Archive for the ‘Trollope’ Category

“Is it the poor house, yer honor?” (Rod Walters, illustration for Folio Society Castle Richmond)

Dear friends and readers,

This is my fourth and last report of the papers given at the Trollope Bicentennial Conference in Leuven, Belgium (see 1, 2, 3). I combine late Friday afternoon, early Saturday morning (Sept 18th-19th). I was not able to stay for Saturday afternoon, nor J. Hillis Miller’s videotaped talk, on the pleasures of Trollope’s obstinacy, and no one has (as far as I can tell) put a full YouTube up onto the Net, so I will end on an account of some of the questions and discussions that occur after and between sessions. The last panels I was able to hear were Mother (Frances), Irish (or Anglo-Irish) and Formal Trollope (his art and forms).

Frances Trollope as painted by Auguste Hervieu

Panel 9: Mother Trollope. Helen Blythe discussed specific and general parallels of which there are many between Frances and Anthony Trollope’s fictions. Frances began her career in her 50s, and saved the family from financial ruin, herself from a destroyed life with a half-mad destroyed man by writing a huge number of novels over the years. She began with how the story of an uncontrollably hot-tempered husband in Frances’s One Fault has striking parallels with Trollope’s novel of sexual anxiety, madness and competition for marital dominance, He Knew He Was Right, with its brief reprise, this time with an accent on a secret clandestine relationship, and who gets to control whom in Kept in the Dark. The underlying suggestion is the derivation of these stories from the near-breakup of Trollope’s parents marriage and her flight with Hervieu. (All discussed ably in Helen Heineman’s excellent biography, Mrs Trollope.) Ms Blythe’s theme though was Frances’s use of the “mother’s voice” in her fiction. Frances presents what it means to be a woman or man, and she took this opportunity to connect Helene Cixous’s urging of women to seize the occasions of sexual experience as a core launching pad for novel writing.

Lucy Sheenan also spoke of mothers in Frances’s fiction: while they fulfill their task of producing adults, in character they are alienated, estranged, seek to flee their immediate environment. Slave women are mother machines, but we see in Jefferson Whitlaw a mother who survives by hardening herself and resembles the mothers on Trollope’s factory floors. Women are seen as consummate actresses, containing their energy for revolt inside themselves. Martha Barnaby, at first a widow, and then remarried, is a comic version of mothering who supports a useless husband, saving her deepest affection for her children; we are told the Widow Barnaby will surely write a book defending slavery for money; when she cries we see she is not de-humanized. The mortality statistics of the era reveal agonies of exhausted underfed hard-word dying children; Frances’s factory town is pregnant with wasted bodies: the imagery of the books shows their origin in l’ecriture-femme too.

Contemporary illustration of Frances Trollope’s Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy.

Greg Vargo and Elsie Michie discussed this maternal groundwork in Frances Trollope’s fiction from other angles. Mr Vargo discussed Frances Trollope’s politically controversial condition of England novels. In 1838 Trollope wrote Jessie Philips: A Tale of the Present Day, showing us the social roles imposed on women through individual researched stories. He suggested Anthony Trollope’s criticisms of Dickens could easily be applied to Frances’s but Dickens’s Oliver Twist ends where Michael Armstrong begins. An upper class woman saves a boy suffering degrading abuse and violence in a factory; he has to leave his brother behind. Advertised in the Northern Star (1859) it was widely read as a Chartist appeal despite her denials. Frances’s novels show survivor guilt; they are contradictory, have convoluted endings, tell tales of emigration.

Picture Shows: LAURA FRASER as Emily Trevelyan and BILL NIGHY as Colonel Osborne TX: TBA  Following the award-winning success of his adaption of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, Andrew Davies brings a surprisingly new perspective in his reworking of Trollope's searing novel, He Knew He Was Right. "This is an unusual Trollope" says Davies. "A dark and edgy portrait of a marriage in trouble which feels startingly modern - it's Trollope's take on the Othello story".  A tale of a man who allows his jealousy to become a tragic obsession. The timeless issues of jealousy and marital breakdown provides the backdrop for this compelling story, pitching the demanding and traditional Louis (OLIVER DIMSDALE) against his strong-willed wife Emily (LAURA FRASER),  a thoroughly modern heroine.  Warning: Use of this copyright image is subject to Terms of Use of BBC Digital Picture Service.  In particular, this image may only be used during the publicity period for the purpose of publicising HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT and provided BBC is credited. Any use of this image on the internet or for any other purpose whatsoever, including advertising or other commercial uses, requires the prior written approval of the BBC.
Laura Fraser as Emily Trevelyn and Bill Nighy as Colonel Osborne: Louis’s insecurity and madness is Andrew Davies’s emphasis

Elsie Michie offered a detailed analysis of He Knew He Was Right, showing how the novel channels changes in custody law and custom; how matrimonial cruelty is redefined so it does not depend on physical cruelty. Michie went over contemporary court cases (Bulwer-Lyttons, Caroline Norton) where the husband’s cumulative cruelty over time is at least taken into consideration. Troubled relationships and agency brought into court where legal process takes over. Ms Michie did not look at the novel from a feminist standpoint nor the more recent outlook of Mark Turner, from that of the sophisticated male reader who might see in Osborne a dark portrait of himself. Hers was like the papers earlier in the day on teaching Trollope from the angle this time of Frances Trollope as pioneer for custody and marital reform generally understood.

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19th century depiction of Irish farmers stopping the aristocratic hunt

Panel 10: Irish Trollope. The speakers in this panel were in genuine disagreement. Gordon Bigelow argued Trollope’s Irish novels fail because 1) he failed to find an audience for them; and 2) he never established a set of significant tropes to present his vision through. Mr Bigelow felt many editors today do not think the Irish novel added anything different or significant to the Victorian novel; the Irish experience cannot be adapted to worlds of privilege; plots of abduction, murder, violent cutthroat action are needed. In Landleaguers we have such incidents centrally but otherwise we otherwise see purposeless activities: law gets nowhere (nullified); the hunt (which requires the preservation of the vermin, foxes, the sport was originally set up to kill) does not bring any commnity together except as protest and push-back. Trollope’s usual way is to decode tension inside a created harmony; the hunt cannot work this way because the people doing it are desperate and these is no single unified community to sustain it. There are many such riffs across these 5 novels Macdermots of Ballycloran, Kellys and OKellys, Castle Richmond, An Eye for an Eye, Landleaguers). They thus falter when it comes to speaking for the Irish. Ireland captivated Trollope; it freed him from the imprisonment of stigma, but Trollope justifies things as they are, as he did not in say The Warden where everyone is self-serving.

