Jill Spriggs began it:
Subject: BT, Vol. II, Ch. VII (OUP Vol. II, Ch. XXVIII) Mrs. Bold is entertained
At last we come to the chapter where the blow up occurs, described several chapters ago.
Archdeacon Grantly and Mr. Harding, while in Barchester, had agreed to stop at the home of Mrs. Bold to pick up and mail and packages that had come for her, and transport them to her at Plumstead. Mr. Slope's handwriting was immediately recognizable on a letter for Eleanor. "[The archdeacon] looked at it as though he held a basket of adders." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 2) Of course, this pious man leapt to the worst possible conclusion. Poor Mr. Harding, also recognizing the writing, wished heartily he could have intercepted the letter without his son-in-law seeing it.
Dr. Grantly immediately registered his disapproval. " ' It is very hard on me,' said he after a while, 'that this should go on under my own roof.' " (p. 2) One would think the Widow Bold had been smuggling in boyfriends for illicit nocturnal activities. Mr. Harding bristled at the offensive innuendoes, and with difficulty restrained himself from telling off his host.
Dr. Grantly, unable to justify opening the letter himself, handed it to his father-in-law, hoping that perhaps he would. He was to be disappointed. Mr. Harding simply put it into his pocket to give his daughter when he saw her. The unsatisfied archdeacon suggested that Susan give the letter to her sister, telling her " ' ...how deep is the disgrace of such an acquaintance.' " (p. 3) Mr. Harding objected, not allowing either the disgrace, or the right of a third party to open Eleanor's mail. Dr. Grantly tried again:
" ' I suppose ... you don't wish her to marry the man. I suppose you'll admit she would disgrace herself if she did do so.'
' I do not wish her to marry him,' said the perplexed father, ' I do not like him, and do not think he would make a good husband. But if Eleanor chooses to do so, I shall certainly not think that she disgraces herself.' " (p. 3)
The exasperated archdeacon "threw himself back into a corner of his brougham" while Mr. Harding consoled himself with playing sad songs on his imaginary cello. Both men were feeling rather low. Dr. Grantly felt he had lost an ally in his father-in-law, weak as he always had been. Eleanor had her fond father completely bamboozled, and would shortly bring home such a husband "whose arrogance and vulgarity" (p. 4) could only grow more intolerable with the years.
Dr. Grantly was not far wrong, at least as far as Mr. Harding was concerned. In spite of the fact that she could not have chosen a man more abhorrent to him, the father felt he could make no objections. Mr. Slope was, after all, a man of his own profession. He did not understand what in such a distasteful man could appeal to his gently reared daughter, and then began to wonder if it could really be possible. " Mr. Harding had not believed, did not believe, that his daughter meant to marry this man; but he feared to commit himself to such an opinion. If she did do it there would be no means of retreat. And Mr. Harding would pay any price to avoid an irrevocable rupture with his favorite child.
Dr. Grantly was capable of the finer feelings. He loved his wife, his children, even his father-in-law, and was willing to love his sister-in-law if she would be reasonable. If she had not the sense to despise the Proudies and the Slopes as did he, he must shun her as one tainted with the powers of darkness. The archdeacon was also disappointed in Mr. Harding's unwillingness to see things his way. "[Dr. Grantly] knew nothing of that beautiful love which can be true to a false friend." (p. 6)
The unhappy men returned to Plumstead late, and the women were dressing for dinner. Mr. Harding went to give the letter to his daughter, while Dr. Grantly went to unburden himself to his wife.
Eleanor did not realize who the letter was from, and stopped her preparations for dinner so she could open it. She soon realized with a thrill of distaste, that it was from Mr. Slope. As she read the good news about her father's wardenship, she was so happy that she did not note the
"fulsome language in which the tidings were conveyed ... [or] the fact that such a communication should not have been made, in the first instance, to her by an unmarried young clergyman."
The letter became so distasteful that even she could not avoid being revolted.
