Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel -- Genteel Poverty
One thing that struck me in the coming week's section was the differences of opinion as to what constitutes an acceptable amount of income on which to live.
Hamel realizes that his income is not sufficient for a family, or really even a wife, although he feels that he can make it stretch for a time should it become a necesity. His current income was around 200 pounds, as yet not approaching 300 pounds.
Then there is Frank. For him and Imogene, he declares that 750 pounds would constitute genteel poverty as they are used to a higher standard of living. So he is saying right out that a lot of it depends on what you are used to and how you expect to live. He does not want to give up his woodcocks and champagne and have to be satisfied with mutton chops and half a pint of sherry.
February 25, 2001
Re Ayala's Angel, Chs 37-42: A sense of dislocation
This week's chapters have a number of strong scenes; in fact it improves mightly over the last couple of weeks. One reason for this is Ayala's woes are marginalised, and to the center come Tom and the Imogene -Frank Houston pair. Aunt Emmeline comes to make her nervy proposal to Mrs Dosett because she is bothered over Tom. Yes that stubborn hold out of a Lucy irritates her. Aunt Emmeline never held out for anything it seems. But she is acting for Tom -- absurdly, looking to get for him what he can't have and would be bad for him. As Ayala is still a child, and a heartless one at that -- thus far.
This posting is really made up of a few more thoughts about Tom. As I wrote last night in this part of the novel we are as yet to look on him as the world does: an incompetent, someone who is ridiculous because he can't control his feelings for others who are (as people usually are) pretty well indifferent to everyone but themselves except as others fit into their self-validation and needs. That's how Ayala sees him; it is how another adolescent would.
However, this is not Trollope's attitude towards this young hero. The comedy is painful because among the peacock struttings is the sense of someone dislocated through not fault of his own. Tom is another of Trollope's social outcasts whose ridiculousness to others -- not, note to Stubbs -- comes from his having dreamed of something better than the diurnal and banal, though he lacks the ability to put his dreams into anything beyond a mercentile society's high priced objects. There is something frantic about Tom, something unbalanced, but the crazy pigheadedness of his behavior came from an exhilaration of his spirit -- akin in its way to Ayala's dreams. Tom is another variant on the Rev Josiah Crowley figure, and the irony is his wealth which protects him also disables him. Would he not be better off if he had to take a position as a postal surveyor in Ireland? Then he'd get away from all those who despise and don't know what to do about him. The question is not how we feel about Tom, but how Trollope does. Instead of dull eyes, the illustrator should have given the character overbright ones.
Again while one cannot deny that Tom's behavior is counter-productive, useless, unhealthy for himself because so demeaning in front of others. The point of propriety has ever been self-protection from the instinctive derision of the strong. Tom Tringle has hitched his wagon to Faddle's because Faddle is also weak against the world, also a misfit -- though for different reasons.
So I what I was arguing was that Trollope was himself led to use the portrait of an adolescent young male that he likes and identifies with. Tom will have those millions with which to build his carapace if Sir Thomas manages to get him to go on that tour around the world, but that he won't change inwardly is what makes him worth paying attention to. The book does not admire the Batsbys; it is written on behalf of the imagination. Houston redeems himself when he reveals he can act on behalf of some inner feelings. Would that we had more people in the world who take seriously and look upon as important their sense of a need for others, their respect for the integrity and value of others (in this case Imogene's), in the brave acting out of dreams and romance? Another reason both Stubbs, Tom Tringle and even the imbecile Batsby are attracted to Ayala is she is cheerfully upbeat by instinct. Because she's dense she acts out norms, which includes dreams many conventional young girls apparently have of "angels of light". Her very thoughtlessness, the mindless reactive nature of this "elf" (a good term) draws the Stubbses and young Toms -- for they are within themselves melancholy figures too. And they give the comedy serious point.
Stubbs himself is a kind of talisman against deep failure and unhappiness. It's often interesting to see which characters never interact with the others in a book. Stubbs never interacts with Gertrude Tringle or Frank Houston. Stubbs floats above the narrative, seeming invulnerable to the pressures of mediocrity. That he guarantees hope in something above all this mess of petty feeling and stupidity (about money and objects and class among other things) makes him so valuable.
