“I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don’t see any reason why it should ever come to an end … ” —-Elizabeth Gaskell
Dear friends and readers,
It’s been a few weeks since the summer course I led on Framley Parsonage at Mason’s OLLI ended, and as summer seems to be drawing to a close (the days grow shorter), I thought I’d write a second time (see Sequels) about some of what I and my students (older people like myself) talked about while we spent six weeks reading this fourth Barsetshire novel. What a remarkable book it is.
Central to its peculiar power is intimacy. We become intimate with the characters in a way that is remarkable. Up close is the feel. In Dr Thorne we didn’t have a multi-plot as we do here; we had these stark dramatic encounters between characters all revolving around a single story but the feel of nuanced inwardness he achieves here is not there. He set forth to depict life as an individual experiences it diurnally and succeeded. It’s a new stage in his development as an acute psychological student of social and political life.
If you haven’t read Framley Parsonage and would still like to peruse this account, so need to situate yourself, this site seems to bring out the salient events most accurately, wikipedia at least names the characters; once before I put a reading of this novel on the web, where you can follow a group of people reading the novel together genuinely, week-by-week, some of which include summaries, though most is commentary and reaction.
In this fourth book Trollope fills in and develops and uses his map with a vengeance and lovingly (Chapter 2, pp 42-47). West is Whig and modern, contemporary, city people, East is Tory, which runs on established patronage. In Framley Parsonage, Mr Sowerby is in a sense owned by Chaldicoates – his sense of his obligation to it is part of his burden in life.
He likes how unpretending, serendipitous Framley Court is: it is the product of human efforts and culture across time. It is not irrelevant that it is a low building: it is not falsely high, not phony:
Framley itself was a pleasant country place, having about it nothing of seignorial dignity or grandeur, but possessing everything necessary for the comfort of a country life. The house was a low building of two stories, bulit at different periods, and devoid of all pretensions to a style of architecture; but the rooms, thought not lofty, were warm and comfortable, and the gardens were trim and neat beyond all others in the county. Indeed it was for its gardens only that Framley Court was celebrated (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 2, p. 43
John Halperin argues that Trollope disliked the lies of ceremony, or at least if he liked its physical pleasures, not its pretensions. There follow after this paragraph several in which the Court is linked to the locality called Framley Cross, the Lufton Arms, ‘the shoe-maker who kept the post-office’, and then to Framley Church, apparently a ‘mean, ugly building’ which Lady Lufton’s heart is set upon rebuilding so as to bring dissenters back. From the Church we move to the schools, and then to the grocers (Mr and Mrs Podgens). We turn left to the Vicarage which has a garden path separating it from the Podgens; it is a perfect parsonage for a gentleman with moderate desires: it has gardens and paddocks in good order, but is ‘not exactly new, so as to be raw and uncovered, and redolent of workmen; but just at that era of their existence in which newness gives way to comfortable homeliness’ (p. 44). The we move to some more shops, to the curate’s house, and then expand outwards to set the whole in Eastern Barsetshire, which ‘all the world knows’ is, politically speaking, Tory. Alas, alas, Lord Lufton is a Whig. Trollope is having fun here, but he hopes perhaps we may be among those who read of what happened when Squire Gresham joined the Whig magnates in West Barsetshire.
There is a contrasting description of Chaldicotes. The point is made that it looks impressive, is ‘a house of much more pretension than Farmley Court’. It has many more marks of nobility: the forest, the chase, the old oaks, the centuries old land. The irony is underplayed: ‘Some part of it’ is actually still owned by Sowerby, who ‘though all his pecuniary distresses, has managed to save from the axe and the auction-mart that portion of his paternal heritage’ (Ch 3, p. 53). The implication is he has not saved much else, and is having a hard time holding onto what he has, though you wouldn’t know it to watch the way he spends his hours.
Many chapters later Hogglestock and all we see in it will show us how the 99% live.