"Then she came to the allusion to her own pious labors, and she said in her heart that Mr. Slope was an affected ass. Then she went on again and was offended by her boy being called Mr. Slope's darling -- he was nobody's darling but her own; or at any rate not the darling of a disagreeable stranger like Mr. Slope. Lastly she arrived at the tresses and felt a qualm of disgust. ... She crumpled the letter up with an angry violence, and resolve, almost without thinking of it, that she would not show it to her father. She would merely tell him the contents of it." (p. 7)
As she descended to the dining room, Mrs. Bold pondered how to tell her father the good news. She certainly did not want to confess getting a letter from Mr. Slope before the Grantlys. Her father was already in the dining room; she could not intercept him on the way down. She decided to try to speak with him alone before dinner.
Gloom was the byword in that dining room. Silence apparently was the rule. Eleanor realized that she had been the subject of the conversation just before she entered the room, and the feeling was not comfortable. A confidential chat with her father was not going to be possible.
When dinner was announced, Dr. Grantly took Eleanor's arm as usual, but with such obvious distaste that she reciprocated by barely touching his. What a grim meal! Eleanor "felt she had been tried and found guilty of something, though she knew not what." (p. 8)
The archdeacon had taken Mr. Arabin aside before dinner and confided his fears about his sister-in-law's marital plans. Mr. Arabin was dismayed in an unsettled kind of way. He had grown to enjoy her company during his sojourn at Plumstead, and Eleanor seemed to reciprocate; she had not been offended when "Mr. Arabin had called Johnny his darling ..." (p. 9)
After dinner when the cloth had been removed and the ladies left the room, the gentlemen sat moodily over their port. The ladies were not much happier; Susan had received a commission from her husband to try to talk some sense into her sister. Susan had little hopes of any good result from this conference, but undertook it knowing that if she did not do it, her husband would.
The girls were sent away, and Eleanor realized uneasily that something unpleasant was coming.
Susan asked who the letter was from, and when told, asked if he were a regular correspondent. This put Eleanor's back up, and she decided that she would not choose to become confidential with this sister who was seeming more and more like an interrogator. Eleanor refused to divulge the contents of the letter, and Susan became magisterial.
" ' Then, Eleanor, it is my duty to tell you, ... that the archdeacon thinks that such a correspondence is disgraceful, and that he cannot allow it to go on in his house.'
Eleanor's eyes flashed fire as she answered her sister, jumping up from her seat as she did so. 'You may tell the archdeacon that where I am I shall receive what letters I please and from whom I please. And as for the word disgraceful, if Dr. Grantly has used it of me he has been unmanly and inhospitable.' and she walked off to the door. ' When papa comes from the dining-room I will thank you to ask him to step up to my bed-room. I will show him Mr. Slope's letter, but I will show it to no one else.' " (p. 12)
Eleanor still did not realize that Mr. Slope had become a suitor in all eyes but her own. She also seemed to forget the distasteful aspects of the letter, when she presented it to her father. The sad man entered her room "as though he and not she were the suspected criminal." (p. 13) Confident in her innocence, Eleanor eagerly watched her father as he read the letter. His reaction was not what she had hoped.
... he slowly closed and folded the letter in despair. It was impossible that Mr. Slope should so write unless he had been encouraged. In was impossible that Eleanor should have received such a letter, and have received it without annoyance, unless she were willing to encourage him." (p. 14)
Eleanor Bold regarded Mr. Slope with as much distaste as Archdeacon Grantly. She believed that, whatever his shortcomings of person and personality, he was an honest man that was being treated unjustly by her family. Eleanor saw no need for telling her father, Dr. Grantly, or her sister, that she found Mr. Slope repelling; she thought that her feelings should be apparent to all.
If only her father had told her what was the cause of all the uproar, she could have cleared everything up immediately. By avoiding addressing the issue through false delicacy, he made everything so much worse. If he had,
"there would have been a flood of tears, and in ten minutes every one in the house would have understood how matters really were. The father would have been delighted. The sister would have kissed her and begged a thousand pardons. The archdeacon would have apologized and wondered, and raised his eyebrows, and gone to bed a happy man. And Mr. Arabin -- Mr. Arabin would have dreamt of Eleanor, have awoke in the morning with ideas of love, and retired to rest the next evening with schemes of marriage. But, alas! all this was not to be." (pp. 15 - 16)
Before she had a chance to begin her bedtime preparations, her sister's maid knocked on the door and asked Eleanor to come speak briefly with Dr. Grantly, "if not disagreeable." (p. 16) Eleanor knew the interview would be very disagreeable, but she could see no alternative. Yet another ordeal was in store for that day.
