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Archive for the ‘19th century novels’ Category

shevelowcover

Innocent partner of my peaceful home,
Whom ten long years’ experience of my care
Has made at last familiar, she has lost
Much of her vigilant instinctive dread,
Not needful here, beneath a roof like mine …
I have gained thy confidence, have pledged
All that is human in me to protect
Thine unsuspecting gratitude and love
— William Cowper, to his hareThe Task

If I had a donkey wot wouldn’t go
D’ye think I’d wallop him? no, no, no!
But gentle means I’d try, d’ye see,
Because I hate all cruelty;
If all had been like me, in fact,
There’d have been no occasion for Martin’s Act,
Dumb animals to prevent being crack’d
Oh the head
— Musical hall song after the 1822 passage of the Martin’s bill protecting animal rights

Dear friends and readers,

A few weeks ago on C18-l, a listserv dedicated to the 18th century, a thread on when and how people began to treat dogs as satisfying companions, produced several book titles, among them Ingrid Tague’s Animal Companions: Pets and Social Change in 18th century Britain and Kathryn Shevelow’s For the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement. The latter much more in my budget range and with a deeply appealing picture of a dog rather than its human friend on its cover, suggesting a focus I wanted. I bought and have read it. As I sit with one of my beloved cats on my lap tonight and the other not far away, I feel more people reading it might do some good.

It’s not just another academic history, but belongs to a sub-genre: books by women on animals they lived among, cared and worked for, and become a good friend to, whose rights they passionately proselytize for. Women are willing to put aside ego, pride, a sense of superiority and power too to live with animals as equals in order to study them. I’d align Shevelow with Jane Goodall, Diane Fosse, Birute Galdikas, Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin and others I used to read with students in Writing about the natural Sciences and Tech classes. Books on specific species seem most often to be by women, of course especially cats (until very recently not valued partly because of this connection): Doris Lessing, Olivia Manning, Tanquil Le Clerc; hard to classify cultural books like Jenny Diski’s What I Don’t Know About Animals, not to omit specialty painters, e.g., George Stubbs and Henrietta Ronner (and books thereon, viz, Caroline Bugler’s 3500 Years of the Cat in Art)
Inhumanelyimprisoned

The subject is a serious one; you just need to watch Frederick Wiseman’s Primates or read any of Goodall’s recent exposures of the cruelty of researchers to animals they keep prisoners in solitary confinement ready for the next “experiment.”

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Shevelow’s book opens with a woman! The first women writer fully on record writing out of a principle on animal equality is Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, a great poet. Many will know her poem The Hunting of the Hare, but may not know she also wrote against against cruel experiments in her essays — another reason for calling her mad and ridiculous.

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Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

Margaret’s arguments provide a jumping off point for Shevelow’s detailing how animals were commonly regarded in print from medieval to later 17th century times. What has been used against them from the beginning of writing is they don’t talk (“dumb animals”). Thus it was easy to assert theologically they have no souls, are not rational, despite manifesting many emotions like humans they were said not to feel these for real. The world was by God (or the Gods) made for people and we should use what comes to us just as we please. (The same justification was used for slavery; hierarchy for exploiting lower class people, women too.) Shevelow summarizes several treatises: Aquinas allowed that animals feel pain (good of him), OTOH, Descartes was especially mean. Some Jewish traditions from the Hebrew Bible exhorted humane behavior.

Her second chapter is the densest in the book about showing the way people tortured animals for enjoyment. It reminded me of Lessing’s first chapter on how people have for centuries shot and killed cats carelessly and on sprees. The most common enjoyment was to force animals to fight to the death; to terrify one with packs of others attacking it and then rejoice in the traumatized hysteria and crazed antics of the animal. Late in the book Shevelow has witnesses in the 19th century finally testifying to how bears just before bear-baiting sessions were to come (they knew) would moan, groan, quiver and cry, would try to escape, hang back until whipped into it. One incident well-documented later was of a dog and monkey driven to bite each others lower jaws off. “Blood sports” were especially prevalent in the UK.

In case you assume all people today find these sports abhorrent or are unwilling to admit they regard them complacently, think again: listen to the tone of Darnton’s Great Cat Massacre; I finished a book last week on Chardin by a respectable woman art historian who quoted a chief of police and inspector in France in the early 19th century who found blood sports much amusing as an authority whose taste in buying prints she took respectfully and seriously into account. What can one say of human beings who set up killing fields, coerce slave-labor and run rape academies justified by their “religion.”

As might be predicted Shevelow argues (and demonstrates) that enlightenment thought first spread the feeling among a minority of people (but there) that animals should be treated humanely. Her thesis, though, is that while increasing numbers of people were willing to countenance and say generally as a principle that animals should be protected from the cruelty and violence of people, what really spread active change in the condition of the lives of animals (I almost said unfortunate enough to be) in contact with people was the real spread of keeping animals as companions — pets. She says that when an animal becomes our companion, when we start to see say Clarycat (to mention my cat)’s feelings working with our own, when we notice their individual patterns of behavior, when we what’s called anthropomorphize them (Goodall argues a loaded falsifying term), then the individual doing that is going to treat the animal decently. As more and more people did that, then there was a genuine building up of identification, bonding, love.

GeorgeMorland
George Morland (1763?-1804): The Artist’s Cat Drinking

Shevelow’s book falls off for a time because after she has shown the barbarity of animal treatment in the 18th century, her way of “proving” that it was the spread of people really having relationships with animals as companions is through entertaining anecdotes. The problem is not that they are many of them designedly funny, but the humor comes from our and Shevelow’s perception of incongruity. The problem may be how do you demonstrate such an argument? Johnson loved animals and had several cats but Boswell quotes him as saying: “a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs.” Then she produces equivocal arguments, e.g., people regarded animals as people because animals could be accused of murder or heinous crimes and then treated as heinously as people. I had a student who had been assigned to write about Thomas More’s Utopia and casting about to look like a feminist and find feminism in this treatise came up with idea women could be enslaved too, beaten for adultery as severely as men. Gee thanks. Shevelow cites the way people regarded birth deformities as showing we recognize animal connections with ourselves as animal imagery and analogies were produced. But it equally be that the use of the animal term shows just how debased this “freak” deformity was regarded.

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A 20th century photo of family life among chimpanzees

I was surprised that Shevelow did not bring up how easier travel brought people into contact with chimpanzees and orangutans (she did cite Lord Monboddo’s work) and there people acknowledged cousinship, reluctantly but it was seen. It’s seen in novels, in memoirs, Anne Boleyn refused to keep a money because it appalled her as being too like. In Graham’s last novel, Bella, he uses the shipping of orangutans to Europe because they have white irises in their eyes and flat nails and their standing posture made people call the men. She brings up zoos as putting people on contract with exotic animals but this too is so far from her companion thesis. Circuses are places where people have practiced real cruelty to animals. She appeared to have lost her way.

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With “Nature’s Cry” Shevelow got back into on track, in powerful gear and the book became excellent again thereafter: Shevelow is strongest when she is producing arguments for animal rights and describing the politics surrounding this, and (paradoxically, conversely) showing the wanton (to use the 19th century term that had purchase) cruelty and horrible fun and rage people could and did inflict on animals.

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A sculpture of Hogarth’s dog — he was another man who loved animals

First, Shevelow carefully examines the most powerful of Hogarth’s allegories: the four stages of cruelty, where he shows the progress of a hero from torturing animals to killing a servant girl and along the way the four sketches have many analogous images of cruelty to animals, each showing how this behavior is pervasive in the society, usually coming back to horrific treatment of animals. Often they are small ones; cats, smaller dogs, roosters, rabbits. The point of the four is to show how cruelty to animals is part of and leads to the overall violence of people to one another. The moral lesson is one must teach children when they are young that animals have the right be treated the way a child might want to be treated. It is the first time I’d heard of this. She believes they had an effect.

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The third stage

She then returns to philosophers, artists, scientists, treatises and writing of all sorts showing a growing acceptance of the idea that animals have rights. Part I included ideas I assume my reader knows, Locke’s naturalistic view of the species, found also in his Thoughts Concerning Education. In Part II she moves on to writers who forthrightly produced powerful original indictments, e.g., Humphry Primate’s A dissertation on the duty of mercy and and the sin of cruelty to Brute Animals. Primate was the son of a clergyman and his became a central text of the animal protection movement, still cited today. Primate argued argued animals have the right to happiness (!) and enjoyment (companionship) just like human beings and it’s our limitation that makes us deny them this.

Those who know about 18th century medicine and psychiatry know the importance of the work of George Cheyne. He was an enormously fat man before he launched his career as a reformer and one of the thing he gave up was eating animals. Shevelow has a long chapter on his work, influence and protests. Thomas Young, another clergyman wrote an essay that achieved some readership: An Essay on Humanity to Animals; he conceded the uncomfortable truth that vegetarianism can come from not wanting to kill or hurt animals but this movement unfortunately ammunition to those who want to deny animals rights to say you are going overboard. OTOH, at the close of the 18th century and into the 19th the vivisection movement had begun and as a propaganda tool, it was effective — these experiments horrified some of those who saw them, and the feel of unnaturalness made the anti-vivisection pro-animal feeling spread.

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The last part of Shevelow’s book covers parliamentary debates and teases out underlying values by tracing the kind of examples that in such debates often become electrifying litmus tests.

bull_baiting
19th century print of bull-baiting

The first bill she says (in the history of mankind) to protect animals was introduced on April 2, 1800 by Sir William Pulteney, restrained, cautious wealthy property-developer: it was a bill to end the “savage custom of Bull-baiting.” In the debate that followed some classic arguments we hear today over gov’t’s reach, what is the function of law, can you legislate morality. I remember in the 1950s when conservative Republicans objected to social legislation on behalf of the poor as “meddling.” Never hear that now. Sheridan spoke eloquently but Shevelow shows how the emphasis was on stopping people from brutalizing themselves, and was not in sympathy with the dogs. It was too limited in scope and its focus not animals as such. It went down to defeat because the opposition was there and strong (Evangelicals are killjoys — Wilberforce was for the bill) of Wm Windham who brought out the Jacobin analogy – they are too radical against “so-called oppression.”

EdwardLandseer
Sir Edwin Landseer, Attachment — Foxey guarding her master’s body

One of the stories which hit sore spots and became a focus of the debates (visualized by Landseer above) was of a dog who mourned a dying master and the question arose whether the dog tried to eat the master. The idea of the opponents of the bill was to show animals are not “gentle” and not worth protecting” to attack the dog was central as this domestic animal had more constituency than any others.

Shevelow briefly covers the poetry and prose of the period which encourages sympathy with others in distress, for animals, Burns’s use of the mouse, Blake, Cowper and his hares; protests poems against vivisection. Children’s books encouraged children to be kind to pets (Anna Barbauld, Sarah Hare). Blake:

A Horse misus’d upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human Blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.

And it was brought out by Jeremy Bentham and others that people treated their slaves as animals. She does not begin to have enough room for all the varied material she could have. The other day I read Dickens’s preface to Barnaby Rudge, which has touching portraits of two ravens somewhat comically described in human terms. I think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice refusing to eat a piece of meat once they are introduced.

A big boost was the passage of the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, and Sir William Erskine steps onto the stage. He was known as a great lover of animals, over dinner one night he even introduced his guests to his pet leeches who had saved his life. A strong successful attorney who saved the lives of several people prosecuted in the 1970s; he was gregarious, a keen wit, intelligent, and he defended one of the early whistleblower cases where a gov’t (the English gov’t) tried to put the person who revealed corruption and secrets and incompetence in jail.

