The Thug Element in Manliness; How Much Did We Like It?; The American Senator at Home; A Masterly 19th century Novel; The Titular Character and Close; The American Senator as serial writing; Trollope's Confidence; Immediate Circumstances for the Writing of The American Senator; On Serial Instalments in Trollope in General

To Trollope-l

Re: The American Senator: The Thug Element in Manliness

Larry Twentyman is not always so appealing. The way in which he overcomes his "lack of manliness" (grief, sensitivity, mortification, anger, sense of rejection) is to loathe Goarly (Chapter 72). It gives his spirit a real kick to urge someone else to beat Goarly up. The very thinking about this fills him with spirit. We are to admire him for the self-control that makes him turn up to his mother, in effect reject Reginald Morton as unmanly (what do you expect from someone never seen on top of a horse) and go off for many hours alone. I don't mind that, but it's the source of this new strength that appalls me. Note the linking words with which Trollope begins the next chapter: Reginald now thinks of "cleansing" himself "from the reproach which Larry cast on him ..." (Chapter 73).

One reads that one way communities form, people define themselves, is through scapegoating someone else, someone they're not. Larry's great joy is how opposite he is from Goarly. Thus he is someone, Respected. His vigor is reasserted through fellowship in thuggery and rejection of the "polluted," the truly different and despised. This kind of feeling lies behind mobs beating up homosexual men.

As the Senator finds, Twentyman's attitude towards Goarly is shared by the great indeed iconic gentleman of the book, Lord Rufford and the iconic farmer, Runce.

Trollope sees this. If I could believe he even deprecates this, I'd feel better. But I know that in novels up to the time of Ayala's Angel, he was on the side of duelling. In Dr Thorne, he expects the reader to cheer Frank Gresham on for beating up the "cowardly" suitor who jilted his sister. In this novel there is the sense that if one of Arabella's suitors could have threatened Rufford, challenged him that might have made Rufford marry Arabella if only because it would be scandalous. Rufford of course would have "met" him -- and for that Trollope would have had us admire him. Only in Jonathan Stubbs's ridicule of Tom Tringle do we see the argument against duelling presented and then it's only in terms that we don't do this any more.

In Larry's behavior at the hunt we see the link between this kind of behavior and stalking. The male cannot accept the female's rejection of him for someone else. It's an animal thing. Had they been engaged, he would have had her for life; what happens today is people get divorced and women are free to break with men they have gone to bed with.


To Trollope-l

From Angela Richardson

Re: How Much Did We Like It?

Now I've finished reading The American Senator, I've been asking myself - did I like it? It was certainly very interesting as a rural novel. There are so few which take rural politics seriously that I was really surprised and pleased to find this novel putting the rights of agricultural workers forward as part of a discussion. I know I'm ignorant about Trollope but you wouldn't really expect to find him listed with Hardy for example as a novelist who deals with rural England.

However, to place it in this way is not the same as to say it was a good read. I didn't like it as much as I did Orley Farm or The Way We Live Now. One reason was that although the Senator was a useful device for satire and the exposure of hypocrisy, I didn't feel he was comfortably integrated into the novel. I was also bored by the 'good'pairing of Mary Masters and Reginald Morton. Although Mary is allowed some flashes of spirit, the two of them are rather lack lustre in comparison to the other pair. Even the parrot scene, which I know others on the list enjoyed, didn't come alive for me, feeling rather contrived, as if the characters wouldn't work without an authorial intervention.

Looking forward to the next one and more new-to-me Trollopes.


Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator

From Judy Warner

I enjoyed this novel a great deal, I think because of the sense of place--the society and setting of the town being so well developed for me, and including so many of the "types" of people and classes. I did also enjoy Arabella, her determination and pluckiness--and I think she will do well as a big fish in a smaller pond-and Mounser will be a good husband for her. Reginald's hunting will come to nothing, he will go out to the beginning of the hunt and will ride along the path but slowly, noticing all the birds and trees and thinking about something completely different.

