"Unless I marry I can be nobody"; Imogen: The problem of the educated lady; Lady Mabel Grex; Ayala and Imogene; On Identifying with Ideas about "Angels of Light"; Ayala as Kate Field, and her unappreciated angel, AT; Names in Ayala's Angel; Frank Houston and Catherine Dickens (Was "AA: Frank & Imogene); Landscapes; Ayala's Angel and Northanger Abbey

To Trollope-l

February 12, 2001

Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 25-30: "Unless I marry I can be nobody"

A new character steps on our stage: it is the voice of Imogen. I deliberately paraphrase a sudden utterance by Posthumous Leonatus in Shakespeare's Cymbeline as it seems probable that Trollope is not just alluding to Shakespeare's heroine in his depiction of his Imogen; he models aspects of her personality on the earlier heroine. Especially the outspoken- ness, the strong adherence to a personal morality, the feel of an adventurous self. It was these things as well as her domestic situation, her role as a loving wife and daughter, at once loyal and demanding that made this character so appealing to Victorians. Hazlitt is just the most famous of those in the period who wrote about Shakespeare's plays to single out Imogen as his favorite heroine. Like Allen-a-Dale, Trollope alludes to Imogen numbers of times in his novels, and usually for a heroine stubborn in her plain truth.

Imogene also brings another point of view into the book. one familiar from Trollope's other books. She is against these entirely mercenary arrangements; at the same time she recognizes (like Dorothy Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right -- we have a few people on Trollope-l who are also reading HKHWR) that the world accords her no respect, no position, sees no value in her life, and gives her no power unless she marries. The opening dialogue of Chapter 28 is all the more effective for its lack of personalizing, the lack of names attached to the give-and-take:

"'I tell you fairly that I think you altogether wrong -- that it is cowardly, unmanly, and disgraceful. I don't mean, you see, to put what you call a fine point upon it'.

'No, you don't'.

'It is one of those matters on which a person must speak the truth or not speak at all. I should not have spoken unless you forced it uopn me. You don't care for her in the least'."

He counters with the argument that she will marry for money "before long" too, to which she responds:

"'You have no right to say so because I am engaged to no man. But if I were so it is quite different. Unless I marry I can be nobody. I can have no existence that I can call my own. I can have no other way of pushing myself into the world's notice. You are a man'" (Folio Society Ayala, ed AEThomas, Ch 28, "Miss Docimer", p. 218)

Frank proceeds to justify himself with the kind of arguments for this type of maneuvre we find in a number of other novels, except in those cases it the narrator who justifies a Harry Clavering, a Frank Tregear. It's the old argument of all or most people behave this way; it's common; it's natural. Why expect a saint. Except there's a difference here though: the Harry Claverings of the world fool themselves; they pay the tribute of vice to virtue with their hypocrisy before themselves. Frank Houston does no such thing. The Frank Tregears do not willingly visit their ex- mistresses before marrying someone else.

This would be cruel teasing but that this young man is as insensitive as Traffic himself. He also apparently can't keep away; he is ambivalent.

Imogene's entry into the story brings a new and important perspective to the story: a feminist one. One need not read against the grain to see it.

She is not overtly matched against Ayala, but it's probably significant that she emerges from Trollope's imagination just as Ayala has refused Stubbs. Stubbs is as eloquent in his way. She has told him "you are not he"; too embarrassed to admit that she isn't physically attracted to him, finds him non-glamorous, nothing like the Wether-faced Byronic types with a teasing rakish interior, nothing grand in the way she has been dreaming. He is ugly and not romantic. That he fell off his horse is indicative. Then she dislikes his name. Are we this petty and small? Yes we are. To this Stubbs opposes the following inspiriting utterance:

"'But your imagination has depicted to you something grander than I am' -- then she assented quickly, turning round and nodding her head at him -- someone who shall better respond to that spirit of poetry which is within you?' And again she nodded her head approvingly, as though to assure him that now he knew the whole truth. 'Then, Ayala, I must strive to soar till I can approach your dreams. But, if you dare to desire things which are really grand, do not allow yourself to be mean at the same time. Do not let the sound of a name move you, or I shall not believe in your aspirations (Ch 25, p. 201)

