Arabella "instigated by the true feminine Medea feeling"; Large Reaches and Lunacy; Just Deserts?; Blood Sports; Improbable Switch in Reginald Morton's Character (Pro-Hunting Lessons); The Validation of the Social Order and Pleasure; Mr Masters is Made Happy and Triumphant at Last; Gentlemanness (Larry Twentyman once again); Genealogies: Blood and Upbringing; Rank and Sex (The Match between Reginald and Mary)

To Trollope-l

Re: Arabella "instigated by the true feminine Medea feeling"

I meant to mention that I noticed in Chapter 66 Trollope's narrator liken Arabella's ferocity, anger, and divagations at the close of the novel, her furious emotionalism in all directions to Medea's (p. 455):

She was instigated by the true feminine Medea feeling that she would find some way to wring his [Rufford's] heart, -- even though in the process she might suffer twice as much as he did (p. 455)

Trollope is unlike most people who continually attach children to the Medea archetype: in our time she is a woman who murders her children. He sees more deeply the core of the feeling: she is someone so enraged and embittered that she will destroy herself as strongly as the man who has rejected her and thus destroyed her. As with Medea, what Arabella has done has made her a pariah in society. There's a line at the close of Euripides' play which is so painful and about how Jason cannot know the pain she does as she lifts the dead bodies of their sons onto the chariot. She is half-crazed. So too Arabella.

I suggest this archetype goes a long way to encompassing the outlines of the character as Trollope invented her both in her psychology in and of itself and her relation to her society.

The poetry of the conception is also worth paying attention to. It suggests how much Trollope's invention in novels is to him deeper than the psychologizing and domestication (bourgeoisification) in part demanded of him: he mocks it in the opening of Is He Popenjoy? as the mere surface which differentiates these middle class novels from railway chapbooks. Mrs Green who takes Arabella in and is herself aging, not overly rich, but also willing to see more of the world is nonetheless would be "frightened by any proposition of Medean vengeance" (p. 456). And then there's the heart of the prurient eroticism of these books hit at with a sharp arrow in Trollope's description of Arabella's theatrical behavior before Mounser Green who as an astute, compliant but not highly connected bureaucrat and man is willing to take another man's leavings when that man is admired, wealthy powerful (I'm reminded of Byron's Italian mistress's husband who used to introduce her as "the mistress of Lord Byron"):

She would sit quiet, dejected, almost broken-hearted in the corner of a sofa; but when he spoke to her she would come to life and raise her eyes -- not ignoring the recognised objection of her jilted position, not pretending to this minor stag of six tines that she was a sprightly unwooed young fawn, fresh out of the forest, -- almost asking him to weep with her, and playing her accustomed lures, though in a part which she had not hitherto filled (pp. 456-57).

And again we root below: "But still she was resolved that her Jason should not as yet be quit of his Medea." In Euripides Jason is a banal shallow male who never expected such a reaction from Medea. So too Rufford.

In that ironic deprecating image of "six tines" we have an instance of Trollope's genius with language.


To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: Large Reaches and Lunacy

What I like best about this book is its large reach. In Chapter 69, much that Trollope shows us about the characters can be applied to analogous interactions and politics between people and within communities well outside the English-speaking one of Dillsborough. Scrobby gets a party up because people will resent and envy a powerful man; nonetheless, no one will come out openly for Scrobby. The unwillingness of Rufford or Runce to listen to the argument of the Senator's that even a blackguard has rights is one I saw a judge address in a NYC court when he tried to tell a jury the previous life of one the defendants had nothing to do with the case at hand. The lawyers about to prosecute him knew better in the sense of ferreting out such information to influence the jury.

In North America Trollope says of the jury trial system what I have heard said of democracy: it's against common sense and a bad system, but it's the fairest one can devise.

Then there are people's lunacies. In Chapter 70, here is the this harridan Mrs Morton doing everything she can to leave her grandson's estate to people who never see her and despise her. One motive is deep resentment at someone else getting some decent treatment whose rank was beneath hers. But when her attempt fails, she then spends the rest of her seething life putting together money for these people who take no notice of her. But they are "big," of high rank. Lacan would "explain" this.


To Trollope-l

May 23, 1999

Re: The New American Senator: Chs 69-74: Just Deserts?

Last week began to bring all our stories towards their fitting ends. We had the death of John Morton.

