Names in Ayala's Angel Frank and Imogene; Young Tom Tringle and "the pretty little trinket"; A Celebration of Philistinism; Pretty Little Trinkets; Jonathan Stubbs; Umberto Eco: Six Walks in Fictional Woods

To Trollope-l

Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Names in Ayala's Angel

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.


Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2001<
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel: Frank and Imogene

Hello all

Ellen wrote

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.

I'd definitely agree that the arrival of Imogene gives more depth and poignancy to the whole novel. I find her one of the most sympathetic characters in Ayala's Angel -- while the self-satisfied Frank has to be the least sympathetic!

While reading Chapter 28, I had the feeling that this couple's relationship is quite reminiscent of Jack and Guss in Is He Popenjoy? There is the same feeling that they would marry if they had the money, but, since a sufficient income isn't forthcoming, in each case the man is determined to insist that they must stay apart.

However, even though I don't care much for Jack, he is not nearly as off-putting a character as Frank, and seems to be portrayed as a weak, drifting charmer rather than as somebody who is simply out for number one. He hesitates about marrying Guss not only because of lack of money, but also because he is not sure he really loves her. He is tempted into a dangerous flirtation with the married Mary because he feels she may be his ideal woman, but he certainly doesn't go so far as to woo an unattractive rich girl just to get his hands on her money.

By contrast, Frank knows he loves Imogene (if such a character is capable of love). Equally, he knows that she loves him. But he is prepared to forget all that and concentrate on marrying the ghastly Gertrude just so that he can get his hands on her money.

What's more, he seems to glory in boasting about this new conquest to his old love - and then accuses *her* of having a hard heart because she doesn't want to listen to his boasts. He is really a classic example of a character who wants to have his cake and eat it - he wants Gertrude and her money, or preferably her money without too much of her, but he also wants Imogene as an adoring bride in reserve.

Imogene seems to show the way forward to heroines in Henry James and Edith Wharton novels who know they must use their beauty to "buy" themselves husbands, but are very reluctant to be involved in this sort of sordid deal. She reminds me of Lily Bart in Wharton's The House of Mirth, who struggles to find the will to sell herself to the highest bidder. Imogene is somebody who knows her own feelings and has no illusions about the man she loves. She knows he is not worthy of her, yet she still loves him.

Financially, it sounds as if Frank could probably afford to marry Imogene if he only made up his mind to it. The income he has wouldn't really be too inadequate - £600 a year is more than many characters in Trollope have to hand, and he could always make it more if he could bring himself to do anything quite as lowly as working for a living. But this lordly young gentleman can't bring himself to get his hands dirty. He would rather marry a woman he doesn't love, in order to steal her money, than do something as lowly as going to an office every day.

I think we really see the hollowness of his character in this exchange with Imogene:

" 'There could only be one decision - unless you were man enough to earn your bread.'

'But I wasn't. but I ain't. You might as well let that accident pass, sans dire. Was there ever a moment in which you thought that I should earn my bread?'

'Never for a moment did I endow you with the power of doing anything so manly.' "

At a moment like this, Frank can only call on pretentious phrases like "sans dire". He does not begin to reach Imogene's depth of feeling. Her bitterness breaks through in the claim that he is not "manly".

At the end of the chapter, Trollope sums the contrast between Jack and Imogene up when he writes: "He could be happy with the prospect of Gertrude Tringle's money. She could not be happy, looking forward to that unloved husband who was to be purchased by her beauty."

It seems as if the need to work for a living is one of the themes of Ayala's Angel. Sir Thomas Tringle is contemptuous of his son-in-law Mr Traffick, who seems to think he has a right to the £6,000 a year which came with his wife, and doesn't even want to rent himself a house with it. He also sees only too clearly that Frank loves Gertrude's money rather than Gertrude.

By contrast, Isadore Hamel is presented sympathetically because he is prepared to live on the proceeds of his profession as an artist, however precarious.

I know there was a a snobbish feeling in the Victorian period that unearned income was somehow better than earnings from a profession. Trollope questions that in Ayala's Angel, and also in He Knew He Was Right, where the journalist Hugh Stanbury is in fact earning a good living, but has to put up with constant sneers from his Aunt Jemima, who feels it isn't gentlemanly to go to work!

Well, I've probably rambled on too long, so I'd better end here. There seems to be a lot to say about this novel!