Stubbs certainly deserved something better than Ayala. As I quipped, Cupid is blind and all that. But how about the Dosetts? Mrs Dosett's fate to be snubbed and disregarded. She is the most put-upon character in this book. And she takes the punishment because she buys into these values. One of the most moving paragraphs in the book thus far is Reginald Dosett's half-meditation, one which he can't resolve, which goes nowhere after she leaves him with the remark: "If there is anything I do hate it is romance, while bread and meat, and coals are washing are so dear':
Mr Dosett sat for a while gazing with speculative eyes at the embers of the fire. He was conscious in his heart that some part of that attack upon romance in general was meant for himself. Though he did not look to be romantic, especially when seated at his desk in Somerset House, with his big index- book before him still, there was left to him some touch of poetry, and an appreciation of the finer feelings in our nature ...
It's too long for me to type out, but the questions Mr Dosett asks himself in this meditation about what people should seek, why, how it life ought to be are worth rereading (Folio Society Ayala's Angel, Ch 39, p. 318). Dosett has not asked himself these questions enough, not come to any answers; that's why his life is ebbing away with those embers with so little satisfaction.
A good set of scenes -- very comic some of them, especially the one between the aunts, and Ayala holding tight to the bedpost. But there's more to them than just surface mimesis and a dramatization of growing up and middle age and the conflicts between generations.
Adolescents often have a genuine sense of dislocation. Not because they have yet to understand some deep truths in their adjustment. But because they do understand what they see better than those who are inured to it and want something more. They can go further and retreat to do what they prefer to do or to be. Stubbs does this in his cottage. Tom lacks his sense of self-certainty. This is a good example of how characters stand for things: it's wrong to ask what Stubbs was a young man, how he got that way. He didn't. He is what we see in the book, and there is an unreality about the psychology here. It matters not. And the dislocation is gotten across funnily through this battledore and shuttlecock approach to Lucy and Ayala.
The book is very vivid this week too. Full of energy. It leaps off the page at us at times.
Cheers to all,
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 37-42: A sense of dislocation
Ellen makes some very good points in her defense (is it ok to use that word?) of Tom Tringle, while perhaps not going as far as Todd did in an earlier post. As a male, and one who coincidentally was at one time a male adolescent, I find it much easier to understand Tom's feelings, while not necessarily condoning his rather juvenile behavior. (It's odd that, even though I am closer in age to Sir Thomas and Sir Harry, I find it easier to understand and partly identify with Tom and Stubbs than with the older generation, who, whatever their good qualities, seem like old fogeys.) The problem with Tom is not that he has those feelings but that they control his behavior to an extent unacceptable by society. This is not unique to adolescent males, however, as we all know of middle-aged men who, after years of happy marriage, chuck everything over some chit of a girl
While none of the older generation, and none of the women at all (including, it seems, women on this list as well as in the book) can understand what anyone can see in Ayala, nevertheless she attracts a multitude of young men, including the intelligent Stubbs. I am more likely to ally myself with the Stubbs faction, as regards Ayala.
Note to Todd: I agree with your comments about Tom. I was in some ways worse than Tom when I was his age (at least internally, if not in overt behavior).
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel, Chs 37-42: A sense of dislocation
Ellen comments on the scene in which Mrs. Dosett declares that if there is anything she hates it is “romance, while bread and meat, and coals, and washing, are so dear.” Mr. Dosett understands that “some part of that attack upon romance in general was intended for himself.” I found this scene interesting, too. I suppose that Mrs. Dosett believes that if her husband had paid more attention to practical matters like making money they would have had a more comfortable life together. Instead he has a modest bureaucratic job and spends three hours a day walking back and forth to work! Despite this indirect attack from his wife, it is to Mr. Dosett’s credit that he has managed to keep alive this “touch of poetry” in his life. He is able to sympathize with Ayala. Although he knows the importance of looking out for one’s economic best interests, he refuses to condemn Ayala for “being averse to accept as a husband a man for whom she had no affection.” In other words, he is able look at life with a larger perspective than we might expect to see in a person of his place in the world.
