Date: Sat, 03 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss M: Chaps. 26-30: A Disappointing Ending
There has been quite a bit of discussion already on the list about these closing chapters of Miss Mackenzie, so I won't go over them very much.
Chap. 26. Mrs. Mackenzie of Cavendish Square
This is the chapter that introduces the fairy godmother to save Margaret from the drabness of Arundel Street. Mrs. Mackenzie is the wife of the son of Margaret's uncle, Sir Walter Mackenzie. She reappears in Margaret's life as a result of all the publicity the story of The Lion and the Lamb has generated. (Her appearance is the one good result from Mr. Maguire's efforts.) Mrs. Mackenzie is determined to take Margaret with her to her home in Cavendish Square, although Margaret resists until John Ball writes to tell her she should go. It is not until Margaret gets there that she realizes quite how widely the publicity has been distributed. Everyone knows her story. When John Ball comes to visit, he, as usual, talks only about money and the settlement, while Margaret yearns to hear something about love and marriage, but she must wait. Mrs. Mackenzie, however, is sure the marriage will come off in the end.
Chap. 27. The Negro Soldiers' Orphan Bazaar
The Orphan Bazaar chapter is the highlight of this section, probably the most striking chapter in the book. Ellen and David have written about it at length. It is remarkably harsh in its portrayal of the women who organize the bazaar and work at it, but the reappearance of Lady Glencora Palliser, who handles the overbearing Lady Ware smoothly, brightened the chapter for me. There was one small question that nagged at me. Why did Mr. Manfred Smith put on "his third pair of yellow kid gloves"? If yellow gloves were a sign of Mr. Rubb's lower class background, why were they acceptable for Mr. Manfred Smith? What are we supposed to make of the significance of yellow gloves? Trollope certainly mentions them often enough.
Chap. 28 Showing How the Lion was Stung by the Wasp
Mr. Maguire still wants to move his cause further by bringing an action against John Ball, but his lawyer refuses to do so. All Mr. Maguire can do is continue writing articles for the Christian Endeaver and send copies to Mr. Slow and John Ball, who continues to find them painful. Despite his love, John is still not sure whether he will marry Margaret. He dislikes the idea that people will think he is marrying her because of the public charges against him. He loves Margaret, but he's apparently willing to give her up rather than be embarrassed; his love is far from urgent passion. As an alternative to marriage, he's determined to share the money with her. At least he stands up to his mother, refuses to say he will not marry Margaret, and tells her that if she refuses to live in the house with them, she can live elsewhere. He still hasn't decided what to do, but tells his mother she'll know the decision by Saturday.
Chap. 29. A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
Mrs. Mackenzie is as eager to bring about the marriage between John and Margaret as Lady Ball is to prevent it. She insists on giving Margaret clothes to brighten up her appearance for John's visit. And when John does appear, still hesitating about whether to get married, Mrs. Mackenzie maneuvers him into deciding to do it. Far from being a mature woman determining her own future, as she was at the beginning of the book, Margaret has become a young girl being "handled" by a mature female relative. Then at last John and Margaret finally move slowly toward agreeing to marry, and a last- minute appearance by Mr. Maguire actually strengthens John's resolve.
Chap. 30 Conclusion
In this brief, wind-up chapter, Trollope tells us that Mr. Maguire married Miss Colza, Mr. Rubb faithfully pays interest to Mrs. Mackenzie of Gower Street and plans to marry one of her daughters. Margaret and John are finally married. (The fairy godmother even manages to hasten the wedding for them.) This is presumably a happy ending, but it's difficult for me to see a happy marriage growing out of their union. Trollope portrays the change in Margaret as a growth into a happy woman's role in life. I found the ending of the book very disappointing
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie's future
Many thanks to Adele for winding up the synopsis of the novel so succintly and wittily. She wonders, however, about Margaret's future. I think that Margaret has so much more character than John Ball that she will use her new status as a launching pad for achieving all her dreams (except perhaps for the "angel of light" to which Ayala had aspired) with the dragon Lady Ball being relegated unhappily to the background. As to the dragon, for some reason a posting of mine never seems to have reached the net. No-one can condone her conduct but, seeing developments from her standpoint, I think we can still understand her point of view. She can never have been very happy in her own marriage and must have been distraught to see John "throwing himself away" in his first marriage and fearing he is going to do it again. How many of us have seen mothers-in-law in similar situations - condemned, sometimes with justice by many but subjectively convinced that they are acting only for the best?
