Arabella as a Tissot; Trollope's Taste in Women; The Women Paralleled; As a Serialized Novel and the Original Illustrations

To Trollope-l

March 28, 1999

Re: Arabella as a Tissot

At 10:13 AM 3/28/99, Gene Stratton wrote:

I think I shall have to back down on identifying Arabella with Tissot's painting. I confess that I was led astray by an ambitious woman with a beautiful face and wearing a lovely pink gown. And she also has very dark, almost black, eyes. But Arabella, Trollope tells us in TAS Ch. 12, had "fine eyes ... very, large, beautifully blue." So it appears that the fair Arabella has claimed another victim.

Gene Stratton

This is a small addendum to Gene's commentary on Tissot last night. I have found looking at the reprints of Victorian realistic paintings helps visualise Trollope's characters. Perhap this impulse to see them lies behind the impulse to provide illustrations. Trollope meant us to see real types and people in his novels, and it seems to me he covers a large swathe of types and individuals. Two writers whose books include a wide variety of paintings relevant to Trollope's novels are Christopher Wood and Julian Treuherz.

Ellen Moody

Re: Trollope's taste in women

A another point Trollope also identifies Arabella as big shouldered, tall and blonde. She is in Tissot's picture -- look at the woman to the side of the woman in the center. Probably Trollope himself might have liked the woman in the center. Trollope does not like the supine Junos; repeatedly he depicts them as frigid towards men (certainly this is true of Griselda Grantley). On the other hand, he also distrusts too much elegance. One of the ways in which he creates distrust for Ferdinand Lopez is to tell us the man always looks like a band-box, always impeccably dressed, not a hair or shirt tuck out of place. As a boy Trollope was a clumsy and badly dressed oaf (to others); the caricatures of him as an older man show someone who is not comfortable in tight-fitting elegant clothes at all. He is always bursting out of them. He looks rumpled.

He really had a taste for "quiet" looking women and men. There is a dialogue between Plantagenet and Lady Glencora Palliser in The Prime Minister where she asks him how he can endure that Lady Rosina de Courcy. To look at her is to be bored. Palliser says he doesn't value people for their surface entertainment power. He likes to listen to them as people and as human beings with burdens in life they talk about sincerely, he likes them.

I have found a few of Trollope's types in Millais's paintings. (The problem with all illustrations in this period is the engraving process lost a great many tiny strokes which gave a face its psychological depth). I have a candidate for Lucy Morris in Millais's Music Mistress (reprinted in Christopher Wood's Victorian Panorama, p 132, illustration 135. In a Tissot you can locate Madame Maxes in the less ostentatiously dressed women, only Tissot's women tend to have such whitish skin and low cut dresses. I see Madame Max as suggestively buttoned up. I find something close to Trollope's ideal in a picture by George William Joy in Wood's Panorama, p 219, illustration 231, the fashonable lady on the omnibus, only Trollope would not have her so obviously differentiated from the others by holding expensive flowers. There is a quietly delicate (a shade away from elegance) dark haired, not thin but slender woman, dressed tastefully in cloak and hat, with umbrella, gazing out half-dreamily, but not bothering anyone as she waits for her stop to come.

We rarely talk about how Trollope's novels are written from a male point of view and how he envisions his women as sex objects for a male's delectation. I doubt he was conscious of this in the way I am putting it at all. It was simply a given. The male's taste is what counts. Is it not the same today in films? magazines? cover illustrations of novels? Even when the object is to be sold primarily to women.

Ellen Moody

From: Janice Durante

Ellen wrote, "Trollope himself does not favor this physical kind of trophy. Madame Max, Lucy Morris, and a number of his sympathetic heroines are called small, thin-wristed, and brown."

At the National Gallery this weekend I saw Sargent's painting of his sister, who exemplifies the kind of young woman Trollope would have described as rather small and brown, like Mary Masters (and some of Trollope's other heroines). Sargent painted a quiet and loving study of his sister in her soft but sturdy brown dress, her healthy-looking cheeks with no rouge and, if I remember correctly, no jewelry at all. It is strikingly different from his other, more famous portraits of elegantly dressed, wealthy ladies with their flounces and lace and glittering gems.

I can't help but think that Arabella and Lord Ruskin have a lot in common; their taste for luxury and their zest for life are in sharp contrast to Morton's dullness.

March 29, 1999

To Trollope-l

Re: The New American Senator, Chs 21-26: The Women Paralleled

As a woman I don't find Arabella Trefoil delicious.

Still, I agree with RJ that an important element in Trollope's imagination in this book is negative capability which I understand to mean the ability of the artist to enter into other personalities, streams of emotion, worlds, situations, without judging them. He becomes something he is not in life through his imagination.

Trollope is quite a chameleon too. There are always so many areas of his mind at work at once. The other day I read a good essay by R. W. Chapman on Trollope's use of names, the point of which was to show how playful and suggestive Trollope often is. How he also plays with irrational associations of sounds the English speaker will make. I have often been aware of how a name will show that a character Trollope appears to be taking utterly seriously, be deeply emotionally involved with, shows Trollope at the same time mocks the character and laughs at the fiction as fiction too. Angela's identification of Trefoil as an insignificant humble flower undercuts Arabella in just this way as well as making a point about her real status among the Mortons and Ruffords if no one marries her. A lack of status Lady Penwether is alive to. Penwether is good too; it suggests she turns with the winds of the moment. She's a weathercock.

