The AS: Another Arabella; Names with "A," Huge Sums & Slaughters; Serpentine Self-Directed Spite; Parallel Plots; Mistletoe & Trefoil; Shooting; Characters who can and cannot know themselves; Many complex characters in this book; Racy Lord Rufford and Arabella at Mistletoe; Arabella as a Superior version (as a character) to Becky Sharp; Trollope and Austen: Arabella Trefoil and Austen's heroines; Arabella Trefoil, Becky Sharp, Lizzie Eustace and Mary Crawford; Different Yardsticks; Arabella Doesn't Pretend to Herself; Portrait of Arabella, a 19th C. English Ideal or a Frigid "Big Blonde?"; Arabella humble flower or weed (as Trefoil); The Desperate huntress; Arabella: Personality Disorder or Self- Contempt?; The Third Rate Woman who Marries the Third Rate Male: The upper class disguised version of the myth of the pariah-slut?; The Pleasure of Power; Power-Seeking in Trollope; The Relationship of Power and Fear; The Drive for Power Comes from Fear of One's Own Insignificance?; The Prime Minister and Fear of Death

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Another Arabella

From: John Mize

How common a name is Arabella? I wonder whether Trollope was making a reference to Arabella Churchill in using that first name, especially since the horse, Jack, figures in the Arabella-Lord Rufford romance. Arabella Churchill was the sister of John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, probably England's greatest general. She fell off her horse into the arms of the Duke of York, who later became James II. After her fall, she was James' mistress for several years and received 1000 pounds a year for her troubles.

John apparently also managed to profit from his sexual adventures. Supposedly he was caught in bed with Barbara Villiers, one of Charles II's mistresses, by Charles himself. According to the story, Churchill jumped out of a third story window into a dunghill and was given 5000 pounds by Villiers as compensation for his embarrassment. Villiers was also rumored to have paid for Churchill's pension when he was made a captain in the Army. From all accounts, Churchill seems to have been the sort of courtier of which Lord Chesterfield would have approved. Samuel Johnson once said that Chesterfield's letters to his son "teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master."

John Mize

To Trollope-l

April 11, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Names with "A," Huge Sums & Slaughters; Serpentine Self-Directed Spite

To John: I don't know how common was the name Arabella, but I can say Trollope uses it for female characters he does not look too favorably upon: Lady Arabella Gresham in Dr Thorne & Arabella French in He Knew He Was Right. He's also not keen on Augusta (Lady Augusta Gresham steals a husband from her dumb younger sister) nor particularly enamoured of Adelaide (Adelaide Palliser). He can abide Alices, but only just (Alice Vavasour).

A is in fact a dubious beginning letter for a lady's name with Mr Trollope.

To Sig: I am also astounded by the amounts of money squandered by establishment 17th and 18th century figures. If you think about how tiny were the sums the average person made for weeks of work, how they lived on a subsidence level, it's obscene. Obscene. Sometimes I wonder if all the stories about men jumping out of windows, and women falling off of horses were just a sort of wish fulfilment by the average person who would have liked to think of these people as mortified and hurting in some way or other.

To Angela: on shooting, there is a terrifically nostalgic novel by Isabel Colegate, The Shooting Party which was made into a touching movie. Imagine birds created to be shot easily. One reads how Prince Charles loves to take his sons shooting in Scotland. Trollope's realistic imagination is much closer to the mark than Colegate's sentiment.

I savour the bitterness of some of Trollope's irony. It does warm the heart. It's therapeutic. I also intensely enjoy how precisely the things that irritated him most in life he inflicts on his characters and then turns round to have someone in the book argue this is a necessity of life. This is central to the serpentine logic of all the books. It's as if he is digging at himself the needles that hurt him and saying, there, there, there. Thus for example, The Adventures of Fred Pickering. Trollope is Fred; he is the Senator, and he is John Morton.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator, Ch 33-38: Parallel Plots

Trollope is up to his usual tricks in this week's installment. He is making his stories run parallel so as to contrast, reinforce, and comment ironically upon the themes of his book.

Chapters 33-35 I will call the Mary Masters-Larry Twentyman- Reginald Morton plot. We don't see Reginald Morton, but it is the memory of his presence, of his words, the visit to his aunt that steadies Mary into refusing an offer of marriage from Larry Twentyman.


1) Mary's letter is bold but it is sincere. She tells Larry in no uncertain terms she cannot marry him. The letter enables her to bypass her stepmother's persecution. In The Golden Lion of Granpere Marie Bromar similarly resorts to the post. In The Golden Lion and American Senator the parent who would control the adopted or step-child attempts to retrieve the letter, but is thwarted by a government employee. Government bureaucrats have their uses :). Compare Arabella. John Morton writes her a sincere honest letter, and then another. She does not write back until she knows she will meet Rufford, and then she writes a letter calculated to hold John Morton to her. Morton is himself honorable and wants her. While it's not the best of reasons: he wants her because she's presentable and he will be envied. On his own second-rate level he is true and decent. Mary comes out well in this comparison, Arabella as a sneak, even though the conventions of the world would say Mary snuck around her stepmother.

2) Larry wants to sell Chowton Farm. This is a direct parallel to Morton's decision to go to Patagonia. Patagonia was a large land mass in South America at the time; one could rise in the world but only at a distance and through leaving the comforts, luxuries and companionship of England. It's interesting that Morton is again literally honest. Larry comes to Morton to offer him the land; Morton does not take advantage. Morton can be wise for others, but not quite as wise for himself.

