Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘19th century novels’ Category


The author’s real name is Carolyn Heilbrun, the detective Kate Fansler


Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) of Prime Suspect fame

Friends and readers,

An interim blog: this is me thinking out a few semi-conclusions I’ve come to after a couple of months of reading books about women detectives (history, literary criticism, culture, feminist) and reading and rereading a few such books by men and women. As I’ve written on my Sylvia I blog, I seem to be going through something of a transition after living in this world without Jim for some 9 plus years. Part of this is I am liking books I used to not be able to read, and able to accept optimism and at least sympathize with (understand in a new way from an outward transactional POV) some conventional transactional pro-social-ambition perspectives.

To get to the point here, I find that I can’t resist reading and watching new kinds of material in the detective, mystery-thriller, spy genre kind, which I’ve come back to seeing as closely allied to the gothic. Not that I altogether rejected books with women detectives at the center: my first Internet pseudonym was Sylvia Drake, a minor character in Dorothy Sayer’s Gaudy night, and my gravatar for my political blog is a small picture of Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane looking thoughtful.


From Strong Poison: she is supposed the murderer and this is in prison, she is talking to Lord Peter Wimsey (Edward Petherbridge)

The reading came out of my preparing for my coming The Heroine’s Journey course this winter. As you can see, if you go over the look, there is no example among my four slender book choices of a female detective novel. That’s because I couldn’t think of one slender enough for such a short course until I came upon Amanda Cross’s (aka Carolyn Heilbrun’s) Death in a Tenured Position. Most recent and older female detective novels are average size, say 350 pages (Gaudy Night is about this size) because often many combine a “novel of manners” (or domestic romance) with the detective formula. But I found it to be a central category because since surfacing in novels in the 1860s, the type has multiplied in appearances until say today there may be several TV shows featuring a female detective available all at once.

Although I’ve found dictionary-type books with lists and essays on women writers and their detective novels (Great Women Mystery Writers, ed Kathleen Gregory Klein, truly excellent; By a Woman’s Hand by Jean Swanson and Dean James, 200 short entries which have the merit of naming the author as well as the detective and offering enough information to give the reader a gist of what type of mystery fiction this is), it has been very hard to find any essay-like books treating just the category of female detective fiction by women writers. The nature of the material (influences, who’s writing what, movies as a group-creation) has led to many male writers putting female detectives at the center of their series, and many female writers putting male detectives, and these mixed gender creations (so to speak) are often superb in all sorts of ways.

One of my felicitous reading and watching experiences this past year was Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders (both book and film), which features a private detective, Atticus Pund (spelt without accents) in a 1950s novel as part of an investigation into a parallel murder today by the old trope amateur sleuth, Sue Ryland in (presumably) 2021 — for its witticism, self-reflexive uses of the core fantasies, styles and yes multi-gender empathies.


Sue Rylands (Leslie Manville) is also intended to appeal to older unmarried career women (the spinster trope transformed & modernized at last)

But as there is a real, findable, and demonstable fault-line and difference between male and female writing, and films made by mostly men or mostly women, and visual art, and music too, and one of my aims as a teacher and writer is to keep women’s literature alive and make it more respected; I’ve been after just the books by women albeit in a multi-gender context. I’ve also tried to stick to films where the central author originally (or continuously) is a woman, and evidence shows women directing, producing, doing set design. The qualification here is all of these are shaped by the kind of detection mystery genre the book/film is written in. I’ve followed Andrew Marr centrally here; Julian Symons’s Bloody Murders is also indispensable.

I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions.

I agree in part with Kathleen Klein’s brilliant analysis (The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre) of the depiction of female detectives mostly in books, but equally by men and women that often these may easily be read and are in fact intended (when conscious) as anti-feminist (meaning the movement for independence and equality) portrayals from a male (in some eras on TV lascivious) POV.

This POV is on display in right now in the incessant arguments and brutal put-downs of Miss Eliza Scarlet (the ever patient Kate Phillips has played many an wholly abject woman, from Jane Seymour in the recent Wolf Hall, to Tolstoy’s hero Andrei’s long-suffering wife, the 2016 serial by Andrew Davies) by “The Duke” Inspector Wellington (the pugnacious, overtly insulting professional police detective played by Stuart Martin, doubtless chosen for his resemblance to the matinee idol type, Richard Armitage) who reiterates constantly a woman cannot be both a real or natural or happy woman and a detective; who needs strong men around her to protect her. Injury was added to insult in the most recent episode (Season 3, Episode 2) where a story was concocted whereby a mean and bullying ex-friend, Amanda Acaster, who repeatedly humiliated and nowadays derides her, is also used to criticize adversely Eliza’s character: Eliza is supposed now to have felt for Amanda trying to have a career using the same manipulative amoral tactics she did when the two were young. She is not charged though her measures were what encouraged a gang of thieves to use her restaurant as a front.  But look she surpasses Eliza in the Victoria sponge cake line. The costuming of the program shows some knowledge of the illustrations for such stories in the 1870s/90s, the music is very good, and lines are witty (though usually at Eliza’s expense) and I’d call the presentation stylish. I have spent this much time on it as it’s contemporary and its perniciousness extends to endorsing bullying and mocking non-macho males (Andrew Gower as a homosexual man controlled by his mother).

In many of these detective stories especially the hard-boiled type, and since the 1990s, the woman simply takes on male characteristics, and when she doesn’t and displays genuine female psychology, set of values, life experiences, and is as competent as the males and not just by intuition, by the end of a given book or series, we are to see she has not lived a fulfilled life, which must include marriage and motherhood. This is how Prime Suspect finally ends. In medias res, the female detective of whatever type is often allowed genuine common women’s lives characteristics and we see themes and archetypes familiar in women’s literature, e.g., recent film instance of the mother-daughter rivalry paradigm in Annika where the older heroine is divorced and lives with her teenage older daughter. There is now a line of disguised lesbian socially-conscious fiction, e.g., Val McDermid, seen in film recently featuring Karen Pirie played by Lauren Lyle, of Outlander provenance, dressed in unemphatically non-binary ways

But I don’t agree wholly with Klein (or others who write from her vantage). At the same time, the way out is not to trivialize and pretend to treat as playful amusement “the lady investigator” and her now many daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters, all the while lightly coming to the same conclusion as Klein, with some face-saving and genuinely rescuing qualifications. This is the vein taken by Patricia Craig and Mary Cadogan in their The Lady Investigates: Women Detectives and Spies in Fiction: a very informative as well as insightful book; it covers amateur and private detectives as well as the spy genre, which Klein does not. Nor is it to ignore this aspect of the genre altogether: Lucy Worsley in her Art of Murder manages this, at the same time as she (curiously) denies that the mass audience for this kind of thing understands it as fantasy (that most murders are not solved, and when solved not by brilliant ratiocinative nor super-scientific techniques, but rather information from people involved) but out of a thirst for violence and fascination with death (this does ally it to the gothic).

What we need to remember is the history of the genre: it first emerges in the later 19th century when women could get jobs and income on their own, go to college as woman (usually women’s colleges). The whole larger genre of detective fiction develops its characteristics when you first have men hired in visible numbers and a real police force. So there were male models for male detectives but no female models for female detectives. This changes (Miss Scarlet and the Duke is quite a startling throw-back) post-World War II when women held on to their array of male jobs and began to be hired, however slowly, and to be promoted to managerial positions in institutions, including the police (Lynda LaPlante modelled Jane Tennison on an actual woman detective).

I suggest that the woman detective was an popular substitute for the “new woman” so distinguished by feminist literary scholars of the 1890s (which never achieved much popularity or was not lasting); she becomes liberated and a real woman as women in our western societies begin at any rate to achieve the right and education for financial and some real sexual independence. We see this in Horowitz’s Sue Rylands and I hope to show other women detectives from the post World War II era.

So as a follow-on from this framework, I hope from time to time to write blogs here when the writer is a male and the portrait less than really feminocentric; on detective fiction found in both books and films; and on Reveries under the Sign of Austen (when the writer is female and the work genuinely l’ecriture-femme, which includes for me a genuinely anti-violence, anti-war and pro-woman political POV, which by the way I do think Prime Suspect was and is: Gray Cavender and Nancy C Jurik’s Justice Provocateur: Jane Tennison and Policing in Prime Suspect. The victims in these shows are often women tortured by male violence, young children, including boys destroyed and warped by male pedasty, immigrants, mostly women working menial jobs desperately, and yes prostitutes too, and women who murder (including one semi-accidental infanticide) too.

First up for Austen Reveries will be Amanda Cross’s Death in a Tenured Position and, for this blog, the older masterpiece, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant investigates the character of Richard III)


Of course Josephine Tey was a pseudonym; the author’s real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh, and the photo is of Jennifer Morag Henderson who wrote an excellent biography

Ellen

Read Full Post »


From Andrew Davies’ 2004 serial drama, three of the major characters of Daniel Deronda: Daniel (Hugh Dancy); Gwendolen Harleth (Romolai Gareth), and Grandcourt Mallinger (Hugh Bonneville)

Here I describe the experience of the book I’ve had over these 3 months, describe it generally and argue that the way of reading it as two separate sides is not adequate — though understandable. To read it as one tapestry with the Jewish story just one strand won’t do either. The problem is, Where is George Eliot in her book? and how is it a text we find her working her own deeper psychic problems out through.  She is mirroring her and Lewes’s life once again (as she did in Middlemarch) …

Ellen

Dear friends and fellow readers,

For the past 3 months, in four different ways, on top of reading the book silently to myself, I’ve been engaged socially through George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. I took a course in the book (alas only 7 sessions, but we went over time — well past 90 minutes — a number of times) with the marvelously inspiring enchanting Maria Frawley online at Politics and Prose; I participated in a group reading and discussion of it with at least 20 people on the TWWRN face-book group, where each three days someone wrote about three chapters, often in detail, with summaries, evaluations, questions, pictures attached. It was a close read of a mighty meaty book. I listened to Nadia May reading it aloud in an unabridged form on CDs in my car. And I watched for an umpteenth time Davies’s brilliant adaptation (4 DVD form and streaming). This was probably my 4th time through over many years.


Early scene of Mirah (Jodhi May) singing for the Meyricks, Daniel to the side in attendance

This is a book which needs a book to do it justice, and I want to write a not overlong blog about these experiences. I will first write about it in the way literary critics often end up: divide my description into two stories, one about a pair of Jewish characters, Mordecai, dying when we meet him from some fatal organic disease or TB; and child-like Mirah Lapidoth, whom Daniel becomes involved with after he rescues Mirah from suicide by drowning, slowly falls in love with her, and so helps her build a career as a singer and teacher of music. Daniel goes on a quest within London and finds out for her her long-lost brother, Mordecai:  think of Shakespearean romances derived from the 3rd century Greek ones of vast watery worlds where after disaster, tragedy, there is renewal, reunion.


