You can prove anything if you get to make up the evidence (Trollope and stories which support Burke and are anything but feminist); Parallels between John & Reginald Morton and Elias Gotobed; Mr and Mrs Masters, A Victorian Portrait of a Typical Marriage: Today Mrs Masters would not get away with her bullying; today she could divorce this "unsuccessful man" and be admired (for all we know); A Victorian Portrait of Trollope's own marriage?; Dominatrix; 'Family Values' -- Pathologies, anyone?; Mary and Larry; Women characters as Subjects Rather than Objects

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: You can prove anything if you get to make up the evidence (Trollope and stories which support Burke and are anything but feminist)

I thought I would mention a way in which the text is skewed so as to produce a defense of he conservative order. Yes Gotobed's principles are vindicated, but they are also (apparently) to be set aside if particular human arrangements based on old-age bonds make for a better stable situation.

This is pure Burke. The Senator is indignant to discover that Quinborough has a tiny amount of voters and gets to return a representative just like Liverpool. Further it's the lord's favored candidate who is returned. We are to see that the favored man is a good man, someone the lord picks because he feels bound to his tenant and the place and wants the best for them and himself, is grateful to them. The man who wants to replace him, a "plasterer" (heavens) named Bob Bobset from Shoreditch is a demagogue who cares only to make noise and is ineffective. Never mind. The Senator knows that the English people are hugging their chains.

In fact in reality often when the vote came in and the secret ballot people did rise to office who reflected the interests and needs of the average constituent. You can see this in Bath. Only through this way could the interests and needs of the constituent, often something quite different from that of the wealthy aristocrat or his merchant friend get any play.

So Trollope may be on the side of egalitarian democracy but his gut impulse (apparently) and his distrust of human nature (justified) made him present the lord's candidate as a fine man.

You can prove anything if you get to make up the evidence. When he wants to support the Senator's critique of selling places in the church which bring big incomes to one's relatives and connections and giving to valuable effective men tiny incomes with much work, he invents decent people to be the curates and supine indifferent ones to have the big incomes.

The same holds true of his portraits of men and women. He shows he sides with the males by making much worse pictures of the women: Mrs Masters, Lady Augustus are stupider, more despicable and absurd than the men they are surrounded by. The praise continually given Rufford is particularly irritating when it comes out of Gotobed's bed: a kindly, honest fellow, if a scapegrace? He probably had whatever fleeting sexual arousal he could get out of Arabella and despises her for it. The most self-complacent slithering being who has not got the brains to write a letter to put her off, but has all around him to dismiss her for him. Yes John Morton is the paragon; he is decent. Because Arabella doesn't recognize it, does not make it any the less true. What's revealed here is how Trollope couldn't care less about how such lords treat women. We are to see the irony of the lord hastily scratching out a note to Twentyman and Twentyman's fawning (my word not Trollope's on Rufford's every word), but we are not see Twentyman nor Arabella as pawns. After all, as with the man the lord from Quinborough appoints, Rufford says the right thing ever so gracefully when it's the conventional thing to say. On the side of conventions, yes, and the people who aren't safe because of this are those we don't see or are led to reject (Mrs Masters, Lady Augustus).


Re: Parallels between John & Reginald Morton and Elias Gotobed

What I wrote earlier is not to gainsay my liking for Gotobed. I may be alone in liking and respecting him for being so serious, for taking all seriously and speaking his mind. Maybe that's very American in me too :).

I see a parallel between him and both Morton cousins. John and Reginald act write and behave as if life were serious business. They play with seriousness; they keep their commitment. The rest of the world prefers the ass, the supine, the butterfly. Mary Masters does not rise to understanding this, but I do. If there's something I can't bear about Arabella it's the frivolous nature of her sense of life's meaning.

Dying, John Morton says to Arabella "Be true to someone." It hurts me that Trollope mocks him with labels like "the paragon." But I think to myself, maybe that's part of his mischievous self-reflexive mockery which obscures his position to his readership.

