Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 11: Mrs. Todd Entertains Some Friends at Tea
We open this chapter with what I might call "Mr. Trollope's Philosophy." Women ought to get married. Men ought to get married too, but in their case not achieving the married state is less injurious to men than it would be to women. We also get the Trollopian finger wag against those "zealous students" of the new philosophy that women ought to be "become ashamed of being married." Certainly, it is beyond my capacity to make the case as archly as Mr. Trollope does. But you can read it for yourself in the first paragraphs of Chapter 11. All this philosophizing is by way of prelude to Miss Mackenzie's dilemma: "she desired to be married, and dreaded delay." Let us hope that she is able to resist the yellow-gloved charms of Mr. Rubb. Miss Mackenzie thinks herself "too mean for a man's love." (Amazingly, the Tom Tringles, Mr. Cheeseacres, and squinted-eyed Mr. Mcguires suffer from no such self doubts.)
Mr. Rubb arives to escort Miss Baker and Miss McKenzie to tea at Mrs. Todd's. Mrs. Todd welcomes her guests warmly, and promises "not to be wicked" that evening. the company includes a clergyman, Mr Wilkinson, his wife, Adela, a Mr. and Mrs. Fuzzybell, Mr. Mcguire, and Susanna, Miss Mckenzie's niece. (A rather ill sorted group for a tea party, as we shall soon see.)
Trollope now treats us to a slyly amusing comedy of errors. In chapter eight, we saw a dinner party gone horribly wrong. In chapter eleven, we see a tea party that almost shares the same fate, but Mrs. Todd is far too clever a woman to allow this to happen. Mr. Rubb and Mr. Maguire quickly size one another up as rivals for Miss Mackenzie's hand. Miss Mackenzie remains comically oblivious to Mr. Maguire's attempts at courtship. Mr. Rubb makes a fool of himself in front of the entire company (but he does get rid of the yellow gloves.) Mr. Maguire insists on saying grace over tea, to Miss Todd's amusement. Miss Todd is quite droll in the way she handles the two suitors. She does not say much, but she manages to expose both men's pretentions by turning their own words against them. There is quite a bit of intrigue about the tea urn, as Mr. Maguire declares his heart to be full of iniquity, and Mr. Rubb declares that he has "thrown off all decorum."
Miss Mackenzie finds herself in quite a dilemma. She is angry with both Mr. Rubb and Mr. Maguire. She thinks of Mr. Ball: "After all, was not Mr. Ball better than eithr of them, though his head was bald and his face worn with that solemn, sad look of care which always pervaded him."
As the party comes to an end, Miss Mckenzie receives not one, but two hand presses - one from Mr. Rubb and one from Mr. Maguire. Mr. Maguire leaves thinking that he is ready to propose to Miss Mackenzie. Miss Mackenzie sees that she may indeed have a husband if she wishes, but which is the bigger barrier? Mr. Rubb's manners, or Mr Maguire's squinty eye?
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 12: Mrs. Stumfold Interferes
In this chapter, any doubts the reader might have about Mrs. Stumfold's being an insufferable busybody are laid to rest. Sig has pointed out the similarities between Mrs. Stumford and Mrs. Proudie. It might be interesting to compare how Mrs. Proudie (instead of Mrs. Stumfold) might have handled the conversation in this chapter. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The chapter title says it all - Mrs. Stumfold interferes.
For six weeks or so, Miss Mackenzie's life in Littlebath among the Stumfoldians continues as usual, with a few small changes.Mr. Maguire seems unnaturally aloof, until he approaches Miss Mackenzie and whispers a cryptic remark in her ear to the effect that he wants to be with her now, but he can't. (Let us recall that Mr. Maguire is Mr. Stumfold's curate.) One morning, Miss Mackenzie is startled to hear Mrs. Stumfold announced as a visitor. The mountain has come to Mohammed! Mis Mackenzie knows that according to the customs of the Stumfoldians, such a visit must be of great portent. Mrs. Stumfold enters the room with an unsmiling face, and insists on seating herself in a hard, straight-backed chair rather than upon the sofa. (Very bad. The queen has mounted her throne.) Mrs. Stumfold proceeeds to congratulate herself, and the Stumfoldians, for their Christian acceptance of Miss Mackenzie into their social circle. She then interrogates Miss Mackenzie about her relationship with Mr. Maguire. Miss Mackenzie at first sits silent, turning red in the face. Clearly, Mrs. Stumfold does not understand with whom she is dealing. Trollope tells the reader: "I do not know whether I may yet have succeeded in making the reader understand the strength as well as the weakness of my heroine's character; but Mrs. Stumfold had certainly not succeeded in perceiving it. She was accustomed to weak, obedient women - to women who had taught themselves to believe that submission to Stumfoldian authority was a sign of advanced Christianity; and in the mild-looking, quiet-mannered lady who had lately come among them she certainly did not expect to encounter a rebel. But on such matters as that to which the female hierarch of Littlebath was now alluding, Miss Mackenzie was not by nature adapted to be submissive."