Subject: BT, Vol. II, Ch. VIII (OUP Vol. II, Ch. XXIX) A serious Interview
Archdeacon Grantly took his responsibilities seriously, and he felt that " ... his conscience would not allow him to take his wife's advice and go to bed quietly." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 17). He could not watch his sister-in-law go down such dreadful path without at least trying to change her mind, even if she were too stiff necked to heed him. He tried, in his pompous way, to be kind, telling her he was trying to act as her brother. Eleanor was not going to make it easy for him.
" ' I never had a brother, ... but I have hardly felt the want. Papa has been to me both father and brother. ... He is -- the fondest and most affectionate of men, and the best of counsellors. While he lives, I can never want advice.' " (p. 17)
Dr. Grantly should have taken the warning and given up right there. But the archdeacon did not want courage, or stubbornness either. He got right to the letter.
The archdeacon confirmed that Eleanor had indeed received a letter, and that she had refused to either show it to her sister, or tell her its contents. He told her that this fact caused them to regard the circumstance with suspicion. Eleanor told him that she wished to show her father the letter first, and handed it to him so he could read it. The letter seemed to confirm his worst fears.
"To him it appeared to be in almost every respect the letter of a declared lover; it seemed to corroborate his worst suspicions; and the fact of Eleanor's showing it to him was all but tantamount to a declaration on her part, that it was her pleasure to receive love-letters from Mr. Slope." (p. 18)
When Archdeacon Grantly made no move to return the letter, Eleanor asked for it back. Dr. Grantly responded by asking if her father had seen the letter, then if she really found it " ' ... a proper letter for you -- a person in your condition -- to receive from Mr. Slope?' " (p. 19) Apparently forgetting the passage about the "silken tresses", she insisted it was. Dr. Grantly told her he differed in his opinion.
Eleanor felt she was beset on all sides. She showed more esteem for Mr. Slope than she felt, in a spirit of contumacy. When she tried to leave her brother-in-law, he tried once again.
"Eleanor, I must speak out to you. You must choose between your sister and myself and our friends, and Mr. Slope and his friends. ... It is not prejudice, Eleanor. I have known the world longer than you have done. Mr. Slope is altogether beneath you. You ought to know and feel that he is so. Pray -- pray think of this before it is too late. ... if you will not believe me, ask Susan; you cannot think she is prejudiced against you. Or even consult your father, he is not prejudiced against you. Ask Mr. Arabin --- '
' You haven't spoken to Mr. Arabin about this!' said she, jumping up and standing before him.
' Eleanor, all the world in and about Barchester will be speaking of it soon.'
' But have you spoken to Mr. Arabin about me and Mr. Slope?'
' Certainly I have, and he quite agrees with me.'
' Agrees with what?' said she. ' I think you are trying to drive me mad.'
' He agrees with me and Susan that it is quite impossible you should be received at Plumstead as Mrs. Slope.' " (p. 21)
Well, that took long enough. Eleanor surely has been slow on the uptake. After an indignant response she fled to her room and relieved herself with a torrent of tears. Even after this exchange, the widow did not get it. She somehow thought that Mr. Arabin was behind all these false surmises, and that her brother-in-law was punishing her by making insulting insinuations he knew very well could not be true. The widow could no longer stay in such a poisonous atmosphere. She must leave Plumstead the next morning.
Dr. Grantly was scarcely more happy with the interview. He saw that what he had said angered her, but he thought the anger was due to his presuming to advise her about her choice of husbands. Blowing off steam to his wife, the archdeacon attributed all the trouble with Eleanor to the money that had been left her by her husband. It had given her delusions of autonomy. How could this mere slip could defy The Great Man?!
