Sympathy for Major Caneback?; Minor Career Men; Wonderful Bird!; The Heroes, the Animals, and the Outsider; Major Caneback's Cruelty to Horses; Trollope's Use of Letters; Gotobed & the Other Characters; So many unlikable Characters; Lord Rufford; They Said Go West, Young Man, and AT Did: Gotobed a Version of Trollope Himself; Analysis/Comparison of English v Americans at Heart of Book; Senator Gotobed; The AS: Loving as a Lord

To Trollope-l

From Sig

Re: The American Senator: Major Caneback

April 4, 1999

But so far no one has had much to say about Major Caneback. It seems that every sport has its Major Caneback. His contribution to society is limited to becoming an expert in society's amusements. He does not improve society during his stay on earth, unless by improvement one means enhancement of sporting activities. But he is an expert in what he does, which in the Major's case is breaking horses. I've met him on the ski slopes in my day: the ski buff who spends all of his hours considering skis and their maintenance. He shows contempt for those who are not as well versed in the area of expertise he has chosen for himself. For those of us who try to live lives and indulge in sporting activities only as recreation, to come in contact with him is a humiliating experience. No matter how good the rest of us are in what we do, we are reduced to fumbling amateurs when we come near the Major Canebacks of life. Since Trollope's example of the sporting buff spends his time breaking horses, it seems only fair to me that at the end a horse breaks him. The Major Canebacks of life rarely live to a dignified and honored old age. They rarely have spouses and offspring. And, worst of all, they are immense bores. Trollope handles his example of this sort of person very well. When he comes to his downfall, I find it difficult to pity him. During my years of struggling on the ski slope he had very little pity for me.

Now onward to the careers of much more interesting people such as John Morton, who really does do something in this world.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The American Senator: Sympathy for Major Caneback?

From: John Mize I agree with Sig that Major Caneback is much like one of those ski enthusiasts who eventually ends his career by running into a tree. I also felt little sympathy for Major Caneback, although I did feel very sorry for the horse. Skiing does seem to be a small step forward in our slow societal evolution. Unlike fox-hunting, in skiing we don't force other creatures to participate in our attempts to feel alive by brushing up against death. Looked at in that manner, I feel much more respect for auto-racing. Even though a race-car is much uglier than a horse, you don't need to shoot up a car with drugs to make it perform at peak efficiency.

John Mize

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The American Senator: Sympathy for Major Caneback?


Reading about Major Caneback's final ride, it seemed apparent to me that this was a battle to the death, and if he could not break the horse's spirit, Caneback was determined to break her body. The horse was acting in self defense. She was toast anyway.

For a moment, when Lady Arabella appeared to be considering riding Jemima, I thought she was going to jump onto the recalcitrant mare and instantly tame her. I should have known better.

Beginning the book yesterday, I am up to Chapter LV and can say that TAS maintains its high standards.

Jill Spriggs

Re: The American Senator: Minor Career Men

John and Sig talk about Caneback's limitations. How about Mounser Green and his buddies, Hoffmann, Archibald Currie, & Charley Glossop. Clerks in the Foreign Office who are very full of themselves. They think they are important, and know about the world. Austen's Mrs Elton would call them puppies; they are nonentities 'who'd none of them be missed.' At least Caneback worked for the money, made an effort, knew something for real. He risked himself and lived hard. In comparison with these third-rate men, Caneback and Morton start to look good. Trollope is stripping away the titles such people sport late in life and showing us them 'en famille:' 'all the gingerbread is gone' (Oxford The American Senator, J Halperin, Ch 28, p. 190).

Again this book is rich in types. We have had the occupations and types of the small town (Runciman, Dr Nupper, Mr Ribbs, Mr Masters, Mr Mainwaring and his curate, also Nikem and the detective-policeman who slinks about in disguise; Twentymen and his peers); the people in the great houses; the farmers and tenants. Now we move into the 'sophisticated' world :).

The women too cover a gauntlet of types and occupations and places and ages. In a modern book Mounser Green and his bunch would be matched by women in the office.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

April 4, 1999

Re: The American Senator: 'Wonderful Bird!' (Ch 27) Like Sig I'm going to dwell on a minor presence in this novel, on a comic interlude in The American Senator: the scene in which a unnamed old lady and her parrot impinge on the semi-courting of Mary Masters by Reginald Morton as they travel by train from Dillsborough (not yet identified) to Cheltenham (a real place). It is a comic piece filled with good feeling, tactfully presented.

Reginald Morton has offered to accompany Mary Masters to his aunt, Lady Ushant's house. It would seem it was still strongly preferable for a middle class girl to be accompanied on a long journey. He and she find themselves in a compartment for a journey of thirty miles -- except for an old lady 'who has a parrot in a cage, for which she had taken a first-class ticket' (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, p. 182). The old lady is slightly anxious because as the couple come in, she says: '"I can't offer you this seat . . . because it has been booked and paid for for my bird"'. Our narrator assures us our young friends had no desire to separate themselves one from the other to sit near the old lady.