This week's chapters focused largely on Arabella. Athough we have a hunt, a man is badly maimed by the horse and may die, and the American Senator is there, this aspect of the fiction is placed in the background of the action. The central matter is the "love" story -- or perhaps I should say the hunt on the part of Arabella for a wealthiest husband she can nail down.

This is paralleled by Mary Masters managing to escape the attorney's house. Her stepmother fails to nail her down. I use nail deliberately. Mrs Masters would martyr Mary to the world's notions of status (though she wants to keep the stepdaughter down) and marry Mary off as if marriage were sheerly a business arrangement; this is precisely Lady Augustus and Arabella's view.

Why does Trollope does go on about how Arabella and her mother tell each other the hard truth? Mrs Masters does not pretend to anything sentimental or sensitive. Perhaps the difference is Mrs Masters speaks her awful words unconsciously in the way so many people do, while the Trefoils speak theirs with full awareness of what they are saying.

There is a deliberate contrast in moods between the chapters at Rufford Hall and "Wonderful Bird." I feel something sweet in the description of Reginald Morton and Mary trying to talk over the bird; they are frustrated, but it's not by anything mean. In fact the old lady likes her bird. It's a comedy without a sting. Each of the dialogues at the ball are manipulative, maneuvring and it's hard to get up much sympathy for John Morton who seems so cold too. In fact Rufford is the most natural person there, the least hypocritical. He is attracted; he doesn't know of an engagement; he's strong from position and wealth and all these have given him all his life, and his responses are healthy. Of course it is hinted he might think the better of his embracing Arabella once she is gone from the house and his sister speaks to him.

Sometimes one might say that Trollope's characters, especially in the later novels often find splendid balls and dinners ordeals, a species of work, vexing, and irritating. In the Pallliser books this is the norm for the sympathetic characters; the non-sympathetic ones just don't think about what they are experiencing for real; they don't think to be happy. For some readers the experience of these ordeals is fascinating and even splendid in the way a theatrical set-piece is. For my part, I liked when Rachel Ray when to the ball because she loved it, it was sweet for her; I loved the sports at Ullathorne in Barchester Towers because it was delighted high spirits for the characters too. Here I am lured in and appalled. The pleasure is in the solace that the narrator agrees with me and now and again one finds a sympathetic character who judges the ball as hollow too.

I did find Caneback an interesting figure. He has dedicated his life to hunting and horses. One might say he works hard for the money. Very hard. And may lose his life over it. I think Trollope means us to see him as part of his schematic presentation in the book of the very powerful (Rufford), the instruments of power (the lawyers), the community members who each of them have invested their individual egos and have vested interests in keeping the present arrangements going (the townsmen and middling types like the Rector who exploits his curate so badly, the innkeeper who makes his profit on the Dillsborough Club), and the lower middling (Twentyman) and poorer sorts (Goarly, the woman with the geese). Caneback is a kind of instrument, the one who does the physical work. We are of course to take it he is the kind of person who revels in the life. Still this figure makes me wonder about the dignity of labour.

This is a rich book. Trollope is a fully mature artist and there's a lot here from large depictions of a place and era (the train), to fast-moving narratives about the hunt with Arabella with her heart in her mouth and poor Caneback's head stamped upon, to quiet, minutely caught, wonderfully astute scenes like the one between Morton and Arabella which is utterly convincing and which moves in a direction that for the moment enables her to win over him (Oxford The American Senator, Ch 23, pp. 163-4). Arabella has wit; she tells her mother:

"'I believe you fancy, mamma, that a lot of men can be played like a parcel of chessmen, and that as soon as a knight is knocked on the head you can take him upon and put him into the box, and have done with him" (ch 25, p. 167).

I have often thought the novel is in our time overrated as a genre. It makes so much money, is easy to read, easy to talk about (we gossip about the characters as if they were people). I'm not sure Trollope himself had such a high notion of novels; Mrs Oliphant and Thackeray didn't. These books softened the truth, were sentimental, pandered, had love at the center each and every time (almost). Nonetheless, sheerly from the point of view of writing a novel, Trollope is superb. I'm not talking about his vision or attitudes, but qua novelist he's hard to beat.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

March 29, 1999

Re: The American Senator: As a Serialised Novel and the Original Illustrations

This is to me fascinating topic to delve not only for Trollope but the many Victorian novelists whose work was serialised. Trollope did finish his novels before he submitted them to a publisher and was paid for them, but there is plenty of evidence to show that he wrote them either with the installment pattern his editor told him would be used in mind, or one he himself preferred.