There was a mutual wish for separation. Eleanor did ask her father not to return with her. She feared the appearance of her father as well as her differing with Dr. Grantly. She could see that the prospect of returning to Hiram's Hospital no longer gave him pleasure, and the two parted with unaccustomed chilliness. Eleanor consented after some dispute, to use the Plumstead carriage for her return, and also to postpone leaving until after lunch. Dr. Grantly had gone out, and would not return until dinner, so there would be no danger of a renewal of hostilities.
How things had changed in just one day!
August 23, 1999
Re: Barchester Towers, Ch 29 (2:10): Maneuvrings
I'd like to add to Jill's commentary one theme that struck me runs through this chapter and by extension the whole book: characters are continually interpreting the same text or scene or character in widely divergent ways. I know that in all novels characters do this, but it seems to me in this book Trollope emphasises our divagations. There's one Bible, and everyone interprets it differently; there's one established Church and people seem to want to go about it differently, each convinced his or her version is the right one. The characters meet one another and play upon the nuances of one another's words so as to produce an interpretation favorable to their interests (Slope's way) or mocking and needling (Madeline's in her love scene with Slope). Here we have one letter and all the characters read it in accordance with a framework they have placed on it before they unfold it: Eleanor expects to be told something about her father getting the Wardenship; Mr Harding expects to read the unctuous maneuvrings of a hypocrite; Archbishop Grantly sees a marriage proposal. Each ignores what is irrelevant to his or her concerns, focuses in on this or that detail as it suits his or her passions at the moment.
Here we also have one interview and the two characters come away from it 'reading' it differently. For a moment, as Jill wrote, the two veered towards some actual meeting of the minds when Dr Grantly suddenly used the title Mrs Slope and said he couldn't have Eleanor in his house as Mrs Slope. This startles her, but instead of grasping her brother-in-law thinks she is in danger of marrying Slope, she thinks he is merely insulting her, needling her (as Madeline did Slope himself). Then she lays awake all night trying to figure out who could have put such an 'impertinence' in Grantly's head, and Trollope tells us, that 'by some manoeuvre of her brain, she attributed the accusation to Mr Arabin', and when she did so, her 'anger against him was excessive' (Penguin BT, ed RGilmour, p. 272). There needs no supersubtle psychologist to interpret this: she's got Arabin on her brain, and unconsciously sees him as rival to the Slope whose attentions she is ignoring (because they are distasteful and not to her interest). Thus she leaps to the unconscious conclusion Arabin is jealous.
The Archdeacon also leaves the interview a man no wiser. Trollope tells us he did 'gather' from the interview Eleanor was very 'angry' (p. 272). As they say in modern sland, well, duh. But why she was so angry or even that she was actually outraged is beyond his ken.
At one point in this week's instalment Trollope tells us the Archdeacon's wife, Susan has seen enough to know that Eleanor is allured by Arabin, but apparently this reality is not clear to Eleanor as yet. She knew her talk with Eleanor would not help. When the Archdeacon comes to bed, after he calms down, she explains to him 'in her own milid, seducing way, that he was fuming and fussing and fretting himself very unnecessarily. She declared that things, if left alone, would arrange themselves much better than he could arrange them (p. 273). I suppose one improbability in all this is that we are to suppose Susan misunderstood that letter, over read it.
The parting of the father and daughter at the close of the chapter is also touching; it's painful because neither can get him or herself really to talk to the other, and they remain in a state of misunderstanding. Thus
'Each was miserably anxious for some show of affection, for some return of confidence, for some sign of the feeling that usually bound them together. But none was given' (p. 274).
This does happen, all the time, and sometimes friends part in this fashion and aren't given a chance to meet again. Of course that would be tragedy, and we are in a comic realm here.