This is the book which undergirds the often expressed idea that Trollope’s great strength is his ability to dramatize the ordinary and usual of life so convincingly. He seems to dwell on the diurnal pace of life too. At the same time the pettiness of things is shown in all its riveting importance for people and how small things not just rule our live, but shape how we decide our larger decisions, what is our fate. Place and space express his political and economic and social themes. As I read him so brilliantly effectively elaborating on I remember how he had agreed to write a three volume novel in effect yesterday and start sending 3 chapter installments in 2 months time. Like hanging or a test, it concentrated his mind and he came up with bringing to us the daily real
19th century illustration of Disraeli introducing the Reform Bill in Parliament
We found many patterns: the most engaging, contemporary, seemed the theme of ambition. Trollope had written an autobiographical novel, The Three Clerks, 1857, which mirrored some of his own experiences and those he saw around him. He is writing about a young man trying for a career. How do we get on with our careers? Is it a matter of merit? We talked about the cost of a career, what Mark found he had to do to achieve one and found he could not stomach or afford. Yes as the book opens he has all he needs — from Lady Lufton. House, income, wife, respect, but it’s not what he wants. He wants to be in London and among the admired worldly men; he wants a bigger income, to have a stable of horses, position outside the Framley purview. And what he has is at the price of remaining under Lady Lufton’s thumb. Tellingly by the end, he reverts to what he had; he decides he can’t hack it; he doesn’t have the money for real, and he doesn’t want to prey on others (his brother) the way the much admired Sowerby successfully preys on him. The central plot-design connecting all the stories and characters together is the thwarting of Mark’s ambition, not because he was wrong to have it; it’s not a parable on vanity, but a mirror we can see ourselves in.
You are a young man in your mid-20s under the thumb – or power – of an older woman in her late 40s – and you cannot resist as a man asserting your independence, go to visit other influential friends and stay up late in the room of one especially attractive (it seems to you), admirable, confiding man, and before you know it you owe more than half the income you get in a year. Mark Robarts should have gone to bed early, maybe he should not have gone to Chaldicotes because he was invited to do so.
Sowerby occasioned most talk as the most interesting character in the book. He exists in Dickens — as Skimpole whom Dickens detests. He is admired, feted, seems to float so beautifully through the world Mark thinks (Chapter 3). Tellingly the penultimate chapter of the book is on Sowerby, as an ironic almost tragic figure. He throws himself away. He is not an evil man, but he is utterly amoral and weak, finally, relying on his sister, Harriet or Mrs Harold Smith. I think Trollope in his gut abhors Sowerby for his conduct but sees the larger world Sowerby is part of; it’s not that we forgive him, but understand how he got to be that way. The duke was holding off foreclosing until it became clear Miss Dunstable would not buy him for a false status; back to Chapter 18, pp 294-96. She says she understands Mr Sowerby the way we understand tigers, p 292 at the top. Listen to her words p 298.
Lady Lufton is its center of power and that she is ultimately a good person provides its equitable ending — as well as Miss Dunstable and Lord Lufton’s money.
Framley Parsonage is a very earnest book. Mark really does feel agons and his disloyalty does pose a threat to Lady Lufton’s world. She has been tyrannical and she knows nothing of the outside world or real degradation, debasement foul amoral living, but the Duke of Omnium’s world has tenacles into a genuinely brutal cannibalistic fraudulent world. Consider: we are told by our narrator that it never occurred to Mrs Harold Smith to love Mr Harold Smith. What happens when you become accustomed to this. It’s the cliché of the slippery slope.
A second theme we didn’t talk all that much about except to ask questions about factual details was Trollope’s exposure (once again) of the corruption of the church, the injustice of payment. Trollope is very critical, he’s a quiet sceptic (he’s read Darwin and knows about “the importance of stones” and fossils he says). While I would not discount the importance of religious feeling in his books (we see it in Mark Robartes, in the fierce Rev Crawley, also in Mr Harding who is an absolute contrast not to an atheist but to Griselda Grantley: he is all she is not), it’s the politics of the church that the novels tend to turn on. And Trollope is bitter about some of this – why the book has acid. The contrast is between the lucky Mark and unlucky Crawley.