Re: Typical Women's Poetry of 19th Century Poetry: Emily and Charlotte Bronte
Miss Mackenzie is not the only novel where Trollope introduces one of his repeated misconceptions of female poets, the caricature Mrs Conway-Sparkes. He presents women poets of the period in social situations as mean, malicious, satirists, fatuously ambitious. There is a similar but harsher presentation of women lecturers who are feminists (they are always feminists in Trollope). These usually ugly and cold and unattractive women are also open men-haters.
In the case of women poets of the 19th century this is false; indeed it's the opposite of the problem of much women's poetry of the period. It was not considered socially acceptable for women to be angry. Only in the last quarter-century have women been able to make a career as stand-up comics whose repertoire is the half-angry set of barbs. Most women's poetry of the poetry is earnest, visionary, and sentimental. The popular poetry of the Keepsake annuals drips. And much of the better poetry by women feels too sentimental for many modern readers. It's also often erotic at the center and has a strong social message about women's position; in most cases the poet instances herself. It's autobiographical and revealing, vulnerable stuff. You couldn't go farther from Mrs Conway-Sparkes. Trollope would have known this very well as a publisher, but as someone who himself knew such women and once in a while contributed to the magazines in which their work typically appeared. Mrs Conway-Sparkes is a form of defamation and functions to intimidate women from being identified as poets.
Not all were intimidated, though few made money. I once came across a pathetic account of the little the Brontes made. "The Visionary" is attributed to both Emily and Charlotte Bronte. One of its originating sources is actually repressive gossip ("Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame"); the poem is indirectly on numbers of the same matters seething through HKHWR. It's also a work of strong genius, power. The figure expected at the end is not Godot nor a Colonel Osborne.
Silent is the house; all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep;
Wathing every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.
Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Nor one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.
Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame;
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me,no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear --
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.
This comes from The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse edited by Christopher Ricks.
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss M -- Happy ending?
Adele, can you say more about why you think that the marriage should not be happy, and why you think the ending of the book is disappointing.
Some time ago Ellen wrote:
"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."
Marriage to John Ball does not seem to be a bad outcome for Margaret, although there will still the challenges of his mother. But Margaret has found an ally at last, who has seen her worth as a person and has been quickened by her prettiness, and has been brought to the point where he will grit his teeth and do the things most repellent to him in order to come to terms with her.
I don't think that by marrying she has gone into another prison, like that of nursing her brother. Her writings of that period were the life of that which could not find open expression - "proofs of what she might do if fortune should ever be so kind as to allow her of loving." She has found a place in which she will have scope for acting and being according to her affectionate nature.
Companionship is not such a bad outcome. Miss Dunstable and Madam Max were moved to depart from total independence when they met people capable of loving them for what they were.
Compare Margaret's chances of fulfillment with those an actual Griselda, now Lady Hartletop, who put in a show at the Bazaar, moated by perfect self-containment.
Trollope says of Margaret in the moated grange phase, "No one capable of testing her character had met her." A test is what the book seems to be. Once Ellen called it misogynistic, but I think it is nearer a bald psychological experiment: Take someone with a particular potential, and give them means of expression. What do they do with it and what do they find? Though this gives them freedom, it immediately makes them a target for others. Now take away the means of expression, and see what happens.
Date: Sun, 04 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie, Chs 25-30: A Return to Quiet Desperation
The close is a reassertion of Margaret's role as the submissive woman who shall have to somehow listen to, endure a woman who detests her. What woman wouldn't be disappointed? The problem is not John Ball and it's not just his mother. It's his insistence that Margaret should submit to her. We have evidence enough he will ask this.
