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Archive for the ‘novels of sensibility’ Category

TheCharlestonFarmhouseSussexTheStudio
The Studio, Vanessa Bell’s Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex

Dear friends and readers,

I know I told of how on one of my listservs, we are reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace as a group with each of us reading different other related works or watching films; on the other, WWta (Women Writers through the Ages @ Yahoo) we’ve started a similar project (far few people alas) around Virginia Woolf. Our central focus is a slow read through another massive volume: Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf, and have talked at length about the art of biography, Woolf’s own life writings and writing about biography (her Memoirs of a Novelist, her “Sketch of the Past” in Moments of Being). One of us read To the Lighthouse; we’ve discussed Gaston Bachelard’s perhaps now-dated Poetics of Space; I’ve watched the remarkably complex )(novel-like? biography-like) Carrington and am now determined to make Dora Carrington my next woman artist in that blog series.

First impression:

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From Christopher Hampton’s Carrington: this is based on an actual photo of the house (Emma Thompson who is made to look like Carrington as Jonathan Pryce looks like Strachey in the photos of him)

Strachey asked Woolf to marry him at one point; they were close. Strachey was much older than Carrington and I was thinking about the extraordinary convoluted tortured sexual and marital relationships in this wider group. Leonard and Virginia look conventional from the outside, but look in and you see her several deep lesbian relationships.

Jonathan Pryce who was such a wonderful Wolsey, is perfect for Strachey, and Emma Thompson takes on her stout boyish persona to play Carrington. I’ve only got half-way through: it’s a very long movie. What I wanted to say is that in a way it’s lacking:  Hampton wrote and directed it, and he is following Holroyd’s book and therein is the problem. Carrington is such a painful spectacle. The whole menagerie at her and Lytton’s home are wholly outside the mainstream. She loved Strachey because his homosexuality took the form of no sexual intercourse with a woman, so he was not aggressive at all. For someone who wants safety I am now puzzled (not rereading Holroyd) why she ever went to Mark Gertler (played by the then spectacularly handsome Rufus Sewell) who demanded rough sex as central to the relationship (not painful but agressive) and Sewell plays him as a man driven wild by her. The audience is allowed to see this clearly and Gertler’s attack on Lytton when it becomes obvious Carrington loves Lytton. But to keep Lytton she had to allow this reactionary hulk, Reginald Patridge (renamed Rafe by Strachey) to live with them and to keep him she had to have sex with him; in turn he’d have sex with Strachey.  This is not shown clearly in the film. Gerald Brennan (the young excellent actor Samuel West) who left for Spain and wrote two wonderful travel-memoirs of his life in Spain is brought in; but as I’ve not read Holroyd in a while I forget the bargain, but think Carrington was also required to have sex with Brennan to please someone.

Thompson says over and over this is an abject love. Hampton together with these remarkable actors conveyed something different than I’ve read before. Hitherto it was see how abject this woman was, what a mystery but it was Lytton’s kindness, gentleness and their shared love of art that made her invest her very life in his life.

This film shows him a cool egoist who uses her; he may not admit it to himself but he does. All the sex scenes after Mark are her degenerating, allowing her body to be used by man after man to get them for Strachey. That is what the film shows. She goes so far even to marry Partridge who in the film she sees as a macho male reactionary horror though fun as a man to dance with, handsome to draw. She endures his ugly jealousy and infidelities. She leads Gerald Brennan to lie in ways that violate his character — all for this Lytton. It gets to the point she wants to validate her body and gets involved with a man (Jeremy Northam turns up to do it) who just takes her cruelly for sex, getting pregnant by him she gets an abortion. Thee’s a dialogue where Lytton says why not have the baby.I think the film suggests had she, she might have had something else to live for. But she only wants his baby and he never fucks her it seems.

Pryce plays Strachey as realizing how he is using her, but being unable to resist it and enjoying her company, now and again guilty — as when he will advise her to leave off a man, or have a baby, or makes his will to leave her a pension. A very young Alex Kingston as Patridge’s partner after he tires of Carrington plus Strachey. A younger Penelope Wilton does Ottoline so well. The men in the film do seem attached to Carrington and enduring Strachey for the sake of Carrington except the stud last played by Northam. Thompson and Pryce impeccably involving. I grieved over Carrington’s death yet understood. It ends with a series of images of those of her paintings she did not destroy.

It’s a deeply searing portrait of a on the surface beautiful love but just below deeply destructive of her. We are told nothing of her family or childhood. She turns up sui generis and all film long she is without any group but this Bloomsbury one attached to Strachey and her art school. She goes off to London where she finds characters like Patridge and brings him back as a trophy or fodder for Lytton. Was she promiscuous in London somewhere. Patridge’s questioning of her in fact is understandable.

I want to read the screenplay, watch again and have now bought a book (natch) recent, Gerzina’s Carrington (who wrote on FrancesHodgson Burnett if I’m not mistaken).

As a result of the debate on the art of biography and novels (peel them off and you have an autobiography), we debated (a bit) Tim Parks’s iconoclastic theses about novel writing and reading in yet another thinking book from him, The Novel: A Survival Skill on both listservs.

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Bondarchuk’s War and Peace: Kutusov after defying everyone and ordering a retreat so as to save as many men and as much of Moscow as he can (1966)

Let me say upfront there is no woman author in Parks’s universe in this book who counts, who he discusses at length. He might mention a woman now and again. He focuses on five males and when he has any examples they are all males. He has a history of Italian literature organized by great authors. Apparently in Italy since the Renaissance there has been but one woman writer of note. Something like 25 authors, one is a woman.

I wonder what women do with themselves when I read Parks. It’s important to the man’s outlook, tells us what he reads, how he reads. So by no means is he a guru when he leaves out half the human race; women do write differently, they make art differently — from social life and from innate elements.

Parks’s idea that novels threaten us has some powerful explanatory force; this is why people talk (and perhaps) think consciously about novels so moralistically. They inveigh against characters who do not obey social norms because they don’t want to articulate why those who don’t don’t, nor admit to identification. He follows this up with the iconoclastic idea we love books which are substitutes for the presence and sense of real person they contain, stand for. This a complete refutation of the “biographical fallacy.” Kraggsby says she becomes so emotional when she has to write or feel about Woolf after a bout with a book. This helps explain that. I so agree with it.

With Parks I really feel a mind thinking, not just putting together the platitudes and nouns referring to theoretical positions which the author then aligns him or herself with. He offers this possible description of what’s meant by creativity: “the ability to produce …. The emotional tone and the play of forces in whch the narrator lives, the particular mental world in which he moves …. “ Parks doesn’t need to have Coetzee in front of him, in fact the Coetzee we meet (as Proust would say) is the partial social man, not the man who counts. The greatness of such works, the triumph “we find their work drenched with their personalities, supreme expressionof theirmanner and character and behavior, each absolutely recognizable, triumphantly unmistakable … He does cite Woolf a little way down; her understanding is just so to the point, and what she does. Paradoxically l’ecriture-femme (women’s texts) exemplify much more centrally than men’s what he begins with.

When you say that a novel threatens the reader, and that therefore we need to learn actually how to survive them (really taken into consciousness what they can show) and that the author’s identity (I’ll call it) is everywhere there in different ways, you are set on a very different road than most books on the novel. I just love how he does not repeat cant and situate himself next to it or with it — not that a great books don’t do this: Jerome de Troot’s two books on historical fiction do it, but he examines these theories often to show their fallacies, not always.

Tim Parks is consistent with his view that the great writer conveys an authentic specific self across his or her work, asks about the writer’s tension when he or she thinks of who is reading this text. Parks says the novel is “officially addressed to everyone,but in reality they are not thinking of today’s Ph D student in say Korea addressing scholarly conversations in 2016; the actual circumstances the writer writes in frames his or her perception of what is being written; relatives do often complain and are hurt, as well as friends; t often he or she is thinking of some subgroup of readers alive at the time, “the implicit reader”. He proposes we think of ourselves as overhearing the author’s address to his or her audience at the time. Park then goes over specific details in a Becket text and they come so much more alive when you nail who specific savage ironies are aimed at. Lee quotes Woolf’s life-writing a lot and Woolf assumes her readership knows what the life of the upper class at the time was; her tales of childhood assume familiarity.

Parks says it is not a retreat from the text to be interested in the author’s patterns of behavior, relationships at the time of a text writtten, but rather it can increase our engagement. He then goes on to Gregory Bateson who argues that personality differentation ,how we establish our identities to ourselves are in relation to others aroud us which often are binaries and are reactions against. he is not talking about one-on-one equivalencies but a general presence surrounded by particulars then transposed but often more transparently than we like to allow.

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Helen Mirren as Sonya in Jay Parini’s The Last Station (which is part of our Tolstoy matter)

Now to apply Parks’s thesis to The Last Station, for example, you have to know about Hoffman and his life and relationship to the film (which he does bring in in the feature to the film, also Parini, not to forget Tolstoy, Cherthov, the various actors who inhabit the roles.

It is a complex film and now I’ve got to find time to read the book. A good performance can make a character come alive: In the screenplay Hoffman worked to condense, make a coherent POV (Valentine, the most invented of the characters) and in general sort of gave more meaning to what’s in the book and made me wonder if a movie because of its form often does simplify. It’s hard to fight it as successful as Bergman did. He didn’t care if his films made money when he started out. I thought I’d mention that the train was to be much much more important: it was to open with Valentine on the train; the deleted scenes are of Tolstoy fleeing on the train, Sofya following. It now only ends with the train. Hoffman says he wanted it to be a symbol but as he proceeded he decided the characters and their relationships were what he should spend time on. More practically I have watched enough honest features to have heard directors say you have to cut and you have to choose, and many he saw this skein or thread one he could eliminate neatly — to make the movie marketable. This was to be an allusion to Anna Karenina, with Sofya as our Anna who survives. I suspect so.

Also from our Tolstoy group: I am finding A. N. Wilson’s biography on Tolstoy without bothering to argue this in effect bases his biography and assessment of Tolstoy’s novels on a perspective like Parks; Lee is more reticent but then we’ve hardly gotten Virginia born. Wilson thinks Tolstoy is addressing other Russian writers, how he conceives of the cultural and political situation in Russia, but deeply by the time of Anna Karenina moved inward and dealing with his own many layered psyche through her.

Lastly (since I’m going away for a week — to Cornwall, where Woolf spent summer holidays for years on end — and have little time) I thought I’d just briefly call attention to an excellent review essay in TLS by Francesca Wade on the rebuilding of all sorts of house space the various Bloomsbury people had in different sites and museusm: “Interior Designs, Interior Desires: examing the inside of Bloomsbury homes as a guide to their owners’ artistry and personality.”

Wade begins with Bachelard and then goes on to show how the Bloomsbury group utterly defied conventions not just in painting happy pictures of what they were doing on their walls, and but in scattering all the things they used over a day freely around the house, making rooms serve real and different functions peculiar to the people living there all at once. In the movie Carrington we see the house Strachey (Jonathan Pryce) and Carrington (Emma Thompson) live in have her paintings on the wall, and a couple of the rooms are clearly shown to be reflective of how they live. Outsiders thought the decorations were lascivious or salacious because of the unconventional sexual relationships people who came and lived there had, but not at all. Nudes were not sexy nudes — as in the film. They were gay (old use of word), defying the colors, atmosphere of the homes these people had been brought up in.

Most houses today and apartments too are set up in conventional ways with several rooms sometimes given over “to making a show.” More time and energy making the room a symbol of the expected social life and status than the comfort of people living in it. The purpose of the US family room is to have a place where people can do their own thing but even there I’ve seen status and money the criteria for decorations — how many Xs you did of this or that.

Jim and my house was and today mine alone with his presence as memory and filling the objects is not like that. There is no room for show, the rooms have — or had (he’s gone now) several functions. I have been told if I wanted to sell it and/or sell it for a high priceI would have to empty it out and make it a soulless display. So that’s what the average person wants: plus and a soulless display. No thank you I said. Either it’s sold the way it looks or not sold. So Bloomsbury space is still iconoclastic.

Ellen off for a week on holiday in Cornwall

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Charles Camoin, Cat before the Open Window — from Sixtine, one of the lights of my existence

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Claire Randall (Catriona Balfe) looking into Farrell’s shop window in a highland village

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(Outlander 1, scripted Ronald Moore)

People disappear all the time. Young girls run away from home. Children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives take the grocery money, and a taxi to the train station. Most are found eventually. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually. Strange, the things you remember. Single images and feelings that stay with you down through the years. Like the moment I realized I’d never owned a vase. That I’d never lived any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing. And how at that moment, I wanted nothing so much in all the world as to have a vase of my very own. It was a Tuesday afternoon. Six months after the end of the war (taken direct from Gabaldon’s Outlander, opening.