The proto-feminist vein of the novel: in Lucy Robartes and Lady Lufton we have two very strong woman (not to discount Mrs Grantley, Mrs Proudie and Griselda herself). Lady Lufton shows the power of a woman in her community; Lucy is fierce in her self-determination (she certainly has the right to choose her own life despite her not having enough to support herself, only a few hundred in the funds as dowry). No one has had the guts to present Griselda who is like Mr Sowerby not a monster though she would be presented that way by Dickens; in the Pallisers if you’ve seen it, Lady Dumbello is soft and clinging. You could see the book as about strong women; Mrs Crawley is made of steel; Miss Dunstable knows her own mind. Mrs Harold Smith engineering her brother’s marriage. In truth, the men were in charge – the power of he purse, of property, of custody of children, of a right to violence was theirs.
We read a few good articles on the book. We used Skilton’s Penguin edition which separated out the original installments so we could go over them and then read Mary Hamer’s Trollope’s First Serial Fiction (FP).
First his artistry. In her article she showed similarly how careful Trollope was: adding a passage or half a chapter here, making sure that this material went into one chapter and that into another. He didn’t want an overtly over-the-top sensational ending and yet wanted you to be waiting for what happened next, and within each set of three he kept his three stories going: one is of Mark and Sowerby, hero and anti-hero, with the Duke of Omnium and Miss Dunstable providing crisis and denouement. When (next week) Sowerby’s loans are called in, because his sister’s scheme to marry him off to Miss Dunstable and Miss Dunstable’s money, then Mark is up against it, and refuses to sign another bill so Tozer wants his collateral (what would he do with that furniture? – we do see such sales in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair) and Mark is exposed.
I also used her article as a jump off point to discuss several important themes: ambition, pride, power, hierarchy. One problem with Hamer’s treatment of these is she takes the surface or overt meaning to be the whole of it – her article is 1975 when critics were still talking in terms of voiced ideals of a culture: such as ambition is vain and see what misery you put yourself in for, what you have to put up with if you want to rise. Who you have to spend time with?
I took a post-modern approach: a set of practices or having themes that reject conventional foundations of thought – we know that Crawley genuinely rejects worldly ambition; this twists him terribly because he has such pride. Mark learns a lesson but I’d say it’s not about vanity. He really likes hunting, having fancy horses, and would have preferred to get out from under Lady Lufton. It’s not that he didn’t know his constraints – he shuddered as he signed that bill, but he did hope he could escape. He does escape direct punishment in next week’s chapters. It’s not a matter of teaching us what is fair and unfair – why should Miss Dunstable marry Mr Sowerby? For Mark’s sake. We can’t say he learns to depend on himself as he can’t. He feels the edge of the knife outside the Framley world.
The second story is of Lucy and Griselda, heroine and anti-heroine, with Lady Lufton and Lord Lufton providing crisis and denouement. It may not seem so because Lord Lufton in the novel is regarded as such a great catch, but Lord Lufton is pressuring Lucy hard in Mrs Podgens’s baby. Remember Lady Lufton’s quick repartee, she didn’t mean to say Fanny must send Lucy away.
It’s a book about power Hamer also says: and yes Lady Lufton learns the limits of her power in the book. I put it that She can’t pick her son’s wife; she can’t control her vicar in the way she wants; if she goes to London she has to live in the world as it is, and her great triumph is a silent sneer at the Duke, but he has a look of derision and ridicule at her. She doesn’t care all that much about him, but she does care about her son whom can’t control her son if he wishes to stand out against her. He could move with his wife elsewhere. Her trump card is he loves her but she must not press that too hard. In a remarkable scene when Lufton comes back to Framley before going off to Norway to fish (isn’t that nice, how easy it is for him to travel anywhere, he has friends to go with, money, arrangements seem to happen by magic), Mark of course hurries over to see Lufton and he is among his horses – four, the man has four, with corresponding stable, grooms and so on. How lovely for him. We are sometimes by public media told how envy and resentment are very bad (just like vanity).