The Dosett marriage doesn’t seem to be so great. One senses that Mrs. Dosett is a complainer, and Mr. Dosett doesn’t speak up enough. There are undercurrents of dissatisfaction. The Tringle marriage isn’t so great, either. For all his success in the business world, Sir Thomas doesn’t command much respect at home, certainly not from his children, and his wife and he seem to be at cross purposes most of the time. One of the ironies of the book is that with all of the attention given to the importance of making the right choice of marriage partners and everyone presuming to know what is best for Ayala, the established marriages that we see are troubled, less-than-happy arrangements. Maybe Ayala isn’t so misguided to hold out the right person.
February 25, 2001
Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 37-42: A sense of dislocation
In response to Wayne who wrote:
"The problem with Tom is not that he has those feelings but that they control his behavior to an extent unacceptable by society."
What I was trying to say was that the assumption that we must act in such a way as to acceptable to society is questioned by Trollope through characters like Tom -- and many other figures in this and Trollope's other books. Social mores and the arrangements that emerge from it are more than inadequate: they are perverse and stifling. The irony of this book is these arrangements and mores are used by dense thick-skinned types (Traffic, Augusta, Gertrude, Frank Houston when we first meet him) to gain a "free" ride off of those these mores and arrangements rob of true satisfaction, off of those who are giving up far more to society than they ever receive from it (the Dosetts, Sir Thomas Tringle). Many of Trollope's books -- including this one -- ask the question, What price safety? What price the respect of fools (like Lady Emmeline for example)? It is that question that Imogene asks herself and Frank directly in her letters: they almost gave up one another on the advice of such. The serious young people of this book (Hamel, Lucy) as in many of Trollope books are trying desperately to get more out of life than mere safety
We are made to feel that Colonel Stubbs has thought about these questions and is living his life, making his decisions based on a somewhat different set of values than everyone he breathes around. He has the gift of being with others while he is not with them, while he remains detached and really seeks what he wants. We may not want what he wants (Ayala), but he couldn't care less. He has an inner freedom which will save him from such a fate as the Dosetts and the Tringles have had. How much richer this book would have been had Trollope had the nerve to show us the artist's lives (the Dormers, Hamel's father), the writers'. We catch a slight glimpse of this in his depiction of a young artist who has some ideal in the subplot of The Last Chronicle; we catch a highly saturnine view of it in his depiction of the unscrupulous writer, the one who will churn out anything for money in The Way We Live Now (Lady Carbury's dealings with her publishers).
Trollope's narrator and his characters return to this question repeatedly. He can engage us with stories whose literal circumstances are so different from ours because he sees them from this angle perceptively and ambivalently. Which of us has escaped such choices? Which of us hasn't lost something because we chose inadequately or were pressured into an inadequate choice?
Cheers to all,
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] An Economical Novel
Having not got round to reading last week's chapters on time, I plowed through nearly a hundred pages of 'Ayala's Angel' yesterday, and the unusual concentration did nothing but throw up confirmations of the 'theory of everything' about Trollope that I posted a few weeks ago. Thinking about it since has kept me out of the loop of daily postings, because until I've articulated it more thoroughly I don't expect it to make much sense to the members of this or any other listserv that I've encountered. I think it's a matter of background. I happen to have grown up in the twentieth-century American correlative of Trollope's upper middle class, and while most of the manners have changed, the outlook remains what it was. Needless to say, this is an outlook that has no time for Marxist or Marxian analyses, or even for critiques that make use of tools developed in that quasi-philosophical workshop. To me, Marxism is quackery pure and simple, and I deeply regret its hold upon the imagination of so many intelligent readers, for whom it, and not experience, has served as introduction to an important part of the Western world, namely, the bourgeoisie.
This posting may well prove to be my last for a spell. But if I'm sad, I'm also grateful. I've reached this understanding of Trollope, after all, through five years of discussion with strangers, some of whom have become dear friends. I never would have got much past a rather simple-minded enjoyment of Trollope without exposure to very different approaches, some of them quite rigorous. But as I think I have come to an understanding of 'what Trollope is all about' that not only satisfies my curiosity but throws the novels themselves into such meaningful relief that they seem positively decoded, the time for discussion is over. I've got to retire to my ivory tower (as it happens, I live on the eighteenth storey of a white-brick apartment building, but it's the very opposite of elegant) and compose my thoughts in the form a page for my Web site. Then I hope I'll be welcome to return. By way of thanks, I'd like to summarize the impact of yesterday's hours with Trollope.