Ellen Moody

May 8, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Mr and Mrs Masters, A Victorian Portrait of a Typical Marriage

Sig says that Mr Masters has made his own bed and now must lie in it. He chose this woman, gave her children, and is now stuck. Today Mrs Masters would not get away with her bullying; today she could divorce this "unsuccessful man" and be admired (for all we know). Thus we can see in Tollope's lack of treatment of certain issues the difference between a Victorian novel and its world what I will suppose would be a typical late 20th century treatment of marriage in 20th century novel.

Let me compare the modern treatment of a married couple in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time to Trollope's treatment of the Masters: The McClintocks are miserable together, and much of the misery stems from Mrs McClintock's immediate continual abusive behavior towards Mr McClintock. However, Anthony Powell attempts to explore the psycholoical makeup of Mr McClintock which led him to marry Mrs McClintock. In Trollope's story of the Masters, we are given no information why at the time Masters should have married this woman except the practical one that he needed a mother for his children and she was available. Trollope's does not connect Mr Masters's gentle nature with the original decision: perhaps then he might have had to point to some socially downbeat ideas: Masters half-sought punishment; Masters finds in the wife some characteristics he needs; Masters would be vulnerable to bullying by most people, and the only difference here is Mrs Masters has no kindness in her dominance.

Another aspect we find in the McClintock story is that Powell lets us see that Mrs McClintock is partly justified in her scorn for her husband. Mrs McClintock is angry that the man makes no money, is not famous, is more than a half-failure. Trollope lets us see this motive in Mrs Masters but he does not sympathise with it because she is a woman and reproaches Mr Masters. He's not against her philistinism, and indeed speaks out for it. But he feels Mrs Masters's priorities are all wrong. So Mrs Masters is judged as inhumane.

In short, what we have in the treatment of the Masters is a flat treatment which gives us an outline and does not go into, on the one hand, the less admirable and at the same time more emotional aspects of Masters' original decision; and on the other, the sympathy I suspect many women today might say we ought to feel for Mrs Masters as someone who is not permitted to go out there and take power and triumph for herself since she wants it so badly.

It's true that Trollope develops the class strains between Mr and Mrs Masters (he is just about a gentleman and she is no lady) as well as their battles over who will dominate and who will submit. However, again it is done wholly in terms of the present moment and how they got into this mess with one another is taken for granted.

We might say Trollope works out of a world where companionate marriage is still not assumed to be the main idea or by any means feasible enough to wait around until you meet someone you really love. People in Trollope's world felt they had to marry; they didn't have opportunities to meet people outside a small circle. Today Masters would not marry a Mrs Masters; he would not consider it. She of course would have been in business school when the original Mrs Masters died and would not have looked at Mr Masters unless he was already a confirmed success. Then if he failed, she'd divorce him. The one parallel between Powell and Trollope is both would treat woman in the case as so much punishment for the man. The malady: human nature as it acts out in the society it has created.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] A Victorian Portrait of Trollope's own marriage?


Ellen wrote:

'We might say that Trollope works out of a world where companionate marriage is still not assumed to be the main idea or by any means feasible enough to wait around until you meet someone you really love'

Could this be a description of Trollope's own marriage? We know so little of his relationship to Rose. He says almost nothing in his autobiography or his letters. And his relationship to his two sons was not easy - he was travelling around Ireland for so much of their childhood. It is intriguing that a man with a background such as his, has created such interesting families and relationships in his books. Possibly the one is the father of the other?


Dear Teresa and friends,

Yes from the point of view of not expecting companionship, love, congeniality, even sexual fulfillment perhaps the Masters are a reflection of Trollope's situation with his wife. But I'm not sure that he didn't have something with his wife the Masters lack totally.