Miss Mackenzie tells an astonished Mrs. Stumfold that she has no right to ask Miss Mackenzie such questions. Mrs. Stumfold insists upon knowing whether or not Miss Mackenzie is engaged to Mr. Maguire. Miss Mackenzie refuses to answer, and unknowingly escalates the situation by bringing up the name of a rival clergyman, Mr. Paul, whose "name stank in the nostrils of Mrs. Stumfold. He was to her the thing accursed." It seems that among the many complex and unspoken laws of the Stumfoldians, the mention of Mr. Paul's name is forbidden, although Miss Mackenzie does not know this, Mr. Paul is rather more "high church" than Mr. Stumfold. Furthermore, in my opinion, religion in Littlebath appears to be a zero sum game as far as clergymen are concerned. If Mr. Paul gains a follower, then Mr. Stumfold and the rest of the clergyman must lose one.
Mrs. Stumfold tells Miss Mackenzie that by not heeding her advice, Miss Mackenzie will come to her ruin. She implies that Mr. Maguire has"two or three wives already." Miss Mackenzie thinks such an accusation is cruel, and then Mrs. Stumfold denies making it. Mrs. Stumfold says that Mr. Maguire is attached to a young lady to whom she had introduced to him in her own house. Mrs. Stumfold hectors Miss Mackenzie, who refuses to give way, until at last Miss Mackenzie draws the interview to a close by refusing to speak of the matter any longer and standing up. This forces Mrs. Stumfold to stand, quitting her throne, and take her leave. (This entire scene reminds me of the encounter between Lizzie and Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice.)
Miss Mackenzie is upset by this interview, and although she did not shed tears during her interview with Mrs. Stumfold, she sheds many that night on her own pillow. She has been falsely accused of impropriety. She has no friend to turn to in order discuss her feelings. The next day when Miss Baker calls to see if Miss Mackenzie wishes to go to see Mrs. Stumfold, Mis Mackenzie tells her about her interview with Mrs. Stumfold, and refuses to go to see Mrs. Stumfold. Mrs. Stumfold's interpretation of Christianity is certainly an interesting one.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 13: Mr Maguire's Courtship
Miss Mackenzie spends a dismal week at Littlebath. When she goes to church on Sunday, she is snubbed by the Stumfoldians, and even Miss Baker declines to walk home with her. Trollope again makes reference to Marianna and her moated grange. Our Marianna (Margaret) finds her weary waiting at an end when she receives a surprise visit from Mr. Maguire. Mr. Maguire announces that he has abandoned his curacy with Mr. Stumfold, and asks Miss Mackenzie if she has quarrelled with Mrs. Stumfold. He then proceeds to say many critical things of Mrs. Stumfold. He asks Miss Mackenzie if Mrs. Stumfold had told her anything regarding Mr. Maguire. Miss Mackenzie refuses to be "brought into it." Trollope writes: "She felt herself to be so driven by him that she did not know how to protect herself. It seemed to her that these clerical people of Littlebath had very little regard for the feelings of others in their modes of following their own pursuits."
Mr. Maguire proposes to Miss Mackenzie, and she then tells him of Mrs. Stumfold's conversation during her visit. Mr. Maguire is angry that Mrs. Stumfold claimed that he and Miss Floss were attached. There is no such attachment - Mrs. Stumfold is merely trying to find a husband for her friend Miss Floss. As Mr. Maguire continues to press his suit, Miss Mackenzie's thoughts again return to John Ball. Miss Mackenzie declines to give Mr. Maguire an answer, and asks him to wait a fortnight. (Of course, Mr. Maguire thinks that it is a sure thing that Miss Mackenzie will accept him, because all ladies say no the first time they are asked.)
After Mr. Maguire leaves her, Miss Mackenzie does not know to whom to turn for advice. She decides to ask for Miss Todd's help. Miss Todd energetically makes inquiries about Miss Floss and Mr. Maguire. She tells Miss Mackenzie that Mr. Maguire has no money, and owes some two or three hundred pounds. Miss Todd refers to Mrs. Stumfold as "St. Stumfolda" and accuses her of calumnly in claiming an engagement between Miss Floss and Mr. Maguire. And so on the evening before the day when Miss Mackenzie must give Mr. Maguire and answer, she goes to bed still not knowing what to do about Mr. Maguire's proposal.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 14: Tom Mackenzie's Bed-side
Because no Stumfoldian will consent to receive letters on Sunday, Miss Mackenzie does not receive an important letter until Monday morning. Her brother is dying, and her presense is required at once. As Miss MacKenzie is making hasty preparations for departure, Mr. Maguire arrives to receive his answer. Miss Mackenzie puts him off, saying that she must go to her brother at once. At Paddington Station, Miss Mackenzie is met by Mr. Rubb, who tells her that there is no hope for her brother, and that there will be very little for his wife and children once he dies.