Mordecai (Daniel Evans) waiting and watching for a Deronda on a bridge over the Thames

The other story is, in this scheme, then about at least three groups of English characters, of whom the vulnerable (because monetarily bankrupted after being brought up to do nothing to be self-supportive) Gwendolen Harleth is the center; she marries a sadistic debauched cold man, Grandcourt Mallinger, who has a mistress, Lydia Glasher, now widowed, with four children by Grandcourt.   He, together with her forcible vehemence, haunt and cow the nervous, and proud (also child-like) Gwendolen.


Lydia (Greta Scacchi) terrifying figure for Gwendolen, found among some neolithic stones on Grandcourt’s property.

There is Daniel’s foster father, Sir Hugh Mallinger (brilliantly randy Edward Fox), genial, cynical, a relief for this reader (he is never solemn), the shaded face suggesting how he evades many questions:

Sir Hugh’s wife, daughters (no son); Daniel’s friend, Hans Meyrick, student painter whose family Daniel helps support themselves. Grandcourt’s sycophant Lush (James Bamber in the film).  The Arrowpoints who include a couple who hold out for marriage for love (lest they not get to pass the precious life they have together). And we must not forget Daniel’s mother, Leonora, now called the Princess or Contessa Maria Alcharisi (Barbara Hersey), a strange exotic figure, like Mordecai, a type of character straight out of Walter Scott. She probably belongs to the Jewish story, but she has fiercely thrown off this identity, and tried to erase Daniel’s; her connection to Daniel is through Sir Hugo who once loved her.

Told this way it almost seems an exciting read; the movie is exciting and mesmerizing to watch (strange and repellent beauty), but the book is slow-going, meditative, long passages filled with argumentative and poignant worked-out thoughts. If you look at it this way, you end up having to discuss some very questionable ideals (nationalism, zionism), a genuinely progressive agenda, pro-semitic or at least anti- anti-semitic, on the one hand, and, on the other, the usual attack on coerced mercenary marriages, run by cruel, indifferent and malign men, the subjection of women, with quite a number of them complicit.  This includes importantly Gwendolen’s lachrymose probably abused-as-a-wife mother, Mrs Davilow (played by the endlessly worried looking concerned Amanda Root) who nonetheless does nothing to prevent her daughter from marrying partly for that mother’s sake for money a man Gwendolen knows nothing about that does matter.  Mrs Davilow should & does know enough:

Daniel becomes the linchpin of this diptych, the man of integrity trying to serve all; identity-less when we first meet him, slowly discovering his Jewish heritage. His presence and needs leads us to think about how motherhood as practiced ideally then, and partly now too imprisons women; about adoption as an alternative way of bonding people: it worked for Daniel and Sir Hugo, who love one another, and for Daniel and his mother, who did have her career, though in the book Eliot thoroughly punishes her for it, making her endlessly miserable and now dying and still angry at her father imposing on her the subjected (to her stigmatized) identity of a Jewish wife, mother.

An interesting side-theme is the place of music in our lives, and how to build a career through aristocratic patronage. The learned radical musician Herr Klesmer presides over this: beautiful interesting quotations from Italian poetry of the era:

But there are other ways one could read the book. Here is a second, concentrating again just on the book itself. It’s not two separate stories, but a group of [English] interwoven strands, with Jewish one threaded in and out of the larger tapestry:  the Meyricks take in Mirah, Hans falls in love with her, Daniel’s foster father and his wife promote Mirah, protect Gwendolen after her monstrous husband dies — mostly from an accident he brought on himself. Daniel becomes Gwendolen’s adored trusted confidant, functioning as a psychiatrist-priest: they are the central couple.

Women’s stories might be said to predominate, with the hard deals they are dealt for the most part in life to the fore, but equally there are a group of male stories, with some of the men at least having had to make their way in the world as does Deronda. Even Lush (David Bamber), the failed academic should be considered a human being; he is a conduit for information whom Sir Hugo is not above using.

Both ways account for how basically we read the book in the P&P class and on face-book; how Davies would have us humanely interpret it, with an emphasis on the loving friendship between Mordecai and Daniel, as Daniel takes over Mordecai’s life work (and his sister) — Davies often brings out the male individuals in his film adaptations

The problem here for me is both descriptions omit George Eliot. Where is she? For me this book only becomes understandable when you see Eliot’s presence strongly everywhere — both in the book’s daring insights about women, especially motherhood and the limited choices given women otherwise; and in its odd flaws or sudden absences and contradictions.

What I bring together are Lydia Glasher’s fate: “it was as if some ghastly visions had come to her [Gwendolen] in a dream and said, ‘I am a woman’s life’ (Bk 2, Ch 14) and Mirah’s probable one. The book is at times hopelessly fairy tale stuff (part of its flaws); when Mirah’s basely fraudulent father left his wife taking Mirah with him as a child, he was later led to try to sell her to a man, and probably she would not have been able to escape; if she had made her way to London to find her mother and brother once more, it’s highly unlikely she would have been rescued by a Deronda.


Near suicide romanticized

Grandcourt’s death is too convenient (as is Raffles in Middlemarch, even if both deaths are used to show the ambiguity of murder itself in ordinary life),as well as the legacy aftermath which rescues from destitution Lydia Glasher and her children, and Gwendolen and her mother and sisters.  Eliot never seems to remember the probability in most families would be:  had such a huge estate been left to a nobody mistress and her bastard son, it would have been ferociously contested. Without Daniel’s generous subsidy, the Meyricks would have lived a subsistence life — a widow (Cecilia Imrie tries hard, but the “little mother” designation grates on me), and two or three daughters — they are basically women with one artist son without any money to back them up in life’s ordinary emergencies.


From the National Gallery, we see Eliot’s friendly alert face

I see in all the women of the book and Deronda himself surrogates for Eliot as she over and over again thought about and dramatized the life’s experiences she had known — breaking away from a stern, religious father, a vindictive brother, working for small sums as an editor in the house of a philandering man, not only her unmarried life with Lewes, but Lewes’s own life –Lewes is a model for Ladislaw in Middlemarch, so his burning idealisms (and very sick state) are poured into Mordecai who dies at the end. She was a step-mother to Lewes’s sons, whose lives were not easy.

I see George Eliot in all her fictions immolating central characters who have integrity and good natures. In “Janet’s Repentance,” Janet seems to have been blamed (for alcoholism), and her reward for escaping the brutal husband (also dead by the end) is to become a repentant depressive. Her husband beat her brutally and the community, Eliot shows, allowed this. At the close of The Mill on the Floss, Maggie drowns herself; in Romola, its heroine of the same name endlessly sacrifices all (sexless too). Dorothea gives all to others with little break. There’s the child-like guilty and self-effacing heroines of DD, Gwendolen (desperate to be good) and Mirah (who seems incapable of sustaining an angry thought). The only woman in the book who tried to follow her destiny was Daniel’s mother — presented in this light, not from the light of her career. From what I can see of Eliot’s life, though she’d break down (like Maria Edgeworth before her and Virginia Woolf after) after she published a book and could not read critics, she fulfilled herself mightily. She broke away for herself, spend an individual life of achievement, and did not turn into an exotic, though others from far may have seen her that way since it was felt she had to isolate herself or be subject to continual vicious attacks. The books’ greatness is to show us these predicaments; what makes them disappointing is the relentless pressure on the best major characters to renounce their worthwhile dreams and projects. Daniel has not really started his. It’s a saturnine joke that Lydgate having been forced to establish a lucrative practice among the rich in Bath achieves research about gout that is valuable.

I can only be suggestive: the best biographical study I know thus far is The Real life of Mary Anne Evans by Rosemarie Bodenheimer; one of the best books on her art, George Eliot’s Serial Fiction by Carol A. Martin; The Cambridge Companion has some fine essays, and for me very insightful is The Transformation of Rage: Mourning and Creativity in George Eliot.

Here she is, for example, as a poet, a foremother poet.

It has been a tremendously stimulating three months for me as I made my way through this book with all these other intelligent reading friends and companions.


Probably a bad edition (no introduction, no notes) but the best cover illustration …

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Early illustration of Uncle Tom ministered to by Cassy (from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1851-52)

I assigned Uncle Tom’s Cabin 3 times in the early 1990s when I was teaching a class called American literary Masterpieces. It was part of a unit I called The Civil War, and my other two books were a set of Lincoln’s speeches and The Autobiography of Frederick Douglas. I had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin between the ages of 11 and 12; it was on the shelves of one of the bookcases in our house. I found then (1992-93) it was not uncommon to find most Black good students (readers) and a few white students had read it.

Dear friends and readers,

Though Uncle Tom’s Cabin is by a woman, and fundamentally a work of genius that is at the same time a quintessentially American middle class white woman’s novel, based on the 18th century captivity and slave narratives that emerged from the first 2 centuries (17th, 18th) of ruthless colonialism aiming to grow super-rich by extraction of the natural resources and taking over the land of gun-less cultures, I am nevertheless going to place my brief essay-talk on it here (rather than Reveries under the Sign of Austen, Two), because the still wide-ranging kinds of people it rivetingly engages transcends its author and immediate context. Its subaltern-extermination-slave or imprisoned-bondage labor story make it a universal post-colonial text too (see comments).

I am taking a course at OLLI at AU called “The Coming of the Civil War,” which I cannot praise too highly, for the teacher’s (a retired pro-labor lawyer who clerked for Thurgood Marshall) basing the course on original political documents, and the way he makes us understand quite how complicated were the laws passed, the customs protected, the reasons for the fierce polarization and violent behaviors, and hatreds, economic and political interests. I’ve learned about invasions by people who supported secession into Mexico, Latin and South America to extend slavery and renew kidnapping of African people to enslave thousands more. He knows so much and yet one book he has not been able to get himself to read is one of the central texts igniting it. I must suppose (from what I saw in the class too) that to many people Uncle Tom’s Cabin comes framed with the way many women’s books are regarded: as somehow inferior, this one as sentimental gush. So of course one needs to explain its extraordinary sale and central role. He seemed to think it was unique in some way. I learned too that quite a number of the mostly white 60+ year olds in both OLLIs have never read the book. It has not been on US high school curricula perhaps ever and especially not since the mid-20th century when it came to be reviled by leading black critics, who nonetheless had themselves read it as children.

