A Still Turning Point of Decency; Why Do People read About Emotional Cruelty?; Lily Dale and Amelia Sedley; 2 Amelias, 1 Lily and 1 Mrs Lupex; Boardinghouse Letters

Jill Singer started us off:

From: "Jill D. Singer"
Reply-To: trollope-l@onelist.com
Subject: [trollope-l] SHA 7-12

A few miscellaneous observations and questions re this week's installment.

It certainly strengthens the parallel Trollope draws between Johnny and Crosbie and their comparative "romantic integrity" (which Ellen has more fully addressed). (E.g., Lily's statements re how sweet to love and be loved and Amelia's letter statement re "Is it not sweet to be loved.") However, I am searching for how Trollope nevertheless forces us to react so differently to the two situations. Perhaps one reason is the absence of scheming or money in Johnny and Lily's character. Although Johnny's behavior mirrors Crosbie's, his situation mirrors Lily's; naive incautiosness (and S&S/Marianne impulse) meets calculation and at least semi- deviousness and self-interest. Note that in this installment, Trollope/Narrator sighs both "Poor Lily!" (Ch. 9) and "Poor Eames . . ." (Ch. 10).

Some great lines and craft:

Ch. 7: Lily and Crosbie are both in earnest "only with him the earnest was beginning to take that shade of brown which most earnest things have to wear in this vale of tears."

Ch. 9: "There are some old people whom it is very hard to flatter, and with whom it is, nevertheless, almost impossible to live unless you do flatter them."

Ch. 9: What clever use of shifting time in the romantic (and quite physically passionate) love scene between Lily and Crosbie during their moonlight walk. (1) NOW: Trollope puts us quite in the present for the kiss closeup (2) SHIFT TO FUTURE: Crosbie's honorable thoughts as he returns to the Great Later (3) BACK TO NOW: After the kiss, with Lily recovering herself. But absolute quantity of time has continued during the "future break," sort of like the kiss-action continued during the time that lapsed in Trollope's shift to the future. What a writer, and how cinematic.

Ch. 9: Trollope's discussion of the female "let's be friends" (do come to the wedding).

Ch. 11: The naval warfare metaphor for Amelia's quarrel with Mrs. Lupex. [Almost PGW- like, although more extended than Plum's metaphors]

Ch. 12: Ironic adumbrations: Crosbie's reflection that he may as well go to Courcy because he would be settling down with Lily soon enough: "The quiet humdrum of his own fireside would come upon him soon enough." More than he could know; and Trollope shows us that fireside, much different (and far worse) than what Crosbie feared. "'But everything must come to an end some day,'" Crosbie's explanation to the Squire about his leaving.

Ch. 12: Great quip: "It is very hard, that necessity of listening to a man who says nothing." [Perhaps true of this posting, which is tending to the over-long. :-)

Ch. 12: Lily's characterization of Crosbie as her own bird that she shot with her own gun. A bi Freudian and perhaps reflective (as are other hints in this book) that Lily is definitely not a typical Victorian lady-victim. Marriage with Miss Lily would have presented challenges to a Victorian lord & master (although not to a good Trollopian hubby).

Ch. 12: Lady Julia as an object lesson of what one must avoid upon entering spinsterhood, voluntary or involuntary. (But perhaps it's easier to avoid when spinsterhood is undertaken by choice, not by necessity.)


Ch. 7: At the very end of the chapter, what is the unspoken completion of Squire Dale's sentence "'but I am quite aware that in this matter I have no right to interfere, unless, indeed --' and then he stopped himself."?

Ch. 9: What is Lily mimicking with her fingerbacks together at the waist portion of her curtsey? I'm not sure I'm envisioning this correctly or getting the allusion.

My own contribution to "Vocabulary Notes": I did not know what "creamlaid" paper is. Per the OED: "laid paper" appears to be paper made using a special wire arrangement to give the paper a ribbed appearance, and "cream-laid," adj., appliled to laid paper of a cream colour.

Enough, and more than enough.

Jill Singer

From: "Judy Warner"
Reply-To: trollope-l@egroups.com
Subject: [trollope-l] SHA 7-12

I thought this was a very interesting post, Jill, and not at all too long. I too wondered about the fingerbacks at the waist? So far, I don't find Lily; hard to take at all, as I'd heard and feared.