Miss Mackenzie helps nurse her brother, and tries to comfort her sister-in-law. A dying Mr. Mackenzie is filled with worry about his wife and seven children. They will be left with nothing. Margaret promises her brother that his family "should not want." She decides she must give up the idea of marrying altogether, and live with her sister-in-law. One afternoon she is told that there is a gentleman to see her. She is relieved that the gentleman is not Mr Maguire, but rather her cousin. John Ball. In fact, she finds that she is glad to see John for "she thought that she liked him best of all the men or women that she knew." John Ball tells Miss Mackenzie that she will realize some unexpected income from the forced sale of some her property to a railway company. The proceeds from the sale will almost make up her loss of money from the loan to Mr. Rubb. John asks Margaret if she has changed her mind regarding his proposal of marriage. Miss Mackenzie says she must take care of her brother's family.
Mrs. Mackenzie cannot let John Ball's visit pass without some acidic remarks about the "upsetting pride about those people at the Cedars." Miss Mackenzie says nothing.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 15: The Tearing of the Verses
As Miss Mackenzie continues to nurse her brother in Gower Street, she is besieged by letters from Mr Maguire asking her for her hand in marriage. Miss Mackenzie writes back to Mr. Maguire releasing him from the offer he had made, but this does not stop Mr. Maguire from continuing to write. As she sits by her brother's bedside, Miss Mackenzie has time to reflect upon her time at Littlebath. She regrets the time she spent trying to lead the life of a lady of fortune. She thinks "it would be better for her to be a hard-working, dependent woman doing some tedious duty day by day, than to live a life of ease which prompted her to longings unfitted to her."
As if to seal the bond on this contract, Miss Mackenzie takes the remainder of her verses from her writing desk and tears them into little bits. "And yet she loved them (the verses) well, as a mother loves her idiot child. They were her expressions of the romance and the poetry that had been in her; and though the expressions doubtless were poor, the romance and poetry of her heart had been high and noble."
I find this very sad. Miss Mackenzie is ashamed of her feelings and longings. She is willing to submit herself to a life of self-sacrifice and drudgery for a family who will probably resent her for doing so. As it happens, her brother and Mr. Rubb are scheming, even at the man's death bed. Margaret's brother desires her to marry Mr. Rubb so that the money for his family will come from the business, rather than from Margaret herself. Tom thinks that such an arrangement would make him "able to to think that he, by the work of his life, had left something behind him to his wife and family." He thinks his wife Sarah would be more comfortable this way because "given bread is bitter bread." In other words "it was not desirable that this dependence on her should be plainly recognized." For some reason, Miss Mackenzie thinks that Mr. Maguire's offer of marriage, although she declined it, debars her from accepting Mr. Rubb's offer. I don't understand this. In any case, Miss Mackenzie thinks that Mr. Rubb would make "ducks and drakes" of everything, leaving her and her family with nothing. She refuses Mr. Rubb's offer.
After Tom Mackenzie dies, Miss Mackenzie tells Sarah that she has promised to share her fortune with Sarah and her children. Sarah remains bitter, saying that whe would earn her own bread if she knew how. As the chapter ends, Miss Mackenzie prepares to leave Gower Street for a visit to the Cedars.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Mr. Ball's large family
In answer to David's question about large families, we had a discussion on this topic either here or on the Victoria list. (But I think it was here.) Perhaps when we were doing our Barchester marathon? Mr. Quiverful (get it?) had a large family. I think he got us started on the issue of family size. (There's probably a really good pun in here some place, but I'm not clever enough to come up with one.)
Maybe the discussion is archived on Ellen's site, but I don't know. I'll give you a summary, and humbly request corrections from my fellow list members if I get anything wrong. A book that you might find helpful is The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain 1830 - 1900 by F.M.L. Thompson. It's available in paperback. The book uses source material like censuses, birth records, death records, etc. but it is not too dry of a read. According to this book, average family size decreased as the Victorian era progressed. Apparently people practiced some forms of birth control. Condoms were available, and coitus interruptus was used. Another way of controlling family size was separate bedrooms for the husband and wife.
As the middle class arose and jobs other than agricultural labor became available, the need for large families decreased. (This is an oversimplification - for poorer people the use of child labor was important even in "industrialized" society. Thus if you had a large family, you could put your children to work as earners at a young age.)
With the Ball family, there seems to be only one son. We don't know the birth order of the family. Perhaps there were five or six girls born before a boy and heir was produced. If it was important to have a male heir (and knowing old Lady Ball, my bet is the answer was "yes") possibly the first Lady Ball had to keep conceiving children until she produced a son. And even then, she might have had to keep trying so that the family would have "an heir and a spare" in case the elder son died. Can you imagine what that poor woman had to put up with? No wonder she died young! She was likely more or less continually pregnant. She probably had to listen to a lot of nagging from her mother-in-law, too. She may even have died in childbirth.
Sorry this is so incoherent, David. Anybody else have something to say?