The joke of the chapter reminds me of the joke of the love scene in Dr Thorne (a much earlier novel). In that novel Frank Gresham attempts to make love to Mary Thorne while she sits atop a donkey who, while remarkably patient and long-suffering, is nonetheless not as impressed with Frank as Mary is. The idea is to undercut the sentiment by the pragmatic presence of a wisely indifferent animal. Our parrot is, however, as indifferent to his mistress as he is to our romantic couple. Our old lady is also less obtrusive than the careless reader might think. Since Reginald and Mary regard the old lady sheerly in the light of an obstacle, her words are bathed in their sense of her; read more carefully, she emerges as somewhat more vulnerable and in need of her bird than one might think. Her bird is, however, like some force of nature. Sometimes his noise goes with her, and sometimes it goes against her. That's the quieter joke.

For example, she asks Mary, '"don't you think you'd be less liable to cold with that window closed?" the old lady said, to Mary. 'Cosed, -- cosed, -- cosed, ' said the bird, and Morton was of course constrained to shut the window' (p. 183). So the old lady gets her way. Towards the end of the chapter we discover that the old lady and her bird did not do so well when they went into another carriage:

Her bird had been ill-treated by some scurrilous, ill- conditioned travellers and she had therefore returned to the comparative kindness of her former companions. 'They threatened to put him out of the window, sir', said the old woman to Morton, as she was forcing her way in. 'Windersir, -- windersir', said the parrot.

'I hope he'll behave himself here, ma'am', said Morton.

'Heremam, -- hereman, -- heremam', said the parrot.

'Now go to bed lke a good bird', said the old lady, putting her shawl over the cage, -- whereupon the parrot made a more diabolical noise than ever under the curtain' (pp. 186-87).

Since the parrot repeats whatever one says, one is invited to imagine what the scurrilous passengers had fed him, vocally speaking. Mary and Reginald were not deliberately mocking of the old lady in this way.

Indeed throughout the scene which occurs between the old lady's leaving the carriage, and returning, I was reminded of a Gilbert and Sullivan song from The Pirates of Penzance where the fun is somehow in the irrational mockery of nonsense syllables. Reginald apologises for his behavior at Bragton, '"I always am a bear when I am not pleased', "Peas, -- peas, -- peas", said the parrot' (p. 184). Reginald is himself not keen on the parrot's presence, '"I shall be a bear to that brute of a bird before long . . . He is a public nuisance"' (p. 184). Then he tries to speak of when he and Mary 'were always together', and the bird says, '"Gedder, -- gedder, -- gedder"' (p. 184). Morton gets angry and thinks to speak to the guard, and this wakes the apparently sleeping old lady. She is alive to the threat although she has paid for the first- class ticket, and says, '"Polly mustn't talk"', to which the bird replies, '"Tok, -- tok, -- tok"' (p. 184). Ungrateful bird.

The scene is not wholly undercut in this manner. Reginald does manage to apologise, and Mary does manage to tell Reginald she is not engaged to Larry Twentyman. Even better, from the point of view of the probable happy ending, Reginald manages to tell Mary that he '"is glad to hear it"' and fill her mind once again with the sense that she is above Larry Twentyman, or ought to think herself so (p. 186). In this scene Trollope conveys a deep sense of sincere loving emotions going on between this couple of which they themselves are not wholly aware. They are eager, anxious, at moments uncomfortable, but trying to reach one another somehow. We might look upon the old lady and her bird as another pair of far more incongruous but equally unconscious potential partners for life.

Mary regrets that more wasn't said, 'that Reginald Morton had been interrupted by the talkative bird' (p. 187), but I don't think the reader regrets it.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l Re: The American Senator: Wonderful Bird!

Fom: Frazer Wright

On 5/4/99, Ellen wrote:

Mary regrets that more wasn't said, 'that Reginald Morton had been interrupted by the talkative bird' (p. 187), but I don't think the reader regrets it.

Thanks Ellen for analysing this chapter - one of the most enjoyable, I thought, so far. Not only has it humour, but also emotional suspense - the reader is waiting for one or the other of our characters to commit themselves, but neither do. Are they holding back merely because of the ludicrous interruptions of the parrot? Perhaps Trollope was gently building up a little suspense for later - I certainly expected some declaration by Reginald, but all we received was the mildest of expressions - that he was glad she was not engaged to Twentyman. Thus the relationship - if any - is only hinted at, rather than given a foundation.

I enjoyed the insistence of the old lady that she had a first class ticket for her parrot; and immediately thought of some of these modern jet-set musicians who buy a first class Concorde ticket for their 'cello (which invariably has a name) and then place the instrument, with or without case, on the adjoining seat. I also enjoyed a few minutes speculation about the type of language the bird picked up from those _ scurrilous, ill-conditioned travellers _ in the other compartment.