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1900: photo of horse left to die in a NYC slum road

On May 5, 1809 Erskine introduced “an Act to prevent malicious and wanton Cruelty to animals.” It was immediately prompted by an incident in the streets where he saw a deeply crippled, suffering starving horse being further beaten. He bought that horse, but it was just the one, In slaughterhouses it was common for horses to start eating one another out of trauma and distress and hunger. What distinguished his bill was it was not about humans but about preventing cruelty to animals. He did not seek to teach human beings to be better or end any particular practice but stop “malicious and wanton cruelty” and he maintained magistrates would recognize that when they saw it. His focus was on working animals, especially horses (treated very badly as race horses Southey maintained).

The quality of people’s petty minds against him is caught up by this doggerel:

For dogs and hares
And bulls and bears
Let Pulteney still make laws,
For sure I be
That none but he
So well can plead their cause.
Of all the house,
Of man and mouse,
No one stands him before,
To represent in Parliament
The brutes, for he’s a boar [bore]

Now the debate engaged the issues involved directly Erskine tried to make prosecutions fall on masters and owners of working places. Erskine won in the house, but went down to defeat in the Lords and the opposition was once again led by Windham who had modified his stance somewhat: he acknowledged the suffering of animals was terrible, but the particular incidents fought over show that the people arguing were talking about the human beings involved and did not take seriously the idea that an infliction of an injury on an animal should be called a criminal offense.

blindcat
A blind cat taken care of in an animal shelter

On the Net recently a veterinarian (great fool) photographed herself killing a cat (for pleasure, including the cat’s terror); she has been prosecuted. I fear the man who killed the lion was not. I believe all hunting of animals should be outlawed. That all places manufacturing meat for humans to eat should be monitored carefully.

Pamphlets were written that circulated widely (by John Lamb a countering the idea this kind of bill was “a dangerous precedent”) and in Liverpool the first society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was started, had noble aims but disappeared (no money, not enough people getting involved). Erskine went back to being the people’s champion, Windham died, now known as the man who protected bull baiting.

The stage is set for Richard Humanity Dick Martin. It was after Erskin’s bill failed to pass that Richard Martin becomes individually pro-active.

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colonel-richard-martin

Colonel Richard — Humanity Dick Martin
(1754-1834, Irish politician-reformer

The most effective man most responsible for getting people to support animal rights at the time was Richard Martin, a very rich Anglo-Irish man. He comes into public record first when he fought a duel with someone who had murdered a dog owned by a member of his family – to get back at the member. I’ve seen too many times in the historical record and have come across cases in my life where I’m told someone deliberately hurt (not killed) an animal to get back at its owner. The man George Fitzgerald was a violent bully, would provoke others with a cudgel, and enjoyed shooting dogs. (Boswell tells us about one of Johnson’s associates who enjoyed shooting and killing cats; Lessing opens her book on cats on such people in South Africa when she was a girl.

Martin was known for his love of animals, including oxen (working animals); he was a domineering landowner in Connemarra – thought he knew what was good for others; his father, Robert instilled in him a deep sense of the injustice inflicted on Ireland by the English; the father not only wanted liberty and equal rights for Irish Catholics but to get rid of the crippling tariffs on Ireland, the whole range of behaviors, laws and customs that made it into an exploited miserable country. He said smuggling was the result of these. He sent Richard to Harrow where he came under the influence of Samuel Parr, a “jacobinical parson;” someone with radical and romantic sympathies.

Hogarth’s insight that the desire to treat animals as having equal rights with people goes with a deep sense of justice and rights for all people is vindicated in Martin’s story politicking in the early 19th century to speak for animals. Martin traveled to Jamaica and identified with the subaltern people; he came back to Parliament and became active, married Elizabeth Vesey who he is said to have neglected (as well as his property) and she became Wolfe Tone’s mistress (the children’s tutor at the time). He inherited a large beautiful estate but was no good as a businessman; none of his schemes (he tried for a copper mine) ever succeeded and he was continually in debt, having to find creditors and patronage. He was known for his great benevolence as a friend and master. He was sympathetic to the Irish Catholics especially during the attempt to throw off the English in 1798 and somehow managed not to be himself accused of treason; he went for compromise as did other Irish people since famous (Daniel O’Connell for example) and was for the union, and when he got to London to the parliament and saw how corrupt it was, he was taken aback, and regrouped to enlist people to help him.

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Julien Dupre — a painting of a cow at pasture in a poor farm

Now Martin shepherded yet a third bill, May 24, 1822 introduced to the parliamentary floor against “the Ill Treatment of Cattle.” The arguments against this are those we hear today (though muted). Still, what was happening was a gradual change in sentiment so if you saw a man deliberately shoot out the eyes of a horse, you were horrified and tried to save the horse by killing it outright. Tellingly during debates it usually seemed as if the animal rights people were in a real minority, but when it came to a vote, again and again surprisingly more and more people would vote for this legislation. It was finally killed and again the Lords — the great obstruction for all sorts of decent social legislation.

And again there is a good insight; Shevelow now adds to her insight that the development of real companionship between people and animals heralds the first real work for improvement for animals’ lives; the second wasthe spread of cities, of people living in close proximity: like TV in the US where we watched in the 1960s cops whipping and hosing black people, beating them up, and again recently spray painting them with some terrible stuff and now simply murdering them viciously, enough people have better instincts and a sense of their own safety to protest.

Shevelow gives examples of the kind of thing seen in streets and reported during parliamentary debates. For example, a man shooting the eyes of a horse would not have been seen by many before cities; mulitiply such incidents even daily on working animals and you have another pressure not to give animals equal rights, but at least stop this kind of horrific behavior which human beings (we and they knew) are capable of doing to one another.

When Richard Martin got up to defend and argue for his bill, he described in detail particular instances of wanton cruelty — as I read these I can hardly repeat them. One concerned a monkey and dog driven to bite each other’s lower jaw off. Another was an early first description by someone with some decency of how a bull acted and felt before baiting. The person said the bull recognized signs it was about to happen and would moan and groan and shiver and look afraid. The bull dreaded this and didn’t want to do this at all in a intense way. As Martin told his stories, many members of parliament laughed. He impugned them for laughing but they laughed all the harder and no one stopped them.

And yet finally the bill was passed on July 22nd by a substantial margin. Many members sitting quietly when the mockery of Martin was going forward nonetheless voted with him. The Ill-Treatment of Cattle Act, the world’s first protective legislation for animals became a reality.

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A comic print of Martin bringing a man to trial for savagely beating his donkey

Now of course one had to enforce it. She has a sort of gift for humor — she needs it, and ends on Martin’s almost single-handed crusade to get the laws enforced. He went about the streets and wherever he had wind of a cruel event and had the person indicted. Martin would pay part of people’s fines because not too would hurt working class people unfairly. Martin hated how the upper classes said he was hurting the entertianment of the lower orders when they attended the same events and were just as cruel during their own.

Now an obstacle to indictment was the law was just about cattle and judges while seeing horrific cruelty to dogs say could do nothing. But if you said you wanted to extend the protection to other species, you’d get mocking rejoinder, next thing he’ll want to protect cats. Until recently cats have not been seen as worthy as dogs since they neither protect nor can they be guide cats for say blind people. The ploy to stop legislation continued to be to say in reply something absolutist so that the small step you wanted would be thrown out.

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At this point Shevelow’s book suddenly draws to a close in a kind of huddled ending. The fight goes on. There is a final coda on the origins and early development of the SPCA and ASPCA. Temple Grandin and Jane Goodall get a look in as people who had done unusual good for working animals and those we eat and fighting the horrific abuse that goes on in experimentation — it’s easier to pass protective legislation for pets and animals in zoos. She reprints important parts of the text of Martin’s Act, there are extensive notes and a good bibliography.

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Detail from George Stubbs’s Bay Horse and White Dogs (18th century)

Progress is slow. One night walking in Old Town a few years ago Jim pointed out to me a dog who looked terrified of his master, who quivered before that man and said we could do nothing for the poor creature. When a teenager, I saw a teenage boy drop a cat from a roof. My daughter, Caroline, rescued two cats who had been abused (one would gnaw part of her stomach). There’s also plain neglect.

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Philippe Mercier, Girl holding a cat (1745)

For the last couple of years of Jim’s life we made a habit when we would go to an art exhibit of seeking out depictions of cats in the paintings — or any other animal seen as a companion-pet we could glimpse.

In the streets of the cities I’ve lived in and read about nothing like the daily infliction of pain and miserable treatment once meted out to animals goes on. The new problem is a lot of cruelty to animals is not visible, and some agricultural industries have gotten legislation passed forbidding the taking of photos at their mass farms. They label animal rights’ activists terrorists and some of these people have been imprisoned for exposing wanton cruelty at factory farms and butcheries. At the close of her book Shevelow reprints the text of Martin’s act and offers addresses for important animal rights organizations if one wants to contribute or go over to work for them. I’ve written this blog so people will know about her book.

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The statue of Johnson’s cat, Hodge, in Gouge Square in front of “Dr Johnson’s house”

The progress of reformation is gradual and silent, as the extension of evening shadows; we know that they were short at noon, and are long at sun-set, but our senses were not able to discern their increase — Samuel Johnson.

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Sleeping kitten

Ellen

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Albert Goodwin (1845-1932), The Old Mill, near Winchester

“I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don’t see any reason why it should ever come to an end … ” —-Elizabeth Gaskell

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been a few weeks since the summer course I led on Framley Parsonage at Mason’s OLLI ended, and as summer seems to be drawing to a close (the days grow shorter), I thought I’d write a second time (see Sequels) about some of what I and my students (older people like myself) talked about while we spent six weeks reading this fourth Barsetshire novel. What a remarkable book it is.

Central to its peculiar power is intimacy. We become intimate with the characters in a way that is remarkable. Up close is the feel. In Dr Thorne we didn’t have a multi-plot as we do here; we had these stark dramatic encounters between characters all revolving around a single story but the feel of nuanced inwardness he achieves here is not there. He set forth to depict life as an individual experiences it diurnally and succeeded. It’s a new stage in his development as an acute psychological student of social and political life.

If you haven’t read Framley Parsonage and would still like to peruse this account, so need to situate yourself, this site seems to bring out the salient events most accurately, wikipedia at least names the characters; once before I put a reading of this novel on the web, where you can follow a group of people reading the novel together genuinely, week-by-week, some of which include summaries, though most is commentary and reaction.

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Hogglestock first depicted in a vignette by G. H. Thomas (Last Chronicle of Barsetshire)

In this fourth book Trollope fills in and develops and uses his map with a vengeance and lovingly (Chapter 2, pp 42-47). West is Whig and modern, contemporary, city people, East is Tory, which runs on established patronage. In Framley Parsonage, Mr Sowerby is in a sense owned by Chaldicoates – his sense of his obligation to it is part of his burden in life.