3) The pressure of social life. Mary cannot escape her stepmother easily. She is like a fish in a glass bowl; there is little privacy in her life. She cannot escape her family pressures. She has no access to peers her family does not want her to have access to. Arabella too lives in a fishbowl. Look how hard she has to work to have but a few moments with Lord Rufford and that's before all eyes. This is perhaps an accurate picture of the way life was carried on among people of the middling classes in England -- and quite deliberately. Individuals money in the game of networking and aggrandisement carried on by families. There was no other game in town as yet -- or none which reached very far. How easy it was for Rufford to keep his distance from Arabella, how her aunt watched her like a hawk, and finally interrupted the tete-a-tete I do not suggest Trollope was aware of how tightly imprisoned people and young women especially were in the way we might be. He had not lived in a freer era, but he does present chapters in which Mary cannot escape to a private space except for a little piece of time called sleeping; the same goes for Arabella Trefoil.

Less obvious and perhaps not deliberate, but capable of comparison: Mary trying to go up in the world and her stepmother disapproving; Arabella trying to go up in the world and her aunt disapproving. The older women believe a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I think Trollope strains the truth when he has Arabella throw over Morton because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but he has to do this to have a plot.

Some good scenes: Mary and her father, Arabella and her aunt. Both bring out truths about life and their relationships. Both are depicted through dialogue and gestures that are utterly believable.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator, Chs 33-38: Mistletoe & Trefoil

The Chapters which take us to the house and grounds and depict the way of life of the Duke and Duchess of Mayfair are very strong. The picture of the daily routine, the hunt, the nuances of interactions strike me as probably accurate. We might note the ironic name. Mistletoe. It's a natural object under which young couples are invited to kiss.

One problem with Trollope's plot is it is slightly unbelievable that Arabella would continue to chase Lord Rufford when, as she says herself, he is so clearly indifferent whether he sees and spends time with her or not. Everything about his behavior, his plans for himself, the way he kisses her and says nothing -- all declare him not serious. Yet she desperately throws herself at him and is casting away her chance at security and peace of a sort with Morton. She lies to her aunt before she manages to place Morton in compromising position on the way home from the hunt. Again I find myself wondering whether Trollope is also depicting a frigid woman -- very like Grisela Grantley. Arabella has such "large inexpressive eyes." She has no sexual presence in the book. Both are "big blondes" -- making me recall Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and a host of prestige-acruing English actresses from Maggie Smith to Vanessa Redgrave. Big blondes all.

Now I'm not suggesting they are or were all frigid. Only that Trollope associates big blondeness with frigidness.

The scenes between the are brilliant. The hunt was not a strain to read.

We have the Duchess of Omnium amongst us and so too Lady Chiltern. As well as bringing them onto the stage and showing us the comfortable Lady Chiltern in later life, Trollope thus informs us that the Duke and Duchess and Morton too belong to the upper 10,000 who count.

Ellen Moody

By the way, Trefoil is a very insignificant flower, quite humble, if that is any interest.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Another Arabella

From: Sigmund Eisner

To John Mize: Your apt quote from Samuel Johnson about Lord Chesterfield warmed my heart. It was Lord Chesterfield and Polonius who were fed to me during my formative years with the idea of making me a better person. Consequently I achieved an intense dislike for both of them and relegated them with William Cullen Bryant, about whom it was said during my seventeenth year: "When William Cullen Bryant was seventeen, he wrote Thanatopsis, and look at you." Today, however, what impressed me about your posting was the enormous sums of money that passed among members of the high and mighty during the seventeenth century.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: Shooting

From: "Angela Richardson"

Trollope very briefly comments upon the shooting which was arranged at Misletoe :"Tons of game had been killed, and tons more were to be killed after luncheon". After this rustic lunch, Arabella walks with Rufford to "his corner by the next covert..and ... stood with him for some minutes after the slaughter had begun." Rufford is clearly at a battue - a shoot without dogs, not involving any walking at all, where shooters wait by a wood for huge quantities of birds to be made to fly into their line of fire by beaters with dogs. The birds will have been fed and reared just for this purpose.

Incidentially, the 1872 Act for the Protection of certain Wild Birds During Breeding Season, prevented farmers from killing game that roamed over and ate off their cultivated land. I don't know when this Act was repealed,as I assume it must have been, eventually.

How I wish we had the American Senator with us in this scene.

Will you eat all you shoot?
Can you sell a few tons?
What's the economic gain from this sport?


To Trollope-l

April 12, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Characters who can and cannot know themselves; Many complex characters in this book

Angela Richardson wrote:

Ellen, on your comparisons, isn't it interesting that Trollope takes the occasion to expose the weakness of R Morton - that he seem incapable of knowing himself. He appreciates and admires the true feeling revealed by Mary and Larry and almost admits he is not capable of doing the same.

It is interesting. Trollope seems to value the ability to see candidly into oneself. One might say that true wisdom can only begin once we have seen our motives clearly.

I'd also like to comment on how many interesting and complex characters there really are in this book. Trollope seems to be throwing them off with no effort whatsoever. He's a master novelist at this point.

Ellen Moody

Reply-to: Subject: [trollope-l] Re: _The American Senator, Chs 33-38: Mistletoe

From: "RJ Keefe"

The Mistletoe chapters, even more strongly than those set at Rufford, show the sophisticated and even somewhat racy style that Trollope developed during his last decade to 'cover' the beau monde, which even in the 1870s was moving from High Victorian probity to an Edwardian laxity. In painterly terms, Landseer and Frith are giving way to Whistler and Sargeant. The Duchess of Mayfair is distressed by Arabella's postchaise ride alone with Rufford, but she cannot amplify the indiscretion into an outrage. "Men are so different now, aunt," Arabella tells her; and if men are different, then women must change to keep up with them - or so Arabella would have it.

