Dear Friends and readers,
You may recall how proud I’ve been of my chapter on the original illustrations to Trollope’s novels in my Trollope on the ‘Net, my love of pictures and my huge section of illustrations to Trollope’s novels on my website. Not such happy memories: when I told you of how the North American Victorian association rejected my proposal to discuss how Trollope used cliches in his illustrations. My argument would have been how Trollope used sentimental pictures of minor stories where there is no counterpart full dramatic scene to provide heroine’s stories we don’t quite get. These provide a countervailing set of patterns for women from the ones the novels which have male readers’ tastes primarily in mind.
Well I’m trying again. I’ve sent a proposal to the Sharp Society (History of authorship, reading and publication) again to talk about my original research into nearly 500 images for Trollope’s books. This time to accord with the conference’s themes, “Geographies of the Book,”, I proposed to talk about how Trollope creates worlds for his novels which seem coterminus with real worlds we experience, but are filled in with imagined places to the point that you cannot quite map Trollope’s worlds with say southeast England, or London, or, for that matter, southwest Ireland of the other cities in the world he imagined so concretely.
I told of how when I went to an Trollope Society AGM in London in 1999, we went on 1 of 6 circuitous detailed maps drawn from the Pallisers books, but which had locations for characters across Trollope’s whole oeuvre as well as from Trollope’s own life as far as we know it. We walked round Trollope.
I thought I’d deal with how this imagined space influences us, both for good and bad, for, like Dickens, Trollope omits and stigmatizes space. Space where the abysmally poor or people who have to operate outside the norms and laws and customs his society conferred respectability on lived and worked. I’ve not only been influenced by recent book illustration histories and Franco Moretti’s famous Atlas of the European Novel, but my reading about Bath and its bogus as well as real history (see Peter Borsay, The Image of Georgian Bath).
Trollope also idealizes spaces the rich lived in, and his illustrators exploit well-known picturesque motifs. Engravings are just so important; writers like Radcliffe (believe it or not) actually relied heavily on these. For example, this is precisely the sort of illustration that picturesque writers has in mind:
Wm Westall (1781-1850), Rievaulx Abbey from Duncombe Terrace
In the illustrations themselves, emblematic objects, dress, costume, the way a particular character’s body fills (or does not fill) out space conveys evaluations of their status, position, character.
Alice Vavasour (Caroline Mortimer) in the window-seat at Matching Priory (Palliser 2:3): she’s reading in the early morning just before Mr Palliser (Philip Latham) comes to see and accuse her of what he takes to be her “abominable” conduct in taking his wife, Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) out to the priory ruins late at night.
People are unaware of how many city, country- and even seascapes he has in his books.
Kate O’Hara from An Eye for an Eye (illustrator Elisa Trimby)
Like other Victorian novelists, Trollope chose what passages in his book would be illustrated, and when he was at his height of success he could dictate what kind of illustrator he would have, change illustrators mid-way if he didn’t like what was drawn. Even late in his career, we find his strong influence.
Again I want to show how some of these illustrations influence the choice of actor and scene, production and costume design of the film adaptations of Trollope. Conscious departures count too.
Phiz, Burgo Fitzgerald and the Beggar Girl (Can You Forgive Her?)
Film adaptations (costume dramas, for Trollope they must be mini-series so as to give time for development) influence our dreams and longings; and the best of them picture the price we pay for our social identities, with our the hurt of those thrown away and the losses of those who sustain their roles:
Lady Glen in her agon having just sent Burgo away (Can You Forgive Her?, Pallisers 3:5).
I wrote it telling myself it would probably not be accepted and I must live with this as I have no particular status myself, but I’m not dismal over this, and gentle reader, you must hope with me that this time my proposal is accepted. Hope springs eternal …