Subject: BT, Vol. II, Ch. IX (OUP Vol. II, Ch. XXX) Another Love Scene
It is well that we already have seen Mr. Arabin's diffidence in an earlier chapter (when he spoke of the qualms of unease the prospect of speaking before his new parishioners, gave him); otherwise his response to Eleanor's "engagement" to Mr. Slope might seem rather hard to believe. Apparently before this revelation, Francis Arabin had never thought of Eleanor in a romantic fashion; " ... the higher were her attractions, the greater her claims to consideration, the less he imagined that he might possibly become the possessor of them. Such had been his instinct rather than his thoughts, so humble and diffident. Now his diffidence was about to be rewarded by his seeing this woman, whose beauty was to his eyes perfect, whose wealth was such as to have deterred him from thinking of her, whose widowhood would have silenced him had he not been so deterred, by seeing her become the prey of --- Obadiah Slope!" (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 26)
So ... Eleanor Bold really had Obadiah Slope to thank for her lover coming to the conclusion that life without her as his wife would be unsustainable. Who knows when he would have come to the same conclusion without this bit of pressure?
Mr. Arabin tried to console himself with a bit of doggerel that was scarcely flattering to women, that essentially said that women will go for anything in trousers; good looks, intellect, and character matter not. When he moped around his home, which was rapidly becoming suitable to welcome the priestess of which Susan Grantly spoke, I was reminded of another melancholy man, John Grey in Can You Forgive Her?, who suffered from living in a home improved for his intended bride, who had gotten cold feet. Over and again we see lonely bachelors in homes crying out for a feminine presence. One almost gets the impression that Trollope believed that unmarried men should live in lodgings; houses were meant for families.
Thinking of Eleanor's loveliness,
"... her listening intelligence, her gentle but quick replies, her interest in all that concerned the church, in all that concerned him ... he struck his riding whip against the window sill, and declared that it was impossible that Eleanor Bold should marry Mr. Slope." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 27)
It was obvious that she should marry no one but Francis Arabin!
Eleanor was unaware that all these agreeable thoughts were passing through the mind of Mr. Arabin. She was full of the injustice of her treatment, by all who professed themselves to be her friends, and indignant that the ones who should have known her best, should think her capable of forming an attachment with such a revolting man.
Mr. Harding, with all the diffidence of his future son-in-law, labored to reconcile himself to the prospect of "seeing [Eleanor] at the head of Mr. Slope's table" (p. 28). He loved his daughter so much that he was prepared to brave the scorn of his circle for his pusillanimity, and witness without outward revulsion the distasteful sight of the clerical couple. And, there was always hope that he was wrong. Can you not mentally picture the beleaguered precentor,
"sitting with her in the drawing-room, with his arm round her waist, saying every now and then some little soft words of affection, and working hard with his imaginary fiddle-bow ..."? (p. 29)
Mr. Harding must have had his hands full, in every sense of the word!
The formerly serene atmosphere of Plumstead had been poisoned. Mr. Arabin was desolate, Mr. Harding depressed, Eleanor Bold feeling unjustly victimized, Susan Grantly exasperated with her willful sister, and Archdeacon Grantly filled with righteous annoyance. Mr. Arabin tried to lighten things by expressing a regret that Eleanor would be leaving, that such enjoyment as he had enjoyed was too rarely to be found. Eleanor's response was rather tart:
" ' It is a pity that men and women do so much to destroy the pleasantness of their days ... It is a pity there is so little charity abroad.' " (p. 30)
Mr. Arabin was unaware of the reason for Eleanor's disapprobation, but he was becoming aware of it's existence. She, to his puzzlement, seemed to speak in riddles:
" ' You are not bold enough, Mr. Arabin, to speak out to me openly and plainly, and yet you expect me, a woman, to speak openly to you. Why did you speak calumny to Dr. Grantly behind my back?' " (p. 31)
Mr. Arabin was too obviously totally bewildered, and Eleanor was forced to be more plain
"' [Dr. Grantly] asked you whether he would be doing right to receive me at Plumstead, if I continued my acquaintance with a gentleman who happens to be personally disagreeable to yourself and him ... I had a right to expect that my name should not have been mixed up in your hostilities. This has been done, and been done by you in a manner the most injurious and the most distressing to me as a woman. I must confess, Mr. Arabin, that from you I expected a different sort of usage.' " (p. 32)
Mr. Arabin protested that he had simply been asked for his advice by Dr. Grantly. Eleanor made some rather telling remarks about her brother-in-law's officiousness. Mr. Arabin unwisely told her that she should regard herself as an appendage of Dr. Grantly, and comply with his wishes. Eleanor asserted her own independence, and her right to form whatever acquaintances she might choose. The widow was a bit mature to be treated as a wayward schoolgirl. To exonerate himself, Mr. Arabin told Eleanor the specifics of his conversation with the archdeacon, but this scarcely placated her. She left the room with quiet dignity. Turning the widow's protests over in his mind, Mr. Arabin, in spite of his misery, had a thrill of hope. Was it possible that the lovely widow might not already have her heart appropriated by the bishop's chaplain? He pursued her into the garden.