This week we get the self-propelled ejection of his awful great-aunt, Mrs Morton. As ever Trollope's idea is her punishment is to be her. She gets a wonderfully sardonic and pitiless dismissal: 'What moans she made she made in silent obscurity, and devoted the remainder of her years to putting together money for the members of her own family who took no interest in her' (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, Ch 70, p. 481). Lady Ushant returns to her old home, and brings Reginald Morton and Mary Masters to live with her.

Nothing propinks like propinquity. The love scene is tactfully done. I have just read so many by Trollope I fear I am a bit jaded when it comes to talking about this one. My favorite of the love scenes remains the one between Frank Gresham and Mary Thorne (on top of a donkey) in Dr Thorne; it has a freshness that a 36th novel can't have. I have also found Mary a bit too conventional; not a shallow stereotype I can't believe in, but not individualised in grippingly individual way. Trollope can do this with his virtuous young heroine on occasion: Florence Burton in The Claverings is a good instance. The love scene does show how good is Trollope's ear; the conversation is believable. The climax is the briefest of lines: Mary says she will not tell Reginald who she loves, and he replies, 'I would it were I' (Ch 70, p. 487). The plain-spoken nature of 'Mary, -- say you will be my wife' (Ch 70, p. 488) contrasts with the flowery protestations of love that Lord Rufford offered up to Arabella. Mary's quietly sincere response contrasts to Arabella's desperate manipulation of Rufford's love talk. The scene is physical; Reginald clasps Mary so intensely she is 'almost frightened by his violence' (Ch 71, p. 490). He is not playing games with her nor she exploiting an advantage in a game.

I admit that I personally find it all a bit mawkish and just writhe at Trollope's triumph over Mrs Masters, but I am probably too old for the romance of Mary (age 14 to 16 is about the typical age a modern female reader might enjoy this) and humiliated and embarrassed for Mrs Masters. She is to be taught how wonderful it is to rise? This reminds me of the ending of Can You Forgive Her? where all Alice Vavasour stood is suddenly jeered at.

Larry too is told, and we begin to find him accepting Mary's rejection of him. I did cringe to think we were going to have him cringing openly. I'd rather see him drunk nightly myself.

This is psychologically sound: once we know we cannot have a thing for sure sometimes that can enable us to resolve to do without it. On the other hand, there is a bit too much quickening over the wounds going on here. Suddenly Reginald will go out with the hounds; suddenly Larry is cheering up. One reason I liked the ending of An Old Man's Love a bit more than The Warden is in the former book the old man is deeply grieved to the last sentence at what he has lost even though he is morally certain he has done the right thing and is actually more comfortable because of his choice; in the latter and earlier book there is a bit too much sweet easy resignation. Our choices in life often have consequences which are unpleasant which we cannot resign ourselves. These two stories end a bit too easily in uplift for me. I almost prefer Trollope's slightly malicious depiction of Nickem's ending in the chapter where Scrobby is convicted because Nickem gathered the evidence:

'This latter feat was Nickem's great triumph, -- the feeling of the glory of which induced him to throw up his employment in Mr Masters' office, and thus brought him, and his family to absolute ruin within a few months in spite of the liberal answers which were made by Lord Rufford to many of his numerous appeals' (Ch 69, p. 479).

So maybe even if Trollope seems to buy into the idea Scrobby is a low-life sleaze who by virtue of his lack of rank and gentlemanly manners doesn't deserve equal rights before the law, Trollope punishes the man who worked so hard to punish Scrobby who was himself 'a guardian of the poor' who tried to institute reform in the parish of great Lord Rufford who is so generous with his liberal answers on paper.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Blood Sports From: John Mize

I lose a little of my sympathy for Reginald Morton in Chapter 73 when he vows to become a true fox-hunting squire. I think he would be wiser to pay his subscription, wave to the hunters when they ride off, and host a dinner for them when they return. Kate Masters will probably be able to teach him to ride well enough to avoid killing himself, but he will never ride well enough to escape Larry Twentyman's amused condescension.

I also am a little annoyed by Reginald's, and possibly Trollope's, argument in favor of blood sports. Reginald says that the lady who wears furs and protests against fox-hunting is either ignorant or hypocritical, since that there is no difference between killing an animal for one's benefit and killing an animal to amuse onself. I can see the maligned lady's point. Killing animals to eat their flesh or use their hides seems a natural action in a world that seems to have been created on the basis of death and destruction. However killing purely for fun seems an arrogant act that assumes that we are superior beings who can amuse ourselves with the suffering of the lesser creatures.