Here's an example of what I mean by 'somewhat racy': Trollope spices his account of Rufford's entanglement with sudden references to the 'coat tails' quip that appears way back at the end of 'The Last Morning at Rufford Hall.' There, Lord Rufford conceded to Arabella's critics that he was in danger. "I look upon both you and Eleanor," he says to Miss Godolphin, "as all one on the present occasion. I am considered to be falling over a precipice, and she has got hold of my coat tails. Of course you wouldn't be Christians if you didn't both of you seize a foot." The quip itself is very fresh.

During the postchaise ride, Rufford asks Arabella, "Would you like to go to sleep?" "Oh dear no." "Afraid of gloves?" said he, drawing nearer to her. They might pull his as they liked by his coat-tails but as he was in a postchaise with her he must make himself agreeable." We're a long way from the precincts of respectability inhabited by the Cecilia Burtons in Trollope.

Ellen Moody writes that she finds the plotting here 'slightly unbelievable.' I assess Arabella's recklessness at Mistletoe otherwise. It's clear that she's counting on supporting maneuvers from her aunt and uncle, and when she realizes that Rufford has escaped without speaking to the Duke, she is 'for sometime overwhelmed.'

RJ Keefe

Re: AS: Racy Lord Rufford and Arabella at Mistletoe

This is to reassure RJ that his interesting commentary on the Mistletoe chapters did not overgo our schedule at all. I think he makes an important point when he brings out the racy quality of Arabella's experiences with Lord Rufford. There is much _risqué_ feeling in all of Arabella's scenes alone with Rufford: the kiss and embrace at Rufford Hall, the ride back in the postchaise, the walk in the woods. When we are told he put his arm around her waist and kissed her, we are entitled to imagine considerable intimacy of a kind Victorians associated with engagement. Such scenes also suggest Rufford is a something of an insouciant rake himself. He certainly makes no effort whatsoever to placate or spend intimate time with Arabella at Mistletoe. He would get what sex he can, as long as he is not entangled.

On the other hand, precisely because Rufford's conduct is not up the standards of strict gentlemanly behaviour, Arabella ought to stand warned. More: she has her bird in the bush; she has landed Morton. She is not counting on maneuvers from her aunt or uncle. She tells her aunt nothing until her aunt separates her from Rufford in the woods. And then she lies. It's only later she goes for a ride in the postchaise and thus can place Rufford in a compromised position. She tell sher uncle nothing and we are show he has no sense of duty towards her of any intensity.

Could Arabella's conduct also be a plot device? If Arabella had been content to marry John Morton -- as overwhelmingly most women in her position would -- there would be no novel. The plots themselved are made to figure forth critiques of mercenary women and to satirise elements in society. So the plot twists her personality as we see it.

Yes Arabella is not very likable. I much prefer (to take a character from Gaskell) Lady Glenmire who does not have to marry to position herself, _only_ to find safety and a haven of kindness (the only is meant ironically). Yet Arabella shines in comparison to Lizzie Eustace because Arabella knows the difference between the frantic hollow life she leads and her real longings for something indefinably better. At least less work at smiling.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator: Disordered or Perverted Personalities?

I agree with John Mize in the posting where he writes that psychiatrists seem to think their function is to get their patients to conform to society ("the norm"). Then the patient will be "happy." One of my favorite books on psychiatry is by Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness. Szasz argues psychiatry is a profession which supports the status quo and encourages individuals to think their misery or illness is their own fault, when it is the product' of social, political, economic and other stresses. We are perverted from our quieter more natural impulses to obey the money or others interests of the group to which we are said to "belong." Neuroses is thus not curable since it is the product of large social arrangements which are not going to change very much during any individual's life.

It was pointed out to me tonight (in a conversation with someone) that most people today when they can still marry to position themselves in society. Companionship, friendship, deep congeniality, sexual satisfaction come second or third or fifth. My experience has borne this out: when someone marries someone with no prospects, others are surprised. What is remarkable is that Arabella Trefoil could position herself very well as John Morton's wife. Arabella certainly is filled with hatred, and for no one more than herself. She loathes the thing she has become, and yet has become it.

There is another stream of typical Trollope emotions and concerns feeding into The American Senator which has been mentioned to me off-list and I'd like to bring up here: Arabella stands for the hard person, the one who defies what others think, the person with the hide of an elephant -- or so she appears. Mr Masters might be regarded as her opposite number: he is gentle; he will not ruthlessly assert himself to use or exploit or even get back what he is owed. He has high ideals of integrity. He does not do well in the world. He is a Duke of Omnium without the vast wealth, a Mr Harding turned lawyer (so is Mr Grey in Mr Scarborough's Family). The predisposition to follow one's inner nature is also found in Larry Twentyman; Reginald Morton is more self-controlled.

Ellen Moody

RE: Arabella as a Superior version (as a character) to Becky Sharp

Trollope keeps the hunting metaphor up to the end, including the magnificent hunting down of Rufford to his lair by Arabella Trefoil.

It also just occurred to me that Arabella Trefoil is such another as Lizzie Eustace in many ways: coldness, determination, apparent conventional beauty. Lizzie Eustace is often seen as a kind of Becky Sharp. Well, if so, Arabella is such another, and a very vivid one too.

Some intriguing differences between Becky and Arabella. Arabella is not weaker or a pallid Becky as one might say Lizzie is. Lizzie makes some very stupid decisions and can only see out of her egoistic point of view. She never sees what others see. Becky does.

Trollope has come up with another perhaps superior intellectual conception. Arabella is not having any fun; it's all harsh work her life. She's not enjoying the hunt one little bit. I remember the close of Vanity Fair; as Becky slips down and down all the rungs, she gains in gaiety; Arabella only gets more desperate, and (to jump forward) what a relief when she marries a man unexpectedly fitted to her, the after all calculating Mounser Green:

She, as she listened to him, was almost stunned by the change in the world around her. She need never again seem to be gay in order that men might be attracted (Oxford 530).

