Motes and Beams; The Threads are Winding Up; Arabella's last stand (True Grit and Hurtle-like); Who is the Hero? the Heroine?; Arabella and Lord Rufford; Another Take on Goarly (from Godwin's Caleb Williams); You see Scrobby happened to displease my lord (or, Off with Him to Botany Bay); Reginald and Mary; Dillsborough and Columbine High School

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Motes and Beams

From: John Mize

Senator Gotobed complains that Lord Rufford's model farm is not ultilitarian, but merely picturesque. Much the same criticism could apply to Lord Rufford and to Queen Victoria herself, for that matter. Earlier in the novel the senator assured someone that he would never critize God or the British monarchy. While Gotobed apparently believes in God and either loves Him or fears his wrath, he does not attack the monarchy, simply because to do so would be impolite. He understands that the monarchy is a symbol which has nothing to do with reason or utility, but he doesn't see that fox hunting, partridge shooting and lord loving fall into the same category.

Gotobed, while resolute in denouncing the flaws in Great Britain, insists that the United States in general, and the state of Mikewa in particular, have no flaws. The United States is the last best hope of mankind, a shining city on the hill, with liberty in justice for all, despite the fact that politics in the United States during the 1870s were even more corrupt than normal. The Grant administration was perhaps our country's most corrupt. Most state legislatures were practically owned by the railroad interests, and major cities, such as New York City, were controlled by political machines which looted their cities' treasuries. In 1876 the Republican Party abandoned the newly freed slaves to the tender mercies of the Southern Democrats, because they decided it was much too inconvenient and dangerous to try force the county to live up to its supposed ideals of equality before the law for all citizens. The South then instituted a labor peonage system which was not that far removed from slavery, a system which certainly made a mockery of Gotobed's argument that all are equal in America.

John Mize

To Trollope-l

May 15, 1999

Re: The American Senator, Chs 63-67: The Threads Are Winding Up

Our stories are winding to their natural conclusions. As this is a complex novel made of many threads, we've got three climaxes in our antepenultimate (the second before the last) instalment.

The first climax brings us right back to the beginning of the novel when we had to work out the complicated genealogy of who was related to who and how it was that Reginald Morton belongs to an earlier generation of Mortons than John. The important point to keep in mind (as Mrs Morton has allowed it to burn her mind, sear any humanity she might have had in it away to ashes) is that Mrs Morton refused to accept the marriage of Reginald's father to a woman of lower class origins. She has allowed her resentment to grow into such strong hatred that she (almost) believes her own lie that Reginald is illegitimate. Luckily she has not been able to persuade anyone else to think it in their interest to agree with her. This mostly because John Morton has refused to believe her story and adhered to tradition and custom.

We can glimpse in this pattern a qualified argument against Senator Gotobed's dislike of absolute adhesion to custom. While there are people like Lady Ushant who have noble souls and do the right thing. As Mr Masters says Mary has 'no right to expect' any money from Lady Ushant. She reassures Mr Masters that she will give Mary half her property when she dies as she has brought Mary up and is therefore partly morally responsible for her (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, p. 436). She is rare. The commonality are pictured for us in the behavior Mr Masters and John Morton who follow custom because it's custom, at Dillsborough Club, and during the reading of the will. The scene at the Dillsborough Club reminds me of several scenes in Felix Holt; the conversation is as inane, ill-informed, and driven by personal pique. Peter Morton certainly would have taken any property left to him no matter how little he knew of the owner or the place. Trollope's text makes the point that in the face of the insane tyrannies (Mrs Morton), pettiness and absurdities of human nature (all the people at the Dillsborough Club including Larry Twentyman), custom and a single law does provide something, some order to cling to. An order everyone accepts as legitimate. It's better than nothing.