Ardkill Cottage in An Eye for an Eye (Elisa Trimby illustrator for Folio Society edition)

John McCourt felt that while Trollope’s Irish novels are problematic, there is much richness in them; they are successful Irish art. In the Macdermots we find an attempt to write the language according to 19th century Irish phonetics, with one of its heroes a Catholic Irish priest. It is a penetrating depiction of the destruction of an old Irish family by the Catholic Irish speculating class; Keegan is a disguised version of Trollope himself. (Mr McCourt did not mention how the house is a version of Julian Hills, the father Trollope’s father to.) When Trollope found himself “at home” in Ireland, welcomed, he set about to tell truths; intertwined the Protestant Anglo-Irish with the Catholic Irish, exposed the British colonialist police practices. The theme of hospitality and forgiveness are treated comically in his two Irish short stories, tragically in An Eye for An Eye: Neville, the English officer is the villain; though all the characters use one another. The Kellys and OKellys use the intertwining patterns and character types rich and complicated; the places described vivid with life (from kitchen to race course); we have a murderous brother, with a plangent Irish heroines who is virtuous. Mr McCourt included the two Phineas books in Trollope’s Irish oeuvre; Phineas is kept in surveillance, and thrown out when he tries to become his own man in parliament. Accused of murdering the ultimate trimmer, Bonteen, he learns how much of an outsider he remains, and cannot get himself to accept Gresham’s offer of yet another place among the English. Madame Max like Phineas is an outsider, drained of her Jewishness, can be taken in.

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Fred Walker, The Vagrants, 1868

Claire Connolly meditated the image and uses of lanes in Trollope’s Irish fiction. The new systems of carriage transport and work like Trollope’s for the post office were revolutionizing and connecting the roads; these improvements represent a means of controlling people as well as the power of the British state. Good roads benefited the landowning classes; its corollary is a national school system to replace local (forbidden Catholic) hedge schools. Yet roads are where bad encounters happen; in the Macdermots they are black, desolate, muddy. Thady flees to a band of ribbon-men in the hills. Trollope remembers Scott’s Waverley and Maria Edgeworth’s Irish novels; in Kellys and OKellys the roads are part of a public network, even if we find starved, dead, mutilated bodies (Castle Richmond) along the way. In some moments roads are where people are hanged; Father John avoids walking on them after Thady’s execution. Trollope described travel in Ireland as having people acting with warmth, geniality, but it is also harsh: Ccrpse-like women and dead babies are found alongside the road. She said “these are scenes of potential connectivity and dangerous failed infrastructure. They reflect social change, lived realities.” She even brought geological time in Ireland in.

At this point the day came to an end and people went off to have dinner.


Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) and Madame Max (Barbara Murray) waiting for Phineas to return from London to Matching Priory after his acquittal (Palliser 9:19, scripted Simon Raven, from Phineas Redux)

Panel 11: Formal Trollope. I heard the first two papers of the day. Claire Jarvis’s “Almost Trollope” traced Trollope’s uses of the word “almost,” which she found were in one novel “almost 285 times. She close read the typical sentence forms and content in which this word occurs. Trollope becomes a kind of Henry James novelist, with Trollope also preferring incident to event. Almost a reference to something not quite happening, to being at one remove, to not completing something, to sheering away from violence (characters are “almost angry”). “Almost” signals a narrative attention, carefulness. It signals detachment, deflation. There has to be something uncanny in creating enveloping realism; a schism at the heart of the novels. Phineas is “almost silenced;” he “almost” sets down his office; Mary Flood “almost” reads his letters. The narrator therefore can’t see the letter. He is not sure of the vividness of something; the word captures an energy just out of reach. Lady Glencora “almost hesitates” as she is fleeced or cheated or nearly run away with by Burgo (nearly). D.A. Miller says there is no need for police in Trollope or for the reader or Trollope to take sides; we don’t care about who wins, the point is to collude in the surveillance in order to embed yourself. But does Finn not fear his desire to kill Bonteen? and need to exorcise this by re-enacting the murderer’s walk. He “almost” killed Mr Bonteen. It’s an unfinished murder as Emilius is dismissed from the narrative. At the level of the sentence Trollope offers us depth through eluding us.

Daniel Wright’s paper analyzed Trollope’s formal logic in his narratives. He argued Trollope’s famous dictum that the novelist should get all his meaning into his sentences, and leave none out, and be totally transparent is a fantasy. But as a goal of his novel’s craft we begin to see he wants the sentence to be a transparent medium at any rate. He wanted certainty (not almosts). He sought ease for the reader, directness himself, clarity as a way to rivet the reader. George Eliot practiced a contrasting art with her desire to escape the vigilance of the reader, her multivalent use of language, with subtle shades of suggestive meaning.


Phineas (Donal McCann) and Lord Chiltern (John Hallam) sharing a bottle of champagne in their club as they become friends (4:7, scripted Simon Raven, from Phineas Finn)

Speaking in general, the talk afterward was mostly in praise of the papers or the person speaking (yes): no surprise as this was a conference made up even largely of people who had spent years reading and/or writing and researching Trollope. There were far fewer graduate students, Victorianists and mid-level career people as well as fewer people from the Trollope society than there had been at Exeter. Even if the organizer kept saying how Leuven was so available to the all the world, it’s not. Many people had to make three connections at least to get there, had traveled many hours and it had been expensive. If you lived in the UK in 2006, you had only to take the train (or drive); from Ireland you could ferry and then take a train.

So, on Ordinary Trollope (Panel 1) The person who argued that Melmotte could not have gotten away with what he managed, cited a good deal of legislation 1856 the Limited Liabilities Act, 1874 the Fraudulent Trustees Act, and that no one objected to the thesis. Francis O’Goorman did say that TWWLN could be regarded as a proto-thriller. Someone asked about the 1844 Bank Act which made the UK banks the only legitimate producers of bank notes, and these had to be backed by bullion. Trollope was interested in what backs up a bill, in the person who co-signed. Deborah Morse offered the idea that Trollope maintained deep feelings about his personal life and experiences across the decades and these were poured into his novels.

For Political Trollope (Panel 2) Helen Small had cited many particulars of the Beverley election, and many reform bills to stop bribery, describing a number of individuals beyond Henry Edwards; there were questions about this material. To me the more interesting ones were conceptual. Who stood for negative and for positive liberty in Trollope’s Phineas Redux? People asked Mr Aguirre about the Eyre controversy (the indiscriminate punitive slaughter of native people in Jamaica). Trollope was for uniting the world, but for what purpose? (was a question I tried to ask and didn’t get a chance). Someone asked (politely) how can you say Trollope pro-northern, and pro-abolition, and yet not bring in as contradictory how he wrote about the post-emancipation problem as wrecking the US economy, just like Carlyle (with the same insinuating inferences)? Mr Aguirre fell back (so to speak) on suggesting that (for Trollope?) “colored people” as they were then “could not help society move into progress.” Of course the reply which was not forthcoming is (as impolite, pressing too much), progress for whom?

