Re: Ayala's Angel, Chs 55-59: Country Copulatives
I am among those who think that Trollope is very good at love scenes. I suggest one of the reasons that they come across very well is he always deflects the emotion: either there is a comical presence in the scene (the donkey in the famous scene between Mary Thorne and Frank Gresham), or our narrator makes us see it as from a distance. In this novel Trollope throws our high climax into the past tense so the experience becomes a memory rather than reality. The scene between Colonel Stubbs and Ayala is a memory she is imagining back to, not experiencing in the present. Interestingly, the moment is not dramatized; it is skipped:
Then she heard the sound of the man's step across the billiard-room, she heard his hand upon the door, and there he was in her presence!
When she thought of it all afterwards, as she did so many scores of times, she never could tell how it had occurred. When she accused him in her playfulness, telling him that he had taken for granted that of which he had had no sign, she never knew whether there had been aught of truth in her accusation. But she did know that he had hardly closed the door behind him when she was in his arms, and felt the burning love of his kisses upon her cheeks. there had been nom ore asking whether he was to have any other answer. Of that she was quite sure. Had three been such further question she would have answered him, and some remembrance of her own words would have remained with her ...' (Folio Society Ayala's Angel, introd AEThomas, Ch 55, p. 534).
Ayala is looking back from satisfaction achieved -- as it is in the expectation of happiness which some say is the happiness itself -- it was probably intuition on Trollope's part suddenly to switch us forward to Ayala's mind looking back, searching into herself about how it had been. Is this not one aspect of Proust's great book? Our mental understanding of experience can be far richer than the actual reality: for a start it can go on for so much longer, is capable of elaboration, especially if later in life we are made happy as a result of the incident remembered.
As I wrote a couple of years ago now (the second time I had read this book), in moments like this -- and indeed the whole chapter called 'In the Knight There Lived a Castle' this novel reminds me of nothing so much as a very sweet, good natured yet cynical and disillusioned long 15th century Italian romance I have read about half-way through, MatteoMaria Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato. Some people on our list may have heard of Ludovico Aristo's Orlando Furioso, a romance written about a half-century later which is said to be a mock on the first. It's not as it is also evocative romance; what Ariosto is not though is truly gay; he's bitter. Ayala's Angel reminds me of _Orlando Mad In love_ because Boiardo offers us a sophisticated naivete. It's a kind of pretending; we look only at what we wish to see, and because a thing may be which is unpleasant (now or later) we do not suppose it must be. Boiardo is vulgar; love is a quality in his book that causes people to misbehave terribly; they lose their wits; it disorders everything. Love is obsessive; infatuated males run about on horses, but all is harmonious, if a bit shallow because of the refusal to explore what the poem knows are the other possiblities of sexual enthrallment. As Angelica casts spells on all knights that come near, but especially poor Orlando, so Ayala casts spells on all knights that come near, but especially poor Tom (Tomaso?). The same hard and slightly coarse sunny quality of Boiardo's poem is to be found Ayala's Angel because of our warm soft-hearted and thin-skinned wizard of the millions, Sir Thomas of Lombard Street. Also Colonel Stubbs, our angel of gallantry who has enough and many ladies who have enchanting houses in which they keep damsels who are uncooperative shut up until they come to their senses.
Cynically speaking, the difference between the novel of the 18th through 20th centuries which goes on at length and the short novella of earlier times is the former offers us psychological stretching. Instead of having let's say 10 narrators on 10 nights tell 10 stories each, all of which stay outside the characters; we have 1 narrator tell 10 stories, intertwined which are made long by the psychologizing and all the letters. In some 18th through 20th century novels there is a pretense of realism, some are even realistic, but for Ayala the realism is there to counter the romance only so far.
Not so Lucy who has less of a romance lady name and less potency. Also is less immune to sexual enthrallment. Ayala is like one of Diana's nymphs, a Britomart in disguise; Lucy is more an Una. She will have to make it on less than £300 with an extra £100 kicked in by Sir Thomas. We do know Sir Thomas is not the type to try to manipulate her based on that £100.