More memorable, indeed terrific is Arabella's last stand against Rufford. I think this climax is the one scene I remembered from my first reading of the novel. It is remarkable, courageous, and for just a moment Rufford pauses before her. I rather think he's not worthy of her. He deserves Miss Penge (a name which makes me think of the word, hanger-on). She chases the fox down to his hole, and he squirms. Trollope is aware of the hunting imagery he has used throughout the book and carries it on in this sequence. Facing Rufford 'In the Park' she says, 'I chose to tell you to your face that you are no gentleman, and though you had hidden yourself under the very earth I would have found you' (p. 466). Is there not some phrase about foxes being earthed? The narrator says,

'There was a moment in which he thought it was almost a pity that he had not married her. She was very beautiful in her present form, -- more beautiful, he thought than ever. She was the niece of a duke, and certainly a clever woman. He had not wanted money, and why shouldn't he have married her? As for hunting him, that was a matter of course. He was as much born and bred as a fox. He could not do it now, as he had put too much power into the hands of the Penwethers, but he almost wished he had' (p. 464).

He hasn't got the gumption to follow his passions when they count. He doesn't know which ones count.

The wily reader will see that there is another man waiting in the wings. Arabella is beautiful, and in a very few words Trollope has managed to persuade us she has charmed Mounser Green. He is Green and doesn't know he is facing a Medea. Trollope plays with poetic language a lot more than people give him credit for. I think the two quiet scenes, the one in the office where he suddenly defends her, and the one where he urges her not to go to Rufford Park come off very well. Trollope keeps up the hunting imagery in such a way as to make Arabella more alluring: she is to 'this minor stag of six tines . . . a sprightly unwooed young fawn, fresh out of the forest, almost asking him to weep with her, and playing her unaccustomed lures, though in a part which she had not hitherto filled' (p. 457). That of the abandoned maiden, dejected and broken hearted. Green falls for it.

Still he is not a fool. Their conversation resonates beyond their immediate scene. He tells her not to go lest she do something 'rash'. To this she says, how can she not do something rash: '

Think of yourself. If everyone crushed you; if you were ill-treated beyond all belief; if the very people who ought to trust you doubted you, wouldn't you turn upon somebody and rend them?' (p. 458).

He tries to argue it's not worth it, this tearing and rending people. It may do her more harm. She says she is so at the bottom she has 'no prospects', and we get a bit of Trollopian wisdom:

'Ah; that's just it! There are for most of us moments of unhappiness, in which we are tempted by our misery to think that we are relieved, at any rate, form the burden of caution, because nothing that can occur to us can make us worse than we are'.

'Nothing can make me worse than I am'.

'But in a few months or weeks', continued Mounser Green, bringing up in his benevolence all the wisdom of his experience, 'we have got a new footing amidst our troubles, and then we may find how terrible is the injury which our own indiscretion has brought on us' (p. 459).

It's for such passages many people read Trollope. The passage is undercut by the ironic 'all the wisdom of his experience,' but I think we can see in Green's words a benevolent version of the desolating statement in Lear: 'The worst is not/So long as we can say "This is the worst"'.

I'll put the third climax of this week's instalment which does not end the Senator's story in a separate posting.

Ellen Moody

Arabella's last stand

Ellen wrote:

More memorable, indeed terrific is Arabella's last stand against Rufford. I think this climax is the one scene I remembered from my first reading of the novel. It is remarkable, courageous, and for just a moment Rufford pauses before her. I rather think he's not worthy of her.

I loved this scene and really cheered for Arabella. She became Hurtle-like.


Re: The American Senator, Chs 68-69: The Threads Are Winding Up

Senator Gotobed Redux. He comes for a second visit. We are told Rufford invites him 'in a spirit of triumph . . rather than with genuine hospitality' (Oxford The American Senator, ed. JHalperin, p. 468). Rufford needs someone to triumph over. He has been (rightly) scolded by his brother-in-law, shamed by Arabella, and will be put in his place by his sister-in-law and her side-kick.

We go to dinner. Trollope is very good at these set-pieces. Each character speaks in character. The Senator senses something has happened over Miss Trefoil, and naturally asks about it. He is told (with some ironic truth by Rufford) that 'she only came for a morning call' and tells his usual kind of truth:

'Poor young woman! She has lost her husband, and I am afraid, now has lost her friends also. I am told that she is not well off; -- and, from what I can see and hear, I fancy that here in England a young lady without a dowry cannot easily replace a lover. I suppose, too, Miss Trefoil is not quite in her first youth' (p. 470).