It really does matter what people say to one another. Words count. Lady Ball will also probably be active. And we have nothing from John Ball that suggests he will counter his mother beyond the marriage and what he gets to do in bed.
It would be bleak ending but for the presence of Mrs Mackenzie. She strikes the one note of contentment and satisfaction. Yes Lady Ball will grow accustomed to Margaret and will after a while out of pride pretend to approve of her; her behavior will probably be whatever it was about Rachel whom she still remembers with scorn. As Ball's wife Margaret will be able to do what he allows; that's been made clear. He's been keen on her controlling her tongue all along; it depends on how you rate having to listen to hard cruelty and nastiness in words. Miss Mackenzie has not enjoyed her sister-in-law's company much.
We get something of a rehearsal of a central element in The Warden. Trollope again shows his dislike of newspapers and how media works. Like Mr Harding, John Ball is profoundly distressed at being brought into public for criticism. Trollope is very interested in the process of shaming and how it controls people's conduct. In quite a number of his novels he shows us that this shaming comes out of prejudice and stupidity. Those doing the shaming do it out of enjoyment of ridicule (sheer); the issues are usually misunderstood; the pretended values hypocrisy and so much cant. In this particular novel the issue is Ball's sexual anxiety and male pride in public so the feelings aroused are acute and private. Again an obsessive theme in Trollope. In The Warden we had an issue of less general application to all readers, a specific political one which though (as in The Last Chronicle) hit the caste system of the church (Sadleir is very good on this). I can see why Davies said The Vicar of Bullhampton is out: these issues are relevant today as Sadleir said. Here the antagonist is treated derisively based on his class; that's how I see the repetition of the gloves, though why yellow is so unacceptable (and picked up in the 20th century by the Nazis all will remember) I don't know.
On the other hand, looked at from the light of Trollope's idenfication with Margaret and Ball, it's a moving book. He has re-enacted his own submission, his own frustrations, his own fear of sexual threat and the way in which society scapegoats people (Ball is scapegoated as was Mr Harding and in The Prime Minister the Duke of Omnium). That's why it's meaningful to us today in its underlying design. It's meaningful in the literal plot because our social and economic arrangements still leave women powerless very often, and woman are still not permitted to have the sexual freedoms of males; the magazines of our time (as the conduct books of Victorian times) would make of women sex objects and mothers and that's all. Submit. This is what you want, what you like say the media. And so this ending reinforces that. It's grim all right.
On all the passages quoted to demonstrate that Trollope's texts are like Wodehouse's, those in The Duke's Children where Silverbridge woos the American heiress demonstrate just what I argued in the first place. The courtship sequence of The Duke's Children does contain that whiff of fatuity which is the mark of Wodehouse. An empty shallow cliche doing inadequate work was quoted. One can enter into Trollope's depiction of the son-and--father relationship in The Duke's Children (one of its strong points) without finding the thin emasculated portrayal of sex at its end at all persuasive. What joy to eliminate reality especially sexual reality. The hero in Wodehouse need only worry about silly aunts and nieces who break the engagement before he is asked to perform. But chacun a son gout.
Yes we've had a lively time with lots of postings. The subtext of the discussion has been revealing. I read it in some of the causes of women's position today. Trollope himself was driven to this at the end of his career as the way in which he embodies and deals with it (through Victorian sentimental tropes) in the middle of his career was no longer available to him in 1880. A scene like that between Frank Gresham and Mary Thorne over a donkey would have been laughed at in 1880. We read it today giving it historical slack. Contemporaries didn't.
Come to think of it maybe this is partly why he didn't have a love scene between Ball and Margaret. Psychologically it made sense that a man embittered for 30 years, tired, thwarted by the world (and his mother) wouldn't so easily be able to turn to another woman especially the one of the family who had the enjoyment (what a laugh that) of these funds. But he also would have the problem of dramatizing the depths of emotions he conjures up.
The discussion of Wodehouse fits just what Trollope's text shows us. We live in a world made miserable by unacknowledged repressions which are themselves defended as safety. He lived in it too and wrote this book in response.