I was intrigued by Trollope saying that Larry was the real hero of the story--is this because he is somehow representative of the good men of the town? or the best part of English life? I did like the combination of "real man" and the deep emotion he showed over Mary. A very likeable fellow certainly.

Judy Warner

Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: The American Senator at Home

From: John Mize

I was glad to see that our American senator was just as much of an iconclast and troublemaker at home as he was in England. I suspect his refusal to criticize the United States in England was his honoring the U.S. taboo against criticizing this country while abroad. Trollope certainly knew that attacking the United States while on foreign soil was a big sin in 19th century America. William Lloyd Garrison visited England during the 1830s and publicly criticized the US, calling the US the most hypocritical nation on earth, since we talked of freedom and equality, while enslaving millions. His remarks enraged many, and some Democratic hot-heads talked of kidnapping him and taking him to Georgia where he had previously been indicted for seditious libel. Garrison was perhaps the most uncompromising public person in US history. When pro-slavery apologists hid behind the Constitution, Garrison called the Constitution a pact with the devil and a covenant with Hell. On one occasion he publicly burned a copy of the document. Gotobed was more of an accomodationist than was Garrison, but then so was almost everybody else.

John Mize

May 31, 1999

Re: The American Senator, Chs 74-80: A Masterly 19th century Novel

Count me among those who enjoyed this book very much. This was the second time I had read it, and the first was a quick read without too much thought. By going through the book so slowly and thinking about each installment, I was led to see its variety of cunning insights into society and human nature, how it consists of a real return to the technique of the Barsetshire books: a landscape terrain, a recreation of a world with all its groups of people, the interest in minute psychology, in how the human perception of their position on some inherited hierarchy which all obey impinges on their most private moments.

He brought new things to this book and worked some old ones in new ways. The use of a character as a satiric device, a sharp-tongued truth-telling naif seems to be an innovation for Trollope. If there is such a character in his vast oeuvre (which there may be), he is not used so centrally.

A basic plot and central themes are not woven around a satiric character in this way before. One problem Trollope has in weaving the Senator into the plot more is what other kind of story is Trollope allowed beyond the love plot or rise in political elections and politics in Parliament. The Senator cannot participate in either.

The brilliant, nay virtuoso creation of letters is also old hat for Trollope, but I wonder if he used them so consistently or quite in the central way he does in the several plots here before. Perhaps. There is also a linking use of hunting imagery in the inward plot with the actual hunting of the outer one. I think letters and this use of imagery figure brilliantly in the Barsetshire books. Now we will have a later book to compare with this earlier cycle.

I agree with both Judy and Angela's assessments. I too see Reginald's new resolution to hunt coming to nothing. While I find Mary a bit too predictable and am not keen when a character is shaped to teach me to be submissive to authority, I was amused by her and Reginald's parrot scene, and at times moved by the love plot where Larry wanted her for his wife.

This is not the first novel wherein at the close of the book Trollope suddenly announces the real hero or heroine is a character we hadn't thought about as hero or heroine. Towards the end of He Knew He Was Right Trollope tells us the heroine of the book is Priscilla Stanbury. It makes sense if you think about the moral inferences he means us to draw from the book's many stories and thematic patterns. Priscilla is not for sale; she's not even for rent; she is an old maid, poor, but does not attempt to manipulate or control anyone else -- neither does she let them manipulate or control her for what she can get out of them in return. She stands out against the Trevelyans of the book as the mirror which shows us what they are; insofar as Aunt Stanbury comes close to her, we admire her. She is also a measuring rod for what happens in the novel's comic stories and romances.

In The American Senator I speculate that the reason Larry is the hero is Trollope closely identifies with him; he is such another as Will Belton or Johnny Eames. Trollope forgives the young man who cannot shed the prejudices of his society for his good heart, sincerity, candour, depth of loyalty to others. Let those who think Trollope presents us with glamorised sexy figures at the center of power in the establishment in our world today contemplate his choices of Larry Twentyman and Priscilla Stanbury for true hero and heroine.