(eldest of nine)
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Gower Street
It's interesting that the Tom Mackenzie family lives on Gower Street. Gower Street still exists. It is parallel to Tottenham Court Road and runs from north of Euston Square south into Bloomsbury. That is, it runs right by the British Museum. Anthony Trollope himself was born on Keppel Street, a tiny street that runs across Gower Street near its south end. Keppel Street was probably longer, but a campus of the London University was built right on the east end of Keppel Street, probably taking away most of it. You can see it all if you step out of the north doors of the British Museum (by the stone lions), cross Montague Street, and then you will be somewhere near the birthplace of Anthony Trollope and Gower Street. This, apparently, was Trollope's neighborhood, and the Bloomsbury neighbourhood turns up frequently in Trollope's books.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Trollope's Philosophy on Marriage Reply-To: email@example.com
It seems to be a popular sport to bash AT's views on women and marriage but what is he actually saying? All he is saying is that the women of his time are better off if they are married. Take a look at the lot of the employed single female or the poor relation and see if you don't agree with him. Granted, if there are viable choices available for women which allow them to earn a living that will see them in comfort and respectability, then marriage is not a necessity. And if such women then decide that they do not wish to avail themselves of the comforts and companionship of marriage, that is probably just fine. But, in all honesty, how many women do you think Trollope would have known in this position? Trollope is a man of his time who sees the world about him clearly and, in the world about him, marriage would be the most viable alternative for a woman. Even in our own time, we tend to have less respect for single woman, seeing them as somehow "unchosen" even if we don't express it.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie - Chapter 15: St. Margaret of Female Submissiveness
This is where I start having trouble with Miss Mackenzie. It is at this point that AT starts to turn her in St. Margaret of Female Submissives. I think it really weakens the books.
Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2004
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Gower Street
Very interesting stuff on Trollope and Gower Street Sig. A nice coincidence is that Millais lived in Gower Street - lower down from the BM - when he was a young man. I don't think they knew each other when Millais was in his 20s (?)
June 14, 2004
Re: Miss Mackenzie, Chs 11-15: Austen Parallels in P&P; Miss M and Trollope's Fred Pickering; Miss M as Trollope himself; Miss M Comes Out Most Strongly Here
A few responses to Catherine's witty postings:
No one has mentioned the sly salacious connotations of the names Ball and Rubb. If Trollope declares all women should and even must marry (and caricatures those who do not or are presented as wanting and getting power outside the domestic sphere), he does at least provide them with males called Ball and Rubb. (Admittedly there's no Glascock in sight.) From some commentary I've read by Thackeray (letters) I am persuaded that Trollope and those readers alert to this sort of thing (a dirty mind is a joy forever as they say) would have seen a sly joke here. No wonder Mrs Ball had nine.
Yellow gloves won't do. Not at all. I've always wondered why yellow is often used to stigmatize.
The confrontation of Mrs Stumfold and Miss Mackenzie resembles that of Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. But not as strongly as the confrontation of Lady Ball and Miss Mackenzie later in the book. In the second encounter the issue is directly parallel to what we find in Austen's P&P: a poorer young woman is loved by the male the older woman wants to control and to use for aggrandizement of herself. In the later dialogue there is even a direct echo about Miss Mackenzie's class: she is a gentlewoman like Elizabeth. I'm not suggesting that Trollope has P&P in mind, rather that Austen and Trollope are working out of the same class of people, with the same set of mores in mind and both using a harridan female to uphold the establishment against the female intruder who quietly holds her own through silence and a refusal to yield.
I also find the tearing of the verses and the destruction of all dreams (which is what this is a metaphor for) very sad. As James in his critique of Miss Mackenzie suggests, Trollope has stacked the cards utterly against Miss Mackenzie at every turn. People are not quite as uniformly nasty as the women in this book mostly are, as sordid and materialistic as the men, as unimaginative and Griselda-like as John Ball. James puts it that life is often "pale but not so black" and asks why Trollope seeks to mortify the reader through the heroine and calls the procedures of the book "prison discipline." To my mind the real answer is Miss M is Trollope himself and he is recrushing in himself his own dreams -- there is an analogous short story called 'The Adventures of Fred Pickering." But there is an important difference when he changes the gender of the central figure, for then when the hazing of the figure is done, unlike the male, she cannot become active on her own behalf with a compromised set of dreams. She must tear them up completely. Of the cruel scenes in the book this is one of the cruelest. It is also oddly realistic in the sense that I have come across story after story of real women destroying their novels, poems, letters, autobiographies, sometimes at the commands of relatives, sometimes fear of ridicule and exposure after death, sometimes from just such a series of soul-destroying incidents and ugly close encounters as Margaret must endure from Mrs Mackenzie. Catherine's comment about how Margaret is being taught to be ashamed of her feelings and longings is the right one too.
On another tack: Miss Mackenzie has noticed that Mr Rubb is not to be trusted with money. Whether deliberate (knave) or incompetent (fool), to give your money to him is to play "ducks and drakes" with it. A woman can have romance in her soul and a competent head on her shoulders.