Friends,

It’s time. Overdue. It may be my readers think I am above Outlander. I am not. I love it. I have now watched all sixteen episodes of the first season three times. I’ve read Gabaldon’s novel, I’ve read her Outlandish Companion. It connects to so much I’m deeply engaged by: it’s Daphne DuMaurier in the high romance mode, elegant, controlled wildness. Outlander is a cross between DuMaurier’s The Hungry Hill where the hero travels back and forth between the mid-20th and 14th century, and her historical romances, say King’s General (set in the 17th century civil war), Frenchman’s Creek, or Jamaica Inn (smugglers as misunderstood free-trader outlaws set in the very early 19th). Claire is the many times great-grandaughter of Sophia Lee’s Elinor and Matilda, the twin daughters of Mary Queen of Scots in her The Recess. I’ve been reading about Scotland and its civil wars, diaspora (to among other places, Canada), poetry and fiction by its writers (from Anne Murray Halkett to RLS Stevenson and Margaret Oliphant and onto Margaret Atwood) for years and years.

The immediate inspiration though is the new Poldark. Outlander reflects mores of the last few years far more frankly explored, and unlike the new Poldark thus far is a woman’s mini-series, a proto-feminist series of films. I’ve learned the second season of Poldark is going to depart so radically from Graham’s books as to change a crucial thread across all twelve novels and one of my favorite characters (though like Jane Austen over Emma it seems no one but me will much like), Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan. So I thought I might sustain a comparison of the two similar mini-series: Poldark drawn from historical novels, Outlander from historical romance, both obeying naturalism and verisimilitude once the terms of the fiction are set up). I don’t say I won’t compare the 1970s Poldark nor the two books, Jeremy Poldark (1950) and Warleggan (1953), but I will keep in mind and bring in this contemporary comparable series. Run them on this blog in tandem.

The Outlander resembles the new (2015) Poldark in its grimness, brutal violence, grimyness, the POV from below, the peasants and outlaws, not the elegant and fringe people of the older (1975) Poldark, Oneddin Line. But this is Claire’s story, make no mistake about that. The central consciousness, the voice-over in this season in all but one episode (when it is Jamie’s [Sam Heughan] and that very unusual, as “real” men don’t do over-voice). By keeping the central consciousness a woman’s, the narrator a heroine, Gabaldon kept all the intense ambiguity about a woman’s helplessness in pre-19th century eras against males, who then in reaction to the heroine manifest unashamed or shall I say unhidden attitudes towards her sexuality (the film is written, directed and produced mostly by men): upon meeting Claire Randall (Catrionia Balfe) the film’s 18th century men, British soldiers and aristocrats, Irish thugs and clansmen alike promptly think her or ask if she is a whore because she is alone. Jonathan Wolverton Randall aka Black Jack (Tobias Menzies, also Frank, Claire’s gentle husband in the mid-20th century, a descendant of Black Jack, whom he has been researching) proceeds to try to rape her. But she is a 20th century woman, pro-active on her own and others’ behalf, not inclined to regard herself as secondary person or take punishment, self-confident, with a sense of what she is entitled to.

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As our story begins, Claire Randall has been a nurse in WW2 and presided over and helped in horrifying operations, and the war now over, she and her her academic archaeologist husband, Frank (set for a professorship in Oxford), meet again after a near 5 year absence. They visit Scotland for its ruins, look at neolithic sites. They are trying hard to recreate what they once had, but it’s not quite working. The whole section, the way the bed-sit room looked, reminded me of women’s films of the 1940s, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard stuff. The two actors convey the strain the couple is trying to overcome:

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I thought of V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival

All photographed with soft brown lights too, stark dark and bleak blacks for the houses, yet in gentle light grey light. He explores genealogy, ruins of ancient fortresses, clans, primitive neolithic stone sites; she half ironically goes along.

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Sunlit
Sunlit

Frank has made friends with a local scholarly vicar, genealogist a Reverend Wakefield, as in Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield, played exquisitely fine, with subtle humor and gravity by James Fleet. Our honeymooning (in effect) couple take to visiting this gentle vicar and Mrs Graham (Tracy Wilkinson), his wry housekeeper. Again I was so reminded of say Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers material before the murder occurs. The men discuss Scots and English aristocracy, Scots clans, the injustices of the 18th century, the patronage system, speculate that perhaps Jonathon Wolverton Randall could act with inpunity because his patron was the Earl of Sandringham. Claire goes off for women’s gossip and tea; Mrs Graham asks to read her palm and finds odd marks on Claire’s hand, and tells of rituals she participates in by Crag na Dunn, a circle of standing stones.

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They are allured by these woman’s midnight rituals.

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Here I was not only reminded of Dorothy in Oz, but the language in the book and series alludes to Frank L. Baum, especially later when Claire-Dorothy wants to get back to the stones as gateway to Kansas, but there is something new here: this is a tale of national identity, of seeking who one is by asking what group one belongs to, and it’s done from a post-colonial perspective, highly critical of the British. Whence the title: Claire is an outsider, a Brit, from elsewhere we know. A Scottish film company is a major producer, Scots actors, venerable (Bill Paterson as the lawyer, Ned Gowan) and new (Duncan Lacroix as the faithful Murtagh, so we are not far from Scott after all) are everywhere. Geography, landscape, blended time frames, intense interiority, mix with lessons in clans, Jacobitism, and the medicine and witchcraft of the era.

What I hope to do is apply to Outlander, several studies of DuMaurier, the gothic, women’s films and Scottish studies, and then by transference see how what is said today about films and books like Outlander relates to the new Poldark mini-series and what is being done to Graham’s Poldark books in them. So this is film, historical fiction, historical romance and delvings into time-traveling fantasies research in progress. It fits into post-colonial patterns too.

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We begin for real and earnest when we move into the time-traveling sequence. Gabaldon knows that women in the 18th century went in for botany, studying herbs and so does our Claire so while Frank is buried in papers, she goes back to the stones and touching one she melts into another realm, coming out somehow into the year 1743.

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She leaves her car

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She has to come close to the stones of Crag Na Dunn to reach the flowers and herbs she wants

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She hears something, music, looks up, and moves to touch the wondrous tall neolithic stone

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The transported moment

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Waking

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An empty world, different older trees, no city in the distance (this is straight from Hungry Hill)

At first Claire thinks she has stumbled onto the set of costume drama (wonderful self-reflexity here) but no the bullets are real and she finds herself having to account for herself. So a re-naming, using her birth name, Beauchamp, she has to deal with everyone looking at her as stray whore: who else wanders in the wood in just her shift. This is an extraordinary moment that can only be done by a film: having the same actor, Tobias Menzies, play the hard mean ancester, Black Jack. Claire does a double take: he is but he is not Frank

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So it’s a re-encounter

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He now the 18th century educated man

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she still the mid-20th century educated woman

The drums of sudden movement, excitement, she flees, he after and so her adventure begins. A snarling redcoat, upholder of a vicious colonialist order, and she finds herself shot at, nearly raped (this will repeat and repeat) by Randall, is taken up by one of the Scotsmen (Murtagh we later realize), rescued (or herself takes up, saved) by the Scots clansmen, and is paired with the wounded Jamie Fraser, whose arm she correctly sets (and thus saves), and soon she is riding in front of him (anticipating Turner and Tomlinson as Ross and Demelza), warning the clan from her memories of what Frank told her of ambushes, becomes one of them. She resists at first and we get the most old-fashioned of gentle abductions:

Claire: [having fled during the ambush, Jamie having gone back to retrieve her] I hope you haven’t been misusing that shoulder. You’re hurt.
Jamie: This lot isna my blood.
She: Not much of it, anyway.
He: Dougal and the others will be waiting further up the stream. We should go.
She: – I’m not going with you.
He: – Yes, you are.
She: What, are you going to cut my throat if I don’t?
He: Why not? But You don’t look that heavy. Now if you won’t walk, I shall pick you up and throw you over my shoulder. Do you want me to do that?
She: No.
He: Well, then I suppose that means your coming with me.
She – [Climbing, he Grunting] – Serves you right. Probably torn your muscles as well as bruising.
He: Well, wasna much of a choice. If I dinna move my shoulder, I’d never have moved anything else ever again. I can handle a single redcoat with one hand. Maybe even two. Not three. Besides, you can fix it for me again when we get to where we’re going.
She: That’s what you think.
He: Here’s to you, lass. For tipping us to the villains in the rocks and giving us a wee bit o’ fun! [All speak Gaelic] [Speaks Gaelic] Have a wee nip.It willna fill your belly, but will make you forget you’re hungry.

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One blanket, one whiskey pouch

The band comes to a stone castle that she and her 20th century husband explored now become fully inhabited. I thought I was back with Frank Yerby’s The Border Lord, Book-of-the-Month club special (from the early 1950s like the Poldark series. I though of Radcliffe’s Emily coming up to Udolpho:

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Leogh

Only the voice again is wry, prosaic, slightly comical:

The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man. At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn’t rain.

When they get inside we are not in a gloomy, grand place, but a busy courtyard where everyone is going about her or his daily business. From the next episode:

Mrs Fitzgibbon [Annette Badland]: Mwah! Ye’ll all be needing breakfast, I reckon. Plenty in the kitchen. Away in, and feed yerselves. [chuckles] Murtagh, you look and smell like a rat that’s been dragged through sheep dung.
Murtagh: Gi’ us a kiss, then.
Mrs Fitzgibbon: Oh, no! A kiss, then! [laughing] And what do we have here?
Jamie: Claire Beauchamp, Mistress Fitzgibbons. Murtagh found her, and Dougal said we must bring her along with us, so So.

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Mrs Fitzgibbon looks at Claire in ways the men do not, sees what the men do not see

Mrs F: Well Claire. Come with me. We shall find you something to eat, something to wear that’s a bit more Well, a bit more

It’s the voice-over that held me especially in this first episode, compellingly, Catrionia Balfe’s voice perfect for a DuMaurier Rebecca too. A sophisticated use of old-fashioned realism smashed together with fantasy gothic and superb cinematography, a richly colored Scotland complete, with the themed music part minor key bagpipes, make for an undercurrent of thrill. I will be concentrating on the women in the series.

As for the book, the source, this first episode is lifted directly from the novel. Many of the lines are taken from Gabaldon; it’s as if she wrote the book with a film in mind. She began in earnestness from an online experience, a Literary Forum in the Net’s earliest days. In her Outlandish Companion her language gives away hat when she started, Gabaldon had Now Voyageur, the old Bette Davis trope in mind but was also thinking of “the Age of Enlightenment,” i.e., the realities of the 18th century.

I love her illustration are soft-focus photographs or line-drawing illustrations, evoking imagination on the part of the reader: emblems, herbs, older symbolic pictures (the zodaic for example). Much richness for us to explore for quite a number of weeks to come.

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From the site of Castle Leogh in Scotland today

Ellen

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Emma Thompson, a study of her as Carrington in the film of that name — for me a suggestive 20th century image of Lily Dale as conceived by Trollope

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve not followed up on the first lecture for this summer’s course on Trollope’s Small House at Allington because for much of the sessions that followed I offered only introductory perspectives, after which for an hour or so we worked our way through the text for the day, in other words, the give-and-take of discussion. This does not lend itself to the blog form, although it is he way this novel yields its rich insights and pleasures. Although hardly ever out of print, and by all impressionistic accounts, a memorable favorite among Trollope readers, the novel has not garnered much recent published writing, I surmise because it is rare among Trollope novels not to have an election, to remain steadily and (even) fiercely within an erotic (and marital) purview. All the more reason to offer up some thoughts out of the perspectives and close readings I and my class (mostly older retired adults) reveled in for some five weeks.

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Lady Julia and Johnny Eames near close of novel (Millais illustrations)

For summaries of the story and plot design, consult these records of an on-line reading and discussion of the novel in 2000.

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From the second and third session:

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Ellen Gosse, Torcos, Devonshire — I have only a black-and-white image of this painting but it seems to be suggestive of what Trollope wants to convey about the small house, that it is cut off from the corrupting worlds attached to London

I began with a summary of Juliet McMasters’ essay on his novel (and by extension other novels of romance and marriage in Trollope), “The Unfortunate Moth: The Unifying Theme of The Small House at Allington, Nineteenth Century Fiction, 26:2 (1962):127-44

What McMasters takes to be the unifying theme of the book explicitly stated in a long passage thtat you might think it about Lily Dale, or Adolphus when he goes to Courcy Castle, or Johnny Eames, but it’s about Cradell who we are told “never found of happiness” from the “intimacy” (that’s the word and to Victorians “intimacy” suggested sex, actions like petting and the like at least) he had with Mrs Lupex.

When the unfortunate moth in his semi-blindness whisks himself and his wings within the flame of the candle, and finds himself mutilated and tortured, he even then will not take the lesson, but returns again and again till he is destroyed. Such a moth was poor Cradell. There was no warmth to be got by him from that flame. There was no beauty in the light,—not even the false brilliance of unhallowed love. Injury might come to him,—a pernicious clipping of the wings, which might destroy all power of future flight; injury, and not improbably destruction, if he should persevere. But one may say that no single hour of happiness could accrue to him from his intimacy with Mrs. Lupex. He felt for her no love. He was afraid of her, and, in many respects, disliked her. But to him, in his moth-like weakness, ignorance, and blindness, it seemed to be a great thing that he should be allowed to fly near the candle. Oh! my friends, if you will but think of it, how many of you have been moths, and are now going about ungracefully with wings more or less burnt off, and with bodies sadly scorched!