In Anne Bronte's novel, Agnes Grey, Mrs. Bloomfield justifies her son's torturing small birds by saying "You seem to have forgotten that the creatures were created for our convenience." Anne is not quite sure she agrees with Mrs. Bloomfield's theology and says, "If they were, we have no right to torment them for our amusement." Mrs. Bloomfield replies, "I think a child's amusement is scarcely to be weighed against the welfare of a soulless brute."

When I was stationed in Misawa, our division officer told us about his deer hunting exploits. He had a very expensive deer rifle, and I am sure he always dressed in the latest Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean fashions when he hunted. After he finished his story, the division chief said that his father was a half-Cherokee Indian and that his way of hunting was to set out a salt block. When a deer came by to lick the block, he shot it. The officer complained that such a practice was hardly sporting, and the chief replied that hunting for his father had nothing to do with sport. He wasn't playing with the deer. He used every part of the deer's body, including the antlers and the hoofs, and he respected the deer's involuntary sacrifice for his own welfare and would have considered it almost sacreligious to kill the deer for any reason other than utility. I have to admit that I am on the side of the half-Cherokee Indian and the fur-wearing lady rather than Reginald Morton.

John Mize

Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Trol: The AS: Improbable Switch in Reginald Morton's Character (Pro-Hunting Lessons).

From: Virginia Preston

I too was a bit disappointed in Reginald Morton at this, having grown very fond of him as a bookish, slightly dull, kind, man. I don't in fact find it very plausible - I think he might go out once, he'll hate it and not bother again. It's not as though Mary is keen for herself. I do always find myself reading Trollope on hunting with a double mind - part of me appreciates the writing, the love he clearly feels for a very exciting sport, and the way he conveys its charm and exhilaration, with the added element for that period of an opportunity for women to take risks along with men, and for conversation between the classes and sexes. On the other, I don't approve of killing animals when it's purely for sport. At least Trollope is honest about this, that it is done for amusement not for utility, since it's so terrible to try and kill foxes by poison, and landlords who don't preserve the foxes on their land are unpopular with the hunters because there's nothing to hunt (doesn't Plantagenet Palliser fail rather on this point?).

Virginia The AS: Improbable Switch in Reginald Morton's Character (Pro-Hunting Lessons).

I too much preferred the man who read and spent much of his life quietly by himself. I did foresee Trollope would not have him continue this way at the end of the story. Again this reminds me of Alice Vavasour.

I do prefer tragedy and ironic comedy to traditional comedy.


To Trollope-l

May 25, 1999

Re: The American Senator: The Validation of the Social Order and Pleasure In response to John Mize, I have often been dismayed by the simplifying ending of a number of Trollope's novels. After hundreds of pages making the reader experience the loneliness and alienation of Alice Vavasour as important, after making us understand why she doesn't want to be treated as her husband's favorite pet, we are suddenly to be unqualifiedly happy when she marries John Grey. Not only are we to rejoice, but are asked to gloat over her having to accept fancy china (she says she doesn't want) and her having to listen to the spiteful 'I told you so' comments of a woman who herself sold herself for china and respectability by others of her kind decades ago.

This is an egregious example and there is nothing quite as inconsistent as this in The American Senator. After all from the very beginning most of the characters are presented as resigned or apparently enthusiastic supporters of the establishment. It's central to Trollope's depiction of humanity that they all adhere to their appetites, all want admiration from most others. However, the moment when Reginald Morton puts his books aside and determines to hunt now that he is squire and it is expected of him leaves the reader to infer the only reason he didn't hunt before was he didn't have money for it. That's not true, but the plot device lends itself to such an interpretation.

I much prefer the climax of Arabella and Rufford's story. She demands he marry her; he refuses; she stalks off without so much as entering the house, and is not about to cry about how wrong she was to her mother. He is a shallow fool still albeit supported by position and wealth. They don't change, aren't reshaped to fit sentimental or other false ideals. A non-murdering Medea and her banal Jason.

Trollope's argument for hunting based on equal ruthlessness of someone who wears furs round her neck is patently unpersuasive: one might say, well that person over there hates this kind of person (name your type or class or race or religion) so why shouldn't I? Trollope seems to have told himself that on the hunting field all classes intermixed and individuals had to struggle on an equal ground (out of their ability). Now in Ireland one of the first ways in which the peasant laborers revolted was to stop the lords from hunting. The truth is hunting is an upper class sport. People who are good at competition, who emerge as the strongest leader of the pack, who have the kind of physical prowess one needs on a horse may be exhilarated by such activities as hunting but that doesn't justify it.