He likes how unpretending, serendipitous Framley Court is: it is the product of human efforts and culture across time. It is not irrelevant that it is a low building: it is not falsely high, not phony:

Framley itself was a pleasant country place, having about it nothing of seignorial dignity or grandeur, but possessing everything necessary for the comfort of a country life. The house was a low building of two stories, bulit at different periods, and devoid of all pretensions to a style of architecture; but the rooms, thought not lofty, were warm and comfortable, and the gardens were trim and neat beyond all others in the county. Indeed it was for its gardens only that Framley Court was celebrated (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 2, p. 43

John Halperin argues that Trollope disliked the lies of ceremony, or at least if he liked its physical pleasures, not its pretensions. There follow after this paragraph several in which the Court is linked to the locality called Framley Cross, the Lufton Arms, ‘the shoe-maker who kept the post-office’, and then to Framley Church, apparently a ‘mean, ugly building’ which Lady Lufton’s heart is set upon rebuilding so as to bring dissenters back. From the Church we move to the schools, and then to the grocers (Mr and Mrs Podgens). We turn left to the Vicarage which has a garden path separating it from the Podgens; it is a perfect parsonage for a gentleman with moderate desires: it has gardens and paddocks in good order, but is ‘not exactly new, so as to be raw and uncovered, and redolent of workmen; but just at that era of their existence in which newness gives way to comfortable homeliness’ (p. 44). The we move to some more shops, to the curate’s house, and then expand outwards to set the whole in Eastern Barsetshire, which ‘all the world knows’ is, politically speaking, Tory. Alas, alas, Lord Lufton is a Whig. Trollope is having fun here, but he hopes perhaps we may be among those who read of what happened when Squire Gresham joined the Whig magnates in West Barsetshire.

There is a contrasting description of Chaldicotes. The point is made that it looks impressive, is ‘a house of much more pretension than Farmley Court’. It has many more marks of nobility: the forest, the chase, the old oaks, the centuries old land. The irony is underplayed: ‘Some part of it’ is actually still owned by Sowerby, who ‘though all his pecuniary distresses, has managed to save from the axe and the auction-mart that portion of his paternal heritage’ (Ch 3, p. 53). The implication is he has not saved much else, and is having a hard time holding onto what he has, though you wouldn’t know it to watch the way he spends his hours.

Many chapters later Hogglestock and all we see in it will show us how the 99% live.

This is the book which undergirds the often expressed idea that Trollope’s great strength is his ability to dramatize the ordinary and usual of life so convincingly. He seems to dwell on the diurnal pace of life too. At the same time the pettiness of things is shown in all its riveting importance for people and how small things not just rule our live, but shape how we decide our larger decisions, what is our fate. Place and space express his political and economic and social themes. As I read him so brilliantly effectively elaborating on I remember how he had agreed to write a three volume novel in effect yesterday and start sending 3 chapter installments in 2 months time. Like hanging or a test, it concentrated his mind and he came up with bringing to us the daily real

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19th century illustration of Disraeli introducing the Reform Bill in Parliament

We found many patterns: the most engaging, contemporary, seemed the theme of ambition. Trollope had written an autobiographical novel, The Three Clerks, 1857, which mirrored some of his own experiences and those he saw around him. He is writing about a young man trying for a career. How do we get on with our careers? Is it a matter of merit? We talked about the cost of a career, what Mark found he had to do to achieve one and found he could not stomach or afford. Yes as the book opens he has all he needs — from Lady Lufton. House, income, wife, respect, but it’s not what he wants. He wants to be in London and among the admired worldly men; he wants a bigger income, to have a stable of horses, position outside the Framley purview. And what he has is at the price of remaining under Lady Lufton’s thumb. Tellingly by the end, he reverts to what he had; he decides he can’t hack it; he doesn’t have the money for real, and he doesn’t want to prey on others (his brother) the way the much admired Sowerby successfully preys on him. The central plot-design connecting all the stories and characters together is the thwarting of Mark’s ambition, not because he was wrong to have it; it’s not a parable on vanity, but a mirror we can see ourselves in.

You are a young man in your mid-20s under the thumb – or power – of an older woman in her late 40s – and you cannot resist as a man asserting your independence, go to visit other influential friends and stay up late in the room of one especially attractive (it seems to you), admirable, confiding man, and before you know it you owe more than half the income you get in a year. Mark Robarts should have gone to bed early, maybe he should not have gone to Chaldicotes because he was invited to do so.

Sowerby occasioned most talk as the most interesting character in the book. He exists in Dickens — as Skimpole whom Dickens detests. He is admired, feted, seems to float so beautifully through the world Mark thinks (Chapter 3). Tellingly the penultimate chapter of the book is on Sowerby, as an ironic almost tragic figure. He throws himself away. He is not an evil man, but he is utterly amoral and weak, finally, relying on his sister, Harriet or Mrs Harold Smith. I think Trollope in his gut abhors Sowerby for his conduct but sees the larger world Sowerby is part of; it’s not that we forgive him, but understand how he got to be that way. The duke was holding off foreclosing until it became clear Miss Dunstable would not buy him for a false status; back to Chapter 18, pp 294-96. She says she understands Mr Sowerby the way we understand tigers, p 292 at the top. Listen to her words p 298.

Lady Lufton is its center of power and that she is ultimately a good person provides its equitable ending — as well as Miss Dunstable and Lord Lufton’s money.

Framley Parsonage is a very earnest book. Mark really does feel agons and his disloyalty does pose a threat to Lady Lufton’s world. She has been tyrannical and she knows nothing of the outside world or real degradation, debasement foul amoral living, but the Duke of Omnium’s world has tenacles into a genuinely brutal cannibalistic fraudulent world. Consider: we are told by our narrator that it never occurred to Mrs Harold Smith to love Mr Harold Smith. What happens when you become accustomed to this. It’s the cliché of the slippery slope.

A second theme we didn’t talk all that much about except to ask questions about factual details was Trollope’s exposure (once again) of the corruption of the church, the injustice of payment. Trollope is very critical, he’s a quiet sceptic (he’s read Darwin and knows about “the importance of stones” and fossils he says). While I would not discount the importance of religious feeling in his books (we see it in Mark Robartes, in the fierce Rev Crawley, also in Mr Harding who is an absolute contrast not to an atheist but to Griselda Grantley: he is all she is not), it’s the politics of the church that the novels tend to turn on. And Trollope is bitter about some of this – why the book has acid. The contrast is between the lucky Mark and unlucky Crawley.

The proto-feminist vein of the novel: in Lucy Robartes and Lady Lufton we have two very strong woman (not to discount Mrs Grantley, Mrs Proudie and Griselda herself). Lady Lufton shows the power of a woman in her community; Lucy is fierce in her self-determination (she certainly has the right to choose her own life despite her not having enough to support herself, only a few hundred in the funds as dowry). No one has had the guts to present Griselda who is like Mr Sowerby not a monster though she would be presented that way by Dickens; in the Pallisers if you’ve seen it, Lady Dumbello is soft and clinging. You could see the book as about strong women; Mrs Crawley is made of steel; Miss Dunstable knows her own mind. Mrs Harold Smith engineering her brother’s marriage. In truth, the men were in charge – the power of he purse, of property, of custody of children, of a right to violence was theirs.

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John Everett Millais, “Lady Lufton and the Duke of Omnium” (one of the six original illustrations)

We read a few good articles on the book. We used Skilton’s Penguin edition which separated out the original installments so we could go over them and then read Mary Hamer’s Trollope’s First Serial Fiction (FP).

First his artistry. In her article she showed similarly how careful Trollope was: adding a passage or half a chapter here, making sure that this material went into one chapter and that into another. He didn’t want an overtly over-the-top sensational ending and yet wanted you to be waiting for what happened next, and within each set of three he kept his three stories going: one is of Mark and Sowerby, hero and anti-hero, with the Duke of Omnium and Miss Dunstable providing crisis and denouement. When (next week) Sowerby’s loans are called in, because his sister’s scheme to marry him off to Miss Dunstable and Miss Dunstable’s money, then Mark is up against it, and refuses to sign another bill so Tozer wants his collateral (what would he do with that furniture? – we do see such sales in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair) and Mark is exposed.

I also used her article as a jump off point to discuss several important themes: ambition, pride, power, hierarchy. One problem with Hamer’s treatment of these is she takes the surface or overt meaning to be the whole of it – her article is 1975 when critics were still talking in terms of voiced ideals of a culture: such as ambition is vain and see what misery you put yourself in for, what you have to put up with if you want to rise. Who you have to spend time with?

I took a post-modern approach: a set of practices or having themes that reject conventional foundations of thought – we know that Crawley genuinely rejects worldly ambition; this twists him terribly because he has such pride. Mark learns a lesson but I’d say it’s not about vanity. He really likes hunting, having fancy horses, and would have preferred to get out from under Lady Lufton. It’s not that he didn’t know his constraints – he shuddered as he signed that bill, but he did hope he could escape. He does escape direct punishment in next week’s chapters. It’s not a matter of teaching us what is fair and unfair – why should Miss Dunstable marry Mr Sowerby? For Mark’s sake. We can’t say he learns to depend on himself as he can’t. He feels the edge of the knife outside the Framley world.

The second story is of Lucy and Griselda, heroine and anti-heroine, with Lady Lufton and Lord Lufton providing crisis and denouement. It may not seem so because Lord Lufton in the novel is regarded as such a great catch, but Lord Lufton is pressuring Lucy hard in Mrs Podgens’s baby. Remember Lady Lufton’s quick repartee, she didn’t mean to say Fanny must send Lucy away.

It’s a book about power Hamer also says: and yes Lady Lufton learns the limits of her power in the book. I put it that She can’t pick her son’s wife; she can’t control her vicar in the way she wants; if she goes to London she has to live in the world as it is, and her great triumph is a silent sneer at the Duke, but he has a look of derision and ridicule at her. She doesn’t care all that much about him, but she does care about her son whom can’t control her son if he wishes to stand out against her. He could move with his wife elsewhere. Her trump card is he loves her but she must not press that too hard. In a remarkable scene when Lufton comes back to Framley before going off to Norway to fish (isn’t that nice, how easy it is for him to travel anywhere, he has friends to go with, money, arrangements seem to happen by magic), Mark of course hurries over to see Lufton and he is among his horses – four, the man has four, with corresponding stable, grooms and so on. How lovely for him. We are sometimes by public media told how envy and resentment are very bad (just like vanity).

This denial of the natural impulse of resentment and envy can be seen as a ruse to keep outsiders down. Crawley’s ascetic ideals say we must suppress such wicked feelings: they will tear society as is apart; they are central to the revolutionary impulse. The resentful person is a whiner and has only himself to blame. Mark is not resentful but he is envious and he will be shamed but because he’s shamed shall we ignore and disavow what motivated him – the Barsetshire books are as political as any of Trollope’s and in scene after scene of Framley Parsonage heroes and heroines hurt and he makes us identify with them.

What puts an end to the Griselda option is Lufton intuitively does not like Griselda – she’s a cold fish (it’s implied without passion) and does like Lucy that really decides the Lucy and Griselda story. Lufton is not all powerful; the laws of property and money as well as gender rules of respectability in Barsetshire (this half-imaginary ideal place) constrain him.

The third story is that of Crawley; he is introduced late but begins to loom large, only to be cut off by the story of typhus or fever. This flattens his strength; he is helpless against it – and we have the sudden turn to faery tale as Lucy risks her life to nurse Mrs Crawley. Highly contagious. It’s only a guess but my guess is typhoid fever – what killed off the Brontes for example. Typhoid is salmonella, high fever, aching, rash, carried by feces in water. I did not notice until this week that Skilton doesn’t try to suggest what is the fever Mrs Crawley comes down with.

The last part of the book is not about Crawley but the unraveling of Mark’s attempt to find another destiny beyond those in his cards, and about Lucy’s win over Lady Lufton. The latter is romance. A secondary romance also blooms, set in operation by Mary Thorne. For myself I think it’s a shame because Crawley is such a powerful figure when the story is centered on him – he is the central figure of Last Chronicle of Barset. There is certainly a diminished scope for heroism in Trollope’s very contemporary novels.