People don’t tend to identity Trollope with Dostoevsky; but a unifying motif is the perversity of our desires, how we go after what will poison us, especially in erotic entanglements. We are told Craddell cannot have “another dip into the flame of the candle” because Miss Spruce is in the room. If you want you can pay attention to when Craddell is said to be “in the room” with Mrs Lupex and no one else there. Whose room? What room? McMasters makes a convincing case and writes beautifully clearly.

The chapter on the Widow Dale a very moving one: she has given up any chance to have a life of her own – not that she had much, by after her husband died, leaving the city, putting herself in a place where she does not meet anyone but those who come to this great estate. It’s been infinitely easier financially, and as we shall see when the Dale family prepares to leave the Small House and go to Guestwick it’s a big step down. Third person indirect discourse allows Trollope to go in an out of her mind as well as comment: she has been made to feel if she were out of the way the Squire would be more generous. He did not approve of who his brother married; she did not bring anything with her, money or connections.

The theory of her life one may say was this—that she should bury herself in order that her daughters might live well above ground. And in order to carry out this theory, it was necessary that she should abstain from all complaint or show of uneasiness before her girls. Their life above ground would not be well if they understood that their mother, in this underground life of hers, was enduring any sacrifice on their behalf. It was needful that they should think that the picking of peas in a sun-bonnet, or long readings by her own fire-side, and solitary hours spent in thinking, were specially to her mind. “Mamma doesn’t like going out.” “I don’t think mamma is happy anywhere out of her own drawing-room.” I do not say that the girls were taught to say such words, but they were taught to have thoughts which led to such words, and in the early days of their going out into the world used so to speak of their mother. But a time came to them before long,—to one first and then to the other, in which they knew that it was not so, and knew also all that their mother had suffered for their sakes.

Trollope does all he can to indicate that once engaged to Crosbie Lily gives herself utterly to him (i.e., they have full sexual intercourse). Lily and Crosbie are allowed to go roaming at night by themselves. The most striking passage is the height of the party by which point Crosbie has begun to regret his proposal, to think he’s doing Lily a great favor, and alas, she reinforces this

They were standing in the narrow pathway of the gate leading from the bridge into the gardens of the Great House, and the shadow of the thick-spreading laurels was around them. But the moonlight still pierced brightly through the little avenue, and she, as she looked up to him, could see the form of his face and the loving softness of his eye.
    “Because- —,” said he; and then he stooped over her and pressed her closely, while she put up her lips to his, standing on tip-toe that she might reach to his face.
    “Oh, my love!” she said. “My love! my love!”
    As Crosbie walked back to the Great House that night, he made a firm resolution that no consideration of worldly welfare should ever induce him to break his engagement with Lily Dale. He went somewhat further also, and determined that he would not put off the marriage for more than six or eight months, or, at the most, ten, if he could possibly get his affairs arranged in that time. To be sure, he must give up everything, —- all the aspirations and ambition of his life; but then, as he declared to himself somewhat mournfully, he was prepared to do that. Such were his resolutions, and, as he thought of them in bed, he came to the conclusion that few men were less selfish than he was.

That break or gap between “My love, my love” – what literally happened is the equivalent of a chapter in a 1950s novel where the couple go into a bedroom and the chapter ends; or a TV show where they are passionately kissing and the camera focuses on a nearby fire. Note also Crosbie’s thoughts directly after: firmly he will marry and soon, 6 to 8, at the most 10 months. It takes 9 months. Now had he kept coming but as we all know (and Trollope is writing for adults) it takes a little time. Markwick compares other heroines: Alice Grey of Can You Forgive her? Shudders and others, but we have to be content with what we have. Lily is referred to as “the impassioned girl” during a walk. Lily finally wins her mother to acquiesce in Lily’s decision not to marry when she explains

I gave myself to him, and loved him, and rejoiced in his love. When he kissed me I kissed him again, and I longed for his kisses. I seemed to live only that he might caress me. All that time I never felt myself to be wrong,—because he was all in all to me. I was his own. … I cannot be the girl I was before he came here.

Trollope is exploring variations on sex life and marriage in different classes of people, types, situations. He means us to see the boarding house as sordid and squalid; that’s really the tone. In this era young women who worked as milliners went to bars after work and were seen as promiscuous, fair game especially to gentlemen. Now I hope you’ll agree that with all its riches and luxuries, the tone of mind, thoughts everything about Courcy castle is sordid and ultimately squalid too but they can keep up a front, Amelia can’t. Trollope has some sympathy for her, none for Mrs Lupex (a kind of wolf, lupus means wolf), and he doesn’t respect Cradell. We are to suppose Cradell doesn’t get very far: he is so fatuous as to want the credit for what he doesn’t quite do and not want to take the consequences (but then Crosbie doesn’t either). More than once we are told Mrs Lupex’s nose is no straight, it has an odd curve: her husband has hit her

Nonetheless, there are parallels between Cradell and say the young Courcy men, and interestingly between Johnny and Lily more than Johnny and Crosbie. They refer to an incident where he went up to her room and she looked at him through a chink (repeated over the over) in the door, and then there’s a break, and after he keeps referring to her long black hair. It makes him write the note (p 41) where he tells her he loves her and this is her handle for her threatening letter. She implies he promised to marry her, and he says he never did. She never does say he did. For the Victorian reader does it make the incident any less reprehensible, probably not. If it does, it’s because the reader might look down on Amelia. The notes Skilton provides in his edition of SHA explicating some of Trollope’s references to places and use of phrases whose hum and buzz he expects us to know (but we can’t living so much after him) turn Amelia Roper into someone who has given sex for money, jobs, or simply had it for fun casually.

McMaster mentions A.O. Cockshut who wrote what is still one of the best books on Trollope; he studies Trollope’s books as about delusion, self-destruction, obsession, but he also has a chapter where he says a central them in Trollope’s novels is loneliness. For novels where the characters are so embedded in groups, he offers us dramas of loneliness. Who lonelier than Mr Harding? Does anyone understand? Who lonelier than Mary Thorne? Even the Rev Mr Slope is cut off from others. What Crosbie throws away when he gets to Courcy Castle is something rare and precious which we feel alive in his letter to Lily. If Alexandrina could have provided sexual passion and satisfaction the way Lily did or seemed to, he still would have been miserable: she provides no companionship, nothing congenial, no thoughts and feelings that count to share. We are made to feel that Dr Crofts and Bell will eventually have that.

The irony of Lily’s antagonism to Lady Julia (“hard on the poor old spinster”) is Lady Julia who does all she can for Lily at Courcy Castle but fails. There’s an old optimistic tale by Hans Christian Anderson. The emperor’s new clothes: you may recall it’s about how this emperor is deluded by two crooks into thinking they are making him a super-rich garment which is invisible to stupid people. No one in tale will see they can’t see anything; then he parades down the street and a young boy comes up and shouts Oh he’s wearing nothing. And all the people suddenly admit he’s wearing nothing. Great fable in many ways about using a naif in a story. People often refer to this as having great truth. But what if the stakes are too high. What if shouting the truth at the top of your voice gets you nowhere and that is what happens to Lady Julia: she gets no respect as a spinster. She is put there so Trollope can show us the fallacy of the emperor’s new clothes.

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From the fourth session:

ElizabethShippenGreen (Medium)
Elizabeth Shippen Green (later 19th century American illustrator)

We had read Mark Turner’s. “Gendered Issues: Intertextuality and The Small House at Allington in Cornhill Magazine, Victorian Periodicals Review, 26:4 (1993):228-34. If you read what is produced in a given issue of a magazine you will find revealing thematic parallels among the articles which have a great deal to tell you about how the magazine editors envision their audience, and if the magazine is popular or long-lasting probably rightly. On top of that if you know what is the context elsewhere for each of the articles, you understand how they are intervening in some hot topic of the day.

SHA lacks overt politics, or any parliamentary elections. What Thackeray, the editor explicitly said, and statistical analysis shows, is that the Cornhill also avoided politics and parliamentary subjects. Thackeray said this was inappropriate for women. After all they were not elected, couldn’t hold office, what would they want to know about such things? What did Trollope think of this policy: in 1867 when he quit the post office and a group of friends and funders started St Paul’s whose remit was specifically politics and for it he wrote one of his masterpiece Palliser or Parliamentary books, Phineas Finn, a great hit.

Instalment No 3, November 1862 contains Chapters 7, 8, and 9 and anti-feminist, maybe misogynistic articles. Now you might think, how odd, a magazine for women who promulgates anti-feminist ideas. But maybe you would not. By feminist I mean something very fundamental: they assume women are inferior in understanding and moral strength, belong in the home; magazines and TV shows can function as forms of social policing. In Trollope’s chapters we find Crosbie’s deep reluctance to marry at all; he longs to escape. A couple of the articles in the Cornhill around that time either take on board W.W. Gregg’s discernment of a problem in society written about elsewhere and talked much about in the period and especially the Cornhill: Greg presents himself as showing us “sound common sense:” there were all these “redundant” (i.e., unmarried) women who had no income or means; his solution, more women need to work at getting married, and men are not doing their duty: they are shirking. The reality was the problem for middle class women is there were no jobs for them to support themselves as middle class unless they married. The Cornhill for that number also includes “Professional Thieves,” something middle class people worry about: not only are women alone a standing target, but the article talks about women who vicious thieves and sneaky and get away with it, and that they the ones who train children to become thieves. Forget Fagin. It’s not Jews, it’s women. Last article about the first women to have been executed in 40 years. Makes her an absolute sinister horror, says it’s only because she was a woman that she was able to “penetrate” the home. There is this idea that home is this sacred place where people are happy, a haven, that is unreal and reinforced.

So this is the local context for SHA. Were there many unmarried women and men in the Victorian era? yes, as there always have been. It’s very hard to get at firm figures because the rate of death and when someone dies is what is measured and it was different for different classes. I did a paper on widowhood in England between the 18th and 19th century and how this was reflected in Jane Austen’s novels. Those who read them may not be aware of how many widows and widowers she had: quite a number of widows, less widowers as Trollope has quite a number of widows, tends to have unmarried men rather than widowers. Widowhood was not associated with old age as people died like flies at all ages, women in childbirth regularly. Statistically it may be shown that in general women do not remarry after 50 because it’s said men are not willing to marry an older woman, while men remarry in large numbers until 70. What we are talking about is women living alone – like Miss Spruce. There is little material on men living alone until very recently in comparison with women. They are embarrassed about living alone; until recently there was this suspicion of homosexuality, so a man could be blackmailed – laws against buggery were draconian. It’s so much easier for them to find a partner; both sexes. but especially women if they had children wanted a partner. Widows come with children: witness Mrs Rope, Mrs Eames, Mrs Dale. The first study of suicide from a secular statistic humane scientific-speak point of view – is by Emile Durkhiem a long chapter on why single old men living alone are most susceptible to suicide (according to him).  To cut to the chase, the problem is women at the time couldn’t get a good job, they were excluded from professional training to start with.

Lily is on her way to being a redundant woman. This is a sort of introduction to next week’s story, “Journey to Panama.” It is the background to Small House at Allington, to its deeper sexual politics. In later life Trollope wrote sympathetic articles about women getting jobs (The Telegraph Girls which I put online), he wrote stories for Emily Faithful. Why do the De Courcys overlook Lady Julia’s telling everyone Adolphus is engaged: the stakes are too high, they want an acceptable willing men for their daughters, someone who will fit in. And this week we found Lady Amelia and Gazebee policing Adolphus lest he get away.

What’s Trollope’s position? Later in life he grew very irritated with all the sympathy extended Lily as well as the complaints: he felt readers were sentimentalizing and called her a prig in his Autobiography. But in this text we he embeds lots of references to the sex that had happened between them, how this affected her, how everyone knew. She could litigate, this would only shame her more. Women were without a weapon. A coward and as Johnny keeps shouting “scoundrel”. The exchange of letters no matter how brief: he to her “I know that you will hate me and will never forgive me,” to which her pride will not listen, Trollope’s narrator as the mother “he left her maimed and mutilated for life” (Ch 30), and this last to me the most strong, “Who can describe the thoughts that were passing through Lily’s mind as she remembered the hours she had passed with Crosbie, of his warm assurance of love, of his accepted caresses, of her uncontrolled and acknowledged joy in his affection” (Ch 30) Johnny who assumes Crosbie will no litigate tells Cradell Lily would never because already “all this will about kill her” (Ch 32). Now I’m not so sure everyone would have been so disapproving of Crosbie as is presented.

