hide the reality the place is run by women. Let us not allow anyone to call our work typical of women’s art or point of view. I felt what I saw at the Barns this summer represented a lost opportunity and betrayal.

*******************


Emilie: as opera opens she is writing and thinking


Her anguish as she contemplates coming childbirth

The opera takes place a few nights before Emilie du Chatelet went into labor; she died soon after and the child did not live much longer either. One reviewer insists the opera is about how biology is not destiny; in fact it’s about how a woman’s body cut a young highly gifted woman off in her prime so she never achieved what she could have done — and not just mathematically. I was badly handicapped as I watched the DVD as it did not have subtitles, and the way it was filmed kept the singer at a distance from the viewer. There were too many candles and mirrors and gauzy curtains in the way — though I liked the triangles.

So, I’ll be brief. In a nutshell, we see an adult sensibility of someone who was aware that many people didn’t believe in a traditional life after death facing death. We see her remember her ambiguous experiences across a lifetime. The emphasis on her beauty and gifts was strong and I thought the point of piece was to say, here is this extraordinarily gifted woman just thrown away because she was pregnant, so as to make us think of all the women over the ages similarly wasted and themselves put through agons.

Repeatedly I’ve seen eighteenth-century material not lend itself to the conventional so-called realistic or naturalistic narrative which 19th century operas thrive on. But Emilie’s story could have been treated this way. I’m not sure I would not have preferred to see her coerced marriage, her complicated attempts to become educated mathematically and achieve respect and position, her love affairs, her relationship with Voltaire and then this final scene. She was turned into a passionately enthralled heroine, especially when she seemed to be remembering Saint-Lambert.

For the English reader the books to read about Emilie are Judith Zinsser’s Dame d’Esprit: A Biography of the Marquise du Chatelet and David Bodanis’s Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment. I found Elisabeth Badinter’s Émilie, Émilie, L’ambition féminine au XVIIIe siècle (the other Emilie is D’Epinay) which presents Emilie as an aspiring scientist persuasive.


Surrounded by scientific objects and instruments

*************

To conclude, I cannot say I liked the music of either opera; they were not lyrical, nor was there a warm feel to vocal sounds. Rake’s Progress was well sung, especially by Anne Trulove (Corinne Winters) and Nick’s Shadow (Craig Coldough as the tempter devil at Rakewell’s ears). Elizabeth Futal as Emilie was far more moving; we knew she had been a real person who had really died in Voltaire’s estate of a dread pregnancy gone wrong. Her case was treated as an adult experience not a punishment); it was a sung one-woman play, raw in tone.

Emilie is the fragile presence with fleeting knowledge seeking to understand life; like Theodore Adorno I found The Rake’s Progress coming at experience from an unreal wrong direction.

And so our summer theater going for this year has come to an end.

Ellen

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Dear friends and readers,

Not only is “Intertextuality in Simon Raven’s The Pallisers and Other Trollope Films” published, but the volume in which it occurs, Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation, edd. Abigail Burnham Bloom and Mary Sanders Pollock, introd. Thomas Leitch has been reviewed by Kamilla Elliot in the online academic review journal, Review 19. While Elliot’s review justifiably critiques aspects of the volume, she signals out mine and one other, Gene M. Moore’s “Making Private Scenes Public: Conrad’s “Return” and Chereau’s Gabrielle (see my analysis in another blog), as superior, the best in the volume:

Welcoming theoretical and methodological variety, I find value in older approaches, especially when–as in the essays by Gene M. Moore and Ellen Moody–they rest on a substantial body of scholarship and research

Some of Elliot’s criticism of the volume derive from her strongly theoretical, post-modern point of view (see her Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate). I liked her suggestion that I should or could “step back from [my] meticulous microanalyses of screenplays to present a broader perspective of how screenplays mediate between literature and film?” I shall keep this kind of comment in mind when I return to my book, A Place of Refuge: A study of the Sense and Sensibility films (working title).

But I should say (and I think this an important point, fundamental even) that I disagree with her main perspective: insofar as the essays in Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation use a high amount of theoretical (packed) language and jump from general statement to general statement they lack content, and are insufficiently descriptive of their subject matter and convey less information and insight about their chosen films and books.


William Powell Firth (1891-1909), (monumental) The Railway Station (1862)

So, speaking plainly, for those interested in Victorian/Edwardian films, the volume contains 2 essays whose subject matter is Jane Austen films (arguably Victorian in the way the novels are treated); one on the generation of Jekyll and Hyde films (Leitch); one on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (partly out of Wilde’s play); Dickens’s Christmas Carol; one on Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, an adaptation of Russell Banks’s novel, using, as does Egoyan, Browning “The Pied Piper” as an intermediary text (a superbly insightful essay by Mary Sanders Pollock); one on Kubrick’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon (another genuinely enlightening informative one by Louise McDonald); one on several versions of Dracula, one on the 1939 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films compared to recent analogous and free adaptations, and mine on Trollope whose original more accurate and grammatically sound title was “Trollope on Television: Intertextuality in the Pallisers and other Trollope films:” it focuses on Raven’s Pallisers (and two other of Raven’s mini-series as intermediary texts), but also covers Plater’s Barchester Chronicles, and uses aspects of Herbert Herbert’s Malachi’s Cove, and Andrew Davies’s The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, to suggest how centrally Raven’s perspective on Trollope has influenced those films made after his (recently in reaction against).