I consulted a friend with an aviary about the breed of parrot which could mimic human speech so well. He had never heard of Trollope but was immediately sure that any bird which could mimic, at will, a word or phrase said once, would almost certainly be an African Grey, of an obvious colour, but with a vivid red tail (Psittacus erithacus) which had been kept as a pet for many centuries and was probably the breed which perched on Long John Silver's shoulder and screeched Pieces of Eight.

To me at least Caneback worked for the money, made an effort, knew something for real. He risked himself and lived hard. In comparison with these third-rate men, Caneback and Morton start to look good.

Caneback is an obsessive; someone who has tried to shrug off society and concentrate on what he does best - break horses (invariably, other peoples, thus absolving him of the expense of keeping a stable of hunters.) But has he succeeded in distancing himself from that society which, so patently, he seems to dislike? Notice that he retains his old army rank. That he depends on invitations from those anxious to use his skills with horses to get the best hunting. He tolerates, even depends on, such patronage by society people but never discusses, as far as I recall, anything but horses. A strange, lonely, single-minded man. Perhaps scarred by his experiences in the Crimea?

Frazer Wright

To Trollope-l

April 5, 1999

Re: The American Senator: The Heroes, the Animals, and the Outsider

Who are the heroes in The American Senator? It's curious we have no young handsome semi-aristocrat or aristocrat, no Frank Gresham. The closest we come to this is Reginald Morton, and he's old, not so handsome, bookish (worse and worse) and shy. Not the hail-fellow- well-met. Spends his days alone. Larry Twentyman is also supposed to be a hero, something along the lines of Will Belton or Sir Peregrine Orme's son, but in this novel he is (thus far at least) too whiny and too grasping. He's too like Harry Gilmore from The Vicar of Bullhampton for me to admire him. I wonder how much Trollope is aware of this, or assumes we will like Twentyman for his plainness, truth, common sense, loyalty, and the rest of it. Trollope doesn't hold it against Twentyman that he pursues Mary Masters (Gilmore overdoes it in The Vicar but that's a different book). Rival males in Trollope are often in the hero position in the plot.

I suspect sympathy will build for John Morton because he at least means to do well. His "rival,." Lord Rufford, as we can see from this week's letters and interaction with Arabella, is unintellectual. Trollope is just a brilliant writer of imaginary letters. He can catch the tone and quality of a mind perfectly. Lord Rufford doesn't think, conventional idea are processed through his brain, and he acts on some cunning instinct. I think we are to prefer Morton to Rufford because Morton is the underdog in this triangle.

Another male, but this one secondary, we are supposed to sympathise with is Mr Masters. Again a vulnerable type, somewhat weaker, but moral and meaning very well. Trollope does favor this kind of male.

Gotobed is somewhat outside this. To revert to Gene's terms, Gotobed is not "other" but he is an "outsider" and brought in as Montesquieu brings in his Persian, with an outsider's eyes to judge without bias and candidly and through the impetus of surprise. Still I think as the book progresses Trollope makes us like Gotobed more. He is less of a caricature.

I agree with Jill that animals in Trollope's novels are only used to reveal moral qualities in people. When Burgo Fitzgerald runs his horse to the ground, we know Lady Glen should not have married him. Trollope is similarly uninterested in children for their own sake. He likes an adult mind; the mind does not have to be preternaturally intelligent, as most of the minds are in Henry James, but it has to be mature and human for Trollope to enter into it imaginatively fully. At least nowhere in his novels does he bring an animal or child to the fore for themselves. They are always a kind of device. Poor old lady who needs that 'wonderful bird' and the world isn't sympathetic, is it? Not even the bird is.

Ellen Moody

At 08:05 AM 4/5/99, Judith Moore wrote:

Am I the only reader to feel sympathy for Major Caneback, facing and meeting death at least stoically while reduced to nothing but a social cipher by the people around him? Trollope is clear that his principal interest in life is insufficient for a fully human being, but he also makes clear his terrible aloneness, and the use that Arabella makes of his misfortune isn't in any way excused by his personal defects.

Unless it deteriorates badly in later chapters, this is surely one of Trollope's best books.

Judith Moore

To Trollope-l

April 5, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Major Caneback's cruelty to horses.

Judith is not alone in her sympathy for Major Caneback. In a posting I wrote last week I tried to suggest that he fits into the pattern in the book which alerts us to the exploitation of more vulnerable by more powerful people. That Caneback himself accedes to his way of life, given his nature and probable original position, does not preclude him from sympathy. He had few other choices. Trollope is not a sentimentalist. The other characters who are also instruments of the Rufford establishment are not idealised, but we are to see, with Gotobed, that they live in an unjust order. Another element in the portrait of Caneback is Trollope's unusual way of treating death as just another event in the lives of those who are left behind. Trollope never works death up, and he dismisses people from the scene as if death were indeed simply no longer being there. He goes on, as he does in this novel, to show us how the living respond to death -- and this too is unsentimentalised.

On the other hand, I'd like to bring up another aspect of Caneback which no one has mentioned: his cruelty to the horse. He wants to break her spirit and he's willing to do it at the price of his life. He's only sorry he didn't change the bit. It would have tortured her some more.