Mounser would just bore Becky to tears, but Trollope is not seeing Arabella against the same screen (so to speak) that Thackeray indulges his Becky with. Arabella's world is harsh, cold, and mean; she would be at home in The Way We Live Now. She is driven to see success in ugly terms because her world sees it thus, and will make of her an outcast unless she falls to and grabs like the rest of them. (Reginald Morton, Lady Ushant, and Mary Masters are after all idealizations, part of an older world.)

So I guess we forgive her in a way we don't forgive Becky who doesn't need our forgiveness, who would laugh at us, but who I would love to sit down to talk to. Not Arabella, not this cold ambitious woman who cannot somehow reach for anything better.

And I was puzzled when Trollope asserted his hero was Larry Twentyman except when I remembered how he resembled Johnny Eames after all.

Ellen Moody

Re: Trollope and Austen: Arabella Trefoil and Austen's heroines

We could say Arabella Trefoil is the other side of Jane Austen because almost all the women in Austen are in exactly the same position but they are seen sympathetically. I think Trollope's animus is roused by how she goes about it--desperately--and what her ultimate aims are--exploitation or use of another person without regard for her own character or the character of that other person. You could, for example, apply the same terms to Marianne chasing Willoughby, or better yet, her mother turning a blind eye to what's happening between them, & leaving them alone for houses, or extending her time at Norland Park even though Fanny Dashwood is doing everything she can to make her and her daughters unwelcome, so Edward Ferrars and Elinor have time to fall in love. But Arabella doesn't even look to fall in love. Trollope says she could have snared Rufford if she had been a little less obvious, just a wee bit sincere.

Yes her problem is a very real one, and who a woman marries counts very much today still.

But I don't think it's so much her problem though maybe some will disagee and say Trollope refused to recognize the need for a woman to marry as a problem--he advised Kate Field to marry to solve what he perceived would be her eventual loneliness and vulnerability as an aged single (so to speak). It's the calculation, the cold selling of the self that Arabella stands for that excites him even to feel a detestation for her. Remember she sells herself not just for physical comfort or dignity or self-respct, for that John Morton would have provided amply, as well as much affection as his shallow or less emotional self can provide (he also wants to marry her as such a presentable object at the head of his dinner table). No Arabella wants the exorbitant shiny house, the really new barouche, not just the groceries. Not just any old gold; it must be the kind of glitter which is the latest thing, the kind of house which excites awe nowadays, and to which "the best people" nowadays "du monde" are invited And who are these in Arabella's estimation, not the "best people" as, to keep the Austen parallel up which I think is very illuminating and real, in Persuasion Anne Elliot describes them, "the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of converstion; that is what I call good company," to which Mr Elliot cleverly said, "that is not good company, that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice." Arabella can even dispense with the manners. Anne Elliot says there is "so little real friendship in the world," and that's Trollope's ideal for a man and wife; Arabella's ideal is to get someone whom everyone has agreed to appear to admire for his access to ostentatiously expensive possessions.

In the letter Trollope wrote in which he mentioned Arabella and argued she was very real, he so famously said: "I think that she will go to a kind of third class heaven in which she will be always getting third class husbands." Novels are reveries which seek to inculcate values the novelist holds dear, so I suggest Trollope is (whether consciously or not) pointing to Arabella's punishment or end in this book; he didn't deny her groceries, or a husband. Her punishment for wanting what is third rate is to get a third rate husband.

Green takes her to the very place she so despised when Morton was half-considering it; and in his behavior over where they married from, we see she's got her match, all for show among people who dislike & despise them in order to make the right connections; oh, she'll have to keep pulling strings--she's wrong really to think she can relax, only with Mounser will this be so, and maybe not even with him in the years to come. But Trollope draws the curtain on this pair and we don't see what they will become.

Trollope is an idealist in his way. Arabella doesn't have any fun because Trollope doesn't see any fun in the Becky Sharp way of life. To him it is desperate, degraded. He asks where is true joy to be found? Where true happiness? barring that some decent cheer maybe?

Maybe the answer in these last books is just about nowhere. And the grim vein in Trollope is not just the product of his late years--witness _The Macdermots of Ballycloran_ before us.

To: Penny Klein ,
From: Ellen Moody
Subject: TROL Arabella Trefoil, Becky Sharp, Lizzie Eustace and Mary Crawford

What I would emphasize about Mary Masters is that she has a stepmother who mistreats her and attempts to pressure her into marrying Larry Twentyman whom Mary does not love and whom Mary feels is beneath her. I remember both characters are presented in terms which are not idealistic.

Arabella is sharp, and hard, and towards the end is facing an uncomfortable and possibly hard life. Trollope didn't quite deny that his portrait of Lizzie Eustace was uninfluenced by Thackeray's Becky Sharp. Here are his words exactly:

"As I wrote the book, the idea constantly presente itself to me that LIzzie Eustace was but a second Becky Sharpe; but in planning the character I had not thought of this, and I believe Becky would have been as she is though Becky had not been described" (An Autobiography, 1980 Oxford ed. FPage & M Sadleir, introd. PDEdwards, p 344).

I take Trollope to mean he invented Lizzie on his own, but that she belonged to the same type to which Thackeray's Becky belonged. Trollope might call this human nature; we might say it was a literary type or stereotype of the European imagination at the time. I say European because the type is found in French literature too.

I agree that these "types" are presented differently in books by women. Thackeray is actually less harsh than LaClos (Madame de Merteuil), Henry James (Madame Merle), though the type can appear very hard in a woman's book. I instance Austen's Lady Susan.