This denial of the natural impulse of resentment and envy can be seen as a ruse to keep outsiders down. Crawley’s ascetic ideals say we must suppress such wicked feelings: they will tear society as is apart; they are central to the revolutionary impulse. The resentful person is a whiner and has only himself to blame. Mark is not resentful but he is envious and he will be shamed but because he’s shamed shall we ignore and disavow what motivated him – the Barsetshire books are as political as any of Trollope’s and in scene after scene of Framley Parsonage heroes and heroines hurt and he makes us identify with them.
What puts an end to the Griselda option is Lufton intuitively does not like Griselda – she’s a cold fish (it’s implied without passion) and does like Lucy that really decides the Lucy and Griselda story. Lufton is not all powerful; the laws of property and money as well as gender rules of respectability in Barsetshire (this half-imaginary ideal place) constrain him.
The third story is that of Crawley; he is introduced late but begins to loom large, only to be cut off by the story of typhus or fever. This flattens his strength; he is helpless against it – and we have the sudden turn to faery tale as Lucy risks her life to nurse Mrs Crawley. Highly contagious. It’s only a guess but my guess is typhoid fever – what killed off the Brontes for example. Typhoid is salmonella, high fever, aching, rash, carried by feces in water. I did not notice until this week that Skilton doesn’t try to suggest what is the fever Mrs Crawley comes down with.
The last part of the book is not about Crawley but the unraveling of Mark’s attempt to find another destiny beyond those in his cards, and about Lucy’s win over Lady Lufton. The latter is romance. A secondary romance also blooms, set in operation by Mary Thorne. For myself I think it’s a shame because Crawley is such a powerful figure when the story is centered on him – he is the central figure of Last Chronicle of Barset. There is certainly a diminished scope for heroism in Trollope’s very contemporary novels.
We turned to Chapter 36, the final of the three that make up Instalment 12, p 422, Kidnapping at Hogglestock.
The now flourishing successful Dr Arabin, Dean of Barsetshire once turned to Crawley for help in a crisis of Arabin’s existence; that chapter called Mr Arabin is a very good one; Arabin is seeing that some of his choices have led him to an emotionally impoverished existence, solitary, that he had not much money was not the point as he had enough. Unfortunately the scene was not dramatized, we were only told about it. Now here we meet them in different circumstances, with Arabin on top, and Crawley unable to endure this. Too proud but it is suggested that Crawley would have gone for long walks with Arabin as they once did – after all the Cornish cottage was apparently pretty bad – but Arabin doesn’t want that any more. But he has not forgotten the friendship – he got Crawley this post — and comes to the cottage when he hears how ill is Mrs Crawley.
Crawley sees Arabin with the eyes of a lynx, Arabin is come to offer help in the form of money as well as advice. They have this desultory conversation where immediately Crawley makes it clear he will take no help – of course morally he is willing to let his children die because he can’t afford to help them. Lucy does much better by ignoring him, and quickly, but not quite behind his back, sluicing the children away. He could have stopped it but he doesn’t. Lucy uses as her argument this was previously all arranged. I’ve seen and felt that one used myself – you agreed to this before. Did I? P 428
She leaves the two men and our narrator intervenes with the beauty of summer even in such a bleak place as Hogglestock, pp 428-29. Then the dialogue: Trollope through it confronts what the conventional person might say of Crawley directly and I think directly has Crawley stand up for himself, make his conduct understandable and protest against the conditions that have led to it. Arabin says he is not sacrificing his own pride, Crawley openly admits “the world has been too much for him.” Arabin does not talk about the pleasure of charity – rather it’s the pleasure of the power of helping. I’d say Crawley’s refusal of “charity” as he then calls it is what US people are told should motivate them against say turning to what used to be called welfare (food stamps). And in the Victorian age there was an equally punitive system: the workhouse. Many people in the UK preferred to live near starvation and in hovels than go to the workhouse. As they talk again Crawley admits how bitter he is, and Arabin says that is the fault for which I blame you, then read Crawley’s reply: “And why should I be called upon to do so? …. “ [to] “kitchen.” Trollope has in an earlier section inveighed sarcastically against the system which set this up, Chapter 14, Instalment 5, pp 186-87. Crawley says Arabin would not despise him but there would be other people in the room who would?
