For the rest of this group read Jill Spriggs took over writing the faciliating posts at the beginning of the week.
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume I, Chapter XIII, The Rubbish Cart
From Jill Spriggs
July 31, 1999
Poor Mr. Harding. He really did not deserve his lot as the rope in the three way tug of war between the Proudie, Slope, and Grantley factions. And there was no end in sight, of his sufferings.
"[Mr. Harding's] preferment and pleasant house were a second time gone from him; but that he could endure. He had been schooled and insulted by a man young enough to be his son; but that he could put up with. He could even draw from the very injuries, ... inflicted upon him, some of that consolation, which we may believe martyrs always receive from the injustice of their sufferings ... He had admitted to his daughter that he wanted the comfort of his old home, and yet he could have returned to his lodgings in the High Street, if not with exultation, at least with satisfaction, had that been all. But the venom of the chaplain's harangue had worked into his blood, and sapped the life of his sweet contentment." (OUP Barchester Towers, ed. Sadleir and Page, pp. 115 - 116)
Mr. Slope had wisely conducted his conference with Mr. Harding alone, with no witnesses. It might not be regarded as judicious to tell a man as well loved as the prebendary, that he was "useless rubbish of past centuries" and that "Work is now required from every man who receives wages!" Mr. Slope chose his words well; he somehow knew the delicate conscience of a Mr. Harding would recoil from accusations that would bounce harmless off the self satisfied armor of an Archdeacon Grantley, or a Dr. Gwynne. With regret, Mr. Harding recognized that in his past life, he had not been "skinned alive as was St. Bartholemew; ... stuck full of arrows as was St. Sebastian; [lay] broiling on a gridiron like St. Lorenzo" and if he had, he would not have had "the energy to go through with it" (p. 118)
Mr. Harding's ordeal was not over, by any means. First he told Eleanor of his most unpleasant interview but she did not offer the sympathy he expected. Mr. Slope had already visited the widow the previous day, with a very different tune from the one which he sang to her father. "He could not ... deny himself the pleasure of telling Mrs. Bold that her father was about to return to the pretty house at Hiram's Hospital. He had been instructed by the bishop to inform Mr. Harding that the appointment would now be made at once. ... And then by degrees Mr. Slope had introduced the subject of the pretty school which he hoped before long to see attached to the hospital. He had quite fascinated Mrs. Bold by his description of this picturesque, useful, and charitable appendage ..." (p. 118) Not a word about "the hospital sermons and services, nothing about the exclusion of the old men from the cathedral, nothing about dilapidation and painting, nothing about carting away the rubbish." (p. 118)
With confident excitement, Eleanor prepared to meet her father after his meeting. That happiness proved to be short lived; one look at his dismal face told her the meeting had somehow gone wrong. He told her that he needed to go to Plumstead to consult his son-in-law "about this weary hospital". When questioned by his daughter, he told her "Mr. Slope ... isn't the pleasantest companion in the world ..." then elaborated, "He wants to turn the hospital into a Sunday school and a preaching house ... I suppose I must refuse the appointment." (p. 119) In the course of her conversation with her father, Eleanor let it slip that Mr. Slope had visited her the day before, discussing the coming appointment in quite a different light from that presented to Mr. Harding. He warned her against the influence of the man, in his characteristically mild way; " ... I am not quite sure that he is honest. That he is not gentleman-like in his manners, of that I am quite sure." (p. 120)
Sadly, the prebendary left his daughter, his most valued source of sympathy, now apparently the advocate of his most disliked opponent. While Archdeacon Grantley was unlikely to become a partisan of Slope's, his taste for "open battle" was almost as disagreeable as the scornful disrespect Mr. Harding received from Mr. Slope.
Since Dr. Grantley was not in when Mr. Harding arrived, he shared his tale of woe with his daughter. While just as much a partisan as he could wish, Susan Grantley soon lit upon the aspect of the business most painful for her father; her sister's willingness to assist Mr. Slope in the establishment of the Sunday school. Mrs. Grantley leaped to the conclusion that Mr. Slope intended to marry her sister, to her father's horror. A prospect more dreadful could not be imagined. He gave Susan credit for her perceptiveness in such situations; it was she that first saw the potential of an alliance between Eleanor and John Bold. While Eleanor had no intention of a close relationship with Mr. Slope, she had not greeted him with the revulsion she ought. Could this awful thing happen?
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume I, Chapter XIV, The New Champion
Archdeacon Grantley returned big with news. Too late for a preprandial conference with his wife and father-in-law, they nonetheless could see that developments of that day had pleased him. Closeted with his wife while dressing for dinner, he gave her the good news. ' Arabin has agreed to accept the living. He'll be here next week.' " (OUP _Barchester Towers_, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 125) Much we will hear of Francis Arabin in the coming chapters. A more worthy opponent for Mr. Slope could not have been found.
The Reverend Francis Arabin, fellow of Lazarus at Oxford University, was so high church that he once flirted with converting to Catholicism. He had long debated church doctrine in the editorial columns of the daily newspaper, the Jupiter, with Mr. Slope. After many exchanges, the powers that be, at the newspaper, determined that no more letters would be accepted from either of the opponents, except as paid advertisements. Dr. Grantley hoped that the prospect of combat in person might be attractive enough to overcome the rather slim living of St. Ewold's. Mr. Arabin accepted, at first intending to maintain his position at Oxford and using a curate to discharge his parish duties.
For the first time, we hear from Griselda Grantley, in this exchange which amused me;
" ' Is Mr. Arabin married, papa?' asked Griselda.
' No, my dear; the fellow of a college is never married.'
' Is he a young man, papa?'
' About forty, I believe,' said the archdeacon.
' Oh!' said Griselda. Had her father said eighty, Mr. Arabin would not have appeared to her to be very much older." (pp. 128 - 129)
When the men adjourned to their wine after dinner, Mr. Harding told his sad tale. It did not discompose Dr. Grantley. He assured his father-in-law that neither the bishop nor Mr. Slope had the power to change the duties of the warden of Hiram's Hospital. The archdeacon confidently expressed that the outcry from the popular press, if the bishop should put a candidate into the hospital over Mr. Harding, would deter him from such a motion. The prospect of again being the center of the press' attention was of scant consolation to our shy prebendary. He proposed that he might be too old for the job. Dr. Grantley proceeded to rub the long suffering man, the wrong way, by suggesting that such qualms were weak, and that indulging his timidity must be resisted, for the good of the Church. To his plea of age, Dr. Grantley gave the rather dubious assurance of, " ' ... you bid fair to be as efficient as you were ten years ago.' " (p. 130) The archdeacon then suggested that cowardice was preventing him from entering into combat; " ' The fact is, you are half afraid of this Slope, and would rather subject yourself to comparative poverty and discomfort, than come to blows with a man who will trample on you, if you let him.' " (p. 130)
Mr. Harding had finally been nettled. " ' I doubt there is any true courage, ... in squabbling for money.' " Dr. Grantley was quick with his response: " ' If honest men did not squabble for money, in this wicked world of ours, the dishonest men would get it all; and I do not see that the cause of virtue would be much improved.' " (p. 131)
Mr. Harding then deplored disputes between bishops and their clergy. Dr. Grantley agreed, but added this proviso: " ' ... it is quite as much the duty of the bishop to look to that as of his inferior.' " (p. 131) He also guessed that the ideas of inflammatory sermons and Sunday schools did not originate with Dr. Proudie, but with his aspiring wife and chaplain. The archdeacon was sure that, if approached when not in the company of his wife or Mr. Slope, the bishop would be amenable to any reasonable proposals.