The code simply was that you don't accept a second man's offer until you have refused the first. Just as today it's not acceptable to have two lovers at a time: you can come across discussions of George Sand today where the scholar/critic works hard to refute the idea that is simply so: she often had more than one lover during the same period of her life.
On the sudden decrease in family size that occurred at mid-century, _The Rise of Respectability_ is a good book. Another is Michel Mason's on Victorian Sexuality. The first Mrs Ball's fate as described by Catherine was common for women of all classes until the mid-19th century. Then slowly one and then another milieu of society begins to use contraceptives or contraceptive techniques. Trollope was among the group that did -- so too Thackeray and other writers and artists in general. (Not all; Millais didn't.) The early marriage, endless pregnancies, miscarriages and early death was the common fate of women. The growth of a class of women not marrying or marrying very late in the 19th century for the first time as their class lifted itself out of subsidence makes sense.
Sophy says that even in our own time "we" feel the way she outlines. I demur. I don't have less respect for a single woman. Women without children are childfree. I agree it is still much harder for women to earn as much money or gain the prestige and high positions in society men do, and this is not just a result of their marrying or having children. I admire women who become financially independent on their own. On Victoria there was a thread on heroines in Victorian novels who resist or reject the ideology which confines them to the domestic sphere. Trollope does have heroines who resist or reject the domestic sphere, but most are made to cave in at the end (Alice Vavasour, Clara Amedroz) or are punished severely (Lady Laura Kennedy), are made incompetent outside the family, without the male "protector" (Lady Glen); there is the type who resists without rising to a principle (Lily Dale) or who resists a particular male with the idea that it really does count to her who she goes to bed with (Mary Lowther). He will caricature harshly feminist-lecturers as women who hate men or as (gasp) not wanting sex with them One of the reasons he treats as freaks the women at the charity bazaar beyond their being to upper class in their extravagant garb is they are trying to escape their limited sphere (without of course any goals or ideals they really believe in). The only woman character I remember simply walking away is Miss Emily Viner: she inherits a competency but doesn't want it. She is given a couple of great speeches which are left standing unqualified. "A Journey to Panama" is one of my favorite stories in all Trollope.
As a final response to Catherine's postings and Chapter 15, I'll offer the idea which I don't expect many people to share that I like Miss Mackenzie better for preferring to support herself even if it be meagrely than live with Mrs Tom Mackenzie, Lady Ball or take the kind of harassment Maguire later ladles out or the imperious right to distrust John Ball assumes. At this level I do prefer Mr Rubb for his later openness and flexibility and willingness to take Margaret on her own terms, but know that Trollope expects me rather to despise him. I remember on WW when we read Mary Ward's Marcella. Rather than marry the chivalric hero of that romance novel, for complicated reasons the heroine really trains to become and works as a nurse. It's not fun. She has to take the petty tyrannies of the women and men above her. The people she cares for are not grateful, and certainly not rich or pretty. They are often drunk. But it was my favorite part of the novel. The reader saw more of the world than in all the 3/4s of the rest of it, and Marcella did make a life of her own, however restrained and deprived -- mostly because of the mores of the time which if a girl wanted to remain respectable stopped her from going out the way (in James's Princess Cassamassima) Miss Millicent Hennings does. And of course Mary Ward like Trollope will only have a gentry respectable heroine.
Cheers to all, Ellen
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Independence
We open this chapter with what I might call "Mr. Trollope's Philosophy." Women ought to get married. Men ought to get married too, but in their case not achieving the married state is less injurious to men than it would be to women.
What I find fascinating about Trollope's marriage philosophy is that his creation Miss Mackenzie proves to be such a staunch resister to his views! Yes, she has suitors, but can Mr. Trollope force her to accept a proposal? Her money allows her to be such an independent spirit.
I've finished the book and am in the awkward position of knowing I'm not allowed to post ahead, but I think it's safe to pose the following question: are we to believe Trollope's authorial asides or should we believe in his characters? As long as a woman has money, she can pick and choose. Marriage has always been an economic partnership, though in the twenty-first century we prefer to think of it as a romantic arrangement, at least in the beginning. Margaret's money not only allows her to live a solitary life, it allows her to choose among suitors. I find this fascinating.
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Financially independent women
In repsonse to Kathy's post, I find it interesting that Trollope occasionally presents us with a woman who is financially independent, and has no need to marry to support herself. Two extremes come to mind: Miss Dunstable and Glencora Mcluskie (sp?) Miss Dunstable's fortune comes from her father's commercial enterprise. Delightful as she is, Miss Dunstable may or may not be "a lady." There is a saying in some US social circles: "Nobody argues with the color green." And Lord Fawn of Fawn Court seems to have no difficulty envisioning Miss Dunstable as a future Lady Fawn. Miss Dunstable may do as she pleases because a) she is rich and b) she has no "dynatistic" responsibilities.