For my part I avoid going where I feel others will despise me even if I know it’s not fair. I like to put you may have a rhinoceros skin, I do not. It ends on Crawley saying no preaching of Arabin can get rid of all that is left of his “manliness.” And they move onto can Arabin come in.
There are lines in King Lear if I may drag in one of the masterpieces of all that has ever been written, in the argument with his daughters whether he needs 25 or 3 knights, and one of them says “what need one?” Act II, Scene 4, “Oh reason not the need .. our basest beggars are in the poorest things superfluous” and a little later apologizes for having gotten old “Age is unnecessary.’ The moral that matters is not Do not give away your property to your daughters,” though you could infer that.
It’s scenes like this, as deep and true, that make Framley Parsonage a work of high genius. Ought he to sacrifice his pride? P 430: is that the lesson we are taking away? When we read that? Ths whole conversation between Arabin and Crawley both voices are heard. Relations to others matter as much as relationship to the self. That’s really hard given what Trollope is endlessly also showing us what is the structure of society.
People categorize this as situational ethics in Trollope. To me such phrases rob the text of all life, box it up, put a ribbon on it and make it unthreatening. An author is great when he or she threatens us.
Mary Hamer describes this book (p. 169) as about the nature of pride; it’s a universal temptation she says. People want higher office to be recognized as society’s estimate of your worth:
Griselda Grantly, in seeking to win a rich husband with a title, is trying to exact a high estimate of her worth from society. Lucy Robarts, recognizing something of this, feels that it would be intolerable to marry Lord Lufton unless society would recognize the match as being consistent with her worth; this is the source of the pride which dismisses him. Lucy’s sense of identity would be damaged, not enhanced, by worldly advancement which would be publicly mocked as patently undeserved. Mr. Crawley’s pride is embittered because the recognition society has accorded him, represented by the restricted life of a perpetual curate, is keenly felt to be unjust. His worth has been undervalued. In order to survive, Mr. Crawley is driven into the extremes of apparent unworldliness, proclaiming the irrelevance of material success and declaring his poverty at every opportunity. In his conversation with Lady Lufton and with the ladies from Framley parsonage he can be understood, in his savage rejection of worldly values, to be trying to set up another system in which his powers may yet be acknowledged.
He is by no means a hypocrite, but his asceticism is powered by the need, undeniable and ineradicable in almost every individual, to be assured of society’s adequate estimation of his own value.
I disagreed only on the idea that Trollope wants to teach us not to be this way. When you read of a novel so-and-so has to learn this or that I suggest distrust it. Austen’s Emma has to learn this or this hero has to learn that. They are all in this novel subject to a world of commerce, with a cash nexus and entrenched hierarchical arrangements. Materialism and bureaucracy is the way of things: when John Robarts and Mr Buggins spend their day outside the office of the Lord Petty Bag speculating on what the “great” in parliament are doing to dissolve parliament (that’s the Gods, the whigs, are going out and the giants, Tories coming in) what are we being shown? We hear of women anxious to get their footmen into Mr Buggins’s place … they cannot, what a hard place the world is. In The Warden we had a moral center in the person of Mr Harding; the Rev Mr Crawley as a moral center exposes what the world is a lot more.
Trollope for Americanists. Stacey Margolis, a scholar of 19th century American literature I presume, poor woman is brought to bed of a child and now has to care for it for some months. This kind of regime still goes on. She found murder mysteries would not do and wanted something of more depth and complexity and read Framley Parsonage. When I landed in Metropolitan hospital in NYC in 1989 my father brought me The Vicar of Bullhampton to get me through. Margolis quotes Polhemus to argue how he exaggerates:
Terrible things happen in Framley Parsonage— betrayal, poverty, failure, illness, disillusionment; one scholar (Polhemus – I’ve met him, he’s on facebook with me) sums it up by saying that the novel is about “the ways that time and the world crush the hopes of the young and the dogmatic beliefs of the old.” This isn’t entirely wrong as an account of the novel, but it sounds very unpleasant— one would prefer not to have hopes and beliefs crushed right before bed.