Bye for now
Judy Geater

February 18, 2001

Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle and "the pretty little trinket"

I have a confession or admission to make. I am not the person who ought to discuss young Tom Tringle. To me the portrait is painful. I want to turn away. It is as bad as Emma Woodhouse's conduct to Miss Bates at Box Hill -- and the first time I read Emma after I finished that chapter I never wanted to read that book again. Indeed I did not go near it for years and years. It struck me as more difficult to get through than the end of _King Lear_. I cringe when I read of Tom's boasting about his bargaining over that necklace, of his application to Mrs Dosett, and her comment that she isn't in the habit of bargaining over expensive jewelry. I can only see it in Stubbs's light: old fellow, you had better be careful lest your pocket be picked. I know about how diamonds are ludicrously overpriced because of someone's monopoly in South Africa. I also find making fun of someone who is fat or inadequate just awful.

I am also too old. Not only that I never had an "angel of light" in my mind. An animus, yes, but only until I was 15. By then experience had taught me to know better. I can see a conscious self-caricature in Trollope of himself in Tom. I can see an idealisation of himself in Stubbs. But I cannot take the novel insofar as it is supposed to be a story about these figures and Ayala seriously. Who can care about such nonsence when (to stay with South Africa) AIDS is devastating large populations in our world today?

So tonight at dinner I asked my 16 year old daughter who read this novel two years ago and delighted in it, What did she think of Tom Tringle? I still remember her shining eyes after she finished the scene in which Ayala awaits Stubbs's presence at the close of the book. Two years ago I remember her laughing and laughing and saying the Tringles as a group were "very funny". Now she recently took my Oxford paperback classics volume off the shelf and reread it (when of course she should have been studying for her AP American History Test). I asked her, "Well, how did you feel about Tom Tringle?" "Oh, I know so many boys just like that."

Mother: Really.

Daughter: Yes.

Mother: But did you feel sorry for Tom Tringle?

Daughter: Sorry (looking wry). No! He's an idiot!

There you have it. The young and pretty and therefore heartless female says he's is an ass. No wonder Isabel identified with Ayala. Ayala says he's a lout.

Would someone else be willing to expatiate on the presentation of Tom Tringle?

Ellen Moody

Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: A Celebration of Philistinism

While I know Trollope gives a great deal of credit to Colonel Stubbs, is respectful of the "misguided" or narrow Hamel (who in this light reminds me of Austen's Marianne Dashwood), still I there are moments when I think to myself this book is a back-handed celebration of philistinism. Take this meditation of Hamel's, shot through as it is by the ironic overlay of the narrator's "undistorted eyes:"

"He was aware that the Tringles had despised him, and he repaid the compliment with all his heart by despising the Tringles. They were to him samples of the sort of people which he thought to be of all the most despicable. They were not only vulgar and rich, but purse-proud and conceited as well. To his thinking there was nothing of whch such people were entitled to be proud. Of course they make money -- money out of money, an employment which he regarded as vile -- creating either nothing useful or beautiful. To create something useful was to his way of thinking, very good. To create something beautiful was almost divine. To manipulate millions till they should breed other millions was the meanest occupation for a life's energy. It was thus, I fear, that Mr Hamel looked at the business carried on in Lombard Street, being as yet very young in the world and seeing many things with distorted eyes" (Folio Society Ayala's Angel, introd. AEThomas, Ch 38, p. 261).

I forgive Trollope for not understanding that such millions do not reach down. He had not the benefit of Amartya Kumar Sen who has taught us that famine is not the result of lack of food but fragility of entitlement to food. Trollope knows that things that sell and make money for people are often absurd and useless. Take the diamond necklace that is now in Sir Thomas Tringle's drawer.

Still I would be glad if someone would disabuse me of the sense I get from this book that it celebrates the very thing that limited its author from writing truer books.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Pretty Little Trinkets

In Ellen's post:

... I asked her, "Well, how did you feel about Tom Tringle?"

"Oh, I know so many boys just like that."

Oh, so do I. So do I. And girls (women), too.

It must have something to do with my circle of acquaintances. But this reminds me of one couple in particular; a husband and wife who have been only good, only kind to me and especially, to my younger two children. Why two people who are have so much going for them, feel the need to boast about and flash their possessions, is beyond me. Who can they think would be impressed by her four carat diamond ring, or his very showy car? In fact, he bought his car used, the better to get the maximum glitz value. It mystifies me. Why would anyone purchase a used car for the cost of four brand new loaded Honda Accords? Or, as I look at it, the cost of doing the 21st century equivalent of a Grand Tour, complete with first class airplane tickets?