Mr. Harding knew he would accede to his son-in-law's wishes, and the two returned to the women in good humor. He would have to take consolation in the fact that Mr. Slope would soon have a more worthy adversary in the reputedly brilliant Dr. Arabin.
In the privacy of their bedchamber, Mrs. Grantley shared with her husband her concerns about the marital intentions of Mr. Slope. "And the archdeacon gave a shudder which shook the whole room, so violently was he convulsed with the thought which then agitated his mind." (p. 132)
Give Eleanor credit for a little more taste than that!
August 1, 1999
Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 13-19: The Rubbish Cart
This is written in response to Jill's of last night.
The am attracted to the encounter between Slope and Harding too. There is the fundamental theme of the book as a whole -- as enunciated by Slope, even though we are supposed to be against his stance with all our hearts. The blurb of my Penguin edition tells me a major inference to be taken from Barchester Towers is that Trollope is 'protesting against the competitive mode of life, and reasserting the benefits of more traditional kindlier values'. As ever this is something of a softening simplification, for nowhere in this book does Trollope present anyone but Mr Harding and perhaps Eleanor as actuated by kindly, traditional values. It is everywhere hard competition for place, money, luxury, position, or one's beliefs, and the assumption is, it has ever been so, even if these things were given out based on a different set of 'purchases' (blood, kinship, property ownership, marriage) than they are given out in this mid- century world, which Slope seems to sum up as 'hard work', 'efficiency', an adherence to doing whatever is the newest thing. It's not quite Ruskin, but Trollope's narrator goes in that direction:
'A man is sufficiently condemned if it can only be shown that either in politics or religion he does not belong to some new school estalibhsed within the last score of years. He may then regard himself as rubbish and expect to be carted away. A man is nothing now unless he has within him a full appreciation of the new era in which it would seem that enither honesty nor truth is very desirable, but in which success is the touchstone of merit. We must laugh at everything that is established. Let the joke be ever so bad, ever so untrue to the real principles of joking; nevertheless, we must laugh -- or else beware the cart. We must talk, think, and live up to the spirit of the times, and write up to it too, if that cacoethes be upon us, or else we are nought' (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed. RGilmour, Ch 13, p 103.
I single out the real religion of the new era:
'Work is now required from every man who receives wages' (p. 103).
The question Mr Harding asks himself is, Has what he has done been 'work'. Is it 'worthy' this great word and idea? Indeed it seems it has not been work and that's probably because he has 1) been comfortable, and 2) not produced any palpable, like money or things. One must be seen to be exerting oneself -- and of course that would be over others, as in a school. How is it we are what's called useful to one another? It's question to which Mr Harding cannot find an answer, except that, were you not 'to exert yourself' you will somehow or other 'go to the wall' (p. 106).
Jill went through Mr Harding's dismay when he comes home and finds his daughter has been seduced by very different tone and presentation of the pressures Slope placed on him ('Anyone who had heard the entirely different tone, and seen the entirely different manner in which Mr Slope had spoken of this projected institution to the daughter and to the father ,could not have failed to own that Mr Slope was a man of genius', p. 105). Trollope again goes through the matter that took all of The Warden ('She had seem him with the same weary look of sorrow on one or two occasions before, and remembered it well ...' , p. 105), but in a couple of paragraphs. This time the horns of Mr Harding's dilemma will cover several perspectives. He is in this chapter torn between the outright mean cruelty of Slope, his smooth but tough hypocrisy (oh what an exemplar of our world's bosses have we here) and his sense of Eleanor's seduction as even more cruel, for here he expected to find understanding, sympathy, solace. Apparently in the bosoms of our family this is not always so. He is in the next, as Jill points out, torn between the Archdeacon's taste for 'open battle', and tactless scorn, and not only Slope but Eleanor herself, for the Archdeacon and Susan jump to the conclusion Eleanor is attracted to Slope. Jill points out that Trollope has cleverly set against Mr Harding just those types and choices which would rub such a unworldly idealistic sensitive man wrong. He cannot in conscience forbid his daughter to talk to, work for, or even marry Slope (note that); for the purposes of the story, he is this time allowed to let the Archdeacon fight the battle for the hospital for him, but it's clear he doesn't want the hospital on these terms. Slope and the Archdeacon both behave in ways which show them desirous of not 'wishing to lose one influential friend before they gain another' (p. 119). It's a three-way pull on the man, each way capturing into it different themes and significances.
Both the Archdeacon and Slope are given lines which ring home as the new world's hard truths -- and perhaps those of the older one too. The Archdeacon's are often quoted. First he immediately smells out what was the motive for Slope's behavior:
'This man's object is to induce you to refuse the hospital, that he may put some creature of his own into it; that he may show his power, and insult us all by insulting you ... (Ch 14, p. 115).
He knows it was not Proudie, 'ass as he is, [he] knows the world too well to get such a hornet's nest about his ears' (p. 114). To Mr Harding's response to his scorn that it's mere timidity which keeps Mr Harding from wanting to fight, 'I doubt there is any true courage ... in squabbling for money', he replies: '
"If honest men did not squabble for money, in this wicked world, the dishonest men would get it all; and I do not see that the cause of virtue would be much improved' (p. 116).
The people who like to quote this as the 'truth' of the book do so because they want to validate the new ways of living that Slope himself stands for. They like to think Trollope is telling us it's fine to squabble for money. But to say it doesn't make the world more virtuous not to, is not to make the squabble any less venal. Trollope is ironic in the lines given the narrator about the above:
'The archdeacon filled his glass and then emptied it, drinking with much reverence a silent toast to the well-being and permanent security of those temporalities which were so dear to his soul' (p. 116).
Trollope tells us the morning after the Archdeacon is told by his wife Eleanor may be thinking of marrying Slope, the Archdeacon is immediately cold to Mr Harding himself: 'the Archdeacon was less cordial than he had been on the preceding evening' (p. 117).
Against this we have the absolute amorality of Slope -- for that's what it is. By this I mean he doesn't have a cause he sticks to. The Archdeacon has the saving grace of being self-deluded, a little stupid. Slope sees into himself and is not bothered in the least. His scene with Mr Harding is as nasty as any Trollope had written thus far; Trollope does dislike liars; venom is what he pours into Mr Harding's veins. It's curious how his mind works once he hears Eleanor has money. Suddenly it seems in his interest to give Mr Harding the wardenship because it's good to have a comfortable father-in-law, and would help him gain the daughter. This is a man not to be trusted to hold any opinion for any longer than it suits his interests. He's not for sale; he's only for rent, and that's short term. This is worse than the Archdeacon because you can at least know where you are with the Archdeacon.
Yet Trollope is quickly fair to Slope; he doesn't want to paint the man black, for then he wouldn't be real, and we would not take the interest in Slope's fate and behavior Trollope wants us to take. He tells us Slope has no heart (Ch 15, p. 120); in this he is like the Stanhopes. He is sensually attracted to la Signora; she is exotic. Yet Trollope tells us we must not think him a total hypocrite, a 'bad man'
'His motives, like those of most men, were mixed; and though his conduct ws generally very different from that which he we would wish to praise, it was actuated perhaps as often as that of the majority of the world by the desire to do his duty. He believed in the religion which he was taught, harsh, unpalatable, uncharitable as that religion was. He believed those whom he wished to get under his hoof, the Grantlys, the Gwynnes of the church, to be the enemies of that religion' (p., 120).