But what I most enjoyed in this book was its jaundiced perspective, the undercutting of all that is conventional provided by the perspectives of Elias Gotobed and Arabella Trefoil. The question of where Trollope stands is unsoluble. He is elusive. Is he on the side of Miss Penge whose way of life is to imitate the group no matter how dense? "I have never heard that Miss Trefoil had a female friend." He enters into characters and imitates what they might say within the norms of the 19th century novel. Rufford will end up bullied -- so there's poetic justice. He yields (we are told) out of pure weariness. And thus he marries. And what a couple are they? The calm peroration ends: "He will think that he loves her, and after a lapse of ten or fifteen years,will probably be really fond of her. From the moment that she is Lady Rufford she will love him, -- as she loves everything that is her own."

There is something deliciously insinuating about having us see the wonderful wedding so many people go to and spend such money on today (the custom has gotten worse) from Arabella's point of view. Arabella's success is to be invited to go through the lies of ceremony (the phrase is John Halperin's). She has married a man who knows they are important weapons in manipulating the world's 'reasons' (a word I use ironically) for respecting other people. Says he the best way to get what you want in this world is 'to ask for it' (Oxford The American Senator, ed JHalperin, Ch 76, p. 525). After all all you may have to endure is a refusal. What's so bad about that. (My husband says that's how men like the American president get so many women; they just ask, and are not bothered by nos or pay them no mind). So Mounseer Green is not so green after all. Since we have seen jokes and hidden puns and ironies in all the names I suppose there is one indicated by the first name of this character. Our narrator makes something of a fuss about it. Anyone want to guess? Maybe he's the perfect husband for her, only Trollope suggests she will get restless. This does remind me of Becky Sharpe at the close of Vanity Fair.

The chapter called 'The Wedding' is interwoven with bits and pieces of letters. In these we study the distance between what we know is in the heart of the writer and what is professed. We get to think about why they profess what they do. We are told 'Arabella is surprised at the ease with which it is all done' -- meaning the wedding, how people just line up to get dressed up, send presents, are willing to ignore their professed disapproval of what has gone on before, how happy they are to paper over reality with professions of good will, sincerity and cheer (p. 529). I had not thought Arabella was such a naif. Maybe that's why she didn't win the Big Prize of her world, Rufford who ends up most delightfully a hen-pecked husband cowed by his wife -- and someone with nothing in him is susceptible to such an ending. The key to Rufford is he has nothing in him at all; look at his letters. This use of Arabella as naif corresponds to the use of the Senator. Still I too find myself perpetually surprised by some new version of hypocrisy. My only problem with the big wedding is how much people pay are willing to pay for the show.

In this last instalment Arabella's 'success' and her 'wedding' are juxtaposed to the Senator's two-part lecture.

I am happy for Arabella when she gets away -- to America, that new world. Like our narrator, I hope she will come up to Mounseer Green's expectations. Now that the job of the wedding's done, she's free. No need to pretend to be happy. She can at long last relax. Not so others. I remember a long time ago someone told me in order to get some job I needed to appear jollier, therein was my fatal flaw. I wasn't jolly enough, not working hard at that old upbeat. The smiling game I have heard it called.

Ellen Moody

Re: The American Senator, Chs 74-80: The Titular Character and Close

IN response to Gene, Elias Gotobed is central to the feel and themes of the novel; central to its structure in the way Arabella Trefoil is. It would not be the same book without him. The book continually in small and large ways brings out a debate between American and English values; one is asked to judge English by American ones, not American by English ones except implicitly.

Presence isn't everything -- as someone may point out to me he is very often off-stage. Hamlet is off-stage for long periods of time in the play which swirls about him. What is everything is the pattern in the carpet, the way the character's presence and the themes and kinds of scences he (or she) participate in affect the rest of the book. The love stories are not necessarily central for a writer at all. They are what he has to put in to sell the book to its intended audience. Like an apparently happy ending, or any ending at all. Life has no such shape.

For me -- and I would argue for Trollope as he insisted on naming the book after Gotobed -- Elias Gotobed functions in The American Senator in the way Lady Mason functions in Orley Farm, with the significance difference that there is a parallel reinforcing character in Arabella Trefoil.