Poor Lady Glen is harrassed into a socially acceptable marriage to a man she does not love. The noble M'cluskies will not see Lady Glen "throw away" her fortune or her social position on Burgo Fitzgerald. Perhaps if Lady Glencora had a mother still alive, or if Lady Glen were a bit older she would have had some support in controlling her own destiny. (Ironically, Glencora's daughter manages to marry whom she wants.)
If I lived in the Victorian age, and I had the means to support myself I would never marry. Fear of dying in childbirth would be one reason. Fear of being stuck in a life of never-ending social responsibilities would be another. I would rather be Sophie Gordeloupe!
Trollope was afraid of women who did not submit to men, and conform with the social norms. There are men even today who feel the same way. There are many advantages to being single. As for children, they are not for everybody. I don't have any children, and I don't miss the pitter patter of little feet. Sui cuique. (Did I get that right, Sig?)
Trollope says again and again that the best fate for a woman was marriage and children. (At times he even specifies the number of children - quite often two!) That was his point of view. I don't agree. Trollope also liked Tudor houses. I don't like Tudor houses. So what?
I find it interesting that Trollope gives men a pass on marriage. It's OK for them to remain single. Why is that, I wonder?
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Independence? Or pleasure and usefulness
I'll also respond to Kathy's question.
I agree we should look at what the characters do as well as what the narrator says. But we should also look at what the characters say. At no point does Miss Mackenzie attempt to reject or resist the notion that marriage should be the be-all and end-all of her existence, and that she is fully useful when she is taking care of someone who is young (a child) no matter what the cost to her personally might be. She merely ricochets; she can't make up her mind; she instinctively rejects Maguire (he is lower class, has this squint which Trollope plays up); she is drawn to Rubb but sees how risky the relationship is (he is also not a gentleman so she's going down); she wanted something more pleasurable than anything John Ball has on offer, something which would give her life uplift and enjoyment. Use he can give her, but the use is to take care of his children and be his bed-partner and obedient (he's big on that) partner outside marriage. He expects her to endure his mother and father submissively (in effect); say nothing in response -- which she does disobey when the woman comes out to attack her but only on the grounds that "John told her to stand firm." Not on her own grounds, not for herself.
What Miss Mackenzie wanted at the opening of the novel was some pleasure and to be useful in a way that kept her alive. She had spent a life as a nurse to a man; now she was expected to spend the rest as a nursemaid to her mean-tongued sister-in-law. Her brother when he lays dying actually asks her to marry someone in order to support his wife without letting her known it. She should get in bed with Rubb so that her sister-in-law's feelings will be spared. Not enough she gives half her income away; she must do it so her sister-in-law's pride will not be hurt.
She does draw the line. Our Griselda does draw the line there. As she does later to Ball when he accuses her of unchastity. Apparently there are low blows and self-abnegation beyond her. Trollope is asking us to admire this. It seems a bit minimal to me -- and I submit would have to many a Victorian reader and novelist.
Trollope does not allow her to find any pleasure. Everywhere she goes the people she can meet get their pleasure from petty tyranny and they succeed. Grandairs is an easy target: but we should remember that his discipline of everyone is but a mirror of their own discipline on behalf of their prestige elsewhere. I think Trollope means us to see this.
She tries usefulness to her niece. Here is someone who she can help without gouging herself, without taking her own life away from her. But once Susannah has gone for the day, what is Miss Mackenzie to do? It seems she can't think of anything. This too is set up as Trollope has left her mind blank of any interests. We never hear what were those books she read; we are never allowed to read any of those papers she destroyed.
It's worth noting that she does not fight for her money, and that our narrator tells us it brought her more misery than it was worth.
We are to believe in Trollope's authorial asides. The money did bring her more misery, but he does not then ask us to infer that something is wrong with the society for her. I see nothing like this. Rather we are to see how grasping all around her are and be glad for her that she had the wisdom to go with the prudent man like herself in her own rank. The novel teaches compromise and self-abnegation. As I wrote it also holds out a reward for such behavior, but it gets there through the fairy godmother, the Scots Mrs Mackenzie.
We are to measure Trollope's authorial asides against the character's actions and words, but we need not as readers agree with him. We can see what he means, but since his book functions in our own times (his are gone), we can only go so far with a historical exercise. Further, what has been shown lately by the "new historicism" (which goes into what ordinary readers wrote down insofar as this is possible), we find that his own readers were as multivalent as us. They too responded in terms of the minute particulars of their particular lives. When you go into reader responses of the 19th century you come out with responses as varied as those we have today. So too reviewers. Most of them thought Trollope very hard on his heroine in this book. What they did not do was go on to delve the assumptions which made him so hard, the obsessions -- with a few exceptions like Richard Holt Hutton and Henry James.
The question is, What does this book say to us today? I see a flat reading of it as misogynist. Jane Nardin reads against the grain without admitting this and comes out with a strong parable about the constraints placed on women even today. Edwards comes out with a parable about human nature and society which he thinks Trollope undermines by his semi-trivializing use of the comic term (to us nowadays and to his readers then too) Griselda.