We turned to Chapter 36, the final of the three that make up Instalment 12, p 422, Kidnapping at Hogglestock.

The now flourishing successful Dr Arabin, Dean of Barsetshire once turned to Crawley for help in a crisis of Arabin’s existence; that chapter called Mr Arabin is a very good one; Arabin is seeing that some of his choices have led him to an emotionally impoverished existence, solitary, that he had not much money was not the point as he had enough. Unfortunately the scene was not dramatized, we were only told about it. Now here we meet them in different circumstances, with Arabin on top, and Crawley unable to endure this. Too proud but it is suggested that Crawley would have gone for long walks with Arabin as they once did – after all the Cornish cottage was apparently pretty bad – but Arabin doesn’t want that any more. But he has not forgotten the friendship – he got Crawley this post — and comes to the cottage when he hears how ill is Mrs Crawley.

Crawley sees Arabin with the eyes of a lynx, Arabin is come to offer help in the form of money as well as advice. They have this desultory conversation where immediately Crawley makes it clear he will take no help – of course morally he is willing to let his children die because he can’t afford to help them. Lucy does much better by ignoring him, and quickly, but not quite behind his back, sluicing the children away. He could have stopped it but he doesn’t. Lucy uses as her argument this was previously all arranged. I’ve seen and felt that one used myself – you agreed to this before. Did I? P 428

She leaves the two men and our narrator intervenes with the beauty of summer even in such a bleak place as Hogglestock, pp 428-29. Then the dialogue: Trollope through it confronts what the conventional person might say of Crawley directly and I think directly has Crawley stand up for himself, make his conduct understandable and protest against the conditions that have led to it. Arabin says he is not sacrificing his own pride, Crawley openly admits “the world has been too much for him.” Arabin does not talk about the pleasure of charity – rather it’s the pleasure of the power of helping. I’d say Crawley’s refusal of “charity” as he then calls it is what US people are told should motivate them against say turning to what used to be called welfare (food stamps). And in the Victorian age there was an equally punitive system: the workhouse. Many people in the UK preferred to live near starvation and in hovels than go to the workhouse. As they talk again Crawley admits how bitter he is, and Arabin says that is the fault for which I blame you, then read Crawley’s reply: “And why should I be called upon to do so? …. “ [to] “kitchen.” Trollope has in an earlier section inveighed sarcastically against the system which set this up, Chapter 14, Instalment 5, pp 186-87. Crawley says Arabin would not despise him but there would be other people in the room who would?

For my part I avoid going where I feel others will despise me even if I know it’s not fair. I like to put you may have a rhinoceros skin, I do not. It ends on Crawley saying no preaching of Arabin can get rid of all that is left of his “manliness.” And they move onto can Arabin come in.

There are lines in King Lear if I may drag in one of the masterpieces of all that has ever been written, in the argument with his daughters whether he needs 25 or 3 knights, and one of them says “what need one?” Act II, Scene 4, “Oh reason not the need .. our basest beggars are in the poorest things superfluous” and a little later apologizes for having gotten old “Age is unnecessary.’ The moral that matters is not Do not give away your property to your daughters,” though you could infer that.

It’s scenes like this, as deep and true, that make Framley Parsonage a work of high genius. Ought he to sacrifice his pride? P 430: is that the lesson we are taking away? When we read that? Ths whole conversation between Arabin and Crawley both voices are heard. Relations to others matter as much as relationship to the self. That’s really hard given what Trollope is endlessly also showing us what is the structure of society.

People categorize this as situational ethics in Trollope. To me such phrases rob the text of all life, box it up, put a ribbon on it and make it unthreatening. An author is great when he or she threatens us.

Mary Hamer describes this book (p. 169) as about the nature of pride; it’s a universal temptation she says. People want higher office to be recognized as society’s estimate of your worth:

Griselda Grantly, in seeking to win a rich husband with a title, is trying to exact a high estimate of her worth from society. Lucy Robarts, recognizing something of this, feels that it would be intolerable to marry Lord Lufton unless society would recognize the match as being consistent with her worth; this is the source of the pride which dismisses him. Lucy’s sense of identity would be damaged, not enhanced, by worldly advancement which would be publicly mocked as patently undeserved. Mr. Crawley’s pride is embittered because the recognition society has accorded him, represented by the restricted life of a perpetual curate, is keenly felt to be unjust. His worth has been undervalued. In order to survive, Mr. Crawley is driven into the extremes of apparent unworldliness, proclaiming the irrelevance of material success and declaring his poverty at every opportunity. In his conversation with Lady Lufton and with the ladies from Framley parsonage he can be understood, in his savage rejection of worldly values, to be trying to set up another system in which his powers may yet be acknowledged.
He is by no means a hypocrite, but his asceticism is powered by the need, undeniable and ineradicable in almost every individual, to be assured of society’s adequate estimation of his own value.

I disagreed only on the idea that Trollope wants to teach us not to be this way. When you read of a novel so-and-so has to learn this or that I suggest distrust it. Austen’s Emma has to learn this or this hero has to learn that. They are all in this novel subject to a world of commerce, with a cash nexus and entrenched hierarchical arrangements. Materialism and bureaucracy is the way of things: when John Robarts and Mr Buggins spend their day outside the office of the Lord Petty Bag speculating on what the “great” in parliament are doing to dissolve parliament (that’s the Gods, the whigs, are going out and the giants, Tories coming in) what are we being shown? We hear of women anxious to get their footmen into Mr Buggins’s place … they cannot, what a hard place the world is. In The Warden we had a moral center in the person of Mr Harding; the Rev Mr Crawley as a moral center exposes what the world is a lot more.

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Boston Common At Twilight-Hassam
Boston Common at Twilight (185-8) by Child Hassam (later 19th century American impressionist)

Trollope for Americanists. Stacey Margolis, a scholar of 19th century American literature I presume, poor woman is brought to bed of a child and now has to care for it for some months. This kind of regime still goes on. She found murder mysteries would not do and wanted something of more depth and complexity and read Framley Parsonage. When I landed in Metropolitan hospital in NYC in 1989 my father brought me The Vicar of Bullhampton to get me through. Margolis quotes Polhemus to argue how he exaggerates:

Terrible things happen in Framley Parsonage— betrayal, poverty, failure, illness, disillusionment; one scholar (Polhemus – I’ve met him, he’s on facebook with me) sums it up by saying that the novel is about “the ways that time and the world crush the hopes of the young and the dogmatic beliefs of the old.” This isn’t entirely wrong as an account of the novel, but it sounds very unpleasant— one would prefer not to have hopes and beliefs crushed right before bed.

(My analogy: Many bad things happen in Vicar of Bullhampton; one of the heroines has a short period as a prostitute; her brother almost goes to jail; the father is an atheist and says why.)

Margolis says what many have said, she found the book soothing. Part of it is how tactful the characters are to one another: they don’t as a matter of course say mean corrosive things the way people often do – the one spiteful character is Mrs Proudie. At the crisis of Mark’s existence, Fanny is utterly loyal and we are told at the conclusion of Chapter 33, note the end of an instalment (11), p 400: “that it can never be worth while to keep one’s sorrows private.” I’ve turned to people I thought might behave like Fanny and have found harsh responses; wished I had kept myself private.

Like others she also finds something mechanical in the novels and cites “the brutal inevitability of marriage.” Well here we have it in Miss Dunstable. She really attributes the pleasure of this book to the narrator – the narrator functions differently in the different novels. He is wholly ironic I’d say in Barchester Towers, and in some of the books he is very hard and sardonic. Not here. She attributes it to the narrator who sets up a relationship with us, is “chummy.” he likes to talk of the ordinary things of life; if you stop people from doing that most will have nothing to say. Is that all he is?

She asked friends and found they were like James – probably many had not read Trollope with attention. She suggests American books take the world as they find it – I don’t think so – Ahab? It is true that dinner parties in American novels tend to be highly symbolic where we see intense values clashing.

Is it true that the dinner parties we see in Framley Parsonage merely anatomize the ordinary. Is there no real darkness in Framley Parsonage? Polhemus thinks there is – probably I regret the sidelining of Crawley because in him inheres the darkness that is across the systems he exposes; the narrator waxes bitter only a few times in the book and last week I showed one place was at Hogglestock talking ironically of how can we do without the picturesque. After all the whole point of a dinner party is to make a show.

I don’t know if the phrase is darkness, but in the world of private feeling, where the self tries to guard itself against society that what makes this book matters resides. Maybe Dr Thorne is the stronger book because we have more of that. Mary Thorne is a bastard whose father was murdered by her uncle and she is turned into a pariah when the powerful lady of the community, Lady Arabella Gresham, does not want her to marry the heir. Lucy is much better off, she is respectable, has a small dowry, and herself chooses to keep out of the way.

I brought in one critic, Bill Overton who wrote a book on The official Trollope – what he has his characters feel in the interior. We are not to take Lady Lufton’s view of what Lucy feels when Lady Lufton calls her to her house.

Instalment 12 is the one where Lady Lufton learns of her son’s love for Lucy and immediately calls Lucy to her house, Fanny says she need not go, at least not right away, but Lucy chooses to get it over with. Chapter 35, p 411: King Cophetua is a legend of a king who rejected all women and married a beggar-maid. Everything in the world might depend on what that note contained, p 414. It’s an excruciating moment for Lucy. Self against society –- I think we are comforted because the self is given play. Mary did wrong to intervene on people’s deeper feelings. We see people hold out. Lucy does hold out perversely: she is asking Lady Lufton to allow her to be abject. When Fanny says she wonders whether Lucy has deep feelings, this is Trollope’s realism about people’s understanding; Fanny has her limitations. Lucy puts the power in Lady Lufton’s hands. Overton goes through books analyzing central charged expresive incidents like these.

What constitutes an authentic selfhood? Trollope returns again and again to how we negotiate our ways through life with the narrator making us see or feel that while much is at stake, not everything is. People carry on.

It is a comfort book for adults. I found tears coming to my eyes in the chapter where Lady Lufton and Lucy at last marry one another; I can get fully engaged with the text. Our anti-hero, Sowerby is the figure we end on before we come to “happily ever after with two children” – Nemesis is devoted to him, not Mark. The instalment begins with “Sowerby without company,” and ends claiming a tear for him (Chapter 47, p 552) Trollope is lightly scathing. He “failed to run his race discreetly in accordance with the rules of the Jockey Club” – a long history as a club for elite males, highly exclusive – certainly they’d be for discretion.

The joke can segue into a mention of a third article we went over: Maunder, Andrew. “Monitoring the Middle-Classes”: Intertextuality and Ideology in Trollope’s “Framley Parsonage and the Cornhill Magazine,” How The Cornhill shaped what was possible to write for publication – this material is included in my account of teaching Dr Thorne: suffice to say Trollope was obeying this image the middle class wanted of itself avante la lettre (before he had to); he hit upon it in the Barsetshire series and kept up somewhat (not as much) in the Palliser ones. So unlike Sowerby or Mark, he Mr Trollope forwarded his career by following discretion.

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Dancingtogether
Lady Glencora McClusky and Burgo Fitzgerald (Susan Hampshire & Barry Justice) dancing together, in love (early scene in opening sequence of the 1974 Pallisers)

How we ended: I gag on is the culture of deference we see when Lord Lufton comes on stage (Chapter 44, pp 517-519). Indeed the gratitude of the Robartes in general and Lucy too – though she carries it off better because she seems to have won in the contest. She wins because the terms of what she asked put her in the abject position. Mark wanted out from under.