What my reading of twelve chapters yesterday showed me was that the only thing wrong with Ayala's Angel is its title. That's no surprise; I've long regarded Trollope as inept about his titles; they're the one aspect of his books that betrays an impulse to poetry - an impulse that Trollope really ought to have repressed. He may write lyrically, but he never displays the knack for compression that has long been a criterion for excellence in poetry - and also in conferring titles. (Think how many famous novels draw their titles from famous poems!) In titles such as Is He Popenjoy?, Can You Forgive Her (a/k/a The Noble Jilt), He Knew He Was Right, and Ayala's Angel, Trollope strikes some very quirky notes, and even such plainer titles as Barchester Towers and The Prime Minister are seriously misleading. (With The Eustace Diamonds, Trollope got lucky.) The title of the novel that we've been reading contributes mightily to the impression that's a padded three-decker. Consider how economically it would tell its stories, however, if, following the ultra-plain spade-is-a-spade Chinese manner of titling things, this novel were called 'The Dossetts: The Third Generation.' I recall reading in postings to this group something to the effect that Lucy Dormer's story is 'added on.' That's true only if one takes the novel to be 'about' Ayala. Which it's not. Ayala's story may sparkle the brightest, and her love story (with its adherence to the fundamentals of what would become the screwball style of Hollywood movies) may prove the most moving. But Ayala is just one of five members of a generation all of whom have problems with what I've decided is the central issue in every Trollope novel: the accommodation of new families. This is not a matter of love stories. It is not a matter of romance - except insofar as Ayala's romantic preconceptions forestall her happy ending. It's a matter of establishing the intimacy of households. All households are intimate; the question is whether the intimates love or detest one another. And the household, it must never be forgotten, is primarily an economic concern. This is a tautology, as anybody with a little Greek will recognize. The problem for almost everyone in Trollope's novels - and he so conspicuously excises all the other kinds of problems that human beings have - is one of reconciling the demands of a household, which haven't changed fundamentally since the invention of pottery, with the demands of love and personal fulfillment, which entered the picture at the highest levels of society in the twelfth century but only began to effect the middle classes in the late seventeenth. By Trollope's day, the problems of love *versus* marriage had a developed a complexity that allowed him to tell at least one and sometimes several different stories in each of 47 novels.
Ayala herself makes few appearances in the twelve chapters preceding 'Once More!' The central tale in these pages is that of Frank Houston and his alternatives. On the Docimer side, he finds love. On the Tringle side, there's money, and only money. It's no surprise that Frank has learned to dislike Gertrude Tringle; what might be overlooked is the care with which Trollope betrays Gertrude's lack of love, largely in terms of her feigned illness and her 'sly' attacks on the larder. These latter make it clear that Gertrude, for all her discontent, is not really suffering. Interestingly, Trollope declines to reproduce in its entirety her sham letter of scolding with its underscored reproaches. The evil of Frank's pursuit of Gertrude isn't its violation of some generalized principle holding that it's wrong to marry just for money, but rather its particular risking the intimacy of enemies. There are characters in Trollope who can marry without love, but he's not interested in them, and in fact he regards them as somewhat subhuman. The characters whom Trollope pushes into the foreground are all too sanguine for phlegmatic settlements.
At the same time, there's Mudbury Docimer's letter to remind us that in the real world it's folly to expect to live as gentry on the interest (at 3%, the decent rate that prevailed throughout the Victorian period) of sixteen thousand pounds. Not just folly, but cruel to the children who will come 'according to the laws of nature' - a phrase that predictably tells us nothing about Trollope's views of contraception, which I'm sure he would sooner have died than discuss, even among friends: a self-restraint that, given my upbringing, I find both normal and desirable. (Physicians and guidance counselors are only people, aside from one's mate, who may raise this subject in any but the most general terms - and a general discussion of contraception couldn't have interested Trollope less, at least as a novelist, because novels are about particular cases.) I'd like to wrap this up with a look at the passage in which that phrase appears, i.e., the first three paragraphs of Chapter XLI, 'A Cold Prospect.'