That's quite enough unpleasant truth for Lady Penwether to hear -- truths she wouldn't recognise. She decamps with Miss Penge in tow.

How often is it that the Senator says something which no one denies but whose truth no one will recognize aloud.

Then we get what is a repeat performance of the dinner at Mr Mainwaring's. Each person who speaks speaks out of his self- interest and passion, except the Senator -- unless of course you count his adherence to economic hard truth self-interest and passion. This time the extra comedy comes from Rufford's model farm. Gotobed points out that in fact this model farm is losing money. It's an ornament. The answer to this is 'The neighbours are able to see how work should be done' (p. 472). Gotobed wants to know, should not work be done to make a profit? He's missing the point, poor man. Politics is often symbols. In the American congress the people endlessly fight over symbols. People want to make amendments to the constitution for symbolic purposes. Then of course they are startled when their symbolic law is actually used as a weapon in real economic and political conflicts.

They move onto the trial. Just as hopeless. No one listens to him. No one cares about the rights or wrongs of any principle. Here I'll bring up Godwin's Caleb Williams: Godwin has a character who also acts out of resentment much like Scrobby, with the important difference that Godwin justifies the resentment. Trollope makes his Runce a fool, but he makes his Scrobby vermin.

It's interesting how the Arabella story is shaped to fit the moral of the Senator's. As the dinners leave the room, the Rufford party agree that 'Arabella's name shall not be mentioned again' (p. 475). It doesn't matter what really happens, it doesn't matter if you make money or not, it only matters what you admit to, how things appear to people who want to see them in a certain light.

The climax is the trial. It is thrown away in the sense that Trollope doesn't elaborate the scene at length. The scenes between Mr Masters and Mrs Morton, Arabella and Rufford and Arabella and Green, and the Senator and the Rufford party are all much longer. They are what counts. What I'll call the analysis of the root causes for the verdict the trial produces are what Trollope emphasises. He has also gone over all the elements in the trial several times. Important moments: Rufford is allowed to sit in a judgement seat when he is a defendant. Scrobby actually has a decent lawyer who does his best for Scrobby. But the community is against Scrobby. Goarly turns King's evidence -- or Rufford's. Nickem has come in the nick of time with the 'smoking gun' -- the woman who sold the herrings and the chemist who sold the strychnine. Interestingly to anyone used to the sentimental build-up of children in any newscase, little is made of the children who might have been poisoned. What the community appears to care about is foxes. They don't care about foxes; they are adhering to a way of life which is unjust to many. I think Trollope does make that clear though not in this story (rather in the story of Larry Twentyman who in any case worships the rank system which exclude him).

Trollope has a little joke on Runce. We are told Scrobby is sent to durance for 12 months with hard labour. No small punishment. Goarly is conveyed away by the police lest the crowd rend him. But when this great sentence is told to that most stalwart, fervent support of Rufford, Mr Runce, is he satisfied? No. Says Runce: 'The man had killed a fox and might have killed a dozen hounds, and was to be locked up only for twelve months! He indignantly asked his neighbour what had come of Van Dieman's Land, and what was the use of Botany Bay' (p. 480).

So much for humanity.

The Senator's story is not yet ended. He writes no more letters. Instead we will have his inset lectures.

The last letter of the series of letters that we have in this novel is the one by Rufford which he writes -- all by himself -- to Arabella. It gives rise to the climax in the park by providing her with an excuse to answer him in person. Rufford writes to say he is sorry to have offended! He prays her to believe he meant to be of service with his money, hopes she will not come to meet him, and apologizes again 'for inadvertently' offending her (pp. 453-54). A gem of its kind.

How marvellously do all the stories work together to create the inimitable tone of this elusive book.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator, Chs 63-67: Arabella's Last Stand: Her Finest Hour

From: "Judy Warner"

Definitely her finest hour! I imagine it would be a shocking scene to contemporary readers -contrast with Mary Masters' reticence about declaring even to relatives and close friends her feelings about Reginald. But I think Trollope admires her too.

Does anyone else sometimes feel that they wouldn't be surprised if a character from another Trollope novel wandered in suddenly? I could imagine Lady Glen making an appearance here suddenly---

Judy Warner

To Trollope-l

May 18, 1999

Re: The American Senator, Chs 63-69: Who is the Hero? the Heroine?