Some of the material is hard to get at. The ironical depiction of parliamentary politics that brings down the “gods” (or whigs) and causes Harold Smith to have to pay good money to be re-elected, and leads to Sowerby’s ouster despite the huge amounts we are expected to assume Miss Dunstable threw at his campaign, and all the efforts of Mr Closerstill. Trollope is very ironic or sarcastic, it’s straight invective really about why the Giants (Tories) get in. Basically he accuses them under the leadership of Disraeli (Sidonia) of voting for what they don’t believe in to get into office. So it was under the leadership of the Tories that political reforms extending the franchise happened. In this case the whigs want to increase the income of bishops (having seen Crawley and the Proudies we are not supposed to be impressed), an d in any case the whigs are supposed to be anti-the established Anglican church in part. (Instalment 13, Chapter 37, pp 433-35.)

He’s much plainer in Dr Thorne and more successful at getting his satire across. In the later chapters of the election itself where after all the average person votes for the Duke’s side, knowing how rich and indifferent the duke is, is something that Trollope presents as true again and again. It’s not so much that he thinks people vote against their own interest because they are stupid, but that they are allured by the rank, glamor and power and afraid of the powerful. The trouble is nowhere does he show us – except maybe Phineas Finn and Redux that there are far more people (and would have been in Barsetshire) who know quite well where their interest lies and are fighting for unions and laws which will enable them to assert their rights. Like the secret ballot.

We covered Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable’s brief love affair.

Would anyone else have preferred Mary Thorne to mind her own business? Does it not diminish Miss Dunstable to be hankering after Dr Thorne? At the end of As You Like It, Shakespeare has his clown-jester, Touchstone make fun of all “these country mechanicals” crowding in for a wedding. It does fit: we are told she wants someone who could value her and who cares nothing for money. Well Dr Thorne cares to have enough but he has not got the desires of Mark Robartes, Sowerby would not be able to play upon him.

Why does Trollope do this? It’s one of his limitations: I said when we started some have tried to make a case for feminism in Framley Parsonage – all these strong women outwitting these men. Some instinct in him made him want to diminish her – a threat with her mockery and money. He genders everything he sees. To return to his autobiography, his father had not succeeded, and his mother had; he is all the more in no doubt “the necessity of the supremacy of man [over women] is as certain to me as the eternity of the soul.” – he writes this. He recognized some women had to go outside the home to survive, but he was against this insofar as one could force husbands to support their wives decently, humanely. He did see that some women did not accept the idea the most important aspect of their lives was marriage. He saw this as the result of “sexual frustration.”

There is almost a sense of challenge, with Dr Thorne as his surrogate. In next week’s chapters the two love letters are impeccable in their way. Miss Dunstable is seen in two parties: there is Mrs Proudie’s conversatione at which her wit shines out, and now we have her at home – a rival of Mrs Proudie. The fun of chapter 29 is to see the people acting in character – Miss Dunstable is parodying social life – how anxious we are to have the top people. Only Dr Thorne is not enjoying himself.

A few people said it is too much foreshortened, gotten over and then ignored, even though one might admire how Trollope pulled it off without turning these unromantic characters into romantic ones or making them enact values against those we’ve been encouraged to believe that they believe in and live by.

Another weakness perhaps turned into strength:

The trouble is Trollope has to fill so much space and he’s sort of put Crawley aside. Chapter 45, Palace Blessings, p 521. I know the story of how Mrs Proudie put it about that Lord Dumbello was jilting Griselda is effective. She keeps telling this story and even in the face of Grantley’s denial will not stop. The problem is Dumbello has gone off probably does live amorally in Paris. It reminded me of a story that used to be told (can be found in older scholarship) about Jonathan Swift in one of his unadmirable moments. Swift hated astrologers and fortunetellers and there was a man named Patridge who was constantly predicting events in a newsprint. These were often spiteful and said what people may have wanted others to experience, high and low. Well one day Swift declared in a publication that Partridge was to die on a certain day in the year at midnight. He went round telling people, would not retract. When midnight came Swift declared Partridge had died. The poor man got hysterical. He is said to have run around the streets crying “Alive! Alive!”
Children in a playground declaring one of the children has vanished. But I’d like to note that in this last part Trollope hauls his characters back from The Warden, Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne and there is an element of filler here. He carries it off well.

Why do people enjoy reading about emotional cruelty?

There are two great scenes in the Lucy Robartes’s story: one between Lord and Lady Lufton, father and mother (Lady Lufton at the end of the book is by the way Lucy herself), and one between Lucy and Lady Lufton. Actually there are remarkable few scenes between Lucy and Ludovic after the opening part of the book. Trollope is no longer interested in them but society’s response to them, and theirs to society – I called that the self against society where Trollope comes out on the side of the self.

The first of the two is the “Is she not insignficant?” Instalment 15, Chapter 43, I could subject it to the same minute analysis as I did “Kidnapping at Hogglestock” but people can take only a little of that, pp 501-10. What is important is it’s embedded in free indirect discourse where we move in and out of Lady Lufton’s mind as she considers the situation. Yes of course it’s that she lacks money, rank, connections, but finally it’s that lacking these she is also insignificant. What does Lady Lufton mean by that? … Notice that it bothers Lord Lufton. It’s expressed as she’s not tall, she doesn’t have a presence. She doesn’t impress people. Why do some people seem to be able to dominate others? We pick on specifics: doesn’t have a high toned accent, voice too high pitched. Lufton defends her that she can hold her own against others, you’ll see, p 506. What does he mean? She can manipulate social situations to her advantage in such a way as to impress people. In England before the French revolution most of the time and for women especially that wouldn’t matter: you wouldn’t get the chance. If he married down, he might find himself outside society if it’s very high or he’s not powerful enough.

The other is lady Luftons’s request, Instalment 16, chapter 46, it occurs in the carriage outside the Hogglestock house. Tellingly Mrs Crawley looks out and says plainly the obvious: “I suppose it’s Lady Lufton.” who else could it be? P 536, the scene, p 538-39. Did others gag at this? I found it beautiful because Lady Lufton humbles herself and really opens up to ask for reciprocal affection. That’s brave, p p 538-39. But Lucy is our novel angel and she gives affection in return. As good as a cat.

Does Lucy actually succeed in being accepted? Read the last two pages of the last instalment, last chapter, 48, pp 562-63. I suggest Trollope makes it easy for her; it seems she feels swept along and little asked but just stand firm and don’t bump into the furniture. They do live in the country, she’s not running salons. But suppose he were to have had an incident where a high ranking male aggressed, how would Lucy have done? He does not give her troubles that cause failure. She need not find employment for money. We can recall the one woman in the book who steadfastly treats marriage as career choice is Griselda and she too is on that last page, doing just fine.

There are enough dark ironies in Framley Parsonage for anyone not asleep.

Ellen

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Trollope and the other “mastiffs” (the people on the ship taking a tour to Iceland’s geysers) — by Mrs H. Blackburn

It was now about ten o’clock and it was of course broad daylight — Trollope at Reykjavik

Dear friends and readers,

Tonight Trollope’s last travel book, How the Mastiffs Went to Iceland (privately printed, 1878; available good edition by Arno Press, introd. Coral Lansbury), and a terrain aka library of books for exploring the political novel, a subject dear to the heart of those who read Trollope. The Mastiffs are not dogs. I thought that there were dogs aboard. No, this is his comical name for the people in the group. There was a faux naive (half-apologetic) query on Victoria (Patrick Leary’s listserv) on, did people think there was a political novel, the problem of defining it into existence which morphed into citations of novels and lists of secondary books/essays.

It’s not often I get to read a new Trollope text, one I’ve not read before — not that I’ve read them all. Two days ago I thought to myself while working on my paper centering on colonialism in Trollope I ought to read this one. So I played hookey for three hours. And how enjoyable it is — this little book is just filled with a deep sense of enjoyment and camaraderie.

Holdinghands
Holding hands ritual

There was an amateur woman artist, Mrs H. Blackburn, aboard and her drawings are part of the pleasure: in most she is sure to include a figure readily identified as Trollope — with a beard, glasses, tall, looking intransigent. There are also two photographs in which he is included. Alas I own a xerox of the Arno Press edition — I am not sure there is a Trollope Society edition — and my xeroxes of these photos came out dark so I share but one which I attempted to brighten — and a few of the drawings. If you click on it, it enlarges and you will make out Trollope leaning over on a heavy large horse, clearly intently listening to or watching something.

What is hard to capture is conveyed in Trollope’s poised tone of his prose, the slightly arch quality of his involvement; how he is half-pretending to join in, I sense a feel of a spirit entering into “the fun,” and yet keeping itself apart, distanced to evoke what he notices. This double-sort of spirit enables him to pull off sense of a magical time, that the people because this was a time apart, out of the norm, entered into some kind of special compact of mood for a time, which comfort dissolved when they returned on shore again (lest anyone try to continue what had been vouchsafed precisely because it was contained within the moment and put no liens on the future or past).

The trip proper began in the Scottish Hebrides, took its way through islands leading up to Iceland, then how they reached the famous geysers and returned.

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Map of trip

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The start: Castle Wemyss

Trollope tells of individuals on the ship, especially from the angle of their social roles (a la Chaucer then) and conveys as sense of the group as a whole, and then interacting with the people in the places they stop at, how life is lived in these different places, the places themselves, their landing, stay at Iceland’s capital city and slow ride to the Geysers. Trollope invents funny role names for each of the people, so this captain was their Providence (carried food and tea for them as they rode); another person, parliamentary man off duty, their Ancient Mariner; another friend, Our Australian Authority. He is “Our Chronicler.” He seems in unusually high spirits. He finds daylight at ten o’clock a marvel and how one has no desire to go to sleep until exhaustion suddenly hits.

He opens with a practical and specific description of their ship; early politics included Trollope standing up for a man’s right to smoke apart from women with other men (and having space given over to them for this habit)

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Beseiged

At the same time he is ever earnest and probably if they ever saw it, would have dismayed the first set of indigenous or emigrant islanders who the Mastiffs visited. At St Kilda he says of the people ought not to live there; it’s freezing, it depends on the charity of a very rich lord, they are endlessly vulnerable and in need, cut off from most other people. It’s not wise. He is no believer in Robinson Crusoe’s comforts. He inveighs against the small salary the pastor gets.

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As he goes from place to place he is the earnest anthropologist and sociologist, to say nothing of his mapping and geographical, geological descriptions. He finds (mysteriously if you took his political theses seriously) there has been much improvement in their lifestyle. Clean houses, warmed for winter. He meets Scots middling people. The Faroe islands, Thorshavn,

Thorshavn

its dependent relationship to Denmark, the post office is looked into. Since there is no night, he, Mr Trollope, continues his investigations until his body cannot hold out against sleep. He tells of the stories the Faroe Islanders invent about how they never sleep in summer. We get a careful presentation of the people’s cattle, farms, mines, water and light, salaries, the illness of the miners, where everyone gets his or her money from. The Mastiffs interact with the people there and (he feels) gets to know more about these islands than any of the patrons wanted us to know. Everyone but has her agenda.