As I read the Senator's lecture it seems to me he is simply telling the some real truths about human nature, society and life. The point of having the wedding come first is to show us how consistently and easily people fall into utter hypocrisy, presents about caring about virtue, caring about meanness, loving one another, high-mindedness. The Senator brings out how most of the people at Arabella's wedding would have treated her had she not nabbed Green, that they go to the wedding because it is a rich's man occasion and are endlessly networking this way, are supine, indifference, careless about just about everything that concerns them personally. Trouble is the last thing most people want to hear is the truth. Gene is right to say the Senator is not a realistically conceived character. Politicians tell us how good we are, wonderful our motives, how happy life is, it's morning in America :). The Senator is a device.

I enjoyed reading his sermon -- for that's what it is I also found in the sermon some of Trollope's hobby-horses, a couple of which we will see in the Barsetshire series. A number of the later books revolve around the tragedies in family caused by the system of primogeniture which is here brought forward as yet another irrational but effective way for groups of individuals to hold onto power or land or prestige. The Barsetshire series centres on injustices in the church, and in the case of Crawley, the egregiously tiny sums paid to those who did the work of the church and the wealth of those who did little or nothing at all. That is one half of the dilemma or formula which shapes The Warden. We care whether people in other professions can do the job, why don't we care about the church asks the Senator. Good question.

At the very end of the sermon, we get one paragraph devoted to the Senator's anger at hunting. Trollope loved to hunt. It is very like him to create a complicated portrait of a man right here and wrong there.

The most unreasonable figure though is the Senator himself. He is Quixote. He is tilting against windmills. But Trollope likes to debate, to expose. The Senator's objection to hunting in the paragraph in his sermon is to their violation of property rights. Apparently the property rights of the poor and unconnected of this world don't count. The club wants to hunt; the men want to sit down with a lord. Goarly; the people who profit from it (Runciman) want their livelihood. Those who protests are powerless to stop it. So hunting goes forward.

There is even a section on the military. The Senator tells us how the recent reform in the Armed Forces has gotten everyone who is in charge of its establishment very mad. Those beneath who identify with those above take on their point of view? Probably the idea that someone should in the armed forces at any rate be promoted based on what he does rather than who he is has taken hold today -- that does not mean it does not count what school you went to, what is your class, who you know. (Curiously though the armed forces are one place where a lot of reform has gone in our century. Racial integration happened there. Perhaps the only way you can get men is to pluck them out the great mass desperate for jobs and promotion.)

The Senator is swept off the stage. He will return home. Yes he is like those he criticises. His own self-interest, country, mores are those he identifies with and cannot rid his psyche of. Those who have read Gulliver's Travels may like to reread the last chapter where Swift turns the tables and we find that Gulliver is no better than Yahooes he so detests. The same holds true of the narrator of Montesquieu's Persian Letters.

The book is Trollope's Candide, Persian Letters and Don Quixote all rolled into one.

The place of honor in the book is given the Senator. We hear of Rufford's transformation. Yes Miss Penge is the villain here :) The wider sense seems to me that people are their social roles. They become what they are by social construction and implicit pressure, the road of least resistance. What agons some know in private -- though Rufford would not know such -- are left to silence. Mr and Mrs Masters go up and although she is not always comfortable, she finds that when she sits quietly people leave her be. Her stepdaughter is kind and there is now plenty of money.

My own favorite line is Arabella's: "I have found the pleasures [of life] very hard."

The book ends on a line that reminds me of Thackeray's remarks about Dobbin's great happiness at getting the much-prized object, Amelia, at the close of Vanity Fair:

And so she [Mary] deified him, and sat at his feet looking up into his eyes, and fooled him (Reginald Morton] for a while into the most perfect happiness that a man ever knows in this world. Bu she was not altogether happy herself till hse had got Larry to come to her at the house at Bragton and swear to her that he would be her friend.
Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] The American Senator as serial writing; Trollope's Confidence

From Angela Richardson

I've been reading The American Senator in Temple Bar. The magazine has the novel as its opening article until we get to 1877 when it was pushed to the back by the new year's novel (Cherry Ripe - author not given) but that happened to all the serialised novels.