Eleanor was still furious with all the residents of Plumstead, but especially with Mr. Arabin. How could he not know her better than to suspect her of a romantic partiality for the odious chaplain? After all their walks, their intimate talks! When she realized she was being followed, she tried to remove the traces of tears from her face. She was safe enough; her lover was too occupied with making his peace to be very observant. The poor man stumbled and stammered, and started well:
" ' I have esteemed you, do esteem you, as I never yet esteemed any woman. Think well of you! I never thought to think so well, so much of any human creature. Speak calumny of you! Insult you! Willfully injure you! I wish it were my privilege to shield you from calumny, insult, and injury.' " (p. 36)
But after such a promising beginning, he really blew it by asking Eleanor to state that she did not intent to become the wife of Mr. Slope. Her response was indignant, and most unsatisfactory to the baffled would-be wooer. Why did Eleanor not deny any attachment with Mr. Slope?
From Gene Stratton:
I know of no explicit mention by Trollope of his longing to go to Oxford. At least twice in the early part of his Autobiography he mentions his father's wish that all his sons could go to Winchester and then Oxford's New College. The closest that Trollope seems to have come in this direction is when he writes that "Through all my father's troubles he still desired to send me either to Oxford or Cambridge." But he would need scholarships and though he "had many chances," he failed to do well enought to get any. Thus "the idea of a university career was abandoned. And very fortunate it was that I did not succeed, for my career with such assistance only as a scholarship would have given me, would have ended in debt and ignominy.
Though in the same passage Trollope says that he never got a prize at school, some Trollope scholar showed that was wrong, but I can't find the reference. I recall reading that Trollope got some kind of prize, and it might have been similar to the "gold medal in English verse" that was all Arabin had obtained in school (chapter 20 of BT). Perhaps someone else can remember this with more precision than I.
I have felt jarred by a dissonant note in an incident which will be more fully discussed tomorrow. Why did the Signora Neroni insist on asking Miss Thorne if Mr. Slope could come to the fete, as her guest? Wasn't Madeline aware of the antagonism between the bishop's chaplain, and the guest of honor? Normally Madeline was conscientious about not doing anything that could hurt the family goal of palming Bertie off on the Widow Bold. But sending Mr. Slope off to the party in the carriage with Eleanor, while the designated suitor for the widow went off in the carriage with Madeline, hardly seemed to be forwarding the cause. The Signora Neroni surely could not be concerned about her ability to quickly lure a coterie of smitten men. She had shown herself to be aware of Mr. Slope's aspirations regarding Eleanor Bold. It just does not make sense to me.
It looks like a plot device, to deceive the Reverend Arabin into apprehending a relationship that did not exist, and further delaying the union of the true lovers.
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume II, Chapter X (XXXI) The Bishop's Library
August 24, 1999
Everyone who had enjoyed the past month's interlude felt a sense of loss when it was so abruptly broken up. Susan Grantly felt it had been a long time since the parsonage at Plumstead Episcopi had been so lively. The archdeacon predictably attributed the pleasant time everyone had had, to his own skill as a host, and attributed with annoyance, the breakup to Eleanor Bold's unwillingness to listen to his wise advice.
