Date: Sun, 26 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Chapter XVI: The Wedding Day Named
At the end of Chapter XV, "A (wedding) day was named." With a nod, the day is accepted. With funds handed over by Charlotte, a trousseau is put together. If worse comes to worse, a hand will be placed in that of Peter Steinmarc at the altar.
Charlotte, Peter, Tetchen, and Fanny (who has followed her distressed friend from Augsburg) are all puzzled by Linda's strange behavior. She is "sedulously attentive" to household business; she does a lot of shopping, but refuses to buy a wedding dress; she insists on getting it in writing that her Aunt, whatever happens, will have a home in the red house. Is she mad? Is she crazy?
Everyone wants to know what's with Linda. Linda is not crazy, but she finally realizes that she will be driven mad if things go any further. In a short but sweet letter to her Aunt, Linda explains that she must escape for good to relatives in Cologne.
Charlotte Staubach and Herr Molk meet to console with one another, and to admit to their responsibility in the matter. Charlotte feels compelled to follow Linda to Cologne.
Linda learns to turn the tables on those around her using their own methods. She keeps Peter on tenterhooks, at least for a while, as to whether he will be the complete, unquestioned master of the red house.
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Chapter XVI
Linda learns to turn the tables on those around her using their own methods.
And not before time. Hooray for Linda!
I really enjoyed this chapter.
I was surprised when Charlotte said to Linda: "You do love him, do you not, Linda?" I don't know why I was surprised. Just because Linda has told them she hates Peter dozens, if not hundreds, of times, it does not seem to sink in.
Then when Charlotte told Linda that Peter would be offended by the simplicity of Linda's not having a magnificent wedding dress--as if he wasn't offended by everything else and especially when Linda has told him to his face enough times that she did not want to marry him or even see him again.
Anyway, my very favorite line comes after Charlotte has read Linda's letter and asks Tetchen what she ought to do and Tetchen replies: "Wring Peter Steinmarc's neck." Wonderful! This is followed by another great remark. When Peter returns and asks has Linda gone again, Tetchen tells him yes, and what did he expect. I like the character of Tetchen very much. Disrespectful, yes, but she's almost earned that right by long service. She could almost be in the position of a poor relation at times.
Charlotte does care deeply for Linda. She expresses it again in her wish that Charlotte will be safe on her journey to Cologne and that the only evil in the journey will be the cost and the rumors.
Re: "Wring Peter Steinmarc's neck."
Tetchen really stands up and stands out here.
Re: Charlotte's Care (Deadly Irony of the Book)
The darkest part of the book is that Charlotte cares for her niece. With such care, who needs fascistic exterminators?
The parable is about the blindness of human nature to its own evil.
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Chapter XVII: Crushed
Linda travels alone by train and boat to Cologne. She interacts with various people, and successfully overcomes several difficulties along the way before being received into her uncle's house. Charlotte Staubach shows up, somewhat reluctantly, four days later finding Linda confined to her bed. Due to wintry weather conditions, Linda has picked up a cold, or some debilitating illness. Her illness is made worse by her run-down condition, physical and mental. Despite the close attention of all her relatives, Linda does not recover. She dies in Cologne.
Linda was a healthy young woman, and could have recovered except that she didn't realize how run-down she was, spiritually. I thought that out on her own, having told her story to a chance acquaintance on the river boat, explained who she was to the servant at her uncle's door, and having told her story to her aunt, she could have made the leap to a higher, healthier spiritual level. The reason is that she is unable to comprehend (and I would even say that she refuses to believe that) her unhealthy spiritual condition, her "crushed spirit" is due to her guardian.
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Chapter XVII
The uncle's family that received Linda in Cologne were so wonderful. When the aunt said that if only Linda had come to them sooner, I thought "YES." That would have perhaps been her salvation. Certainly had she gone to them months sooner before she was so run-down and weak physically (all that staying in bed and not eating), she need not have died. The family was so loving and giving and not the religious fanatic that Aunt Charlotte was. Linda could have had a chance at life.
Richard has a point, Linda couldn't understand about her "crushed spirit." The new family might have helped her if given a chance.
I wonder if Linda would have stayed with them. She does love her Aunt Charlotte very much and took up for her saying how she did believe she was doing the best for Linda.
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Peter Steinmarc's baseness
I'm going to suggest that what makes Linda Tressel such a painful read is Peter Steinmarc's baseness. His is an unredeemable character from this point of view. He is not shown to have anything but the basest of motives. It's giving this sensitive intelligent young girl to such a base man that chills us.