Judy Warner

Re: The Small House, Chs 7-9: A Few Thoughts

I have an answer for Jill's first question:

Ch. 7: At the very end of the chapter, what is the unspoken completion of Squire Dale's sentence "'but I am quite aware that in this matter I have no right to interfere, unless, indeed --' and then he stopped himself."

I speculate that the Squire will only think he has the right to interfere if Crosby jilts Lily. Men at the time felt they were obligated to come to the defense of the women in their family when an engagement was broken off, even if they had nothing individually to do with its terms. Think of Frank Gresham going after Gustavus Moffat. The Squire's remark follows his comment that he doesn't like long engagements. These are dangerous because, as the leering axiom has it, 'there's many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip'. It's just a guess; my general sense of the passage is that the Squire says he can only interfere if something goes wrong.

I thought there were many strong effective scenes in these chapters; perhaps the hardest kind of scene to write is the one in which characters speak plainly to one another, not dramatically. We have that in Bernard's calculating proposal to Belle and the direct conversation between the Squire and Crosbie. There's a deft handling of dialogue inside the context of action and picture in the scenes and spoken words at the party.

Again it may be that Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Trollope's The Small House are written within the same framework, the story of an erotic enthrallment and betrayal, one which begins with La Princesse de Cleves, but there are another series of close analogues which make me suspect Trollope went to Austen for the plot outline. It's known he used Jacobean plays in this way. In Chapters 7-9, we have Crosbie's appearance as a huntsmen with his dogs: John Willoughby is first seen that way, and he is a sportsman type with dogs throughout. The scene where Lily longs to tell the truth about why her mother doesn't want to dine at the squire's and is annoyed at having to obey an invitation recalls Marianne Dashwood's attempts to tell similar truths and her irritation that the Dashwoods have their cottage at a high rent if they are endlessly required to dine at the great house. Bell and the mother's worry that they have 'put a vast trust in a man they know little about recalls Elinor's similar worry; the wording is even close.

Then there are parallels with Trollope's other novels: when the narrator tells us that Johnny is 'suffering from the injured pride of futile love' I am reminded of Norman Tudor after Gertrude rejected him in The Three Clerks The pettiness and lack of self-understanding of Crosbie is well done. He doesn't want a doctor for his brother-in-law! what good would that do him? He congratulates himself that he has vowed not to jilt Lily. Yet Crosbie is no ogre; he is humane; many of us tell ourselves the same kind of rationalising tales. I find Crosbie one of the most fascinating characters in Trollope because Trollope sympathises with his venality, makes it human and of course Crosbie's punishment is to get what he thinks he wants when he asks for it -- he is punished for succeeding.

Possibly what is so good about these chapters is the intense inwardness of the action. Trollope has to set up the party so we may understand the evolution of the feelings involved. By giving us a tour of the depth of loving emotions some of the characters are capable of (Lily and Johnny -- yes they are a pair) and the pettiness and coldness of the others, their limited ability to feel anything beyond what some desire to embody what the generality of the world admires, Trollope undermines the moral certainties of sentimental fiction. The world is not malevolent, it is simply coldly selfish and those who have the power to be so, are unashamed: I can imagine just what Mrs Hearnes's poor blackened cottage might look like, and she can be evicted at any time.

The blandness makes all these betrayals and inhumanities all the more believable.

Not to forget the scenery is so delightfully pleasant, the air feels so beautiful, and we have characters whose impulses are honest.

Also that Trollope writes from a man's point of view, and specifically the gentleman who wants a self-contained chaste proud wife, though he enters into vulnerable women's feelings as they pulsate from their minds. Consider the following:

"I think there is nothing in the world so pretty as the conscious little tricks of love played off by a girl towards the man she loves, when she has made up her mind boldly that all the world may know she has given herself away to him" (Everyman The Small House, ed DSkilton, Ch 9, p 80).

I wrote in the margins of my book: Speak for yourself, Mister. First I am not sure what you think are conscious little tricks are really so manipulative; what you think put on may be spontaneous discomfort and embarrassment. Then whether the behavior be spontaneous or calculating, I think there's nothing so off-putting, nothing so cloying -- if it exists. Yuk. But then I'm a woman, and can never imagine myself behaving like that -- nor crying in my mother's lap. There are no such scenes or tremours of frisson and delight_ in Austen, George Eliot.

Much is intended to be suggested as having happened between Lily and Crosbie after the following line and before the beginning of the first line of the next paragraph:

'Oh, my love! she said, 'My love! my love!' As Crosbie walked back to the Great House that night, he made a firm resolution that no consideration of worldly welfare should ever induce him to break his engagement with Lily Dale ... (Ch 9, p. 85).