I won't quote the passage because it's fairly lengthy and in any case most readers will wonder why I've bothered. It's the sort of recapitulation, or tour d'horizon of Frank Houston's dilemma, that one might attribute to the vicissitudes of serial publication: lest the reader have forgotten, here's the story so far. Others might simply regard it as padding. But I think that Trollope concentrates Frank's troubles into three paragraphs for the same reason that a preacher or a politician winds up with a peroration: to hammer home important points. 'Logic' figures frequently in the first paragraph, and many of the sentences simply announce the premises that Frank's got to work with. For example, if he's *not* going to work for his bread, then he'll have to find his income in his bride's pocket - or do without a bride. "There was a logic about it which had seemed to be unanswerable. It was a logic which applied to his case of above all others." The difficulties surrounding Frank's attempts to settle down in life are to Trollope well worth the summary.
Somewhere in An Autobiography,Trollope compares himself to a preacher at a pulpit. Many readers wonder what to make of an artist who preaches. My answer is that while Trollope may be a novelist, and even a very great novelist, he is no artist. I can remember when 'artist' was a term reserved for the creators of imaginative works who refrained from making use of words. Now I would put poets among the artists. But novelists, even when they display inarguably artistic skills and objectives, remain moralists. That's, in any case, what reading novels is all about for me.
February 27, 2001
Re: Ayala's Angel: An Economical Novel
This is meant good-humouredly to tease RJ: after having admonished all those deluded Marxists still amongst us (though I have it on good authority there is but one Marxist left upon this earth and he used to be married to Katha Pollit), and argued against an economic interpretation of Trollope's fiction, he goes on to build an interpretation of this novel and retitle it out of an analysis of a passage meditating Frank Houston's economic basis for marriage :).
I don't see Ayala's Angel as the Third Generation Dosetts, though would be the first to say it's an improvement upon the coyness exuded in the sentimental euphemism "Angel of Light".
I do agree, though, that this is one of Trollope's novels which can weary even the most faithful of Trollopians. At the same time any author, even the most varied, would grow tiresome after a while. Even Shakespeare. I've long been of the view that in the US we would do much better to stop performing Midsummer Night's Dream or Twelfth Night or even Hamlet the umpteenth time, and turn to many of the superb Jacobean plays of his contemporaries, a considerable number of which are more interesting than Shakespeare's earliest histories, more playable than a couple of his "problem comedies".
This is partly the idea of having a Victorian reading group. It is true that with the preponderance of people on this list having a sort of taste for Trollope, we tend to choose Victorian novels whose outlook, terrain, mood resemble Trollope's. But not always. We did read Sheridan Le Fanu as our first book, have gone through (steadily) Bleak House, this past Christmas did a series of ghost stories most un-Trollopian like. We also, some of us, tend to criticize the non-Trollope books by criteria that are derived from Trollope's kind of verisimilitude and outlook. But not all. So let me urge RJ not to give up on us. Our partner books for our Irish read will contain items that are outside the 19th century, even if only a couple; the issue of Ireland could spark different kinds of discussions; a travel book will be a relief from novels. We work something like spontaneously here so I cannot say what will be our next Victorian group or what we'll do over the summer or next Christmas. I doubt Dracula would allure RJ (again I am teasing), but hope he would agree it would certainly preclude an overdose of Marxist analysis :). We don't go enough into the Edwardian era, and I call again for anyone who is intrigued to do a subgroup on 19th century Detective stories or books by women on women's issues -- not that I think these would satisfy the weariness and sense of a limited terrain Ayala can make one feel. Is there any Proustian book in the 19th century? Remember we can go for American books too -- and Henry James is strongly influenced by Mr Trollope; William Dean Howells, anyone?
Cheers to all,
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] An Economical Novel
I was very interested in R J Keefe's comments on Ayala's Angel and Trollope in general. Reading the passages between Frank and Imogen I was thinking about the different kinds of 'romantic' love in the novel. I find a sense of strain in the relationships Trollope gives us to offset the extreme romance of Ayala. Having set that at a youthful high, he has had to show us other non-Romantic relationships which are similarly extreme. This results in some of the Tringle pairings sounding like Dickensian grotesques. Frank and Imogen are more human and as a consequence, more painful. Frank deserves a chapter heading : how could she forgive him.