It is a frightening read too because the aunt is so dense and blind. I have not read in the Victorian period (except maybe in Dostoevsky and moments in Oblomov -- the two Russian writers I've read most of) anything to come near Trollope's brilliance in dramatizing the perniciousness and sheer hysteria of religious mania. You can't reach Aunt Charlotte. She is possessed, like some evil sibyl. From a Freudian standpoint she is crazed by her fear of sex (=life) and desires power to repress sex wherever she sees it, vilifying and and mortifying her nubile and genuinely alive-attractive (though innocent) niece. The scenes beside Linda's bedside are outstandingly persuasive and effective. She enacts loathing of everyone and everything, turning herself into as I say a wild sibyl. She is possessed by the evil God her form of or imagined religion has enabled her to conjure up. The religion here is of course a function of her character, but it is a dangerous enabling one.
We may look at her and at these scenes and understand something of the emotional complex that possesses someone who is willing to commit suicide to kill others. In her travel book and The Vicar of Wrexhill some of Fanny Trollope's most powerful indicting pages are about religious revivals and the whipping up of sexual and violent emotions she sees in low church religions in the US and UK. Trollope has understood this phenomena far more deeply than Fanny who explicitly seems to understand what she sees as something which endangers political authority and hierarchy, is simply sexual excitement.
On Tetchen, I agree her instinctive responses are sometimes the humane ones but I would argue that we are told little of her motives and her behavior and role has been highly ambiguous, as much hurtful of Linda's cause as helping it. She seems so much more likeable because no one else i the house recognizes Peter's baseness and in the town the aunt's crazedness.
The Herr will not help Linda lest this act threaten his authority as a male. He will not recognize what is going on. The rest of the family stands by apparently helpless because they too will not break the customs of family ownership of the individual girl.
Trollope has presented a powerful lesson to his readers -- one very much relevant to our world today given the new retreat of women's rights in the non-western world and the campaign propaganda going on in the US right now.
What makes the book so unpleasant is the baseness of the male and the determination of the hateful woman to inflict him on the sensitive loving heroine.
What could be worse?
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Linda Tressel: Chapter XVII: Foreshadowing of Her Death Early On
I saw Linda's death as foreshadowed by the time she fled on the train. She had literally been harrowed to death; the very center of her personality had been shattered. No one in the story recognized that she had any boundaries they should respect and the aunt particularly invaded her spiritually as well as emotionally.
I see this book as one of Trollope's small gems which were it better known would raise his reputation immensely. It's Clarissa done with concision and more humanity. Trollope himself is not afraid of sex or life and does not condemn the young girl's appetites which Richardson does. We see how she was isolated and driven to hysteria and to cling to the young man. Her death is like Clarissa's a relief for her. I felt relief for her because apparently no one would or was able to save her -- as long as she stayed near that aunt.
What is really remarkable is how Trollope allows no "reformation" of the aunt at the end. This sort of unreal sudden transformation or insight of someone is so common at the close of such stories. No Aunt Charlotte never sees what she did; she cannot let herself.
It reminds me of He Knew He Was Right where Trollope stayed true to his conception of Louis Trevelyan to the end.
Ellen To Trollope-l
Re: Groupsite Picture: Millais, A Woman Sitting by a Grave
September 28, 2004
I found a number of pictures which would be appropriate to the ending of Linda Tressel. In Christopher Wood's Victorian Painting he has a chapter called "The Cult of Death" and reprints many depictions of people grieving, graves, churches, people ill. Until early in the 20th century what was omnipresent for most people in the western world was the constant presence of death. Among these pictures are a number intended for novels, and there are three where we see a woman grieving for the death of someone as she stands near a grave. One by Henry Alexander Bowler (1824-1903) is probably closer to the literal details of the text as Trollope gives them as Bowler's grieving woman is still young and semi-attractive. Early in the story we are told Aunt Charlotte is not an old woman and would have made an appropriate wife for Steinmarc if only age were considered. Bowler's painting is, however, called The Doubt and the anecdote suggested is rather over-the-top didactic and sentimental: Wood says the picture is meant to convey religious faith assailed by doubt.
I chose Millais's The Widow's Mite (1870). It is superior in drawing and mood. It has dignity and gives the woman a burden of psychological reality. The woman is older than Trollope suggests Aunt Staubach was but I don't think such details matter that much. The picture conveys the inner presence of the older woman in Linda Tressel and if you read the last couple of paragraphs in the novel is a visualization of the way some readers might imagine Aunt Charlotte to look from the outside (all regret, all calm) once Linda is safely (so to speak) dead and what she has done is irretrievable.
We are told that Charlotte does not know or cannot face she has herself (in effect) murdered her niece. I don't think there is a gothic or vampiric feel to Trollope's tale at all. It has the plain unvarnished look of this picture, and is not romantic.
Trollope said he never met a man he was closer to than Millais, and that Millais's series for his Orley Farm brought out his meaning better than he, Trollope, had seen. Millais's years were 1829-1896.