How easy it is to believe that those ideas and actions which promote our own interest are also those which ''promote religion' (p. 120) says Trollope. So Slope is self-deluded too, sees himself in a pleasant way, just like the Archdeacon, though the delusions run in a different pattern.
It's interesting how, with the exception of Eleanor and the Grantlys over a coming lover for Eleanor, Trollope allows everyone in this novel to make very clever remarks, a kind of apperception pervades these chapters. This is true of the Stanhopes too who are made pleasant to us because they use their intelligence to be good natured to one another and generous within the family. Some of the most pleasant moments in these chapters take place in the Stanhope house and 'Barchester by Moonlight':
'Who does not know the air of complex multiplicity, and mysterious interesting grace which the moon always lends to old gabbled buildings half surrounded, as was the hospital, by fine trees! (Ch 19, p. 162).
It's not just the green scenery, but the kindness and forbearance with which they treat one another, and their way of apologising to one another when they forget the other's past history or troubles:
'Well, Madeline; so I'm going to be married', Bertie began as soon as the servants had withdrawn.
There's no other foolish thing left that you haven't done', said Madeline, 'and therefore you are quite right to try that'.
"Oh, you think it's a foolish thing, do you?" said he. "There's Lotte advising me to marry by all means. But on such a subject your opinon ought to be best; you have experience to guide you'.
"Yes, I have", said Madeline, with a sort of harsh sadness in her tone, which seemed to say --
What is it to you if I am sad? I have never asked you for sympathy.
Bertie was sorry when he saw that she was hurt by what he said, and he came and squatted on the floor close before her face to make his peace with her' (Ch 15, p. 124).
In the Archdeacon and Slope's righteous and worldly estimations these people are the rubbish cart, but they are also those who are capable of moving outside of themselves to see someone else and be actuated by more than that someone else's position or power. This will come out later in the book.
Where does Trollope stand in all this? Hugh Hennedy and others see him as standing with Mr Harding. I would agree that is true of the simpler dilemma of _The Warden_ where the opposing sides are not examined subtly or put in the context of a whole society, the way it works, and its belief systems. Here I think Trollope displays 'negative capability' and leaves it to us to find where the humane and good that are available to us in society and among human beings such as we find it lie.
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 13:42:47 EDT
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume I, Chapter XV, The Widow's Suitors
In pondering the lot of the fecund Quiverfuls, I find myself having the uncharitable thought; why did it never occur to the Reverend Mr. Quiverful to keep his trousers zipped (or buttoned)? Didn't he know where babies come from?
Mr. Slope would soon find himself overextended with all the balls he was trying to keep in the air. Hmm, let's see; flirt with the tempting Signora Neroni, woo the attractive and prosperous widow Mrs. Bold, wrestle with the audacious Mrs. Proudie for the control of the poor Bishop, jerk around the unfortunate Quiverfuls (yes, you will be Warden, no you won't, yes you will), as well as the increasingly confused but still mistrusting Mr. Harding (no you won't be Warden, yes you will, no you won't), teach all the anachronistic clergy in the close, just how things were going to be run from now on ...
Talk about mixed metaphors!
Before the bishop's better self could make him reconsider, Mr. Slope hastened to the home of Mr. Quiverful " ... to communicate to the embryo warden the good will of the bishop in his favor ... ". (OUP Barchester Towers, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 133) Even with the futures of fourteen offspring hanging over him, Mr. Quiverful was hesitant to accept this plum at the cost of Mr. Harding, who had been kind to him. Mr. Slope feigned offense at the suggestion that he would wrong the former warden, assuring Mr. Quiverful that Mr. Harding has refused the office when he heard the additional duties that would be attached. Mr. Quiverful was willing to take on any number of additional duties for an additional 450 pounds a year, and then let slip a fact that certainly perked up the ears of the self aggrandizing Slope:
" ' To be sure,' said he, ' Mr. Harding's daughter is very rich, and why should he trouble himself with the hospital?'
' You mean Mrs. Grantly,' said Slope.
' I meant his widowed daughter,' said the other, ' Mrs. Bold has twelve hundred a year of her own, and I suppose Mr. Harding means to live with her.'
' Twelve hundred a year of her own!' said Slope ..." (p. 134)
One can almost hear the cash register clinking away in Slope's head.
What to do? Should he try to win the winsome widow? What if the purported money was an illusion? And if marrying Mrs. Bold was an option, would it not be better if his father-in-law were not in need of pecuniary assistance? Undoing what he had done with the wardenship would not be easy. Mrs. Proudie had learned to like the role of Lady Bountiful; Slope was sure she could not be talked over. There must be a breach between they two; could he infuse a backbone into the congenitally spineless Bishop? And what if after all this trouble, he did not win Mrs. Bold? " A rich wife was a great desideratum to him, but success in his profession was still greater... " . (p. 135) There was also an heir to get between him and the full exercise of control over her money.
And such a brother-in-law he would have!
Another catch would be the necessity to give up his flirtation with the delicious Signora Neroni. The day after the reception he had visited her at home, and without the inhibiting presence of the partygoers, the Signora let fly the full battery of her wiles. The couch bound spider had ensnared her priestly prey.
Trollope, perhaps feeling he had laid it on a bit thick against Slope, tried to ameliorate some of the sharpness of his indictment. Slope did try to do his duty, at least as he saw it. "He believed in the religion which he taught, harsh, unpalatable, uncharitable as that religion was. He believed those whom he wished to get under his hoof, the Grantlys and Gwynnes of the church, to be the enemies of that religion. He believed himself to be a pillar of strength, destined to do great things, and with that subtle, selfish, ambiguous sophistry [Oops! Authorial feelings are creeping in again!] to which the minds of all men are so subject, he had taught himself to think that in doing much for the promotion of his own interests, he was doing much also for the promotion of religion." (p. 136) Unable to accept the fact that he had the hots for a married woman, " ... he had to teach himself that the nature of his admiration was innocent." (p. 137)
By the time Mr. Slope had returned to Barchester, he began to put into action his plan; to ascertain the extent of the widow's wealth, and if it were as tempting as he thought, to go after her. But he was not the only bachelor making plans for the widow's wealth.
Ethelbert Stanhope, if he were a woman, would have been much more palatable, if less interesting. Somehow it is OK for a woman to aspire to get through life as a Lady Bertram, but somehow it was unmanly for Bertie (the name always reminds me of Bertie Wooster, another useless young male) to want to spend his life as an ornament. In some ways he reminds me of Belfield, in Burney's Cecilia. Both Bertie and Belfield tried occupation after occupation, and over and over again returned to the parental nest for monetary infusions. Funny that Belfield never thought of remedying his lot by marrying; of course he did not have a sister like Charlotte putting the idea in his head.