So I wrote a short talk, and invite my readers to read it because Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a sina qua non text for understanding the literature and culture of the American 19th century and much of the twentieth until say the later 20th century period of progress for black Americans, jump started with the Civil Rights act of 1965. One might hope that if we were a post-racial society the book could be seen historically important rather than directly relevant, but we cannot — tragic: since the 1990s a massive incarceration of black men in the US began again — so UTC it can today be regarded as living witness and testimony. I will let my short essay speak for itself as about the book’s content, aesthetics, value, genres, and critical history; a second blog will contextualize it with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s life and the immediate political fights over enslavement in the early 1850s.


Eliza leaping ice floes

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a powerful literary masterpiece, about the horrors of enslavement. It was an astoundingly wide best-seller (borne out by statistics), internationally acclaimed, prompting a ceaseless production of anti-Tom works, and parodic imitations on stage. Scholars seem to think, however, that the anecdote of Lincoln saying to Harriet Beecher Stowe, So this is the little lady who started this big war, is apocryphal. It is very pat: Lincoln being this very tall man and Stowe this very short woman. In the 20th century, her novel aroused terrific ire still, especially among Black readers (most notably James Baldwin’s loathing in his famous “Everybody’s Protest Novel”) and was dropped from college curricula mid-century. Its sentimentality was called an embarrassment; nevertheless, Edmund Wilson included it in Patriotic Gore for its “eruptive force,” “the irresistible vitality of its characters,” “the critical mind which on complex situations” sustains “a firm grip,” and its structure which “clearly controls and coordinates” the subplots.

So why did it hit an emotional nerve? Harriet Beecher Stowe writes vivid powerful prose; she writes very direct dialogue we can believe in, and characters whose motivations and emotions we recognize as real, its prose and action are rhythmic and scenes and descriptions effective & immersing. Stowe doesn’t mince words. She presents the issues she want us to understand directly and urgently reasons with us as her scenes make her points dramatically. She is a sharp ironist. Her major argument is you cannot make people into property; people are not things. Not all the scenes are of horrific punishment (Simon Legree enters the novel rather late), and many seem ordinarily probable, with the cause of the slave-traders and owners behavior making money, or a profit.

Here is just the opening section of George and Eliza Harris’s story, early on, an owner hates George Harris for being intelligent and hates how he is inventing machines and gaining respect when hired out, so brings him back, grinds him down with menial work, whips, debases him. We see George inwardly “The flashing eye, the gloomy troubled brow were part of a natural language that could not be repressed – indubitable signs, which showed too plainly that the man could not become a thing.” A little later, same passage, from the enslaver (“owner”): “It’s a free country, sir, the man’s mine, and I do with him what I please, – that’s it” (Chapter 2, 24-25). George soliloquizes: “I’m a man as much as he is, I’m a better man than he is, I know more about business than he does; I’m a better manager than he is, I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand – and I’ve learned it myself, and no thanks to him, – I’ve learned it in spite of him, and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me?” (3, 27).

Our materials for this week’s class focused on the Fugitive Slave Act. Major scenes throughout the novel feature characters trying to escape and we see the immense difficulties and obstacles, the laws and actors empowered to help the determined owners to get their property back. Eliza jumping ice floes is just the most sensational but also (as Hedrick shows) Biblical in its intensity and use of allusion: “‘she’s clar ‘cross Jordan. As a body may say, in the land o’Canaan'”. Eliza crosses that river, her child in her arms. We are led to identity and ask ourselves, what if you were never safe, could never hold onto your children or parents? what if you had obtained, become a freed person and found yourself at risk of being kidnapped and re-enslaved? You cannot count on the next moment to plan anything. You may be sold anytime. And twice a set of characters are sold when “good” “owners” need money or go bankrupt.

No less important are chapters and whole sections of eloquent polemics against slavery, both out of principle and the lives such practices inflict on the enslaved and a society based on such practices.

Yes, there are cringeworthy comical scenes where Stowe condescends and shows racism in her descriptions of black people; yes the death of little Eva, and Uncle Tom and little Eva’s relationship is as drenched in sentiment as Joe the street sweeper’s death in Bleak House and Sergeant George and Esther Summerson’s sweet pity, but this is Dickensian stuff still popular today. There is condescension and romanticizing. But we do hear the voices of these people hitherto in white people’s books silenced — Stowe invents idiolects which are intended to mirror black people’s speech. Yes, in the ending the two races are separated, with one group going at first to Canada, and eventually two to Africa. But their fate is treated with respect and interest. Topsy is a black child, girl, who becomes Ophelia St Clair’s special property; Miss St Clair is a northern spinster who comes south to help her brother Augustine (sharp, humane man) because his wife is useless (not that much of a caricature). Miss Ophelia does beat Topsy trying to make her moral: the phrase used, “brought up by hand,” comes from Dickens’s Great Expectations. Miss O is anti-slavery and yet is complicit, but when household breaks up, she takes Topsy with her, and last seen, Topsy is freed, and both women living together. They have become a mother and daughter or aunt and niece pair.

What actuated Stowe? She was horrified by what she saw in the slave society of Ohio; she came from idealistic transcendental sensitive people, was surrounded all her life by Quakers, evangelicals who were abolitionists. She herself saw and understood and wrote against the economic slave system as spreading poverty and misery for most, but she was also a woman, was fired up by her lack of rights, well-educated, her situation with her husband left her supporting him, and she found herself too often pregnant. She finally got separate rooms. Crucially important too was a conversion experience in 1843, a culmination of several years of immersion in religious sect behavior all around her: we do not today sufficiently emphasize what a religious culture the US had (in different varieties) and how the understanding of desperate was filtered through religious ideas (see Joan Hedrick, pp 143-160). Her brother, George, killed himself during this time. Harriet had dreams where she identified with a bleeding enslaved person being whipped. Then around the time of the writing of the book her beloved young son, Charles had just died. The death of this son is poured into this book; and she is particularly careful to show women as effective and important influencers to get the men around them to help enslaved people escape.

Elaine Showalter in A Jury of Her Peers (a history of American women writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx), argues Stowe is a major 19th century career writer; Joan Hedrick, Stowe’s biographer, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a quintessentially women’s text (growing out of parlor literature and women’s periodical writing). Of course Stowe is also very religious, with this book following the usual providential patterns: being Stowe these are graphic. Gilbert and Gubar (The Madwoman in the Attic) share this common view among those who’ve read 19th century American women novelists (see Writing [for Vocation] and Immortality by Anne Boyd Rioux). The attic prison becomes a refuge. Stowe’s style recalls Louisa May Alcott – think of Little Women; also Sarah Orne Jewett. Early on when Stowe wrote her first book, a didactic geography adolescent school children, it sold very well. Stowe is an equivalent of Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton for example) in social conscience; she corresponded with George Eliot who wrote reviews of Stowe’s work praising it highly.

In the 1990s when I taught it to undergraduates, the book was written about as combining the very popular slave or captivity narratives of the 18th and 19th century centuries. Stowe took a black form and made it white and middle class. Stowe drew especially from the slave narratives of Josiah Henson and Henry Bibb. One of the many ironic chapter headings is “Property Gets into an Improper State of Mind,” whose point is the will to be free is compelling and ceaseless and immediate active (or at any time) among enslaved people. It’s revealing to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the context of the several other slave narratives too that Henry Gates has published over the years.


A Dover edition

Also in the context of books where the attribution is difficult. With, for example, Lydia Maria Child’s books, with which the 1861 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was once placed. In The Incidents, once attributed to Lydia Maria Child, we experience a closely similar terrain to that of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Child was an American abolitionist, activist, writing stories strongly for women’s rights. In 1971 Jean Flagan Yellin, a feminist scholar discovered in the archives of Quaker life and letters at the University of Rochester documentary proof that Harriet Jacobs wrote the narrative. It’s based on Jacobs’ life, and she went to Child to help her put it together and publish it. We should call Child Jacob’s editor and mentor.

Fast forward to 2022, today. People remark on how uncannily Uncle Tom’s Cabin anticipates Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The last sequence where Cassy, Legree’s much abused concubine (who also bullies him) hides in the attic with a young Black girl, Emmeline, whom Legree had bought intending to use her sexually is gothic, ghostly, haunting. The sequence anticipates the ghost of a murdered baby in Beloved, and two of the many incidents told more briefly also repeat parts of Margaret Garner’s history. There is in UTC another enslaved woman who kills her child rather than allow her to become the sexual toy of whoever can buy her, later this woman’s son seeing he is about to be re-captured drowns himself. Garner’s story is sometimes told as if it was somehow unusual to experience such abuse. Not at all: read the last two chapters of Fanny Kemble’s memoir, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, 1838-39: you will be horrified at what the women endured as matter of course (made to work from dawn to dusk in heavily pregnant stages, and immediately after birth driven back to the rice fields again was just ordinary non-sexual life)

The sticking point is Uncle Tom: what do we do about this noble man who refuses to escape, who is all goodness to the Shelbys and then St Claires who sell him. It’s not enough to say he’s a Christ figure because for some of us that doesn’t work. I’d like to emphasize that a much of his behavior and passivity is simply idealistically ethical when he is treated with respect (much of he book) and, when not, we see him holding out against snitching and against demands he be cruel to others, become complicit in abominable practices; paradoxically Uncle Tom’s not even for rent. When he’s whipped to death, he is refusing to tell where Cassy and Emmeline are hidden. He’s admirable: his story is a bondage narrative, where usually a woman is at the center, yoked to a freedom narrative, where usually a male escaping is the center. Stowe’s reversed them, putting a male in female story (captivity narratives often have females at the center) and a female and child, Eliza and Henry in the usual male escape story (this is Hedrick’s idea). I find Uncle Tom endurable and can admire him at the end. He receives a decent burial and moving honors by Eliza and George’s son, Henry.

Stowe did write another novel of enslavement in 1856, now in print, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. The hero is a violent vengeful escaped enslaved man, a sort of Spartacus. In conception I’d liken Dred to David Walker’s 1829’s Appeal to the Colored People of the World, where Walker, a black Bostonian publisher of among the earlier periodicals by and for black people, analyzed the horrors of colonialism as at the core of this new world, and called for immediate abolition of slavery and threatened (urged) black people to rebel. Like many a black male who threatens the white hegemony David Walker died young, in his thirties as did Malcolm X, MLK, and Medgar Evers. Alas, it is said to be poor novel, rushed, the characters insufficiently imagined. It is, however, of interest equally as a “sharp response to the male or patriarchal culture of Andover” (where Stowe was at the time), and contains strong criticism of hypocritical clergymen (Hedrick 258-62).