Miss Mackenzie began the book looking to break away and not be a man's nurse. She ends up a bedmate, but the experience is still catering to a male and she is again under the thumb of the caste-ridden and repressed. It's a story of everyone: resignation to the idea that life is little to be enjoyed but much to be endured. What is it Emerson said, most people live out their lives in quiet desperation.
Date: Sun, 04 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss M -- Happy ending? The happiest person in the book: Miss Todd
I appreciate the fact that in marrying John Ball, Margaret is choosing companionship with someone who appreciates her, and that is certainly better than some other possible choices she might have made. However, what worries me about John Ball is his complete obtuseness about Margaret's feelngs. Doesn't he understand that he is causing her suffering by refusing to tell her how he feels about her? Is he unaware that she considers herself engaged to him but doesn't know whether he thinks he is engaged? For months he ignores her need to know where she stands with him while he continues working out the legalities of the financial settlement.
During their married life at some time presumably other misunderstandings will arise. If John continues to decide what to do and works on it without bothering to discuss the issue with Margaret, that doesn't seem a happy outcome to me, no matter how kind his motives may be. He has still relegated her to the position of a child who must be cared for but to whom he owes no explanation of his care. She joins the circle of his children and will be treated the way they are. No doubt she'll draw emotional support from her relationship with Susanah and young Jack, plus whatever children she may have, but that's hardly a substitute for a satisfying and honest emotional relationship with a husband.
It strikes me that perhaps the happiest person in the book is Miss Todd, back in Littlebath, who seems to have a busy social and emotional life as well as her freedom. That's not quite what Margaret wants, but there might well be other chances coming along after John. Perhaps she should take that nursing job after all, but of course that would not bring the same closure as marriage.
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss M -- Happy ending?
Adele, thank you for your explanation, which seems perfectly fair.
Nobody seems to think John Ball has changed all that much. We know the trials he had to endure before facing Margaret finally. I like the description of his last, shuffling, proposal, where he keeps on starting to whinge and then realizing that this is going off in the wrong direction. They were together for two hours before Mrs Mackenzie knocked on the door i.e. in a different time, real conversation at last. There is at least hope.
Margaret has integrity, but has led a sheltered life. Given her disposition to make friends of people like Miss Todd, or accept the friendship of Mrs Mackenzie, she might learn how to manage the tendency in John Ball to plough his own furrow. I don't know how to judge the risk of endless pregnancies.
Perhaps Mrs Fairy-Godmother is not as credible as Miss Todd, but she also seems to be a worldly-wise person who enjoys her life.
Laying myself open to contradiction, I would say that Mrs Mackenzie doesn't just crudely manipulate Margaret and John Ball into a socially acceptable solution. She works to reduce the obstacles they maintain between themselves, which prevent what they both want. By virtually calling her to the witness stand, Mrs Mackenzie gets from Margaret a clear picture of how she sees things, including the sorrow that "he has not said anything at all." And Mrs Mackenzie's statement to John Ball, when he mentions the alternatives he means to offer Margaret, is based on an estimate of Margaret's character: the single life would not suit her, and, she would not accept his offer of money.
"Margaret's imagination", the author's of course, was coloured by his time and social class and personal experience, though we we think good art should not be bound by that. At least other possibilities were not dismissed automatically. As well as Miss Todd and nursing, this world included the acceptable choices of Priscilla and Aunt Stanbury (He Knew He Was Right), who had looked at marriage and either stood their own ground or concluded they it wasn't for them.
I think what I want to come to is that the outcome isn't a cop-out. It reflects Margaret's "character", with her strengths and limitations, and was consistent with the beginning, if circumstances permitted.
Sorry if this is all very repetitious. Ends here.
Date: Mon, 05 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] MK: The Bazaar, yellow gloves
I am among the fans of Chapter 27, The Negro Soldiers' Orphan Bazaar. I thoroughly enjoyed all the various scurrying to and fro, the silliness of Lady Ware and the total confusion and ineptness of the Duchess. Anyway, they needed something, some reason to show Miss Mackenzie to John Ball out of her mourning and in a cheerier light. I agree with Adele that Lady Glencora was magnificent. She handled everything with the greatest of ease and without making a big deal out of it.