We discussed how Trollope just takes this flying leap into making the human psyche, how it works inwardly and where people most often don’t like to look and haven’t got meaningful concise words for even now: he makes that continually the upfront subject whether through letters, through meditation, or through comic scenes. Scenes like the one in the railway car, and when Johnny Eames attacks Crosbie are especially remarkable for their further inclusion of depictions of how people often actually behave in social life, what we respect (like the superintendant on the train station whose prestige and therefore power reminds me of General Kutusov in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, only Tolstoy does not also make a joke of it. I think Trollope is as acute as Tolstoy even if his perspective is narrower, he is also more continually ironic about the way we behave outwardly.

Marvelously well written chapters, “The combat, “Woe to the conquered,” and “See, the conquering hero comes.” They are a trio: they all three appeared in the same issue. Instalment No 12, August 1863. I made an effort to download the November 1863 issue of the magazine in several places and failed utterly.
    The topic of whether someone should punish Crosbie and how has been introduced several times, and Trollope seems to feel it is part of Bernard Dale’s selfishness that he does nothing because it’s no longer socially required. And if we think Squire Dale has changed, note his immediate response to De Guest’s suggestion, he contribute regularly to Johnny and Lily’s household (Ch 32). Any comments about how you feel about this resort to violence? It stems from the idea of honor killing: the idea is the family honor is besmirched. By the 18th century Europe had gone beyond murdering the woman, but macho maleness had not gone beyond the duel and by the 19th century the fight. It’s inward, outwardly accurate and funny. The chapter opens with the Earl telling Johnny this is not his affair: he is not related and was not the person concerned.
    Both young men are getting on at the Barchester station (not yet named Silverbridge). Very vividly described. Johnny’s class is signaled by for the first time going first class. He does so because he has a servant, a groom. So it’s not fitting for him to sit in a second class carriage. Adolphus sat there before he involved himself with the De Courcys.
    Trollope comically accosts us if we affect to despise Johnny for wanting to come up in the world: “My friend … [to]… foolish thing.”
    Then we get this real scene of people entering such a carriage. They still have these separate carriages with a corridor in English and European trains – you see them in English films. Old lady and old man who is irritable.
    Adolphus has not been having a good time – and yet he is part of this noble family.
    Then the marvelous inward qualities continually attended to: Adolphus opens his book and we are told: “I will not say his mind … “
    We are are made privy to Johnny’s ‘wretched thoughts” as he sits there with his book: very intense. He does not strike out then because there is a lady in the car.
    But when it’s time to leave, Johnny cannot let go and leaps on Crosbie. He has the advantage of surprise: “you confounded scroundrel”
    Trollope takes the time to describe a real stand at the time, complete with yellow shilling number novel instalments. Just like the one the reader might be reading.
Crosbie falls among the wares, clumsy and Johnny lands a real blow at his eye. He’s already distinguished     himself over bulls.
    And then the Victorian middle class world – these are people taking the train so that means money, traveling, and they side with the police officer. Trollope is very sympathetic to police officers but also uses them for comedy – which still happens on TV today. Johnny is too determined and too strong in his feeling of rightness to care. The dialogue is believable enough.
    Crosbie has lost in the encounter: he is disgraced. Blackness signifies inward bleeding around his eye, plus red streaks. So it’s not innocent – in Dr Thorne Frank Gresham whips Moffat and Moffat is put out of public view for weeks. The police are on his side because of who he is too, but he wants to escape and have no publicity. They won’t listen to that because it’s their job to take this pair of men in unless no one presses charges. Which is what happens.
    We seem to go through layers of Crosbie’s mind: not on the surface but deep in some inward thoughts he curses himself.
    The aftermath: much worse than the physical experience is the social response. People who are disabled often say (rightly) it’s not their disability that hurts them so badly so much as the society’s way of reacting to a disabled person and a disability they don’t understand. It”s in this one Crosbie realizes he has lost points in the world’s respect for him. Maybe they would not have been so condemning as I suggest but perhaps there is a sense of what is just and right in people.
    The scene of Butterwell, Optimist, Major Fiasco; each character acts in character; they couldn’t care less really about Crosbie but are reacting as they see themselves. Fiasco gives everyone a hard time.
    The Gazebees: De Courcy is beginning to have had it. Gazebee I’m afraid deserves Amelia. Crosbie’s story mocks them. False etymologies still popular, so false stories about family’s origins. Will he stick it? We see a hope come into his mind that they will throw him out if he is insolent enough and he can return to Lily. There will be no return to her – for a long time to come.
    For the rest of the novel Trollope will not tire of punishing Crosbie though his ending may be what he wanted if only he could have seen this without the intervening engagements and marriage. He could not get beyond the hegemonic demand he marry. He found himself in situations where erotic feeling was the whole point of the exercise. What’s a guy to do?
    Johnny’s great triumph: a Handel rousing song. Eames is rising in the world because like Crosbie he can do the work and well. Trollope take out time to tell another story: this one of the bags. It’s intermixed with the Amelia matter: she too has been misused in effect. Raffle Buffle cannot punish Johnny because custom is not against it. So he flails away.
    And we end where we began: the earl and Johnny’s correspondence and Johnny knows he has not hurt himself with the earl.

Lily Going Mad Counting the Figures in the Wallpaper:

“(Lily speaking to her mother, about getting out of her sickbed, which is in her mother’s room) ‘I am so tired of looking always at the same paper. It is such a tiresome paper. It makes one count the pattern over and over again. I wonder how you ever can live here.’
‘I’ve got used to it, you see.’
‘I can never get used to that sort of thing; but go on counting, and counting, and counting.'”

Bruce reminds us of how Lily feels herself going mad when she is prostrate in bed, having retreated from a world which in the person of Adolphus Crosbie has betrayed, abused and would now, she fears, either quietly ridicule or look down on her. She has no options beyond living out the bourgeois myth. There’s a famous later 19th century American short story, the Yellow Wallpaper about a deeply repressed woman, who has been having babies endlessly. Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Finally the direct roman a clef here: Sir Raffle Buffle, also called Huffle Scuffle who Trollope cannot resist portraying so he has him transferred from the General Committee Office in Whitehall as the ultimate boss of Adolphus Crosbie to a supposedly much lower rank office, Taxes where he presides over Johnny Eames, without bothering for an explanation of this demotion. It’s a remariable coincidence, no? He is Trollope’s irritated portrait of a person much admired at one time: Sir Rowland Hill, who executed important reforms in the post office, some with Trollope’s help. He is said to have been “a brilliant but difficult man,” and I’ve read that “Huffle Scuffle” was actually a derisory nickname for him. When in 1867 Trollope was overlooked for a deserved promotion and took retirement in order to devote himself to his writing career fully – he was angry and surprised. Did he not think Hill knew of Huffle Scuffle? Trollope’s books are roman a cles (books where people are recognizable) and he tells aspects of his own life directly and indirectly. Apparently once as a young postal clerk he misdirected a bag of mail. Not only is Johnny him, but aspects of Dr Crofts with Crosbie a release valve for himself.

One of my papers I called Trollope’s Comfort Romances for Men; this is a romance novel written from a male point of view tempered by insight into and compassion for women.

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From the fifth and last sessions:

MrHardingwalkingAway
Donald Pleasence as Mr Harding walking away from the hospital and his position as Warden (final shots of The Warden from BBC 1983 Barchester Chronicles, scripted Alan Plater)

Like The Warden, The Small House at Allington has a strong underlying tragic pattern. It presents itself as comedy, and the whole realistic stance of the narrator, the structure, and the presence of this ironic narrator whose importance in this and other of Trollope’s novels cannot be underestimated deflects us from seeing the nadir, the loss of aspiration, hope, dreams just about all of our major characters end up with – or without. Pair of chapters to end on: showing how Mr Crosbie again became a happy man deeply ironic: so quiet and so intense; we hear of quarrels; how she did break down asking for a carriage. She does not break down now. He is glad to make do with little money to get rid of the burden of her existence. Lily vanquishes her mother. Johnny moves out of the boarding house, lives alone, takes to eating mutton chops at a public house. Soon Johnny will get into a better place with Earl’s help.

And then very like a Mozart’s Don Giovanni especially, onto the stage come the ordinary prosaic characters to carry on: here Mrs Dale chooses to Remain not Leave; we get a miniature re-prise of Hopkins’ coming near to utter destruction but the Squire who has now learn to give in, gives in. The squire tells Lily the pain is that Hopkins did it before everyone, so this incident also refers to the Earl’s advice that if you live with a fox gnawing at your entrails, you stand there and smile. In the Spartan story the boy allows the fox to gnaw him to death under his undergarments rather than show his pain to anyone. The story thus undermines itself. The great joke of the concluding incident (let’s say before the curtain) is about a pile of shit: don’t underestimate the importance of shit in making beautiful gardens.

A central subject matter of this set of chapters is our deep usual disappointments in how we end up on the social spectrum in life, whether it be at our remunerative jobs and in this week’s chapters this includes characters from Mr Lupex with his yearning to be a painter of canvasses and sense he had talent, better at color with a truer eye for drawing than people who make thousands to Mr Butterwell who doesn’t want Crosbie over-reaching himself to dominate the board, to people like Dr Crofts who presumably acts out of some altruistic motives yet wants to live not in debt, with pride of face before others. We discover a bunch of characters living out their lives – at least some of them, those with the capacity for dreams of something beyond the pragmatic, who reject in part what are the common goals and norms of ordinary life – in quiet desperation.

The depiction of careers in this novel is more subtle than the analysis of the results of ambition in Framley Parsonage: the way Mark Robarts is treated may be read as “learning a lesson not to overreach beyond his income; Mr Sowerby is more complicated but he is made a semi-sinister kind of villain and he loses all. Crosbie doesn’t lose all; he gains what he thought he was after; maybe Mr Lupex is right and the kind of success he feels he had it in him was not in the cards he was handed from birth. I’d say we cannot attribute to Johnny’s wonderful qualities his success: there he is sexually jealous of Cradell because Cradell is now having sex with Amelia, Cradell in a remarkable scene of social insight is shown not to understand how pride should control his language before the man he envies and wants to butter up and fears is dropping him. He does not realize if someone is determined to drop you, you must endure it and work very slowly to counter that, silently.

HereisInkstand
The inkstand missing for three years (Millais’s illustration)

There are seemingly irretrievable decisions or words you can’t recall the other person is not going to forget as they seared some part of their mind and feeling. There is a whole sub-motiv or secondary set of stories about the pains and disillusionments and fear of moving. For women alone in this book it’s traumatic, whether done comically or not. Mrs Roper is likely to lose her livelihood (and a friend, Miss Spruce). Moving depictions. A central one for plot-design: the dramatic confrontations of Squire Dale and Mrs Dale. She is rightly very hurt and angry at his bullying and accusations and says she cannot live in that house on these terms any more. So off she goes to tell him she’s moving (Ch 37). Does she get to say what she wants? Why not? He refuses to recognize she has any justice in moving; he refuses to agree to her priorities: her feelings not her pocketbook and status.

The Squire feels he should be obeyed, should have some say in who Bell marries, against Mrs Dale’s resentment of his attempt to interfere with her role. He accuses her of teaching the girls to look at him with suspicion; she accuses him of trying to take her place and come in-between her and her daughters. The emotions here are real enough, hard. The Squire tries unconsciously to needle his sister-in-law into doing what he wants by insinuating she’s afraid to tell her daughter to marry Bernard:

“‘You mean that you are afraid to tell her so?’
    ‘I am afraid to do what I think wrong, if you mean that.
    ‘I don’t think it would be wrong, and therefore I shall speak to her myself’
    ‘You must do as you like about that, Mr Dale; I can’t prevent you. I shall think you wrong to harass her on such a matter’

Each puts his or her spin on what’s happening. The dialogue turns and twists as they accuse, counter-accuse, reinterpret, at each point ending up in the stasis or positions from which they started. She goes home very unsatisfied because she left without making it clear she means it; she does not need to think about it – as Bell does not need to think about saying no to Bernard. She is recharged by Bell and Lily and returns to the battlefield (Ch 38). Each of them tries to take advantage of the other. All right she is giving rent-free house, status, luxuries. He gets her on the axiom of duty: somehow it’s her duty yet again to mortify her own feelings so as to keep others behaving towards her girls as if they were the daughters of the squire. She loses ground for a moment when he says “‘your duty is to think of them.” Since she buys into his conservative values, she has no grounds from which to fight him on the score of violated individual feelings.

Lily’s insistence they are not to say anything adverse about Crosbie is a form of punishing her sister and mother because she can’t punish Crosbie. There’s a line where she remembers being in the field with him and responding to his caresses (as Crosbie remembers those days or early evenings as he sits across the way from Lady Alexandrina) which may be intended to excuse her (ch 40): during preparations he remembers her passion as he caressed her. She gave up so much and was just thrown away. It’s a form of self-tormenting too.
Some might find it hard to believe that Lily Dale does not show more anger toward Crosbie. Her remarking that she would like to be the godmother of Crosbie’s child is especially difficult to believe. The chapter is saved only by her breaking down an crying at the end, revealing how brave she is trying to be but still how much she is hurting.