1875 photograph of Harriet Beecher Stowe

To sum up, why did Stowe’s book become so famous and why was it distributed so widely. It’s a powerful work of literary genius. You will laugh but I liken the spread of her book to the influence of Shakespeare’s plays on his fellows — enormous. Like Shakespeare, Stowe was writing in the same genre and idiom as fellow novelists and pamphleteers.  Her book’s literary power soared because of what she was actuated by and her abilities to combine several popular genres and come up with something that for a while felt new. It helped that one thread of the novel dramatizes the human results (often ironic and so patently unjust) of the fugitive slave act, an understandably electrifying issue at the time (even though out of 4 million enslaved people it’s estimated only 30-100,000 escaped) but it is just as much a novel about the bondage and horrific conditions under which chattel slaves are coerced into surviving. Remember the old Roman saying, What father when he is a slave?, well a bit modified for Stowe, What father or mother or husband or wife or children or even friends when you are a chattel slave?

When I’ve finished reading Hedrick and a few other essays, I’ll write an accompanying blog-narrative of Stowe’s life and other fiction writing. In the meantime here is Lincoln’s moving eloquent argument against ending the Missouri compromise of 1850, whose purpose was to stop the spread of slave societies; let no one think that this man did not loathe slavery:  he is continually precisely on point for every philosophic and humanitarian argument against it — and by extension, racism, human hierarchies. Stowe does not cover all this ground of objections because her stories do not go that far (stories must be ambiguous if they are at all real). Lincoln’s argument is just beautiful at the end because it is a refutation of what’s happening in the US today — his speech is still utterly relevant.

Ellen

Read Full Post »

A fall syllabus for reading Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset and Joanna Trollope’s sequels online at OLLI at AU: Barsetshire Then and Now.

For a course at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at American University
Day: Tuesday afternoons, 1:45 to 2:15 pm,
SG 690: Two Trollopes: Anthony and Joanna: The Last Chronicle of Barset and The Rector’s Wife
10 sessions online (location of building: 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20016)
Dr Ellen Moody

To begin the process of registration go to:  https://www.olli-dc.org/

Description of Course:

We’ll read Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset, the last or 6th Barsetshire novel, one of his many masterpieces, once seen as his signature book. I’ve read with OLLI classes the first four; there is no need to read these, but we’ll discuss them to start with (the one just before is The Small House at Allington). His indirect descendent, Joanna Trollope, has recreated the central story or pair of characters, the Rev Josiah and Mary Crawley of the Last Chronicle in her Anna and Peter Bouverie in The Rector’s Wife in contemporary terms, which we’ll read and discuss in the last two weeks, together with her The Choir, a contemporary re-creation of the church politics and whole mise-en-scene of the Barsetshire series in general.

Required & Suggested Books:

Trollope, Anthony. The Last Chronicle of Barset, ed., introd, notes. Helen Small. NY: OxfordUP, 20011. Or
—————————————–——————————–, ed., introd, notes Sophie Gilmartin. NY: Penguin Classics, 2002. The Oxford edition is better because it has 2 appendices; one has Trollope’s Introduction to the Barsetshire series, written after he finished all six of them; and the other very readable about church, class, religious politics in the era.
There is a readily available relatively inexpensive audio-recording of the novel read by Timothy West reproduced by audiobook as 2 MP3s; an earlier one by Simon Vance, produced by Blackstone’s, also 2 MP3s. West’s more genial ironic voice is the one many people say they prefer.
Trollope, Joanna. The Rector’s Wife. 1991: rpt London: Bloomsbury, Black Swan book, 1997. Any edition of this book will do.
—————-. The Choir. NY: Random House, 1988. Any edition of this book will do too. We may not read this as a group, but I will discuss it.
There are also readily available relatively inexpensive audio-recordings of The Rector’s Wife and The Choir as single disk MP3s, read aloud by Nadia May for Audiobook. They are both novels well under 300 pages.


Trollope’s own mapping of Barsetshire

Format: The class will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion. You don’t have to follow the specific chapters as I’ve laid them out; I divide the books to help you read them, and so we can in class be more or less in the same section of the book. This part of the syllabus depends on our class discussions and we can adjust it.

Sept 20: 1st week: Introduction: Trollope’s life and career. The Barchester novels. LCB, Chs 1-9

Sept 27: 2nd week: LCB, Chs 10-19
Oct 4: 3rd week: LCB, Chs 20-28

Oct 11: 4th week: LCB, Chs 29-39
Oct 18: 5th week: LCB, Chs 40-50
Oct 25: 6th week: LCB, Chs 51-60
Nov 1: 7th week: LCB, Chs 61-71
Nov 8: 8th week: LCB, Chs 72-83

Nov 15: 9th week: LCB, Ch 84. Joanna Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife, if you can, 3/4s of it, or the equivalent of Parts 1-3 of the film.

Nov 22: 10th week: Trollope’s The Rector’s Wife and The Choir. Trollope and the equivalent of Barsetshire today.

Suggested supplementary reading & film adaptations aka the best life-writing, a marvelous handbook & remarkable serials:

Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography and Other Writings, ed, introd., notes Nicholas Shrimpton. NY: Oxford Classics, 2014
—————-. “A Walk in the Woods,” online on my website: http://www.jimandellen.org/trollope/nonfiction.WalkWood.html
Gerould, Winifred Gregory and James Thayer Gerould. A Guide to Trollope: An Index to the Characters and Places, and Digests of the Plots, in All of Trollope’s Works. 1948: rpt Princeton: Princeton UP, 1987 (a paperback)
Joanna Trollope: Her official website
The Rector’s Wife, 4 part 1994 British serial (Masterpiece Theatre, with Lindsay Duncan, Jonathan Coy); The Choir, 5 part 1996 British serial (also Masterpiece Theater, with Jane Ascher, James Fox) — the first available as a DVD to be rented at Netflix, the second listed but in fact hard to find in the US


Lindsay Duncan as Anna Bouverie, the Mary Crawford character, first seen trying to make money by translating German texts (Rector’s Wife)


Boys’ choir taught by organ-master Nicholas Farrell as Leo Beckford (The Choir)

Recommended outside reading and viewing:

Aschkenasy, Nehanna. Eve’s Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition. Pennsylvania: Univ of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. Also Woman at the Window: Biblical Tales of Oppression and Escape. Detroit: Wayne State Univ Press, 1998.
Barchester Towers. Dir Giles Forster. Scripted Alan Plater. Perf. Donald Pleasance, Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Rickman, Geraldine McEwan, Susan Hampshire, Clive Swift, Janet Maw, Barbara Flynn, Angela Pleasance (among others). BBC 1983.
Bareham, Tony, ed. Trollope: The Barsetshire Novels: A Casebook. London: Macmillan Press, 1983.
Barnet, Victoria, “A review a The Rector’s Wife,” Christian Century, 112:2 (1995):60-63.
Doctor Thorne. Dir. Naill McCormick. Scripted Jerome Fellowes. Perf. Tom Hollander, Stephanie Martini, Ian McShane, Harry Richardson, Richard McCabe, Phoebe Nicholls, Rebecca Front, Edward Franklin, Janine Duvitsky (among others) ITV, 2015
Gates, Barbara. Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes & Sad Histories. Princeton UP, 1998. Very readable.
Hennedy, Hugh L. Unity in Barsetshire. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. I recommend this readable, sensible and subtle book
Jeffreys, Sheila. The Spinster and her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880-1930. 1985; Queen Margaret Univ College, Australia: Spinifex, 1997.
Mill, John Stuart, The Subjection of Women. Broadview Press, 2000. Online at: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/mill/john_stuart/m645s/
Rigby, Sarah. “Making Lemonade,” London Review of Books, 17:11 (8 June 1995): 31-32. A defense of Joanna Trollope’s novels.
Robbins, Frank E. “Chronology and History in Trollope’s Barset and Parliamentary Novels,” Nineteenth Century Fiction, 5:4 (March 1951):303-16.
Snow, C. P. Trollope: An Illustrated Biography NY: New Amsterdam Books, 1975. A fairly short well written biography, profuse with illustrations and a concise description of Trollope’s centrally appealing artistic techniques.
Steinbach, Susie. Understanding The Victorians: Culture and Society in 19th century Britain. London: Routledge, 2012.
Trollope, Joanna. Her official website. A selection: Other People’s Children, Next of Kin, Best of Friends. Britannia’s Daughters: Women of the British Empire. 1983: rpt. London: Random House Pimlico, 1994.
Vicinus, Martha. Independent women: Work and Community for Single Women, 1850-1930. Virago, 1985. See my summary and analysis: https://ellenandjim.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/martha-vicinuss-independent-women-work-community-for-single-women-1850-1930/


Arthur Arthur Frazer, “It’s Dogged as Does It” (early illustration for Last Chronicle of Barset)


Artemisia Gentileschi, Jael and Sisera: in one subplot an artist, Conway Dalrymple paints a rich young woman as Jael

Read Full Post »


Sarah Badel as Lizzie Eustace wearing her diamonds (1974-75 Pallisers, scripted Simon Raven, directed Ronald Wilson, Episode 7:12)


Keeley Hawes as Rachel Verinder wearing the moonstone diamond (1996 Moonstone, scripted Kevin Eliot, directed Robert Bierman)

I stood there as one thunderstruck or as if I had seen an apparition (from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, as read aloud by Gabriel Betteridge & acted out by Leo Wringer in the 1996 The Moonstone)

Robinson Crusoe recovered quite a lot from his shipwreck before it sank off his island of despair and transformative salvation … no disputing his collection kept him alive — Chantel Lavoie, Collecting Women, p 142)

This blog brings together my experience of a group reading and discussion of The Eustace Diamonds in the London Society Trollope every-other-Monday zoom group with my experience of a group reading and discussion of Collins’s No Name via zoom at Politics and Prose; my own reading, watching and teaching of Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White at OLLI at Mason (in person! yay!), and my watching the two latest movie adaptations of The Moonstone and (finally) listening to The Moonstone (unabridged) read aloud by Peter Jeffreys.

Dear Friends and readers,

I thought I’d interrupt our journey through Indian Summers, with a relatively brief foray into territory I used to regard as unreadable (and in the corresponding film adaptations, simply puzzling), Wilkie Collins’s second masterpiece in the Victorian mystery-thriller kind, The Moonstone, which Trollope’s still (apparently) popular and widely read (among those who read the long Victorian kind) Eustace Diamonds, which many regard as Trollope’s very Trollopian mirroring and parody of the sensation novel as practiced by Collins, signaled to us by making diamonds the material center of the tale.