On those infamous "yellow gloves." First, we in the U.S. (or me at least) tend to think of yellow as--well, yellow, bright. It may be that these gloves are buff colored, chamois colored, not what we think of as actually yellow. In a book by Dumas much was made of a yellow horse that turned out to be a palomino. The designation of the color may have changed over the many intervening decades.
In France at a time slightly earlier than the time of Miss Mackenzie, the yellow gloves weren't at all a sign of a lower class or working class. They were very popular with the bourgeoisie. Unfortunately, I can't recall if any of the upper class wore them, the Saint Germaine gang. Certainly they were worn by society wannabes in Paris. Manfred Smith would fit into this class of society wannabe.
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l]More yellow gloves
Dagny, in The Last Chronicle of Barset, the portrait painter also wears yellow gloves. His flamboyant costume is described in one chapter (which I don't have time to find now--forgive me), and, though Trollope may have been gently mocking the artist's dandyism, I don't think the yellow gloves had any particular stigma. I thought, Aha!, only because of Trollope's repeated mention of the yellow gloves in Miss Mackenzie.
Off to ride my bicycle with my biking fanatic husband before it rains (it's been a rainy summer here),
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2004
Subject: [trollope-l] Miss Mackenzie: Mr Rubb at the close of the novel
"I seem to be in a minority of one in respect to Mr Rubb. Personally I can nomore feel sympathetic to someone who swindles me out of my money than I would to someone who knocks me over the head and takes it. Their businesses may be in great danger of collapse or their families of starvation, but this does not excuse their solving their problems at my expense. Still, let's move on to the rest of the novel."
While I feel more sympathetic towards him by the end of the novel, I don't excuse his actions. I do find him a difficult character to pin down. By the end of the novel. I'm not sure I have a grasp on who he is. Although, all the men in the novel are self-serving and duplicitous so he's not alone in that regard.
: Miss Mackenzie: For Trollope kindness and words count
One value that does not seem to be sufficiently emphasized with respect to Rubb is kindness. In Trollope kindness counts. So too words. They matter intensely in fact -- more than money which is also presented as having a "terrible power." In HKHWR, Trollope puts the tragedy down to cruel words -- Emily's cruel words. I'd say Louis's silence and demand for obedience was important too, but she says what she could not tolerate was his calling her a "harlot." Whatever else happened between them in bed (see Ruth apRobert's article on this) does not matter. She also is humiliated by his behavior before other people; his inarticulateness and inadequacy. She resents his weakness. It's part of her self-destructive writhing at the limitation of her freedom and the roles allowed her as a woman.
This kind of analysis is not sufficiently in Miss Mackenzie. The only two characters given this kind of depth are Miss Mackenzie and John Ball. This is perhaps one reason people say Trollope at full length is Trollope at his finest. He needs the space wherein he repeats himself, for what he does to fill out space is endlessly repeat psychological analsysis, much of what he says being half-unconsicious. It works something like epistolary fiction where the author can let go.
That's partly the problem with readers' attempt to respond to Rubb. There are maybe 6 people in the novel who are kind and appreciate kindness, think it at all important: Margaret is central here, but Ball appreciates kindness even though a life of embitterment (and this is partly shaped by the mother) has limited his capacity -- as well as what he has imbibed from the world about guardedness and money. Two more minor characters, one of whom functions importantly respect kindness or are themselves kind. The first is Susannah. This is a little bit improbable given her background, and we are not given any reason to suppose Margaret chose her because of this trait. These are the blank spaces, the lack of consciousness in Trollope that is not uncommon with him, the resort to coarse external motivation (she chose Susannah because was oldest, period). It's hinted it's more than that with her congeniality to Ball's oldest son but we don't see more than the shallowest view of him. The other is of course Mrs Mackenzie. It's she who keeps the ending from being bleak; she engineers it and suffuses the last chapter with her presence.