At Merle Park our third genuinely honest soul -- Sir Thomas Tringle -- is not content either. He is a wonderful example of someone who goes through intense exhausting motions each day, partly bedcause they are intense and exhausting -- kidding him or herself it's for some other reason, to get something outside the round. The salvation for Sir Thomas is work itself. It is this for Plantagenet Palliser as he tells Silverbridge in a memorable passage in The Duke's Children. It was so for Trollope. We can see in such potraits that whatever Trollope's narrator may argue for on behalf of a Frank Houston, the latter simply doesn't make the cut. Sir Thomas is a genuine if ultimately befuddled man. He has his goals on straight: he soaks no man. Like Traffic, Frank will be nobody even if he marries -- or can only become somebody who cares about life for real if he has to work for a living. Do something.

I felt some sympathy for the Lucy character even though she's such a stereotype. Hamel is not quite. He has a real pride -- more than, except for Stubbs and young Tom Tringle, the other males of the book thus. This pride means integrity of selfhood, a heart if you want. Frank's appeared atrophied for now. We have talked over the other characters a good deal, and the hunting scenes so I'll stop here.

The story's irony feels directed at Lady Tringle, and sympathetic to Mrs Dosett still

Comments on this week's chapters or the book as a whole thus far, anyone?

Ellen Moody

Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Reply-To: trollope-l@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [trollope-l]: Imogene: The problem of the educated lady

Ellen has sent us a sensible analysis of Imogene in Ayala's Angel. I only wish to add that Imogene is expressing a problem that Trollope has been concerned with in many books. The problem is the educated young lady who has never been trained to earn her living and who must marry well in order to exist. Some of us may rightly be reminded of Jane Fairfax in Emma. It's a sticky problem and not one that was invented by nineteenth-century novelists. Society invented this problem, and Society in the nineteenth century failed to deal with it. Today, in a time when women may enter any profession, we are not completely aware of how hazardous life was for women in the nineteenth century. Mabel Grex is my favorite example of the young educated woman who really has no place to go. But she is only one of many. We all are better off today, even though women in any profession earn about seventy per cent of what men in the same profession earn. Maybe tomorrow, when salaries are equalized, we can look back to our time the way we today look back to Trollope's time.

Sig

To Trollope-l

February 14, 2001

Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 25-30: Lady Mabel Grex; Ayala and Imogene

Sig's posting prompts me to say I look forward to that probably far off day when we read The Duke's Children together. Alas, for this book, it is stuck in a limbo for us at the close of our Palliser read. I have a couple of virtual colleagues (from Victoria) who tell me they teach it regularly; it goes over splendidly all by itself.

Among the many elements in it of interest is the character of Lady Mabel Grex -- perhaps Trollope's most powerful portraits of a woman who is estranged from the outside world. She is one of the many female characters inhabiting the later 18th and Victorian novel who find their society's ways of defining them, and the society's demands that she spend her life in certain limited ways is at odds with their own inner natures and subjective needs. Lady Mabel Grex is exhorted to exploit what are called the laws of the group in order ot further his or her (egoistic) interests. But these interests are narrowly confined to fitting into a system where exchange value (rank, money, luxuries) dominate over use value (how we actually spend our time and feel about being alive from moment to moment). The result is the only freedom the character can find is in her own mind.

All Trollope's character experience this radical disjunction, the men as well as the women, but some suffer for it because they can't fit themselves into what are called "the norms". They then are pressured by the other characters into seeing themselves as freaks, misfits. In this light the Rev Josiah Crowley and Laura Kennedy dramatise variants on the experience of Lady Mabel Grex. A social psychologist would say the society is so organized as to inadequately fulfill only a small range of personality types and needs. For some readers these are stories of alienation; for others the novels function is to enact before their very eyes why they have given up whatever they have -- to fit in. Whether you can consciously let yourself identify with and relish the subjectivities set all aflame as the characters meditate over their conflicts with the social order and other characters who are comfortable in it or use the meditations to moralise on behalf of "prudence" (aka obeying the ideology) is a matter of temperament.