Trollope does say pleasure, fun, sheerly finding a way to kill time pleasantly is as important in life as the so-called useful work people do for money. Trollope seems to see that there is no necessary usefulness in what people do for money except that they get money thereby. He sees little difference between Rufford keeping up a home farm that is unprofitable and putting it forward as an example or admitting it to be a toy. There's a deep scepticism about life's purposes here.

He asks the question, Why is whatever work one does okay while one's pleasures are not -- especially when both are predicated on exploiting others. He is a hedonist and thinks the foxes are vermin. I suppose the foxes looked at it differently -- as it is hinted more than once not only Goarly but other lowly people at Dillsborough do.

Ellen Moody

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat. ---Mark Twain

Re: The American Senator: The Validation of the Social Order

I suppose my answer would be that it is hard to live without exploiting anyone else, either human or non-human, directly or indirectly. When you buy a shirt or a pair of shoes, you are contributing to the exploitation of child workers in Bangladesh or Vietnam. To me it's somehow worse to exploit others for fun, rather than merely for self-interest, but that may not be a useful distinction. One of Ursula LeGuin's short stories is about a town where everyone is happy, contented and prosperous. When the children of the town reach maturity, they are shown a dirty, malnourished child living in a filthy hovel. They learn that their prosperity and good fortune are somehow dependent on the child's miserable existence. Most people, after the initial shock wears off, begin to rationalize. After all, the child has never known anything better and is now in no condition even to appreciate anything better. They decide to go on with their lives as before. However a few people simply leave town.

John Mize

Re: The American Senator: Mr Masters is made happy and triumphant at last too.

On Mr Masters's joy: can it be that Trollope is consciously appealing to readers who have made choices on behalf of material well-being and rank and given up other things, readers who are themselves very comfortable and have always been so and enjoy being validated this way, readers who are not but believe in this kind of social triumph and revel in it (today usually quietly) themselves. Is it being a hypocrite to be made uncomfortable?

Ellen Ellen Moody wrote:

Subject: [trollope-l] 1. Concluding Thoughts on TAS: Gentlemanness (Larry Twentyman once again)

From Gene Stratton

I liked The american Senator every bit as much at the end as I did at the beginning, that is, immensely. I was concerned about the characters and really wanted to find out how they fared. There was nothing boring in the characterization, plot, and setting, although I thought the inclusion of Senator Gotobed did little for the novel.

Incidentally, we meet Gotobed again in The Prime Minister, where he is the American Minister to London, just as we meet again a much fattened Lord Rufford in Ayala's Angel. I think someone had earlier mentioned that something about Gotobed being unfair in that he criticized another country, but could see no fault in his own. But now at the conclusion we can see that Gotobed is just as tactless with his own people as with foreigners. One wonders how he became a successful politician, since this ilk wins elections more by telling people what they want to hear than the truth.

I personally found Trollope's disposal of his characters satisfying (how often have I enthusiastically read 90 percent of a famous novel only to find the end a considerable let-down). The marriage of Reginald Morton to Mary Masters seemed right -- I just hope he continues to treat her gently and lovingly. It's interesting to see (in Chapter 59) that Mary's step-mother having a change of heart about the upper class (showing again that where one stands depends on where one sits).

Larry is the true hero of TAS. In the beginning we see that his worldly ambition was to be a gentleman, which Trollope calls a "foible." Robert Tracy in Trollope's Later Novels (Univ. of Calif. Press, 1978) gives some interesting comments on Trollope's "requirements" for a gentleman. Yes, that perplexing word arises again, for, like Count Dracula, definition and re-definition of the word seem most difficult for us to terminate. In trying to come up with an all-embracing comprehension of the word, particularly as used by Trollope and other Victorian novelists), I myself have re-defined it many times, and I'm sure others have done the same.

Tracy says that Trollope believed a "gentleman must have fine feelings, a good education, and social position." He quotes Trollope in London Tradesmen (a book Ginger and I would dearly love to acquire, being the only one of Trollope's published works we don't have) as saying that a tailor is often "gentleman-like," but "were you to examine him closely, you would find in his features some trace of the retail tradesman." "The Marquis of Brotherton (Is He Popenjoy?) does not qualify; his high rank and wealth are negated by vicious habits." The American Senator does not quite look like an English gentleman. However, Sir John Ball, a real-life baronet who was a lether wholesaler, was a gentleman because, states Trollope, "a man who gets himself made a baronet cleanses himself of trade, even though he traded in leather."