I also agree that Mary Crawford is presented as softer and more yielding at the crunch of a moment when Edmund Betram is about to leave her. There are those who interrupt her last attempt to hold him as somehow cold and seductive, the woman as temptress. I see her as sorry, hesitant, remembering that she does love what is tender and good in him.

On the other hand, do notice the pitiless of all towards Arabella. When while dancing with Lord Rufford, she evinces the slightest security, he looks irritated and says if you don't understand why I'm walking away from you, you are not the woman I took you for. How without mercy this man can be -- banally, without thinking. Probably that's the heart of ordinary or common humankind before us. And it has made Arabella the survivor she hopes to be. In a sense she is as stupid as Lizzie Eustace -- and Becky. She has not the heart nor depth herself to seek, demand and get something better by giving of herself. There is nothing there. The reason people accept Mary Crawford is they recognize aspects of themselves in her; she is a softer version of the survivor and the morally stupid person who we somehow wish could have had a heart and insight that is rare.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator: Different Yardsticks

Maybe we apply a different yardstick to Arabella on the one hand, and Goarly and the gallant Major on the other because of what she's selling. Goarly is not offering up his inner life to get what he wants, nor the Major. After all when one marries one promises to love and live in intimate companionship with someone else. I agree that Morton is distasteful and Trollope mocks him partly because he too is selling something which is not adventitious (land is outside ourselves, horses are outside ourselves). It will be said women didn't have anything else to sell. That's why Arabella is so desperate. But Trollope blames and punishes men who marry for money solely. Think of Adolphus Crosbie.

Another distinction we might make is between a real person of a certain type and a character of that type. Were I to meet Arabella in real life, I would probably stay away, be very put off by her, and if I learned what she is living for, I would feel a strong distaste. I might feel sorry for her too. But in a book I feel differently. She is a character with whom our narrator sympathises to some extent. She stands for a woman twisted by the inhumane codes of her society. She also is presented as proud and fierce, almost like Ulysses in Dante's Inferno (if I may be allowed this unlikely reach). She would spit at and defy God from her place in hell too. And she has burnt inwardly until she has become ice. What is it Frost says, "Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice . . . I admire Ulysses. Who doesn't warm to a good hater? And it's not a hell entirely of her own making. Still in life we keep away. Looking at Arabella from this perspective, Mary Masters becomes the opposing or antithetic figure of grace (I use the word as we find it in Spenser's Faerie Queene).

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

RE: The American Senator: Arabella Doesn't Pretend to Herself

Thinking a bit more why I accept Arabella in the way I cannot accept Lizzie Eustace, I fall back on Arabella's lack of pretense. Once she leaves the public stage, she doesn't pretend to emotions she doesn't feel; she doesn't pretend to be adhering to sentimental values. Even when on the public stage, she doesn't pretend all that much. That's why she flirts and ostentatiously manoeuvres. And John Morton feels the lack of pretended emotion.

One might say of Arabella that she is a liar and not a hypocrite. This makes me think of a subtle opposition in Shakespeare's characterisation of Iago (Othello) and Angelo ( Measure for Measure). Iago is a liar to everyone else, but not himself; Angelo lies to himself. In describing the relationship between Arabella and her mother, Lady Augusta, Trollope seems to suggest the two would have been better off had they lied to one another, and pretended to motives other than the mercenary and ambitious; such lies soften life and help us get through. We find this theme in The Claverings where for a moment he justifies Hermione Clavering's insistence after her brutal, mean husband dies that he was good and kind -- it's a way she has of enduring life. On the other hand, it makes for such hollowness, such phoniness, and in a way, worse things can ensue when we are prepared to delude ourselves about why we do what we do.

Contrasting Arabella with Lizzie Eustace enlightening. Continually in The Eustace Diamonds Trollope shows us how Lizzie tells herself she is sentimental, poetic, good-hearted (even); Arabella cannot bear for her mother to pretend to such things. Lizzie is a hypocrite; Arabella is a desperate liar. She's hard but she's for real. She's not hollow in the way of Lizzie, and this predilection for the simple truth makes one feel Arabella could live another way, make some other choice, break away. Arabella would admit clearly to herself she is bullying Lucy, would admit clearly to herself any action she did for herself regardless of the havoc it might play in the life of another. Arabella can't betray a friend because she'd never kid herself nor any one else who had some brains she is their friend. John Morton is cut off from his real feeling -- as is so often in our world he thinks cant, obeys it.

In life who could come near an Arabella? But as a character in a book, a figure in a carpet who figures forth a group of harsh inferences about our lives and societies, she's magnificent.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: Portrait of Arabella, a 19th C. English Ideal or a Frigid "Big Blonde?"

Dear All,

I went to the site Gene indicated, but my software is too poor for me to see anything but broad blotches or squares of half-realised color. My husband was able to get the image in much clearer. In fact I see Arabella, but she is not the lady at the center of the picture. She is the one sitting on one side to the central female.

A number of times Trollope tells us Arabella is large. She is characterised in very much the same terms that Trollope characterises Griselda Grantley and a number of other "Junos" (Trollope's favorite word for them). They have big shoulders (meaning breasts); they loom large in a room. Most of Trollope's versions of this type are blond. We are told they have a Grecian nose -- aquiline. I fear we would call them fat. Supine. And thus gross. Not magnificent. Not majestic. And slightly horse-faced but for the smoothness and filled-in quality of the face. The point about such women is they look fertile, strong, and like they never done a day's work in their life. A fertility goddess and symbol of leisured existence for the middle class. I fear some of us would call such women gross. We are into Barbie dolls and the ideal is a an impossibly large bosom on an athletic body.