The thing about Lady Mabel Grex is she is given a hero, a young man, who is himself not a conscious exploiter of the situation. So when she comes to grief because she cannot get herself to exploit him -- as their subjectivities, their understandings are so far apart, she being so much more clever and perceptive than him, so much less optimistic -- we grieve for her. Her first love too, Frank Tregear did not desert her; he did not abandon her. It was she who made the decision that they should part. She failed to understand the persistence of her depth of feeling and failed to see that he was able to value someone quite different from she, someone simpler, less interesting but loyal and faithful enough, partly because she has rank (Lady Mary Palliser). So her pain is exacerbated because she sees she can be done without: he can fit into this system, while her personality is reduced to nothing, to not counting, to what's not wanted.

The situation in Ayala's Angel is much simpler. Houston is a shallow egoist; he's not worthy Imogene in the first place, though this must be taken on trust as we are not allowed to dwell in her subjective consciousness very much. We simply learn after a while that their love is not based on likeness of nature but on physicality: sex, on the allurement of the animus figure which is part of what Trollope is meditating specifically in this book: what Tom Tringle is the very opposite of in one direction (gauche, openly vulnerable, a boy when it comes to understanding his sexual nature) and Jonathan Stubbs is the very opposite of in another (physically ugly as the social conceptions of the time go, but with the full subjective consciousness of a mind that is large, rich, with many treasures and terrains in it). Imogene's love resembles Alice Vavasour's for George Vavasour -- the "wild" man versus the "worthy" in the earlier novel.

Still the advent of Imogene onto the stage makes the novel much more interesting and gives real weight to the Ayala figure. Trollope introduces another perspective: now the young girls may be stretched along a continuum which plots their understanding and decisions in terms of sexual attraction and marriage as a business arrangement or genuinely companionate friendship. This is not the same thing as exploring the "angel of light" figure -- a displaced version of Jung's animus who appears full-blown in Byron's Werther-faced heroes. We can now see Ayala's "innocence" (to give it no harsher name) in the light of Imogene's situation which she too faces but is as yet only dimly aware of. Does she mean to give up such a man as Stubbs in this social order which prizes her only as an ornament (when she "behaves", submits to be in her "place")?

This continuum clearly links into the one we have been experiencing through the characters thus far: one which opposes the life of the imagination to money. We have a story where a young man is willing to sell his body and presence for living without supporting himself. He is no artist (Hamel has that and so presumably did Dormer). The dilemma is poised in just these terms by Sir Thomas Tringle. Hamel and Lucy will now be fitted in as Hamel is a proud man who has a vocation even if it doesn't bring in oodles of cash, and he is not for sale.

The strong movement into simplification in this novel is probably a result of Trollope's having gone over these issues so often that he is too impatient. He alludes to what he wants to say rather than developing it at length. He has worked this out before and is at play.

Ellen Moody

On Identifying with Ideas about "Angels of Light"

February 18, 2001

From and to Jill Spriggs

Dearest Ellen;

This whole concept of "Angel of Light" is so foreign to me. I guess, given my social outsider status as a teenager gave me no illusions about my desirability. It was my youngest sister that the boys chased after, to my mystification. Lack of interest in me, by the opposite sex, made me more self reliant. I never had the idea that some Prince Charming would come sweep me off my feet. Any castles that I would dwell in, would have to be of my own construction.

Angel of Light, Prince Charming, it matters not. I do find it interesting that, in spite of being such a bookworm, it never had the result for me, that we have seen in so many fictional heroines, that of making them unsuitable for any real-life mates. I guess my inner core must be more pragmatic than romantic.

Love,
JIll

Dear Jill,

Just a brief response before I go eat lunch. I never had an idea of any "angel of light" coming to me either -- if it is to be understood as some ideal -- and mostly sexless or de-fanged -- prince charming. I did long for an animus in the Rhett Butler sense: though by age 15 or so I at last knew somewhat better. Alas, only somewhat. I wonder if novels have this kind of effect of making girls unsuitable. It's what is often said. My sense is novels merely reinforce what's already in the culture and the girl's head. They are just another aspect of cultural phenomena.