I'd like to give my own peculiarly personal views on the subject of gentlemanness, or at least some views which I think I will firmly hold for the next 24 hours or so. For once I refuse to accept an OED definition, the one which says a gentleman is one who holds a coat of arms; this implies that all gentleman are armigerous whereas the truth is that only those who have a legal right in England to be called Esquire are armigerous). Chambers Dictionary defines the word gentleman as coming through Old French from the Latin gentilis, meaning belonging to the same clan, later well-bred). It gives the definition "well born" but calls it archaic.

I think originally the word had to do exclusively with birth. Later bards and minstrels, in singing of gentlemen, associated with them certain high-minded qualities which some may have had more in song than fact. Nevertheless, the attributions so stuck that gradually there developed a second definition which might be considered apart from birth, that of being well-mannered. There was an assumption that all well-born people were well-mannered, and all well-mannered people were wel-born, but of course there were exceptions, and these tried the souls of many an author, even thought such an author instinctively recognized a gentleman when he saw one. (I don't know anything about art but I know what I like when I see it might be paraphrased as I can't give all-inclusive definition of gentleman, but I know one when I see him).

A perfect definition was troublesome even a century before Trollope started writing, when Fielding for example wrote Tom Jones in which there is a line spoken by the narrator, "The young gentleman (for so I think I may call him notwithstanding his [base] birth)." Tracy says, "Trollope shows us that the English system is stronger than ever. Illogical and picturesque, it cannot be judged or improved by utilitarian theories. It can be judged only in accord with the theory of 'tanti,' that which is enough, sufficient onto itself. One knows without definitions. Archdeacon Grantly in The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire says, "We stand on the only perfect level on which such men can meet each other. We are gentlemen."

And the word still gives trouble to the experts even today. No less than the Encyclopaedia Britannica in its article on "Esquire" refers to the crown's ambiguity regarding the word "gentleman: "The crown has been arbitrary in its use of the word esquire [which has ] become as meaningless as the word gentleman."

Anyway, at the beginning of TAS, Larry is, in the words of R. H. Super, The Chronicler of Barsetshire, "a prosperous yeoman farmer." Although Larry calls himself "a gentleman farmer," Tracy points out that Trollope himself sneers at this new euphemistic term. Larry, the hero of the novel, is a yeoman farmer, not a gentleman. At least at the beginning of the story. But I think that by the end, Larry's perseverance has paid off. In Chapter 48 Larry "had never yet sat down with a lord." But by the end of the story, Larry seems to be well accepted by the local upper class, and I have no doubt that he is well on his way to becoming a "perfect gentleman."

Gene Stratton

Re: Genealogies: Blood and Upbringing; Rank and Sex (The Match Between Reginald and Mary)

Early in the story Trollope made Mrs Masters envious of Mary's aristocratic connections and implies that she is determined to make Mary marry the huntsman Larry Twentyman as much to see Mary well settled in life (and therefore no longer a burden on her children and herself and husband) as she is to take Mary down a peg.

I suggest that "blood" (genes) are central to Trollope's definition of gentleman. It's a class as well as masculinistic (gentleman are manly and so we have to define what good manliness is) rank. Note that Mary Masters is (we are told) the daughter of Mr Masters's first wife, and she was a gentlewoman. She was also brought up by Lady Ushant. So upbringing and manners as Gene says count centrally too. When Larry is "bid be a man," we know what is meant. The macho male doesn't show any vulnerability.

I find it interesting Gene hopes that Reginald will stay gentle and loving. Does he feel that because Mary is of lower rank after a while Reginald will abuse or exploit or impose himself on her in some way? The story does not suggest this to my feeling -- even if he gives up some of his reading time for hunting.

Trollope's view of sexuality is important here too. How modest is Mary; how she blushes. Oh that fire in her eye when the man demands she tell him she loves him. A little Juno? Trollope withholds the designation of lady from Arabella because she is a sexual huntress even if frigid.

There has been no movement towards egalitarianism in Reginald Morton's marriage to Mary. Morton himself is not of high rank in the eyes of the Honorable Mrs Morton's of the world. There has been no questioning of the sexual order.

Trollope mocks the genealogies with which he begins the story in a conversation between Green and a clerk in the foreign office. We are to enjoy this, but then think, they would mock this, wouldn't they?

"'If Dick's sister married Tom's brother what relation would Dick be to Tom's mother? That's the kind of thing, isn't it?' suggested Hoffman" (Ch 65, p.. 450).

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