The fifth is Rubb. He seems to be instinctively kind. Unlike Ball, through nature he can impulsively get beyond self- serving and beyond his egoism. That's why he appeals to Miss Mackenzie. Trollope won't let her marry him as his "beneath" her in class. It's interesting to try to figure out why as one of the central radical points of Lady Anna is to marry the perhaps illegimate young woman to a tailor. For this the novel was vilified in the press and seen as more radical than Felix Holt. It's perhaps also psychological as well as money. Yes Rubb is bad with money: he overestimates, he's less than scrupulous; Margaret's money would not be safe with him and hence she would not. Imagine her having to live with her sister-in-law -- without a title and money to silence the woman. The hero of Lady Anna is actually a young man with manners, sensitivity to manners and education of a more classical sort. We are told this. Oddly -- another blank or gap in consistency in Trollope -- what is held against Rubb is his vulgarity. I say oddly since Trollope thinks of himself as standing up for inarticulateness and sheer humanity (ugly, non-glamorous, non-romantic, non-macho males, non beautiful females, sordid lives shaped almost entirely by monetary considerations).
It's reading against the grain to emphasize money at the expense of the intangible. Most of the character do -- in fact all but the kind ones. The presentation is ironic. One fine quality of Miss Mackenzie and part of its complexity is its ironic attack on materialism.
I disagree that all the men are self-serving and duplicitious. Most of them are too stupid for this kind of performative behavior -- and equally driven by their passions. I use passion in the general sense for many more emotions than the sexual.
I know I've left out the sixth person: Miss Todd. She's more than kind. She does what Miss Mackenzie wanted to do: enjoy life without serving someone else's ego submissively. We might say that Mrs Mackenzie who seems to be this allpowerful good woman does the same. But then she is superwoman :).
Words count with Trollope. Obviously. So too kindness, there is so little of it. Another "moral" of the book which gives rise (out of Trollope's "moral consciousness" as he calls the place he lifted that worldly egoistic sensual bully, Grantly, from) to Mrs Mackenzie is this: one must be more than good/kind in the world to be good/kind enough. Trollope sees the meanness and toughness and nastiness of the world as clearly as Swift. That's why one needs a fairy godmother. She is the final comment on human nature and society in the book. Her emergence. The need for her.
Of course it's comic how Ball is surrounded by these strong women. He can't seem to escape them. They manipulate and hold him in. His one place of freedom is his obsessive useless working with money papers and his bedroom. I suppose he might be happy with the Wodehouse world as described to me: only fiances you get rid of and harmless aunts. But maybe not. He has a sexual body. Miss Mackenzie is very attractive to him.
Trollope does see the plight of women's lives. They have to live in intimate spaces. It counts to them who they have to live with and the words such people use. It can poison and corrode, wither their perception of the experience of life. That's why just about all the women in this list who've spoken have said how unhappy this ending is. Now it's Trollope who has shown us this bleakness. He both punishes (misogynist plot-design here and the demand for marriage) and exposes.
Re: More Women's Poetry: Frances Brown(e) (1816-1879)
As we are going to be reading Harry Heathcote, I thought the following stanzas from a long poem by a woman might be of interest. They depict women's position in the period and they are again typical poetry by women. The poetry is also appealing -- at least I find it so. It's good to hear a Victorian woman's voice at the close of this novel.
by Frances Brown(e)
A bark went forth, with the morning's smile,
That bore the maids of the western isle
Far, where the southern summers shine
On the glorious world beyond the line.
Theirs was a weary lot of toil,
And their hopes were turned to a better soil,
While their tears were shed for the island-shore --
They should look on its greenness never more.
But one was there -- who shed no tears! --
A girl, in the blossom of her yers; --
Yet bloom had she none from the roses caught,
For her cheek was withered with early thought, --
And her young brow bore the written doom
Of a lonely heart and a distant tomb ...
Silent she gazed on the shore and sea, --
And here her glance was bright and free,
Like a spirit's, bound by no kindred ties, --
(For she had none beneath the skies)
Till the mountains faded in misty blue, -
And louder the grief around her grew.
Then, turned the maid to that mourning throng, --
And poured the power of her soul in song!