In response to John Mize, I certainly agree that Gotobed is as blind and self-satisfied about his 'great nation' as the Englishmen he meets are about their society. I think this is quite deliberate on Trollope's part. While Trollope would not have talked about later 19th American society and capitalism as John and I do, he visited and his boon on his American travels is astringent and sharp. He sees follies and vices and the same human creature at work on the continent of the USA as he did in the British Isles.

Judy and Angela's comment make me also want to ask, Who is the hero of this book?

Do others want to propose someone other than the Senator. Trollope says it's Larry Twentyman. We're almost to the end, and just about know where all are to end up. Is it Reginald Morton? Is this a novel without a hero? I can't think it's Larry Twentyman. He's a sentimental fool. We could say that the Senator is a satirical device.

Here's it is worth noting that in a couple of short stories in which the narrator is clearly a version of Trollope himself (and admitted to be in his Autobiography), Trollope calls himself Green. (Archibald.) Here we have a clerk in an office who is delighted to go to Patagonia, the synonym for nowhere and noplace at the time. A kind of Ireland. He is about to choose our Arabella Trefoil whose name signifies her humble station. A private in-joke with himself is going on in our novelist's mind.

And who's the heroine? Mary Masters? Only if you think Madeleine Staveley is the heroine of Orley Farm. And if you ignore all the jokes about John Morton as 'the paragon.'Perhaps we can distinguish between the heroine for the conventional reader and the heroine for the person who has been able to hear Trollope's critique of British society. In her book on Trollope Victoria Glendinning makes a series of fascinating connections between the life of Trollope's niece, Bice Trollope (the daughter of his older brother) who was driven by her father and mother to seek a husband in the same soul-destroying ways we find Arabella Trefoil driven. Glendinning thinks Trefoil's story is modelled directly on aspects of Bice's. Trollope himself behaved with strong affection towards Bice.

To me the heroine is Arabella.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator, Chs 63-69: Who is the Hero? the Heroine?

From: "RJ Keefe"

Musing on Ellen Moody's speculations about heroes and heroines in The American Senator, I was eventually minded of The Marriage of Figaro, which has at least two of each, and of the comic world that's held together by location - Almaviva Castle in the play/opera and Dillsborough/Rufford in the novel. Both are social comedies, if I may throw up a distinction, rather than personal comedies, in that almost every character's trajectory is determined by his or her wealth and status, and the theatre of action is unusually public. (Everyone seems to know, or to think he or she knows, all about Arabella's latest marital arrangements.) The one true-love story is nearly snuffed out for lack of publicity! (Mary loves Reginald, and Reginald is on the brink of loving Mary, but nothing can happen without the helping hand of a friend.)

The story of Lady Glen, just to offer a contrast, is very much a personal comedy; Lady Glen persistently acts 'against' the interests of her position, or at least threatens to do so. I think we all like her because she not only has the power to transcend social norms but seems to enjoy playing with it.

RJ Keefe

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Arabella and Lord Rufford

From: John Mize

I also liked the confrontation between Arabella and Lord Rufford. I half expected Lord Rufford to physically run away, but that would have been a little much and would have moved us from Trollope country to Wodehouse land. Will Lord Rufford's resemble Bertie Wooster? That would be a well-deserved fate.

I wonder whether Sir George was amused by his brother-in-law's plight, perhaps thinking that Lord Rufford was only getting what he deserved. Sir George had to appear to sympathize with Lord Rufford, if only for his wife's benefit, but it seems significant that he only went out to help Lord Rufford at his wife's request, especially since he had admired Arabella's original letter to Lord Rufford.

I also liked the aftermatch of the confrontation when the senator persisted in praising Arabella, much to Lord Rufford and Lady Penwether's dismay. The senator went so far as to say that Miss Trefoil seemed to be a good type of the English aristocracy. Is this another case of the senator's telling an unpleasant truth?

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: Lord Rufford & Arabella

From: Janice Durante

Sometime ago John wrote, "When Arabella receives the letter, she immediately wonders >who wrote it for him. She knows her man. That is more than enough reason for Lord Rufford to run away from her as fast as possible. He is not a person who should be married to anyone who understands him.