Repeatedly in Trollope's novels, the way men treat their horses is an index of their characters, especially in relation to women. Burgo Fitzgerald destroys his horse; the implication is he would have destroyed Lady Glen, not of course meaning to, just thoughtless. Caneback has no one he can prey on so he preys on the animal who cannot escape him. It puts me in mind of American slavedrivers because this novel does contrast Americans versus English people. Slavery was over by this time and Trollope never saw the horror of it as unacceptable -- except that it ruined economics in a society and was bad for whites. This is the farthest he goes in his version of "moral outrage." Alas, he has none. I doubt he has slavery anywhere in his unconscious, but he did use horses as surrogates for women and did indite men who were cruel to horses. In this novel Arabella's hunting of men is symbolized in her hunting on horses. Caneback is someone who would cane others since he is himself so marginalized.

Trollope's "problem" is he has so many good books that The American Senator is easily forgotten. This one has terrific energy; his spirits don't flag. It is varied, rich, and more subtle in its purposes than the harsh outlines with which some of the figures are drawn would lead you to suppose.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

April 6, 1999

Re: The American Senator, Chs 27-32: Trollope's Use of Letters

We have not mentioned another new turn and element in this week's chapters: Trollope's use of letters. I mentioned in one of mine that Trollope is a past master at the fictional letter. In Rufford's letters (Ch 31) we are in a mind which has never read a book, which is curiously simple or sincere because he's unafraid and confident. Yet how careful he is not to commit himself. Trollope tells us Arabella's letters (Ch 31) contain a great deal in them that is not true. Thus we are to reread to look for the distance between what she pretends to feel and think and what she may really think and feel. She does manage to hold him to his promise to come to Mistletoe by finally coming out plainly and saying she gave up a lot to get there when he would be there, and it is a kind of betrayal for him not to come now. The pairs of letters in tandem also act as a kind of dialogue on the inner stage of a mind; it's like reading a play script in slow motion, first him, then her, then him again. The "battle" between them and the difference in their minds is clearing set before us.

The other letter is a long one by Elias Gotobed. It's a composition worth paying attention to because the tone is not curmudgeonly. It's not the letter of a dense man who cannot be convinced.

He opens by saying that although American culture may have grown out of English, they are today more different than a Swede and a German. The American and English person only appear to be speaking the same language.

Then we get two long paragraphs of concession: Gotobed admits how pleasant it is to be around the wealthy, well-educated and graceful, and it is much more than beautiful women and wine. They have lifted their heads above the mere demands to earn a living; they think and try to live up to principles. He's not keen on their principles, but the English have them. What gets him about these principles is he meets people who are born to be poor, to suffer, to be without power who actually support the present hierarchical world of Britain with its ludicrously unjust distribution of wealth.

He admits the aristocrat in Britain is charming as a social companion. He knows how to amuse himself. But then he instances Lord Rufford who he sees as a useless drone. He is given the a seat in Parliament and never goes near it; he spends his life shooting other animals. He never reads. Yet how "self-satisfied" (Ch 29, p 197), he is.

Then Gotobed tells of his involvement in the Goarly case. It is to be noted Gotobed is well aware Goarly is no hero, but a "wretched, squalid, lying, cowardly creature." He is a "rascal" and his lord though "idle" is "honest." Gotobed also admits the lord has treated him civil; it's the lord's agents who have treated him as as "miscreant."

Nonetheless Gotobed will support Goarly because Goarly is "hardly used." Does he have no rights? Does he have no say what his compensation ought to be when his crop is hurt. This is arguing for a principle. We could switch and say a person who is sick with AIDS ought to be treated no matter how he got the illness (it does not matter that the illness came about through some behavior of his or hers).

Gotobed concludes with again comparing Britain to the States in Britain's favor. He, Gotobed, can say things in Britain for which in the States he'd have to fear for his personal safety. He is treated with respect by the British. He can easily carry on gathering materials, and then will speak his mind plainly (pp. 194-98).

Despite the closing tone of adament determination and occasional harshness of feel in the letter, it is that of a sober, intelligent, and fair man. I submit this letter stands for a turning point in Trollope's treatment of the Senator. He's not a caricature here. It also shows the inner workings of this man's mind, and how he views the issues of the coming court case. It tells us to consider seriously Gotobed's comparison of US with British culture in the book.

Chapter 32 presents no letters but paraphrases and summarises an apparently equally decent and reasonable letter from John Morton to Arabella demanding that she come clean and tell him her intentions (a kind of parodic reversal is here). Again there's sympathy for both because the narrator enters Arabella's mind to emphasis her awareness of the risks she is taking and her weariness:

"then she remembered her age, her many seasons, the hard work of her toilet, those tedious, long and bitter quarrels with her mother, the ever renewed trouble of her smiles, the hopelessness of her future should she smile in vain to the last; and the countless miseries of her endless visitings" (p. 218).

She brings it upon herself partly by her mercenary behavior, but she is desperate for security and has loved no one after the first who rejected her.