How sadly mixed was that parting strain,
That told of the talent given in vain,
And the wisdom born of deep despair: --
With the tone of triumph blending there,
Throught the faintest fall and through the wildest swell
Was heard the voice of the heart's farewell, --
'Whence flow these floods of sorrows? --
O, my gentle sisters, tell --
Do the heart's deep fountains send their streams
To bid the land farewell?
Like a shadow passing from us
Is each mighty mountain brow, --
But earth -- the wide green earth -- is ours, -
We have no country now.
But, oh! the od home track,
Where our first affections rest.
Alas! no time shall give them back ...
Oh! man may grieve to sever
From the hearth or from the soil, --
For still some hope, some right, was his,
Which lived through want and toil; --
The dwellers of the forest,
They may mourn their leafy laid; --
But why should woman weep her land?
She has no portion there.
Woe -- woe for deeds of worth,
That were only paid with ill --
For to her the homes of earth
Are the house of bondage, still.
Frances Brown(e)'s The Australian Emigrant caught my eye as I've beeen reading Trollope's Australia and New Zealand (and have just finished Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves, a historical novel set in Australia in the 1830s). The strong feeling of not belonging anywhere for sure or permanent, of having no nationality or land that is permanently hers to hold, and disenfranchisement reminds me of a story by Trollope I read this month: "Journey to Panama" and its heroine, Emily Viner. It may also be of interest as it's typical poetry for Victorian women. Some may remember Trollope's characterizations of women poets as usually satiric and often spiteful and overambitious, getting back at other women. We saw a long screed to this effect in a chapter in Miss Mackenzie. In fact, most women's poetry of the period was sentimental, emotional, and carefully detached from real people so as to be sure not to be elicit any easy dismissal or criticism (and castigation). The Australian Emigrant is typical of all this.
A little biography taken from Margaret Reynolds and Angela Leighton's Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology:
Brown(e) is one of those poets who is taken up by the wealthy and educated as a poor and uneducated person who has somehow schooled herself. She was also blind and that appealed: she was called 'the blind poetess of Ulster.' Her great-grandfather had been a man of considerable property which he squandered so that by the generation before hers, her father was a village postmaster in County Donegal, Ireland. She had no schooling and as a result of smallpox when she was 18 months old, she was blinded and scarred for life. She apparently learnt by listening to her brothers read their lessons aloud, and when her sister went to school trained the sister to become her amanuensis and guide. Brown(e) must have been strongly determined. At 15 she began to write. By that time she had listened to Hume's History of England, a universal history, much of Byron's Childe Harold. At age 24 she began to listen to Irish poems and send compositions of her own to Irish Penny Journal and Athenaeum. The editor of the latter got Brown(e) a yearly pension of £20; in 1847 she moved to Edinburgh, in 1852, to London. Known as "the blind poetess" and marvelled at for "her conquest of knowledge and wisdom" (so wrote someone in an appendix to Men of the Time called "Women of the Time"), she was patronized (supported and her work put in print) by a group of English patrons, most notably Lord Lansdowne.
Brown(e)'s early verse wove folk theme; then she wrote of histories and legends. The Australian Emigrant was based on "real-life stories" told Brown(e) by the Irish who left Ireland and England for what they hoped would be a better life in Australia.
Brown(e) was the innocent occasion of a small scandal Frances Hodgson Burnett (of The Secret Garden and other novels for children fame) got herself into. One of Brown(e)'s books, a volume of tales for children, Granny's Wonderful Chair (1857) was hugely popular in the mid- to later Victorian period. When Frances Hodgson Burnett was a child (in the US of course), it was Burnett's favorite book. Or so Burnett said when years later Burnett was approached by a magazine for some children's stories, and Burnett retold Brown(e)'s stories and was then charged with plagiarism. Burnett defended herself by saying that she had lost her copy of Browne(e)'s and was retelling what she had remembered listening to when young.
Brown(e) has partly pictured herself in her woman singer emigrant who says she has no nationality, no pemanent ties (kindred), no land, is disenfranchised sheerly because she is a woman. She was an "emigrant" in London: Irish, poor, blind, uprooted necessarily in order to survive and have a decent fulfilling life.