I've been interested in the shape of each episode (one month's part is equivalent to two of our weekly readings) and how differently Trollope writes in comparison to others who were serialised, in this particular novel. He does not noticeably fit himself to the monthly parts in the structure of the novel, apart from the movement from one set of characters to another. I seem to remember more incident and climaxes in the monthly parts of Framley Parsonage but would have to check.

I suppose once you know you are going to have more income and success from your novel in its final complete form, you might not bother to use the monthly part format as Dickens, Collins, Wood, Gaskill etc did. It does give a sense of a very confident writer, who does not need to pander to his monthly reader, at least to me.

Can anyone comment about how Trollope wrote it and what success he had with it?


To Trollope-l

From Gene Stratton:

Re: Immediate Circumstances of Writing The American Senator

Trollope wrote TAS while staying at his son's home (station) in Australia in 1875, completing it the same year on board ship en route to the U.S. It was published in serial form in 1876-7, and in book form in 1877. In his Autobiography, AT tells us he made 1,800 pounds, not the most he made for a book (which was Can You Forgive Her? at 3,525 pounds) and far from the least. Immediately before he had made 3,000 for The Way We Live Now (published 1875) and 2,500 for The Prime Minister (1876).

He also says in his Autobiography, written almost at the same time, that it was too soon to say anything about TAS, but in a footnote he comments that it had "fair success." Along with Popenjoy, he adds, "Neither of them have encountered that reproach which, in regard to The Prime Minister, seemed to tell me that my work as a novelist should be brought to a close. And yet I feel that they are very inferior to The Prime Minister."

(I personally disagree.)

Contemporary reviewers did not like the character of the Senator, thinking him either wrong, or somewhat right but boring. In spite of themselves, though, the reviewers seemed to like the rest of the book to varying degrees, or the book as a whole even if they had to take Gotobed along with it. One reviewer, interestingly, wrote that "In the characters there is nothing new, but the reader meets a great many old friends under other names." I think the book improves with age. Ellen commented that were TAS written by a writer with only a handful of books to his/her credit, it would be considered a great novel, but it seems to get lost among the total number of impressive books AT wrote. I finished it, and, contrary to my usual practice, found myself racing to get to the end. I enjoyed it tremendously, and, although I might have plotted it somewhat differently, it doesn't disappoint, nor do the "great many old friends under other names" cloy. The only thing that leaves a big question mark or exclamation point in my mind is the portrayal of Larry Twentymen.

Gene Stratton

Angela in reply:

Can I infer then that he did not write it thinking about the flow of monthly editions, but simply wrote it as a whole? (But can this be right because so many, if not all, the novels were serialised and he must have been very well aware and organised, even if away from home?)

And, if he did submit the manuscript as a whole to be serialised, was this unusual for him? Hardy wrote Far from the Madding Crowd in monthly parts only just ahead of publication but perhaps this is an unfair comparison, as he didn't really know the whole sequence or plot of his novel as he wrote it. Other serialisers, like Collins, had very detailed plans laid out to which they adhered.

Angela (who liked TAS better as it went along)

From Gene Stratton

You're right, Angela, that Trollope submitted the entire TAS manuscript before it was serialized. Some of my information comes from R.H. Super, whom I especially like as a source because he did so much original primary-source research on Trollope, instead of using secondary or well picked-over-primary sources. In The Chronicler of Barsetshire, Super writes "He had finished The American Senator as he crossed the Pacific, and was now [crossing the Atlantic after crossing and staying a while in the U.S.] at work on An Autobiography. The ship reached Liverpool on October 30, 1875." Since the serialization didn't start until 1876, he had to have completed the entire manuscript before the book began as a serial.

Moreover, I believe Trollope completed by far the majority of his novels before any serialization began, so he was not, as I formerly thought, constantly under pressure for the next installment. When writing a book, I don't know yet whether or not he took into consideration that it would be serialized; that is, whether he contrived to have suspenseful breaks at just the right places for the end of each serial installment.