One could get very Freudian and admire Trollope for suggesting that Lily feels that the child she would have had with Crosbie is going to emerge from the wrong womb, and her desire to be the godmother is Trollope’s way of hinting to us that her deepest pain is she is replaced as a sex partner and the woman who will therefore bear Crosbie’s children. Trollope saw himself as interested in perversities of behavior. People often quote his comment in He Knew He Was Right on the jealous Louis Trevelyan’s desire to gather proof his wife has betrayed him sexually: anyone who is surprised or incredulous “do not understand that a man may be brought to hope that which of all things is the most grievous to him;” they “have not observed with sufficient closeness the perversity of the human mind.” In this sequence Crosbie has chosen a self-tormenting path, Johnny, Mr Lupex, Mr Cradell. We have comic analogues for the grave anguish of Lily and Crosbie.

Adolphus’s actual experience of marriage: the preparations for the wedding. Money has to be arranged, a flat rented or house bought. At the last moment we see maybe Alexandrina is not so sure when she says she will not marry if not given the right clothes for the day, the right trousseau. The carpet, the correct locality – status, status, status. Lady Alexandrina will not go for a walk lest it be seen as a come-down. She would not enjoy walking because of this. She gives as much trouble to the store clerks as she can. Adolphus’s brilliantly mocking fable of the cook: mock on how rich like to present themselves, a home-y source of income; in fact it was often hard exploitation, Henry VIII making followers out of taking over church’s property and rents. Alexandrina knows she’s cold-shouldering Crosbie: she doesn’t want babies; her sister did. I’ll give it to Lady Amelia when she took Gazebee from Augusta Gresham she wanted him – or she wanted the marriage she could turn life with him into. He’s learning to hate them all. Gazebee and Amelia have long seen that Crosbie is bitter in heart now and has repented of his bargain. Crosbie meant to make his life a success we are told. That’s what seems to hurt most of all. Lily wanted love; he wanted to be successful in the world’s eyes and his own.

Trollope’s depiction of men in this novel: taking into account Johnny Eames, Cradell, Lupex, the De Courcy males. They are seen as people under pressure: to support others, to be seen to do well and they may not have the resources (skill or connections) for this. He undermines stereotypes for male experience.

orley2
Mary Lady Mason and Mrs Orme part at the close of Orley Farm (Millais)

Our last essay was Sarah Gilead’s “Trollope’s Orphans and ‘the Power of Adequate Performance,” Texas Studies in Language and Literature, 27:1 (1985):86-105.

It is very common in 19th century novels to have this long-suffering pathetic orphan children, or half-crazed beggars. Trollope has very few children in his novels and not one presents a child’s subjective mind as the nexus of the book. The typical Dickens character sweeping the streets is not here. But repeatedly in his novels characters come close to disaster or they walk right into calamity (as Juliet McMasters says moths to the flame, or Trollope himself about how we don’t sufficiently study the perversity of the human mind or pay attention to what is going on around us), but most of the they are left appearing to cope. Some do throw themselves under on-coming trains, or take some agonizing poison, but it’s not common. I would have preferred Phineas Finn as an example because all novel long he is a political compromiser in order to rise, putting aside his conscience which only comes to the fore unexpectedly in the denouement of his book.

I like Gilead’s explanation: they are made to feel culturally abandoned or betrayed as a result of the norms of the society they live in. They are expected to accept the story of their lives that the public listens to and carry on. So Mr Harding is supposed to accept that he is this corrupt man who devours incomes belonging to others and carry on regardless. Lady Mason that she’s a crook (not that in her case after having accepted an arranged marriage with a hard old man he refused to leave even a small farm to their son, all of it to go to his eldest to make this big splash). Lily that she lost this toy and ought to give over. The people in this novel are hypocrites about women’s sexuality – which by the way makes Johnny Eames’s behavior to Amelia explicable: he couldn’t give a shit who she fucks not really. Not when more important things like class, standing in the world, promotion at his job are at stake: maybe they do matter more.

What they do – Mr Harding, Lily, Mary Lady Mason is they invent a different story, a different identity, one which indicts the society, and live it out. To do this they must retreat or they will endlessly be bothered by the story society wants to impose on them. Lily does not want to risk her psyche again. They are not parentless and not without small resources – -which people often do have or they’d have vanished well before the crisis. They strike bargains with a hostile reality. In Phineas’s case, light is shone on the deplorable condition of the Irish which the English fed off of. They make a bargain; they will keep quiet if they are left alone. To achieve this safety they have to give up society’s prizes including society’s approval

Mr Harding retreats to the smallest possible parish; he does end up living with his daughter. As Gilead remarks he throws overboard the 12 old men he was supposed to care about. Most are dead by the time Barchester Towers begins. Lily has 3000 pounds so a small income, the Small House and her mother. She rejects time, she rejects change. Funeral formality to it; in Last Chronicle Trollope has her quote a latin saying: who goes softly, goes safely. Gilead misrepresents how Lady Mason ends up because she and her son part; she ends up alone writing letters to her one friend, Mrs Orme.

This is not the only essays that tries to account for this depth in Trollope – for this is part of what makes rereading his books worth while. There’s a another point of view I more inclined to – it’s more autobiographical or personal to Trollope. Many of Trollope’s central figures do vacillate, are paralysed and never make up their minds, go off a deep end or allow others to make up their minds for them. Once Mr Harding sticks to his guns, or decision, it’s curious how the other characters’ power over him seems to fade. Alas that’s not true for Lily or Mary Lady Mason. Women are not as respected; people think they are obliged to give themselves over (to children for example)

Why does he do this continually, have his most sympathetic characters perform an escape maneuver, sometimes while winning, act out a reluctant withdrawal? I see in the process self-flagellation on Trollope’s part. The person, Mr Harding, Lily, Mary Lady Mason, Phineas, is under “joint attack.” Everyone around the characters agrees to insist our hero or heroine act out what the world admires and wants (marry the lord not the tailor in Lady Anna), no matter what the personal cost or gyrations this demands. They nag the person, and we are treated to these scenes as when Johnny comes to ask Lily to marry him. She can’t get rid of him.

Trollope is persuading himself he is doing the right thing to compromise in life, stay with his wife no matter if restless, write novels that sell and release himself through irony; through Mr Harding, Phineas, Mary Lady Mason he lives out vicariously the act of integrity and the escape. He’s Miss Viner, Patience Woolsworthy. One of his greatest fictions is “The Spotted Dog” — he said it was his finest story. It’s a later short story; and online. The “spotted dog” is the name of a an inn where a gifted man has sabotaged his life; he has married the wrong woman and become a drunkard. Now that he must find some employments, presents himself openly as a shameful creature no one in their right mind would interview, much less hire to deal with fragile paper indexes and scholarship. Julius Mackenzie unable to cope ends up drunk rolling in the streets, his talents utterly thrown away. We see him struggle hard to emerge and fail. Trollope is teaching himself; there but for compromise go I.

His characters who are punished often make their strongest arguments on the side of utter integrity, of refusal, they get to walk away and display courage doing it. It’s the others’ joint attacks which speak the world’s cant wisdom, prudence and the like. Mr Harding is not supposed to be a saint, but has the courage to walk away. It’s a great release for most – not so much in the case of Lily Dale because the crux issue is a woman’s sexuality, her sexual awakening (the issue in Sense and Sensibility, one of the novel’s probable “sources”) and Trollope is not deeply empathetic with her refusal to compromise the way he is with Mr Harding, Mary Lady Mason, Phineas.

And so the sessions ended.

Ellen

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To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive — Robert Louis Stevenson.

Inverness
Claire Randall (Catrionia Balfe) arriving at Inverness (Outlander 2015, 1st episode, opening)

Rhyme of a Journey from London to Edinburgh (1914)

Farewell to one city
a dawning of light
and hail to another
at fall of the night

On in the North steams
triumphant the train
ceaselessly grinding
a rhythmic refrain

Meadows fly past and
a luminous sheet
of wind-rippled water,
a grimy back street.

Stark rows of houses
break up the pale sky,
a jangle of coal-trucks,
a station passed by.

Cast the old thoughts that
troubled your mind
to drown in that river
left gleaming behind,

new ones come stirring
with live young wings
from rhythmical power
and swift-running things.

There’s a cathedral
in mist: as a dream
it has vanished, and slowly
we slacken and steam
into that station
whose girders of might
curve upwards, transfigured
in columns of light.

No stopping! No staying!
mad demons of speed
have boarded the engine
are hissing their greed.

Sudden lurch forward
and once more away
and see, we are racing
the dying of day!

A bridge we are crossing
with thunderous swerve;
left and right flashes
a river’s gold curve;

Glittering windows
rise tier upon tier
held steeped in the sunset
what city is here?

To twilight, to darkness
and night has begun
The miles of our journey
ae nearly outrun

Waken, wan travellers,
Look! very high
there stands the great castle
along the dark sky …
— Dorothy Seward Walton (When Evening Comes in the City, 1934)

Dear friends and readers,

A couple of nights ago I went to an enjoyable, informative and perceptive (what more could you want?) lecture at the Smithsonian museum on Robert Louis Stevenson’s life and writing by Stephen Arata, the professor editing the complete works of RLS (39 volumes and still going): towards the end telling us of Stevenson in the South Sea Islands and how gradually he began to write deeply sympathetically to the native cultures, in effect from a post-colonial critical standpoint, Prof Arata said Stevenson wrote that the Scots people were peculiarly well-situated to write from a global perspective. That might seem contradictory, given their half an island is mostly rock, not arable for farming, their intellectual “world” city small (half of it very old), but if you think about their relationship to England as a nearby colony, the massacre at Culloden and the enforced diaspora, and how they set forth to become colonialists themselves as well as subaltern people, it makes sense. More to the point: they write this way.

robert-louis-stevenson-1887
John Singer Sergeant (1856-1925), Robert Louis Stevenson (1887)

There is no coming back … on the impetuous stream of life. And we must all set our pocket-watches by the clock of fate. There is a headlong, forthright tide, that bears away man with his fancies like a straw, and runs fast in time and space — Robert Louis Stevenson.

Last summer I was working on a paper on Trollope from a post-colonialist standpoint; that meant reading about and works written in, and films from Australia as context; for Charlotte Smith this summer I am on the same wave length of a perspective, but the focus texts are two of her novels partly in Scotland, Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake (early novel, global in reach) and The Young Philosopher (last long fiction, ends in America), and whose affinities with Scottish women poets and novelists I wrote about this past fall, I’ve turned to Scotland. This a perfect excuse for immersion (wallowing is the more apt term) in the first season of Outlander (I’m one of those cut off from the present second season until it comes out on DVD), whose motifs and characters are uncannily like those of the second volume of Smith’s Young Philosopher (Englishwoman elopes to Highlands with Scottish laird, abducted, threatened with rape, saved in the nick of time &c&c), but that’s late at night.

cover

Daylight hours, I’ve read Margaret Oliphant’s the Ladies Lindores and her Autobiography, Scottish women’s poetry, and Margaret Atwood’s poetical sequence, the Journals of Susannah Moodie, Elizabeth Bohls’s Romantic Literature and Post-colonial studies (no less than two chapters on Scotland), some wonderful essays on Scottish women novelists in Lyndsay Luncan, Carla Sassi (&c&c&)’s Re-visioning Scotland, on Nan Shepherd, Christian Isobel Johnstone (nearly contemporary with Jane Austen, would you believe, on war and nationalism), all of which I heartily recommend. I moved into male Scottish writers’ texts too: I’ve just finished what might be the first English novel set partly in India, Scott’s The Surgeon’s Daughter (one of 3 novellas called Canongate Chronicles), and am now thinking of adding to my love of Stevenson’s essays, short stories, and travel books (Travels on a Donkey, The Amateur Emigrant), some of his South Sea Islands writing. I am most interested in the intersection of feminist insights with a post-colonial perspective on structuring of the characters’ experience otherwise. I’ll write about Stevenson and Atwood in a separate blogs dedicated to them alone.

THE PLANTERS
From Atwood’s Journals of Susannah Moodie (an book which is itself literally a work of art)

Free fall
is falling but at least it’s
free. I don’t even know
whether I jumped or was pushed,
but it hardly matters now
I’m up here. No wings
or net but for an instant
anyway there’s a great
view: the sea,
a line of surf, brown cliffs
tufted with scrub, your upturned
face a white zero.
I wish I knew
whether you’ll catch or watch.
— From Atwood, “Small Poems for the Winter Solstice,” True Stories (1981)

Tonight I thought I’d confine myself to sharing a little bit of Oliphant, Scott, a third poem (from An Anthology of Scottish Women Poets, ed Catherine Kerrigan) and a few remarks from the essays I’ve read, not to omit suggestive stills and words from Outlander.