Note her "large inexpressive eyes." She's frigid too. Will not allow John Morton near her. Only allows Rufford as if she were some fish.

Trollope himself does not favor this physical kind of trophy. Madame Max, Lucy Morris, and a number of his sympathetic heroines are called small and brown. Madame Max we are told has thin wrists; it is hinted she is somewhat flat-chested, narrow, angular. If anything the woman in the center of The Reception (or The Ambitious One is closer to the angular type Trollope favored, except she's got too much flash, is too elegant. Trollope liked a woman who didn't stick out (ahem), was somewhat nondescript, was quiet in her effects, subtle. He also likes small brown "dove-like" women. Trollope's first heroine, Feemy Macdermot, is small and called brown. I don't remember if he describes Mary Masters in this way, but her character fits that type. Adela Gauntlet is another "brown" lady.

There is a woman in Tissot's picture who fits the bill for Arabella. She is dressed in dark-red, a blond with big shoulders, and is (in character this) reclining near the woman in the center of The Reception. This second woman is just below the first woman's fan. There is something about the softness of her skin and its plentifulness that is redolent of Arabella. The central woman has sunken cheeks. It will never do. The woman at the side has those rounded smooth arms that belong to the Arabella-Griselda Juno type.

I have some suggestions for alternatives. If you go to Millais's picture of Laura Kennedy in Phineas Finn, "'You don't quite now Mr Kennedy yet'" (Trollope Society edition, ilustration facing p. 49), you will find a woman who takes up nearly the whole space of the picture. It's not just her dress. There is a suggestion of breadth to her whole body, top to bottom. Other versions of this type may be found in the cover illustration to The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire, edited by Stephen Gill for the Oxford paperback classics (1980). It's Ford Maddox Bronw's The Bromley Family, 1844. Look at the woman in the center. Her white skin, her smooth face, the suggestion of heavy bosom and womb, the rounded arms. The only way in which she differs from Arabella is she's brown haired, and even her hair is smooth. The TLS had a portrait of one of the Rothschild women on its cover a couple of months ago. Added to all these acres of smooth flesh, one finds jewels, an enormous dress, lace, flounces, feathers. We are told Lady Laura is slightly mannish, meaning she has not feminine ways of sitting. She is also darker. Phineas finds her admirable.

A third type we find in Trollope may be caught in Lady Glen. We are told she is small and blond, curly-haired. She is also, so we are told, deliciously feminine, something a man wants to adore, protect, shelter. So too Mary Flood Jones.

I have seen other Tissot's and think his note is elegance. All his central women are elegant -- elongated and dressed in high couture -- and I don't think that is Trollope's note. I would call it a French note, not that French men longed for elegance as a group or that French women were elegant, but that the pictures of the French 19th century artists show such women.

One thing Gene brings home by his question is how different are the types admired today than in the 19th century. Also how English is Trollope's taste -- in the sense that when Trollope uses the word brown he does not necessarily mean a dark woman. He means a woman who is not fair -- which for him is a woman with blue eyes, genuinely blond or yellow-haired, and with the kind of very white or pink skin that won't tan. People misread 19th century English novels because they aren't thinking in English terms and of English types. When a 19th century English novelist (say Bronte or Austen) talks of black eyes or a black man, they mean someone with very dark brown eyes and swarthy or what I would call olive-colored skin. They also use brown skin which is described as delicate to mean someone who can tan and who is light but has no pink or red in her cheeks.

I will use myself as an example though it's dangerous. When I was growing up in the Bronx, I was always described as blond or dirty blond in hair and medium in height. In comparison with most the girls I knew I was fair and medium. The area I lived in was Spanish and most girls were smaller and much darker than me. I came to England, Leeds to be precise, and was startled to hear that I had been described as small and dark. Well I'm barely 5 feet 2 and my hair is light brown to some. Much darker and smaller than many English girls. (I had trouble finding shoes small enough; I wore the smallest size, and I had to make a wedding ring smaller than it came in the store to fit my hands which are much more angular than those of many English girls.)

Ellen From: "Joan F. Wall"
Re: Arabella humble flower or weed?

Angela wrote:

By the way, Trefoil is a very insignificant flower, quite humble, if that is any interest.

From: Ellen Moody

Angela's identification of Trefoil as an insignificant humble flower undercuts Arabella beautifully and also makes her poignant. This is her real status among the Mortons and Ruffords if no one marries her.

I've just come in from the garden and just want to comment that trefoil is a very healthy weed with an insignificant flower. I wonder if Trollope wanted to show her as trying to take over as weeds are wont to do. She is really a fascinating character so far.


To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator Chs 33-38: The desperate huntress

April 12, 1999

I agree with Pat that there is something so excessive and obsessive, neurotic and impractical about Arabella's behavior. While I would like to argue that she is another of Trollope's more than half-mad characters, I'm not sure the problem with believing that she is going about hunting down a husband seriously and determinedly is that this would conflict with the plot. Trollope simply wants to have her half-break with John Morton; he wants to show us her desperation. This on one level to figure forth the plight of genteel women in Victorian England -- they had to marry and the last thing they wanted was to marry down. Marriage was a career move, and you moved towards prosperity and prestige if you could. But without it, you were a poverty- striken old maid. On another Trollope disapproves strongly of women who went about this coldly and in a mercenary way. So again his story figures forth a woman without loyalty, integrity, or any sense of a need for love or to love. I suspect in this case he endowed an outline with vigorous life, and then we come along and fill it in with our own depths and sophistications. Perhaps this kind of thing often happens with Trollope. We fill in an outline whose suggestive outer rims Trollope did not really descry.