Two further scenes in which Morton comes off not badly. He pays Mr Masters very fairly and behaves well to him; he attempts to be friendly with Reginald though he learns that sometimes one's "inferiors" can ask uncomfortable questions. Reginald too tries to show concern.

One reason we like this book is Trollope likes his characters, all of them, to some extent. Or at least most of them (he's not keen on Goarly). In some of Trollope's later novels he seems to like none of the characters. There is a warmth throughout this novel with all its scepticism, disillusion, and probing of how human beings manage to rub along together through each holding onto the stake that was given him at birth or he has worked for since then.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator, Chs 27-32: Gotobed & the Other Characters

From Gene Stratton

It's interesting to see our divers opinions of the characters in The American Senator. Ellen mentions that in this book Trollope likes so many of his characters. That statement should be true for many of his books. After all, these characters are Trollope's creation; he is like a god to them. Even more than with other authors, Trollope's characters live in his head, he carries them around with him, he manipulates them, and I don't doubt that sometimes they manipulate him.

Trollope is technically wrong in one matter regarding Gotobed, where he states that the senator had obtained leave from his state and from congress to spend the time in England. Gotobed is an elected official, which means he has much discretion in what he does and is answerable in most matters only to his constituency. I doubt that he had to obtain permission from anyone, except perhaps his wife, to make his visit abroad.

But Gotobed seems unreal in England. Is he there to learn or to preach? For all his seeming to have a good grasp on differences between Britain and the U.S., his preaching seriously handicaps his learning. Already John Masters -- the diplomat John Masters who will probably be the only English person concerned with Gotobed's future actions after he returns to the U.S. -- has decided he will never again invite an American senator to his house. Just as Gotobed's interference in the Goarly case has cost him money and face, so his badmouthing so many things British to the British costs him the opportunity of having them talk to him frankly about their country. An undercover nark does not go into a den of drug pushers and start praising the DEA. Hasn't Gotobed ever heard that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? I think the truth is that be the character good, bad, or indifferent, Trollope has difficulty in capturing Americans on paper.

I might have mentioned before that Reginald Morton seems to be a re-creation of John Grey and Roger Carbury. All seem to be around 40 years of age and much older than the woman each desires. Reginald was supposed by people to be "gloomy, misanthropic, and bookish," but this is a tilted impression. He spends his time "between my books and my flowers and my tobacco pipe," which gives a more accurate picture (Trollope seems to have slipped up on his use of "between" here). John Grey too is bookish and loves his garden -- I forget if he smoked a pipe. And Roger Carbury likes to read and feels more at home managing his estate than in London society.

A friend of mine who writes books with the same leading character, bases that character on himself, but not himself as the world sees him, rather himself as he would like to see himself. So too I tend to think that Trollope sees himself in the Reginald-John Grey-Roger character.

A number of postings about Trollope emphasizes hidden meanings that he is said to use to get messages across cabala-like to the initiated. I think the reverse is the reverse is the case, he is writing (of course to make money, but also) to please himself, vaguely along the lines that J.R.R. Tolkien created a Hobbit world to harmlessly (and perhaps therapeutically) indulge himself. There is more of Trollope in his characters than readers seems to admit. The theme of an older man in love with a younger woman is not one that he wants to the public to see as identifiable with himself, but I think it is gratifying to him that in his secret thoughts he can see it that way.

We've said a lot about Arabella, and at this time I just have two additional thoughts. First, I wonder if Trollope thought of her as an American. We know and he knew that she wasn't, but at times she seems to come across as an American. She is certainly an ambiguous character. Which brings me to my second thought: That first time she visited Rufford Hall, she seemed to ooh and aah Lord Rufford's manor as if she had never been inside the residence of the higher aristocracy, yet she obviously knew Mistletoe. A bit out of character, I think.

But there is little ambiguous about Mounser Green and his crowd. If nothing else Trollope knew bureaucracy and bureaucrats. As a past (and reformed) bureaucrat's bureaucrat myself, I almost felt homesick as I read about this group of would-be world-shakers.

Gene Stratton

From: (Patricia Maroney) Re: The American Senator: So many unlikable Characters

I have problems with the statement that one reason we like this book is that Trollope likes so many of the characters. I have asked myself why I like the book since there are so many unlikable characters. Gotobed is dreadful, almost deliberately stepping on everyone's corns, Arabella and all her relatives are dreadful, Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Masters likewise, etc. I rather like John Morton, though others on the list apparently don't, and also Lord Rufford, though others on the list think he's awful. We are supposed to like Reginald, and I do, but in truth he does nothing more to be useful or productive than Lord Rufford. And Mary Masters (good God, another Mary) seems a slender thread to carry a novel on. Pat