(My analogy: Many bad things happen in Vicar of Bullhampton; one of the heroines has a short period as a prostitute; her brother almost goes to jail; the father is an atheist and says why.)
Margolis says what many have said, she found the book soothing. Part of it is how tactful the characters are to one another: they don’t as a matter of course say mean corrosive things the way people often do – the one spiteful character is Mrs Proudie. At the crisis of Mark’s existence, Fanny is utterly loyal and we are told at the conclusion of Chapter 33, note the end of an instalment (11), p 400: “that it can never be worth while to keep one’s sorrows private.” I’ve turned to people I thought might behave like Fanny and have found harsh responses; wished I had kept myself private.
Like others she also finds something mechanical in the novels and cites “the brutal inevitability of marriage.” Well here we have it in Miss Dunstable. She really attributes the pleasure of this book to the narrator – the narrator functions differently in the different novels. He is wholly ironic I’d say in Barchester Towers, and in some of the books he is very hard and sardonic. Not here. She attributes it to the narrator who sets up a relationship with us, is “chummy.” he likes to talk of the ordinary things of life; if you stop people from doing that most will have nothing to say. Is that all he is?
She asked friends and found they were like James – probably many had not read Trollope with attention. She suggests American books take the world as they find it – I don’t think so – Ahab? It is true that dinner parties in American novels tend to be highly symbolic where we see intense values clashing.
Is it true that the dinner parties we see in Framley Parsonage merely anatomize the ordinary. Is there no real darkness in Framley Parsonage? Polhemus thinks there is – probably I regret the sidelining of Crawley because in him inheres the darkness that is across the systems he exposes; the narrator waxes bitter only a few times in the book and last week I showed one place was at Hogglestock talking ironically of how can we do without the picturesque. After all the whole point of a dinner party is to make a show.
I don’t know if the phrase is darkness, but in the world of private feeling, where the self tries to guard itself against society that what makes this book matters resides. Maybe Dr Thorne is the stronger book because we have more of that. Mary Thorne is a bastard whose father was murdered by her uncle and she is turned into a pariah when the powerful lady of the community, Lady Arabella Gresham, does not want her to marry the heir. Lucy is much better off, she is respectable, has a small dowry, and herself chooses to keep out of the way.
I brought in one critic, Bill Overton who wrote a book on The official Trollope – what he has his characters feel in the interior. We are not to take Lady Lufton’s view of what Lucy feels when Lady Lufton calls her to her house.
Instalment 12 is the one where Lady Lufton learns of her son’s love for Lucy and immediately calls Lucy to her house, Fanny says she need not go, at least not right away, but Lucy chooses to get it over with. Chapter 35, p 411: King Cophetua is a legend of a king who rejected all women and married a beggar-maid. Everything in the world might depend on what that note contained, p 414. It’s an excruciating moment for Lucy. Self against society –- I think we are comforted because the self is given play. Mary did wrong to intervene on people’s deeper feelings. We see people hold out. Lucy does hold out perversely: she is asking Lady Lufton to allow her to be abject. When Fanny says she wonders whether Lucy has deep feelings, this is Trollope’s realism about people’s understanding; Fanny has her limitations. Lucy puts the power in Lady Lufton’s hands. Overton goes through books analyzing central charged expresive incidents like these.
What constitutes an authentic selfhood? Trollope returns again and again to how we negotiate our ways through life with the narrator making us see or feel that while much is at stake, not everything is. People carry on.
It is a comfort book for adults. I found tears coming to my eyes in the chapter where Lady Lufton and Lucy at last marry one another; I can get fully engaged with the text. Our anti-hero, Sowerby is the figure we end on before we come to “happily ever after with two children” – Nemesis is devoted to him, not Mark. The instalment begins with “Sowerby without company,” and ends claiming a tear for him (Chapter 47, p 552) Trollope is lightly scathing. He “failed to run his race discreetly in accordance with the rules of the Jockey Club” – a long history as a club for elite males, highly exclusive – certainly they’d be for discretion.