I’ve seen Reykjavik from an airport terminal several times now and long to see Iceland outside those glass doors and walls. We learn about farming, cattle, socializing, birds in Iceland: Trollope is quietly poignant at how man’s practicalities break the heart of the mother bird he exploits:

The proprietor … took us out to show us his birds. One we found seated on her nest, made of her own feathers. The maternal victim plucks the down from her breast and makes her intended nursery. Then the down is taken away, and she does it again. A second time the robbery is committed, and she makes a third nest. Beyond that she will not go. If pillaged she abandons her intentions in despair. The third nest is therefore left, and the young birds are reared. But when she has taken out her young ones, there is a third crop to be garnered, as good as ever

Long sermons, bowing to royalty who have come to be bowed at. The festivities in the mastiff’s honor. But also how the people do what they can to make the largest profit they can at each turn of the trip and place they go to. Trollope is sluiced now and again for small items. The city itself. Then the trek away and to the geysers begins:

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Rest period

How the backpacks are overfilled, the servants and others over-dressed, with far too much luggage than they need. Including himself who needs more than a weak pony.

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The same rocks and faultline as today

There is a round funnel about eight feet broad, descending, as far as the eye can judge, into the very bowels of the earth; up this the boiling water is emitted. There is always a supply coming, for a certain amount of hot water is always running out on the two opposite sides of the pool. Here the” Mastiffs” amused themselves by dabbling with naked feet, scalding their toes when they were too near the pool, warming them comfortably at an increased distance. Excavations suitable for bathers there are none, — as there are so delightfully formed and so deliciously filled at the Geysers in New Zealand. At a little distance, in a ravine, there was a hole in which some of us endeavoured to sit and wash ourselves. Occasionally, perhaps once in every four hours, a large and violent supply of hot water is thrown up the funnel of the Great Geyser which has the effect of disturbing the basin and ejecting the hot water from it rapidly. This occurs with a noise, and is the indication given of a real eruption, when a real eruption is about to take place; but the indication too frequently comes without the eruption. This, when it does take place, consists of a fountain of boiling water thrown to the height of sixty, eighty, some have said 200 feet. During the twenty-four hours that we remained at the place there was no such eruption, — no fountain, although the noise was made and the basin was emptied four or five times.

About a furlong off from Geyser Primus, which is called the Great Geyser, is Geyser Secundus, to which has been given the name of Strokr, — or Stroker, as I may perhaps write it. Stroker is an ugly ill-conditioned, but still obedient Geyser. It has no basin of boiling water, but simply a funnel such as the other, about seven feet in diameter, at the edge of which the traveller can stand and look down into a cauldron boiling below. It is a muddy filthy cauldron, whereas the waters of the Great Geyser are pellucid and blue. This lesser Geyser will make eruptions when duly provoked by the supply of a certain amount of aliment. The custom is to drag to its edge about a cart load of turf and dirt, and then to shove it all in at one dose. Whether Stroker likes or dislikes the process of feeding is left In doubt. He bubbles about furiously with the food down. In his gullet for half an hour, and then rejects it all passionately, throwing the half-digested morsels sixty feet into the air with copious torrents of boiling muddy water.

These are the two Great Geysers. Around are an infinite number of small hot springs, so frequent, and many of them so small, that it would be easy for an incautious stranger to step into them. All the ground sounds under one’s feet, seeming to be honey-combed and hollow, so that a heavy foot might not improbably go through. Some of these little springs are as clear as crystal. In some the appearance is of thick red chocolate, where red earth has been drawn into the vortex of the water. Sometimes there is a little springing fountain, rising a few inches or a foot. Had there been no other Geysers, no other little lakes of boiling water known in the world, those in Iceland would be very wonderful. When they were first visited and described such was perhaps the case. Since that the Geysers in New Zealand have become known; and now the Icelandic Geysers, — if a “Mastiff” may be allowed to use a slang phrase, — are only second-class Geysers.

What time we went to bed I do not remember. As we intended to remain at the Geysers all the next day, waiting for eruptions if they would come, and then to start on our back journey in the evening, we were not very particular as to hours. At some early morning hour, when we were in bed, J. B. arrived, having been riding all the night, and riding all the night in the rain. In Iceland they say it generally rains when it does not snow. This night’s bad weather was all that we had. What we should have done, had it been wet, with our tents, or,
worse again, sometimes without our tents, with ladies wet through, with everything foul, draggled, and dirty, no “Mastiff” can guess. Luckily not a drop fell except during those early morning hours through which poor J.B. was on his solitary ride.

On the next day there was more dabbling among the hot springs, and the ladies essayed to wash their stockings and handkerchiefs .. (pp. 39-40)

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Strokur

On the way back amid the joking (they sleep in a church one night, the ladies in the aisles, the gentleman near the alter), he returns to talking about the social burdens they see, their own bedraggled state. Also more strange and picturesque places eloquently caught in words — Trollope’s visual powers are rarely done justice to.

It was again in the evening that we stared on our last day’s ride, and I own I left Thingvalla with soft regrets, as I told myself that i should never again see that interesting spot. Thrice I had bathed in its rivers, and had roamed about it till I seemed to know all its nooks. It is a place full of nocks, because of those wonderful rifts, — and full of greenness. I had not cared much for the Geysers [!], but Thingvalla and the Bruara [see first drawing at head of blog] had been very charming to me. It was strange to me that there should be a place in Iceland so beautiful and so soft as Thingvalla with its lake.

One photo:

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You can make Trollope out, to the right of the middle, a heavy white horse, heavy over which Trollope’s heavy body leans, as he listens to and watches something intently. There’s his top hat. (Click to enlarge.)

The return to Wemyss Bay, with some last statistics, political observations on current events caught up with, their speed. The sadness of parting, and how quickly it happened, “each hurrying away to his or her home,” and a few last ironic comical depictions of behavior of fish, men and birds. He congratulates their Photographer (George Burns, a naturalist) who would wake “at five minutes’ notice” to take a photograph of them.

a little eating of cream and strawberries at castle Wemyss, a little attempt at ordinary shorte courtesies, a returning as it wee to the dull ways of life on shore. But we all felt this was to be done painfully, each by himself in solitude …

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

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Disraeli and Gladstone, “Rival Stars,” Punch 14 March 1868 — by Tenniel (from cover of Harvie’s book)

It feels almost inappropriate to add this dry list of books intended to shed light on this magical realm, but I was prompted to cite them on the Victoria listserv this morning when someone asked if there is a thing as a political novel (!) because he was wanting books to help him on Eliot’s Felix Holt. I have been reading about and works by Trollope for months now, beyond Barsetshire, Barsetshire and now, colonialist and travel writing. I wrote:

Yes there are novels where the focus is on overt politics in say parliament and elections as well seeing experience from a political angle — however varied your emphasis or definition may be. And there are a number of books (studies older and more recent) which gather such books together as a group and show how reading them as political novels illuminates them. Among the more famous are Irving Howe’s Politics and the Novel, an older one by Munro Speare, The Political Novel, Michael Wilding’s Political Fictions. All of these mention Trollope (Speare at length); it’s telling the same novels are studied or authors again and again.

Two recent perceptive books enjoyable to read:

Christopher Harvie’s The Centre of Things: Political Fictions in Britain from Disraeli to the Present. Despite Disraeli’s name in the subtitle, Harvie sees Trollope’s books as central and transformative in the “mid-Victorian political novel.” He doesn’t stay just with the obvious Pallisers, but discusses Macdermots of Ballycloran and lesser known books. There is a longish discussion of George Eliot and Felix Holt is the book featured. A longish section just on Meredith’s Beauchamp’s Career.

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Harriet Martineau – not included in Harman’s book as she wrote political books as travel writing (though Deerbrook may be considered medical politics whose hero is a doctor)

Barbara Leah Harman’s The Feminine Political Novel in Victorian England: while Eliot may be included in books which still study mostly books by men, this one illuminates women’s ways of writing political novels and what you find there. Harman includes Gaskell North and South (there is also Sylvia’s Lovers, a historical novel), Bronte’s Shirley and suffragette novels, viz. Elizabeth Robins’s The Convert. These last blend with “new woman” novels.

Some of the studies of historical novels of the Victorian period cross over to politics because the historical novel of the era was often seriously political (this goes back to Lukacs’s book on the historical novel out of Scott, an older Marxist study). So going for studies of the historical novel turns up interesting discussions on political novels; our own era, the mid- [the Poldarks and Paul Scott’s books fit here] to later 20th century shows a return to using history for political perspectives instead of the women’s romances or a boys’ adventure stories they devolved into at the beginning of the 20th century: A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction, ed James F. English, has a good essay on this very late 20th century return to history as politics, especially post-colonial by Suzanne Keen (“The Historical Turn”). Film studies of historical costume drama take this into account too, from contemporary war (Danger UXB to medieval serials: see several essays in Leggott and Taddeo’s collection, Upstairs and Downstairs.

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Stills from 2011 Upstairs Downstairs where Harry Spargo (Neil Jackson), the chauffeur and Lady Percy (Claire Foy) join the black shirts, and a refugee Jewish maid has a heart attack, leaving her daughter a homeless orphan to the care of Amanjit Singh, another displaced person, the Indian servant of Lady Maud (Art Malik)

Last night re-watching the newer Upstairs Downstairs, the second episode where the upstairs family is getting involved with Nazis in gov’t, and the lower stairs family has a Jewish refugee fled from Germany (who dies), her child, the chauffeur joining the street bands of Nazi thugs is all about politics in the way a woman presents this (Heidi Thomas) and fits into both Harman’s and Leggott and Taddeo’s studies. Stevenson’s The Real History of Tom Jones finds richness in Tom Jones by pulling in and putting in all the political doings of the day which are in the novel. All political texts.

On Trollope19thCStudies we have been reading Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian, a historical-political Italian book (cross between Hugo, Tolstoy, Scott and Italian traditions) teaching much about Italy and the rigorismento in the first half of the 19th century (continuing to today). Trollope knew a lot about this world (see “The Last Austrian who left Venice”) from visits to his brother and mother and his own incessant reading and consuming interest in politics and history.

“like all good Trollopians, we secretly believe that Trollope did not write enough. Even after 47 novels, the short stories, the journalism and travel books, there is the lurking wish that somewhere there is another novel, another instance of that sane voice speaking to a less than rational world — Cora Lansbury.

When I was young and just started on Trollope I was so glad there were so many novels, I didn’t know there was enough to last a lifetime.

Ellen

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Dear friends and readers,

I hope I may be pardoned for linking in a review of my Trollope on the ‘Net. Each time (there have not been many) someone has written a review of my book where they show they enjoyed the book I feel so gratified. I especially like the emphasis on the 50% of the book on the experience of reading and discussing books with others on the Internet (via a listserv). The book is set up as pairs of chapters so that one is on a novel the group of people elected to read and discuss together, and how they read it; and other other a researched context, e.g., a Trollope sub-genre, or the original illustrations, or his Autobiography. She chose to display what is my favorite illustration in my book too:

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From Orley Farm: ‘”Tell me, Madeleine, are you happy now?”‘ (John Everett Millais)

For my scholarly chapters I’m proudest of my original research into the illustrations of Victorian novels in the era; Mark Turner singled out my chapte on these as singularly valuable for my analysis of the pictures too

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Another revealing one, not in the idyllic style of Millais above — it’s by Mary Ellen Edwards for The Claverings; “Mr Saul Proposes.”

Ellen

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‘What the deuce is it to me?”‘ he interrupted impatiently: ‘you say that we go round the sun. if we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.’– Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

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Dear friends and readers,

Mr Holmes has a couple of obstacles or problems to wide-spread acclaim. It is melancholy. Its themes include how to cope with aging and its losses, death, stigmatized class status (a no-no). For those brought up on the action-adventure of Robert Downey, Jude Law, Michael Strong and Rachel McAdams, it will not answer your expectations; for those still wedded to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (to say too little of the justified paranoia of WW2), it will make fun of the 1943 fanatical adherence to the deerstalker hunting cap and pipe (Holmes goes to a black-and-white simulacrum of such a movie and just cannot sit through it); it lacks the giddy pace and surrealism of the first 2 seasons of the BBC Cumberbatch and Freeman Sherlock concoctions; but to say it’s not Holmesian (as the New Yorker guru critic in residence, Anthony Lane means to insinuate) is just not so.