How could anyone believe this who had parents, uncles, aunts, all sorts of people around them as they were growing up?

Actually I am writing this to say that in the first email that I sent last night under the heading "Dickens and Gissing" what I thought was important and was trying to say was that novels -- and letters even more -- allow people to write the unutterable. It can also be erotic joy. I was saying I didn't want to blame anyone because I wanted to enter into the experience from a general standpoint. Finally I prefer to read life writings (the latest term for letters, autobiographies and biographies) to many novels, especially when they are by men.

That said, today I am identifying. I am reading Enec and Enide and you will laugh but I would say some important aspects of the inner relationship between these two characters as depicted by the famous French medieval poet resemble my relationship with Jim far more than most middle class novels I come across.

Love
Ellen

To Trollope-l

Re: Ayala's Angel: Ayala as Kate Field, and her unappreciated angel, AT

February 18, 2001

Just found this letter of Kate Field's to Edmund Clarence Stedman dated Dec 15 1876

"Dear Brother Stedy

.....Is anybody in love with me? I'm not prepared to answer this question but I'll own up to two offers of a matrimonial nature which I gratefully declined. One would have made me awfully rich. It isn't my first chance at splendid luxury, which no one appreciates more than I, but I love other things better. Probably there never lived a more romantic woman than I. From my childhood my mother has been "all for love". And up to the present moment I've been, right or wrong - "true to the dreams of my youth" as Goethe puts it. I've endured misery and may yet endure bitter poverty in consequence, but I hope to die true to myself, whatever opinion others may have of me.....

ever faithfully,

Kate Field"

Her next letter to Stedman says, causally in passing, that she is having Christmas dinner with Trollope.

Pretty appropriate stuff, wouldn't you say?

Angela

To which I respond, Yes. Thank you for that letter. One of the problems of most editions of letters of writers is the editor often has to reprint only those letters which are to or from the writer.

Thank you Angela.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

Re: Names in Ayala's Angel

February 18, 2001

Todd wrote:

Isnít it strange that Trollope should have chosen such similar sounding names as Dormer, Dosset, and Docimer for use in the same novel? Is he playing a name game here? Indeed what a strange collection of first names we have in this novel: Ayala, Emmeline, Egbert, Isadore, Septimus... I donít really make anything of this -- just think itís odd.

To which I reply:

The names are strange. In many, perhaps most of Trollope's books the majority of the central characters have names like Mary, George, Frank, Alice. Once in a while we'll get an interesting unfamiliar or uncommon one: Plantagenent, Clara, Feemy, Thady, Patience. But these are often accounted for a reflections of a cultural milieu (Ireland), family, sense of allegory. Ayala's Angel piles up such names: to Todd's Ayala, Emmeline, Egbert, Isadore, Septimus, I'll add Imogene, Jonathan. Like Dormer, Dosset and Docimer the names seem to rhyme, have assonance, alliteration, a sort of poetry of strangeness. It fits the book's theme of romance, puts it in another realm slightly to the side of everyday things.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

February 20, 2001

Re: Frank Houston and Catherine Dickens (Was "AA: Frank & Imogene)

This is written in response to Angela and Judy.

First, in response to Judy on Frank: the curious thing about this non-hero is that although depicted by Trollope himself as a such a (using US terminology) low-life sleaze, one yet worse than Jack de Baron who had at least the merit of originally loving Augusta Mildmay (and I would maintain they had an affair, the use of the term engagement being the euphemism here) and wanting to marry her, and does not coldly set out to sell himself to a woman whom he more than half-despises, Trollope defends him. As he defends other males of this kind throughout the books: Harry Clavering, that great ricocheting non-entity comes to mind. His defense is endlessly that so many men are like this.

To which the answer is, So what? You do not, Mr Trollope, similarly exculpate women who don't conform to cultural ideals of self-effacement, obedience, virginity before marrriage and then chastity afterwards. No, the parallel types to the men like Frank Houston and Jack de Baron (often called Augusta as in Trefoil; but also the Mrs Hurtles, Mrs Smiths) are presented as conniving to entrap a man, as unacceptable. There are no such defenses that so many women are like this. Although young Tom Tringle seems such a boy sexually, I did notice the usual hinting phrase about sexual exploits ending many of Tom's debauched evenings.