Ellen Moody

Patricia Maroney wrote:

I am having more and more trouble understanding Arabella and her motives, and feel even more confused as I have read ahead of the group. She knows she must marry, and has a good real offer, and yet jeopardises it for someone else for whom she does not care. She is obviously very bright; her quick thinking and plotting is downright amazing, and yet she works against herself with every move she makes. This must be a lifelong pattern; surely by now the good-looking niece of a duke would have married had she not worked so hard against herself? Is her mother's quarrelsome nature genetic? Between them it is a wonder they are even alive. Shouldn't they have made even a small attempt to be civil to Mrs. Morton if no one else? If she is sick to death of the hunt for a husband, why does she carry it on even when she has no need to? I find her interesting and amazing but have a great deal of trouble in finding her believable unless she is mentally ill. (one of my minor hobbies is a study of what is called borderline personality disorder; does anyone on the list know enough about it to have an opinion as to whether or not you would consider Arabella borderline?) Thanks. Pat

Re: The American Senator: Arabella: Personality Disorder or Self-Contempt?

To the many qualities we have all attributed to Arabella I'd like to add self-contempt. She scorns most people she comes near, so when she works hard to achieve their envy, she knows she's the greatest fool of all. Yet she must eat. Once having decided to live (Hamlet-like), apparently she cannot conceive of living other than by the values of the common herd of her upper class milieu. One could wonder why she throws over John Morton since he seems to act on a moral understanding in ways Rufford, the people at Dillborough or the people at Mistletoe never display. It's like she throws away the one thing that is not altogether frivolous and shallow for flash (flash being Mayfair). On the other hand, Morton does seem to lack passion; he is utterly conventional in all his acts and beliefs.

So there is an ironic tragedy here. Arabella has no good choices, no choices she wants. RJ will tell me she enjoys the glitter and prestige of this world. All I can say is she doesn't seem happy. She is exhilarated during the hunt; like a cat she smells her mouse is drawing near in the carriage and maybe she'll nail him. But happy?


Yet more on Arabella: The Third Rate Woman who Marries the Third Rate Male: The upper class disguised version of the myth of the pariah-slut?

Sig offered a rather hard interpretation of Arabella Trefoil. The only reason she appears cooperative, courteous, and works to fit into the various rooms she finds herself in, is that she has no access to permanent money, home, and certainly no position of strength. Her aunt can tell her what to do. She must endlessly manipulate in order to get the slightest opportunity to get "at" Rufford. All her irritation at her mother's pretences at affection, and her appreciation of how all she does in some sense a showy lie -- all this will, says Sig, be thrown overboard once Arabella nails Rufford down. She will emerge a far more ruthless tyrant than Lady Arabella Gresham. It does make her happy to be rich as Croesus (or his wife); she understands nothing else than the envy she will feel in the eyes of those like herself and those who have decent feelings too. That is the level on which she exists.

This could be the way Trollope wants us to see her. But he often shows us characters who find themselves bumping up against others. Had Arabella married Morton, I don't think she could have moved him in directions he didn't approve of or want to go. Her ways upon marriage to a Rufford might have been much more direct than those of Mrs Masters but Rufford will not be as squashable as Mr Masters. Arabella Trefoil is weaker than appears. A Trefoil is a humble object. Look how she has not managed to get anyone to marry her. In this connection Lizzie Eustace is the stronger woman. Lizzie holds her own pretty well even against Mr Emilius, and gets rid of him.

Another thought: Trollope rarely shows us the truly tyrannising woman except when presented the fundamentalist religious types who hate or fear life and sex or want to maintain absolute control or possession over the poor girl conventions have put in their power (Mrs Bolton in John Caldigate, Madame Staubach in Linda Tressel). Most of the time the woman works through pretences: Lady Aylmer in The Belton Estate only manages to make others miserable and doesn't get her way as she truly wants it. But then again I am always puzzled at what is said to be the enjoyment of controlling others. Who cares what others do? Where is the purchase? A peculiar sort of satisfaction.

Still, when Arabella finally lands a man, I wonder if we will not see her making the best of his wants and falling in with them. I am not giving away the plot when I recall that in his letters Trollope wrote of Arabella Trefoil she will be always getting third-rate husbands in a third-rate heaven (or words to this effect).

I have to say that the view is also a masculinist one which does not enter into the woman's point of view. Ultimately Arabella is the modern slut in disguise. She is saved by the third-rate male who can't get anyone else and can "hide" in another country.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: The Pleasure of Power

April 15, 1999

From: John Mize

Why would Arabella or anyone else want power? I think, for a lot of people, there are only two choices, to be a master or to be a slave. The only way one can safeguard his or her own independence is to control others. If you are not moving forward, subduing your enemies, they will be moving against you. You're only safe if you are on the attack. The logic of empires, political and business, is expansion. If you stagnate, you die. Historically it does seem that overreaching is as dangerous as inaction in the life of empires, but that's not the sort of thing a proactive kind of person can or will think about.

John Mize

Re: Power-Seeking in Trollope

In response to John,

I have an easier time understanding Emily Bronte or Dickenson or Trollope's own Mr Harding in this regard. I can't think why one shouldn't just turn away. As long as you have your shelter, food, the wherewithal to buy what you love to spend your time doing, and a couple of real friends, congenial companions, what do you care what others you have no connection with are doing?

So the source of power is fear? If you don't stand with your axe raised or set the terms for raising axes, the others will come in and break your space apart? Maybe the reason they fear this is they know they would long to come in and control your space.