The evidence is in the letters. I will pull one example for each. Here is Trollope talking about Dr Wortle's School:

it was written with the intention of being run through eight numbers . . . In writing a story in numbers a novelist divides his points of interest, so as to make each section a whole. It will often happen that his divisions should be recast to suit circumstances. But this cannot be done without a certain amount of detriment to the story (NJohn Hall, Letters, ii, pp. 856-7)

For the Last Chronicle of Barset we find him asking the publisher what shapes he should plan his narrative in:

I commonly divide a number of 32 pages (such as the numbers of Orley Farm) into 4 chatpers each. If you wish the work to be so arranged as to run either to 20 or 30 numbers, I must work each of the 20 numbers by 6 chapters, taking care that the chapters run so equally, two and two, as to make each four into one equal part or each 6 into one equal part -- There will be some trouble in this (i, 328-29).

I should think there will be at least some paying attention. Again Trollope grows very angry when he meant a book to come out in 2 volumes and it appears as 3 and is thus redivided (the example here is The Belton Estate, i, pp. 328-29). And it's not just a matter of not cheating the customer into thinking he or she has got more story; it's rearranging the climaxes and the patterning of the characters appearances, reappearances, and contrasts with one another that counts.

There's a very good book just on Trollope's use of serial installment to create cliff-hangers, to have one number of one set of characters and another on another, to vary mood within a number and between numbers: Mary Hamer's Writing by Number: Trollope's Serial Fiction. Sheldon Goldfarb and others on Victoria cite the same sorts of studies for other Victorian novelists. I know Angela is on a Henry James list; James's novels came out in numbers too. When I taught Phineas Finn I assigned it over a number of weeks in numbers and the class and became aware of how there were cliff-hangers and all the things Hamer says are there in PF. The recent Penguin Framley Parsonage gives the original patterning and it can be seen that Trollope uses the structuring of the installment publication as a way of controlling himself: he will refrain from introducing new characters or introduce them because he either is or is not into a new installment. A careful study of The Claverings and Lady Anna revealed subtle changes and contrasts of moods and characters and scene types (one installment filled with dinner parties, the next with intimate scenes, the next with letters and so on). Geoffrey Harvey in his Art of Trollope has some good sections on installment patterns in The Claverings and Orley FarmL.

So it's real and is on a number of occasions used effectively by Trollope. He gets upset if the pattern is obscured. I suppose this might be true of other Victorian novelists too. It's another device to be exploited, another helpful control (like meter and rhyme in writing poetry).

In the case of The American Senator I didn't try to divide the novel into its original installments but tried to create a rhythm which would suit us as readers over 2-3 months. My Oxford classics edition does not tell me the original pattern. Hamer says the novel was published in Temple Bar from 4 June 1875 to 24 Sept 1875 in 16 parts of 48 page each. I take this to mean each installment was 5 chapters long. Am I right?

Angela says she sees no discernible or obvious patterns. There were cases where Trollope's idea for dividing his novels was ignored both in the serials and in the divisions of the book's volumes. By the year of The American Senator his price had begun to fall. Until after Framley Parsonage, one finds his novels redivided and an original patterning lost (this is the case with Castle Richmond.) I see two sets of characters: 1) the Masters/Twentyman/Reginald Morton triangle, their houses and attached characters (e.g., Lady Ushant); and, 2) the John Morton/Arabella/Rufford triangle, and their houses and attached characters (lawyers, sisters) which includes Elias Gotobed who exists at one remove from Rufford as an eyewitness outsider (like Montesquieu's Persian) and is brought in as an attached eye to view the whole community through his knowledge of John Morton as a diplomat in Washington.

Sometimes one can see interesting parallels between characters one had not thought of before or preoccupations with a kind of scene or emotion when you look at the installments and volume divisions. Maybe as we go along Angela can tell us what she sees.

This is a kind of side issue but related. Each installment in the illustrated novels allowed for a full-page illustration and a vignette. The choice for the latter was Trollope's and when you see the installment in its original setting it brings out what Trollope thought the high or central moment of an number was. The vignette highlights something in the opening chapter of each installment. I went to the Library of Congress this past fall and looked at The Last Chronicle Of Barset in its original 1867 numbers. It was awakening. I see the book somewhat differently. A number of minor men (a farmer, Mrs Proudie's stoolie) were more important than I thought. I also bought first editions American editions of The Vicar of Bullhampton and The Golden Lion of Granpère with the original illustrations. The pictures of the latter make Carrie the dominant figure; she appears in central places in the sequence and in a number of them; Edith Brownlow is paralleled to Carrie and to Mary Lowther. In the latter story we have an Oedipal patterning. The pictures in the first editions were carefully placed by the scenes they illustrated. It gave one time to look.

Piquant realities: do others know these novels when they appeared in magazines often came with advertisements in the text? It gives the modern reader a curious jolt to see ads next to favorite scenes. The Last Chronicle came out in separate numbers and the ads are at the beginning and end of a number. It's like not having the commercial interrupt the story. But they are there and tell the expected taste of the audience. The publishers advertise other better novelists and serious minded books. Also good furniture, matches, baby sets, and sensible household equipment.

This is an interesting topic because so many novelists published this way and it affected their work. The illustrations suggest how at least some readers read these novels.

Ellen Moody

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