Of course what's fascinating is the distance between what the narrator says to us and what is dramatized in the books. In fact we are led to sympathize strongly with the Augusta Trefoils, in The Way We Live Now the one really noble woman in the book is Mrs Hurtle; here in Ayala, Frank is (thus far) despicable.

Much of this has to do with whom people consciously identify. I fear one of my many postings (too many I know) this past week on Catherine and Charles Dickens has been misunderstood. I meant to do two things: one, explain why I don't blame Catherine Dickens, as it were, excuse myself; and two, argue that by so doing, by abstracting oneself from the individuals say one can get so much more out of what we read. I was very impressed by the few snatches of Dickens's letters Judy quoted. To me they are worth thousands of pages of his novels. If you don't involve yourself by identifying then you can see in such letters that areas of experience not normally given voice to at all, areas we do experience deeply every day and might be more responsible for our conduct and longings and angers than any of the plots about prudence in novels are there for us to enter into, to learn from.

That said, I have to admit I don't identify with Catherine Dickens -- as Mr Trollope doesn't identify with Arabella Trefoil and Mrs Hurtle and does identify with Frank Houston and Tom Tringle. For me it's not a question of Why not, but rather a question of Why should I? By and large I'm not in these Victorian novels, neither socially nor in my private experiential thoughts. I remember one day reading Can You Forgive Her? where Alice Vavasour suddenly turns to speak to her maid, and the maid goes off and does something. The maid was there all the time. But never mentioned as not counting. There is someone I could identify with. How about the women Tom Tringle spends his nights with, the women I am told Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins spent their one-night stands with? We don't hear of them in these novels. Nor the many women who lived with men out of wedlock.

Much has been made of Catherine Dickens's 10 children. I know that men inflicted their masculinity on women and this was supported by the society -- meaning every effort was made to keep contraception out of the hands and the control of middle class women until the later 19th century. But I suspect that there was a strong collusion here. By having all these many children the woman was also making the man stay with her. 10 children is one long guilt trip. I would agree of course it was a dually inflicted set of miseries encouraged by the church, crazy like most human things. Sometimes I will talk to my husband, Jim, of some woman I have met who tells me her husband has left her at age 50 with 4 to 5 children. I say to Jim, nonthinkingly the way we do when we talk, "What a bad man he must be!" And Jim replies, "But she tried to nail him down with those kids." That's the way he sees it. Human beings don't change that much and maybe that's the way Dickens saw it -- all published mores to the contrary. Public discourse only goes so far. Trollope was wiser: he simply used some form of contraception so he and Rose didn't have this burden in the first place. Now Rose cooperated.

It's also not just a matter of social class. The kinds of thoughts the women in Trollope's novels -- and those of many of this contemporaries -- simply excise out certain kinds of thoughts I as a person and woman have every day about all sorts of things. Anthony Powell argues that Trollope's women aren't real; they are social constructions intended to have a rhetorical effect, shaped substitutions for reality. To me it's interesting how many women novelists of the period produce the same social constructions. They are writing from the point of view of the patriarchy.

These thoughts, women who don't live the ideal bourgeois patterned existence outwardly, types from other classes turn up in novels from the early 20th century on. They only turn up in the margins of the 19th century novel. They had some existence in the later 18th century novel by women, but they first emerge in the books Virago Press began with wanting to publish in great numbers.

We are all too quick to identify by seeing a resemblance between outward roles. How do we know what went on between two human beings now dead: what did Catherine Dickens say of Dickens's art to him, of his love-making, of their children, what punishments did she manage to inflict in the daily day? If other women serviced him in ways that prevented them from getting back, she didn't.

I sometimes think the reason people like to read novels is the novel by its very nature as a patterned entity reassures them there is some moral justice working its way out in life. By saying something about a cruelty we can recognize as doing wrong (it was clearly wrong for Dickens to take the house I suppose), we assert our frustration at a lack of poetic justice. By taking sides, we do it from our own point of view. But that real existence has any moral ordering is something that has yet to be proved.