The joke can segue into a mention of a third article we went over: Maunder, Andrew. “Monitoring the Middle-Classes”: Intertextuality and Ideology in Trollope’s “Framley Parsonage and the Cornhill Magazine,” How The Cornhill shaped what was possible to write for publication – this material is included in my account of teaching Dr Thorne: suffice to say Trollope was obeying this image the middle class wanted of itself avante la lettre (before he had to); he hit upon it in the Barsetshire series and kept up somewhat (not as much) in the Palliser ones. So unlike Sowerby or Mark, he Mr Trollope forwarded his career by following discretion.
Lady Glencora McClusky and Burgo Fitzgerald (Susan Hampshire & Barry Justice) dancing together, in love (early scene in opening sequence of the 1974 Pallisers)
How we ended: I gag on is the culture of deference we see when Lord Lufton comes on stage (Chapter 44, pp 517-519). Indeed the gratitude of the Robartes in general and Lucy too – though she carries it off better because she seems to have won in the contest. She wins because the terms of what she asked put her in the abject position. Mark wanted out from under.
Some of the material is hard to get at. The ironical depiction of parliamentary politics that brings down the “gods” (or whigs) and causes Harold Smith to have to pay good money to be re-elected, and leads to Sowerby’s ouster despite the huge amounts we are expected to assume Miss Dunstable threw at his campaign, and all the efforts of Mr Closerstill. Trollope is very ironic or sarcastic, it’s straight invective really about why the Giants (Tories) get in. Basically he accuses them under the leadership of Disraeli (Sidonia) of voting for what they don’t believe in to get into office. So it was under the leadership of the Tories that political reforms extending the franchise happened. In this case the whigs want to increase the income of bishops (having seen Crawley and the Proudies we are not supposed to be impressed), an d in any case the whigs are supposed to be anti-the established Anglican church in part. (Instalment 13, Chapter 37, pp 433-35.)
He’s much plainer in Dr Thorne and more successful at getting his satire across. In the later chapters of the election itself where after all the average person votes for the Duke’s side, knowing how rich and indifferent the duke is, is something that Trollope presents as true again and again. It’s not so much that he thinks people vote against their own interest because they are stupid, but that they are allured by the rank, glamor and power and afraid of the powerful. The trouble is nowhere does he show us – except maybe Phineas Finn and Redux that there are far more people (and would have been in Barsetshire) who know quite well where their interest lies and are fighting for unions and laws which will enable them to assert their rights. Like the secret ballot.
We covered Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable’s brief love affair.
Would anyone else have preferred Mary Thorne to mind her own business? Does it not diminish Miss Dunstable to be hankering after Dr Thorne? At the end of As You Like It, Shakespeare has his clown-jester, Touchstone make fun of all “these country mechanicals” crowding in for a wedding. It does fit: we are told she wants someone who could value her and who cares nothing for money. Well Dr Thorne cares to have enough but he has not got the desires of Mark Robartes, Sowerby would not be able to play upon him.
Why does Trollope do this? It’s one of his limitations: I said when we started some have tried to make a case for feminism in Framley Parsonage – all these strong women outwitting these men. Some instinct in him made him want to diminish her – a threat with her mockery and money. He genders everything he sees. To return to his autobiography, his father had not succeeded, and his mother had; he is all the more in no doubt “the necessity of the supremacy of man [over women] is as certain to me as the eternity of the soul.” – he writes this. He recognized some women had to go outside the home to survive, but he was against this insofar as one could force husbands to support their wives decently, humanely. He did see that some women did not accept the idea the most important aspect of their lives was marriage. He saw this as the result of “sexual frustration.”
There is almost a sense of challenge, with Dr Thorne as his surrogate. In next week’s chapters the two love letters are impeccable in their way. Miss Dunstable is seen in two parties: there is Mrs Proudie’s conversatione at which her wit shines out, and now we have her at home – a rival of Mrs Proudie. The fun of chapter 29 is to see the people acting in character – Miss Dunstable is parodying social life – how anxious we are to have the top people. Only Dr Thorne is not enjoying himself.