We find aspects of Trollope's relationship with his wife in many of the novels. It is, however, hard to know what were the specifics of that relationship beyond a few small details. One of them was that he had a deep friendship with Kate Field, nay loved her, and his wife tolerated it. Another is that they didn't travel together late in life even when Trollope was ill and Rose didn't stay elsewhere. On the American tour, where he met Kate, Rose went home early. In brief, what I am working up to is I suggest we have a startingly frank portrait of Trollope, his wife as housekeeper who will countenance a young love, and Kate in An Old Man's Love with Mr Whittlestaff as Trollope, Kate as Mary Lawrie, and Rose as the outspoken, pragmatic, unimaginative and painfully self-abnegating Mrs Baggett.

Another portait of Trollope and his wife in later life is in The Fixed Period: the Neverbends. Mr Neverbend is the genius with strange ideas, never sitting still, and never yielding an iota as to ideas, while Mrs Neverbend pays him no mind since she knows she must follow human nature in its coarser less subtle aspects and scolds and mothers him, much like a housekeeper. There too we find Mr Neverbend goes on a trip at the novel's close without Mrs Neverbend.

The only drawback from a Masters/Trollope analogies is the concrete details don't fit. And Trollope was literal minded. Mr Masters is a failure, somewhat lazy, not aggressive. But maybe. I do see the Trollopes to some extent in Mr and Mrs Furnival of Orley Farm, not that the Trollopes were near breaking or overtly unhappy, but that like Furnival Trollope had a career which took him away from Rose and made him outgrow her.

One can of course invent an entirely different romantic narrative (we are speculating). Victoria Glendinning sees the Trollopes' courting days in the repeated story of a young man or woman torn between two people. For example in The Claverings, Glendinning would say Harry stands in for Trollope, Rose for Florence Burton and some older sophisticated woman Trollope yearned after in Julia.

There are also the happy narratives: I see something of Trollope's retired life with Rose in the story of John Grey (who loved to read history and was interested in all aspects of the French revolution) and Alice Vavasour.

People have identified a passage in The Bertrams which describes Adele Gauntlet as about Rose; alas, if it is, Trollope goes on to refuse to describe Adele. And then there's that curiously outlined portrait of Trollope as narrator asking someone to marry him as they walk by a shore (Trollope met Rose at a seaplace in Ireland). It's singularly free of heavy romance.

My feeling was their relationship was very complicated and takes in all of the above.

Is not The American Senator a great 19th century English novel? Written by anyone else who had say only 3 others novels it would be praised as a great achievement. Incisive, full of energy, thought, challenging, vivid, alive, subtle. My goodness. It desserves to be better known. He has taken the form and done all he could with it.


To Trollope-l

May 10, 1999

Re: The American Senator Chs 57-59: Dominatrix

I found this week's chapters vibrant with bitter energy and desperation. In Mrs Morton we touch the rock hardness of nearly unqualified mercenary selfishness. It's a curious perverse selfishness for in order ceaselessly to gain property, money, and the awe and respect the world pays to their power, she gives up all else. She is the obverse of Arabella and Lady Augustus Trefoil in the sense that she has gained what they seek. Trollope presents all this as fundamental to her character type: she is the dominatrix in every situation, will carry every situation as far as she has to, to try to assure she rules. Perhaps we are to rejoice that she is a woman because her ability to do harm is therefore limited.

The paragraphs and scenes which swirl around her are vivid; I suppose it's exaggerated, an extravaganza of hatred for a type we meet in more subtle versions in the world:

'to her, property was more important than life or death; -- and rank probably more important than either. She was a brave, fierce, evil-minded, but conscientious old woman, -- one, we may say, with very bad lights indeed, but who was steadfastly minded to walk by those lights, such as they were (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, p. 391).

She leaves the house as an ultimatum, thinking a dying man will call her back: 'it was her purpose to come back no more' (p. 392). Trollope makes it clear she comes back more out of jealousy than love, more out of a desire to give the property to a man other than the one whose mother she has maligned and hated for her lack of rank:

'LIfe to her had never been joyous, though the trappings of life were so great in her eyes. But it broke her heart that her child should die in the arms of another woman (p. 396).