I concede fully that the perspective is post-modern (conventional thought and cant, especially about death and grief be damned), that there is something deliciously Jamesian (Henry) about it. Characters have deeply traumatic encounters on park benches while wearing impeccable hats.

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Close-up of hat

They fail to understand one another, cannot bear one another’s emotions. It moves slowly, with shots that capture a poetry of stillness and costume drama in its green landscapes, seascapes, the sina qua non steam train rushing serpentine and noisily through. More than twice, though in one climactic instance it matters as someone is (reminding me of a Trollope scene in The Prime Minister) voluntarily smashed to smithereens.

But that it’s not Holmesian is unfair. Once you try to drill down to what could be the psychological or thematic or even political motive or moral explanation of at least two of its flashback and front story plots, you end up with ideas that will not bear any scrutiny. Convention defeats me here: I do not claim to be writing a consistently post-modern blog so allow me to explicate and show at least miminal story consistency.

There are three time frames: the present, 1947, Mr Holmes, aged 93, losing the last vestiges of memory from the past, living on the south coast of England, cared for by a housekeeper (natch) Mrs Munroe (Laura Linney) and her son, Roger (Milo Parker) who turns to Mr Holmes as father figure because his own father died in WW2: a bitter moment of memory has Linney as Mrs Munroe remembering how, like herself, her husband, was corroded by the stigmas of lower class status, and for his efforts to become a pilot in WW2, was blown to bits immediately (his mates, content to be menial mechanics all survived the war).

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Miloparker

A story from thirty years ago is painstakingly put together (& dramatized as flashbacks) by Mr Holmes about Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan) who had two miscarriages or stillborn children, cannot accept this and whose grief is only moderated by lessons she eventually finds for the glass harp (Frances la Tour, the crook teacher), whose intensity bothers her husband to the point he cuts off her money-supply and refuses to set up stone monuments for the never-developed nor born children. It is not giving away the story to say she plots to kill her husband.

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Holmes (McKellen) remembering (a difficult feat in the this story) Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan)

It’s not true though that there is no sense to this story. The moral is the husband was wrong; he should have allowed his wife to be deluded by the crook teacher — this reminded me of Woody Allen’s frequent defenses of fortune-tellers in many of his movies and there is a fortune-telling scene here.

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The glass harp medium (Frances de la Tour, aka Mrs Western in the 1997 Tom Jones)

Another backstory told through interwoven flashbacks is set in Japan: Holmes has gone to Hiroshima (1946?) to obtain a promised solution of which is said to restore the memory, only to find himself confronted by a Japanese man who accuses Holmes of seducing his father away from him and his mother through the stories of Dr Watson (The Study in Scarlet is the culprit), all the while we know that Holmes now deplores Watson’s fictions a providing false gratifying endings and heroism, with many details so wrong they are embarrassing. Of course this story “falls to pieces in your hands” (as Lane says). Worse, the explanation is reactionary defense of “national” and family secrets, of absurd honor which one sacrifices one’s life for? What Conan Doyle story does not do something like this?

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It is Holmes’s self-imposed mission in the film to retrieve: to retrieve the memory of who his Japanese man was (until near the end Holmes believes the man a liar, coward, and that he never met him — the man just deserted his family); to compensate for how inadequate, insensitive, absurd, selfish was his Jeremy Brett-like behavior to Anne Kelmot (the way this Kelmot thread is dramatized is closely reminiscent of the 1980s BBC Holmes movies), something which depends on memory and rewriting Watson’s story.

Much of this is done through the techniques of filmic epistolarity: voice-over with Holmes writing out new texts to replace Watson’s. Part of the fun of this is withholding. We do not see Mycroft (who explicates the Japanese story) until near the end of the film and it’s John Sessions (for me memorable as Henry Fielding, also in the 1997 Tom Jones); we do not see the bumbling inspector (played by Phil Davis, great in sinister, threatening roles in Dickensian film adaptations, now Jud in Poldark), until near the end. There is fun in recognizing these character actors from other costume dramas quietly semi-parodying the roles.

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Indeed the uplift at the close is the same fantasy Dickens plays upon in A Christmas Carol. We are asked to believe that people can make up for what they did wrong in the past, find a new person like the one you so hurt now to do better by. We do come near searing calamity in the present, brought on by both Mrs Munroe and Mr Holmes. I can’t deny that sometimes people (as characters) are lucky. The film is as Dickensian as it is Jamesian.

Hattie Morahan was once again “emotionally aflame” — Lane talks of her in A Doll’s House in BAM, but she was astonishing in Duchess of Malfi and I still watch her as Elinor refusing solace. I felt bad for Laura Linney(unbeatable in Love Actually, unforgettable in Hyde Park on the Hudson) that she was given the howling role. I found myself crying at the close because I couldn’t believe in the self-reproach and better behavior of our principal trio: Mr Holmes and Mrs Munroe, to say nothing of the maturation of Roger.

If I had anything to object to in this film it was that both Ian McKellen (too many great films and plays to begin to cite) and Laura Linney could have been given much more deeply nuanced moments. She is literally kept behind bars, looking out from windows:

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The film-makers were chary about releasing stills of McKellen showing the ravages of old age in the film, as he falls, eats, puts down stones for those who have gone before him. There was a pandering to the sub-genre of old man-and-hopeful worshipping-boy

OTOH, the beautiful loving feeling at the close of the film was authentic. Doyle’s ever-cool, ever witty, impatient Sherlock is now taking the risk of giving of himself; entering into loving relationships directly. Mr Holmes will leave the property to Mrs Monro and her boy when he dies. We see Mrs Munro and Roger in the garden working together and we see them walk off hand-in-hand too. The boy is now respectful of his mother under an eye of approval by Mr Holmes. He is 94, and we last seem him putting down stones (as Ann Kelmot did) for each of his friends now gone to the earth. He bows before them murmuring a lullaby. McKellen himself is very old now. It is a summer movie because through Jeffrey Hatcher’s marvelous screenplay McKellan as Mr Holmes is believable and comforts you.

Ellen

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John Atkinson Grimshaw (136-93), Autumn, Leeds (1880s) — a Victorian conception

Dear friends and readers,

I am embarked on reading Framley Parsonage with about 30 adults (mostly retired older people) at an OLLI at George Mason University. I am enjoying the novel immensely and hope my “students” are too (probably an inappropriate noun considering its connotations as there are no exams, no essays, no certificates). How intimate the feeling Trollope creates. How he captures the rhythms of daily life as he seeks to write down all around him what is daily and he feels and sees in order to produce this so alive novel quickly.

To begin with (the term), I found myself expatiating upon what is a sequel last week and thought as sequels are so ubiquitous in this year (2015), not just of an original work, but re-boots of adaptations and sequels forty years on, I would write about sequels and what I was surprised to discover is so about Framley Parsonage. Perhaps this will interest a few readers and viewers of film adaptations, say Barchester Chronicles.

Everybody who knows anything about Trollope’s life and career knows it was Thackeray who prompted the writing of Framley Parsonage. Trollope was just then writing Castle Richmond and he had several of his early traveler’s tales available for placement. He was startled and surprised to discover the Cornhill, preceded by a buzz and hum which made it the equivalent of the New Yorker in the 1950s, had yet to secure a central part of its offering: using Fielding’s metaphor in Tom Jones, of a meal, they were without la pièce de résistance, the central irresistible chocolate and wine of a novel. In reply to Thackeray, Trollope offered short stories he had just written; he offered Castle Richmond. In a superlatively courteous reply (“My dear Trollope”), Thackeray declined and said what they wanted was another of those clerical Barsetshire stories. So Trollope set about to produce two novels at once. (If English people didn’t want to hear about the famine and Ireland, the rest of Europe did, it was published separately around the time of FP and quickly translated into 5 languages.) FP made Trollope, and on the strength of his new income, he moved to just outside London to be part of the literary world at last. In 1859 August we find him leasing Waltham House in Hertfordshire just outside London. He lived there for several years, until his income began to fall off (well after he had quit his post office job since he did before he became eligible for a pension). Nonetheless, or more than ever (he needed money now), still working for post office, and famously getting up at 4:30 (Barney, his Irish servant woke him) and writing 4 hours or so before going off to directly remunerated work; he had a traveling writer’s desk made for him so he could write while in railway carriages. Think of it as a laptop without connectivity.

The Cornhill, a central organ of mass print media in the Victorian period, its first number in fact. The Cornhill‘s mission was in part to present an image of acceptable middle to upper class life (not the reality, an idealization of reality, omitting much that was unpleasant to them, like dealing with real servants, city life); its readership could congratulate themselves upon belonging to what produced would be in good taste and the latest politics, information. The title of the first chapter was a Latin tag; someone who could not recognize that tag was a fringe person.

The book is very much a sequel, conceived as a sequel to three books Trollope had written in the near past — as ordered: The Warden (1852-53), Barchester Towers (1856) and Dr Thorne (1857), let us remember just three out of ten novels Trollope had written and published since 1845. Barchester Towers, No 2 and Dr Thorne, No 3, the second and third of these Barsetshire book were not only commercial successes, but had become identifiable Victorian-style middle class novels, and not to have read Barchester Towers especially was like not to have heard of say Downton Abbey in the last three years – where have you been, my dear? You might not have read BT or seen DA, but you should know something about it, get the references, the jokes. I’ve never watched The Sopranos and probably never will, but I know enough about it not to look unknowing when it’s brought up. Barsetshire was nearly a form of social currency, social capital, part of the habitas of cultural references. Framley Parsonage clinched it, and partly unfortunately for Trollope defined him evermore in a wider complacent public eye.

Sequels come in so many forms nowadays I thought I should try to distinguish this one: there are prequels: what transpired before. There are appropriations: you transpose the story and character to another country or era. There are analogies or free adaptations, where the central outline of a plot and the central archetypal character patterns are recognizable, plus a few idiosyncratic scenes or complications. Modern dress: Bridget Jones’s Diary out of Pride and Prejudice through the film adaptatio of 1995 by Andrew Davies. There are commentaries as films: you produce the story with changes which critique it. The post-modern, often post-colonialist new perspective: you retell Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe from Friday’s point of view (Foe); you retell RLS’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from the maid living in the house, and you have Valerie Martin and Stephen Frears’ Mary Reilly, a historical novel in its own right, not belonging just to the RLS franchise (as Jo Baker’s Longbourn does not move outside Austenland). Gone with the Wind from a girl household slave like Prissy. Those who know GWTW well or the movie may remember Prissy’s famous outcry when asked to help Melanie, a secondary heroine, give birth: “Ah, don’t know nuthin’ bout birthin’ Miss Scarlet.” A black person in that audience would not have jeered at her for that utterance. The Wind Done Gone retells GWTW from the perspective of a black female household slave. Or you retell the familiar Tudor matter from the point of view of a man hitherto made into a villain, Thomas Cromwell, only you make him a hero; voila, Hilary Mantel and Peter Staughan’s Wolf Hall.