I no longer regard Collins as unreadable (with the exception I used to make for The Woman in White and Rambling Beyond Railways), having found (due to some change in temperament in me where) I have more patience for cynical frivolity and now find myself responding to non-realistic modes of realism beyond that of the gothic, which mode Collins’s novels also partly fit into. This past summer I read with a class Collins’s Woman in White and became aware how truly meaningful and artistic it is. I had No Name with an intelligent insightful teacher at Politics and Prose (via zoom), whom I credit with opening my eyes to how this book was communicating itself; read Catherine Peter’s literary biography, and have just about finished listening to Peter Jeffrey’s effective reading aloud of The Moonstone (unabridged, 2 MP3s), and watching both the 1996 2 hour single episode rendition, and the equally attention-holding 2016 BBC Moonstone, scripted by Rachel Flowerday and Sarah Hails, directed Lisa Mulcahy —  wholly a woman shaped production (Yvonne Sellins, Tania Neumann two of the producers). I am chuffed to say I got a commendation from a couple of the people in the class, and three have told me they will take my class teaching “the two Trollopes” (Anthony and Joanna) this fall.

I’m writing about this just now because I not only am I about to “switch” to Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset (together with Joanna T’s The Rector’s Wife and The Choir) for the fall, but I’ve just finished reading The Eustace Diamonds with the Trollope Society Monday zoom every-other-week group, and they (we) are about to begin Can You Forgive Her? for some two months and more. I found myself more drawn to The Eustace Diamonds than I expected, and reading it more carefully than I had planned to. I took notes as I read, took notes as others gave talks, and read Mark Green’s article on Lizzie Eustace in the recent Trollopiana (No 122, Summer 2022).

I dislike Lizzie Eustace every bit as strongly as Trollope’s narrator claims to, though I grant she shows great daring when she hunts with no previous experience, but she is an interesting character, especially when lined up against the other women in the book, including Lucy Morris, who I take it shares the spotlight – and is part of a continuum of vivid servants (this insight from Peter Fullilove’s talk) — Lucinda, Mrs Carbuncle, Patience Crabstick Miss Macnulty &c. I’m a fan of Lucy’s – within limits – I was with her when she refused mean bribes, when she refused to kowtow to Lord Fawn. She reminded me of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park when against all pressure she refuses to marry a very rich young man because “I cannot like him well enough to marry him.” She does go beyond this into perversity when she endangers herself and courts insults and leaves Fawn Court (where every effort was made to make her stay) for living with a harridan Lady Linlithgow. Then she’s asking for it — Frank has no shown himself exactly trustworthy.

I like especially how Mark’s essay takes us into Phineas Redux and Lucy’s doings there and into The Prime Minister and our last glimpses of her – so it’s a full life insofar as we see. A kind of biography. We can see why many readers are fascinated and also why Trollope abhorred her.

I want to recommend also Jane Nardin’s He Knew She was Right where she shows Lily Dale’s problem to have been that she was too conventional – the usual wise advice was the worst thing to do; it seems our real rebel is Bell Dale. Nardin discusses these various heroines. Lucy Morris behaves perversely and self-destructively when she leaves Fawn Court and she is doing that to behave according to conventional ideals. Also to consider Fintan O’Toole’s formula of DARVO – this he says describes what some unnamed politicians (as well actors in court cases) do: Deny, Attack, and then accuse the victim of doing what you have done. Lizzie is mistress of this maneuver too.

For most of the rest of this blog I offer notes on The Eustace Diamonds (see plot summary from Fortnightly Review, 1871), from the group discussions, and for myself, where the book resembles and departs radically from Collins’s methods and The Moonstone.  As a coda, I talk about how the two most recent Moonstone movies cope with the problem that so little happens on the surface of The Moonstone (see plot summary on wikipedia).

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


From The Pallisers: Terence Alexander as Lord George de Bruce Caruthers who courts Lizzie thinking to marry her but decides she is too much trouble, too much a liar to connect himself to, and again Sarah Badel as Lizzie, here trying to coax him in her usual actually contemptible way (also 7:14)

The London Society on-line group had people giving talks at the opening of each session. Helen Small suggested it was “not the kind of book to talk about characters’ rights in,” a “world of surface commitments” and “public life,” a “sultry class performance;” Peter Fullilove that it was fascinating and fun to read, that he admired Lizzie and “she did not know herself to be false or bad,” a kind of functioning sociopath. The central characters given “a psychological underpinning,” with males controlled by “chivalric ideals.”  I liked so much how Peter brought out the novel showed us lower class characters, servants, many more levels of people than is usual with Trollope.  This is just as one of our heroines is a governess.

His talk led to Dominic Edwards showing photos of a trip the Society took to just the castle in Scotland that Portray represents, with real rocky landscapes, beautiful gardens.

Sati Mackenzie talked of the novel’s “concerns:” Mr Camperdown and Mr Dove on what’s an heirloom, what paraphernalia; at Fawn Court Lucy courageously battles Fawn, and her engagement to Frank causes her much “anguish;” high life around Lizzie is awful; Mrs Carbuncle “bold, audacious,” Sir Griffin “vicious”(“physically repulsive” to Lucinda). She looked at Frank’s predicament, and pressures on him; OTOH, Lord George, Lizzie’s foolish idea of a Byronic corsair in Trollope becomes a kind of radical, republican, a Fenian.


Marvin Jarvis as Frank Greystock, here taken aback by Lizzie (in the novel I think he is supposed to be having a liaison with Lizzie, one under his own control so he does not have to give up Lucy; to me he was not a sympathetic figure, just a notch above Adolphus Crosbie)

Frank Greystock makes a good contrast/comparison to Adolphus Crosbie because Greystock is just as ambitious, he just as “helplessly” finds himself asking lucy Morris to marry him, and he _does not go back on his word- — even after much pressure and he stays away. But he never betrays Lucy to Lizzie. I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere in print and I agree it would be hard to make stick: but I do think there are enough hints and sudden silences to suggest that between Frank Greystock and Lizzie Eustace much literal real sexual congress is going on. There is nothing quite as pointed as the scenes in the grass between Crosbie and Lily: I feel Trollope was pointed in SHA was he felt he needed to justify why she was so shattered when Crosbie betrayed her. There is no such necessity here, but I think the book becomes richer because Grestock more interesting (more like Crosbie only far more in control of himself) if we see him too engaged to one girl (innocent, good ,Lucy Morris) and behaving like an engaged man with the other, in this case a truly awful woman whose baseness does not bother Frank as much as it should. Lizzie does not bother hide her baseness from him so we can see the elements in her character that are so low and hard to right: lying continually, accusing others of what she does (becoming classic that), a nasty insinuating mouth, when it suits her arrogant. Lucy has no intention of marrying Fawn, only wants to triumph through humiliation; she would quite like to marry Frank and thinks she could manipulate him. It’s not clear that she would not be able to were they to marry, but as with Lucinda and Sir Griffin, Trollope does not allow what probably have happened in life to be the character’s irrevocable destiny.

Gilly Wilford talked of the book as a sensation novel, full of humor and social criticism, the troublesome necklace leads to two thefts, the cruel third-rate society into which Lizzie finds entry. She was staggered that Lizzie could fall into debt with her yearly income of 4000£!  She talked of how Lizzie fails to tell the truth that she has the diamonds when the box is first stolen. (When in doubt, Lizzie always lies.) Patience Crabstick is the inside person who could be enabling thefts


A Victorian cast iron box in which people carried valuables — myself I found Lizzie’s troubles over her heavy box intendedly funny.

In the general conversation and break-out groups covered Lord Fawn’s selfish obtuse behavior (Mrs Hittaway was not brought up as much as she should have been for comedy and domination). Lucy and Lizzie were the two ends of the continuum of femaleness. So in contrast to Lizzie’s (and almost everyone else), Lucy’s letters are short, plain, thoughtful, show suffering; that Lizzie’s lowest moment was her visit to Lucy and attempt to bully and insult Lizzie into giving up Frank; someone said Lizzie cannot even sustain any friendship, while Lucy’s real strength was the respect she compelled from others (even Lady Linlithgow), and her continual attempt at some independence. It is a very benign presentation of the governess position. Lucy Morris is in as much risk of destitution and homelessness as any of the lower order people (but for the pillow-like Lady Fawn). But she refuses Lizzie’s open bribe of money and a broach to provide inside information on the Fawns to Lucy as mean and an insult to her — it would be a singularly mean thing to do

People delighted in the Scottish servant Andrew Gowan’s mocking candor. The anti-semitism of the book and Trollope was (again) debated. We have a charlatan clergyman in this novel. A loveless world. A struggle for ascendance and domination and power includes Lady Glenn; the “characters seek security, status, prestige, elegance; show snobbery, envy, pretentiousness. The wonderful confrontations of the characters with one another.

The effective way the detective story running through everything else is carried on with pointed out, with (I add) Trollope always telling us the truth and using dramatic irony where we know what most of the characters don’t and watch them cope. I thought the depiction of Major Mackintosh very effective, very respectful of him and the other police and detectives, even when confounded. I thought the depiction of the lower class criminals did not demonize or sentimentalize them. I found the hunting scenes some of the best in Trollope: really well imagined, and each character figuring forth their inner life. One woman, though, differed and kept asking “what is the worth of this book? why are we reading it?”

Well to that I answer here: the key to this is to agree with Trollope that Lizzie epitomizes the worst kinds of lying, falseness, craft, sordid greed, manipulative attempts — and ignorance and stupidity and they are the banal everyday of the world (the tenacious milking of every cent she can ferret out in Trollope’s Mrs Carbuncle). If you do that, you are with him all the way. Also to make the connection between the continual deadpan ironies towards the Fawns, and even (or also) Frank Greystock. It does become a very different book from Collins’s because there is no secret (to us) about what Lizzie is — and to a number of the people she has to deal with.

I wish I had written down who suggested the story of Lucinda resembled that of Scott’s Lucy of Lammermoor — Trollope had read a great deal of Scott as had many other reading Victorians; he said at a dinner that Scott would not succeed “today” because he was too “boring.” I can see it. Again and again Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and Becky Sharpe were brought up and compared to this novel and Lizzie. Dominic Edwardes seemed to feel we compassionate Lizzie, and the book holds us by its variety of weak thoroughly analyzed (sometimes believable) male characters.

For my part I don’t know that I like The Eustace Diamonds: towards the end I felt there was repetition and filler, with Trollope apparently having nothing compelling him on but the moral confusion at the core of the book’s depiction of ordinary life, but I do admire it, it’s strong, vigorous and deeply sceptical . I’d call it hard comedy. There is hardly a soft heart in sight, and no one left but Lucy as a person of integrity. India comes into this: a princely state and prince whom Frank Greystock defends and attacks the whigs on because it forwards his career — no other reason; Fawn is angry because he is Whig and the attack could hut him.