A few people said it is too much foreshortened, gotten over and then ignored, even though one might admire how Trollope pulled it off without turning these unromantic characters into romantic ones or making them enact values against those we’ve been encouraged to believe that they believe in and live by.
Another weakness perhaps turned into strength:
The trouble is Trollope has to fill so much space and he’s sort of put Crawley aside. Chapter 45, Palace Blessings, p 521. I know the story of how Mrs Proudie put it about that Lord Dumbello was jilting Griselda is effective. She keeps telling this story and even in the face of Grantley’s denial will not stop. The problem is Dumbello has gone off probably does live amorally in Paris. It reminded me of a story that used to be told (can be found in older scholarship) about Jonathan Swift in one of his unadmirable moments. Swift hated astrologers and fortunetellers and there was a man named Patridge who was constantly predicting events in a newsprint. These were often spiteful and said what people may have wanted others to experience, high and low. Well one day Swift declared in a publication that Partridge was to die on a certain day in the year at midnight. He went round telling people, would not retract. When midnight came Swift declared Partridge had died. The poor man got hysterical. He is said to have run around the streets crying “Alive! Alive!”
Children in a playground declaring one of the children has vanished. But I’d like to note that in this last part Trollope hauls his characters back from The Warden, Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne and there is an element of filler here. He carries it off well.
Why do people enjoy reading about emotional cruelty?
There are two great scenes in the Lucy Robartes’s story: one between Lord and Lady Lufton, father and mother (Lady Lufton at the end of the book is by the way Lucy herself), and one between Lucy and Lady Lufton. Actually there are remarkable few scenes between Lucy and Ludovic after the opening part of the book. Trollope is no longer interested in them but society’s response to them, and theirs to society – I called that the self against society where Trollope comes out on the side of the self.
The first of the two is the “Is she not insignficant?” Instalment 15, Chapter 43, I could subject it to the same minute analysis as I did “Kidnapping at Hogglestock” but people can take only a little of that, pp 501-10. What is important is it’s embedded in free indirect discourse where we move in and out of Lady Lufton’s mind as she considers the situation. Yes of course it’s that she lacks money, rank, connections, but finally it’s that lacking these she is also insignificant. What does Lady Lufton mean by that? … Notice that it bothers Lord Lufton. It’s expressed as she’s not tall, she doesn’t have a presence. She doesn’t impress people. Why do some people seem to be able to dominate others? We pick on specifics: doesn’t have a high toned accent, voice too high pitched. Lufton defends her that she can hold her own against others, you’ll see, p 506. What does he mean? She can manipulate social situations to her advantage in such a way as to impress people. In England before the French revolution most of the time and for women especially that wouldn’t matter: you wouldn’t get the chance. If he married down, he might find himself outside society if it’s very high or he’s not powerful enough.
The other is lady Luftons’s request, Instalment 16, chapter 46, it occurs in the carriage outside the Hogglestock house. Tellingly Mrs Crawley looks out and says plainly the obvious: “I suppose it’s Lady Lufton.” who else could it be? P 536, the scene, p 538-39. Did others gag at this? I found it beautiful because Lady Lufton humbles herself and really opens up to ask for reciprocal affection. That’s brave, p p 538-39. But Lucy is our novel angel and she gives affection in return. As good as a cat.
Does Lucy actually succeed in being accepted? Read the last two pages of the last instalment, last chapter, 48, pp 562-63. I suggest Trollope makes it easy for her; it seems she feels swept along and little asked but just stand firm and don’t bump into the furniture. They do live in the country, she’s not running salons. But suppose he were to have had an incident where a high ranking male aggressed, how would Lucy have done? He does not give her troubles that cause failure. She need not find employment for money. We can recall the one woman in the book who steadfastly treats marriage as career choice is Griselda and she too is on that last page, doing just fine.
There are enough dark ironies in Framley Parsonage for anyone not asleep.