My plan was to say that Framley Parsonage corresponded to a primary type: the continuation (the closest I can think of in recent Jane Austen sequels is P.D. James’s Death comes to Pemberley, Darcy and Elizabeth 7 years on). A continuation is a novel which continues the story of a group of characters in a book or books after that book or those books have ended. There has thus far been one for Trollope: John Wirenius’s Phineas at Bay: it has centrally recurring characters who live in a single connected imaginary space. It is in Framley Parsonage that Trollope begins to connect up all the places he had mentioned in the first three novels, The Warden, Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne, and Wirenius continues the Barsetshire-Palliser stories after The Duke’s Children closes, through the upper class conservative perspective of Simon Raven, which has become identified as Trollope country. It is just one territory of it I’d say.

The problem I discover is Framley Parsonage doesn’t really. It does not continue the stories of the first or second book or even the third: Dr Thorne. We meet only some of the characters we have met in the first three novels but it’s not their story; they swirl around the main story. The main story gives us wholly new characters and suddenly fills out a hitherto blank space (had we realized there is a map) in Barsetshire: Framley Court and Parsonage and their inhabitants. A few character recur: most important, the ironic festival, frolic charactrer, Miss Dunstable; and Dr Thorne, Archbishop and Mrs Grantly, not to omit Griselda (now the name is become ironic), and the biological son of the Duke of Omnium (returned), now named Lord Dumbello, by the Marquise of Hartletop; Mr Harding appears in order to expose the moral horror Griselda represents. The Rev Josiah Crawley was mentioned as Mr Arabin’s friend of deep integrity, high intelligence, sincere religious belief, to whose poorly paid curacy in Cornwall Mr Arabin would go when he needed uplife. But now he comes on stage and is central to the serious themes of the book:

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John Everett Millais, The Crawley Family (from the original illustrations)

The best we can do is call it a traditional sequel because the basic point of view remains the same and the story of some of them carry on and they are in the same imaginary space.

We fall back on how we define a series, or roman fleuve: it has centrally recurring characters who live in a single connected imaginary space. It is in Framley Parsonage that Trollope begins to connect up all the places he had mentioned in the first three novels, The Warden, Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne. So it’s a sequel because it clinches the series using the map, some recurring characters, and themes — the egregious injustice in the way clergyman were chosen and paid.

By contrast, the once called Parliamentary (as the Parliament is central to them all) and now Palliser books (since the books were adapted using Simon Raven’s scripts 1974-75), a second set of six novels which came out of the Barsetshire map and some of its key characters (Duke of Omnium) was meant to be a series and does have a central couple whose story is told over 6 books. Each Palliser book has separate characters and stories who are central to that book too, and most of the time like a soap opera they drift off; in the imaginary of the soap opera world, you can call them back, but they more of less vanished, merely heard about occasionally,and the on-going recurring Palliser group ages and matures, and the imaginary space, now Barsetshire on the trainline into London and its 12 novel chronology is more less consistent. So too Downton Abbey (I was struck how in Season 5 we are told Gwen a maid we met in Season 1 and left the abbey to be a secretary has now married). The later series takes us into our contemporary world.

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Feodor Vasilyev (1850-73), St Petersburgh Illuminated (1869) — the modern city

This blog serves to point up how the Barsetshire series was not planned as a series. Framley Parsonage (the fourth, which resembles the fourth in other recognizable roman fleuves or sagas, like Warleggan in the Poldark series) lovingly fills in and tries to make consistent and meaningful the map of Barsetshire for the first time. It is about about the ubiquity of sequels or post-texts in our era. Comments and thoughts on post-texts in our time invited – re-booting is nowadays a popular term for re-done film adaptations.

Ellen

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Christmas
Morris and Martha Stanley (Ray Winstone and Emily Watson) attempting to celebrate Christmas as if they were still living in England on a searing hot day in the Australian outback (2004, The Proposition, directed by John Hillcoat, screenplay & music by Nick Cave)

Dear friends and readers,

I’m going to attempt to use this blog in a way I haven’t for a while: to think about a topic I hope to write a paper on by mid-summer: right now the working title is “On Inventing a New Country: Trollope’s Depictions of Settler Colonialism,” and in order to keep the paper relatively brief enough to read in twenty minutes I thought I’d try to limit it to Trollope’s texts about Australia and New Zealand. I’ve been reading for about 6 weeks now, and got myself through his immense travel book on these two countries, his 20 letters to the Liverpool Mercury, Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, John Caldigate and “Catherine Carmichael, or Three Years Running” (set on 3 successive Christmases in New Zealand). I’ve read some very good criticism on these and other of Trollope’s colonialist tales and travel books (North America) as well as on his relationship with his son, Fred, who moved to Australia and Fred’s life there. I didn’t reread but have been skimming and thinking about his brilliant short stories set in Latin America, “Returning Home” and “Aaron Trowe”, his “Journey to Panama,” as well as his Anglo-Irish novels, especially the first two, Macdermots of Ballycloran and The Kellys and the O’Kellys (after all what did the English do to the Irish but inflict settler colonialism on them).

I’ve found that rather consciously in his non-fiction Trollope explores, bears witness to, and analyzes the formation of a “new countries” and new national identity or identifications. He is concerned to show how the memories and norms of people from an “old country” interact with the geographical, new economic and evolving cultural and social circumstances the settlers find themselves in also to make a new environment. He contrasts this to processes of change he observes in the “old” country or culture — England and Scotland, France, Italy. There is a relentless conservatism in his conscious attitudes and he maintains a strong optimism about the overall outcome for the settlers and justifies the harsh injustices the settlers inflict on the natives of a country and the labor they hire or force to work hard for little or no money, take land from, or impose laws upon that deprive the people of their way of life and property. Much as I’d like to say Catherine Hall is reductive and hard on Trollope in her Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830-1867, there’s no getting away from his racism and how all his thought tends to justify or at least accept “as what do you expect<' as a reaction to Eyre's massacre and murder of black people in an infamous incident in Jamaica. It's not true that there is a clear progressive liberalization in his views as he grows older and travels and sees more, nor is there a retreat into conservatism even if in South Africa he sees that black people must take back their country and rule it for themselves. I found it painful to read the arguments he uses to distances himself from free public education at the end of his Australian travel book (he’s against it — we must ignore or pretend everyone can afford these schools). He makes fun of philanthropists from Castle Richmond (where he supports the gov’t callousness during the famine, justifies evicting people) to New Zealand.

In contrast, I’d say in his best fiction his emphasis falls on the tragic price, losses, and struggles and very occasional compromises and successes experienced by the characters involved.

One problem I have at the outset is some of those texts that make for my best arguments are not those set in Australia. I’ve read through a great deal of John McCourt’s Writing the Frontier: Anthony Trollope between Britain and Ireland, and find a lot of what he writes out of these Anglo-Irish texts is germane. I know at the close of Lady Anna, Trollope says Daniel Thwaite, his tailor hero and eponymous titled heroine will free themselves of the class-ridden life that might make their marriage unsuccessful in England and make a new life for themselves in Australia (as he felt or knew at some level of his mind he had done by moving from England to Ireland). He wrote the novel as he was sailing there, but I suspect once he arrived and experienced the startling demands of completely different climate (very hot), the rigors of actually trying to farm or graze animals successfully or run a business in this unruly (often socially uncontrolled) difficult (the climate, the terrain) environment he could not imagine how they would make it — as he could for example, Martin and Anty Kelly in Ireland, or Anton Trendellsohn and Nina Balatka (from Prague, a couple parallels to Daniel Thwaite and Lady Anna) in London.

Several recent essays published in the new-style Companions and the collection on the Politics of Gender, bring to bear on Trollope’s deeper ambivalences his Orwellian/Swiftian satire, The Fixed Period — set in a country which is a kind of surrogate for New Zealand; for example, Helen Lucy Blythe in a difficult (for me as it’s theoretical) book called The Victorian Colonial Romance in the Antipodes. Trollope is only one among several authors “upside down” (Nicholas Birns has an essay using that title) that she treats very suggestively. Trollope’s deeply dreaming imaginative identifications turns deeply pessimistic and offers ideas that enable us today to recognize the inevitable sources of and critique the horrors of the results of military imperialism we see all over the globe today, especially some remarkable comments on the wars of the English with the Maoris where the Maoris (he empathizes) continually win (I was rooting for them in the instances described myself too.) I read the New Zealander years ago and thought parts very insightful and implicitly grounded in an accurate bleak approach to what human beings do and feel (and think they think), but don’t remember much any more.

As I went on the subject became all over Trollope. There is a satire on imperial colonialism in Framley Parsonage: Mr Harold Smith gives a speech on islands in the Indian Ocean which slides over an Indian or Vietnam-like situation (the British in India, the French and then the Americans in Vietnam) where armed people from the developed country instead of trying to displace the original people (with feeble technology or in servitude from their country’s political structuring), take positions of power, in effect hire and control proxies and persuade themselves they are there to Christianize the benighted people. As early as Framley Parsonage, Trollope disapproves of this and disbelieves in the efficacy, and usefulness (in fact he thinks it does harm) of trying to force Christianity on other cultures — he brings this up and develops this at length in his later travel books. In Framley Parsonage he makes a joke out of how his hypocritical or self-deluded (Mr Smith) upper class characters know nothing and care less about these far away places, yet these influence behavior, careers, and politics of these characters (certainly Phineas’s as a Catholic Irish man in Parliament and even Frank Greystock and Lucy Morris’s fate are influenced by an obscure sultan if I remember correctly in Eustace Diamonds).

To follow the ins and outs of Trollope’s thought and movement is to see him mapping the globe where English-speaking people are found. People think that the norm for Trollope is what is today called the Hampstead novel, domestic themed fiction. Novels of manner are his forte, what he is writing primarily or consciously: Gopnik leaped on this as explanatory for Trollope in the New Yorker. But isn’t Trollope rather anthropological, with a real gasp of different faces of battle, how they work, outward ones including the use of guns (whose rapidity and ease in causing death he immediately cites).

Apart from books by Australians where they moved to the UK or US and write about general issues or poetry (Germane Greer, Clive James), and a couple of important non-fictions (Robert Hughes’s very great The Fatal Shore, and Russel Ward’s indispensable The Australian Legend), what can I remember that I’ve read of Australian fiction: only one colonial novel: Henry Kinsgley’s The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn; two recent novels, Patrick White’s A Fringe of Leaves and Christina Stead’s The Man who Loved Children. Now first I’ll try First I’ll try my copy of Best Short Stories of Henry Lawson and The Portable Barbara Baynton and then choose a couple of 20th century Australian historical fiction novels (Peter Carey’s The Kelly Gang? not my usual sort of thing at all). For post-colonialism and imperialism beyond what I’ve read and skimmed, and articles on Trollope and these topics, see if I can understand books with scary titles like Border Dialogues: Journeys in Postmodernity.

It is for me perhaps going to be a question of identity and into imagined troubled journeys and hard experiences. I have a hunch I’d do better with that than imperialist politics. I’ll also remember and maybe rewatch or reread in the romance of post-colonial books and movies like Cameron and Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala’s City of Your Final Destination or the same crew filming stark disaster in The White Countess (Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson). Jumpa Lahiri’s books are also about this idea you can gouge out from yourself an identity that you feel is destroying you individually and make a new one by journeying to a new country or simply creating them out of books (The Namesake). The harder truth is found in Jhabvala’s A Backward Place, Mira Nair’s Mississippi Marsala, Paul Scott’s Staying on.

LauraLinney
Laura Linney as the necessarily hardened woman who has tried to go it alone, independently; a plangent role (City of Your Final Destination)

But now I’m rambling.

Ellen

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