The widow had much food for thought on her solitary ride back to Barchester, but the presence of her sister Susan gave her little leisure for ruminating. As Eleanor arrived home, and was taking her leave of her sister and nieces, Mary Bold rushed upon the carriage with the news that the dean had suffered a stroke and was extremely ill. Susan left her sister, and immediately departed for the deanery, expecting to meet her husband there. She was correct; her husband had been there since he heard the news upon arriving in Barchester that morning. The great London physician Sir Omicron Pie (I do love that name!) had been summoned, and Dr. Trefoil's daughter was at the dean's bedside, suffering from her inability to be of use. Dr. Grantly briefly visited his old friend, spoke a few words of comfort to Miss Trefoil, then returned to his fellow clerics in the library.
As the old man lay dying in the next room, possible candidates for the apparently soon to be vacant position, were eagerly discussed. Archdeacon Grantly, of course, told his contemporaries that such a discussion was improper, but forgot impropriety when the suggestion was made that the logical candidate would be Mr. Slope. Frozen with horror, he was speechless for a moment while the prebendary who had suggested the idea enjoyed Dr. Grantly's discomfort. The archdeacon, regaining his composure, again remonstrated that such musings were inappropriate, to say the least. He was spitting into the wind. The speculations could not be suppressed. The pleasantness of the deanery, and the salary of the dean were canvassed, until the debate was ended by the entrance of Dr. Fillgrave (another wonderful name!). The good doctor announced that Sir Omicron Pie would arrive at 9:15 PM that evening. Dr. Grantly went below to confer with his wife, then wait the arrival of the eminent physician. During the night, the dean became semiconscious, and the cathedral clergy began to think that maybe such a decision would not need to be made for some weeks.
Subject: [trollope-l] BT, Volume II, Chapter XI (XXXII) A new Candidate for Ecclesiastical Honors
The news of the dean's illness had aroused considerable interest in the town of Barchester, and it did not take long to arrive at the bishop's palace. Mr. Slope told Dr. Proudie, and Mrs. Proudie also soon became apprised of Dr. Trefoil's stroke. She did not learn this from Mr. Slope; the avowed enemies had not met since the showdown the day before in the bishop's study.
Mrs. Proudie, though temporarily defeated, was confident that she would eventually trample the upstart into the dust. Mr. Slope, too.
Dr. Proudie was basking in the glow of his new won autonomy. Of course, some of the glow was tarnished by Mr. Slope's lecture, but after testing the waters a couple of times by alluding to his upcoming visit to the archbishop in the presence of his family, Dr. Proudie began to be regarded by a little more respect by the servants and his children. After dinner the conspirators conferred in the study about the future course they would take, but the clock signaled the advance of time, and the bishop uneasily mused on the vulnerability sure to come in his bedchamber. AT refused to speculate on the goings on of the night, only telling us the result revealed the next morning.
"He came down the following morning a sad and thoughtful man. He was attenuated in appearance; one might almost say emaciated. I doubt whether his now grizzled locks had not palpably become more grey than on the preceding evening. At any rate he had aged materially." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 47)
Dr. Proudie was a man downtrodden and extremely depressed. Somehow I have a vision of a leather-clad Mrs. Proudie wielding a whip, flogging her husband who was handcuffed to the bedposts, the miserable man moaning, "Mercy! Mercy!" Not even the prospect of his archiepiscopal visit was of consolation. It was this downcast man that Mr. Slope met, when he arrived with the news that morning.
The bishop's chaplain did not shilly shally. " ' My lord, the dean is dead.' " (p. 48) That woke the bishop out of his depression. Mr. Slope did qualify his announcement, saying that the dean was not dead yet, just almost dead. Dr. Proudie, accompanied by Mr. Slope, visited the afflicted man. Mrs. Proudie and her daughters sent offers of assistance to Miss Trefoil. And the wheels began to turn in Mr. Slope's head.