I like the reading about the economics of marriage which RJ Keefe brings forward. I was wondering whether The Small House was different and then remembered that Crosby was constrained by his income from an early marriage date with Lily. Its true, we get more about the cost of living in Trollope's novels than anywhere else.
May I also join Ellen in urging you to remain on the list?
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Tom Tringle Redux
I'd like to thank those on the list who've been so forthcoming in regard to their feelings about Tom Tringle. Though my knee-jerk reaction was to roll my eyes up in my head at him and declare him a nuisance, after reading many of the posts here I've had some second thoughts.
Youth, is indeed, a time when we're all expected to often be quite stupid.. I took as full advantage of this as anyone, I expect, and when I thought back I could see I've both been a Tom Tringle and an Ayala, at different times. That's a bit sobering, and made me realise I'd perhaps been a bit too harsh on the lad.
However, I can also see why Ayala thinks as she does, and why Tom is entirely too unstable a man for her to consider marrying. Give him another ten years and perhaps, just perhaps, he would be more appealing to her. As it is, in my mind he pales in comparison to Colonel Stubbs, bad looks and all, and he has nowhere near the honour or the stability. Then again, he can't really be expected to compare, given his age.
I think we're meant to contrast these two, given the portraits Trollope paints of each, and to examine the very issues we have been discussing here. I thank everyone for their impassioned posts, both pro and con, as I think I've learned a bit more about myself from it.
Subject: [trollope-l] In defense of Ayala's Angel and Sondheim's Into the Woods
I have read Ellen's much earlier comments on Ayala's Angel with great interest and want to respond to the provocative points she raises there.
It will take more than one post to comment upon all the elements in play here, but you have to start somewhere. It is no accident that Ayala was named (so I've read) after a champagne that Trollope enjoyed. AA is like a glass of champagne - effervescent, extravagant, and a bit of an indulgence meant to be tossed off in a playful mood. There are numerous elements of fairy tale in AA, and one's enjoyment of the book depends on the suspension of disbelief. The fairy tale elements (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast) underscore the theme of sexual awakening and sexual fear. Ellen raises the point of believability. I didn't have any difficulty believing that poor Tom Tringle would insist on wooing Ayala in the face of vehement rejection. People did and do carry on in this way. The comic and perverse behavior of characters like Ayala, Tom, and others may be explained by by the underlying theme of frustrated sexual longing and fear of sex. Ayala's romantic ideas about love between a man and a woman are a cover up for her fear of sex. She doesn't want to be eaten by the big bad wolf (Stubbs with his bristly beard and large mouth) or the oafish Beast (Tringle with his doltish manners and ridiculous gimracks.) I hope to write more on the fairy tale theme, but I must dig out my notes and find the supporting references first. Regarding suspension of disbelief, reading Ayala's Angel reminds me of my first encounter with Steven Sondheim's Into the Woods. I have been a Sondheim for years, but was dismayed when I first saw Into the Woods. The work seemed like a mish-mash with no point at all. After listening to the score many times, I fell in love with Into the Woods. I had approached the work with certain expectations and was dissapointed. After accepting the premise and re-exposing myself to the score, I found treasures. We approach Trollope in a special way. In a famous paragraph in Barchester Towers Trollope discusses the relationship between the novelist and reader as one built on trust, where the novelist conceals nothing. Ayala's Ange falls outside this arrangement, which is perhaps the main reason some Trollopians don't like it. Even if one doesn't accept the fairy tale aspect of the book, Ayala's Angel offers several delights. The fox hunting scenes and the encounter with old friends from The American Senator and the antics of the freeloading Mr. and Mrs. Traffik come to mind. Inspite of my strong advocacy for Ayala's Angel there is one part of the novel that drives me crazy. Trollope's handling of the different story lines at the end of the book is incredibly clumsy. He goes back and forth in time and fails to synchronize the action. That said, Ayala's Angel remains a favorite of mine, perhaps because it is so different and problematic.
Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 37-42: Tom and Stubbs
I was interested by a couple of Judy Geater's comments.
"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."