Subject: [trollope-l] Lord Rufford

From: Sigmund Eisner

I've been reading with interest the comments on Lord Rufford. I think Trollope has created him as the worst example of British peerage he could think of. That is, he has no sense of noblesse oblige. By birth he has been given advantages over other men. In any system of peerage the likes of him have an obligation to serve, not just to exist. Lord Rufford serves no one. He spends his days in amusements: parties, hunting for various animals, and enjoying the beautiful ladies who come within his circle. He does not read, serve in the House of Lords, create anything to better mankind, etc. Trollope is not, I think condemning the peerage. The system is a good one, but the peer, because he is a peer, must serve others. He reminds me of the rich scion of some prominent American families. This kind of parasite flunks out of college, lives a life of expensive leisure, and spends his time clipping coupons. Lord Rufford is such a parasite.. If he were to marry poor Arabella, both would deserve each other. But Lord Rufford is no fool, although he sponges on the system. As I said, Trollope offers him to us as a bad example of a good system. Trollope even goes so far as to make him utterly charming. But then his charm only tells us that he has had an expensive and effortless education. He is, I think, very well done.


Re: The American Senator, Chs 27-32: More than Meets the Eye; Rufford as Parasite; Gotobed at the Crux of Interpreting this Novel; Analysis/Comparison of English v Americans at Heart of Book

We've had a number of postings this week on all sorts of aspects of this book. I hope Gene does not think I go about cabala like to read Trollope: I am in fact strongly in favor of reading with the grain. However, I feel there is much more to Trollope than meets the eye, partly because the meaning of his books emerges from the book as a whole (how the characters contrast and compare, how the stories work out, the use of juxtaposition and irony) as much as it does from the psychology of the characters. I would agree there is much autobiography in Trollope's books, but then I am one who has come to the conclusion that most novels are disguised autobiographies, as most autobiographies are necessarily highly novelistic (dramatised, arranged, heightened, shaped to a meaning). Halperin's essay (the introduction to the Oxford edition) is based on the idea that Trollope has something to say which he is determined many of his readers should not be offended by because he knows he is criticizing their world at its core.

On Lord Rufford: Sig and I are in agreement, except I don't find Rufford a bit charming. I'm not sure we are supposed to. His letters are singularly thin, and he's so obvious. Without conversation. It's Arabella's desperation that makes her behave as though he's charming. Trollope did in Rufford deliberately show us a drone of the system. As (I agree) Reginald Morton may be looked at as another of Trollope's elegant aristocratic and somewhat intellectual or at least thoughtful heroes (John Grey will do); and Larry Twentyman corresponds to the hobbledehoys and more middling physical types Trollope also identifies with (Johnny Eames, Will Belton, Harry Gilson), so Rufford finds his analogous counterparts in other of Trollope's novels. And when I think of Dolly Longestaffe, some of Silverbridge's friends, Everett Wharton, Adolphus Crosbie, Laurence Fitzgibbon and keep stretching the list from Sowerby (Framley Parsonage) to the sons in Mr Scarborough's Family I wonder if Trollope is that complacent about the system. There is just so much rot. In The Claverings at times he prefers Theodore Burton, the engineer, to Harry Clavering, a ne'er-do-well saved by the timely death of his cousin.

Which brings me to how we are to feel about Gotobed. Finally the "crux" of anyone's interpretation of this novel lies in how he or she responds to Gotobed. Perhaps that's why the novel is named after him. I agree he doesn't get along; he is not going to be invited back; he misunderstands the source of Goarly's anger (which is probably not injustice but a desire for revenge out of envy). Yet his criticism is important. Trollope makes him reasonable, there is much to be said for his critique of a society where men are not equal by custom and law is manipulated on behalf of the wealthy and wealthier. I think Gotobed is a satiric device or figure meant to make us see the world of England more clearly. He brings out the antagonisms that lie behind the pretenses at social harmony. One theme of this novel is how impossible it is for people on either side of whatever divide to reconcile their differences. What they can't see must be a perversion of the truth; they judge everything on the basis of what is in their practical interest. They hold fiercely onto whatever privileges, rights, lands, things they are by chance born to. Without such holding on, society would fall to warring individuals. All the English characters keep seeing themselves inside a system that is linked, and that everyone shares the same interest; Gotobed shows us the limits of this myth. So naturally no one likes him. People on top want the people on the bottom to believe this is the best way; people on the bottom want to believe they can get to the top or are somehow part of it by linkage.

I agree with Pat lots of the characters are ultimately awful, but I always say there's a difference between liking a character in a novel and liking them as if they were a real person we were going to sit down to dinner with. I would not make friends with an Arabella Trefoil were she a real woman; but she's not. As a character, she has an intriguing meaning, fascinates me. Also I think Trollope is affectionate to some extent towards many of the characters in this book and it affects the reader's experience of the book. It makes the book pleasanter (this can be seen in Rachel Ray where the characters are savage yet the tone of the book idyllic and sweet).