It is so Collins-like and so different. No secrets, no over-the-top solemnity and yet the necklace with its fabulous worth, and intrigues over it, and the connection to colonialism and India — Fawn’s phony hollow proposal, Lizzie’s willingness to hold him to it out of spite is not a Barsetshire world motif at all. Women who are bullies or complicit, or ever so conventional, the men ditto. Yet the sarcasm and world before us is utterly believable — more so than Collins it stands up to believability. Collins, though, we must remember, often did have real life situations he had read about or experienced himself in mind.

Where Collins-like: the way Trollope continually informs who is related how to the diamonds and one another, is nonetheless more Collins-like, at least as I’m seeing Collins in the Moonstone. The centrality of these jewels. How the detectives are cornering Lizzie — from Bunfit to Gager (who in his wrongness also contributes to why he is wrong) and Major Mackintosh. Mrs Carbuncle (obviously Lord George’s once mistress) begins to suspect Lizzie of hoarding the diamonds or not telling the truth. The accusations and suspicions swirling around George have become too much for him, he begins to get very angry, and needing someone (knowing to tell Frank would be to lose him), Lizzie suddenly confesses to Lord George. Again telling the truth so quickly makes for a different kind of surprise — psychological troubling but probable and in terms of the law, perjury.


Lizzie suddenly telling Lord George the truth

Last, Bunfit reminds me of Cuff.

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


Antony Sher (a bit too subdued in the role) as Sargeant Cuff and Gregg Wise as Franklin Blake conferring (1996 Moonstone)

As to the film adaptations of Collins’s books, these bring out the actual structure and matter of Collins’s books because they are so difficult to translate into an audience-holding movie. This part of my blog might be considered a footnote to a blog I wrote just on the difficulties of adapting Collins’s novels, and in that case it was The Woman in White, to film.

In the case of The Moonstone, in the novel, on the surface we are to delight in the characteristics of the diary keepers, and the satire and sympathy extended them and the characters they dwell upon (not the same as the characters who stole the moonstone); after his initial entry, the hero, Franklyn Blake is kept off stage to nearly the end of the book, with the heroine, Rachel Verinder running away and refusing to explain herself, the heroine’s mother, Lady Verinder (played magnificently controlled by Patricia Hodge in 1996), dying on us 2/3s the way through, with the actual story we are kept waiting for is kept to a bare minimum of acting out towards the end, with unexplained suicides, angry crippled people, and silent stereotypical Indians (orientalism) along the way.

By contrast, the film adaptation of The Eustace Diamonds omits a lot of the story because there is too much to tell (and anyway wrongly Raven despises Lucy Morris, drops Lucinda Roanoke, the vulnerable victim daughter of Mrs Carbuncle, who is nearly married off to a brutal abusive man because at heart he is an anti-feminist).

The Moonstone mirrors Collins’s own problems with opium in the not wholly explained story of Franklin Blake as the victim of an opium (over)dose and the presentation of Ezra Jennings, who as narrator combines a type of disabled man and an ex-addict (working for a doctor). There is a great poignancy in the suicide of Rosanna Spearman — reminding me of the pathos of Anne Catherick in Woman in White: both young women never had a chance because they are of a sensitive disposition — Anne Catherick at every turn ignored, bullied, threatened and finally shut away; Roseanna Spearman put in prison, and becoming clinically depressed she is unable to throw off her despair, and when the moonstone is stolen, she feels she will be blamed and drowns herself rather than be again subjected to police interrogation. So the detectives and police are actually no joke in Collins.

The interest in India in The Moonstone is real — as is the interest in Italian politics and Risorgimento spill-over in Woman in White. I have not mentioned the superb performance by Peter Vaughn as Betteredge: he carries much of the novel.


Leo Wringer as Gabriel Betteredge (2016 Moonstone, scripted Rachel Flowerday, Sarah Hails, directed Lisa Mulcahy)

It’s arguable that the 5 part BBC film had the edge or advantage on the single episode. It makes no pretense at realism: each episode opens with a cut-out doll and puppet presentation of the theft of the diamonds by the 18th century thug-captain, John Herncastle. It is a wholly a woman-shaped production (even the producers were women, Yvonne Sellins, Tania Neumann). It has a delightful Bettheredge in a black comic English actor Leo Wringer and this time the way the people find an excuse for bringing in Mr Blake Franklin early and keeping him on stage is a sort of homoerotic comic relationship between these two players. We see them play billiards; they are seen as doing things around the estate together.


Lisa Niles as Penelope

A black actress for Penelope makes more sense out of what happens than ever Rachel Verinder (Terennia Edwards) and she is comic. The actor playing Franklin Blake, Joshua Silver, did some notable acting as a soldier come home from WW2 in a later Foyle’s War episode. The film-makers have had nerve to make Rosesanna Spearman (Jane McGrath) as suicidal neurotic, and the Cuff and Bruff are minimized (in favor of Betteredge and Blake as remembering the past), with Jeremy Swift as an effective Dr Candy. They are highly inventive with stage business and confused dialogues. Almost nothing concrete happens, it’s all conjecture, evasion, and one tragic death (Roseanna Spearman), and continual struggles to remember the past, remember details, ferret out different people.

The success of both movies is they attend to the idea the story is about hidden selves, but there is also (what I did not emphasize enough earlier) much lost. Particularly in one of the journals and characters not much mentioned in the literature (except Jenny Bourne Taylor’s In the Secret Theater of Home. Listen to just this one small quotation from Jenning’s explanations of himself — all the characters explain themselves, justify themselves; for Drusilla Clark, it’s a satire on the blindness of evangelicals. Here we are looking at how the mind works:

Under the stimulating influence [of opium], the latest and most vivid impressions left on your mind — namely, the impressions relating to the Diamond — would be likely, in your morbidly sensitive nervous condition, to become intensified in your brain, and would subordinate to themselves your judgement and your will. Little by little, any apprehension about the safety of the Diamond which you had felt during the day would be liable to develop themselves from a state of doubt to a state of certainty [and so on and so forth], Taylor, Hidden Theater of the Home, 222).

This is the true explanation of how the moonstone came to be stolen from Rachel Verinder. Collins at his best is exploring the sub or unconscious and many levels of minds in juxtaposition. His non-realistic epistolary methods can explore life in ways Trollope does not get near. Here is the difference between the two men that matters. It is also where Collins enters the realm of the gothic through non-supernatural and non-taboo-breaking means: the many juxtaposed voices are central to this layering. Both movies begin way after the book begins: the 1996 show us Blake and Rachel married, sleeping in bed together, and all is a flashback; the 2016 it is a year after the moonstone was stolen, Blake gone to and returned from Italy for the funeral of his father. They eschew the stylized performances of the 2018 Woman in White; perhaps they should have taken them on more centrally.

The 2016 movie brings out the character of Lucy Yolland (Sophie Stone), crippled, profoundly resentful on behalf of Roseanna and trying to protect her:

Both they both make a use of repeating landscape (the shivering sands) symbolically and effective music.


This is from the 2016 palette; the 1996 is grimmer, all browns and greys, but both fearful places where an impulse towards death lurks

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Marion Halcombe (Jessie Buckley) and Laura Fairlie (Olivia Vinall) hugging for dear life (2018 Woman in White) — a double self

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve written a blog on the difficulty of adapting Wilkie Collins’s novel, The Woman in White, into a modern movie, and shared my syllabus for this just past summer course on Sensation and Gothic Novels, Then and Now, to wit, Collins’s The Woman in White, and Valerie Martin’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I’ve taught myself an enormous amount (compared to what I knew say when I wrote my last blog about the difficulty of filming Collins’s novels), and was exhilarated, riveted, and fascinated by Collins’s book. The people in my class seemed very interested, all who came were doing the reading (plus they all read Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde) and liked the two movies I screened (2018 Woman in White, Fiona Seres, 1996 Mary Reilly, Stephen Frears [and Roman Polanski’s script altered]), and I told them about the revealing updating in the 1997 Woman in White, Pirie and Fywell).

Now often when I finish reading and teaching a brilliant book, I write an essay-blog on it here (or Austen reveries); in this case I decided, the better contribution to an understanding of this book would be to share the calendar I constructed for the book while I was reading it I will also share the Table of Contents I made, which we used to anchor class discussions.

One of the books I read in for the course is Jenny Bourne Taylor’s In the Secret Theater of the Home: Wilkie Collins, Sensation Narrative, and Nineteenth Century Psychology where Taylor argued that the striking sense of many-layered personalities impinging on one another that the novel conveys derives from its subjective narrative devices, of which they are many. Woman in White is very like Richardson’s Clarissa, an epistolary narrative: what Taylor implies is the deeply subjective, violent, nightmarish, and whatever other dreams erupt from our reading these juxtaposed journals. Taylor is anxious to show us how psychologically and socially insightful are these patterns of human behavior.

At the same time I became aware that Anthony Trollope’s famous mockery of Collins’s method in Trollope’s Autobiography was not an exaggeration. Trollope had been correct to say that Collins “constructed” everything in his novel “down to the minutest detail” so that different parts of the story adhere consistently to a calendar and can be plotted or dovetailed consistently across the book. And it does really matter if something “happened at exactly half-past two o’clock on Tuesday morning; or that a woman disappeared from the road just fifteen miles before the fourth milestone.” If Laura Fairlie was seen alive in London after she was declared dead, then there’s proof she still exists, and the tombstone lies.

But while both recent editors and an editor from the 1970s discuss the dating of the characters’ journals in the novel, none of them actually sketched the calendar out itself. That’s what I’ve done. It is, alas, too long for a single or even double blog, and since Jim’s death, I can no longer add documents to my website, so I put the calendar itself on academia.edu, and am writing this blog to alert the fan-lover-reader of Wilkie Collins’s book (and any scholar who may find it of use) that it’s up there. My hope is people wanting to understand the book will find uses for this calendar the way many readers have my calendars for Jane Austen’s novels.