When Bertie objected to Charlotte's proposal by alluding to the presence of the infant Bold, his loving sister with a callousness that chilled me, proposed that it was " ' A baby that will very likely die.' " (p. 139) I know that infant mortality was much greater in the middle of the nineteenth century than now, but Trollope could not have chosen a way better calculated to illustrate the heartlessness of the Stanhopes, than to share this exchange. Or to illustrate Bertie's incorruptible laziness, than with his response: " ' God knows I am not unreasonable,' said he, ' nor yet opinionated; and if you'll arrange it all for me, Lotte, I'll marry the lady. Only mark this, the money must be sure, and the income at my own disposal, at any rate for the lady's life.' " (p. 139)
Madeline put in her two cents' worth, after she made it clear she had no intention of acknowledging that the Widow Bold had any claim to prettiness. " ' If it be true that she has got twelve hundred a year quite at her own disposal, and she be not utterly vulgar in her manners, I would advise you to marry her. I dare say she could be had for the asking ... ' " (p. 142)
Everyone, including her own family, seemed to be underestimating the Widow Bold. Her standards for a potential husband were somewhat higher than those represented by either Bertie or Obadiah.
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume I, Chapter XVI, Baby Worship
I just cannot help it. My reaction to this chapter is, "Oh, ick!" While I am the first to acknowledge that such frolics as blowing raspberries on a baby's stomach to make her squeal, and kissing her chubby arms and legs, can be quite a lot of fun, I began to feel the desire for an insulin shot as I read the treacly stuff found herein. I won't even quote. I am sure the passages have been seared upon the memories of all reading this post. Then, ick succeeding to ick, in came the unctuous Mr. Slope, aroused by the sight of the tousled young mother. Responding to some drivel from the besotted Mrs. Bold, he trespassed a bit upon good taste: " ' And where the masters [of a prospective school for young Johnny] don't have such beautiful long hair to be dishevelled.' " (p. 150) Even now I believe that personal remarks are thought to be in poor taste.
Having ascertained the solidity of Mrs. Bold's fortune, Mr. Slope had set about undoing his efforts to place Mr. Quiverful into the position of Warden of Hiram's Hospital. Unfortunately, Mrs. Proudie had already written to, and then met with the Matron Quiverful, to share the news about her family's imminent rise to prosperity. Mrs. Quiverful's reaction was most gratifying; "The thanks, the humility, the gratitude, the surprise of Mrs. Quiverful had been very overpowering; she had all but embraced the knees of her patroness ..." (p. 147) Mrs. Proudie, enjoying the role of Lady Bountiful, notified her husband of her conference, so he might know he had been irrevocably committed, in case he should have any ideas of installing Mr. Harding over her objections. Mr. Slope certainly had his work cut out for him.
When the suggestion was made to the bishop that public opinion might be against the appointment of Mr. Quiverful, Dr. Proudie pointed out that it was on Slope's own recommendation that the appointment had been promised, and promised by Mrs. Proudie herself, to Mrs. Quiverful. Knowing his audience, Mr. Slope threw out a tantalizing thought: "Ah, my lord, ... we shall be in scrapes if the ladies interfere.' ' (p. 148) Dr. Proudie was not too offended, and he was easily mollified by his chaplain's assurance that his primary allegiance was to him (Dr. Proudie, even though Mr. Slope would also apply in this case).
Mr. Slope magnanimously offered to take upon himself the blame for prematurely notifying the Quiverfuls of their good fortune, and urged Dr. Proudie not to regard Mrs. Proudie's conference as being binding. The stage was set for the bishop's potential rebellion.
Back to the widow's house: Mr. Slope got to the point of his visit, which was really to tell Mrs. Bold that if her father received the wardenship, it would be through his efforts. He backtracked on his former conditions of employment;
" ' How can the bishop ask a man of his age to turn schoolmaster to a pack of children?'
' Out of the question,' said Mr. Slope, laughing slightly; 'of course no such demand shall be made on your father. I can at any rate promise you that I will not be the medium of any so absurd a requisition. We wished your father to preach in the hospital, as the inmates may naturally be too old to leave it; but even that shall not be insisted upon. We wished also to have a Sabbath-day school to the hospital, thinking that such an establishment could not but be useful under so good a clergyman as Mr. Harding, and also under your own.' " (p. 154)
Mr. Slope's next suggestion mystified me. Why would he propose that Eleanor herself, see the bishop in order to talk him out of appointing Mr. Quiverful? Of course, the bishop would not be able to resist the pleas of the comely young widow, but Slope was a poor judge of character if he ever thought Mrs. Bold would consider such a proposition. When a shower of tears was the result of his persistence, Mr. Slope offered to take all the burden of the battle upon his own shoulders. In spite of her gratitude, Eleanor found it difficult to express this sentiment. She was well aware of her father's distaste for the man, and of her own instinctive distrust of him. Seeing her internal turbulence, Slope told her he wanted no thanks, only her friendship. Eleanor felt she could not assure him even of that: " ' I'm sure you will soon make plenty of friends.' " (p. 156) Mr.Slope pretended that she had indeed offered her friendship, and took his leave. Eleanor was uneasy. " ' I do not know whether he is a good man or a bad man -- whether he is true or false.' " (p. 157) In spite of Mary Bold's urging to give him the benefit of the doubt, Eleanor was not so sure.
August 4, 1999
Barchester Towers: The Rich Widow, her Babe, & Quiverfuls
I too found the opening of Chapter 16 distasteful. I wonder if one can find such scenes in novels by women. It may be that in the 19th century where women with the income of an Eleanor Bold -- or over £250, which seems to have been the cut-off number, below which you would have a very difficult time maintaining the standards of gentility (no work, servants, clean clothes, reasonably-varied meals) -- where such women had nothing to do but have and bring up children, visit other genteel people, and manage the servants, such 'baby worship' might go down as common way for women to get off their emotional steam. To many modern educated women for whom children are but one aspect of their lives, such a scene is probably cloying. At least it is so to me too.
And Trollope has a number of these. From what I have read by and of Fanny Trollope I get the strong impression she was a highly affectionate woman in person. Rather like Lady Glencora Palliser: when you were around her, she loved her (of course if you are not there and are an inconvenience that's another thing). Given the frustrations and repressive character of Trollope's father, perhaps Trollope saw his mother behave this way when he was a boy and again a man. Other women might join in (monkey see, monkey do).
The plot about the widow's suitors provides Trollope with a whole other area in middle class life to explore: the relationship between money and marriage; the demand that you marry within your caste or be despised (that's why the Archdeacon is so cold to Mr Harding after his wife tells him of Eleanor's behavior -- the result of marrying outside was conventional people would cut you); how sexual attraction leads to marriage; and how these differing elements interplay with the participants' desires to aggrandize themselves and other members of their families or simply triumph over the prospective partner for the moment. It's curious how little sentimentality there really is in Trollope's approach to these things. His is the adult view, and a highly sophisticated analytical one it is (think of the difference in the way Dickens presents the love of Ada and Richard Carstone).
In Trollope's later books -- and, in this one, when Eleanor meets Arabin -- another element in marriage will come into play, congeniality of interests, respect, gratitude for real reciprocated favors, all of which make for what's called 'love'. However, here with Bertie and Slope, these more appealing elements which lead to marriage are not in question -- as yet. I think later Bertie does show himself to have some moral understanding of the limits to which he ought to exploit someone else and what marriage might just inflict on him or Eleanor if he marries her sheerly for the money.