And we have the story of Gertrude and Captain Batsby and Imogen and Frank. They are there as ironic contrasts as well as reinforcements of Eros. Just in case we enjoyed Ayala and her knight in Ayala's memory too much, we have the gross parody of it in Gertrude's rushing into Captain Batsby's arms. I am quoting from next week's chapters but as many people have now said they have finished the book and the ending is clear I will go ahead to make my point:
'Benjamin', said Gertrude, 'is this really you?' And then she flew into his arm.
'My dear', said Augusta, 'do control your emotions'.
'Yes, indeed, Gertrude', said the mother. 'As the things are at present you should control yourself. Nobody as yet knows what may come of it'.
'Oh, Benjamin!' again exclaimed Gertrude, tearing herself from his arms, throwing herself on the sofa, and covering her face with both her hands. 'Oh, Benjamin, you have come at last ...' (p. 566).
Gertrude is such a butt of Trollope's humour. Why he can pity Tom and not Gertrude tells us which sex he finally identifies with. It's done in the present tense; the mother and the cheap Augusta (very pregnant) who is not impressed by Gertrude's emotions are there to make counterthrusts. And then we go into Batsby's reluctance to take her openly lest some money not come with her. Why is Gertrude's enthrallment a joke? Because she's so desperate for any man and is stupid? Tom is presented as dull or dumb. Or is it because she has so little self-esteem? is so easy? (unlike the wonderfully reluctant Ayala)? is this matter for laughing? As a woman I don't find the perverse behaviors of the child-woman in the constraining bourgeois set-up, nor the results of her decisions matter for mockery.
The sophistication which is psychological leads to such questions and makes me wonder about how sensitive to the vulnerable Trollope is. One of Trollope's ostensible morals that girls must not believe in angels of light is belied by his having given his Ayala such an angel, and not even in disguise.
As a number of us said at the opening, this is another of Trollope's novels which can remind us of Pride and Prejudice. Emmeline, Lady Tringle reminds me of Austen's Mrs Bennet (from Pride & Prejudice). When Sir Thomas told Gertrude he much preferred Mr Houston over Captain Batsby, Sir Thomas reminded me of Mr Bennet who said of all his sons-in-law he preferred Wickham best of all his sons-in-law and was sorry to hear he took Lydia for less than £10,000 as it brought Wickham down in his judgement just as their relationship was beginning.
What an enormous number of letters and what parts they play in Ayala's Angel. Another mark of the love romance, another way of spinning it out psychologically. Letters also work to distance us from a painful reality: they are a gloss by the writer who usually seeks to present him or herself in the pleasantest light. Note that Imogen and Frank's romance has been heavily dependent on letters. Their coming-together which is seen in the last chapter of this week's instalment is presented through a pair of letters (pp. 487-489). Letters are like speeches in a play, yet they are also devices for distancing and throwing things in the past. Trollope is quick to take the closing intensely anguished line of Imogen, "Pray, pray, PRAY, take this as final, and thus save me from renewed trouble and renewed agony", and make us forget it by Frank's refusal to end their love affair forever, his determination to marry her. Trollope can make a poignant use of typography: the girl is so desperate that she underlines, then capitalizes what we know is the last thing she wants. What she wants is happiness; if she can't have that, she wants the peace of not hoping for anything ever after. Another way in which Trollope could have given this book more depth would have been to bring this couple -- and especially Imogen -- more to the front stage. Instead we have been treated to the mockery of the egregious "cabbage" head, Gertrude. This is yet another sign of in this novel Trollope's disengagement or distance from his erotic material from the female point of view.
07:03:24 -0800 (PST)Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001
Reply-To: email@example.com Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel -- chapter 58
Thank you Ellen for the description of the illustration in last week's section. And congratulations on your new "official" status. You have been the guiding light and motivating power of this group since I joined. Thank you too for that, for all the time, effort, and energy you expend in keeping this a great list.