In the time span implied between the statement which followed some intense kissing and embracing in the previous paragraph and Crosbie's walk back, there were no pruriency and no artificial pretenses.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

April 4, 2000

Re: The Small House, Chs 10-12: A Still Turning Point of Decency

For the first part of this post I'm going to play devil's advocate; the second part suggest a more acceptable moral inference to be derived from this week's chapters, one consonant with what we find in Trollope's other novels; for the third, ask why we read such stories in the first place and have been reading them in European culture since about the 12th century.

Devil's advocate: I take up Jill Singer's point: she suggests that even if we can locate parallels in the paradigms of behavior we see in the Amelia Roper-Johnny Eames and Lily Dale-Adolphus Crosbie plot in which both girls are over-anxious, eager, vulnerable, and both men take advantage of them, Trollope is clearly disgusted by Amelia and wants us to love and pity Lily. To see the paradigm is not totally to read against the grain: we are supposed to assume a good deal goes on between Eames and Amelia at night; that is, that she opens the door after he looks through that chink, why else all these hints about her long hair -- always symbol for sexy women in Victorian times; and Lily and Adolphus are engaging in a strong degree of sexual intimacy which seems (in our coarse language) to include heavy petting. Yet Jill is right: Trollope presents Amelia Roper as someone the mention of whose name in the same breath as that of Lily 'pollutes' Lily. Amelia is treated as manipulative, hypocritical, her behavior towards everyone variously ugly compounds of attempted intimidation, threatened harsh insults (she's always on the edge of one) and embarrassing behavior (in her letter to Johnny she threatens to come down to Guestwick).

Now if the emphasis were on Amelia's vulgarity, lack of education or interests of any kind beyond getting a man, her manifest personal lack of subtlety or kindness, I could take it a bit better. Although most modern novels treat such a character type a bit more kindly, and present them with less caricature, such types are the characters the sensitive types at the centers of novels usually shrink from, the types who are poisoning everyone else's existence. But I submit it's not. To avoid making a long long post, I leave it to others to read the text and see that the emphasis is on the reality that Amelia has had sex with men, and plenty of them, partly for presents. We are to despise her because's she not a virgin. Why is this? Are we to despise Lily because she and Adolphus are up to similar tricks in the garden? It may be said, well, this is Lily's first and Lily's engaged. But are we then to despise Lily later when she's jilted and has known sexual arousal? No. We are to respect her just as much. She's not polluted. Why?

There is intense class bias here. Lily is a lady and Amelia a working class milliner's helper. There is also a sordid attitude towards sex: I called the attitude of mind captured by the language of the 50s in the US vile, one which despises the weak and vulnerable, punishes them for giving in. Trollope's is a Victorian variant on this: one could treat Amelia's desperation with poignancy. One of the morals we are to draw from Lily's story thus far is precisely that level of mind which says 'don't show your cards, honey, until he shows his; get what you can, it's a bargain, before you 'give' anything'. This goes back to Richardson who advised girls never to love or show love until they are fully loved in return. But how are you to know? Cometh the stern admonition: you must therefore not give. Lily is too sexy, she is too easily aroused, too wrapped up in herself, and Adolphus doesn't value what is so manifestly easily his. In other books Trollope presents men who he urges us to detest (a captain in "The Parson's Daughter of Oxney Colne") because they begin to despise and walk all over girls once they know they have them. Had Lily played harder to get, maybe Adolphus would not have left for the castle?

We can see the same class bias and resultant treatment of sex in the story of the Lupexes. Again a very unpleasant pair, but on what basis are we to dislike them? Trollope goes as far as he dares in suggesting to us that Mrs Lupex picks up money on the side from lovers with her husband's connivance (he gets out of the room). Trollope says of Mrs Lupex's relationship with Cradell 'there was no beauty in the light, -- not even the false brilliance of unhallowed love' (Everyman Small House, ed DSkilton, Ch 11, p. 99). Mrs Lupex is worse than Amelia, yet the emphasis on the text here is simply on the sordid nature of their economic position. They don't have the money to pay the rent regularly; he's a scene painter; he drinks. We might ask what the moral here is? I fear many readers might have said, Well Mr Trollope is teaching middle class mothers not to send their sons to boarding houses like the one Mrs Roper runs. When we come down to this point, we reach that place critics who call Trollope morally stupid write from. Is it the Lupexes fault they are lower class and haven't got money and must wrest, and scrape and maneuver and then turn around to defend their self- respect from such as Amelia Roper? Is this just social criticism? I think I was supposed to laugh, but when I can't tell a laugh from a sneer, one derived from my supposedly middle class genteel position, I turn away from the text in distaste.