Jill's commentary did bring out a vivid reality in Trollope's presentation of the scenes between Eleanor Bold and Mr Slope which we are inclined to overlook because our narrator tells us so emphatically she will not marry him. To anyone watching them, Eleanor is taken in; she is emotionally aroused by the man; she responds to him with alternating warmth, need, and behavior that could be interpreted as coyness. When she refuses to go the Bishop, we are told she remembers how her interference didn't help her father at all in the earlier fight; we know Mr Harding will never ask for the position himself, never want something that threatens his virtue or tranquillity; but the viewer watching Bold and Slope don't know that. We also are ourselves put off by Mr Slope continually -- due to our narrator's efforts. But we are told, she is not. She is more than a little fooled by the man.
The reason it's important to see that this is the way we are intended to read these long scenes is it makes the scenes to come more piquant and filled with emotional resonances. It is possibly Eleanor could have married such a man. She is not noble, not super-rich (though £1200 is a fine yearly income -- Bold had all that real estate from his father let us recall). The woman who married the Rev Crawley and the girl who marries the Rev Saul (The Claverings) come from the same class as Eleanor. The reason Trollope has his narrator say so emphatically Eleanor will not marry him is the Victorian reader would have thought she just might, or was well on her way to marrying him, even if she doesn't recognise it herself.
On the Quiverfuls, Gene is right to remind us that in the real society of Victorian England, the Rev and Mrs Quiverful aren't doing badly at all. (A very good book on how clergymen really lived off their various sources of income is Irene Collins's _JA and the Clergy_; Austen's father had a smaller income than Mr Quiverful, but was able by constant efforts over tithes, his glebe and other sources of income to bring the family income up to £600 or so.) However, to look outside this book is to lose Trollope's point. It is rather like saying that Bob Cratchit wasn't doing so bad -- which in terms of Victorian England he wasn't. Who got an unpaid day? But like Dickens over Cratchit, Trollope does not compare Quiverful to the rest of Victorian England; Trollope compares him to Archdeacon Grantly, Bishop Proudie, Arabin, and to Mr Harding when he was Warden of Hiram's Hospital. It is the injustice and unfairness of these people with their 'cushy' jobs (very few duties), very high incomes from many sources, few of which required the kind of continual effort Jane Austen's father continually went to. Austen's father is a close real life analogue for Quiverful -- he too had a quiverful of children to provide for, and when he died, they had a hard time until a son who had been adopted by a rich couple came into his inheritance.
Trollope's insistence in all his novels on realism, on not exaggerating (in the manner of Dickens) is brought out by his really giving Quiverful a probable income just on the fringes of gentility -- an income strained by those many children. The many children also reflect an older reality that was still prominent: the public rhetoric of the period among the middle class still forbade any mention of contraception; it was considered sinful. Austen's father and mother had 8 children; 14 is 6 more and £450 which is what Trollope wants us to think is what the Quiverfuls get together from all resources is less than £600. If we turn to the Crawleys, we find far fewer children (I think something like 3 or 4); their income is desperate, Hogglestock brings in well beneath the required £250 for gentility. Without gentility your parishioners will not respect or listen to you. That is the crux of the Rev Crawley's agon. He knows he is despised because he doesn't manage a level of gentility, yet his mind, his heart, his soul is light years more capacious, with a finer integrity and, originally, sense of humanity than the wealthiest man in his parish. I say originally, because the continual infliction of snubs and the continual struggle to exist has twisted the man's so he is obsessed by how others view him as beneath them or more than a little ridiculous.
Quiverful is therefore in the novel in comparison with the others the over-worked, underpaid, desperate man who the system exploits to the limit it can without driving him to the point he will give up and do something else. His wife's behavior before Mrs Proudie makes sense: she is anxious to place her children in gentleman- and lady-like positions (a real concern for Austen's father over his sons). We are to see the Quiverfuls in comparison with the clergymen they must kowtow to, the world they must live in. That Quiverful thinks this way comes out when he suddenly remembers that Eleanor has £1200: no need for Mr Harding to lower or humiliate himself or work hard. And indeed, as we said at the close of _The Warden_ we are shown Mr Harding will not starve. And we know he's not bothered by snubs in the way the Rev Crawley is.
Since this posting is long enough, I will stop here and respond to Jill on the Stanhopes, Slope, and Eleanor in a second posting.
Re: Barchester Towers: Moonlit Stanhopes and Old-Gabled Buildings
Since they have stepped onto the novel's stage, the least unqualified fun is to be had from the Stanhopes. I liked Jill's way of putting it: 'The couch bound spider had ensnared her priestly prey'.
To add to what Jill said about the Stanhopes, Slope and Eleanor, I'd like to say I found myself entranced by the scene in which they are depicted against the landscape of 'Barchester by Moonlight'. Trollope the suddenly softened alluring note by having both Charlotte and Bertie make us aware that La Signora is a cripple and cannot go with them; we suddenly see her in the light of someone badly wounded, unable to enjoy what there is to enjoy, and knowing she must give way to her sister on this.
I suggest to people who like to read, description which induces reveries of beautiful places is a profound delight. Students who complain how they hate descriptions in books are telling me they don't like to read very much.
Why did people like Trollope's Barchester books -- why do readers like Dickens -- ,why, I think it's the reverie-inducing thickly-observed descriptions, such as the opening magnificence of Bleak House. Gaston Bachelard has written several books on reverie and how they comfort the soul with images from childhood and experiences of deep companionship with others, or are attached to memories which go deep into our minds and bring forth oddly-cherished emotions, some of which may be filled with pain but become softened into melancholy through time.
Dickens takes us into nightmare and despair reveries; Trollope into reveries of loveliness, of green walks under moonlight nights whose moonlight casts shadows on quiet places where beautiful buildings which embody the hope of 'another' (cathedrals which rise to the sky) may be found. It is true to character and life that in this book it is the young Stanhopes who take the time to walk in the moonlight. They are dreamers; they are not pragmatic people who look at a building and tote up what is the rental income to be hoped from it or what is the status it will give me were I connected with it -- which seems to be the way most of the people in the book regard every object they come across. Note how Mr Slope sees the landscape; Trollope assumes we will take Charlotte's view and therefore take deep pleasure in a book set in such a place:
'And so they sauntered forth: first they walked round the close, according to their avowed intent: then they went under the old arched gateway below St Cuthbert's little church, and then they turned behind the grounds of the bishop's palace, and so on till they came to the birdge just at the edge of the town, from which passers-by can look down into the gardens of Hiram's Hospital; and here Charlotte and Mr Slope, who were in advance, stopped til lthe other two came up to them. Mr SLope knew that the gable-ends and old brick chimneys which stood up so prettily in the moonlight, were those of Mr Harding's late abode, and would not have stopped on such a spot, in such company, if he could have avoided it; but Miss Stanhope would not take the hint which he tried to give.
"This is a very pretty place, Mrs Bold", said Charlotte, "by far the prettiest place near Barchester.
I wonder your father gave it up."
It was a pretty place and now by the deceitful light of the moon looked twice larger, twice prettier, twice more antiquely picturesque than it would have done in the truth-telling daylight' (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 19, p. 162)
The Victorian reader might have regarded Eleanor as in worse danger from Charlotte and Bertie Stanhope than Slope. Trollope tells us
'To give Bertie due credit, he could not have played his cards better. He did not make love to her, nor sigh, nor look languishing; but he was amusing, yet respectful; and when he left Eleanor at her door at one o'clock .... she thought taht he was one of the most agreeable men, and the Stanhopes decidedly the most agreeable family, that she had ever met' (Ch 19, p. 164).