For me it's the poignancy that appeals. Everyone has talked about this character from the viewpoint of an older person looking at an adolescent or as an adolescent looking as an adolescent so I'll add my two cents on this. I doubt I would have recognised Tom as real when I was 15. If I had come across the character in fiction, I would probably have felt sorry for him. In a novel we are always given the characters' inner thoughts in such a way as to make us see the world from his point of view, emotionally to identify while we read. If I could have recognized some counterpart in the real world I lived, I agree I would have disliked him. I would only have seen the outside, and been very turned off. I suspect I would have instinctively kept away from such an uncontrolled philistine type because I doubt I could have understood how he came to be that way. If I could have entered into his case, I might have been embarrassed for him, but unable to feel sorry for him as a real person as the source of my embarrassment would be incomprehensible to him. I did when young understand that things that embarrassed me about people, that I thought they should have sense to hide from others, were not matters of distress to them at all. But I didn't go on to try to understand how different might be their backgrounds or try to make out a different psychological disposition as a basis for understanding anyone. He would, in short, have been to me what the term nard covers.
I was also struck by Judy's quotation of an perceptive passage from Julian Thompson's introduction to the Oxford classics edition of Ayala. Thompson's first sentence gives his take on the quotation from Trollope's narrator about Tom:
"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."
This reminded me of a shrewd comment Trollope made about another male character, this in his very first published novel. It is part of a psychological analysis of Myles Ussher, an Anglo-Irish police officer who bullies the Irish and threatens them for breaking the law while himself making money on the sly for precisely the activities he can intimidate others about. We are told he is "the illegitimate son of a gentleman of large property" so that he has become "tolerably well-educated", at least enough to "read and write sufficiently, understand "something of the nature of figures", and have forgotten some Latin. (The mark of the gentleman was then to have forgotten some Latin.) Trollope then goes on to go to look at the inward complexion of what passes for a mind in this character:
He had natural abilities somewhat above par; was good-looking, storngly amde, and possessed of that kind of courage, which arises more from animal spirits, and from not having yet experienced the evil effects of danger, than from real capabilities of enduring its consequences.
It's that last phrase which recalls Trollope's comment on Tom quoted by Thompson. Trollope reinforces this insight on the nature of what passes for physical courage in most people at the close of the meditation:
Myles Ussher had never yet been hit in a duel, and would therefore have no hesitation in fighting one; he had never yet been seriously injured in riding, and would therefore ride any horse boldly; he had never had his head broken in a row ,and therefore would readly go into one; he cared little for bodily pain if it did not incapacitate him -- little at least for any pain he had yet endured and his imagination was not strong enough to suggest any worse evil. And this kind of courage which is the species by far most generally met with, was sufficient for the life he had to lead (Trollope Society Macdermots of Ballycloran, ed., introd. ODEdwards, Ch 3, p. 17)
Firm-footed recklessness which comes out of not imagining the consequences sufficiently, which comes out of pig-headedness, the desire to inflict injury which is part of that level of spite in human nature which is often airbrushed out of novels.
Let no one say Trollope is a sentimentalist about human nature or in his sympathy for Tom has idealised him. It is also interesting to see how this type of male -- or at least this kind of trait which is called courage -- recurs in the novels over the span of Trollope's writing life. Trollope has seen this sort often, can see in himself where the type comes from.
Judy asks if the name Stubbs has lower class connotations. I don't know. I wish I did. Certainly it does not ring in the ears like Fitzwilliam Darcy or Wentworth. It reminds me of the names of the old men in The Warden. I hazard a guess that "Jonathan" would be no more popular than Josiah (Crowley) or Obadiah (Slope). This is a Biblical sounding name still: it would smack of evangelism, low class returns to fundamentalist religion. Remember how differently religious emotion was classed and seen before Darwinism had begun to make such an impact that we have our present religious reaction. Finally, red hair seems to endlessly be mocked in English novels as a stigma: perhaps it was associated with Irish people? Squint eyes (whatever this is -- it seems to refer to a sneaky expression more than some physiological trait), squint eyes, I add, are also unacceptable and associated with Jewish people. After all, Trollope did love the Irish: in an important passage in his An Autobiographyhe said he identified with them. Tringle, by-the-bye, makes me think of coins clinking in one's pocket as well as assonating with trinket.
Cheers to all,