I know several people who will live a pinched life in private, to be able to display these costly baubles. I never have, and never will, get it. But like Isabel, to me they are all too familiar. And as wonderful as Tom Tringle may be deep down, I could never bear to live with one like him.

To give him some credit, however; I believe that his love for Ayala (and like Ellen, I do wonder just what is it about these chicks that makes the men pant after them?)is strong enought that, if he knew just how distasteful these mannerisms were to Ayala, he would attempt to reform. All he needed was guidance.

Jill Spriggs

: Names

Dormer is suggestive of the French "dormir", meaning to sleep or slumber. Dosett is reminiscent of a "dosser", a basket to carry on the back (in Ireland in slang "dosser" also means a layabout). Docimer might derive from the French "docimasie", meaning docimasy - the assaying of metallic ores. I leave working out the meanings of the first names as an exercise for others! It might be productive to examine an Italian dictionary for similar sounding words to the above surnames, as AT visited Italy on more than one occasion.

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle & "the pretty little trinket"

Ellen wrote:

Would someone else be willing to expatiate on Trollope's presentation of young Tom Tringle in these chapters?

At first I had a good deal of sympathy with Tom Tringle and didn't fully understand what made him so repulsive to Ayala. We didn't really see a lot of Tom during Ayala's time in his home, so to me he was just a young man smitten with a pretty young woman. I started losing respect for him when he turned to begging Ayala, and to turning to his parents in a rather petulant attempt to have them force her to marry him. The more desperate he came the more pathetic he looked..

The final straw came when he started going on his drunken debauches, ruining himself and pulling Ayala's name down with him in the process. He became so small and petty then. And the necklace.. He doesn't seem to realise how it cheapens Ayala to think she'd have her head turned by baubles. But still he persists. Calling Stubbs out for a duel was way over the top, and what he expected to achieve by that I'm not sure. Even if Stubbs had agreed, would Ayala suddenly have fallen in love with Tom for his great valour?? I don't think so. She's proven that nothing can make her love Tom, but he won't accept that.

I suppose Tom's refusal to believe Ayala knows her own mind is irksome to me. His emotions are out of control, obviously, and his behaviour reflects it. This is definitely no angel of light!

Lisa Guidarini

Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2001
Reply-To: Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle & "the pretty little trinket"

I would like to say a word or two in Tom Tringle's defense. Of course he's guilty as charged: an oaf, a fool, a jerk, etc. His behavior -- the duel, the trinket, the drunkenness -- will win him no admirers. But I forgive him -- because he is young. He's what, 22 or so? He has no knowledge of life. His mistakes are those of youth. He is passionate but completely lacking in good judgment.

When I look back at the mistakes of my own youth, as perhaps Trollope was doing here, imaginatively, with respect to his own, what can I do, what can any of us do, but laugh? The memories may cause me pain, but there is nothing to be done about them. Certainly I can't disown them. Certainly I'm not going to weep over them. With enough perspective, though, I can regard them as comic episodes. I was a fool then, but I am wiser now. Because there is a Tom Tringle somewhere inside me, I am willing to forgive him.

I don't know where Trollope is going with this character. I have about 230 pages yet to go in this story that I have not previously read. I'm not sure that it's going to happen but if the author wished it, it would be fairly easy to redeem this young "lout."

Todd (Tringle)

Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle & "the pretty little trinket"


I must say I agree with you. My son in his early years was a great deal like the Trollope young men who make all those silly mistakes. I probably would have been too if my sister hadn't gone before me and shown me how not to. Many young people make mistakes, but how else do we really learn?


Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001
Reply-To: Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle & "the pretty little trinket"

Here's my take on Ayala and Tom Tringle:

It is hard to understand why men keep falling for Ayala all the time. But I got the feeling that Tom loves her because she has a sort of glamour in belonging to the art world, and being able to talk about art.

I think that she also was "classy" in a way that really impressed Tom. The Tringle family are very "New Rich," and do things that shock Ayala like talking about how little money other people have in order to derive more enjoyment from their own money. You can see Ayala's "high art status" during the Tringle family visit to Italy with Ayala. In the artistic world of Italy Ayala is someone. She knows people and gets invited out by important people who scorn the Tringle family. She has an aesthetic sense and can discuss art. In addition Tom is probably influenced by the "romance" of Ayala's position, she is the impoverished orphan and he wants to be the handsome prince who rescues her. Perhaps he even likes the way that Ayala stands up to his domineering mother.

I think that even though Trollope doesn't show it Ayala is supposed to have gobs of charisma, in addition to looks and class.