And oddly if you think about it there is little literal difference to us today here on this list between the Catherine Dickens who turns up in Dickens's letters and the Frank Houston of Ayala's Angel. Both are figments of our imagination today. One once had a real bodily existence, but we cannot and do not know what she was. As I said earlier about the ironic difference between Mr Harding in The Warden and Mr Trollope in An Autobiography. We know everything we can know about Mr Harding from The Warden; Mr Harding doesn't keep secrets from us. Mr Trollope, Mr Dickens, and Catherine Dickens are in a deep sense forever unknowable insofar as their real lives beyond what we see on the page are concerned.

That's why Barthes said the author is dead. All we have is texts.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001
Reply-To: trollope-l@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 25-30, Pictures: Landscapes (I)

Ellen wrote:

I throw the question out to anyone interested in picking it up? What exactly is this ideal man that girls dream over, the type movie producers look to hire when they are finding the actor to fill the "love" role in movies. What qualities is the chosen male supposed physically and visually to project? It's clear that Stubbs, Tom Tringle, and Traffic don't project it, and Hamel and Frank Houston do.

In Ayala's mind, I believe the young man must be a latter-day Sir Galahad. He must be chivalrous and kind, brave (but humble), and above all, VERY good looking.. I believe he'd have to appear to her in a blaze of white light, with angels singing, for her to think him good enough!

In short, Ayala is just a tad romantic.. ;-) She's young and she believes in fairy tales. She seems to believe in the legend that a chaste young maiden need only wait and her knight in shining armour will appear..

As far as Hamel and Frank Houston, I suppose it's their willingness to aspire to marriage while in a state of poverty, and their own romantic notions that once they marry things will just sort themselves out that's so appealing. It's their idealism, or perceived idealism, that appeals to these romantic girls. He's poor, but he has such a good heart, and he loves ME above all things! Swoon...!

Again, young and silly. They're all just young and silly!

We could turn the tables. What do men want of a woman? Why is Ayala such an adorable decoration? Why do these men all run after her? It's not just her prettiness. What gives sex appeal? The landscape Geary offers is very human, filled with a feeling of an ideal setting human beings seem to long for, dream of. Why?

I think some of that may actually be the fact she scorns them, strangely enough. These men want to conquer her, to be the one Ayala finally submits to. It will be all the sweeter after all the trouble it took to get her. Her looks certainly don't hurt, as I don't think there would be so many men in line to win her if she were plain, but I credit her attitude with most of it. If she has such high standards, any man she eventually chooses must be a cut above, they think to themselves.. I can't come up with anything besides this, as she seems to young to exude much sensuality, and isn't described in a particularly sensual way.

Lisa Guidarini

I place here some comments I wrote upon first reading Ayala in 1994 as it they were written when I was well into the book and finished it:

Saturday July 29th, 1994::

Re: Ayala's Angel and Northanger Abbey

I have now settled into Ayala's Angel and am enjoying it very much--despite Sutherland's comment that it is "rather routine Trollope, although it has its modern admirers" (on 9th thought I think Sutherland does not sufficiently appreciate Trollope; I have found "masterpiece" used only of The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire, while the word is applied liberally to Thackeray (and R. D. Blackmore at least once more than Trollope!). Sutherland adds the adjective artistic to masterpiece in describing their work, and I guess lurking in the background is the idea that they are artists and Trollope not.

Anyway I have been struck by some parallels I see between Jonathan Stubbs and Ayala Dormer and Jane Austen's Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland. The relationship between the pairs of lovers is similar: an as yet innocent foolish romantic girl is teased and taught by an eccentric interesting slightly older young man who is attracted to her. She has not sufficient money to satisfy his family; yet he & she find happiness in their companionship. The kinds of conversations between the two sets of couples is witty for the reader in the same way. Henry Tilney is handsome and Colonel Stubbs not, still Ayala is indeed "in training for a heroine," controlled by a delusive ideal (though she lacks those "quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes" of life); she is also often "inattentive, and occasionally stupid." Lucy Dormer, her sister, too, is a kind of Eleanor to Ayala's Marianne (I am thinking of Austen's Sense and Sensibility). I wonder if anyone else has noticed or seen pointed out in print these or other parallels between Jane Austen and Trollope.