Except .... and now of course I will show another way of reading this novel which lifts it above this kind of coarse sexist, classist level, Trollope presents another variant on the amorality of the Ropers and Lupexes in the upper class world of de Courcy castle. Are they any better over there? Not a bit of it. Their sneers are just more genteel; the canine quality of Rosina de Courcy's mind comes out in her letter to Adolphus. Does not he want to hobnob with the big ones? Big on what level? What values are they which lead Adolphus to think that Dr Crofts would not be a brother-in-law he would want? Adophus is a court-flunky. He is indecent in his soul, and treats one of the characters in the novel who figures forth the still point of decency in the book -- Lily -- very badly, even here, from the moment he is told he's to get no money with her. When we go into the minds of the people who go to Mrs Dale's party we find that it is only a veneer of manners which keeps things cordial, nothing within. Within there's much hollowness in everyone but Lily, Johnny, Bell and Mrs Dale -- I grant a tiny corner of altruism in Squire Dale's soul where he feels satisfaction that he provides for his brother's widow, but that is tinged by pride in his power. So the difference between Social Life in Mrs Roper's Boarding House and Social Life in Mrs Dale's party is the courtesy of the manners.

Trollope would say that's what we've got to cling to; that counts. That's why one values the concept of the gentleman -- I think we may agree that Adolphus won't beat Lily ever, no matter how much his rich 'friends' despise the small house he lives in, and its lack of prestigious ornamentation, the money having gone for clothing and caring for babies and themselves. The human animal in the generality has only this exterior to make beauty with. Then there's the rare sensitive ethical type who speak the language of moral choice and hold to doing right by other people at worldly cost to themselves. Alas, that language of moral choice has no weight, no power to compel. Lily, Bell, Mrs Dale and Johnny represent a still turning point of decency which never gets near the corridors of privilege and power. We might say privilege to do what? Why, to visit Rosina de Courcy, that's what. Ah, and to get into Parliament, that's what -- through connections. And then to have control and pretty things. How much do people give up for pretty things? Now when we reach this level of Trollope's text, we may say he is not morally stupid but aware of how natural decent impulses are twisted by social norms to the point of people destroying themselves, and others. Lily will be the cynosure of this too: her mind riven, torn, tortured. We are getting there. How far is Adophus his surface defences? The scene between him and the Squire where the Squire wins is masterpiece in showing us the politics of submission and dominance hinges over who has the power of the purse. Had Adolphus been more decent, he would never have started the conversation; he would have recognised the littleness of the whole thing.

Ellen Moody

Re: The Small House, Chs 10-12: Why Do People Read About Emotional Cruelty

Why do we read this sort of thing? Not why did Trollope write chapters like those which occur in Mrs Roper's boarding house, but we do we read it? We could also answer why we think Victorians read Trollope's Barsetshire books in such large numbers -- at this point we've read 5 on this list and found them to be quite different from one another, at least the first 3 are different from one another and 1 and 2 from 3, 4 and 5.

Do we enjoy Lily's suffering because Trollope takes us beneath the surface of life to express anguish and denied hopes we've known? Why do we like to go into Adolphus's mind? Does it justify us when we've felt this way? Does he make us feel better? or worse? Does it increase the bitterness and allow for saturnine laughter when we are confronted with caricatured vulgarity and class-based and sex-based sneers (I refer to the cat-fight between Mrs Lupex and Miss Roper)? Do we enjoy sneering at Cradell? Does it make readers feel superior? This little incident in another one which shows Trollope's adherence to the gentlemanly (I use the word somewhat ironically) code of duels, and the admiration he seems to assume we feel for the man who beats another up.

Do we read to find a friend? Mr Trollope. Then you have in this book the problem, Do you understand his attitudes and wherein do you share them and wherein do you differ.

It has been argued that the novel form as we have it today and as it appears in Trollope's texts begins in the 12th century with the Arthurian romances, the first texts to achieve length by going into intense psychologising and presenting experience from a variety of subjective standpoints, including that of the author as narrator. Why do we like this? We don't read Trollope for the story because even this early we can tell what's going to happen if we are alert readers -- clues are planted for us everywhere.