And so they are, very agreeable. And the curious 'air of complex multiplicity, and the mysterious interesting grace which the moon always lends to old-gabled buildings half surrounded' (p. 162) is as irrationally appealing to us. Trollope, always the sceptic, always disillusioned, reminds us how deceitful is this light, and has told us in spades how deceitful are the Stanhopes (tame cats are still cats). At the same time he knows many of us are drawn, will we nill we, to just this sort of pleasure, lulled by the charms of multiplicity, mystery and the moon in old-gabled buildings. So he centers this book here. I think he realised it was the landscape that made people like _The Warden_; he said he wrote the book because he fell into a reverie walking around Salisbury Cathedral.
Re: Barchester Towers: A Somewhat Altered Mr Harding
The following is written in response to Angela's comments and questions. I divided it into two, the first on Mr Harding and the second on Mrs Quiverful in the context of the other women in this and other novels by Trollope and Dickens.
"I have been noticing a difference in Mr Harding from The Warden. After Mr Slope's sermon, he starts to doubt his singing and Trollope points out that he is prone to self doubt. This seemed to me to rather undercut his character, in comparison to the central role he was given in The Warden. His decision to leave the hospital was not because he had lost confidence in himself but because he wanted to do what was right. So the Mr Harding in this novel is changed and I was feeling the lack of this, and his absent minded cello playing, when Trollope very kindly brings the latter back. Its quite late on in his anxieties and the earlier Mr Harding would have been sawing away pages before, but I'm grateful Trollope remembered that characteristic"
On the different light in which Mr Harding appears and his yielding to the Archdeacon in this early part of Barchester Towers, I would say all characters change somewhat in accordance with the different designs of different books: these designs are often simply the product of a different story. Thus in Barchester Towers. Trollope has decided to retell the story of Hiram's Hospital in terms of a larger struggle for power between two contending groups. Trollope has re-engineered the position so that the position in charge is no longer such an egregiously disproportionate sinecure; at the same time, in order not to violate his original conception of the character too strongly yet not drop him, he makes Mr Harding take a backseat in the decision whether it is right or wrong to fight for the place. The way this is done is through a very brief uncomfortable paragraph where suddenly Mr Harding simply gives in and says he will follow the Archdeacon's lead (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, ch 14, p. 116). Mr Harding's nature stays the same, and it is brought forth in terms of other issues in the book, e.g., his attempt at fairness to Eleanor; his retreat from the crassness and obsession with position that we see in the Archdeacon through withdrawal into music; what he says when people present him with ugly exclusionary statements, as when Slope says the old men don't belong in the cathedrale. Still we are disappointed.
The same reshaping and disappointment with a chief character from a previous book happens in Framley Parsonsage: one of the more moving moments in Dr Thorne occurs when the chief character, Dr Thorne himself, bursts into tears when the young woman he loved turns from him in caste-disgust after the trial of Roger Scatcherd for murdering Dr Thorne's brother who impregnated and had not married Roger's sister; we are made to feel throughout that book that Dr Thorne will never, could never marry; his niece, Mary, has filled the hole in his heart. Yet Framley Parsonage requires, as part of the story and presentation of Miss Dunstable, that she and he marry. It is hard to take; but this is another book. Trollope does his best not to violate Dr Thorne nor Miss Dunstable's characters too strongly by making their love letters letters of affectionate friendship, but while the letters work, the actual event and last chapter don't quite come off with respect to these two characters especially.
Henry James was right when he said character was story and story character. We have a way of talking about characters as if they were real people; they are emotionally speaking rhetorical devices in a scheme which leads us to infer moral ideas; they are looking at them literally, how we remember them as pictured, what they _do_ in a novel. Mr Harding is prone to self-doubt and so Trollope emphasises that when Harding takes the back seat with respect to the hospital position; we know that he does not doubt when he is certain of something: he is quick to tell Slope the old man do belong in the cathedrale. Later in the book Trollope will retrieve Harding somewhat; much later in The Last Chronicle Mr Harding will take another role in helping Crawley get St Ewold's.
St Ewold's is another instance of patching over. Trollope has invented the position for this book so he can bring Arabin in. There is a danger in these cycles of books. It seems to me clear that when Trollope wrote The Warden he left one thread open to return to the matter: the family of Quiverful left in their desperate straits. Other than that there is nothing. He has to reinvent his matter, retell it from a new light. When he finishes Barchester Towers there is nothing in it to suggest he meant to go on. He went on because George Smith (and Thackeray) of the Cornhill didn't want an Irish book; they asked for another ecclesiastical one. Dr Thorne is itself an interruption of the ecclesiastical matter even if it takes place in Barsetshire. The Barsetshire cycle emerged because Trollope's readership liked these books, and there are pulls and contradictions and uncomfortable patches here and there as Trollope himself tries to cover his tracks or reshape this character or that incident to mean something different in a different book.
In Barchester Towers among the new themes or perspectives on ecclesiastical matters is Trollope's desire to set before us the blatant injustice with which the hard-working curates of the church were treated. They were the people who did the work; they were paid tiny salaries. They often came from the fringe edges of gentry: Slope, Crawley, Quiverful, the Smiths at Crabtree, Mr Saul in The Claverings. As Darnton points out, in France it was the curates who provided the votes to overtop the assembly in favor of reform in 1789. They were expected to live lives of gentry without the income to do it (at the opening of The Last Chronicle it is made clear the Crawleys are always in arrears for things like meat, sugar, bread). Trollope comes back to this issue repeatedly in other books too: it turned up in The American Senator where we listened to a debate which brought out how good positions were simply sold to wealthy people or given out by them to relatives and people they wanted to connect themselves to. So he wants the hospital position to remain there so we can watch the desperation of the Quiverfuls.
In the case of Mr Harding Trollope is more or less successful. Mr Harding does nothing out of character; what Trollope does is allow him not to act and place him in the background. It is dismaying to be made to remember how the man can vacillate, how sensitive and at times indecisive he can be. But that is part of his humaneness and why he is not an exemplary character we dislike. Remember his 'Long day in London'. Remember his troubles over whether to order wine or not. In the case of Dr Thorne, I feel Trollope does violate the character at the end of the book. He is made to do that which we have been led to expect he wouldn't. Thus when he turns up in The Last Chronicle he seems very altered; as some people have said of Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor as opposed to Falstaff in the Henry IV plays, Dr Thorne is not the same man by the end of the cycle. Mr Harding is. It is Mr Harding who asks that Crawley be given St Ewold's, and then, bitterness upon truth, the Archdeacon balks and only gives in because it was Mr Harding's dying wish -- and anyway the Archdeacon would look bad and his son is marrying Crawley's daughter.
Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 13-19: A Candid Storyteller Close Up to Us
In the light of what we have been saying about Bleak House and mystery novels as a genre, the famous and often-quoted passage in which our narrator sidles up to us and declares, 'fear not, gentle reader, Eleanor will not marry Mr Slope' is worth thinking about:
'here, perhaps it may be allowed to the novelist to explain his views on a very important point in the art of telling tales. He ventures to reprobate that system which goes so far to violate all proper confidence between the author and his readers, by maintaining nearly to the end of the third volume a mystery as to the fate of their favourite personage. Nay, more, and worse than this is too frequently done. have not often the profoundest efforts of genius ben used to baffle the aspirations of the reader, to raise false hopes and false fears, and to give rise to expectations which are never to be realised? Are not promises all but made of delightful horrors, in lieu of which the writer produces nothing but most commonplace realities in his final chapter? And is there not a species of deceit in this to which the honesty of he present age can lend no countenance? (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 15, p. 127).