Gopnik’s essay in the New Yorker was quoted on Monk as a mouthpiece for Trollope’s political vision (at its best?) Lauren Goodlad replied that with the whigs losing out (the liberals), Trollope feared a Disraeli take-over. Prof Skilton spoke of The Fixed Period as a satire on coercing people for “their own good,” and on utilitarianism. H.M.S Bright: the ultimate weapon is to destroy the whole country with one shot. Did Bonteen represent the new reliance on a technological world? someone said the regional and provincial worlds wanted machines too: they made for great wealth for some. Laura Goodlad asserted that we must see two Trollopes: “a different man writes the political writing, non-fiction and autobiography.”

Onto the Psychological/Epistemological Trollope (Panel 3): This was one of the panels where there was “almost” (to use a Trollopeian word) no time to say anything afterward. More than one of the papers had gone over the time limit. So I am left to voice my own objections to parts of Prof Polhemus’s paper. The thrust of the argument was Trollope was in effect in his fiction questioning and undermining marriage. I’m not sure about the latter, but the real problem in the paper (as I saw it) was he justified Trollope in salivating over women’s sexuality, especially the stories in the canon where an older man dominates a young girl (this is the thrust of his book Lot’s Daughters). Andrew Davies in his film adaptation saw this as the center of the Palliser-Lady Glencora marriage itself. How dare Sir Roger demand Henrietta marry him in HKHWR? Clara is at a severe disadvantage and doesn’t begin to know that love is conducted a series of negotiations in public. The arguments present women as gaining something in the “Editor’s Tales” and in this novel as compliant which is flat contradicted by the picture: Jael drives a nail through Sisera’s head. I wondered how Effie felt about Millais’s portrait of her sister — I would not have liked that if it had the meaning suggested. I wanted to ask if this is feminism? Feminism has become the unspeakable and dread word so a protest against sexuality presented in this light could (as it was in the 1960s) be seen as priggish, when the problem is the female powerlessness.

The Dormer residence (which they lose) in Ayala’s Angel (Folio Society illustration)

I was surprised that he had not brought up Ayala’s Angel where we again have a portrait of an artist that alludes to Millais: I asked him about it later. It’s a Proustian book, half-defending erotic enthrallment, but it also exposes the indifference of the artist to his family (especially on money matters), and approves of sexuality in art as a pleasure when it’s controlled by conventional marriage patterns.

The Technoscience Trollope session (Panel 4) had to be cut short as the president of the Irish College was coming to speak to and welcome us, and then we segued right into the Printed Trollope (Panel 5) which ended in a “launch” of the graphic novel, Dispossession. Useful questions were asked of Simon Grennan and David Skilton during their talks so (given it was so late) there was no need for further talk. I regretted there was no questioning of Prof Skilton about what he was pointing to when he suggested people are not reading the words in front of them when they read Trollope’s Autobiography.

Both the first two panels on Friday (Teaching Trollope and Australian Trollope, 6 and 7) ran over time. There was a brief moment where someone asked Mark Turner about the effect of seriality and he replied that modern younger adults “stick with it,” and that it’s a form of reassurance (against I’d say chaos and death). It’s become a crucial way people experience a cultural event. On my paper, I regret earnestly that I had no sense of what anyone thought of my paper for real: you do get hints and suggestions by the talk afterward. I was congratulated kindly by Prof Polhemus and thought that Laura Goodlad was talking about my paper when she objected shortly after I finished to these “literalist” kinds of readings. I had worked hard and hoped mine would be a contribution since I was invited to come. I worry that my range was too broad, my references too dense. But I have put the text online if anyone wants to read it slowly.

The response to Modern Trollope (Panel 8) was quiet astonishment and appreciation — or so I thought. I had heard some squawks (in protest) to Prof Kincaid’s satiric burlesque of literary scholarship and his (more earnestly delivered) radical critical reading and indirect comments on the present audience as typical of a scholar’s conference. Prof Kincaid replied to one comment that “reading is a professional set of agreements; not all agreements are bad,” but awareness of them controls our behavior. He was suggesting we should admit to this and to the ludicrousness of some of our “discourses” to those outside the world of these parameters. Maybe we should listen to those who talk very differently about reading and Trollope. Someone said that Elizabeth Bishop’s protest poem (in effect, from its 1950s political content) drew out aspects of Trollope’s personality the mainstream reader finds it difficult to discuss, much less try to understand. She and Frances Trollope both defied the hegemonic (macho) male and upbeat viewpoint. John Bowen saw Trollope as enacting insensitivity to fool us. I loved the passages Mr Caddia had quoted.

There was not enough time after Mother or Frances Trollope (Panel 9), but the talk after the “Irish Trollope” (panel 10) was long, meandering but of real interest as fundamental questions arose about how we define and de-limit Trollope. I was too tired to get down details by that time — mostly Irish politics today, some comments on Thackeray’s books of touring in Ireland. The following morning I could not stay beyond the “Formal Trollope” (Panel 11) as we had to make our cab to get to our train, to get to the first of two planes, before we were to reach another train.

So, if this reaches anyone at all with the power to make Hillis Miller’s lecture on YouTube available to all on the Internet, I hope that person or people can and will do the right thing.

In the meantime I thought I end on a poem mentioned by Claire Connolly (but not read aloud) in her “Lane-ism” Eavan Boland’s “The Famine Road.” Trollope insisted that the gov’t should not simply give food or help to the starving Irish in 1847 but that the starving people work on these useless roads (lest they get used to not working for money, lest they “disrupt the “economy” by bypassing capitalist networks), and there are scenes of this roadwork being done in Castle Richmond where Trollope portrays these people semi-hostilely:

The Famine Road

‘Idle as trout in light Colonel Jones,
these Irish, give them no coins at all; their bones
need toil, their characters no less.’ Trevelyan’s
seal blooded the deal table. The Relief
Committee deliberated: ‘Might it be safe,
Colonel, to give them roads, roads to force
from nowhere, going nowhere of course?’

    ‘one out of every ten and then
    another third of those again
    women – in a case like yours;

Sick, directionless they worked; fork, stick
were iron years away; after all could
they not blood their knuckles on rock, suck
April hailstones for water and for food?
Why for that, cunning as housewives, each eyed –
as if at a corner butcher – the other’s buttock.

    ‘anything may have caused it, spores,
    a childhood accident; one sees
    day after day these mysteries’

Dusk: they will work tomorrow without him.
They know it and walk clear; he has become
a typhoid pariah, his blood tainted, although
he shares it with some there. No more than snow
attends its own flakes where they settle
and melt, will they pray by his death rattle.

    ‘You never will, never you know
    but take it well woman, grow
    your garden, keep house, good-bye.’

‘It has gone better than we expected, Lord
Trevelyan, sedition, idleness, cured
in one; from parish to parish, field to field
the wretches work till they are quite worn.
then fester by their work; we march the corn
to the ships in peace; this Tuesday I saw –
out of my carriage window, your servant Jones.’

    ‘Barren, never to know the load
    of his child in you, what is your body
    now, if not a famine road?’

Not only the people under the gun but the animal life should bear some witness. When I came to the end of my reading for my paper, I found myself at the close of Trollope’s Australia where he goes hunting and he and the others gun down kangaroo. How horrible, how truly terrible was the behavior of Trollope and his fellow hunters. Trollope records the traumatic distress and crazed behavior of these animals under such an assault, and also their tenacious love for their young. How I wished that the kangaroos had been able to kill the men with their guns (yes I did) who were ferociously terrorizing them so as to elicit frantic savage helpless self-protection and then murder them.

We killed, I think, seven in two days, – and had other runs in which we lost our prey. The ‘old man’ kangaroo when hard pressed will turn round and fight the hounds, – or fight the man who comes up to knock him over. And he fights with great power, inflicting terrible wounds with his fore paws. In New South Wales I saw a kangaroo which we were hunting catch up a terrier in his arms, and carry the little animal in his embrace throughout the run. He was not, however, able to hurt the dog, who, when the affair was over, seemed to come quite undismayed out of his difficulty. And I saw also a female kangaroo, when the hounds were after her, throw her kid out of the pouch in which she carried it. On that occasion the kid was killed and the mother escaped. They will carry their young one as long as it is possible for them, and then throw him out almost without losing a stride (Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand, from “Sports” 741).

Miss Drake

Abram Louis Buvelot (1814-88), Australian landscape (much idealized)

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John Everett Millais’s depiction of Mary, Lady Mason deep in thought (she is guilty of forgery on behalf of an ungrateful son, has to hide this or she will be put in prison, from Orley Farm)

In an early part of this story I have endeavoured to describe how this woman sat alone, with deep sorrow in her heart and deep thought on her mind, when she first learned what terrible things were coming on her. The idea, however, which the reader will have conceived of her as she sat there will have come to him from the skill of the artist, and not from the words of the writer. If that drawing is now near him, let him go back to it. Lady Mason was again sitting in the same room — that pleasant room, looking out through the veranda on to the sloping lawn, and in the same chair; one hand again rested open on the arm of the chair, while the other supported her face as she leaned upon her elbow; and the sorrow was still in her heart and the deep thought in her mind. But the lines of her face were altered, and the spirit expressed by it was changed. There was less of beauty, less of charm, less of softness; but in spite of all that she had gone through there was more of strength, — more of the power to resist all that this world could do to her. Trollope, Orley Farm

Next to Sugar’s bed is a stack of books and periodicals. Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right, collected in book form, is topmost, but she won’t read any more of that: she can see where it’s heading. It wasn’t so bad at the start, but now he’s put a strong-minded woman into it, whom he clearly detests, so he’ll probably humiliate her or kill her before the story’s finished. And she’s fed up with Trollope’s latest serial, The Way We Live Now – she won’t buy any more instalments, it’s threatening to go on forever, and she’s wasted enough money on it already. Really, she doesn’t know why she persists with Trollope; he may be refreshingly unsentimental, but he always pretends he’s on the woman’s side, then lets the men win. (Michel Faber, ‘The Apple’, in The Apple. New Crimson Petal Stories, 2006, one of the six contemporary texts, a historical novel set in the 19th century, quoted and discussed, see below)

Dear friends and readers,

The second day, Friday, September 18th, was as long and rich a day as Thursday (1, 2), and it included some unexpected collocations (e.g., Trollope’s North America with a double sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop, which sonnet I mean to quote), panels with four to six presentations, and my own paper (linked in). Intriguing unexpected perspectives were broached.

Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes (1859-1912), School is Out (1889)

Panel 6: Teaching Trollope. Deborah Denenholz Morse chaired the panel and spoke first. Her perspective was her perception of Trollope, which she offers to her classes as a foundation for understanding his works. She presented Barsetshire as a modern place by looking at all the darker, cynical, failed and plangent stories and characters that the structuring of these series allowed Trollope to weave in. Her students had responded to Trollope seen at this angle. She then detailed a couple of students’ responses to these stories. Prof Morse sees Trollope’s novels as recuperative and she ended her talk on those characters in Trollope who are saved morally. Margaret Markwick has never taught so she told us about changing attitudes towards Trollope that she experienced as a graduate student in England, who wanted to write a graduate thesis on Trollope. She met with bemusement, Trollope as a subject with ridicule, and people would say, “Whose Trollope? or “which?” In Britain Trollope is identified as a spokesperson for the establishment and the adaptations on radio and TV mostly reflect this. V.S. Pritchett recorded the first return of liking and respect generally for Trollope during WW2: people read Trollope in the air-raid shelter’s (it’s said). There has been a resurgence in respect for Trollope, two film adaptations since 2000 (for The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, both scripted by Andrew Davies). One can find people writing with real interest on Trollope’s presentation of how one achieves a successful career, of his self-reflexivity, as an artist, but much stonewalling remains.

Suzanne Raitt teaches He Knew He Was Right as a one of several key texts of the 1850s through 60s (others are Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, Ann Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Arnold Bennett novels) in her exploration of Victorian patterns of ambivalent support of various civil and social rights bill for women over the era. She suggested most couples in Victorian novels are in hellish miserable marriages, and this set of novels of the 1860s are particularly: they cover the deserted sexualized masters and mistresses; also the governess stories, stories of mothers-in-law, wronged wives, husbands, lawyers. Raitt’s students researched the bills at the time of these novels, and the laws passed or operative during the period giving women limited custody over their children, allowing women the right to move about freely, to own property, to get a divorce. Novels often have an inconveniently sexualized woman, tropes on mothering a child, on children used as weapons, as ignored; the books are heavy on grief. Students see the benefit of exploring the novel as part of an interdiscipinary study of an era or set of issues.

Mark Turner teaches a course which takes advantage of and discusses and explores the effects of serial publication on literature of the 19th century. Prof Turner works with Linda Hughes and they find themselves practicing serial pedagogy where you are forced to live in, pay attention to what is presently happening. He felt this is a different kind of encounter with texts: people have experienced texts serially, but here they must move from work to work, bits of them at a time on a screen with several windows of texts. Young adults watch movies and present day TV programs in this way too. The notion of progress and progression is structured into these experiences, but but there is no sense that one must finish something, or the book itself manifest completion. He felt seriality has become crucial in our culture.

“It’s Dogged as Does It”: the frontispiece by Francis Arthur Fraser, drawn for the second volume of the 1878 set of Barsetshire books published by Chapman and Hall

Mary Jean Corbett began by saying she felt she had read fewer Trollope novels than many in the conference: she has read his Autobiography, The Way We Live Now, the Palliser novels. She taught a course on the Barsetshire series as a whole, where she divided the students up into groups and asked each group to deliver a presentation on one of the six novels and each of them separately choose a novel by Trollope and read it on their own. Students talked seriously about the persistence of women’s inferior status in Trollope’s books.

Emily Carr (Canadian artist, 1871-1945, her visionary art inspired by the indigenous peoples of Pacific Northwest coast), Walk at Sitka

Panel 7: Australian Trollope. Nicholas Birns chaired and talked generally of “Trollope and the New World.” He felt the delayed building of the Panama Canal helped define Australia as so far away, the Antipodes, and this British attitude affected the Australian view of themselves. He discussed the view of Australia taken by 20th century fiction by Chinese immigrants. Nigel Starck’s “Antony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey” was a semi-comically delivered summary of his book, The First Celebrity: how Fred, Trollope’s son, came to Australia, married (Rose did not attend the wedding because “she had had enough”), had children, his hardships and how Trollope helped him; how Trollope and Rose’s cook came with them, stayed, married and prospered there, and the present Trollopes; how Trollope was greeted (as the “first” celebrity), and (later) how Trollope’s book criticized (adversely). Steven Armanick showed how Trollope’s Christmas story, Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, may be read fruitfully alongside Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Many have regarded Trollope’s art as not in the same league as Dickens’s; while Trollope said he had to acknowledge Dickens’s power over readers, he attacked Dickens’s art more than once, and himself wrote for the Christmas market reluctantly. Prof Armanick saw Trollope as giving his hero, Harry, a character comparable to Scrooge’s, very hard to get along with, even paranoid (an urgent watchfulness, suspecting everyone as an enemy), except importantly while Harry may reconcile himself to his circumstances and the people he must be friends with to live, he does not fundamentally change his nature at all.

From Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock

I came last and was glad I had cut mine down to 18 minutes for that was all the time left. The general description of my paper gives the impression I dwelt on Trollope’s two travel books, North America and Australia and New Zealand, and talked of how in his colonialist fiction and non-fiction alike Trollope is “concerned to show how the memories and norms of people from an “old country” interact with the geographical, new economic, and evolving cultural and social circumstances the settlers find themselves in to make a new environment.” I ended up writing as much about some of Trollope’s great and lesser known or read colonialist short stories (e.g., “Journey to Panama,” “Aaron Trowe”), talked briefly about colonialist sections in his non-colonialist fiction (e.g., Framley Parsonage and the closing epistolary section from the characters emigrated to Australia in The Three Clerks). I compared two of the stories to some famous 20th century stories and films (Picnic at Hanging Rock (film and book), Margaret Atwood’s “Death by Landscape,” and the film The Proposition). I critiqued Trollope’s justification of some of the central behaviors of settler colonialists towards the natives of the country they are taking over at the same time as I argued against the tendency to separate Trollope’s fiction from his non-fiction as distinctively different and showed that if you read them as indivisible and in terms of one another and both as also highly autobiographical, there is much humane and predictive insight to be gained into the results of settler colonialist practices then and now. I’ve made my paper
available on academia.edu, and invite all to read it: “On Inventing a New Country: Trollope’s Depictions of Settler Colonialism.”

It was at this point the sessions came to an end for everyone to have lunch.


U.S.S. Cairo, one of “Pook’s turtles,” which fought on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers until sunk by a Confederate “torpedo” in the Yazoo River near Vicksburg, December 1862

Panel 8: Modern Trollope. I was very taken with John Bowen’s paper, “Bishop’s Trollope: Not Proudie but Elizabeth.” He argued that Elizabeth Bishop’s double sonnet gives us an epitome, the core quintessence of Trollope’s North America: Trollope’s mood, central attitudes to the war. Unfortunately Trollope’s book has not been respected, but Bishop saw the same city many years later and had the same take on it. It is not a cynical perspective but an accurate response to aggressive militarist people, an unpretentious disquieting vision. She took words from Trollope’s letters and wove them into her verse.

From Trollope’s Journal

As far as statues go, so far there’s not
much choice: they’re either Washingtons
or Indians, a whitewashed, stubby lot,
His country’s Father or His foster sons.
The White House in a sad, unhealthy spot
just higher than Potomac’s swampy brim,
— they say the present President has got
ague or fever in each backwoods limb.
On Sunday afternoon I wandered, – rather,
I floundered, – out alone. The air was raw
and dark; the marsh half-ice, half-mud. This weather
is normal now: a frost, and then a thaw,
and then a frost. A hunting man, I found
the Pennsylvania Avenue heavy ground …
There all around me in the ugly mud,
— hoof-pocked, uncultivated, — herds of cattle,
numberless, wond’ring steers and oxen, stood:
beef for the Army, after the next battle.
Their legs were caked the color of dried blood;
their horns were wreathed with fog. Poor, starving, dumb
or lowing creatures, never to chew the cud
or fill their maws again! Th’effluvium
made that damned anthrax on my forehead throb.
I called a surgeon in, a young man, but,
with a sore throat himself, he did his job.
We talked about the War, and as he cut
away, he croaked out, “Sir, I do declare
everyone’s sick! The soldiers poison the air.”

I admit I was so taken by Bowen’s argument because in my paper I had had a long section on Trollope’s depressed time in Washington D.C., how it was in part from his personal life at the time, but also in reaction to what he saw going on in the city at the time. I have now restored the section to my paper in an abbreviated form in a footnote but include it here as one of the comments on this blog report.

An appropriate cover illustration, a photo of Broadway, circa 1860 to an abridged edition of North America (Penguin)

It is hard to convey James Kincaid’s brilliant satire on both much Trollope criticism as well as the academic world and its practices at conferences (lots of fun made of how people praise one another, the conventions of panels and so on) since if I was to write down the words he literally said they might come out sheerly as insults rather than the double-edged irony, mild burlesque and invectives he used. So rather than that I’ll offer some of the implied arguments (as I understand them), which was that literary criticism of Trollope is a controlled set of practices and conventions of speaking (by cultural agreement). We could talk about Trollope’s texts in very different ways than we do; when students first enter college that is how some of them talk about texts very often. Prof Kincaid also sent up the conventional moralizing way people still read Trollope (academics as well as non-academics), using Northrup Frye’s archetypal criticism and Barchester Towers (he has written essays on BT). He asked if Trollope is really assaulting conservative values (what a way to talk), if Slope is not a force for progress? Mr Harding a parasite? The Signora Neroni, a parody of absurd hierarchical pretenses? Charlotte Stanhope a deeply responsible young woman, and Bertie a marvelous anarchist. He seemed to suggest we read all of Trollope out of Bertie’s perspective.

Charlotte supervising the Signora Neroni’s entrance into Mrs Proudie’s converzatione, POV Bertie (1983 Barchester Chronicles, scripted Alan Plater)

The last paper I can include here before ending (lest the report go on too long) was Luca Caddia’s “The Way We Counterlive Now: Trollope as a Character’s Writer.” This was a third remarkable paper where Mr Caddia, a translator of Trollope into Italian presented six passages from 20th century novels and found in them references to Trollope as well as analogues of attitudes of mind that we find in Trollope or his characters. When in characters, Trollope’s insights can be similiar to those of the more sophisticated of literary critics. Among his many remarks, Mr Caddia found parallels in attitudes in Philip Roth and The Way We Live Now (he felt Roth had TWWLN in mind, especially perhaps Breghert).

Read The Way We Live Now. It may help to explode those myths that fuel the pathetic Jewish Anglophilia Maria’s cashing in on. The book is rather like a soap opera, but the main meat of it from your point of view is a little subplot, an account of Miss Longestaffe, an English young lady from an upper-class home, sort of country gentry, a bit over the hill, and she’s furious that nobody ‘s married her, [. . .] and because she’s determined to have a rich social life in London, she’s going to demean herself by marrying a middle-aged Jew. ‘ [. . .] ‘How does the family take on the Jew?’ ‘[. . .] They’re thunderstruck. [. . .] She’s so upset by their reaction that her defiance turns to doubt, and she has a correspondence with him. [. . .] What will be particularly instructive to you is their correspondence, what it reveals about the attitudes of a large number of people to Jews, attitudes that only appear to be one hundred years old.’ (Philip Roth, The Counter/lie. 19R6)

I was particularly drawn to the idea (which I agree with) that Trollope’s central characters typically will only accept change if he or she is not asked to give up his or her integrity; he expresses or sees this paradigm as a struggle of the individual against the world, and finds that the world’s demands for change are an attack on one’s character. Mr Caddia quoted Jacques Roubaud, The Great Fire of London (1989) where the writer takes on the anti-social attitudes of Trollope’s central characters, and Mr Caddia suggested that say in Can You Forgive Her? the issue is an adjustment to social conditions which the characters spend all novel long refusing, and some of them never give in for real at all. Henry James valued Trollope for his recalcitrant psychology. Proust gives meaning to life by memory instead of the actual experience, is an underlying them of Alan Hollinghurst,and he offers the idea that the way Trollope is discussed (as say about money) obscures what are the real themes of his books as after all it is the world’s voice which makes such pronouncements.

Mr Caddia talked more length about The Duke’s Children (newly out in a complete copy): a central meditation in the book: what do you do when deprived of someone who has acted as your beloved person for much of your life? He argued the Duke of Omnium on his own is then not so much about integrity as the demand he change his character and he holds out. In the Duke’s dialogue to Silverbridge we find that happiness is having too much to do, with a self-deprecating joke: “a great grind, isn’t it sir, replies Silverbridge. Mr Caddia suggested what Trollope’s characters offer us and his books too are ways of keeping life’s terrors at bay.

In short, during breakfast, I turned this cafe into my club. And like a character from Trollope in his own club (and no doubt Trollope himself, when he was elected to the Garrick, after his pre-morning work (he wrote as I do in the last hours of night) also arrived in the same way), I would walk over mechanically, always take a seat at the same table, utter the same words of greetings to the waiter or owner (a fan of the Dax rugby team), leave on my table the same, always exactly calculated sum, and absorb myself again as quickly as possible into my book, the almost twenty-four hours having elapsed since the day before instantly abolished in thought. But, as a true Trollopian, I didn’t realize that changing urban customs and passing time [. . .] were gradually going to turn my innocent habit into an anachronism. For, one by one, the cafes of the square shifted their opening times ever later into the day. And, one morning, the owner of the establishment I patronized came to me and explained [. . .] that for a month I had been their only customer, [. . .] [so J they really couldn’t keep this any longer, and to please accept his apology. I had reached the end of Orley Farm. I had been oblivious to everything. All Trollopians will understand me.” (Jacques Roubaud, The Great Fire of London, 1989)

In these last papers it was a relief to hear accurate views on Trollope’s texts, perspectives and comments which brought out what is truly of value in him today still. One can see how hard it is to bring this out against reams of distortions, turnings away. I wished the panel on teaching Trollope had offered more individual instances of how students themselves wrote about Trollope, but found Mark Turner’s assessment of the experience of reading and trying to teach Trollope and education itself in a modern classroom as making structures which go against the grain of Trollope’s knitted together texts at the same time as they mimic the installment procedure he himself had to follow in his time and so many writers and readers find themselves having to experience today stimulating: is it life’s patterns themselves, the way we experience life, time in the world that is therefore brought into our understanding or does it just undermine attempts to understand a text in a classroom?

One more blog report to come.

Recent illustration for a Folio society edition of Uncle Silas: the symbolic house (Charles Stewart)


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19th century illustration: Mudie’s Circulating Library

Dear friends and readers,

A full week has gone by since I posted my first report on the recent Trollope Conference held in Leuven, Belgium, at the Irish college. I covered somewhat less than half the papers given on Thursday, 17 September. As in my last report, I am giving the just gist of what was said in the talk itself. I will bring together what was said afterward the talks in a final general summary plus give some sense of what the general experience was like outside the sessions. I now conclude that first day of session; we are in mid-afternoon.

Panel 3: Psychological/Epistemological Trollope (cont’d). Robert Polhemus spoke last and on “Trollope’s Picturesque Chroniclette and John Millais’s Portrait of Sophie [Grey]” Artists as Young Swains.”

Millais’s portrait of Sophie Grey, Millais’s wife Effie’s sister

Prof Polhemus covered one of the subplots of Last Chronicle of Barset; the story of the nandsome Conway Dalrymple, a stand-in for a Pre-Raphaelite painter, and the beautiful Clara Van Siever, who is in love with him and whom Dalrymple paints in a tableau as Sisera: among others Artemisia Gentileschi painted as a dramatic vignette of Jael, a married woman driving a nail into the head of a warlord, Sisera. He had fled the successful Israelite armies of Barak and Deborah and thought found refuge in the tent of her tent. She was seen as a type of treacherous women because she did not inform her husband of what she intended to do; in Gentileschi we see a feminist reading of her as anticipating Judith, as someone killing a warlord to save her own people.

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) Jael and Sisera

Prof Polhemus placed this pictorial allusion in the context of the story in the novel where Clara is seeking liberty from a tyrant mother to marry Dalrymple, an artist whom her mother disapproves of, and whom Clara is in love with, and to Millais’s portrait of his wife’s sister presented as a deeply sensuous woman looking for a sexually fulfilled life. Millais had himself married Effie after she freed herself from the control of her first husband, Ruskin (previously a good friend to Millais) whom she claimed was impotent. Prof Polhemus found in this story as seen through these two paintings “an explosion of femininity:” although the novel’s painting is destroyed

G. W. Thomas’s vignette for the chapter

the process of painting brings Clara and Dalrymple together and enables her to enact her desire. In this parable we find Trollope transcending the usual stereotypes to defend hedonistic art. Trollope and Millais were close friends, and Trollope wrote in Orley Farm that Millais’s illustrations enabled Trollope to understand his art and characters better.

A generic image of a 19th century printing press

Panel 4: Technoscience Trollope. Richard Menke chaired and his paper, “Trollope, Mimesis, and Media Archeaology,” began with Trollope’s relationship (what he did) to the literal printing aspects of his books. He then turned to the how at the close of John Caldigate, a postal clerk, Samuel Bagwax, using the impression of a postal stamp proves that Eugenia Smith perjured herself in her testimony on the stand when she said that she had sent a letter to John Caldigate on a certain date as his wife. Trollope understand the importance of the physical book as well as metadata. Jay Clayton discussed how the technological apparatuses or incremental improvements to obtain any kind of Utopia in The Fixed Period were satirized. The novella testifies to a dream of liberty through geography, through being far away from the center of power. Mr Clayton moved to how characters in other novels, specifically Adolphus Crosbie The Small House of Allington, attempts to use technology’s ability to help him manipulate time to his advantage. But what matters for people remains love, life itself, fear of death, aging.

A Phiz illustration for Can You Forgive Her?

Tamara Ketabgian’s talk on “Sport, Technique and Late Trollope,” brought together Trollope’s drive to fox-hunt with the way cricket is presented in The Fixed Period. Both are (she said) strategic games, but hunting is not susceptible to systematizing and highly competitive play the way cricket is. Cricket links people across countries, but fox-hunting is local (it’s debatable whether it unites different classes of people as Trollope claimed). Susan Ziegler’s paper was on Trollope’s logistical subjects: she talked of how Trollope uses the ways a letter in the novels moves from place to place; how difficult it is for an intimate act in a letter to bypass or overcome impersonal systems in which commodities move. We experience Mary Thorne’s deep pain when her letter is not answered quickly; how Trollope shows us characters dwelling over when they should send a letter; the delight someone may feel in writing one, but the novels show how the logistics of our everyday life trumps our desires and takes over.

The two Trollope graves in Bruges

Panel 5: Printed Trollope. David Skilton chaired this panel and how many people read and quote from Trollope’s An Autobiography, but often neglect to pay close attention to Trollope’s words. Prof Skilton suggested the book is about how Trollope came to choose his profession and his successes and failures as a professional writer. He looks to see how critics and readers reacted to his books); it’s filled with professional advice. Marysa Demoor’s talk was for me revelatory as I had not considered the effect on Trollope of his time in Bruges: she asked where did Trollope’s sense of his identity come from, and answered that for Anthony Trollope this may have been Bruges where the family fled to escape the father’s creditors, and where his brother and father died and are buried, and his mother took up seriously and continuously a money-making career as a novelist. She became Trollope’s model and introduced him to a publisher. It was after this when they returned to England (and Julians Hill) that their destinies began to form. She understood how important Ireland was, but felt we were underestimating the effect of this early first experience for Anthony outside England. The Noble Jilt, the first attempt at Alice Vavasour’s story is set in Bruges. The sad story of the family’s desperate experiences in Bruges are not retold in the novels but the effect lingered in his mind. She remarked the Trollope Society has spent money improving the gravesites at the chateau (still standing). She also mentioned Trollope’s trips to Jerusalem and many autobiographical connections of The Bertrams to Trollope.

End papers of Simon Grennan’s Dispossession: a graphic novel adaptation of John Caldigate

The day ended with Simon Grennan’s talk about his book, with a little help from Skilton (who chimed in as someone who had been on the committee to commission the book and participated in some of the shaping decisions). The team chose this novel as a less familiar one, one never adapted before. They cut the post office sections of the novel as they felt a graphic novel could not make these appealing Grennan decided he would try for pictures that projected what he thought were the aesthetic emphases of the novel. He wanted to visual equivocation, to keep readers and viewers at a distance from the characters in the way Trollope does: there would be no close-ups and even few middle distance shots and the point of view would be of a camera low-down. He was seeking a rhythmic roundtable of points of view; all the costumes reflect the way 19th century people of that decade dressed, the kinds of rooms they lived in. He did not want to use styles associated with classic comic; he wanted to capture this previous time as something strange. He developed a story of aborigines, practiced historical verisimilitude.

Pages from a graphic novel 'Dispossession' by Simon Grennan. Based on John Caldigate by Anthony Trollope

Pages from a graphic novel ‘Dispossession’ by Simon Grennan.
Based on John Caldigate by Anthony Trollope

Grennan later told me he dressed Mrs Smith so she would have been recognizable in the era as a “Dolly Varden:” she is a character in Barnaby Rudge whose coy highly-sexualized self-presentation (Dickens just salivates over her) was taken up by music hall performers — after all Mrs Smith has been and returns to the stage (though the reader never see her do this). (I admit I prefer to imagine Mrs Smith in her more somber outfits as a mature woman who confronts life and men frankly as their equal.) Simon chose dark deep rich colors (purples and browns) whereever appropriate, and reserved yellows and golden browns and greens for suggesting seasons and landscapes. There is an French edition if anyone is interested, but be warned there are very few words.

Thackeray’s self-image at the close of Vanity Fair: Trollope much admired his novels and liked the man very much

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Anthony Trollope as painted by Samuel Lawrence

Dear Friends and readers,

As I’ve written about too often on this blog, a conference on the occasion of Trollope’s 200th birthday was held in Leuven, Belgium from 17-19 September 2015. There was no keynote speech, and only one panel at a time presented papers. It was all held in one place: a large chapel auditorium in the Irish college. If you had the stamina you could hear every paper and get to know the people there, many of whom were among the most knowledgeable people on Trollope anywhere. One result was you could get a sense of overall trends and what was dominant in these people’s thinking. Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered one trend or prevailing attitude of mind towards Trollope’s art was not about his politics, nor was it that he was ironic, satiric (comic); rather those speaking emphasized how artful his texts are, how much autobiographical or life-writing is in them, and that his art is plangent, deeply felt, emotionally earnest, serious. Izzy (my daughter came with me) and I were not able to stay a fourth night so I could not make a record for the panels and papers occurring after 10 in the morning on Saturday, but I have a record of the gist of each paper that was delivered until that time. I offer brief summaries (these omit many details) and begin with Thursday morning.

Robert Macbeth Walker, A Rainy Day

Panel 1: Ordinary Trollope. Kate Flint chaired and gave the first paper: “Shoddy Trollope.” She suggested that Trollope in his most ordinary moments cared deeply about the workmanship of his stories, of his art, and he wanted to offer the best novel “product” he could, e.g., the clearest style (containing all the meaning he could project). Thus his work contrasted to what was seen as “shoddy” (her paper dwelt on this) by which Victorians meant cheap ill-made goods, raw poor materials, especially about cloth; Carlyle wrote an article condemning all selling of inferior, filthy, dust-laden junk-cloth; Trollope uses the word more neutrally (as do Gaskell and Eliot). Francis O’Gorman took as her topic how critics continue to praise Trollope’s depiction of capitalism in The Way We Live Now when Trollope’s portrayal of the banking business is superficial and misleading. The critics of the Times and Examiner liked the novel but said that Trollope did not know the way the financial world worked from within. By the the time of the novel there were enforced laws demanding minimum disclosure as Parliament tried to control and stamp out fraud. Melmotte in reality could not begin to cheat everyone the way he does. Claire Pettit’s “Inbetween Times” was about Trollope’s interest in psychological chronology; in TWWLN social public time is carefully plotted; a lot of things happen at the same time so Trollope develops a kind of holding pattern where he drops one story and then picks up another, leaving the first to wait. She used terms like fast forward and switch-back (rewind, anyone?) but this kind of thing is found in other older fiction too.

Walter Greaves, Chelsea Regatta (1871)

Panel 2: Political Trollope. Robert Aguirre suggested that The West Indies and the Spanish Main is a racist atavistic book whose route and business enabled Trollope to do some good: he worked to increase the speed with which letters reached people, their reach, to create long communication networks (these are crucial for empire building). Railway stations made non-places become places. Tax per letter would be replaced by tax per annum; an adhesive postage stamp would be used. In 1858 Trollope went to Suez similarly to forge agreements for mail delivery (to Australia). He was overcoming the “forces” of immobility; answering a genuine hunger in people living at great distances for intimacy. At the same time it’s just such self-communings (He had “realized”) that makes the characters come alive .Helen Small’s “Trollope at the Hustings” was about Trollope’s campaign at Beverley and its results. While Beverley was not far from his home, he knew nothing about the place as a community, which reacted with indignation as he was an outsider coming in. She contrasted politicking to hunting (which she called socially inclusive). Trollope knew he was being used, that he would not win, that Henry Edwards, the wealthy Tory, an entrepreneur was a local favorite, says his political views remained the same over his life, and yet he was bitter at the loss. Ms Small suggested that Mr Bonteen is Trollope’s portrait of a modern politician.

Lauren Goodlad chaired; her paper, “Trollopian Politics” was intended to show that the more we abandon “traditional liberalism,” the more coherent and less reactionary Trollope’s political stances become. There is a bleak political pessimism in TWWLN, Phineas Redux, Prime Minister. Commercial activities make for progress, comfort, and time (historical) alertness. Trollope kept his views on specific issues (e.g., Governor Eyre) to himself and affirms political dialectic. She covered various real politicians in the books (Turnbull, John Stuart Mill, Disraeli) with Monk representing an ideal. In 1874 the radicals were stunned by this loss. Money is altering everything. As to gender, in Barchester Towers, the Stanhopes are exceptional figures, but in this and CYFH? the men are impecunious and weak, and the women strong and rich and sought out by the men for support.

We all adjourned for lunch.

John Everett Millais, An Excluded Woman (from Irish Melodies)

Panel 3: Psychological/epistemological Trollope. Jenny Bourne Taylor chaired and she introduced the papers by quoting Amanda Anderson’s essay on depth psychology in Trollope, and talked of his interest in how we know what we know. He was one of the founding group of The Fortnightly Review where he worked with G. H. Lewes. Patrick Fassenbecker’s talk was about how Trollope characters slowly learn to shape their fates by teaching themselves to do or think this or that; we witness them overcoming earlier instincts and exerting self-control. Sometimes the characters refuse to accept beliefs that are not supported by evidence (or that are). Bad consequences ensue. The characters have a duty to be honest with themselves, and are aware others can deceive them. So we watch a form of character management. You have to learn not to let your preference for something shape your over-all view. Sophie Gilmartin’s “Trollope on the Face of It” was a discussion of Trollope’s use of language, the surface style which flows, is filled with direct and free indirect speech, narration, description; how he builds subjective sensory images which subjectivities and character’s body actions and feelings and thoughts inhabit and swirl around. The reader pauses when the data of the utterance exceeds what the scene needs, and visualization and poetic apprehension envelop the reader. She felt Trollope hardly considers how painful his scenes can become, though he is aware how he suggests what is beyond the edge of consciousness for his characters. Her examples included Alice Vavasour’s green room, her trip with Kate and George down the Rhine, Marie Melmotte’s painful subterfuges and sudden direct demands.

It was then time for coffee and in the later afternoon so I’ll stop here. Next blog report will include Robert Polhemus’s paper which took Panel 3’s general topic in a different direction and the rest of the day’s panels.

VictorianCats (Small)

Susan Herbert, Victorian Cats


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

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

Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another weakness perhaps turned into strength:

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

Why do people enjoy reading about emotional cruelty?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dear friends and readers,

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

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

Holding hands ritual

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

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

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

Map of trip

The start: Castle Wemyss

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Rest period

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

The same rocks and faultline as today

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

One photo:

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

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

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


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

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

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

Two recent perceptive books enjoyable to read:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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

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


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