Or do we? Do we like stories? The sense impressions of our lives come at us from everywhere and here there is this putting it all together in one narrative unit -- made easy for us. Mindlessly we read on, happy in the apparent sense of things Trollope makes for us. From this viewpoint novels reach their ultimate in the TV and movies.

Ellen Moody

From: "Catherine Crean"
Reply-To: trollope-l@egroups.com
Subject: [trollope-l] Lily Dale and Amelia Sedley

An e-mail acquaintance of mine (on another forum) replied to a post I made about The Small House at Allington. She said that Lily Dale (from my description of the plot and the character) sounded like Amelia Sedley in Vanity Fair. I wanted to post back right away saying that no two characters could be so dissimilar when I thought, "Right, but how exactly are these characters dissimilar?" And I didn't know how to respond. It's at times like this that I realize the genius of Trollope. He creates a distinct, well rounded, sympathetic heroine (Lily Dale) and when I try to describe Lily myself (without the benefit of Trollope's words) Lily falls flat. I don't think that Trollope wrote any namby-pamby female characters. Certainly he never created anything like Dicken's Esther Summerson. (And I'm thankful for it.) But if anybody has any comments about Amelia and Lily I'd be interested to hear them.

Catherine Crean

From Catherine Jordan:

I am just now reading the section where Amelia and Mrs. Lupex go to battle -- I love the battle ship analogy. I don't understand something about this one passage, though:

"Mrs. Lupex had doubtless on her side more matured power, a habit of fighting which had given her infinite skill, a courage which deadened her to the feeling of all wounds while the heat of the battle should last, and a recklessness which made her almost indifferent whether she sank or swam. But then Amelia carried the greater guns, and was able to pour in heavier metal than her enemy could use; and she, too, swam in her own waters. Should they absolutely come to grappling and boarding, Amelia would no doubt have the best of it; but Mrs. Lupex would probably be too craft to permit such a proceeding as that."

On what does Trollope base the conjecture that Amelia would win (because she carries "greater guns" and has "heavier metal")? Is it only because she is the daughter of the house that she would have the advantage over Mrs. Lupex? Or have I missed something else in the reading?


Catherine Jordan

From Dagny:

I got the impression, and this is only my opinion, that should the fight leave off with words and become an actual scrimmage that Amelia was either the larger or in much better shape physically.

And speaking of fighting, I was amazed on reading later in the section that Johnny Eames wanted to fight Crosbie, even should they both be killed. Sounds a lot like the French novels I have been reading lately.


To Trollope-l

April 6, 2000

Re: The Small House: 2 Amelias, 1 Lily and 1 Mrs Lupex

In response to Catherine Crean's friend, I'd offer the idea that Amelia is passive. She does not actively show her love for Osborne; she waits for him to show, to take her, she responds intensely, but only after Osborne has acted. Amelia also has no wit, no playfulness; she doesn't challenge her man. Lily does all this: she shows her love at the same time as Adolphus does his. She is aggressive in her passions; she is openly sexy. She challenges him (though she never moves into ridicule or mean teasing). While Lily is crushed by betrayal, she does recognise when she is betrayed; she does not live a lie. Amelia doesn't recognise what everyone else sees; Amelia refuses to see Dobbin loves her, she uses him. Lily recognises what has happened, understands the full nature of the treachery. In fact that's what's brave about her: she faces what has happened and lives through the pain. It shatters her illusions, but she does survive. She also recognises Johnny Eames's love and doesn't use him; she doesn't take advantage of him.

All this makes Amelia Sedley sound bad. I could make a good case for sympathising with her too. Among other things, she is honest and she hasn't a spiteful bone in her body. Her lack of conventional vanity is also important for Thackeray. A defense of her would have to include Thackeray's ambivalence towards her, the context of Vanity Fair, and the characterisation of Becky Sharp. However, I don't want to make the message overlong. All I want to do is show why Lily is a courageous heroine and characterised in ways that are daring for Trollope's era. The sexual intensity of the young woman is especially bold on Trollope's part. Think of the sexless women and men in Dickens.