One of the things that is probably hard for us to discuss in detail was brought up by John. The novel does show us a classic stereotype of an American and classic stereotypes of English people. It's not clear stereotypes ever really exist; rather they are exaggerations of traits. Americans and English people do look at things differently -- as many nations do. We are fooled by our shared English language. I think John is right to say the American attitude (generally and idealistically speaking) is that we should respect people who earn that respect, love people who deserve our love. Americans don't respect ties as ties necessarily. This attitude makes a society which is much less stable and perhaps (paradoxically) crueller because people won't take care of one another simply because they are members of the same family or other kind of network.

NB: I have gone about half way through The Prime Minister and by this point would say it is a strong and very good book. How Trollope can stay calm and amused as he reveals he knows these terrible truths about how people in society really interact with one another remains a mystery to me. It's fundamental to his genius and the mood of his art.

Mary is a favorite name with Trollope; so too John. Trollope favors the plain.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

April 10, 1999

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: They Said Go West, Young Man, and AT Did: Gotobed a Version of Trollope Himself I have to demur at or maybe qualify John's speculation that in having Senator Gotobed lecture English people Trollope meant simply to insult either Americans or English people. Certainly the figure is not flattering to Americans, and the analysis he produces not flattering to the English. Yet by making the figure a caricature, Trollope signals the fact that he is writing satire not realism. And the book sold well in America. Trollope's analysis of the injustice of the power relationships in England is accurate, not exaggerated. I know some people take the truth as an insult, but Trollope gives the English reader enough ammunition against Gotobed so the English reader may dismiss Gotobed as inflexible, impossibly idealistic, and in a sense indicting human nature. After all the Dillsborough grew out of human nature.

How about this idea -- which I have come across in the criticism. Senator Gotobed is a version of Trollope himself as he went through the US. Remember Trollope wrote a book which was as tactless (in some ways), sharply analytical and relentless about flaws in American as the senator ever is: North America. Some scholars suggest The American Senator should be read as a reversal of North America. In the first travel book, Trollope rips the veil off American customs and laws; in the novel, in the same kind of character, he rips the veil off English hypocrisies. In the travel book on the whole he does present a sympathetic portrait of the US; in the novel he ridicules some of what he admires in North America at the same time judging English society by US egalitarian and self-dependent standards.

He is thus being even-handed to have written a book which corrected his mother's by being fairer and much better informed; the analysis of English society in The American Senator balances the analysis of American society in North America.

Trollope did go west, more than once, and not only as far and through North America, but to Australia and New Zealand as well.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Senator Gotobed

From Gene Stratton

Frazer asks what state was the model for Gotobed's Mikewa and what was his party affiliation? We can eliminate the 13 states that entered the Union after 1875, as well as states without Indian names, thus restricting our guess to states in the mid-west or nor far from the Mississippi River.

Trollope's acquaintance with the U.S. was somewhat limited, even though he visited several times and once traveled cross country by train. He could have fashioned the senator from his mother's tales of the U.S. but I doubt it. Probably he based Gotobed on a composite of senators he met in Washington, DC, who being politicians would have questioned him about his own country while propagandizing him with the many blessings of their own local area.

As to party, we don't know yet if Gotobed were liberal or conservative, and additionally even the ideas of some Democrats of those times might have sounded like Republicans of today. However, one litmus test could be to see how the senator feels about silver and "soft" money. Conservatives wanted to maintain the value of money by keeping it scarce, while liberals wanted to increase the money supply and keep interest rates low. "You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of silver," orated William Jennings Bryan a few decades later. Unfortunately we don't know Gotobed's views on this yet.

As to Gotobed's championing of Goarly, and his suggesting that there would be no Goarlys if there were no Ruffords, I think a senator of either party could have been like this, for it was ingrained in all American politicians to defend the common man, just as to have been born in a log cabin was one of the best qualifications for running for president.

For a far-out guess I'd observe that the U.S. President in 1875 was U.S. Grant, a Republican. I think the senator's host, Legation Secretary John Masters, would not have wanted to have been identified with an out-of-office party, and so he would have invited a Republican to his home.

Going out even further, I think the senator betrays an "I'm from Missouri" attitude, an American expression meaning, "I won't take your word for anything until you absolutely prove it to me with metaphysical certitude."

Thus I think Republican Senator Elias Gotobed was born on July 4, 1825, in St. Louis, Missouri, of a Baptist family, in a small wooden house that could be said to resemble a log cabin. He had read Fanny Trollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans and was determined he was not going to like England at all. Being a pragmatist, however, in the back of his head he was considering having his daughter back in Washington, DC, Samantha, marry John Masters after he had personally vetted him in his home surroundings. This is what I believe, and I won't take anyone's word for anything else until they absolutely prove it to me with metaphysical certitude.

Gene Stratton

Subject: [trollope-l] Senator Gotobed: Correction

Please change "cross of silver" to "cross of gold."

Gene Stratton

Subject: American Senator: Senator Gotobed
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999

It seems that Trollope has been clever in his use of Senator Gotobed as foreign visitor to the rural community of Dillsborough. In 1877 Trollope must have had a wide following of readers, some of whom would have been as ignorant as most of us are about the ins and outs of fox hunting. The Senator, being foreign, can ask aggressive questions thereby giving Trollope a wonderful opportunity to explain his favourite pastime in loving detail. The Senator is not impressed:

'And you call that hunting! Is it worth the while of all those men to expend all that energy for such a result? Upon the whole, Mr Morton, I should say that it is one of the most incomprehensible things I have ever seen in the course of a rather long and varied life.'