Re: Miss Mackenzie: John Ball, Margaret -- and the fairy godmothers of this book (Mrs Mackenzie and Lady Glen)
I've a way one can reconcile the misogynistic plot-design of this book (let's punish the heroine) with the clear awareness of the narrator that he is punishing her and that her lot is and remains to the end one of hard endurance and submission to silent frustration surrounded by dense fools, with the very occasional relief of someone who has more understanding of the waste of their existence on behalf of this "social order." Characters who have this understanding include Margaret herself, John Ball -- and Lady Glen (though she has learnt, in order to keep her equanimity, to put and see life mockingly.)
It lies in two directions. On the one hand, there is Trollope's identification with Miss Mackenzie, and on the other, in effect (and admittedly paradoxically) that he has "feminized" the hero, John Ball, to the point that except in bed (where his mother can't get at him and he reigns king phallus by virtue of his anatomy and position outside the bedroom), he is every bit as submissive and depressed as the heroine. John Ball is yet another of Trollope's depressed males, another inarticulate one, and like so many of them, without the imagination and self-awareness to know this. Instead he reaches out for a companion he can have outside the drawingroom. Not that he admits to his condition; he demands "obedience" which means silence and never mentioning what a depressive submissive male he is to all but his wife.
At the heart of the story is Trollope's appropriation of the feminine position. We'll see this again in Linda Tressel, Nina Balatka, and it's found in Rachel Ray too. This story is analogous to "The Adventures of Fred Pickering." The "lesson" is that you must give up your yearnings for congenial companionship, high idealistic deeds, fulfilling your nature except in your mind. It's the lesson Trollope himself learned -- and out of which he produced these novels which sold through delving the compromise he himself submitted to. He is Miss Mackenzie and we feel for her throughout.
At the same time under the guise of kindness, unaware sensitivit and sympathy -- as well as sexual attraction -- he pours into John Ball the same depressive submission feminized condition. I call it "feminized" because it's the condition forced on women by this society who have some soul -- not just by men but by other women who have none. We should not forget the sexual attractions of Miss Mackenzie: the mirror scene where Miss Mackenzie's sensual beauty is emphasized is central to this book. It's why Ball goes for Margaret too -- and our fairy godmother at the close of the book dresses our princess up so as to show it off. I've been surprized how that scene has been elided over here. John Ball is as dead to the world. That's his distanced alienated life, one of grim restrictions to a system as grinding and more insecure (as he sees it) than Miss Mackenzie's. He spends his life worrying over money.
He is as much the Everyman of this book as she is the Everywoman. McGuire is a ruthless caricature, until the end of the book when he turns to the newspapers and spills his guts, not given one iota of adult burdens. This resembles Trollope's frequent treatment of characters beneath the gentry level. Rubb is given some depth, but no insight, and he is optimistic, a self-deluded type who may well go down, finally a child. He's just the type to follow Melmotte down that yellow brick road at the end of which (as we know) there is only humbug. Rubb wouldn't recognize this.
Ball is the other adult of the book. By quietly endowing Ball with the same loss, the same continual lack -- if there's one thing Miss Mackenzie dramatizes its lack, longing, frustration -- Trollope turns a misogynistic plot-design into a series of parables about the castrations of existence (I speak only partly metaphorically) for both men and women.
Is the desire of someone who wishes to have congenial companionship, to expand their heart, to be useful humanely -- all of which characterize both Ball and Margaret -- different from the desire of someone who wishes to have prestige, rake in money, get a high niche, have power over others? This book says Yes. You could say of Ball what he really wants is to stay home from another day's work though out he drives himself. But he hasn't the imagination to break out as Miss Mackenzie did when she wrote her now destroyed and forlorn papers.
The world's lessons are harsh.
My equation can also be used to answer Catherine's question. Why does Trollope not insist men get married? If they are the eldest heirs, they must as it's their great and important duty to make another heir to carry on the lineage and the caste. But below this, they need not. It's not that he admires such men particularly. He often presents them as drones, sometimes rakes, sometimes gamblers and remittance men, but they are free of women. Consider John Ball again. At the close of the book there he is putty in the hands of Mrs Mackenzie, still having to endure that mother, and now Miss Mackenzie will soon be bringing on Baby 10 too. What happens repeatedly in Trollope's novels is once the male marries, the woman is presented as a mother figure. So in private and in the daily ways of life (I remember how in one of the novels where Mrs Proudie appears Trollope lets us know that she really socks it to Mr in bed) the man is made to submit even if in the larger things he wins -- these larger things include the control of money (in The Bertrams Trollope has a line that if a man who controls the purse cannot use this somewhat he is hopeless -- it's a half-mocking but also sympathetic line), like making the woman have endless babies if he choses, like keeping her in the house and away from other men so his status is not in the least threatened among men. It's complicated as when alone, when drones, the men can degenerate into weaklings who depend on true con-men (there's a male like this in The Claverings).