In response to Catherine Jordan, like Dagny I see Amelia's "great guns" as her size. Perhaps the central meaning is also that Amelia is the daughter of the landlady. She doesn't have to pay rent; she can demand rent. I also have the sense that Amelia is willing to take all conflicts further than Mrs Lupex. As we know, the person who is willing to ratchet up a conflict the furthest is the one who wins it. In the cat-fight between them, Amelia is also more willing to speak harsh truths, and before these, Mrs Lupex quails. Perhaps Mrs Lupex is then to be taken as potentially the nicer person.

I will be interested to read Balzac to see what are the parallels between French and English novels of this period. Sometimes critics/scholars of Trollope say he ought to be seen in a European context; the problem often is the critic/scholar has him or herself not read anything much beyond what was written in English and in England and in the USA in the 19th century. Trollope himself read French.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

April 9, 2000

Re: The Small House: Chs 10-18: Boardinghouse Letters J

ill Singer directed my attention to the letters interwoven into these two instalments. Though I didn't mention them, Trollope has already dropped three full letters into the narrative: Chapter 10 opens with the letters of Cradell and Amelia to Johnny Eames. They both contrast and parallel one another: Cradell is excusing himself to his friend for his passivity, cowardice, and describing scenes in ways which he wants them to be seen; it is not an aggressive letter. Amelia's is: she demands he write to her; threatens to come visit him; hectors him while pretending love. She also retells the scenes Cradell has described from another perspective. Letters are wonderful to use this way: one can retell the same scene many times, each time using the same matter to project a different mind and to show the scene may be read in another way. The letters are also alike: both writers are conscious hypocrites: they are aware their behavior is a tissue of lies (Everyman The Small House, ed DSkilton, Ch 10, pp. 89-93).

Chapter 12 has Rosina de Courcy's even more insincere letter. (She signs herself 'Yours very sincerely'). There is a sense in which both Cradell and Amelia are sincere: he sincerely wants Johnny to see the events in a light most favorable to him and be on his side; Amelia sincerely wants to rope (yes, it's a good name) Johnny into marriage. Read Lady de Courcy's letter and you find yourself staring into a wall of opaque ice: this is the silvery slippery surface of courtesy as posturing. She is all posture. She mocks the pastoral world she conjures up as Allington; yet we have no idea how she does regard it. There isn't a word which reflects her real attitude towards the people she mentions in the second paragraph. It seems to be in her interest to get Crosbie to her castle; her appeal is based on the 'greatness' of the figures there. Do her daughters think Crosbi 'so clever at making a houseful of people go off well'? If so, is that why they want him to come? (Everyman The Small House, Ch 12, p. 103). Of course, it's written in a style which precludes one taking it seriously, so if he doesn't come, she's 'covered'.

The letters put before our eyes two desperate presences reaching out graspingly and a hollow woman tenatively putting out what might be a claw, only it resembles a pretty hook. More pastoral imagery? When I have come across the kind of person who can write such a letter or have received a version of this sort of thing I turn away as from something withering were you to engage with it. The great world is of course said to run on the deftness of such a woman. The third letter is deft.

This week's chapters have two dropped in letters and two woven ones. The woven ones are the kind I described in my 'Partly Told in Letters' as highly innovative and unusual in 19th century narratives, at least as used by Trollope in the midst of subjective meditations and frequently to carry on the plots of the stories. At the opening of Chapter 14 we get Amelia's letters as filtered through Johnny's consciousness. It burns in his mind. We can note how Trollope as narrative moves into what's called indirect free speech to imitate the feel of Amelia's mind impressing itself on Johnny:

'Had he not better go to Australia or Vancouver's Island, or -- ? I will not name the places which the poor fellow suggested to himself as possible terminations of the long journeys which he might not improbably be called upon to take. That very day, just before the Dales had come in, he had received a second letter from his darling Amelia, written very closely upon the heels of the first. Why had he not answered her? Was he ill? Was he untrue? No; she would not believe that, and therefore fell back upon the probability of his illness. It it was so, she would rush down to see him. Nothing on earth should keep her from the beside of her bethrothed. If she did not get an answer from her beloved John by return of post, she woudl be down with him at Guestwick by the express train ... (Everyman Ch 14, p. 126).

Who wouldn't rush off into the woods to cool down, to think what to do next? His brooding takes a remarkable form: he composes a letter in his mind, one he never gets down on paper. This is a favorite device of Trollope's, and perhaps unique to him. Throughout Trollope's novels from The Bertrams on characters dream letters, compose them, struggle to get them onto paper, sometimes do, and then often do not send them; or they fail to get them onto paper; we are given the thought processes behind the performance that they cannot carry off. Again Trollope avails himself of free indirect speech to move from the narrator's to Johnny's consciousness.