One feels Trollope is enjoying himself.

If, as it seems, he intended this book be sold in America, the Senator's questions give Trollope an excuse to explain a variety of strange English customs, some of which are as alien to today's culture as they were to the Americans in 1877.

It seems that he enjoys questioning established custom - and showing up some of the oddities in his answers. The Senator is amazed at the payment of 800 to the rector of a parish who never takes the service and only 100 a year to the curate who does all the work.

I suppose,' said Mr Morton angrily, 'the habits of one country are incomprehensible to another.'

I wonder how much the Senator's sentiments are really Trollope's? Do they echo his more radical side?

I suspect he is a Republican from the Midwest, probably Minnesota, even though the name Mikewa seems a little closer to Michigan. Gotobed has that prairie sort of bluntness and scorn for aristocrats and the non-utilitarian. Someone from the Northeast would be more sophisticated and cosmopolitan, and someone from the South would be more polite, or at least more hypocritical.

John Mize
Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator

From: Sigmund Eisner

Several reactions to Ellen's current postings: First, Arabella. I think Trollope disapproves of her, as we all do, but more than that he sympathizes with her. After all, what choice has she. She would love the security she has never known. All of her life she has had to deceive, to make people think she belongs with the upper crust so that she actually can join the upper crust and become economically secure. She is one of the more pathetic characters to come along until AT created Mabel Grex. What can an impoverished upper-class young lady do? Since she lacks the funds to sustain her upbringing, she must practice deception. She is no longer young, and without a wealthy husband, or any husband at all, she, as she herself points out, might as well not live. She is both honest and desperate, as we see in her conversations with Lady Augusta. She does not like the part she has to play but sees nothing else to do. One may not like her, but one must pity her.

Second, I think the Senator compares to the New Zealander only superficially. The New Zealander is a wise person who seems to understand the English and points out their foibles. The Senator is not wise. He thinks he is, and he thinks it is proper to speak his mind. One wonders how he ever got appointed to the Senate (American senators were not elected in the 19th century). The governor of Mikewa must have wanted to get Mr. Gotobed out of his state capital (which I suppose was named something like Annemoines, if Mikewa is a combination of the names "Michigan" and "Iowa"). By the way, Mr. Gotobed's name was not an impossible Trollopian joke. One of my daughter's school friends is currently married to a Mr. Gotobed, spelled exactly as Trollope spelled it. Anyway Senator Gotobed is not as bright as either the New Zealander or Johnson's Rasselas, who learns all about western civilization from his tutor Imlac. Senator Gotobed ignorantly treads on the toes of all whom he meets. If I had a house guest like that, I would never invite another American senator to my house either. Also, I don't think Trollope misunderstood Americans. When he distinguishes between Hawthorne and Edward Everet in favor of Hawthorne, he knows exactly what he is talking about. That comparison occurred in Trollope's book North America, which I read a long time ago. Although Trollope exaggerates the characteristics of foreigners, such as Mr. Melmotte, the Emperor of China, Mr. Emelius and Senator Gotobed, he bases his exaaggerations on well-known perceptions of the foreign people who often came to England. It's just that most of his foreigners are created as satires to delight the palate of the English reading public. Isabel Boncasson, whom Ellen mentioned, is just as American as Senator Gotobed, but she offends no one. Even Plantagenet Palliser, with his aristocratic prejudices, comes to like her.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Loving a Lord

From: John Mize

Ellen Moody wrote:

It is to be noted Gotobed is well aware Goarly is no hero, but a "wretched, squalid, lying, cowardly creature." He is a "rascal" and his lord though "idle" is "honest." Gotobed also admits the lord has treated him civil; it's the lord's agents who have treated him as as "miscreant."

Maybe it is because I also am an American, but I agree almost completely with the senator. Goarly is a creep, but I'm on his side, simply because he is challenging Lord Rufford and the established order. As a person Lord Rufford isn't especially offensive. He is merely decorative, rather than useful, but I have a hard time viscerally understanding why almost all the locals are loyal to him, since he has never really done anything in his life to earn anyone's loyalty. They are loyal to his title, not necessarily to his person.

Maybe that's one of the differences between 19th century England and 19th century America. The American attitude is more that one has to earn respect. An unfit, incompetent person in high office receives nothing but derision. The question is not only what have you done for me, but what have you done for me lately.

One of the differences between our age and the mid nineteenth century seems to be our relative reluctance to acknowledge loyalty to anyone or anything other than ourselves. We can withhold our loyalty to anyone or anything which disappoints us. You earn your position in life, and if you slip, you're through. Rewarding everyone according to his desserts is a hard standard. After all how many of us really do deserve more than a thrashing?

John Mize

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