She sits by his bedside trying to manipulate him; this being so realistic, she succeeds, but only up to to the point of what is correct. He will obey convention: he will give the property to the real heir. Convention is vindicated as one way to rise above human nature. At her first meeting with Lady Ushant, she attempts 'to turn her out of the house' (p. 397). She doesn't succeed, but doesn't give the struggle up. Interesting how far mere determined unpleasantness, continual hard mean snubbing will go. After a while she drives Lady Ushant away, stops Reginald's visits. However, time is against her. And also some minimal morality in the lawyer, Mr Masters. He won't come and harass the dying man in the last moment. So when John Morton dies, the property goes to Reginald.

Mary Masters is like Helen in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well. Of Bertram, Helena says, 'it's all as if I should love some bright particular star.' Helena thinks Bertram way above her; to Mary, when Reginald becomes Squire he will be way above her. Reginald himself has not recognised Mary loves him (though Lady Ushant knows it). He has not recognised how strongly he influenced her against marrying Larry. (In this book Trollope treats sexual love realistically throughout -- the men are jealous as are the women, even when they have little cause.) Reginald has not acknowledged to himself how much he loves Mary. He is no Bertram (to whom Dr Johnson said he could not reconcile his heart), and we can glimpse a happy ending to come (indeed the only happy ending) if only a few barriers can be broken down, psychological ones at this point since Reginald is not a snob, not caste-arrogant. His life history has prevented that. The tone of this plot at this point is a kind of subdued desperation.

Mary's meeting with Larry is also strong -- and strong with desperation and bitterness on his side and demand on hers that he bear up because she has. At the last moment Mary does try to think of Larry, but cannot. For a moment she considers the following as the good she can hope for in marriage with Larry: 'How much that was now bitter as gall in her mouth would become, -- not sweet, -- but tasteless . . .' She'll taste no more gall. When people talk of Trollope's complacency, I wonder what text they are reading. Can it be the meaning of such words doesn't register? But it's no good. She cannot take Larry for Reginald would despise her. She thinks also of Reginald marrying and begins to feel resentment, jealousy of a woman who does not yet exist. Grim comedy here.

The scene between Larry and Mary is one Trollope wrote before: Lily Dale and Johnny Eames's final parting in The Last Chronicle. Still there's something new and for its time radical here. Women were not supposed to love first; if a man asked a woman to marry him, she was supposed to consider the proposal because he was a man. He had the right to propose. The reasons given against this point of view are usually that no woman should be driven to marry someone she doesn't love. What Trollope does is give the woman the right the man has -- for a moment. Mary admits she loves too, and when he is startled and is about to become indignant, she says

"'Can not I love as well as you? You are a man, and have the liberty to speak of it. Though I cannot return it, I can be proud of your love, and feel grateful to you. I cannot tell mine. I cannot think of it without blushing. But I can feel it, and know it l. . . "' (p. 410).

She points out how many kinds of activities he can have not available to her. Her demand he stay for her sake is good. And at long last Mrs Masters does 'pull it out.' She is not the fully hardened woman that Mrs Morton or Lady Augusta Trefoil is. Since Mary has tried, and since she feels strong emotions here are real, she gives in at last. Her worldly, resentful and pragmatic plans in the matter yield before the natural feelings of Mary and the reality Larry has been used enough.

Perhaps the most remarkable scenes in this week's chapters are those in which Lady Augustus Trefoil is a key player or key absence.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator, Chs 60-62: 'Family Values' -- Pathologies, anyone?

These are code words whose actual meaning is opaque to me since the penumbra of glorification which surrounds. Could it possibly mean you must stay connected to your family because only they are finally to be depended upon? If then the kind of help offered by families is what Trollope shows us here.