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Edward_Lear,_Civita_Castellana_(1844)
Edward Lear, Civita Castellan (1844) — in her extraordinarily genuine account of her life as a writer, supporting her own and brother’s children, with her three boys and beloved Margaret (at age 9) dying before her, she tells of her travels to Italy and around Europe, a classical cosmopolitan landscape emerges

I loved Oliphant’s The Ladies Lindores and am anxious to read the sequel, The (later) life of Lady Carr. It’s a mix of a sensible and saturnine meditative insightful text (recalling Trollope repeatedly) within a deeply Scottish world from a quietly feminist standpoint. The story-line is complicated, with (like Scott’s) several divagating turns, a back-story set of characters who emerge to become the central figures, and then cannot forget back stories we never see dramatized. We begin with a great Scottish house, Dalrulzian whom John Erskine, a young Scotsman who has been brought up to be English, has come to live. For years Robert Lindores, a younger son living on a limited income in a cheap French spa, suddenly inherits a title and another grand house in the neighborhood, and proceeds to try to make his two daughters and son’s lives the means for him now to become well-connected, in power. The most memorable story dramatizes how he bullies his sensitive daughter Lady Caroline Lindores into marrying Pat Torrance, a man who ferociously bullies, mocks, and terrifies her. His wife’s values remain humane, decent, and she is appalled by the changes in him, but years of passivity, her real dependence, and not having values to oppose his with, has not the strength of character to oppose him. The third Lindores lady is the wry, sceptical Lady Edith, who escapes his Net, just and marries Erksine. A son, Lord Rintoul, by accident causes Pat Torrance to topple over a cliff, and Rolls, Erskine’s servant ends up confessing, thinking he is protecting his master, Erskine. Lady Car is enabled to marry Beaufort, the man she met at the spa, and has dreamed of ever since, seemingly congenial, sensitive, but like Erskine, Rintoul, he turns out to be less than admirable, and Lady Car’s marriage filled quieter tense dissatisfactions. An English young woman, living in Scotland, Nora, with a wise spinster Aunt Barbara, accepts Rintoul knowing what he has done. There is a disabled character (in effect), Millefleurs, an awkward wealthy cousin the father wanted Edith to marry grotesquely short; the irony of the novel is he is the best husband material of them all. The Scottish servants are the loyal and constant characters, keep the whole order steady, and together with the bourgeois characters (lawyers, doctors) and rescue the upper class ones from calamity.

HoratioMcCullough
Horatio McCullough, 19th century Scottish landscape painter

Margaret Rubrik has written deeply engagingly about Olipant’s sceptical and unromantic attitudes, especially toward marriage, and about the Caroline story in The Ladies Lindores:

“Only wishful thinkers refuse to accept the unpleasant insight that even the beloved is a simple person with warts. Wherever idealists are not willing to cut their dreams down to size and accommodate themselves to all too human flaws, marriages end tragically, as in the case of Lady Car, whose career Oliphant pursues through two novels -— The Ladies Lindores and Lady Car -— and two unhappy marriages.

Unlike the docile things whom time teaches to cherish the “proper” feelings for their husbands, Lady Car continues to view her brutal first husband with unabated repugnance. Her feelings of nausea and sexual violation, as she had to comply with her repulsive husband’s desires at his bidding, are illustrated by her overt jubilation at his death and symbolised in the image of his trespassing into her room.

“To think I shall never be subject to all that any more—that he can never come in here again— that I am free—that I can be alone. Oh mother, how can you tell what it is? Never to be alone: never to have a corner in the world where— some one else has not a right to come, a better right than yourself. I don’t know how I have borne it. I don’t know how I can have lived, disgusted, loathing myself.” (The Ladies Lindores, II,14, 232f.)

In her second marriage to her childhood sweetheart Car does not find the hoped-for happiness either. She secretly blames Beaufort for letting her marry someone else first; for allowing her to be forced to perform sexual acts with a man she hated and for allowing her children to be fathered by a brute. All of these humiliations are so completely beyond a man’s scope of perception that he cannot understand them.

“Why expose me to all the degradations which nobody could impose on you?” (Lady Car, 7,123)

Beaufort cannot grasp the horror she feels at any association with her prior life, and thoughtlessly relishes his deceased rival’s luxury.

However, it is bitterest for Car to share the insight typical of Oliphant’s heroines that Beaufort is not the epitome of the crusader and social reformer she first fell in love with. She, who, like Dorothea Brooke, wanted to act as a muse for her husband’s magnum opus, attempts desperately, but in vain, to reawaken his enthusiasm for the visions he has lost all interest in.

Don Quixote disenchanted, ready to burn all his chevalier books, and see the fun of his misadventures, but urged to take the field by some delicate Dulcinea, could not have been more embarrassed and disturbed. (Lady Car, 4,74)

Car is one of those dreamers who seek perfection and do not content themselves with less than the absolute. In her analysis of the novel, Showalter reproaches Oliphant for identifying with Car’s disappointment at her indolent husband and her dull children, and for wanting to solicit pity for a passive, indeed even parasitic form of life.

Mrs. Oliphant never fully faces the dangers of a social myth that places the whole weight of feminine fulfilment on husband and children … [and] The tone of the book is certainly pathetic at times. However, it would be erroneous to believe that Oliphant sees her heroine uncritically or fails to recognise the fallacy of the domestic myth. On the contrary, she realises the problematic nature of Car’s immature idealism, and in many other novels she draws women who are not dependent on marriage and the family for their self-esteem. Car, on the other hand, must fail in her attempt to achieve the Victorian ideal that expects a woman to find complete fulfilment in marriage and her children.

The question as to how a relationship can work without admiration or even respect for one’s partner is posed time and again in Oliphant’ s novels because of her unconventional view of gender roles.

It must be admitted this is not a novel where a post-colonial perspective is of much help; it is rather deeply rooted Scottish landscape from which its visual poetry comes. In the novel I am especially drawn to her disillusioned axioms about life: such a we all live alone no matter how surrounded by others. Quiet convincing. Her tone so immediate and strong, with a real voice coming through.

Persephonebook
Persephone books cover

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Walter Scott (of course): The Surgeon’s Daughter has a pattern I see repeated over and over: a woman is swallowed up by the traditional culture: she either elects to marry or become a mistress of the non-western male, or she is threatened with or actually raped, traumatized, never the same again. The result is the same: retirement, retreat from the outward world. Who thought Scott would link to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust and Ahdaf Soueif’s Map of Love. But so it is, with Smith’s two texts (Ethelinde, Young Philosopher), a first or early formulation. In the case of the poets, the women poets become sympathetic ethnographers and mythologers. In Scott’s novella, What I enjoyed best are the two ironic prefaces: these stumbling made up older male characters Scott writes as — it’s funny and melancholy about publishing and writing issues. Also a brief retelling in swift effective tones of the story as found in some newspaper or chronicle. Rob Rob has a similarly chilling retelling of a bloody set of murders — these are by Scott himself people forget. I also liked the opening where we meet the Scots country doctor, his son, who also becomes a doctor, the villain-protagonists, and our prosaic heroine. Our moral compass is found here, in the home-y early rural scenes. Maybe one way of accounting for the richness of Scott, how much can be taken from him is that his “filler” counts so enormously too and is so varied.

John_frederick_lewis-reception1873
John Frederick Lewis (1804-76), The Reception (1873) — Scott’s vision is orientalist

The interesting thing about the text is that the threat of being a sex slave hovering over our heroine begins at the outset as in the older editions of the 19th century, the chronicle tale where the kernel story is told in less than 2 pages was put first. I have an old Everyman of rob Rob where a bloody chronicle tale is put first. It is important to remember that Scott wrote these too, supposedly paraphrasing with great concision. Yet we get back to that so circuitously. Another one is Kenilworth: I have an old Everyman where the poem Scott cites as his inspiration is put first. Then suddenly at the end of the novel we have this gorgeous barbaric scene. The inference to be drawn (as is common in Scott’s novels) is how irrational and ruthless are men, how prone to horrific violence, which they constrain by their ceremonies. After all as with Ivanhoe and other of Scott’s novels, the surgeon’s daughter though at the end the crux of the issue (will she become a sex slave of a son of a powerful Indian prince), is a minor character in the book. She is rarely on stage, and when she is we do not get much individual insight into her: she remains archetypal.

I know that those film adaptations of Scott I’ve seen often zero as quickly as they can on just those immediate active evens which lead to one of his denouements, stripping away introductions, prefaces, and especially those (often long) parts of the story which dramatize prosaic “ordinary” scenes which are nonetheless essential to understand what is going on, what to infer and what is the inference. From a post-colonial standpoint Scott shows us how as a group the Europeans are viciously exploitative so that individuals can come away super-rich, but also that the native people in power are just as bad to their people. We have the usual very few virtuous characters, many ambivalent ones and a presentation of what power does. We also how people’s characters can change as they cross borders of different cultural groups.

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I don’t want to be overlong so end on a few thoughts gleaned from Bohls and Sassia, and a poem by Margaret Gillies Brown, “Emigrant Journey.”

womendancigatstones
Women dancing around the stones (paratexts of Outlander 2015-16)

How can we present and read landscape so that it is not equated with nature and thus women’s bodies? Women dominate the landscape, and women’s medical magic is drawn from botany and particulars of Scottish landscape, but they are punished for this as witches, so their rituals at the stones, their dance may be turned against them. Their individual identities dissolve away as stories of women from the 19th century and before are read by 20th and 21st century female relatives, or just readers; they cross borders and belong nowhere (connected only by connection to a man within a family structure). Thus (like Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust, Soueif’s Map of Love) Atwood’s Alias Grace blends the several women, not from different times, but classes and places: Susannah Moodie who wrote of Grace accused of murder: aliases.

Emigrant Journey

There was the comfort and the all mod-con of home
With its recognisable dangers;
There was the journey,
1he endless coming on of the same wave,
The no-land time of ocean and high hopes
Until the icebergs rose
Like crystal palaces …

There was the moving days
And weary nights of train-hours overland,
The trees, the lakes, the straight and rolling plains
Until time stopped in sheer fantasy
Of a pre-dawn winter morning –
Gloved hand swinging the iron-hard handle

Of a frozen water pump
At the edge of a bark-rough cabin;
Above, the sky, moving strange magnificence,
Voile curtains of colour
Changing, shifting imperceptibly;
Below, the star sparkled snow –
A virgin’s looking glass
Where spruce trees shot the only shadows
That made no movement –
Silence, immensity of silence,
Oil fires were burning brands
Reaching for chiffon robes
Of an aurora of dancers
Repeating dream sequences …
I tried to wake from unreality,
Felt my spine freeze,
heard coyotes howling down the night.

—Margaret Gillies-Brown (poetry published 1970s-80s)

CrossingtheHighlands
Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Clare (Caitronia Balfe) crossing the highlands to Lallybroch (Outlander)

Ellen

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CrosbiemeetsMrHarding
Vignette for “Mr Crosbie meets an old clergyman on his way to Courcy Castle” (John Everett Millais, Chapter 6 of The Small House at Allington)

A Syllabus

The Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at George Mason University
Day: 6 Wednesdays, 11:50 am to 1:15 pm, Tallwood, 4210 Roberts Road, Fairfax
Dates: June 15 – July 20.
Dr Ellen Moody

Description of Course

TrollopesMapBarsetshire
Trollope’s own late map of Barsetshire, which indicates where to place Allington (look at top lefthand corner: Allington is between Silverbridge station and Guestwick Village)

Barsetshire 5: Trollope’s Small House at Allington

allington
Geroulds’ map of Allington

We will read The Small House at Allington and Trollope’s short story, “The Parson’s Daughter at Oxney Colne.” Rumor hath it (she isn’t always treacherous) this ripely-mature psychologically subtle novel is still cited when someone asks, “Which Trollope novel should I read first?”, and it’s one that has never fallen out of print. I encourage those who take this course to first watch the 1983 BBC mini-series, Barchester Chronicles and read Dr Thorne (Barsetshire 3) before the course begins. Alas the recent ITV mini-series, Dr Thorne (by Julian Fellowes is poor and Framley Parsonage (Barsetshire 4) has never been filmed. Trollope himself resisted including The Small House in the first publication of the whole Barsetshire series, so an attempt will be made to see the book in the context of his wider oeuvre, and time permits but one great relevant short story of the parson’s daughter (set in Devonshire), will enable us to see its themes more clearly from the different setting. The usual Barsetshire semi-comic resolution in both The Small House and “The Parson’s Daughter” is derailed entirely with the London world so aggressive that the conflicts in failure and price of success for a kind of existence (wealthy, powerful, prestigious) rip apart the earlier fractured pastoral world – for our uncomfortable contemporary consideration. We will also have Millais’s delicately beautiful illustrations to look at. Please have read “The Parson’s Daughter of Oxney Colne” before term begins. 6 weeks.

Required: Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, ed. Dinah Birch. London: Penguin, 1984. Also excellent intro in previous Oxford SHA, ed. James Kincaid ISBN 0192815520; and essay in back of Everyman SHA, ed. David Skilton (“Trollope and His Critics”) ISBN 9460877944

To view all Millais’s full page illustrations and vignette, go to Project Gutenberg.