Wednesday August 10th, 1994:

Re: Ayala's Angel

I finished Ayala's Angel about a week ago, and must say I understand why Sutherland called it "rather routine Trollope" but I also agree with his "some modern admirers" that the book has real merit.

The introduction in my Oxford University Classics is by Julian Thompson and, while maybe supersubtle, is a good analysis and defense, which I cannot repeat or precis easily so simply recommend to anyone who may read the novel.

Well, why does the book need a defense, someone asks (I hope)? Well, it's basically a bunch of love stories intertwined, and I at least had a sense of something too workmanlike going on, and languors here and there. There is also the focus: Ayala, a young girl who is very foolish and it is hard (for me at least) to care about or take too seriously; her sister, Lucy is not much better. I suppose it's prejudice to say that older people with other things on their minds are more interesting.

On the other hand, there are the minor characters who are interesting: Jonathan Stubbs who I would've liked to have seen much more of; Sir Thomas who must console himself for the idiocy of his family with his millions; Tom Tringle who is yet another portrait of Trollope himself before he got his act together; Lady Albury and Aunt Dossett who has become a living infliction as the world has inflicted itself on her. Which brings to mind the novel's hard world pressing in on all the characters, amusingly, realistically, yet optimistically portrayed. Money as ever with Trollope counts and specific sums are continually totted up or found wanting. Yet it is a cheering novel and puts paid to the idea that in his late years Trollope always wrote bitterly or harshly; in fact, for someone interested in Trollope it is surprising to remember that this book was written around the time of Cousin Henry.

As I was reading though I thought maybe not enough is said about Trollope's style, by which I mean the individual sentences and sentiments which I think are wise or judicious or witty or touching or whatever. There are some very good "characteristic" letters too. Really I read Trollope for this kind of thing. I remember being entranced by the style, the language of Can You Forgive Her? which I am saving up for next year maybe.

I thought I would end my little review by saying I am going off to Maine tomorrow for a couple of weeks so everyone will be spared my irresistible impulse to talk on. I am taking my Henry Esmond , Dr. Wortle's SchoolL, and The Small House at Allington. I'll probably read one--when I finish Jane Austen's Emma but that is another list.

Ellen Moody

Date: Wed, 10 Aug 1994
From: Bob Canary
Subject: Ayala's Angel

Ellen's message on Ayala's Angel prompts me to say that what I've always liked about this one is its light-heartedness. As one works one's way through later Trollope, this book seems like an oasis of gaiety. Even the villains aren't very bad, and almost everyone in it is pleasant. It's a real romance world, and it makes a nice contrast with IS HE POPENJOY? (or whatever) which has a romance plot in a pretty barren landscape of characters.

********* Bob Canary--Dept. of English *********
********* (or Secretary of the Faculty) *********
********* UW-Parkside, Kenosha WI 53141 *********
********* canary@cs.uwp. edu *********

I include the following to show how people like to one-up one another more than anything else:

Date: Wed, 10 Aug 1994
From: Graham Wolff Christian
To: "Ms. Ellen Moody"

Pardon me, but I think you must mean *longueurs* rather than "languors"-- languors would be only too appropriate for intertwined love stories.

Wednesday night:

To: GRAHAM@HARVARDA.HARVARD.EDU
Subject: Languors

You're right. But for these stories, roses and raptures are more appropriate than languors (Swinburne)

Mrs. Ellen Moody

You said that you like some of the things that Ayala's Angel says about romantic stereotypes. I have recently reread Ralph the Heir, and I was struck by Trollope's sympathy for the plight of the physically unattractive woman in society.

Incidentally, I used to read Collins's lesser-known works in the Radcliffe Camera, as well as the novels of Gaboriau and Mary Braddon. The atmosphere is lovely, especially in the autumn as dusk falls.

Kishor


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Page Last Updated 11 January 2003