Trollope gives us three chapters which dramatise the family life of the Trefoils. What a crew. The scene between Arabella and her mother which ends this little sequence, the one in which they silently shut the door on one another could be, perhaps is, played out in so many lives today. People need their jobs, work for that, sacrifice all for that. Shutting the door is the sort of quiet realistic symbol Trollope is so good at. The coldness and indifference Arabella and her mother feel so strongly and manifest to one another must kill them because human beings need a sense of companionship with those they live amongst. Some will remind me of Christopher Lasch's book on the home as the heart's haven. Maybe for some people this is so, maybe even for many -- I know I regard my house as a haven and my private life in it with my husband as a kind of salvation, place apart to rejuvenate, to fulfill myself. But those who have built such a haven, have done so by sacrificing things society does not condone sacrificing, have had to work against society's relentlessly centrifugal forces.

'Again at Mistletoe' (Ch 60), in which those present, the Duke and Duchess of Mayfair, their oldest son, Lord Mistletoe, and Arabella's father, Lord Augustus, all decide it is Lady Augustus who must demand that Rufford marry Arabella is summed up for us by the narrator:

'All these influential members of the ducal family met together at the ducal mansion on Arabella's behalf, and settled their difficulty by deputing the work of bearding the lion, of tying the bell on the cat, to an absent layd whom they all despised and disliked' (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, p. 417).

They all know Lady Augustus is probably the worst person to send. Do what looks as if you are making the right effort; we might call this going through the motions for the sake of being seen to go through the motions? We might ask in both cases then, whether anyone cares about the objectives for real. In the novel no one but Arabella and her mother really give a damn whether she marries Rufford as long as she leaves them alone, and even the mother will make do with a large bribe and income to allow Arabella to live apart from her as a gentlewoman.

The dialogue of the scene is again absolutely persuasive. Trollope has been to many committee meetings -- or gatherings where he has studied the behavior of people on such occasions. I also liked the opening of the chapter where Trollope traces how the family has come to agree as a public unit that Arabella has been treated badly when separately they think she's the liar. I was amused at how the Duke and Duchess quarrel over 'a redundant expletive'. That of course is the pretext or symbol for what they are differing about and it's not Arabella, it's their sense of what is due the family honour, meaning them.

Perhaps 'the success of Lady Augustus' is even better. Lady Augustus cannot get Arabella to tell her case for she has no case; Lady Augustus discerns instinctively that what happened in the carriage is all that her daughter has against Rufford, morally speaking. It won't do, partly because the man is shameless and she's no handle on him. There's nothing she can withhold from him, no threat she can make good. The climax of the scene is 'a low-minded idea' that pops into Rufford's head upon Lady Augustus referring to the 'purity fo that girl's affection for yourself!' We could call it ironic association; his mind ricochets from this cloying unreal sentiment to money. The way he insinuates the idea he has into the lady's mind which is similarly receptive to such low ideas is so real: 'If I could do anything else . . . Couldn't my lawyer see yours . . .' (p. 424). Then the exchange of sums, and their bargaining. Their talents were wasted; they should have gone into selling cars:

'he took a bit of paper, and, writing on it the figures "6,000", pushed it across the table. She gazed at the scrap for a minute, and then, borrowing his pencil wihtout a word, scratched out his lordship's figures, and wrote "8,000", beneath them; and then added, "No one to know it . . . [he thinks and then writes] "Very well. To be settled on your daughter. No one shall know it." She bowed her head, but kept the scrap of paper in her possession' (p. 425).

They know how dangerous it is to write anything down. They also know that writing can be useful in a court case -- so she grabs the scrap.

The final chapter in the tryptich, 'We Shall Kill Each Other' contains yet another of these brilliant letters that thread through the novel and provide central turning points. Her mother has sunk to a level she is not prepared to fall; she will not be bought off; he is no gentleman. She suggests his offer is tantament to proof he did engage himself to her in some form. She can rebuke him from the high ground: 'it would have been more honest and manly if you had declared at once that you had repented of your engagement' (pp. 430-31).