Thebull
The bull (Millais, “Lord de Guest at Home,” Ch 22)

For “The Parson’s Daughter of Oxney Colne,” there are on-line etexts:

The Literature Network
From The University of Adelaide collected edition of Trollope

Also recommended “A Journey to Panama”
University of Adelaide collected edition of Trollope

If you’re wanting to read more Trollope, “Parson’s Daughter” and “A Journey to Panama” both are also found in the superb Anthony Trollope: Early Short Stories, ed. notes John Sutherland. NY: Oxford, 1994. ISBN 019282984

Carpetpicking
Lady Alexandria and her mother pick out the carpets as Crosbie watches: “That won’t do” (Millais, “Preparations,” Ch 40)

Format: Study group meetings will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

June 15: Trollope’s life, career; 1st 4 Barsetshires books; “The Parson’s Daughter.”
June 22: SHA, Chs 1-12: “Squire of Allington” to “Lilian Dale … a Butterfly”
June 29: SHA, Chs 13-24: “Guestwick” to “A Mother & Father-in-law”; read also McMaster on “The Unfortunate Moth.”
July 6: SHA, Chs 25-36: “Adolphus Crosbie spends an Evening at his Club” to “‘See the conquering hero, comes!'”; read also Turner on The Small House & the Cornhill
July 13: SHA, Chs 37-48: “Old Man’s Complaint” to “Nemesis” and “Trollope’s “A Journey to Panama.”
July 20: SHA, Chapters 49-60, “Wedding” to end; read also Gilead on “Trollope’s Orphans.”

LadyJuliaJohnny
Johnny talks to Lady Julia: “She has refused me and it is all over” (Millais, “The Second Visit,” Ch 54)

Suggested outside reading and sources (articles will be sent by attachment) and two films:

Barchester Chronicles. BBC mini-series, 1983. Dr. Gilles. Script Alan Plater. Featuring Donald Pleasance, Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Rickman, Susan Hampshire.
Bareham, Tony, ed. The Barsetshire Novels: A Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1983.
Dr Thorne. ITV mini-series, 2016. Dr.Niall McCormick. Script Julian Fellowes. Featuring Tom Hollander, Stephanie Martini
Gerould, Winifred Gregory and James Thayer. A Guide to Trollope: Index to Characters and Places, Digests of Plots. Princeton UP, 1987.
Gilead, Sarah. “Trollope’s Orphans and ‘the Power of Adequate Performance,” Texas Studies in Language and Literature, 27:1 (1985):86-105.
McDonald, Susan Peck. Anthony Trollope. Boston: Twayne, 1987.
McMasters, Juliet. “The Unfortunate Moth: The Unifying Theme of The Small House at Allington, Nineteeth Century Fiction, 26:2 (1962):127-44
Overton, Bill. The Unofficial Trollope. NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1982.
Snow, C. P. Trollope: An Illustrated Biography. New York: New Amsterdam, 1975.
Turner, Mark. “Gendered Issues: Intertextuality and The Small House at Allington in Cornhill Magazine, Victorian Periodicals Review, 26:4 (1993):228-34

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Ford Madox Brown (1821-93), Hampstead from my Window

On-line group readings and blogs:

From my website on Anthony Trollope
A group reading of The Warden
A blog on Barsetshire Towers
Shoverdosing on Barchester Chronicles: the BBC mini-series
Dr Thorne
Julian Fellowes’s Unwitting Dr Thorne: not quite hijacked by the elite
Framley Parsonage
A group reading of The Small House at Allington

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Tom Hollander as a film Dr Thorne (he is right for the part as written in the book)

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Clarissa (Saskia Wickham) struggles to free herself of the women who are imprisoning her, with Lovelace (Sean Bean) the POV (a scene in in Clarissa, the 1748 novel, by Richardson, from the 1991 film by David Nokes)

Dear friends and readers,

Since the New Yorker article by Adelle Waldman (for May 16th, 2016), “The Man who Made the Novel,” is presumably addressed to a wide audience, mostly made up of people who read little of 18th century novels, and have probably not read either Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (or Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, cited by Waldman), I write it here in my general blog rather than the one which focuses on Austen, the 18th century and women’s art. It’s precisely the audience such an article might hope to cavalierly misinform. Waldman (we are told) writes for “the Page-Turner” column of the New Yorker, and has written a novel. That is not encouraging as Johnson was right when he said (a phrase Waldman knows about) if you read Clarissa for the plot, you’d hang yourself. A page-turned it is only for occasional stretches of 300 pages or so. Then things slow down again to a glacial pace and you are expected to think and feel about small nuances as well as what has happened in contrast to so much that is being written and said dramatically.

To begin with, Waldman seems to know nothing, absolutely nothing, about the last 70 years of Richardson criticism, either academic or feminist or common reader style; her perspectives are drawn from a combination of the hostile burlesque text on Richardson’s Pamela by Fielding called Shamela, and some remarks by Coleridge evidencing Coleridge’s revulsion at the openly sexual point of view in Richardson’s work (sex presented in this way had disappeared by Coleridge’s era). There really are other points of view on Richardson beyond loathing and mocking him. I write though more because to treat a central text about rape which is a masterpiece and sympathetic towards the raped girl so hostilely and obtusely is to do a real disservice to attempt of women to end the acceptance of rape, of an attitude towards sex which defines it as violent aggressive genital sex, of misogyny towards women. On all three issues Richardson is among the first to defend women. He didn’t invent the novel, but he did make it possible for women to write novels about their experience of life intimately for the first time through his epistolary mode.

Very generally, Waldeman’s article resembles Adam Gopnik’s essay, “Trollope Trending,” in the New Yorker last year on Anthony Trollope around the time of his bicentennial (Trollope was born April 24, 1815). Gopnik was offering what is the common reader’s consensus view on Trollope; not one based on reading the majority of his novels, but the Barsetshire and Parliamentary (now called Palliser) novels, with a couple of famous ones still read, especially The Way We Live Now (there was even a film adaptation by Andrew Davies). Like many who have read more Trollope than this, and much of the criticism, I found Gopnik inadequate, and in a way misleading — at least insofar as he suggested Trollope is a more or less complacent writer of “novels of manners” whose purview is narrowly English. But he was not wrong, and he was not hostile. Tellingly, he resembled Waldman in a put-down and mockery of academic criticism. A colleague of mine asked me, why do these popular mainstream publications find it necessary to target better criticism? One answer is the jargon, but the other is the usual resentment, desire to tear down half-class based, of anything perceived as high-minded and difficult. Doing this makes some readers feel better.

Early on in the article Waldman does bring up to dismiss a new book on the new edition of the (for the first time) complete letters of Richardson: Louise Curran’s Samuel Richardson and the Art of Letter-Writing (p 86 in the print copy). Nothing new is learned says Curran, and it seems that nothing new has even been added to what we knew of Richardson since Anna Barbauld’s six volume edition of a part of the letters in the early 19th century since Waldman’s description of the letters reminds me of the way many have reacted to Richardson’s correspondence with Lady Bradshaigh (she flatters him and he condescends) which was the center of the old edition. Perhaps the new complete edition of the letters and this book occasioned this essay.

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Samuel Richardson as painted by Joseph Highmore (as a non-univesity man who has made a success as a printer, and writer, Richardson presents himself with the visibilia of a cultivated gentleman)

But the couple of paragraphs on this study and thus announcement that we have a thorough complete edition of Richardson’s letters for the first time is but minor turn in the piece. (see my response to a comment on this.) The major thrust is a thorough put-down of Richardson and his novels, all of them. The opening is sheer snobbery. Who would expect a carpenter’s son who attended school only intermittently to have written influential novels — I won’t use the word innovative, brilliant as Waldman doesn’t credit the books with this. How surprising that that this “obscure businessman,” a man of “strait-laced morality,” “defensive,” tended to brag (I’m not making this any more dense with slurs than the text) could have written Pamela, which we are told is about “the turbulent emotional life of a teen-age girl.” She does not go on herself to enter into this world; she takes out a little time to feel sorry for Mr B, the master (the man in the novel trying to rape Pamela or get her to have sex with him without having to marry her), and then moves on to Clarissa, which it seems is full of “harrowing binds” for heroines.

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From the Simon Brett illustrations to the Folio Society unabridged text of Clarissa — certainly a harrowing bind, drugged, held down &c&c — the unhappy character is even falling out of the frame

As with her first turn, she seems to feel far more for the rapist than than take his target seriously. Clarissa in this version is very faulty — lies to herself. Then we get this old canard: she is longing for, falls in love with her “dashing admirer.” Apparently no means yes in Waldman’s universe. She is then accused of being proud. How dare she not want this man? I cannot resist asking my reader to see my paper on “Rape in Clarrisa: ‘What right have you to detain me here?'”) Sigh. Poor dear. According to Waldman, Clary becomes mortifyingly dependent on Lovelace to marry her (!). It seems “the only obstacles to their [Clarissa and Lovelace’s] happiness are the ones they create themselves.” Waldman has not paid much attention to Lovelace’s character at all.

I wondered how carefully she had read the book. Did she know the rape was an aggravated assault type? she seems indifferent to the issue. Does it not matter that a man has tried to rape you when he asks you to marry him in a culture where he will have all power over you, your money, your future choices, your pregnancies? does she know that whenever asked Clary refuses to marry Lovelace and after the rape, he’s the last person whose power she’d put herself in. Which abridgement did she skim?. There is a 500 page Signet abridgement, far far less than a quarter of the book, one which seems to me to bring out most centrally the letters between Anne Howe, Clarissa’s friend, and Clarissa. On my website you may read very readable postings on the two principals, and the centrality of the money and property and rape issue “A year of reading Clarissa in real date time”.

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Clarissa (Saskia Wickham) under pressure from her male relatives over the inheritance her grandfather has left her

After Waldman has finished what she has to say about the novel, she again feels surprised, this time over Austen’s partiality to Richardson, and especially Grandison, his third book (which however Waldman knows enough to doubt as this is an attribution of her brother). She turns to Fielding is a standard of comparison — after all he showed up Pamela so well. Having just studied Tom Jones with a group of student I was really startled by the totally inadequate view of Fielding’s book which is apparently the modern consensus (perhaps taken from either of the movies): it seems Fielding presents us with “healthy sex;” his satire is “congenial” “urbane”.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it Waldman has not read Hume’s recent essay on how at long last this enlightened easy-going complacent Fielding (frat-boy) has been put to rest (scroll down). I tried myself to do justice to the complex ambivalent sexuality vis-a-vis money and many other issues in Tom Jones as well as Fielding’s troubled personality and difficult life in a series of blogs I wrote after reading the novel with a group of intelligent older adults: “After teaching Tom Jones for 10 weeks.”

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A final still from the film: Clarissa’s grave — there she finds peace

Why break a butterfly on a wheel or even bother to write about this essay? To suggest that Richardson’s Clarissa has apparently become a book so rarely read by anyone outside a coterie of 18th century scholars. I did know the insightful humane and feminist scholarship of the 1980s, has been superseded with new challenges to a sympathetic reading of the heroine (I’ve heard demoalizingly anachronistic reactions to her behavior as that of a “freak”), as well as new deconstructionist, gender-oriented and “new historist” readings. For the reader of this blog, I recommend Terry Eagleton’s short Rape in Clarissa to start with; but here’s a select bibliography: for a book to read with as you go through Clarissa, you can do no better than Mark Kinkead-Weekes. There’s also an anthology of good essays by Margaret Doody and Peter Sabor with the intimidating title: Samuel Richardson: Tercentary Essays. If Trollope’s books have been available for 200 years, Richardson have been for 300.

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Clarissa is thrown into a spunging-house by Lovelace’s machinations (she is said to owe her rent) and finds more quiet and safety there than she has had in a long time — and so she writes on

It hurt me to see Richardson’s Clarissa treated in this manner. It’s distressing the writer is a woman. Is she just a particularly dense and careless reader? Or is the erasure of feminism in the public media a response to entrenched attitudes which the 1980s second wave of feminism (which saw the importance of sexual liberation) scratched only the surface of? I have been thinking of daring to do Clarissa with adult readers (people who are the New Yorker audience — they did love Gopnik’s essay). For readers who don’t examine sexuality much (think about it), the two books (TJ and Clary) were always difficult, but I take heart that the 1991 film did justice to Clarissa. I must refer my reader to yet another outside source (if I tried to argue any of this material it would make an egregiously overlong blog): my paper Noke’s film adaptation, “‘How you all must have laughed. What a witty masquerade!”. Maybe I ought to be take this New Yorker article as a sign that more people need to read the book than have been doing lately, and do it next spring at the Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning at American University a year from this fall.

I did ask on the 18th century listserv I’m on how people find teaching Richardson’s Clarissa in either abridged or complete form. But answer came there none.