But isn't it fun to imagine the two of them together? While Arabella is brighter than Lord Rufford, they share many values. And they've both been around the block. Where else is Lord Rufford going to get a match like this? Someone who will let him go out with his hunting friends, smoke, drink, swear, etc., and not make a fuss. Isn't that exactly what would suit him? And where else will she get someone who has this status she craves and the funds to let her spend as she pleases? A shallow marriage for two shallow people. Perhaps it's just too perfect.

In response to John and Janice,

While Lord Rufford is dumb, he knows when he is being hunted down. He also (I suggest) does not for a moment believe all Arabella's comments about how she would not get in the way of his least pleasure. She makes this kind of comment several times, it may herald just the opposite attitude: she may clamp down on this guy once she gets him to put a ring round her finger. There's something very sleazy about this comment too: it slyly refers to other women as well as the pleasures of cigars, hunting, gambling, and drinking too. She would not get in the way of one single vice. What kind of wife is this? One doesn't want a Mrs Masters who breathes down your neck at the least deviation from conventional notions of virtue (and very rigid and narrow and inhumane some of these are), but a wife who doesn't care in the least what you do.

It's a curious statement in the context of the whole book too. The whole book shows us what people do is continually bump into one another. They are continually getting in one another's way. As society is organised, they can't help themselves.

But maybe they would get plastered every night, make love, get up very late and hunt until late in the afternoon. Arabella herself seems so hard-working it's hard to envisage it.


To Trollope-l

May 19, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Another Take on Goarly

I have been reading William Godwin's Things as They Are, or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (this is the actual title of this famous book, first published in 1794). I have gotten to a section which bears directly on Trollope's presentation of the conflict between Goarly and Rufford, with only Elias Gotobed taking Goarly's side on principle, and everyone in Dillsborough taking Rufford's side on the basis that it's in their interest to do so. As we all know Trollope presents Goarly as a low-life, a snitch, a liar; the man who is angry at Rufford for throwing him off the land (it is suggested rightly), Scobby is presented as envious, malign, and vengeful in such a way as to demonstrate such emotions are bad and never justified.

In Caleb Williams we come across the same situation, only Godwin loads the cards in the opposite direction. The vicious bullying tyrant of the area and its landlord, Mr Tyrrel, grows outraged when one of his tenants, Hawkins, had the temerity to grow indignant because Tyrrel rides across the property Hawkins has leased and destroys his corn. Tyrrel sets out to destroy him, and has little trouble doing so. This is the point Trollope sees: the law is an instrument of the rich. The law in its majesty may 'treat all men equally' so it is equally illegal for a rich man to lie under a bridge to sleep as it is for a poor man, but of course the rich man has a house to sleep in. (Blake: one law for both the Ox and the Lion is oppression.) What Trollope doesn't do is point out to us that it doesn't matter if Rufford is nice or easy or generous; what matters is he has the power to be far otherwise, and most people are far otherwise.

It is remarkable how just this issue of hunting across someone's land is central to a large plot turn in both novels. This suggest it was a real bone of contention at the time.

Godwin shores his argument up too. It seems that Hawkins had leased another farm previous to this. He had had the nerve to vote for a man his landlord didn't approve of. This too is a central theme in Trollope which Trollope slides over with mostly genial landlords. Hawkins's landlord harasses him, destroys his crops, and drives him from the land. Fiction? Not so. I came across a fascinating piece of Maria Edgeworth's diary which she shows herself supporting her brother and steward suddenly demanding rents from a tenant they know can't pay because the tenant voted for a home-rule candidate (this is in Ireland). Interestingly, Hawkins' landlord grows incensed at Tyrrel when Tyrrel invites Hawkins to lease land from him. Hawkins's first landlord writes a letter in which he tells Tyrrel that Tryrrel is a traitor to his class. All landlords must stick together and refuse to give men like Hawkins any place to rent once one of them has thrown a Hawkins off. In fact he write that when tenants are 'disobedient' it should be and is understood that the landlords must band together to punish such -- or where would they be.