Trollope's Linda and Richardson's Clarissa: Family Groups
There is an analogy between the family group that takes Linda in and the "good" people who surround Clarissa at the close of her novel. In both cases the girl cannot be retrieved; what has happened has transformed or made her what she is. Both young women also long for the destructive relative to show love for them and really to relent. In both novels this is show to be a pipe dream.
Trollope's conscious "lesson" to the imagined adult readers (female) in his audience was probably "don't do this to your daughter." This is what you are if you do.
But there's an interesting difference. Richardson's novel ends in a religious epiphany -- for some modern readers religious bathos. However, it was meant to be meaningful. Some readers nowadays say it just goes on too long. I see in it a psychological justice: it's not a paean to death but rather a depiction of the lack of place or space for such a one as Clarissa in her society. Like Casaubon and Lydgate (come to think of it), but for different reasons, she's the alien. She lacked a Mr Brooke. Would not Linda have throve like Dorothea had she had a Mr Brooke? (Don't discount the importance of Mr Brooke's flexibility in the benignity of Dorothea's fate.)
Trollope's novel does not offer a religious "solution" at the end. Religion has been and remains the problem, or the use made of it. What we are to feel is the intense loss to Linda of her life and a sense of oblivion is what we get at the novel's closure, of the grave. To the end by blaming Clarissa for her sexual appetite (for Lovelace), her atraction to him if you will, Richardson partly justifies her harridan family. Trollope never justifies Aunt Charlotte. There are no redeeming qualities in Peter -- as there really are in Lovelace.
Trollope wrote a long and careful analysis of Richardon's Clarissa when E. H. Dallas's abridgement of the novel was first published. Trollope's essay shows he read Clarissa in the unabridged copy too. I wouldn't argue that he has Clarissa literally in mind when he wrote Linda but the parallels are interesting. They show why he could read Clarissa with such interest and attention and went to the trouble of reading the abridgement and commenting on the differences between them. A small look-forward to Ralph the Heir: one of the heroines is called Clarissa and there are three allusions which liken (or show the contrast) between her story and that of Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe.
Cheers to all,
Re: Linda Tressel as female gothic
What has interested me all summer as we've gone through these three relatively unknown novels by Trollope are parallel paradigms in them which are distinguishable from paradigms found in novels by him not centered on a heroine. I've pointed a few of these out as we've read.
Partly as a result of something some of my students in a class where I'm reading an effective gothic tale with them, Susan Hill's The Woman in Black said has made me aware of another paradigm which is posed more sharply in Linda Tressel than it is in Miss Mackenzie or Nina Balatka, but it is there.
In brief it is this: in Linda the boundaries of her selfhood, both physical and spiritually, are continually threatened with a crass invasion. She is harrowed to the point that her selfhood is shattered or to use Trollope's word crushed. What is demanded of her literally is that she allow a base man to invade her as her husband, to take her over. When she refuses this her aunt invades her emotionally, harassing her in her bed up close with hysterical spasms of fanatical prayer. Nina was similarly threatened by her relatives. In Miss Mackenzie's case what she wanted as her boundary (her right to private space of her own and choices) was treated as illegimate, as not in her right, as hypocritical nonsense. Didn't she understand her role was to serve others and allow herself to be invaded to support them. The invasion is more than the marriage, it is in the definition of what the woman is. John Ball's suspicion of her comes closest to what the aunt in _Linda_ accused her of. The result is anxiety, fear, and self-defense, a sense of being preyed upon and flight.
I suggest it's this paradigm which makes these books, and particularly Nina when it comes to her near suicide, and Linda at the close from the night when Ludovic is allowed to invade her room like a nightmare to the train trip to her death -- which makes them seem to belong to the female gothic genre. They don't because they are also too prosaic, but they have central paradigms which are shared with the female gothic.
September 30, 2004
Re: Linda as heroine's text
Further to my posting late last night:
Trollope is exposing to us, disclosing how sexual experience in our society is organized through his paradigm. The woman is continually asked to want to be invaded, her boundaries are to be broken and (paradoxically or, if you will, with the usual cruelty of society) she is at once judged by how far she keeps her carapace intact, sells for a high price, and is continually harassed and manipulated into giving in.
Trollope is in his imagination capable of seeing it through the woman's consciousness at a deep level, not one which can be articulated through psychology (because then he faulters) but rather through the plot-design of his fictions, the deep structures themselves.
In this sense these three novels, Linda, Nina, and Miss Mackenzie are more women's novels, heroine's texts than Marion Lewes's.
Date: Fri, 01 Oct 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Home Page: A Cathedral in Cologne
The picture now on our Home Page is a Cathedral in Cologne. Linda Tressel's relatives were Catholics in Cologne.