The key to understanding this book is not to pay attention just to the heroine, but to her alter ego in the hero. Ball says more than once, but Margaret, don't you see how miserable I am? She may not, but Trollope does and he expects us to too.
As John Ball is femininized so our heroine has come to his rescue -- with the help of another strong female in the book, Mrs Mackenzie who is as tactful as Ball needs. He's very much in need of someone to soothe his ego and pride -- as we shall say, one just as sensitive as Mr Harding's, for the book ends on a repeat of the epic struggle of the male to free himself of the public eye (in this book McGuire rehearses the role of Tom Tower in Trollope's fourth novel.)
The themes of the book are loss and lack by those who have some imaginary depths even if there is no place in society for them to fulfill these. One of the rare appreciations of this is in Susannah who tells her sneering mother of the comfort she experiences when Miss Mackenzie wakes in the morning and opens her eyes. The sadness of this book is that John Ball reimprisons these eyes in a house dominated by one of Trollope's monster women (reminding me of the Spanish play, The House of Bernardo Alba), and will give her no outlet but him who will not see as it's too painful? or he's too dim? hard to say. But our narrator sees for him.
And that's the function of the narrator -- who though must avail himself of a fairy godmother.
It doesn't matter so much what he says explicitly; what matters is the interaction of fable, character, words on the page, and the novel's projection of intense melancholy which now and again turns into writhing satire.
Reading for archetypes with some psychological awareness and a knowledge of the author's autobiography often helps open up books.
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Trollope afraid of women who don't submit to men
I think Trollope was afraid of women who did not submit to men, and conform with the social norms.
Certainly Miss Mackenzie is an example of this. The first half of the book shows Miss Mackenzie making a strong showing in Little Bath, experimenting in different social circles, not willing to buckle under to the Stumfoldians, to any one suitor, or later to her sister-in-law. Trollope has to employ some trenchant plot machinations to make his spirited heroine, who is obviously thrilled to have a chance at life after years of nursing, submit to any yoke. It's almost as though Trollope's imagination, or real-life experiences with women like his mother, run counter to his own desires to put Margaret squarely back in the traditional marriage niche.
The Margaret of the second half of the book changes, becomes suddenly as meek and gentle as she was in her brother's house. I told my husband how disappointed I was with Margaret's fate, but one thing I notice: Trollope's attempts to describe a romance in the latter half of the book are pretty lame; John Ball is so stern and undemonstrative that I am afraid for Margaret. My husband wondered, when I told him the plot of the book, if Trollope was trying to pose radical questions about woman's position and marriage. I told him I didn't think so on a first reading, and I'll certainly pass on to him what the rest of you say.
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie: Miss M A Fighter
I disagree with idea that Miss M is feeble in the second half of the book. Yes she doesn't fight for her money, but she fights for everything else. She fights just as strongly -- or weakly as she does in the first half of the book. She won't marry to spare her sister-in-law's feelings. She refuses a death-bed plea. She won't stay in at the Cedars to be insulted. She goes to live alone. She won't be harassed by McGuire into marrying him.
She stands as firm and moves around just as surely in the second half of the novel as she did in the first. Indeed there's an argument she holds onto her sanity, body, and self-respect even more tenaciously because she receives far more direct assaults:
- ) from her brother
- from the harridan sister-in-law
- from Ball's nasty mother
- from Ball himself who (like Louis Trevelyan) thinks he owns her very thoughts before she has said yes
She defies her landlady and won't intermingle with her either. She does not get anywhere near as distressed over the news articles as Ball.
She would indeed have gone off and become a nurse.
Only when the fairy godmother comes in does she cave in. But then the plot-design is being manipulated in another direction.
The notion John Ball is tame comes out of demanding a macho male ideal for the heroine. If you sympathize with the depressed suffering heroine, why not the depressed suffering male? If there is something good and radical here, it's Trollope's overthrowing the false notion of he-man romantic gallants. They don't exist he says. They are a false dream which in this book makes life worse for both men and women. Trollope's embodiment of this type is found in George Vavasour or Jack de Baron (both lousy to others, cool, nasty, the first violent).
Money is only a small part of this book. You could argue that throughout she is a Griselda and discount all her moves from the move to Littlebath on, but there is no difference from the first to the second half of the book until suddenly Trollope decides for his qualified comic fairy tale romance ending.
Money is not all. Money is but an aspect of power. Power comes in many ways which have nothing to do with money. Money is their result. Money is not a measure of people's worth nor their aggressiveness. Vide Laura Bush.
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie, Chs 11-15: Yellow Gloves
Yellow gloves won't do. Not at all. I've always wondered why yellow is often used to stigmatize.
But later, in that wonderful/grotesque parody (preminiscient -- is that a word? of the bernstein-black panther parties) yellow gloves -- in a much more upper class setting-- are noticed but not the object of condemnation. It seems to me that the seriously wealthy are immune from/above the lowermiddle class dress code imposed by MM on Rubb.