There are different ways to interpret the letter. One can call it Quixote, and if you read it in that light it is for Trollope idealistic and admirable in the way Mary Masters' behavior is. Neither girl will stoop. Equally we can say Arabella is not willing to give in for a life as a reduced single gentlewoman travelling about Europe or in lodgings in English cities. She is holding out for marriage and the title. She will confront him herself. She will bell the cat herself; run the fox to his hole, confront him. There is courage here and I think Trollope wants us to admire her for this too -- though the motives are as hard as Mrs Morton's, there is yet a residue of personal pride and self-respect. There is no self-respect in Mrs Morton; she is so twisted she has lost all sense of that. She is a creature of hatred and a past her hatred invented. Arabella does have a future ahead of her; she is yet young; there is hope. Trollope likes a fighter -- though he likes someone who knows when to walk away and who knows what one should and should not fight for.

I have in my life had as hard a conversation with another person face-to-face as Arabella holds with her mother before and after writing the letter. I suppose others on our list have endured the same. What one can say of these two women is they emerge with a quiet dignity. It's all so quiet the interchanges. There's no violence. There's an exhaustion after passion inherent in the text. It's all over for this pair as a pair, and for Lady Augustus for herself.

In Trollope the characters most punished are those who most punish others or twist them from natural feelings of love and bonding. We can see Mrs Morton as a punished character. She spent her life away from this great house, and she will die alone. Lady Augustus spent her life sponging on others, twisting he daughter and now she will die alone.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Mary and Larry

From: John Mize

Larry almost seems shocked that Mary could be in the same position as himself, loving someone who doesn't love her back. It's hard for him to see her as a subject. He even tells her that he could make her love him, that "Good usage will make a wife love her husband." He could understand that she wouldn't accept him if some other man already owned her. That would be a tragedy to him, but he would understand. He doesn't quite seem to understand that the object he has been seeking might have a mind of her own and would prefer to have no one if she can't have the person she wants.

John Mize

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: More About Larry and Mary

From: John Mize

As Ellen has mentioned, it really wouldn't matter what kind of persons Lord Rufford or Goarly were. The inhabitants of Dillsborough would take the lord's side against Goarly, because the lord is a lord and Goarly isn't. I think that's the main reason I have a hard time liking Larry Twentyman. Larry loves Rufford, because Rufford is a lord, and he hates Goarly, because Goarly has the temerity to oppose a lord. That's the reason I can't help but see his love for Mary as a little suspect. Does he know anything about her or is she simply the woman he has chosen, and he refuses to give her up, simply because he has chosen her? I see the comment "I will make you love me. Good usage will make a wife love her husband. Don't you think you can trust me?" as significant, although, admittedly, perhaps more significant than Trollope himself thought it. Still, it seems to me that Larry sees Mary as the generic young woman who will become the generic wife. If treated in the correct manner, she will respond appropriately. He's, no doubt, fortunate that Mary's step-mother didn't succeed in badgering her into marrying him. She might grow to hate him, and he would never even understand why.

John Mize

To Trollope-l

May 12, 1999

Re: Women characters as Subjects Rather than Objects

This is in response to both Angela and John M and on both The American Senator and Lady Audley's Secret. I know the two novels are not alike, but since we are reading them together . . .

Angela's point about how Trollope treats Mary as a subject and she demands that Larry see her as a person apart from her role in a man's world (or his, Larry's eyes) may be applied to Lady Audley's Secret -- I'm afraid to its detriment. Lucy Lady Audley is treated as an object. I know we cannot go into her mind as that would ruin the suspense and spill all the secrets. Still the whole presentation of this character is from a man's point of view: she's dangerous, mysterious, alluring, scary, sexy. Is she innocent wife or false siren? By contrast throughout The American Senator we are allowed to see Mary as she sees herself and her views of herself are different from those of others. As John remarked, what is great about her scene with Larry is she is asking him to see her as another person like him, with the same rights.

Ellen Moody

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