The characters in Trollope whom he presents as seeking pleasure in controlling, thwarting, and otherwise making others bow down before them are certain kinds of (sexually) cold women or Daubeny and Gresham (who are kept at a distance from us). As presented, these figures do not act out of fear but because they have nothing inside of them to occupy themselves with unless it be plans through which to commandeer and subdue (or crush, a favorite word of Trollope's) others. When they are women (Mrs Bolton in John Caldigate), they justify this behavior by referring themselves to conventional moral codes which counsel utter repression of the individual spirit and obedience to authority or elders or family members. But maybe it's that such people can't think what else to do with themselves that they could call a life. The women can't bear to let other people get out of their control; they live through controlling others. They want these others (children) to live just as they have lived.

Such people live to show off in front of others too. That is probably Arabella -- except if she should crack in the effort to keep up her facade. Trollope tells us how hard she works. He uses this word repeatedly: she works very hard to make her wardrobe look right; she works to smile; she works to flirt. It's exhausting just to consider :)

At any rate, while Trollope has many many females who show no disposition to control or assert themselves over others except when their private life is somehow radically threatened, generally speaking the people he sees as most grasping for the sake of grasping are women.

It will be said that these women are twisted because they are given such a small sphere. I don't know. Mrs Proudie is said to run the diocese. Myself I agree with what Austen has one of her characters in Mansfield Park say of the Rev Grant. The Rev Grant is perhaps tyrannical and small-minded, utterly selfish. Mary Crawford says he would have been so much better off had he had a profession with scope, and influence (or power) over others, and gone in say for the navy. Fanny Price disagrees. She says he would have been able to do more harm, only had more people to bother and irritate. That's how I see Lady Arabella Gresham. Yes her sphere is limited, but were she alive today she'd just be making so many more people miserable in the office she'd preside over than she can do at Greshambury Park.

Trollope does see this impulse to be on top as a kind of brute fact of certain kinds of natures. Daubeny does whatever it is he does to enable others to jeer at his victims with him, to triumph, to be on Top. Small desperate men want money, places, prizes, the respect of small men like themselves. Daubeny wants Sheer Topness. The opposite to someone like Daubeny would be Lady Mason of Orley Farm (who dons respectability as her protection). Perhaps the most sublime form of Topness is the person who loves to control others from a distance when they con't even know they are controlled? Or is this a person who doesn't really exist and we imagine could? I don't think so. Consider how the king used to rule Parliament without being there. How the Big Man likes to act through Minions.

I would suggest the politics of dominance and submission is central to Trollope's conception of people's relationships with one another.

Perhaps one cannot fathom this impulse. Jane Goodall spent 30 years studying the chimpanzees and said there were just chimps who spent their existence getting up to and holding onto the position of Alpha Male, and there were others who clearly thought such behavior a waste of time.


To Trollope-l

Re: The Relationship of Power and Fear

April 17-18, 1999

Like Ellen, I find it much easier to understand Emily Bronte than Benjamin Disraeli. In comparison to Emily, Disraeli is a stange, neurotic freak. Obviously I don't have too much sympathy with those humans and apes who aspire to alphahood, viewing them as always ridiculous and often dangerous. I can understand becoming great, because one wants to do something, but greatness as a goal in and of itself seems silly at best.

I still think that the root of the desire for power is fear, not only fear of the dangerous other, but also fear of one's own insignificance. The young Disraeli once said that he couldn't endure to live without fame, as if he needed adulation from outside himself to convince himself he was worthy to continue living. I wonder whether that ever works.

John Mize

Re: The Drive for Power Comes from Fear of One's Own Insignificance?: The Prime Minister and Fear of Death

To John Mize:

Yes I can see this one very well. While it seems to me we can find so many people who live to control and have power over others and yet can find no aspect in the behavior which signifies fear of others taking their space or controlling them, the less obvious motive is clear in most cases -- at least at some level as you watch them.

Since I wrote my last on this topic, I have gotten to another point in The Prime Minister. Now we see the Prime Minister's wife, the Duchess of Omnium aka Lady Glencora, again hard at work trying to influence the fate or behavior of others. She writes notes to Emily Lopez to persuade Emily to allow her to visit Emily; she wants to give Emily signs she regrets the part she played in Lopez's death. In fact it's hard to find fear of anyone in this act of the Duchess's; it is also hard to say she is doing anything harmful or oppressive. She means well. But what we do see here -- and have seen in all her behavior throughout The Prime Minister is an urge to assert her signficance, to affect people in such a way that they will remember her, name her in public. She does want to be courted, and yes feared, by the other men in her husband's government, and she says she is doing all this to make it easier for Plantagenet to govern them. But she also wants her finger in the pie as they say. Why? Because she wants to be noticed, put in some paper, be seen as somehow important and acting meaningfully in some narrative somewhere.

This impulse is one which motivated Simone de Beauvoir to write her famous The Second Sex. Her central complaint about women's lives is they live in the ephemeral; their acts don't transcend to some eternal sphere like men's. Well that's, as John says, to take seriously the 'flattery, titles, and elections in the world' that 'fill up an internal void'. Those who justify their behavior by the words, well, that's what people respect, it's what everybody does, I want to have what others have and be respected in the same ways they are -- are in effect saying flattery, titles, elections is meaning. The only answer one can give to this is, well, not everybody. Not everybody chases these things. In terms of The Prime Minister, one can recall the pettiness, meanness, and stupidity of most of the people Glencora must invite, how they aren't charmed, and will want tomorrow to know what she has done for them lately. We can also recall how the Duke is treated in the public realm -- for the most part by misunderstanding, cant, and as a result of envy, jealousy, or the desire to placate him or elevate and validate the writers' point of view and lifestyle.

What was the title of Kundera's book: The Eternal Lightness of Being. People are endlessly trying to get round that. They are afraid of death. Drive for power is a blockage of fear of death.


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