Trollope is a thoroughly sceptical novelist Kinkaid and others have talked about this in various ways. He can't begin his Autobiography until after he tells us all autobiographers must lie to a certain extent, hide their real meannnesses, cannot get down every word, do not know the complexions of their minds, cannot get outside themselves. A book is not reality; he is always our storyteller. The conventions of realism are conventions, devices, a game. He dislikes glamour very much, and here it's the pretense there is something beyond the commonplaces of experience: I have read he went to seances, and imagine his response was that of Browning. I cannot see him ever writing a ghost story.
As to the mystery formula, here's his view:
'And what can be the worth of that solicitude which a peep into the third volume can uttelry dissipate? What the value of those literary charms which are absolutely destroyed by their enjoyment ... And then, how grievous a thing it is to have the pleasure of your novel destoyed by the ill-considered triumph of a previous reader. "Oh, you needn't be alarmed for Augusta, of course, she accepts Gustavus in the end". "How very ill-natured you are, Susan", says Kitty with tears in her eyes; "I don't care a bit about it now". Dear Kitty, if you will read my book, you may defy the ill-nature of your sister. There shall be no secret that she can tell you. Nay, take the third volume if you please -- learn form the last pages all the results of our troubled story, and the story shall lose none of its interest, if indeed there be any interest in it to lose' (p. 127).
It's partly tongue-in-cheek. After all Trollope doesn't tell us who Eleanor will marry. In The Eustace Diamonds we are told where the diamonds off, but not whether Lizzie will get in great trouble over hiding and then losing them or not; in Phineas Redux he immediately tells us who murdered Mr Bonteen, but not whether Phineas will get off. We can also say the above does not rule out those mystery books or novels which use mystery device, and which, like his, offer far more than puzzle solutions.
Still he is partly serious too. He makes his book more alive by staying close at our elbow as our good really alive friend talking to us. He hides behind the curtain and makes us forget about him for a while so we can cry and laugh over the characters as if they were real -- suspend our disbelief. But then he darts out again, plays mock- heroic games, and talks about the characters as if they were real like him.
It's different from Fielding. I think Fielding maintains a kind of artificial voice, and same distance from his characters throughout. Fielding is puppeteer. Thackeray is sardonic showman, outside the fiction except for one sequence in Vanity Fair towards the end, and then he is a wise detached man. Neither makes the line of reality twist and turn as Trollope can when he explains Mr Harding's dilemma over Eleanor's possible marriage to Mr Slope. He feels he has no right to stop her (he doesn't own her), yet he dislikes Slope very much. Could he sit with them as a couple?:
'It will be said that he should never have suspected her -- Alas! he never should have done so. But Mr Harding was by no means a perfect character. In his indecision, his weakness, his proneness to be led by others, his want of self-confidence, he was very far from being perfect. And then it must be remembered that such a marriage as that which the archdeacon contemplated with disgust, which we who know Mr Slope so well would regard with equal disgust, did not appear so monstrous to Mr Harding, because in his charity he did not hate the chaplain as the archdeacon did, and as we do' (Ch 18, p. 151).
This is tantalising. We (our narrator and us) know Mr Slope so much better than anyone else so we hate him -- but wait we have been taught not to hate him just a while back. The archdeacon's reasons for hatred are different than ours, and hatred is a strong word even he avoids. The game is for Trollope himself to make us believe he is not detached, has taken sides just like the reader. He is with us contemplating these characters. It's irresistible in its circuitous appeal.
No this man doesn't need to construct a plot out of happenings external to his characters whose solution is the interest. He writes inward fiction using the old device of ever-so-much there storyteller. It makes for a fascinating texture.
Re: Barchester Towers: Mrs Quiverful & Mrs Proudie
Angela also wrote and asked:
'What do others feel about the presentation of the Quiverfuls and particularly Mrs Quiverful? When they are first mentioned Trollope tells us, ironically, that as a token of her love Mrs Quiverful has presented her husband with a child a year (or words to that effect). Of course, this can be read as a joke against Mr Quiverful for somehow imagining that it was nothing to do with him. However, I do feel that the later presentations of Mr Quiverful with Slope where he is shown with some decency, thinking of Mr Harding, and Mrs Quiverful with Mrs Proudie where she is still an object of irony make me feel Trollope is being harder on her than him. Could it be that women with large families were given responsibility alone for this and that Trollope in part shares that view?"
I agree that Mrs Quiverful is presented as less moral and more ruthless than Mr Quiverful. First there's the scene with Mrs Proudie whose purpose is to show us Mrs Proudie's bullying. Second, she is the mother. It makes sense to me that the woman who has to spend every minute of her life trying to feed, clothe, and make presentable 14 children will have less concern with Mr Harding's right to the position. In fact, no one has any entitlement to the position at all. It's a gift of the bishop to give to whom he pleases. Mr Harding has no 14 children; her need trumps his expectation that because he had it before and is a good man and liked he should have it again. Trollope brings this vein of thought in Mrs Quiverful out a little later.
Trollope is often harder on women in his books than on men when it comes to their attempts at manipulating people for the good things (meaning luxuries and prestige) of this world. He presents women as less liable to worry about public shame, more desperate in their quest to obtain access to money or comfort, but that is realistic. They were highly vulnerable. Is he right also to present them as bullies in the way he does Mrs Proudie? It makes good copy. Readers love to hate those who stand for people who have intimidated them in life. The sex antagonism towards Mrs Proudie comes from women as well as men. What I would say because I am reading Bleak House at the same time, is Dickens is much worse. Dickens has many more female bullies, many more women who appear to use sex, dislike it except as a weapon, want to repress it in others, and many more emasculated males. In comparison, Trollope makes a much milder use of the hostilities and angry memories we take from our daily lives over into his fiction.
Terry Castle discusses innate sex antagonism among women in her discussion of hugely successful books like Mommy Dearest or the recent spate of books by literary women who had to work for other literary women before they too became successful. We ought to remember that in Victorian times it was the mother who often drove her daughter to marry for position or money, the mother who had the 'responsibility' to repress her daughter, guard her and so on. If I were to name Trollope's most hostile portraits, the people who are those who crush others and destroy them it would be a group of women in his novels: Mrs Bolton from John Caldigate, Lady Ball from Miss Mackenzie, and Mrs Carbuncle from Eustace Diamonds. Perhaps the very worst character in all Trollope is Madame Staubach in Linda Tressel. After she has driven her niece to her grave, she returns right back to her old hatred and distrust of pleasure and life, her domineering cold crushing of everyone she meets in the name of religion. There is no male monster to compete with any of these females in Trollope's fiction. The males' way of maiming and destroying people is not from within. Similarly I would say in Bleak House Mr Tulkinghorn and Bucket (who is as responsible for what happens to Jo as anyone) destroy their victims by aggressively manipulating an external power over people; we are not made to loathe them in the intimate way we feel towards Mrs Pardiggle, Mrs Snagsby and Chadband and a whole host of Dickens's similarly domineering sexually repressed and repressive women. Trollope's Mrs Proudie, his Mrs Bolton, Lady Ball, Mrs Carbuncle and Aunt Staubach; Dickens's Mrs Pardiggle, Snagsby, Chadband are meant to appeal to women who were at that time and today still are vulnerable to such women too, though the paradigm occurs much less often as mother and daughter.