A Calendar for Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White

Although I was forced to label this analysis of the underlying patterns of the novel a “draft,” it is not. Nor is it a published paper, nor a paper for an academic conference, but a working document, a document to work with as you read and study and write about Wilkie Collins

Curiouser and curiouser, I noticed that all three of my editions of The Woman in White, the 1999 Oxford, ed John Sutherland, the 1999 Penguin, ed Matthew Sweet, and an older 1974 Penguin, ed Julian Symons lacked a table of contents! Well I can supply that in this blog too:

An outline of The Woman in White, using the Oxford World Classics, ed Sutherland 1998/9; and then Penguin, ed Matthew Sweet 1999 (in parentheses)

Preface to present edition p 3-4 (p 6) (Sweet edition has 1860 preface, pp 3-5 too)

1 Walter Hartright, pp 5-127 (pp 9-126)

Subdivisions

Anne Catherick’s warning letter, pp 78-79 (pp 79-80)
Mr Fairlie’s letter of dismissal, pp 110-11 (pp 110-11)

2 Vincent Gilmore, lawyer, pp 127-62 (pp 127-62)
3 Marion Halcombe, pp 163-97 (pp 163-95)

Subdivision

Hartright’s farewell letter, on way to Central America, burnt by Marion pp 185-86 (p 183)

Second Epoch, p 198

1 Marion Halcombe (Cont’d), June 11,1850, pp 198-343 (pp 196-335)

Subdivision

William Kylie’s letter, which Marion destroys, Oxford pp 273-74 (Penguin pp 268-69)
Visions of Walter Hartright – 4, ruined temple, forest, stranded ship, a tomb & veiled woman Oxford Sutherland pp 278-79 (Penguin pp 273-74)
AC’s letter: she has been seen AC’s letter: she has been seen Oxford Sutherland 303 Penguin p 297

2 Count Fosco, pp 343-44 (pp 336-38) – Postscript to Marion
3 Frederick Fairlie, pp 345-64 (pp 338-56)
4 Eliza Michelson, Housekeeper at Blackwater Park, pp 364-407 (pp 357-98)

Subdivision: Fairlie’s note now produced Sutherland p 392 (Penguin 383)

Several Sort of Narratives

5 Hester Pinhorn, Fosco’s cook, pp 407-13 (Ann Catherick’s death as Lady Glyde’s) (pp 399-404)
6 Doctor’s certificate, p 413 (p 404)
7 Jane Gould (prepared corpse), p 414 (p 405)
8 The Tombstone, p 414 (p 405)

9 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 414-19 (406-11)

Third Epoch

1 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 420-540 (pp 412-528)

Subdivisions
Marion Halcombe’s story, pp 422-39 (pp 417-30)
From Count Fosco’s letter telling of how Anne Catherick in asylum claims to be Lady Glyde p 425 (416-17)
Mrs Vesey’s letter p 445 ( p 436)
Fosco’s threatening letter, pp 457-58 (447-48)

2 Mrs Catherick’s letter, pp 540-53 (pp 528-40)
3 Walter Hartright (Cont’d), pp 553-614 (pp 540-597)

Subdivision
Note to Pesca, from Walter, open by 9 am tomorrow, then act p 594 (p 580)

4 Count Fosco’s narrative, pp 614-29 (pp 598-616)
5 Hartright concludes, pp 629-43 (pp 613-626)

On my TrollopeandHisContemporaries listserv at groups.io, we are planning to read Collins’s No Name this coming winter; I am now listening to The Moonstone read aloud by Peter Jeffreys (brilliant) and have added Collins to my list of authors to be read, and reread and studied, and read about. I did love his Rambles Beyond Railways the first time I read it: he goes round about and meditating what he sees and hears in Cornwall. I recommend Catherine Peter’s biography of Collins (see review by Jim Kincaid) and Taylor’s Cambridge Companion

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Ira Aldridge as Othello, by Henry Perronet (1830)

Dear friends and readers,

I saw Red Velvet yesterday and want to recommend seeing it if you live in the DC area (or near enough by) or if it comes to an area where you live. Right now it’s playing — magnificiently — at one of the two Shakespeare theaters in DC. At first I thought I was watching a 19th century American play, but a few minutes thought told me “this cannot be” (because of the humane attitudes of mind towards so many actors in the play’s story); it is a 2012 recreation of an imagined 19th century play

The most central value of your experience might be — for me this is true — is it’s about a black actor of the 19th century who had a remarkable career and life, Ira Aldridge, who, of course, I’d never heard of until I sat down to watch the play. I know there are many 19th century actors and actresses who were white and I’ve never heard (though because of my scholarly area I know about the Irish theater), but I have heard of the most famous ones — and I do know of many in the long 18th century. Aldridge was in his time a phenomenon and great actor; the Shakespeare company has a extraordinarily good actor (very Shakespearean type) to fill the role: Amari Cheatom:


Aldridge (Cheatom) greeting ever-so-chivalrously Ellen Tree (Emily DeForest) who plays Desdemona

A powerful scene over the handkerchief late at night in Othello is enacted before us:

It recalls a painting of Garrick as Othello in the 18th century.

There are flaws. The opening has a curious conventional situation comedy feel, and at times I felt like I was watching some version of Guess who’s coming to dinner?, more than a bit cringe-worthy. It also went on too long as the playwright was determined to include women’s problems in 19th century professional and theater life too. One actress, Kimberly Gilbert, played three roles in the performance I saw (Halina Wozniak, Betty Lovell, Margaret Aldridge) — all of them calibrated to bring home aspects of women’s lives in the European and American theaters at the time (at least two actresses were ill). She managed to be pitch perfect and didn’t need the books she was carrying. But, on the one hand, once the initial introduction of the situation, and some of the “worst” characters was done (the most embarrassingly racist partly because they were transparently trying to hide their attitudes), the story of the play and my deep empathy for Aldridge became gripping;


Here he is, reading the cruelly denigrating reviews

and, on the other, it was so obvious that the woman character was simply describing the realities of female existence then (and sometimes now), especially just after US women had been deprived of a constitutional right to have control over their own body’s welfare and their whole existence’s fate, I was won over. Since when do plays have to be literally probable — the truth is never as plays are by their very form of art a massive suspension of disbelief.

My curiosity was aroused since I knew nothing of the actor (I knew nothing of the way his performances as Othello were received) nor his actual childhood and family background or slow rise in the theater. It had to have been talent impressing enough audiences — in Europe it seems where enslavement of black people had made little money for anyone. One of the places where his performance was not erased from memory by insistent racist denigrations of his physical negroid characteristics was Poland where he played King Lear. This play begins in Poland where he is playing Lear in his dressing room where a woman journalist has come to interview him in the hope of forwarding her career; there is a powerful penultimate scene between Aldridge and his French (very pro-French revolutionary) producer, Pierre Laporte (Michael Glenn) simply the two in front of the stage curtain; the play ends on him back in the dressing room with the Polish journalist, only this time with his face whitened in the way I once saw in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith as a sign the despairing black man about to allow white men to murder him in the most humiliating way possible.

The realities of Aldridge’s complicated existence, the ambiguities of his character are not brought out here — these belong to thickened (by full context, by history) biography. It is meant to be a play whose attention pointing content (to American theater, to highly talented black men) contains its importance.

Two worthwhile reviews: Thomas Floyd, in the Washington Post; and Morgan Musselmann for Washington DC News.

As performed in the Old Globe Theater


Albert Jones as Ira Aldridge and Amelia Pedlow as Margaret Aldridge

I came away wanting to know more about this actor and his peopled milieus. It seems to me significant that the playwright is a Bengali woman, born in the UK, grew up in Birmingham, has been involved in producing Calvino (Italian 20th century modernism) and now seems to live between London and NYC. She also adapted The Life of Pi


She is married to a brilliant British black actor, Adrian Lester.

A quietly (it was not over-produced) towering event on behalf of black Americans and the history of American theater putting on poetic masterpieces against all odds for this Shakespeare company. Also by extension Afro-English literature and art — I note she tends to go for distancing forms, does not choose direct realistic kinds of stories. I hope I do not seem mad, therefore, to classify this text as also belonging to Anglo-Indian diasporic texts.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Anthony Trollope as photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864 — in his travelling hat

Dear friends and readers,

A shorter blog than usual. Not quite from sheer idleness — really from being alone as usual and so aware others are taking time off for fun — and a love of making lists: I decided to make a list of all those Trollope fictions I have read/skim-read, read thoroughly now and again since the pandemic began: 2 and 1/2 years ago and almost came up with this astounding list. I say almost because I had left out three until friends and fellow readers on Trollope&Peers @groups.io reminded me of them. I also preface this list by saying that:  I teach a Trollope novel every fall, I belong to three readings lists on-line two of which are either devoted wholly to Trollope or read Trollope frequently, and all for me were rereads:

Phineas Redux
Framley Parsonage
Last Chronicle of Barset
MacDermots of Ballycloran
Three Clerks
Barchester Towers
The Way We Live Now
John Caldigate
The Prime Minister
The Vicar of Bullhampton
How the Mastiffs went to Iceland
Dr Thorne

short stories: “Malachi’s Cove,” “A Ride Across Palestine,” “An Unprotected Female at the Pyramids”
The American Senator
Orley Farm
The Small House at Allington
(now twice over the pandemic time)
short stories: “The Parson’s Daughter of Oxney Colne”
Castle Richmond

The above is more or less in the order I read them.

Just now The Eustace Diamonds about which I wrote today:


The appropriate recent cover for the latest Oxford edition

I’m enjoying it very much. Frank Greystock makes a good contrast/comparison to Adolphus Crosbie (Small House, just read by the online group and being read by my groups.io group) because Greystock is just as ambitious, he just as “helplessly” finds himself asking Lucy Morris to marry him, and he _does not go back on his word- — even after much pressure and he stays away. But he never betrays Lucy to Lizzie.

The other thing is I’m finding it a more moral book than people openly admit — I see the morality coming out this way: this time I’m seeing the humor and comedy of the book. I admit I could never see it before. Something in me has changed since last Christmas: I’m not happier not more optimistic (oh no) but I am more cheerful, more able to distance myself. So I am seeing the quarrels between Lucy and her Scottish steward and manager of horses, Andrew Gowran as very funny.
How moral? I see in her impulses in me: I’m recognizing myself in her and since I know she is so awful to recognize myself in her is salutary. The mirror held up is teaching me.

I want to start listening to The Moonstone (I just bought the audio book in the form of audio CDs) as soon as it comes to see if it too obsesses over the jewel. The text of ED and Lizzie both obsess over them. Very funny are her problems with the iron box. It’s big and heavy, attracts attention, cannot be hid, is too heavy for her, but she must clutch it if she is clutch her diamonds. She hasn’t quite got it in her just to put the necklace in her pocket — I thought to myself, has she no inside pockets? But even she does not have the nerve lest they slip out and get lost … I recently wrote and delivered a paper on a Woman and Her Boxes — about Jane Austen and how women were so legally destitute that often it may be said their very identity was in the box they kept their stuff in.

Below you see a Victorian cast iron box for carrying jewels in.

For fall I’ll reread The Last Chronicle of Barset (so a second time during this pandemic time)
two stories: “The Journey to Panama,” “Miss Ophelia Gledd”
at the same time Can You Forgive Her?