I find that it is difficult for writers to convey extraordinary women convincingly. Or at least I was never convinced of the wonderfulness of Ayala, or of Anna Karenina or what's her name in Portrait of a Lady.

Tom's behavior is outrageous, and although I don't sympathize with his actions, I can look back on the feelings that most adolescents (male and female) have when their first love goes bust and relate to the impulses he feels. You also have to consider that not only is Tom unhappy about Ayala not returning his feelings, but this is probably the first time in his life that he really wanted something and didn't get it, so it must be a huge shock for him. Not that this excuses his behavior.


Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 31-36: Young Tom Tringle & "the pretty little trinket"

Hello all

I've been reading everybody's thoughts on Ayala and Tom with great interest.

Clarissa wrote

Tom's behavior is outrageous, and although I don't sympathize with his actions, I can look back on the feelings that most adolescents (male and female) have when their first love goes bust and relate to the impulses he feels. You also have to consider that not only is Tom unhappy about Ayala not returning his feelings, but this is probably the first time in his life that he really wanted something and didn't get it, so it must be a huge shock for him. Not that this excuses his behavior.

I agree! Tom seems to have all the desperate intensity of first love, but his anguish is humorously presented, at this stage of the novel anyway. He cuts a ridiculous figure in his incredibly tasteless clothes, but Trollope manages to show us that he still has a certain poignancy, despite everything.

It seems psychologically spot on that Tom, with his passion for cheap jewellery, is convinced he can win Ayala's heart just by buying her a particularly expensive version of his own trinkets. This is like children who want to give their parents toys and sweets for their birthdays because they are the things they would like themselves.

Tom really is an overgrown spoilt child who expects his parents to buy him everything he wants, including Ayala. This is perfectly shown by the way he pesters his father to agree to him buying the diamond necklace. At times, despite all his adolescent passion, he doesn't really seem to see Ayala as a person with an equal will to his own, who can make up her own mind, but almost as a possession to be haggled over.

Another thought on the necklace - I suppose this gesture in a way parodies all the offers of marriage for money which we see so often in Trollope. In the society he is portraying so sharply, it seems to be acceptable to "buy" a woman as your bride by talking about your wealth and your prospects, but not by actually handing over several hundred pounds in the form of diamonds. Too vulgar by half!

The thing that really puzzles me about the diamond necklace, though, is the idea that Sir Thomas would ever countenance the giving this over-the-top present, even for a moment. Surely, with his far greater maturity and knowledge of the world, he should be talking his son out of this mad idea, not encouraging him! Is this possibly supposed to suggest that the millionaire financier feels every woman has her price?

Julian Thompson has an interesting bit on Tom and the necklace in the introduction to the Oxford World's Classics edition of Ayala, which I thought I'd pass on:

"Tom Tringle has the firm-footed recklessness that marks so much real bravery: 'He had no disinclination to be hit over the head himself, if he could be sure of hitting the Colonel over the head.' He may have an instinct for making the worst of himself - witness the cheap jewellery he wears to woo Ayala, and the novelettish syntax which would make the most heartfelt intention sound insincere ('Rain - what matters the rain?', 'Ayala; - stay yet a moment!') Yet he has his father's business-sense too. When he buys the necklace that is to bribe Ayala into submission, he is quick to point out to his father and to Colonel Stubbs that he has got 20 per cent off cost price by paying cash, and when, Ayala having proved suitably unimpressed, he is forced to sell it back to Ricolay's, we hear he has only lost thirty pounds on the whole transaction."

I love the bit about the way Tom talks... but I'm not so sure about "only" thirty pounds. Aunt Dosett for one would regard this as rather a large sum to waste in buying and selling a "pretty little trinket"!

Although Ayala and Tom are so different in appearance and in the impression they make, there seems to be a certain similarity between them. Of course they are both very young, and they also have a certain core of selfishness/ self-will - that spoilt child quality which both charms and infuriates. Where Tom wheedles his parents to buy him things, Ayala tries to order her cousin to fetch and carry for her. Both are remarkably tactless and determined to press other people into giving what they want. Also, both cling to impossibly romantic ideals of love even though it becomes increasingly obvious that their dreams will not be fulfilled - Tom won't get Ayala, and Ayala won't get her nebulous "Angel of Light"!