Here is Johnny's:

The letter, as he framed it here, was not a bad letter, if only he could have got it written and posted. Every word of it he chose with precision, and in his mind clearly and justified his purpose.

'He acknowledged himself to have been wrong in misleading his correspondent, and allowing her to imagine that she possessed his heart. he had not a heart at her disposal. He had been weak not to write to her before, having been deterred from doing so by fear of giving her pain; but now he felt that he was bound in honour to tell her the truth Having so told her, he would not return to Burton Crescent, if it would pain her to see him there. He would always have a deep regard for her', -- Oh, Johnny -- 'and would hope anxiously that her welfare in life might be complete'. That was the letter, as he wrote it down in the tablets of his mind under the tree, but the getting it on paper was a task, as he knew, of greater difficulty. Then, as he repeated it to himself, he feel asleep.

'Young man', said a voice in his ears as he slept ... (Ch 14, pp. 129-30).

Johnny thinks the voice comes from his dream; it is Earl de Guest come to tell him he will catch rheumatism. The Earl can wake Johnny up, get him onto his feet, but he cannot write the letter for him.

We are to compare Johnny's dreamed letter to the real one: it is a weasle affair: he asks her to let the matter drop until he comes back, does not say he will go live elsewhere, no words of his heart given elsewhere, just that they would be unhappy if they married because they have nothing to live on, and he begs her pardon for any deceit (Ch 14, p. 132).

Why do we not despise him? I suggest because we compare his form of weasling to Crosbie's. Trollope sees letters as most of the time performances, things to be distrusted, ways of manipulating someone at a distance. The person who can put perform manipulatively and present the conventional face without a break in the wall of cant is to be distrusted. If we look at the sentiments of Johnny's letter to Amelia, they actually echo in brief what Crosbie tells Amelia. But the soul behind them is so different; we may say Johnny could never pull off such prevarications and excuses before Amelia. He himself calls his letter 'cold' -- which is what Crosbie is to Lily's face.

Crosbie's letter is the second full dropped in one we have. To call it a 'love-letter' is high irony. Trollope shows us Crosbie working himself up to it. He has just deserted this girl. He is weasling himself into the de Courcy family whom he despises -- why I cannot tell, since his conduct fits in with theirs. Trollope shows us how struggle, time and effort have to go into the writing of 'an affectionate warm-hearted letter' to Lily. Repeated once more -- as if we had not had it put before us enough times before in the dramatic scenes, Crosbie's words and thoughts and the narrator's assessment -- is the assertion that Crosbie is an 'ungenerous man, 'worldly inconstant'. I am with those who see Lily as having gone to a degree of sexual intimacy well beyond the one of courting and embracing, perhaps to what used to be called 'heavy petting', something sufficient sexually to awaken her (reach orgasm), but not gone all the way. This it was to give oneself utterly to a man for a chaste woman before marriage in Victorian times. Lily has been all generosity in this, all openness, all loyalty, unworldly and she will be constant. Crosbie therefore works up a letter much of which is honest in the sense that he conveys his conflicted feelings. What he is not honest about is his intent or the purpose of his letter: which is to soothe her. This letter is like Johnny's to Amelia: a stopgap. Only Johnny's intent is simply to be a stopgap and he's honest about it. Crosbie is not.

We can also compare the style and length. How simple is Johnny, concise, to the point. Crosbie seems to circle round something he is unwilling to communicate. What is that? Why he left Lily, what he is doing at the castle, and what it is he wants to tell her more freely in London. As our narrator says, in case we missed it, there is a vein in the letter which begins a drumbeat towards escape: "I have struggled honestly, with my best efforts to success; but I am not good enough for such success" (Ch 18, pp. 168-71). Crosbie is the more sophisticated man than Johnny; he is not as direct, and Trollope wants us to see this in the style, and ask what is this sophistication worth when it is not accompanied by integrity.

In my lecture, 'Partly Told in Letters' I argued that once Trollope reaches The Bertrams you can actually read a Trollope novel by moving from letter to letter. I think you can see this undergirding of the narrative by a stream of subjective epistolary narration woven and dropped into omniscient narration here in The Small House of Allington.

I should say I am not sure I have picked up all the letter in last and this week's instalments. I only covered those which had to deal with the two central interlocking triangular love stories

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

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Page Last Updated 11 January 2003