Gene Stratton

To Trollope-l:

Re: On serial installments in Trollope in general

Trollope did finish his novels before he submitted them to a publisher and was paid for them, but there is sufficient evidence that he did write either with the installment pattern his editor told him would be used in mind or one he himself preferred.

The evidence is in the letters. Here is Trollope talking about Dr Wortle's School:

it was written with the intention of being run through eight numbers . . . In writing a story in numbers a novelist divides his points of interest, so as to make each section a whole. It will often happen that his divisions should be recast to suit circumstances. But this cannot be done without a certain amount of detriment to the story (NJohn Hall, Letters, ii, pp. 856-7)

For the Last Chronicle of Barset we find him asking the publisher what shapes he should plan his narrative in:

I commonly divide a number of 32 pages (such as the numbers of Orley Farm) into 4 chatpers each. If you wish the work to be so arranged as to run either to 20 or 30 numbers, I must work each of the 20 numbers by 6 chapters, taking care that the chapters run so equally, two and two, as to make each four into one equal part or each 6 into one equal part -- There will be some trouble in this (i, 328-29). I should think there will be at least some paying attention. Again Trollope grows very angry when he meant a book to come out in 2 volumes and it appears as 3 and is thus redivided (the example here is The Belton EstateM, i, pp. 328-29). And it's not just a matter of not cheating the customer into thinking he or she has got more story; it's rearranging the climaxes and the patterning of the characters appearances, reappearances, and contrasts with one another that counts.

There's a very good book just on Trollope's use of serial installment to create cliff-hangers, to have one number of one set of characters and another on another, to vary mood within a number and between numbers: Mary Hamer's Writing by Number: Trollope's Serial Fiction. Sheldon Goldfarb and others on Victoria cite the same sorts of studies for other Victorian novelists. I know Angela is on a Henry James list; James's novels came out in numbers too. When I taught Phineas Finn I assigned it over a number of weeks in numbers and the class and I became aware of how there were cliff-hangers and all the things Hamer says are there in PF. The recent Penguin Framley Parsonage gives the original patterning and it can be seen that Trollope uses the structuring of the installment publication as a way of controlling himself: he will refrain from introducing new characters or introduce them because he either is or is not into a new installment. Geoffrey Harvey in his Art of Trollope has some good sections on installment patterns in The Claverings and Orley Farm.

So it's real and is on a number of occasions used effectively by Trollope. He gets upset if the pattern is obscured. I suppose this might be true of other Victorian novelists too. It's another device to be exploited, another helpful control (like meter and rhyme in writing poetry).

In the case of The American Senator I didn't try to divide the novel into its original installments but tried to create a rhythm which would suit us as readers over 2-3 months. My Oxford classics edition does not tell me the original pattern. Hamer says the novel was published in Temple Bar from 4 June 1875 to 24 Sept 1875 in 16 parts of 48 page each. I take this to mean each installment was 5 chapters long.

Angela says she sees no discernible or obvious patterns. There were cases where Trollope's idea for dividing his novels was ignored both in the serials and in the divisions of the book's volumes. By the year of The American Senator his price had begun to fall. But maybe he didn't care enough to alter his work to the taste of all the magazine readers. Temple Bar may have been for an audience with more political interests. The lack of illustrations suggests this.

This is a kind of side issue but related. Each installment in the illustrated novels allowed for a full-page illustration and a vignette. The choice for the latter was Trollope's and when you see the installment in its original setting it brings out what Trollope thought the high or central moment of an number was. But there were no original illustrations for The American Senator.

These novels when they appeared in magazines often came with advertisements in the text It gives the modern reader a curious jolt to see ads next to favorite scenes. The Last Chronicle came out in separate numbers and the ads are at the beginning and end of a number. It's like not having the commercial interrupt the story. But they are there and tell the expected taste of the audience. The publishers advertise other better novelists and serious minded books. Also good furniture, matches, baby sets, and sensible household equipment.

What a read this has been. I thank everyone who participated and posted so faithfully and fully throughout.

Ellen Moody

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