One of my favorite parts in this week's section of Ayala's Angel occurs in Chapter 58. It is the interview which Mr. Traffick has with Sir Thomas on behalf of Gertrude's latest suitor. Trollope even mentions that Traffick was not a wise choice for intervention. I laughed and laughed at the things Sir Thomas intimated and then came right out and said about Traffick's money-grubbing, sponging ways. Surely Mr. Traffick can't be that dense, can he? I don't see how it could be possible. It does seem that sometimes he understands exactly what Sir Thomas is saying, but pretends not to and continues being cordial in order to take further monetary advantage of the dear soul.
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel,
I finished Ayala's Angel last week. I have to confess I put it down with relief. Its the sort of book that you have to say is interesting in the context of the writers overall output but.......
I found myself quite annoyed at the sudden appearance of a friendly aunt to provide a haven for the Frank and Imogen pair. Nearly began talking to the book - really Trollope you can do better than that - just as people argue with their radios and tvs (not me of course).
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Ayala's Angel
I enjoyed the book immensely but then I have been immersed this last year in an independent reading project of experimental literature since Joyce - it is a real pleasure to read a book with a beginning, an ending, and a middle, and an at least pseudo-realistic plot. What fun it is to get back to a courtship novel - nothing postmodern or post-postmodern - before finishing up my project with John Barth (who is definitely more 18th century than 20th (straight out of Sterne's Tristram Shandy).
Somewhere this year I came across the term Angel of light in a completely different context - pre 19th century if I remember but I haven't the faintest idea where (as I recall it was quoted in a twentieth century book so it doesn't help checking my reading list for the past year to jog my memory). I keep thinking I should create my own database of quotations (and misquotations),
Re: Ayala's Angel: Nearing the End
To Angela, Aunt Rosina is surely an obvious _dea ex machina_, and one brought in at the last minute. I remember we are told something of an aunt earlier, but no hint "here is our solution". I suppose one could say that since Trollope has set up the problem in a reductive and partly false way (it must be that Imogen and Frank must have a child each year is repeatedly endlessly), a solution that feels false is appropriate. After all, if they were really to have endless children each year, Aunt Rosina's house could not hold them all. I think of the close of Austen's Emma where Mrs Elton's remarks of another couple going to live with someone of the next generation (and Aunt Rosina can control her part of the money): "Shocking plan, living together. It would never do. She knew a family near Maple Grove who had tried it, and been obliged to separate before the end of the first quarter".
To Maggie, I did like the novel very much when I listened to it read aloud by Donada Peters. It seems to be the sort of book that can't sustain slow reading unless, as Angela says, the reader resorts to seeing it against the whole of Trollope's work or through a psycholoanalytical perspective on these in terms of his life. It is also interesting when you see it as a romance and start meditating the allusions.
This is the second time Maggie has mentioned her project. It sounds fascinating. Just the other day I was reading an essay in the Nation (a US weekly news-periodical-journal) on a TV program called "The Sopranos". I've never seen it, but the essay took such an interestingly psychoanalytical cultural take on the thing as reflecting important elements in US life, culture, sexual-familial conflicts I was almost tempted. Actually such an essay is probably more interesting than the program. The essayist did remark that her way of analysing the TV program -- through the commonplaces of Oedipal conflicts -- used tools which oddly enough have not become commonplace in talk. People will refer to Freud, they will use as commonplaces, "Freudian slip", but real uses of what we know to be true about family sex life are not part of common discourse. Probably that's one reason a book like Is He Popenjoy? bores people: they don't see the Father-Daughter Oedipal angle nor how it relates to the sexually inadequate male in the center. Yet it's so obvious, and it's relationship to Trollope and his other books stimulating.
I know Freud wrote an essay on "the resistance" to psychoanalysis and what it says. I wonder if Maggie would agree that the kinds of things she's been studying don't get across to common literature and talk today, stay in a narrow circle and thus keep the kind of talk we have and insights much duller.
Cheers to all,