Elliot said she didn’t understand the three major divisions of the volume. The third follows its subtitle: “Teaching Books by Reading Movies.” The three essays tell of how the writers as teachers use film and they make concrete useful suggestions for those embarking on such teaching. Read the screenplay with the students (emphasize intermediary texts), concentrate on the beginnings and endings of films (often different from the originating book), multiple versions or films of the same story unmoors students front their tenacious adherence to the originating text as a primary standard. The second part (in which my essay appears) had essays which focus on the alteration of values in the content of book and films, but it is true that the third essay on the first part (on Dickens’s Christmas Carol) locates the persistence of the story in its content of the retrievable, rejuvenation, generosity, charitableness. The first part is supposed to be about filmic-techniques, tropes, typical procedures, the exploitation of at least generally favored paradigms and myth. Jean-Marie Lecomte’s on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan is about technique, and Thomas Leitch’s on the many Jekyll, Hydes on the necessity to develop some understood relationship between source or eponymous text, film, and intervening film and verbal texts.


John Malkovich as Hyde (1996 Mary Reilly, an adaptation of RLStevenson’s novel & Valerie Martin’s novels of the same name)


Julia Roberts as Mary Reilly (the film includes as intertexts Victorian painting, Orson Welles’s Moby Dick, Dracula films et alia

It’s hard to differentiate theme from form. My essay covers both aspects of film adaptation of texts found to be centrally meaningful since their first reception as books. I argue that the Pallisers was an important noticed sociological event (year-long) which fixed Trollope in the TV public mind as a paternalistic Tory (like his hero, the liberal whig politician Duke of Omnium), and that in these “Raven’s scripts shape Trollope’s novels into a filmic, disillusioned political vision, which justifies patriarchy in an ameriorated inegalitarian society, itself dependent on the self-erasure of women whose emotional and social support is needed to sustain it.” I also argue that Herbert’s and Davies’s films turn Trollope’s texts into critical exposures of Victorian systems of privilege, and replace Raven’s cynical Tory Trollope with a humane, liberal Trollope, partly in reaction to Raven’s characters (who differ considerably from Trollope’s). But to show this I compare texts from Trollope’s Phineas Redux with Pallisers 8:15 and 8:16:


Lady Glencora Palliser (Susan Hampshire, 8:15, see also Mid-point)


From the Duchess’s dinner-party (8:16)

and bring in Raven’s previous film adaptations (Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, The Blackheath Poisonings). In moving onto the recent films have to take into considerable that recent film adaptations do not conceive the material as filmed stage plays, but sequences of juxtaposed stills, and I compare the wistful feminism of Susan Hampshire as Signora Neroni in Plater’s Barsetshire with Trollope’s desperate unscrupulous Signora.


Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire), melancholy, disillusioned (1982 BBC Barchester Chronicles)

Intertexual texts for Davies are films as much as books. Davies’ hero, Paul Montague in The Way we Live Now, refuses to treat the heroines as of right the natural property of the older males; Davies’ depiction of the Jewish themes of Trollope’s book exposes the bigotry of the hypocritical upper class English in their anti-semitism by taking one of Trollope’s inset epistolary correspondences and turning it into dramatic scenes of great power.


Davies’s 2001 The Way We Live Now: Georgiana (Anne-Marie Duff) treats the noble if Jewish Breghert (Jim Carter) in the most insulting inhumane terms

My view is a close comparative analysis which does not privilege the eponymous book or previous incarnations of it in films but includes these and the screenplay, and whatever other source and intermediate texts a film-maker necessarily must form the basis of any understanding of a film and its sources. I suggest that theoretical language is more than a blight linguistically; it can be a substitute for the hard work of close reading and a thorough grounding in the history of the era the eponymous book was written in, the era the movie is made in, its genre and all the work the film-makers (including production design and actors) did in other films. Elliot complains in her review of several “thin” and under-researched essays. The person spent all his or her time (maybe not a lot) on reading and writing these sentences of sometimes impossible to decipher packed theory.


Donald Pleasaunce as Malachi and Veronica Quilligan as his grand-daughter, Mally (Herbert has in mind previous Cornish films’ motifs, 1974 Malachi’s Cove)

Well enough. I won’t summarize my colleagues work nor go more into the details of mine. Much is on the Net in even more “meticulous microanalysis” than is permitted in a published book.

I am chuffed and proud to see my work in the same volume as that of Thomas Leitch whose Film Adaptation and Its Discontents has long been one of the books I keep on my library table near my desk and who I corresponded with by email during the time of the book’s making, shared work with and was very generous to me.


Rev Gibson (David Tennant) trying to evade Arabella French (Fenella Woolgar) (from one of Marcus Stone’s original illustrations to Trollope’s HKHWR)

Ellen

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Paul Montague (Cilian Murphy) and Mrs Hurtle (Mirando Otto) at Lowestoffe based on one of the original illustrations (2001 BBC/WGGH The Way We Live Now, script Andrew Davies)

Dear Friends and Readers,

More than five years after we had our first Trollope conference in 25 years (!); thirteen months after sending off my review of the above book which contains 15 of the 40 essays given at said conference, and making 2 blogs of my summaries and evaluations; and six months after it appeared in Nineteenth Century Contexts, I finally put the review itself on my website.

Whew!


Mr Gilson (David Tennant) edging away from Arabella French (Fenella Woolgar), also based on original illustrations (2004 BBC/WBGH He Knew He Was Right, script Andrew Davies, director Tom Vaughn)

Ellen

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