Yes. It's exaggerated on one side. But Trollope's is exaggerated on the other, and Godwin makes the point that the power the landlord has shows it can happen. No law should permit this to happen in the first place. The tenants' property rights are worth nothing; only the rich man really can own his property.

Tyrrel had wanted Hawkins to be on his land out of spite. He also hoped Hawkins would allow Hawkins' son to become his servant. When Hawkins refuses because, as he says, he hopes for better things for his boy, and didn't want him to go into the servitude of live-in service, Tyrrel turns against him fiercely and drives him off the land. The son becomes fiercely angry and commits a small crime against Tyrrel's livestock; the Black Act enables Tyrrel to prosecute the son to the point the boy is put in jail for a long time and could be executed. Meanwhile Hawkins's livestock begin to die. A sudden mortality. We are given little incidents of dead small animals which recall Larry's mother's goose or turkey, though now it's not comic at all.

At each point of Godwin's depiction of the same issues we find Trollope depicting, Godwin shows the other point of view as graphically as Trollope. There is nothing like what we find in Godwin in any of the Victorians we have been reading on Trollope-l. Of course Godwin was a radical, but they were thick on the ground until thoroughly repressed, tried, transported and otherwise destroyed as a force in politics.

Lining the two books up against one another demonstrates the seriousness of the issues Trollope is dealing with, why he is called a conservative novelist, and something of the context on the ground for the Gotobed plot fully from the opposite perspective.

Ellen Moody


Re: The American Senator: You see Scrobby happened to displease my lord (or, Off with Him to Botany Bay)

Further on Scrobby, by poisoning the herrings and thus the fox Scrobby is attacking a central sport and paradigm of the upper class, a sport Trollope suggests is democratic, but is obviously not. It stands for the upper class in Ireland and in The Landleaguers, the Irish tenants are determined to stop it.

What did Scrobby do wrong that got him kicked off Rufford's land? Are we ever told? It's implied he's despicable. His having been kicked off Rufford's land is presented parenthetically. He displeased Rufford in some way. We are not told how.

By displacing attention on Goarly, Trollope ignores the real issues here. Scrobby is sentenced to hard labor. I suppose we should be grateful Trollope didn't send him to Botany Bay. Runce wants to know what is Botany Bay for. He needed to read Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

May 19, 1999

Re: The American Senator: Reginald and Mary; Dillsborough and Columbine High School

I respond to Pat that I think the novel has no one central problem it revolves around, but rather a number of interrelated themes, only one of which is the miserable life some women led and that is countered by the miserable life these women fasten on the men they can prey upon (in their reach). My examples here would be: Mrs Morton, Lady Augusta, and Mrs Masters. Of course these women are not responsible for all of the misery we see in the various male characters they come in contact with. The misery these men know comes from themselves and the society they live in whose values some of them (ironically) espouse. Larry Twentyman reminds me of so many people I have met who will sit in praise of some company they work for all the while its personnel is readying their pink slip for the end of the week. One of the more grim ironies of the book is those characters (men and women) who are least miserable are so because they have no depths of intelligence or emotion. Example: Lord Rufford and his opposite number low on the scale, Runce.

I agree conventionally speaking Mary Masters and Reginald Morton are the primary hero and heroine of the book, with, if we are disposed to sentimentalise, Arabella in her scenes with John Morton. But then perhaps the conventional heroine of Orley Farm should have been Mrs Orme; the anti- or tragic heroine, Lady Mason who is after all a forger.

I was thinking which female or male type a late 20th century adult woman might identify with. I can see Reginald Morton, but not Mary Masters. Still he is pallid, not active, and a kind of marginal figure in the story (takes up little space). I was thinking this novel belongs to the set Mario Praz talked about in his book on Victorian fiction where he discussed how the mid- to later 19th century novel redefined what is a hero and heroine by placing in the center of narratives unconventional and amoral and other kinds of figures.

This is a perceptive novel. Trollope's local conservative agendas are swallowed up by his large ironic net based on an understanding of human nature which few novelists make use of in their books today. When I think of the way Trollope presents the nature of the emotions that bind a community and its outsiders I think to myself he would not have been surprised at what happened in the American High School called Columbine in Littleton, Denver. Not in the least.


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