Bye for now Judy Geater

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel: Jonathan Stubbs

Hello all

Just a couple of quick thoughts on Jonathan Stubbs. I've just been reading The Claverings, and was interested to notice that, when Harry and the Count eat at a club, the Count says: "that is good soup, very good soup. My compliments to the excellent Stubbs." This has me wondering if Stubbs was possibly a stock name for a cook, or had some sort of class connotations, and if that is why Ayala takes exception to it. Does anybody know? I'm also puzzled as to her dislike of "Jonathan" - a very popular name nowadays. Again, any ideas, anybody?

I know that red hair was for some reason considered ugly and sinister by most Victorian writers (and I speak as someone married to a redhead!) so it is refreshing to see that the lovely Jonathan has bright red hair. On another list a while back we were trying to think of good and attractive red-headed characters in 19th-century fiction, and could only come up with Dr John in Villette - and he seems to vary between red and blond!

Bye for now Judy Geater

To Trollope-l

Re: Ayala's Angel: Umberto Eco: Six Walks in Fictional Woods
I guess I would respond that a book can be both allegorical and realistic. When I said Aunt Dosett was something of a caricature, I didn't mean I didn't believe in the character at some level. I do. I got indignant on her behalf when Lady Tringle snubbed her. It's a subtle shallow modelling. Look at Tom Tringle who stands for something and is believable.

I'll go further and say that while reading a chapter which has allegorical resonances and characters who are believable enough or very believable, one can at the same time feel yourself in contact with the author. After all the real person in each text is the spirit who wrote the words originally. So maybe Trollope felt himself a Tom Tringle when he was young.

One way of reading need not preclude the other, and they can go on at the same time, sort of subliminally. Just as when we sit in our chair we half-forget we are in the chair and think we are seeing these scenes and hearing these voices, while at the same time we never forget that we are sitting in the chair. The mind can hold many possibilities at once, now this one comes to the fore and now that.

There is a fascinating & entertaining book by Umberto Eco called Six Walks in Fictional Woods on this problem of how far we can fill details into a character's life which the author did not give us. What kinds of questions can we ask or objections can we make. I talked about some of his comments in the chapter in my book on Trollope's Autobiography: for example, what is the difference between the character called Trollope in the Autobiography and the character called Mr Harding in The Warden. Literally none at all. However, we as readers take a different attitude towards them because we know Mr Trollope as a character refers to a real man who once lived, and who is writing his book, so if he doesn't tell us things we think we've a right to know, we can complain. We can't complain at Mr Harding for not telling us things. We also know of real people they keep secrets from us. Mr Harding is not going off doing things he's not telling us. All we can ever know or deduce about Mr Harding we have to get from the book: we may deduce a lot, but it has to come from the book. Not so Mr Trollope or a real person.

Eco has a chapter where he brings forward incidents novelists like to play with where they make fun of some of these faultlines. For example, in Emma, Emma Woodhouse paints a picture of Harriet sitting outdoors. Her father comes along and says he doesn't like the picture; it upsets him. Why? Because she hasn't painted a shawl on Harriet and Harriet will catch cold. Emma does not say to him, this is not an appropriate deduction; instead she reassures him by saying, but Papa, don't you see, it's summer in the picture. Harriet doesn't need her shawl.

Austen likes to play games in this manner: in Northanger Abbey, Mrs Allen reads a gothic novel and gets upset because the description of the ruined broken down kitchen in the vast castle disturbs her: she worries about how the servants get through all the work in such inadequate facilities. This is a variant on the same joke.

There are other novelists in the 18th century who like to play with the reader and yet have real enough characters: Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy is one. Modern writers who do this include Italo Calvino. He loves to wink at us through his novels, teasing as he goes. It's the half-belief that permits the real delight in his novels.

There are other chapters in Eco's book about how we respond to landscapes in books and art and how this differs from how we respond to when we see them in life. For after all, we are talking endlessly about mental life. Proust (I am just now listening to an unabridged audiocassette recording of Swann's Way in my car) says all we ever really respond to is our perceptions of things. To respond adequately to your post, the question I would offer as food for thought in reply is, Why narrow the possibilities as you read? You are free to make what choices you like, take what perspective, play what games you like with your imaginative in response to someone else's (Trollope's in this case). To me Ayala is a highly playful book, and probably that's why my postings have been about the levels of play in our book. The characters are not allowed to get out of the picture; they are not allowed to get away from the candied frame (in the manner of Mrs Proudie who would not have permitted even a qualified happy ending to The Last Chronicle so she had to be killed off), except maybe at the end Tom. I recommend Eco's book. It's in print. It is no harder to read than John Sutherland's Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? and is ultimately much richer in what it has to say about the pleasures of the imagination.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

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