Mrs Quiverful is really a poor mild woman who is too fruitful. In fact I think there are scenes in which we see the Quiverfuls are happy together in their way; they understand and support one another. To Trollope the existence of so many children demonstrates sexual contentment -- the joke runs in several directions.
Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 13-19: The Rubbish Cart (Once Again)
Dear All - and Jill,
I believe Jill sent this to me a number of days ago, and I never sent it onto Trollope-l. Mea Culpa. It is certainly still relevant:
"In her message from last Sunday, Ellen said,
Against this we have the absolute amorality of Slope -- for that's what it is. By this I mean he doesn't have a cause he sticks to. The Archdeacon has the saving grace of being self-deluded, a little stupid. Slope sees into himself and is not bothered in the least."
But Trollope does say that Slope was also self-deluded: "He believed himself to be a pillar of strength, destined to do great things; and with that subtle, selfish, ambiguous sophistry to which the minds of all men are so subject, he had taught himself to think that in doing much for the promotion of his own interest he was doing much also for the promotion of religion." (p. 136)
Both Slope and Grantly were self-deluded. Each man thought that the high church, or low church, way of running their religion was The One True Way, that those who disagreed were worse than infidels, and each felt that the fact that their own self aggrandizement would be the result of their side prevailing, was God's Own Way of rewarding the just.
I will compensate for my tardiness by offering a reply -- or, as the politicians say, a clarification.
The passage I was referring to was the one where Slope is clear in his mind that it's in his advantage to rescind the offer to Quiverful and offer it to Mr Harding once again if the Widow Bold is wealthy woman he could win over. It seems to me Archdeacon Grantly is never quite this frank with himself; Grantly seems to see what he does through a haze of self-justications, including the perpetual argument: everyone else does it. I don't think it makes Slope the better man; in fact, it makes him more ruthless.
As John Mize remarked à propos of Dickens and Inspector Bucket, I suppose it doesn't much matter all that much in terms of ultimate effects, if a man acts amorally and hurts others because he sees so clearly he is acting in his interest, or acts amorally because he can fool himself, yet I suspect most of us feel a sneaking sympathy for the person who is a bit befuddled, who persuades himself his way is the average way and therefore all right (the pompous worldly man = Grantly). Maybe we don't like person who need not comfort himself by asserting he is just like everyone else (the clear-sighted shark = Slope) out of some sense the latter is the more dangerous.
August 7, 1999
Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 17-19: Countercurrents It's remarkable how much is going on in this novel: Trollope shows enormous energy. Jill is right to say that realistically it's counterproductive for Mrs Proudie to disrespect her husband in public -- as it's counterproductive for Slope to go after that _demi-monde_, la Signora Neroni. But it makes for a multiple increase in tensions and conflicts. The struggle between the two underlings, Mrs Proudie and Slope is more realistic (that's the way politics often works, in-fights within in-fights), and it also makes for another countercurrent of conflict, tension, and expected climax. It's curious how the Bishop is so placid and gentle the morning after: is Trollope hinting that one way Mrs Proudie gets round the Bishop is by satisfying himself sexually?
Trollope is remarkably unsentimental, and I agree the Stanhopes' attitude towards their creditors recalls the Rawdons in Vanity Fair and Harrels in Cecilia. He is more realistic. It's not probable people could really rack up the bills the Rawdons and Harrels do with the creditors not calling the bills in. £700 is just possible.
I find the Stanhopes so much more pleasant than most of the characters in the book thus far: this because they are kind to one another face-to-face, no small thing in my experience. They are shown able to relax, and are the most subversive of the going establishment in the book. They also don't lie to themselves about their motives, and Bertie's comment to Eleanor on Slope is the simple truth simply stated. Of course it is in his interest to say it :). They are also a sad or maimed group: Charlotte the old maid, Madeline the abused wife. The two of them are the most vulnerable in the novel so far -- except maybe Slope who could get fired. Mr Harding is someone who has learned he can depend upon the kindness of his friends.
Trollope has wonderful descriptive powers. Those who say otherwise aren't paying attention. Landscapes are in fact central to many of his effects -- using the word in its broadest sense (inner landscapes, cityscapes, rooms, houses, countrysides, inns, atmospheres).
To which Sig replied, bringing in Bleak House (which the reader who has read the previous postings for this and The Warden will know we were (some of us) reading at the same time:
Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 17-19: Countercurrents
Subject: [trollope-l] The Thornes of Ullathorne and the Smallweeds
From: Sigmund Eisner It is interesting that we are reading both Barchester Towers and
Bleak House at the same time. As a Trollope lover who is normally
uncomfortable with Dickens, I have been asking myself just what it is
that I don't like about Dickens. Until trying both of these novels at
the same time, my favorite comparison was between the deaths of Little
Nell and Mrs. Proudy. Little Nell takes an agonizing fifty pages to
expire, while Mrs. Proudy's death is realistically discussed for fifty
pages after the surprising event. That is to say, Dickens reeks of
sentiment while Trollope strides noblely through realism. But Dickens
doesn't always wallow in sentiment, and Trollope on occasion gives us
characters who are less than realistic. Now we come to the Thornes and
Smallweeds. Both families are parodies and exaggerations. The Thornes
are so conservative that they judge everything from an Anglo-Saxon
perspective. The Smallweeds are so disfunctional that they live on
tossed pillows and bitterness. But I find that I like the descriptions
of the Thornes and do not like the descriptions of the Smallweeds.
Perhaps the distinction is that the Thornes are loveable and the
Smallweeds are not. Both families are incredible exaggerations; both
families are presented sentimentally; and both families are made up of
very unimportant side characters. So I find myself in the difficult
position of liking in Trollope what I dislike in Dickens. It's one of
the problems of life.
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It is interesting that we are reading both Barchester Towers and Bleak House at the same time. As a Trollope lover who is normally uncomfortable with Dickens, I have been asking myself just what it is that I don't like about Dickens. Until trying both of these novels at the same time, my favorite comparison was between the deaths of Little Nell and Mrs. Proudy. Little Nell takes an agonizing fifty pages to expire, while Mrs. Proudy's death is realistically discussed for fifty pages after the surprising event. That is to say, Dickens reeks of sentiment while Trollope strides noblely through realism. But Dickens doesn't always wallow in sentiment, and Trollope on occasion gives us characters who are less than realistic. Now we come to the Thornes and Smallweeds. Both families are parodies and exaggerations. The Thornes are so conservative that they judge everything from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. The Smallweeds are so disfunctional that they live on tossed pillows and bitterness. But I find that I like the descriptions of the Thornes and do not like the descriptions of the Smallweeds. Perhaps the distinction is that the Thornes are loveable and the Smallweeds are not. Both families are incredible exaggerations; both families are presented sentimentally; and both families are made up of very unimportant side characters. So I find myself in the difficult position of liking in Trollope what I dislike in Dickens. It's one of the problems of life.