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Anne Howe (Hermione Norris) reading one of Clarissa’s letters — Anne is a favorite character for me

Ellen

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The first shot of Tom Hollander as Dr Thorne in the film’s first scene with

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Stephanie Martini as Mary Thorne, where she asks the question [visible in the subtitle] as a prompt for Hollander, Prospero-like to tell us and her not just many chapters of history but what is held back until near the end of the book’s plot-design (ITV Dr Thorne, 2015, scripted Julian Fellowes, director Niall MacCormick)

Friends and readers,

Julian Fellowes has managed to turn the novel Michael Sadleir ended his ground-breaking study of Trollope on (the book that first attracted respectable attention to Trollope — with preferring Dr Thorne to The Way We Live Now) into an embarrassment. A telling travesty. Reviewers veer from lamenting the very existence of this throw-back to picturesqueness as a travesty to earnestly showing how it has eliminated just about everything that counts in the novel. Viv Groskop of The Guardian suggested we take a drug to forget this disgrace. The courteous and judicious Alison Moulds of the Victorian clinic demonstrated the central matter of the tale, medicine and illness, comic and tragic, is left out. As might have been expected, Philip Hensher of the Telegraph demonstrates that the point Fellowes gets across (and by implication, Trollope’s) is that it’s impossible to cross (ontological?) class boundaries.

As it happened when the film aired on British TV, I was teaching the novel to a group of retired adults genuinely engaged by the book. Two British, the rest American. Contrary to Hensher (and like a number of scholarly critics, e.g. James Kincaid), they are persuaded this is an obsessive attack on the mindset that erects uncrossable boundaries and about the hurt (Mary made a taboo person) and damage, indeed death (Sir Roger’s and Sir Louis’s) the behavior enacting this idea incurs. Miss Dunstable’s role is to expose the hypocrisy of the social codes as we watch money and power throw people away, ruin their lives (e.g., Mr Romer, the liberal barrister who tried to help Roger Scatcherd, the railway contractor and banker) into parliament). I had hoped to screen the film until I saw that (worse than Downton Abbey where all deeper issues may be skimmed over, but at least suggested) Fellowes was simply not going to allow any depth to this, among Trollope’s most emotionally direct of all his novels. I admit there was no character they hated more than Lady Arabella and Fellowes fed this by giving full vent to her as the villainess who experiences a mortifying comeuppance (rather like Miss O’Brien and other upper level servants in Downton Abbey). She is in many scenes endlessly repeating her mantra, but then she is presented simply as winning out, having her way in the end. Rebecca Front was given this thankless role as she was given an analogous sycophantic snob in Andrew Davies’s recent War and Peace.

Trollope’s novel utterly resists treating it as light satiric comedy or “fairy tale romance” (which Fellowes in the feature labels his film and by extension Trollope’s book).

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As Hollander squirms and twists his body to avoid the barrage, the scene becomes a tasteless joke

So why bother write about? Fellowes’s erasure and corrections reveal where the power of the novel lies and where there are cranks for us in Trollope’s attitudes.

In all the Fellowes’s films I’ve seen thus far he abjures all flashbacks, voice-over, soliloquy, montage, filmic epistolarity (where a character writes or reads a letter that is voiced by the actor who is played the character who wrote the letter) or any techniques that demands we go into the vulnerable psychology of any character to the extent of questioning a norm or value asserted. Trollope’s first four chapters are a daring retelling of deep, intermediate general past, and individuals personal histories (which he ironically apologizes for). He then recurs repeatedly throughout the novel to these pasts so that when the character in a social scene reveals his inner psychology, we realize the context which has given rise to this self normally hidden to us in our daily lives the social scenes. I had not realized how the novel is continually working through, back and forth, deeply layered intertwined time until I watched this film adaptation. In most of Trollope’s novels we recognize his gifts for showing the private self unable not to reveal itself in the social scene for those with eyes to see and understand (Trollope’s narrator and occasional preternatually perceptive characters like the Signora Neroni and Miss Dunstable). Here in Trollope’s seventh book he was consciously adding to that by making the character a product of a particular time, relationship, literal and social space.

Since Fellowes resists all deep wide explanation that filmic techniques can offer (including in-depth dialogue), all we have as opening for the film is some dialogue of nasty excluding of Mary from Frank’s coming birthday party by his (in this film) by his stupid dense and clumsy sister, Augusta (Gwyneth Keyworth) egged on by the apparently frigid manipulative Lady Alexandrina de Courcy (Kate O’Flynn). We then launch into Frank’s proposal to Mary to marry him, her “no,” and stay in the superficial linear time of the present, with the party, and Lady De Courcy’s nagging Frank (Harry Richardson, who plays the part of a privileged sheltered and thus idealistic male aristocrat — true to the book) to chase the rich Miss Dunstable (Alison Brie) now an inanely giggling rich American. (I read that the ITV people were told they would get no American funding unless they had an American character in the cast.) As in Downton Abbey Phoebe Nicholls is given the distasteful role of an utterly ineffectual despicable older woman bully. (She is paid well for it.) Fellowes just loves to invent this kind of female monster. But he must tell the important past or the present story makes no sense. How to do it? he is reduced to having Hollander as Thorne in the very first scene he appears, Prospero-like, tell Stephanie Martini as Miranda, just about everything in one go of her sordid Scatcherd family background. Since there is too much to tell, Thorne and Mary get together twice more (after the said party) and again in the second episode after her other uncle, Sir Roger Scatcherd’s death. What’s done for compression leaves the effect of a story turned inside out.

Far from admitting to anything serious in the novel, in the feature released on the DVD, Fellowes says he regards the book as a fairy tale romance. What he has done is chosen the scenes susceptible to being presented as light satiric comedy. I had not realized before what an experimental novel this is in its use of layered past and movement within different times and memories.

Then Fellowes has the problem of the book’s hinge points which he feels he cannot eliminate. Scatcherd must die so that Mary can win the property. In the novel Scatcherd dies from alcoholism and we read a rare protracted death scene in a Trollope novel. The man has drunk himself to death because he has not been accepted by his true peers because of his lack of surface manners, he regrets deeply what has happened to his son who has been similarly ostracized and exploited, but can do nothing about it. The unhappy man his son has become results from cultural realities beyond his reach. Trollope captures perfectly the mood of someone near death, and shows us that real kindness to such a person is to take seriously what they have to say and respond to it — as Dr Thorne does and Sir Roger’s son does not. He is devastated when the powerful remove him from the place in Parliament he has worked hard to win.

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Lady Scatcherd (Janine Duvitski) over-hearing her husband talk to Thorne

I’m told that Ian McShane is a great actor; well he’s thrown away here. He is presented as foolish jackass. His alcoholism is made a joke of in order to us to laugh at elections as such. The working and townspeople are of course fools, and McShane directed to play the part archly until he falls into a pigsty. (Fellowes might tell us, have you not been watching how popular Donald Trump is?) In the book’s death scene, the pain of Scatcherd’s isolation is made worse because Thorne himself has invested so much in Mary, he cannot get himself to allow Scatcherd to know or to see her after Scatcherd first offers all his money to her and his son, if Thorne will encourage a marriage with that son. This horrifies Thorne who is as exacerbated by the class structure of the place as anyone. He wants above all that his darling niece-daughter be a lady, live with ladies and gentleman and turn to him. And how does Fellowes treat this matter at the center of the second episode? For a moment I had a hard time believing that Fellowes was allowing Thorne allow Mary to come over and nurse Scatcherd so we could get this emotional bath of sentimentality instead and listen to McShane as Scatcherd say he is consoled for his “misspent existence.”

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“Very well,” says Hollander, and the puzzled angel appears, at which McShane says he thinks he will now cope better with “what is to come … ”

Beyond erasing all the material hung from the present time romance story (including its use of excruciating and satiric letter presences), Fellowes has done a Nahum Tate, a David Garrick! Nahum Tate was the man who rewrote King Lear to give it a happy ending; Garrick-like was the the man who rewrote Romeo and Juliet so as to make the lovers wake up to bid sentimental tearful farewells before they lie down to die. He reverses Trollope’s Dr Thorne’s refusal to allow Sir Roger to see or be seen by his sister Mary’s grown daughter, lest he, Dr Thorne, be dispossessed of what has made his existence meaningful, before he dies, even when Scatcherd threatens to leave all his fortune away from her (without which Mary has only the interest from 800£ in the funds, all Dr Thorne has managed to “amass” from his village doctor practice). Perhaps he thought no one reads Dr Thorne, or if we read it, we don’t remember it. Is there no limit to the man’s contempt for his audience?

Well yes.

Fellowes almost unexpectedly turns Scatcherd’s son, Sir Louis (Edward Franklin), the character pitied by Trollope’s narrator just a little, but most often despised, caricatured, sneered at, presented as a money-hungry creditor (as if he has no right to look into the arrangements Dr Thorne has made to keep Squire Gresham afloat all these years) — into the tragic hero of the film story. A chunk of its second episode and full third of the last was given over to a mortifying plangent rendition of Louis’s pursuit of Mary Thorne, his excruciatingly inept presence at a dinner party and then death (not from delirium tremens) but a suppurating bleeding lung (reminiscent in its stagy-ness of Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham near death for a few seconds in Downton Abbey) because he galloped across the landscape out of anguish at her rejection and fell off his horse and punctured his rib cage with the horse’s saddle. This subtextual slapstick is not in Trollope.

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Among the character’s last lines is “she thought me a buffoon,” but Fellowes has not lifted him out of that

Fellowes has highlighted a problem his predecessor film adaptors managed to finesse. What are we to do with Trollope’s shameless stigmatizing of lower class males trying to “ape” gentlemen as ultimately slime to be expelled? In 1983 Alan Plater, scriptwriter of Barchester Chronicles (and thus the linchpin person) cast the part against type by hiring Alan Rickman and then had Rickman play the part with a self-controlled dignity, guarded rage, subtle manipulative ability (though out-maneuvred by Susan Hampshire as the irresistible erotic Signora Neroni). Before that a full 40 years ago (1975) in The Pallisers Simon Raven similarly endowed Trollope’s anti-semitic depiction of a Jewish hypocritical murderer, the Rev Emilius (Anthony Ainley) with a seething intensity of ambition that the amoral Lizzie Eustace (Sarah Badel) was too stupid to flee from. Fellowes, though, wanted to grant the character a full burden of human gravitas earlier, but could not pull out enough depth to invent longer scenes to show this. All we get is his screeching at his mother, Lady Scatcherd, how could you prefer Frank to me? Lady Scatcherd (as in Trollope) is otherwise mostly caricatured but as Lady Scatcherd’s preference for the heir is too much even for Fellowes (and he feared too much for pious viewers) Fellowes made her feeling acceptable by having her much earlier on insist how she loved both equally. To this low is Trollope brought and for those who know the text exposed.

I grant Fellowes much of the dialogue used in the film is in the novel — he chose the surface dialogues. He transfers the powerful epistolary narrative chapter where Augusta is treacherously persuaded to give up a possible happy marriage with the De Courcy solicitor, Mr Gazebee (Nicholas Rowe) on the grounds of his lack of rank into pantomime comic moments of dramatic startle. Her great cousin-friend, advisor has grabbed Gazebee for herself.

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Augusta is made into an “old maid” buffoon

There are a lot of silences. Another actor-character thrown away is Richard McShane as Squire Gresham; he wanders around looking sheepish by the end behaving as if by not cold-shouldering others he’s doing enough. In the book it is his unexamined snobbery and self-indulgence in the book that wasted the Gresham fortune; the ambivalent and interesting friendship with Thorne and their dialogues are gone. Istead Fellowes has Hollander as Thorne giving Brie as Miss Dunstable sly glances. Yet the man avoids montage so the explanation at the end must be gone through in words character by character.

As a side note the production did not pay for the the use of the houses. We never see anyone going in and out. They were filmed from afar and then we found ourselves in the usual sets. One reminded me of the set from the 2009 Sense and Sensibility for Norland Park.

Ironically the film adaptation vindicates Trollope from being seen as simply material which lends itself for hijacking from the elite. Last year John McCourt asked why the bicentennial celebrations were so muted? He suggested that the kinds of things done were not the sorts of events a larger audience, especially one not equipped with tuxes and gowns could easily join into. As has been said before (John Letts among those saying this), Trollope has partly been hijacked by his elite mainstream fans. I’d maintain that more than his academic readers lean to the left. Plater wrote brilliantly radical 1970s style plays for TV and stage; Simon Raven was radical in his outlook; Andrew Davies is a humane left-leaning liberal; Herbert Herbert’s gem, “Malachi’s Cove” shows just how down-to-earth is Trollope’s appreciation of humanity.

So while I regret very much this opportunity to film another Barsetshire book was botched, it’s salutary to see the material of this Trollope novel resist the kind of treatment Fellowes tries to give it. A friend said to me this film adaptation is something Popplecourt (from The Duke’s Children) might have written. Perhaps that’s too strong, but pace what I’ve heard some fans say, Trollope’s novels are not at all like P. G. Wodehouse.

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A rare far shot of the bedroom scene: Winterbones taking notes, Scatcherd helped up from his bed by Thorne, Lady Scatcherd leaving …

Ellen

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