I conclude I must find strength and comfort in Trollope over these recent solitary years. His texts are enormously readable. Reading Trollope with others has been a mainstay. I just don’t realize it … all the time.  I do know that many years ago my father brought me a copy of The Vicar of Bullhampton and told me the author was a wise man; the book got me through an awful week in Metropolitan hospital in NYC; and a few years later a battered copy of The Last Chronicle of Barset got me through the ordeal of  a 5 week vacation-stay in Rome (with excursions to Naples, Pompeii, Ischia). I am a more critical reader than I used to be, but my basic emotional reaction has remained the same.

Ellen

Read Full Post »

For a course at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at George Mason University
Day: Wednesay mid-day, 11:45 to 1:15 pm,
June 22 – July 27
6 sessions In Person (location of building: 4210 Roberts Road, Fairfax, Va, Tallwood)
Dr Ellen Moody

Sensation and Gothic Novels, Then and Now

In this course we will read Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White (4 1/2 sessions) and Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly, a post-text to RLStevenson’s Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, the novella retells story from a POV of the housemaid (1 and 1/2 sessions). We will discuss what is a sensation, what a gothic novel — what are their characteristics? how do they overlap? — and how both evolved out of the later 18th century, into the Victorian and now in our contemporary era. Many movies and plays have been adapted from Collins’s and Stevenson’s novels; we’ll discuss some of these, and I’ll ask the class to see the latest BBC 2018 Woman in White 5 part serial, featuring Jessie Buckley, scriptwriter Fiona Seres; and Stephen Frear’s 1996 film, featuring John Malkovich, Julia Roberts, scriptwriter Christopher Hampton

Required Texts (in the order we’ll read them):

Collins, Wilkie. The Woman in White, intro, ed, notes John Sutherland 1999; rpt. Oxford, 2008, ISBN 9780199535637. This Oxford is the one I’ll be using, but just as good is the recent Collins, Wilkie, The Woman in White, intro, ed, notes Matthew Sweet. Penguin, 1999. ISBN 978014143961

Martin, Valerie. Mary Reilly. NY: Vintage, 1990. Reprinted many times.

Movies we’ll discuss (all available on Prime Amazon, as DVDs from Netflix):

The Woman in White. Dir. Carl Tibbetts, script Fiona Seres. Perf. Jessie Buckley, Ben Hardy, Olivia Vinall, Charles Dance. Art Malik. BBC One, 2018. 5 episodes.
The Woman in White. Dir Tim Fywell, script David Pirie. Perf. Tara Fitzgerald, Justine Waddell, James Wilby, Simon Callow, Ian Richardson. BBC One, 1997 2 hours.
Mary Reilly. Dir Stephen Frears, script Christopher Hampton. Perf John Malvovich, Julia Roberts, Michael Gambon, Glenn Close. Sony, 1996. 108 minutes


Marian Halcombe (Jessie Buckley) — Portrait shot


Marian Fairlie (Tara Fitzgerald) — Another portrait shot


Mary Reilly (Julia Roberts) and Hyde (John Malkovich) — from the movie

Format: The class will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

Jun 22: 1st week: Introduction: Sensational and Victorian Gothic Novels; Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

Jun 29: 2nd week: The Woman in White

July 6: 3rd week: The Woman in White

July 13: 4th week: Two movie versions of The Woman in White: 1997 story itself changed; 2018 structure altered.

July 20: 5th week: Gothic subgenres (vampire, ghost; horror v terror; female gothic), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde; Valerie Martin; Mary Reilly

July 27: 6th Week: Mary Reilly, the book, ending on the an excerpt from Frears’s film. Last thoughts on genre.


19th century book illustration for story of a haunted house …

Recommended outside reading (if you want to read further):

Collins, Wilkie. Three other of his novels: No Name, Armadale, and The Moonstone. All in print and available in good editions.
—————. Rambles Beyond Railways. Dodo Press, ISBN 978-1409-965749 An illustrated edition of this enjoyable journey around Cornwall
Davenport-Hines, Richard. Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin. NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1998.
Makowsky, Veronica. The Fiction of Valerie Martin: An Introduction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ, 2016.
Martin, Valerie. Four more of her novels: The Great Divorce, Italian Fever, Property, and The Ghost of the Mary Celeste
Peters, Catherine. The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins. Princeton UP, 1991.
Showalter, Elaine. “Victorian Women and Insanity,” Victorian Studies 23:2 (Winter, 1980):157-181. Everyone will get a copy of this by attachment.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, ed, intro, notes Martin Danahay. Broadview Literary, 1985. The best text of them all.
———————–. The Amateur Emigrant. Introd. Fanny Stevenson. NY: Carroll and Graf, 2002.
———————–. “A Lodging for the Night,” and “Markheim:” https://archive.org/details/lodgingfornight00stev/page/n9/mode/2up http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Mark.shtml
Taylor, Jenny Bourne. In the Secret Theater of Home: Wilkie Collins, Sensation Narrative, and Nineteenth Century Psychology. Victorian Secrets, 2018.
Tichelaar, Tyler. The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption. Modern History Press, 2012.
Williams, Anne. Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic. University of Chicago, 1995


Goya, The Sleep of Reason, 1799

Read Full Post »

My theme is how the original illustractions intersected with the text of Trollope’s novels to produce unexpected and expected angles, and interpretations; that the pictures in the books have influenced the film adaptation scenes; and, how all, taken together and apart (mood and place, parallel and contrasting characters and events), reveal and display the unity of the Barsetshire series.


One of 17 vignettes/letters which Millais drew for the 1st edition of The Small House at Allington: Mr Crosbie Meets an old Clergyman on his way to Courcy Castle


“Evading the Grantlys” — Donald Pleasance as Mr Harding wandering in Westminster Abbey in an uncannily similar shot in the 1983 BBC Barchester Chronicles (script Alan Plater, director David Giles)

Dear friends and readers,

I hope you are not tired of these. It was my honor and delight to give yet another talk to the London Trollope Society online reading group. This time my subject was the pictures found in The Small House at Allington.  I thought that after the two and half-years we’ve been going, and have read all but one (The Warden) of the Barsetshire books in this order: Framley Parsonage, The Last Chronicle of Barset, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, and now The Small House — an appropriate talk would be to try and see if I could show unity in Barsetshire through their original illustrations. The question if the books are unified even if they were not originally conceived of as a series, and what unified them had come up during the reading of The Small House, and if they were not unified, which ones would you eliminate?

Obviously I could not go over all the pictures, especially when I began to realize and remembered how the two more or less film adaptations of three of the Barsetshire books, for The Warden and Barchester Towers, the 1983 BBC Barchester Chronicles, had scenes which mirrored the original illustrations, and themselves projected this same inner quality or specific kinds of parallels their eponymous books did. So I chose to examine and describe as a group and example epitomizing Millais’ illustrations for The Small House, George Housman Thomas’s for The Last Chronicle of Barset , and the typical and typifying kinds of mise-en-scène created for the 1983 Barchester Chronicles. I also instanced a couple of examples from Millais’s six for Framley Parsonage, and a couple of scenes from the 2016 ITV Doctor Thorne (script Jerome Fellowes, director Niall MacCormick) to help demonstrate my idea that what unifies the Barsetshire books is they are a English-inflected fractured pastoral idyll (how’s that for a mouthful).


This is a letter from the 1857 Last Chronicle, for Chapter 9, “Grace Crawley goes to Allington” — it helps trace the friendship of Lily and Grace, here sewing together by candlelight

I used a delightful book, Hugh Hennedy’s Unity in Barsetshire to help me describe central repeating or parallel kinds of events and characters across all six books. And I adhered to Trollope’s claims that to him this was a real single multiple dwelling and landscape place filled with people he invented, knew and loved, and that his originating first and main aim had been to tell stories of how in England a clerical vocation, career, and particular individual’s sets of values works out.

One not unimportant aim of my talk is to demonstrate that for the 19th century reader the experience of these books was an interaction between text and pictures: the pictures played off one and reinforced another (vignette and letter matched with full page). These offered other perspectives and added unexpected elements to the experience. They anticipate the way a film adaptation nowadays can add to our pleasure in re-reading a book (if the adaptation is intelligent).

The talk is now online at the London Trollope Society website where you can find the video of me giving the talk, transcript of the talk and best of all, all the pictures in a row to be looked at at your leisure:

Barsetshire in Pictures

I admit that this time my delight came from being able to share for the first time since I first saw them a representative number of the original illustrations to Trollope’s novels. It was in 1999 that I spent many days at the Library of Congress in its rare book room pouring over these illustrations as they appeared for the first time in the British periodicals (inside magazines) or as separate numbers (sort of little pamphlets) as instalment publications.

The Library of Congress is a deposit library and at the time got copies of the major British publications, which were those Trollope’s books appeared in. I saw in total about 450 images altogether. I am very fond of many of them and I think at this point equally so of all the extant film adaptations (alas five were wiped out early on), though I have favorite stills from the movies, which you may observe me repeatedly put on this blog.


Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne working at his desk is one of these favorites (2016 ITV movie)


Not because I’m fond of this still, but for the sake of Mary Thorne (Stephanie Martini), a favorite character with me because of her belief system as felt here:

I’m with the 1970s Robert Polhemus who says the “moral core” of the book can be found in a conversation between Mary and Dr Thorne, where Thorne says “money is a fine thing” and he would be a “happier man” if he could “insure her against all wants.” Mary interprets this as “that would be selling me, wouldn’t it, uncle? … No, uncle; you must bear the misery of having to provide for me — bonnets and all. We are in the same boat, and you shan’t turn me overboard.”

He: “But if I were to die, what would you do then?”
She: “And if I were to die, what would you do? People must be bound together.
They must depend on each other” (Doctor Thorne, Chapter 11)

Now 23 images (which is what you’ll see in the video and on the Society website is nowhere near 450, but I describe for the first time the series for themselves, and make an argument for the idea that the original readers of Trollope’s novels expected as part of their imaginative experience an interaction between the texts and the pictures. We can see this as an anticipation of the way some readers delight in faithful film adaptations of beloved books.

The pictures enrichen, complicate and add to the pleasure and meaning of the text (even when they undermine, ironize, or sometimes go very far from the author’s apparent intent). I did show 17 images for my “Trollope, Millais and Orley Farm” so if you add that onto the 24 illustrations in my book, Trollope on the Net (there I deal with other books, including Golden Lion of Granpere and The Way We Live Now), plus what I’ve managed for my website (the Pictorial Trollope) and occasionally for this blog, I believe I’ve shared a representative corpus.

As I’ve done for my other three talks, I put the text of the paper itself on academia.edu, and I transfer the video here onto the blog so you can watch it here for your convenience (if you don’t want to click to another website).

But you are missing out not to go to the London page as everything is made so lovely there and you can see the pictures and read the text separately (without having to listen to my high voice, New York City accent, and at moments awkward reading style)

Ellen

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »