Where Is Dillsborough?; Goarly's Rights, or Whose Property Is It?; Aspects of Trollope's Humour; Arabella; Love and Hypocrisy; Lies and Power; Wit & Pathos; Courtship and Marriage in The American Senator (Mary Masters and Arabella Trefoil Compared); Sour Grapes (Trollope's Bias on Behalf of Aristocrats); Margaret Oliphant, Charlotte Bronte & Anthony Trollope; Could Dillsborough be Doncaster?; Doncaster as Dillsborough - NEVER!

Re: Where Is Dillsborough?

I would like to suggest that if Trollope is somewhat vague about where Dillsborough is, it may be he wants it to stand for a kind of place rather than some specific vicinity in England. This man moved around, and not just banging around the world. He lived in a number of places in Ireland, middle, more southerly, southwest, Ulster, also Dublin. And he loved to visit the far west. He lived with Rose in Cheltenham, which is in Gloucestershire. During that time he spent considerable establishing postal routes there (as well as areas in the middle of Ireland. He also spent time travelling in Wales and has one novel set there (Cousin Henry). The Belton Estate is specifically situated in Wales. Trollope's mother lived with his sister up in Westmoreland (she built a house) and Trollope speaks of his love of tramping through the landscape. Trollope visited and set novels in Devonshire (mentioned Exeter again and again).

Thus although he is identified with the south and east (and rightly too) I don't think we can rule out moving 55 miles further west -- though certainly the areas Frazer mentioned make sense.

My sense is we should think of a type of place towards the west and then see him as imagining another countryside typical of rural small town life in England. The opening chapter made me think of Dr Thorne> because of Trollope's emphasis on what no longer was, what was dying, what was being replaced with modern commercialism -- and also what was centuries old, the small businesses, lawyer, inn, and so on.

It could also be mid-England: Northamptonshire. After all the central feel seems to be this looks and feels like England at its heart.

Cheers everyone

To Trollope-l

March 22, 1999

Re: The American Senator, Chs 14-20: Goarly's Rights, or Whose Property Is It?

Since we've already started talking about Arabella, the hunting, the landscape, and even Gotobed, I'll call our attention to a theme which may have been of acute interest to Trollope's readers: money, class and the law. For example, the attitude of Goarly's lawyer towards Gotobed becomes a matter for moralising. In the scene Trollope dramatises between Mr Bearside, Goarly's attorney, and our American Senator (Oxford The American Senator, Ch 19, pp. 125- 26), we can see that Bearside cares for nothing but money, is echoing the Senator's sincerely meant comments on feudalism, and that the Senator's sense that property rights are in fact being violated by the hunting club are for Bearside simply beside the point. I suspect they are not simply beside the point for Trollope.

Nor are they necessarily beside the point for us even if we cannot do much about class attitudes and the ability of the wealthy and powerful to use the law to bolster their case, while the poor can't pay. I wish I could remember the exact circumstances, but about 3 years ago or more now here in Virginia a large corporation (I believe it was Disney) attempted to buy a huge tract of land in one of the more rural northern counties in order to turn it into a huge shopping complex, tracts of townhouses, and perhaps an amusement park to boot. At that time that part of Virginia was suffering a recession and many ordinary people with small incomes were out of jobs; I know of a woman whose husband is a lawyer and his business shrunk to the point she went back to teaching as a substitute in a high school full-time. She was an adjunct at GMU teaching during the day; now she held two jobs, both low paying. It was said the Mall would be ugly, would desecrate part of the Manassus Battle Field (Bull Run to northeners battlefield), but the move would have brought enormousr amounts of money, jobs, and so on into the county. Stalwartly and actively against it were the hunting clubs, wealthy horsefarm owners, and they spent money in campaigns to stop the corporation which needed various permits to go on. In the end the corporation decided not to come in.

The question is, whose land is it? The hunting clubs were said to be determined to buy up any small plots they could. Some of the land was "state-owned." Well then it was the taxpayers. Of course we may ask which ones?

When Trollope has Gotobed say an old woman has the right to geese on her own ground, and has Twentyman's mother complain she would rather have her turkeys than any "subsitute" the rich man wants to provide, Trollope is setting up the same kind of debate between two opposing views which he does in novel after novel. We have an situation which seems insoluble because in any rearrangement someone is going to lose who was the winner before, and someone is going to win in a way that is not wholly satisfying.

Any novel Trollope writes where there is a law case (and there seem to be a number of them) is going to explore the lies, the phoniness of the game, the irrelevance of who is morally in the right, and the bullying the variously strong impose on the variously weak.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator, Chs 14-20: Aspects of Trollope's Humour

I thought I'd bring up some aspects of Trollope's humour in this and previous week's chapters because they bring out the quality of what at least I enjoy as I read. Here are some of the pleasures I find in Trollope's text.

One pleasure stems from his verbal humour, a kind of wry merriment which he provides through the device of the narrator's active presence. The narrator is constantly inviting us to laugh at the audacity of people, at how they are not ashamed to show their obnoxiousness, pettinesses, spite, and so on. Critics often say novelists invite us to laugh at the distance between what a character pretends to believe and does believe and they call the novelist's irony. I think much more common is the presentation of flat awfulness which is somehow made funny because the narrator points out to us how awful it is. We are solaced because the narrator (or novelist) agrees. I'll cite just one typical example from this week's chapters: "Lady Augustus did say that she supposed that Goarly was a low, vulgar fellow, which of course strengthened the Senator in his purpose" (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, Ch 16, p. 104). The dinners and social scenes in this novel are filled with similar kinds of unashamed solecisms. We are also solaced because the novelist or narrator feels sorry for the character who suffers under such people's socially acceptable tyranny: "Poor Mr Cooper did not get on very well with Mrs Morton. All his remembrances of the old squire were eulogistic and affectionate. Hers were just the reverse" (Ch 13, p. 88). To feel for Mr Cooper is to undergo a form of therapy. He is us.

Trollope also makes fun of the characters throughout the novel. It's not true that this mockery is always moral or kind. Again what makes me laugh is precisely what makes people often so silly or irritating at times is what is caught. The self-pride and therapy of such enjoyment is masked by Trollope's asking us to laugh at people for being predictable. People who have written philosphical tracts on comedy are always going on about how its essence is predictability. We laugh because the characters are always the same. Humours characters are adduced. But if this were so, we would laugh at people continually murdering one another fiercely. It's what this predictability masks that amuses us. And it's usual some version of human denseness or (if I may be permitted) stupidity. Often such stupidity is allied to the character's class. Thus Bean cannot make out who Gotobed could be. We would say he doesn't recognise him. That's putting it positively. The narrator goes into Bean's mind and declares: "The man was certainly not the attorney, and from what he had heard of Scrobby, he didn't think he was Scrooby. The man was not like what in his imagination Scrobby would be" (Ch 16, p. 104). Again there is some therapeutic in laughing at this mind helpless caught up in stereotypes.

Some of the wit comes from brevity, capturing the theme in a sudden bit of dialogue or turn of phrase. Here's Gotobed in a moment we are supposed (I suggest) to agree with him or see what he means: "'Perhaps Mr Mainwaring, I may think that there would be no Goarlys if there were no Ruffords'". Or "'Who valued the geese?'" (Ch 19, pp. 126-27).

I find this kind of therapy in a more muted form in the scenes between Masters and his wife and that wife or Mrs Masters and her children. Mrs Masters is the kind of individual who manages to dominate everyone else by his or her willingness to be that much more obnoxious than anyone else. They come in both sexes, and the willingness to be unpleasant when you know the people you are surrounded by cannot get rid of you easily is a great weapon. Such people exploit the unwillingness of others to endure a greater unpleasantness -- such as outright quarrelling, in the present case Mr Masters telling his wife outright she is amoral, sneering, inhumane nasty, and is giving everyone else a great headache by her pretense at one. At the heart of this is the person willing to carry the quarrel to the furthest wins. Mr Masters is weak -- we see his weakness against his male friends in the Inn too. Though the worm can turn -- he gives his daughter permission to go off. And again Trollope solaces us with rewarding Mr Masters's "virtue" when Lord Rufford hires him to take his case.

The scenes in the Masters home provide a kind of therapy because we find the narrator on our side in such scenes. An important aspect of them is their believability. Trollope writes dialogue and describes gestures we believe in, and brings in all the little troubles of life. Mary needs clothes to go to Lady Ushant (see dialogue, Ch 18, p. 119-20). He can also paint the larger scene with many people interacting (the hunts, the inn, Morton and Rufford's house). If it were not that we find release from our own anger in these scenes, anger we cannot get off in life, why would we enjoy seeing Lady Arabella and Augusta make John Morton miserable? It's that the narrator is on John Morton's side. Here is evidence of right- thinking. We feel better. I read the outrageous phoniness of Lady Arabella's replies to Rufford and Goarly which are only slight exaggerations of the kind of flirting I have seen in the real world and I smile (Ch 21, p. 138). When Gotobed tries to make anti-class points to Bearside ("'Just feudalism . . . The strong hand backed by the strong rank'" (Ch 19, p. 125), Bearside turns the language of Gotobed's phrases into "A most determined man is his lordship'" (p. 125). This doesn't defuse the comment so much as put a psychological twist on it: His lordship is a determined man because he has a strong hand backed by strong rank. But Bearside doesn't see it this way. We are invited to see how hopeless is Gotobed's quest. Grimacing is a kind of pleasure in Trollope's text.

Not to say there isn't sheer merriment. The detective is funny. I think what makes this gay is he is kept at a distance, viz, "On the Monday a detective policeman, dressed of course in rustic disguise, but not the less known to everyone in the place, was wandering about between Dillsborough and Dillsbourgh Wood" (Ch 14, p. 90). The humour is in the "dressed of course". It's the irrationality of mankind itself; we can laugh with no bitterness or morality because the laugh is not grounded in specifics. We are among the mad and are mad ourselves in this sentence. Actually every time the detective is brought up, it is in this comic interlude vein: "The detective was merely eking out his time . . . " (Ch 14, p. 94). Nikem's sleuthing shares in this quality of humour. Maybe that's why it was so popular in Victorian times and we like the fumbling detective today. No threat of pointed laughter here.

One last pleasure: all this humour would not please because it would not be grounded in the deeper roots of our emotional life were it not for the plot with realistic characters whom we care for or about. Mrs Masters is not an ogre (one problem with a character like Mrs Norris in Austen's Mansfield ParkM is she's too poisonous). Mr Masters means well; John Morton is an ass ("the paragon"), but he is just as the world wants him to be and he has feelings. Perhaps the ultimate source of Trollope's kinds of humour stems from where the narrator is with respect to us. He is close. Trollope's narrator is always sidling up to us, never far away. The perspective is very intimate as he moves from the inmost minds of the characters to his own to speak to our inmost minds.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

March 24, 1999

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator, Chs 14-20: Aspects of Trollope's Humor

From: Pourover@aol.com, R. J. Keefe

A propos of Ellen Moody's lovely essay on aspects of Trollope's humor, I'd like to ask a question. What kind of humor does the following passage exemplify?

"The Honourable Mrs. Morton always went to church, and had no doubt of her own sincerity when she reiterated her prayer that as she forgave others their trespasses, so might she be forgiven hers. As Reginald Morton had certainly never trespassed against her perhaps there was no reason why her thoughts should be carried to the necessity of forgiving him." (Chapter IX; Dover 58)

Whatever we call it, this is the kind of joke that's thoroughly grounded in language. Nothing is shown to happen. Reginald Morton *hasn't* trespassed (although of course he's offended the old lady), and the Mrs. Morton hasn't even considered forgiving him. Trollope doesn't play this sort of card often, but when he does I'm always tickled; he can't be extremely, almost Continentally, witty. Note also that the matrix of the joke is the Lord's Prayer; it often seems to me that the bulk of English-speaking literary humor before this century strikes a tangent from either Scripture or Shakespeare (with almost all the rest coming from a handful of Latin authors).

By the bye, I've just joined the reading because I've just found my copy of AS. Not having thought much of it the first time round (right after the Dover edition was published, in 1979), I wasn't going to buy another copy. But how we change. I'm enjoying it vastly. And I find Senator Gotobed a far more successful figure than I did the first time. I'd thought him extraneous before, because of course the *story* story is all about love, as per usual. Now I regard him as an ostinato, accenting or underlining nearly every aspect of the novel with remarks that are always droll, whether consciously or otherwise. While Trollope puts tons of of very reasonable objections to hunting in the Senator's mouth (objections that the Trollopean narrator often interjects into other novels' hunting scenes), the Senator's vague ridiculousness undercuts their force. Just as humor is the enemy of passion, so it can never be reasonable about it.

We often complain these days about the monetarization of everything, but if everything has a price then at least one's wallet gets thicker. Today's equivalent of the very dull dinner at Bragton would undoubtedly take place under business auspices. At the upper levels of society, in any case, the maneuvering that Trollope depicts has come to an end; such routes to social advancement have been exploded. Actually, the Senator's presence at Bragton is entirely a 'business' proposition, as whether or not John Morton expects anything from the Senator himself (doubtful), the visit will be a pretty plume in his diplomatic hat. Curiously, Trollope doesn't explore this, or any other reason for the Senator's presence. Even more curiously, the Senator seems to feel that he's doing his fellow Americans a favor by putting himself in a position to work up a lot of edifying lectures.

Anyway, what fun.

RJ Keefe

Subject: [trollope-l] Arabella

From: Penny Klein

I do not have ambivalent feelings about Arabella, I do not like her and I do feel sorry for her intended or rather maybe intended. She could have a good life with John Morton, but she wants MORE. She will always be looking over her shoulder to see who has the bigger check book. I can't blame her fiance as he expected her to want to spend time with him, to be with him, however she is looking for excuses to avoid him. I would think an engaged woman would show partiality to her intended instead of the display of selfishness she is showing him.

Penny Klein, M.L.S.

In reply:

And, for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I rather admire Arabella (at least up to Chapter 20 or so..). She is clearly attractive and even courageous in a single minded way. She knows exactly what she wants and is going for it. She will accept Morton if there is nothing better, but Lord Rufford would be better, so she sets her face towards him, balancing one against the other. But then, isn't Morton looking for a trophy wife, who will be obedient; a decoration at far flung embassy parties? I haven't yet heard much expression of longing from him; more the thoughtful evaluation of a recent acquisition, not yet paid for - or used.

What or who, then, does Arabella Trefoil remind me of? Difficult to say. Perhaps of some of the men in Trollope's novel. All, or most of the above attributes could apply to them.

In this book, I think of Twentyman, determined to get the bride of his choice despite her evident distaste for him. Of Goarly, perhaps, who is equally unconcerned with allowing slippages in truth and integrity if they happens to hamper his quest for money. Perhaps even of the gallant Major, that sombre, mysterious self-centred figure obsessed with taming every horse he bestrides, whatever the cost to man or beast.

Or should we apply different yardsticks to men and women?

Frazer Wright

From: John Mize
Reply-to: trollope-l@onelist.com
Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The American Senator: Love and Hypocrisy

TFrom: John Mize

TI suppose the reason Arabella doesn't appall me is that I have no sympathy at all for John Morton. The man is a conventional fool, the worst kind. He only wants a sexual partner and a hostess who will not embarrass him when he serves as the ambassador to Franistan, and he tells himself that he is in love. Arabella wants prestige, excitement and security. She would settle for John Morton if she were convinced that she could do no better. The idea of either of them being in love is silly.

TEllen suggests that Trollope sees hypocrisy as useful in making it easier for us to get us through life. That is one of the differences I have with Trollope. I tend to think it would be preferable to live in a world where the Arabellas and the John Mortons could speak their minds. Arabella could tell Morton that his proposal is interesting and that she will get back to him later. Morton would tell her not to wait too long to make her decision, as there are other candidates interested in the position who are almost as well-qualified as she is. It's probably a mistake to encourage everyone to believe that they are capable of love. Maybe if we left love to the sentimentalists, the idea of love wouldn't be as debased as it is now.

John Mize

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: Lies and Power

In temperament I agree with John, and incline to think I much prefer people not to pretend to attitudes they don't have. I also get very irritated by obvious phoniness (there's nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than the kind of meaningless hugs and kisses I see some people indulge in). Nonetheless I'd like to say Trollope has something when he says that since Arabella and her mother don't lie at all about their baser motives, they make their lives with one another much harder and more miserable.

Earlier today after reading John's post I got out a small book I own by Sissea Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. She wrote a companion volume about secrets. (This by-the-bye relates to Austen's S&S where we are told and shown more than once than that all the exertion and forbearance of lies -- really part-lies -- fell to Elinor.) Bok opens with an important quotation from Bacon:

"Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shurnken things, full of melancholy, and indisposition, and unpleasing to ourselves."

At first Bok meditates lying on the grand scale -- or at important moments and in public forums. As for example: someone who lays dying to whom the truth is not told as a kindness; professors who write letters of recommendation which more than somewhat exaggerate the student's excellence to help him or her get that job; parents who conceal many of their real feelings about their children or the other parent or their past from these children; investigations into racial or either bias which depend upon an investigator going there in disguise; a bill for social good which is passed in Congress by outbribing the bad guys (not easy).

Not only can we ask if it is sometimes the right thing to tell a lie, we should ask how can we tell what is the truth? Human reality is so complicated. Which is our real motive? Don't we have far more than one, and aren't some more and some less pleasant? Aren't some out of reach of our consciousness? Are Morton and Arabella engaged? The settlements are not signed; she won't even let him physically near enough her to put his arm round her waist. Is not Arabella in a continual rage because she would like something better than this sheer rat-race and hollow battle? She may not have the nature or understanding to go for something better, but she's not happy. Don't we know people like this?

On Austen-l today I told a story I have told there before because it was germaine to a scene between Marianne and Elinor but it fits Arabella and her mother. I have two girlfriends whose relationship never recovered from one fatal sentence. One of them, let's call her Mary, told the other who we'll call Kate, she was going out with someone who was very heavy. He was not at all muscular and was short. Well Kate blurted out, "Oh, how could you go to bed with that gross . . . .?" I forget the exact words but they really described the guy in a way. They were accurate. Mary married this guy and never forgave Kate. I think Kate didn't understand Mary was really serious about him, really liked him.

Now I think there is a reason my gut response is to want unvarnished truth when it can be spoken tactfully, especially from someone I am close to in any way. And especially about important events. I would want to know if I had a dreadful disease. I sometimes get very irritated with my husband for always trying to put a pleasant take on things. It's dangerous. If he says we have the money for X, and we don't and I go ahead and commit us, what then? More how do you trust what the person is telling you. I still remember when on the first round of trying for an American Association of University Women award, I was told I was a runner up, he said, well, remember it's all favoritism; then I got it after all, and he said, well you deserved it, earned it. And applauded me. But it can't be both.

Bok deals with the desire for closeness to truth too. the physician, the professor, the congressman, the official, the bureaucrat: these types are often comfortable with lies. They talk of those who are not as naive. They are sophisticated. Well lying makes their job easier. Go to the patient, the student, the citizen and you find they often feel deeply betrayed; they feel they have been deprived of the power of deciding for themselves. It is the same people who defend prudence on the part of the establishment. Lies are a form of prudence. They are ways of controlling others. They are also ways of bolstering cant. People lie in ways they are taught to lie, and often this is a way of keeping things going. People like to have pleasant interpretations of their behavior. In America we are told there are no classes; the teacher organises the class in such a way as to make it hard to get a high grade. It must be he is for high standards, not defending his institution against others in some book that measures standards; it couldn't be spite that got you that low grade.

So I suggest the dislike of lies that I have called a matter of temperament or instinct is perhaps rooted in an identification with the relatively powerless. I respect those who do not make love to their employment or salary or provide conventional explanations of things when I know them to be more than a little harmful to many individuals.

Nonetheless, half-lies make life go down easier.

This does relate to Gotobed. He wants to tell the truth all the time, but he will not recognise that he is only working from the economic truths underlying power. On the other hand, Trollope is himself constantly harping on Gotobed's truth as the one that counts, even when Gotobed is nowhere to be seen. For example in this week's chapters Lady Penwether is trying to get John Morton to tell her the truth -- i.e., that he and Arabella are engaged -- and Trollope writes:

"'I did hear, she said, from one of your Foreign Office young men that you and Miss Trefoil were very intimate.'

'Who was that, Lady Penwether?'

'Of course I shall mention no name. You might call out the poor lad and shoot him, or, worse still, have him put at the bottom of his class'" (Oxford, The American Senator, ed JHalperin, Ch 23, p 160).

Knowledge is power. The employer likes to keep the salaries his employees earn from one another. Rufford is enormously powerful. His tenants are rightly frightened of him. (I just read today about how Maria Edgeworth's family threw tenants off their property when they voted in ways not in the landlord's interest.) Lying is manipulative. You can however manipulate for the good. As long as you don't have someone like me who will cross-question you in order to catch you in a contradiction :).

In the area of love it may be very different -- by which I mean true love. Who can have a relationship that has any depth if it's based on continual phoniness and indifference to the other -- which is where lies also come from.


Re: The American Senator, Chs 14-20: Wit & Pathos

This is a "fun novel" (to use a contemporary idiom). A number of my kinds of humor were verbal, and I agree the novelist is making hay out of something a character doesn't do (forgive another) because that other character has not done something (trespassed) to require it. Yet words stubbornly refer us to human realities and even here we have a moral joke about Mrs Morton's adherence to the rules of Christianity (as she understands them) not their spirit. Again we are solaced because it's plain the narrator knows how mean- spirited she really is. Our view of her is validated.

I also agree Gotobed strikes strong sparks in the novel which seem to flash along its lines of debate. How many times I have come across Trollope stubbornly making a case for what we might usually regard as distasteful or unpleasant behavior (bigoted too); as RJ remarks in Gotobed Trollope allows a number of his own views to appear ridiculous or ill-founded while somehow suggesting through the lower characters in the story Gotobed has understood the desperate vulnerability of many in the town to Rufford.

Would Trollope today write novels which have scenes of board meetings? or office parties? or networking with the people who are part of your working world outside the office or place of business? Actually he does the first and last in novels near AS in time. In The Way We Live Now we go to board meetings; in The Prime Minister Lady Glen networks for all she's worth. I think Trollope is one of the most modern of the Victorian novelists in numbers of ways. In a book on Trollope called The Androgynous Trollope, Rajiva Wijeshina argues that more than any other Victorian novelist and that includes women, Trollope presents women objectively. He analyses marriage from a standpoint that is modern and not sentimentalised. Poor Arabella. The inner desolation of treating marriage as a career move is rarely presented so emphatically in Victorian novels.

Ellen Moody

Reply-to: trollope-l@onelist.com
Subject: [trollope-l] Courtship and Marriage in The American Senator

From: RansomT@aol.com

It is interesting to compare the situation of Mary Masters with that of Arabella Trefoil.

Both are obliged to find a husband, both are unhappy with the person chosen by their Mama (or step-mother) Both are hoping for a match with another man, but in each case from a different, slightly higher, class and so more fraught and with difficulties and problems to be overcome. The nuances of class are well drawn.

In each case the girl has to marry to escape from the tyranny of an overbearing mother/step-mother. This is shown to be the expected course for them to take, and yet in neither case are they prepared to accept second best just to get away. And because of this rebellion they both become intensely interesting. What will happen? Will they find true love? One fears for Arabella who seems so vulnerable in her scheming. Mary seems to be made of tougher material somehow.

The pressure on all women to marry must have been intense. The alternative was to become a poor relation, dependent on ones family for every favour, and one fears this may be the fate of Arabella, for a woman could not live alone and unchaperoned, even if she was lucky enough to have independent means. I imagine this is why women with means would often live with a female companion, and why, if they found no suitable or desirable husband, they would remain together for their whole lives. Today they would probably be labelled as lesbians, for as I think Ellen said, we seem to have this inexplicable need to classify all relationships. But no-one in Trollope's time would have thought there was anything at all unusual in women living together. It was seen as a practical solution.

Arabella's pursuit of the attractive Lord Rufford is a cliff hanger. She may be a fortune hunter, and a gambler, but she does it so well!


Mary has her father, and presumably her mother was a more "refined" person than her stepmother, and she has had a better upbringing and moral education. I think Arabella is more vulnerable in a way--if she fails to find any husband, she will be left without much means of support. And she has little in the line of values or moral education to fall back on. But Mary seems more vulnerable to me emotionally--because she is more concerned with feelings and love as a basis for happiness, where Arabella is looking for money and property.

Judy Warner

From: Gene Stratton
To: trollope-l@onelist.com

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator: Sour Grapes

March 25, 1999

Mrs. Masters, I suspect, suffers from having eaten too many sour grapes. The daughter of an ironmonger, she came out poorly in contrast with Mr. Masters's first wife, who had been a lady, the daughter of a clergyman, and accepted by the gentry and aristocracy of the Dillsborough area. The second Mrs. Masters was not visited or liked by the town gentry, and she took to hating them.

I remember reading a superb short story long ago called "In the Zoo" or something like that. As near as I can recall, there were two little girls brought up by a very mean old woman. They suffered under her as only uncomprehending children can suffer the meaness that is thrown at them "for their own good." And of course the woman thought herself so righteous about everything, and let the little girls know it at every opportunity. Your heart bled for these little girls. Then they grow up, go their own ways, and one day get together again, I think in a zoo. They discuss old times and the mean woman, as well as current situations. The beauty of the story is that after being exposed to so much of their conversation, all of a sudden it comes over the reader like a flash that these two mistreated little girls, unknown even to themselves, have grown up each to be a carbon copy of the woman who brought them up. At least it was all of a sudden to me. I suspect that this would not have come as such an astounding revelation to Trollope; he would have caught on as the story was proceeding because he was instinctively or empirically aware of the most likely consequences of such a nurturing for the little girls.

Thus if Mary Masters is to portrayed as likeable, it helps to have her more than hereditarily the daughter of a lady; she must be brought up environmentally during her most impressionable years by someone like Lady Ushant. No wonder Mrs. Masters must deep at heart envy her, or even hate her, though self-righteously she couldn't admit it even to herself. Everything she does must be for Mary's own good, so she thinks, but her idea of Mary's good is for Mary to be brought down to Mrs. Masters's own level.

In plotting the relationship between Mary and her step-mother, Trollope again shows his aristocratic bias. He has said elsewhere how much he himself prefers the company of the upper classes. But he often seems to be in a quandary as to how to justify his bias. Philosophically there should be no reason way one person should be better than another, but pragmatically some people are better than other people, and I think what he is portraying in Mary is his unspoken conviction that it is a combination of nature and nurture that goes to make up character and differentiate one human from another. In this he was, once again, ahead of his time.

I know not everyone will agree with me as to Trollope's aristocratic bias, but it would be interesting to have the possibility in mind as we read from one story to another, and mentally note other indications that would tend either to confirm or deny this bias.

We seem somewhat split in our opinions of Arabella. But am I right in supposing that we all like Mary and dislike her step-mother?

Gene Stratton

To Trollope-l

March 25, 1999

Re: Margaret Oliphant, Charlotte Bronte & Anthony Trollope

It may seem like a response which comes from an unexpected direction, but to Gene's comment on Trollope's depiction of Mrs Masters, I'd like to say another novelist of the period who demonstates how not only nature and nurture go to making up a human being, but how place and status also form people intimately is Margaret Oliphant. I have been much enjoying Bronte and was glad we read Felix Holt as background for the politics of the period which did relate to Trollope, but we have not really read any Victorian novelists close to Trollope in outlook or technique since we discussed Thackeray last year. Gissing's New Grub Street may be regarded as a development out of Trollope's techniques, but it's not a Victorian novel in the same way.

I have been reading a biography of Oliphant and looking at a couple of her short stories and her Chronicles of Carlingford. The latter are modelled on Barsetshire except she depicts the dissenting culture of England. There are many women like Mrs Masters in Oliphant. Perhaps we will also meet a few in Cranford. I hope we do eventually read Margaret Oliphant together on this list.

Margaret Oliphant's criticism and books also bear on Bronte. Carlyle who was so interested in the larger political and social and economic forces of England said that Oliphant's novels were worthier than Brontes. Oliphant's biographers, the Colbys quote him to the effect that what he admired most was Oliphant's books were not centered on love stories and Oliphant managed to present individual human characters who were what they were as a result of their nature and their class, place, status, kind of employment. In fact her stories often center on a young man going to get a job in a community he doesn't fit into. Or about women after they marry. She herself sniffed at Bronte's by saying in response to them she has learned how little of our human life is really spent in falling in love or responding to a deep love relationship. Myself I don't know about that :), but for Oliphant it was so. She had 5 children in close succession, 3 died before they reached adulthood; her husband died of TB after years of mediocre efforts as an artist. So she naturally found herself writing of the world from the stance of someone earning a living in a man's way and leading an independent life (which she did).

On Trollope's aristocratic bias: I'm not sure. It depends which books by him you read. On the whole he might say that all things being equal, someone with a good education, lots of money and the security, self-confidence, and experience of the world money can bring, will probably be a more pleasant companion and better adjusted personality than the same kind of nature growing up without those things. Think of the Duke of St Bungay. But all things are rarely equal. And again and again he shows us people who are his heroes and heroines because their inner natures and individual nurture at home made them better people than the local aristocrats. Think of the old Earl Lovell, the Longestaffes. Trollope's bias comes from his writing about the milieu he grew up in and knew best.

Then this is true of so many writers.

To Gene's question whether we like Mary and dislike her stepmother, I'll finesse: I like Mary because Trollope depicts her in ways that make her likable. She stands for candour, genuineness in the scheme of the novel.

I dislike Mrs Masters because Trollope depicts her in ways that make her singularly unpleasant, grating, someone who makes the hardships and vexations of life harder to endure than they already in and of themselves. Trollope does excuse or ask us to understand her when he tells us that she has been made very uncomfortable by her knowledge that Mr Masters's first wife was above her in station and a nicer person. On the other hand, he presents her as simply the kind of person who resents the people she is envious of because they expose her resentful nature to the world and to herself.

This is desultory, but I hope that's okay.

Chatting away,

March 25, 1999
Reply-to: trollope-l@onelist.com
Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator: Could Dillsborough be Doncaster?

From: Ellen Moody

The body of my posting is in my heading. Someone has mentioned to me the possibility that Trollope's Dillsborough is meant to evoke in our minds the culture and landscape of the northern midlands (55 miles from Cheltenham takes in a wide circular swathe).

I don't know how many people on our list have been to Doncaster. When I attended Leeds University, it was a stop on the train between London and Leeds. I remember the station as somewhat dreary, the landscape as rooted in the 19th century world in all sorts of ways, and partly rural, lots of villages as well as some industry. As I remember or redream the trip, the air is always chill and night coming on. Lots of redbrick, pubs, black smokestacks and brown landscape too.

Ellen Moody

From Gene Stratton in reply to the above:

I calculate Doncaster to be 120 miles from Gloucester (next door to Cheltenham) in a straight line. A road chart gives it 150 miles by car, so by train it might be somewhere between 120 and 150 miles.

Of course, the figure of 55 miles by train between Dillsborough and Cheltenham is based on my calculation, and someone should check these since I am quite capable of making mistakes. Page 182 in Chapter 27 gives the basis of my figuring. We know that Dillsborough had its own railroad station. Trollope writes: "They had before them a journey of thirty miles on one railway; then a stop of half an hour at the Hinxton Junction; and then another journey of about equal length."

Answering Ellen's question as to how many people have been to Doncaster, I thought I had, but checking the map I find that the place I visited was Tadcaster, where I once went to visit the great Samuel Smith Brewery (I love to visit breweries). Ginger and I once stayed a few days in Cheltenham, which is a lovely city. From our hotel, there stretched at a downward incline a beautiful wide flower-lined promenade through the city center, which I think was called, appropriately, The Promenade. It's a resort city with many features, including a famous racetrack which may be familiar to Dick Francis fans.

Gene Stratton

Reply-to: trollope-l@onelist.com
Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator: Doncaster as Dillsborough - NEVER!

From: Ellen Moody

Ah well. I withdraw my friend's suggestion and retreat to the idea that Trollope does not mean us to fix upon a specific place.

I lived in Leeds for nearly two years. Many said it was ugly, and when I was there (1969-70), there were still rows and rows of the old back-to-backs, much soot, rain, bleakness. I lived on two different blocks of terraced redbrick houses, both in poor areas. Not all that far out beyond the ring road were rural heath-y looking places. These were glorious. I once saw lambs. Long stone dividers everywhere. Admittedly I never got there much. Didn't have a car. I mostly went to the pubs within walking distance or the center of town (only 3 by 3 blocks in those days), sometimes by bus. Then again I lived in a world of students until the last four months or so when I worked as a secretary for John Waddington Ltd, just behind the factory which was not made up of unionised people (Waddington saw to that)

Still I liked it and I think because it was working class in culture. There was little ostentation. There is much camaraderie among northerners; it is a culture somewhat apart from that of the south. . I think at the time in terms of human atmosphere I much preferred it to New York City (the only other place-as-home I had ever known).

I saw Doncaster as quite similar to Leeds, just a little farther south. I do remember some mountains of left-over coal or industrial waste along the lines of the railway. It seemed like another Leeds.

I suppose when I said chill and brown and dark that sounds very off-putting. I didn't mean it quite that way. Of course the northern midlands is not a Tahiti, but then I dislike the sun. It took a long time for me not to panic with a sense of franticness when I would get caught in the intense heat of a Virginia summer, especially in a parking lot outside a mall. Now that is awful. The glare of the Virginia sun is to me mean and brutal. In a city sun is stifling, sickly, serving but to allow me to see the ingrained dirt in the backboards of an apartment (I think of New York City apartments on humid days in summer). Dimness is much better. Hides things.

In a way going north was escaping. It was always that for me. Escaping from the hard fast culture of New York, abrasive, competitive. From my experience of life in Leeds I like melancholy rainy days best. (Though without central heat the raw chill was very bad -- I lived in a flat for a couple of weeks where I had to put shillings in a gas meter.) Still dark days are kinder, they enclose me. I liked when the train went north (I always think of Elizabeth Bowen's book, To the North. I liked the shabbiness of old Leeds (I have been there since and the place is much changed, mostly because of the car). As I like my house here in Virginia whose kitchen (until I got money from a car accident) looked just like some of the kitchens I inhabited in Leeds.

I didn't mean to get people all excited. Still I'll reiterate what I said in an earlier posting: not all Trollope's stories are placed in lovely countrysides like Barsetshire, and even there it's a case of nostalgia and select depiction.

Ellen Moody

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