The prospect of an increase in money would be welcome, should he become dean. But it would be even more
" ...glorious to out-top the archdeacon in his own cathedral city; to sit above prebendaries and canons, and have the cathedral pulpit and all the cathedral services together at his own disposal!" (p. 48)
One could almost see the great mind at work. Upon becoming dean, Mr. Slope would turn his rule over his bishop, to his bishop's wife. There were friends in the government Mr. Slope must recruit to his cause, and of course Tom Towers of the Jupiter must be consulted. But first the bishop must be won to the idea. Mr. Slope suspected that his ascendancy over Dr. Proudie would be temporary in nature, and the husband might welcome the chance to remove the cause of his domestic strife so painlessly.
After a perfunctory allusion to the virtues of the almost departed, Mr. Slope got down to business. Dr. Proudie was rather slow to realize what his chaplain was suggesting, and his surprise upon the light dawning was less than gratifying. Mr. Slope recovered quickly from his dismay, and made his case well to his reluctant benefactor. The chaplain's eloquence was wasted. Dr. Proudie on his own began to muse about the desirability of getting his chaplain out of his, and his wife's, hair. The visit to his archbishop was coming up; an opportunity to promote the elevation might well present itself.
Dr. Proudie began to think the plan might be feasible. But one matter should be settled first. Mr. Quiverful should be offered the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital. With the enticing possibility of a deanship in view, Mr. Slope relinquished his plans for the hospital. Not to say that he had also relinquished his plans for the Widow Bold. If he were quick enough, he could secure that prize before word got out that the Quiverfuls were in.
But first, a little pleasure before the business of matrimony.
I, too, have found myself vacillating between sympathy for Madeline, and aversion. But for me, the sentiment is largely compassion. Even if it were her sharp tongue that brought on her, her injuries, I think the punishment was out of proportion to the crime. The Signora possessed the perceptiveness to realize that if she gave into the instinct for peevishness that I think all of us would feel, it would only drive people away. In my work with the elderly, I have seen both sides of the coin. Some rail against the infirmities of age, lashing out at all around them, whining and complaining that their children never come to see them anymore. I can't say I blame the children. Visits are generally spent hurling recriminations for the neglect they have suffered, and complaining about aches and pains. I am happy to say that these are in the minority; most happily chat away, delighted with having company. Physical infirmities are disregarded for the duration of the visit. The wise disabled and elderly realize what Madeline Neroni did; it is not wise to repel those who bring pleasure, comfort, or at least stimulation.
Trollope has so succeeded in creating a distaste in me for Mr. Slope, that I feel no compunctions to the teasing the Signora Neroni gives him. He made have had his passion aroused, but I think it too apparent just what the bishop's chaplain had in mind, if he were allowed to exercise his desires unimpeded. Mr. Slope was not going to content himself with flowery phrases; the guy had the hots for her, and her damaged leg would prove no obstacle to the horizontal mambo. Remember back in Chapter XVII? "He sat himself down in the chair beside her, and took her proffered hand and leant over her. ... she raised it towards his face. He kissed it again and again, and stretched over her as though desirous of extending the charity of his pardon beyond the hand that was offered him. She managed, however, to check his ardour. For one so easily allured, her hand was surely enough." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 282) To me it is obvious that Mr. Slope deserved all he got.
But I have digressed.
Mr. Slope's to-do list for that day: drink tea at the Stanhopes, for the last time (he resolved), see Mrs. Bold and secure a bride for himself before she could find out her father would not be warden, and write a couple of letters. First, his friend in the government, Sir Nicholas Fitzwiggins (obsequious, fawning, full of treacly schlock), and second, to Tom Towers, which was more difficult to compose. Well Slope knew that a Heepish attitude would excite the editor's disgust. He must be concise, humble without being too humble, confident without being too confident, manly without being overbearing. Deferential, persuasive, matter-of-fact. Much time and effort was spent on this epistle, and not without result.
Mr. Slope was feeling on top of the world. Soon he would take a tumble.
Re: Barchester Towers, II:12-13 (31-32): Another Niche Opens
That Trollope is just killing off characters left and right. How else open up new niches for those already in place to fight over?
I too like the doctors' names Trollope invents: Sir Omicron Pie, Dr Fillgrave, Dr Rerechild. Rerechild makes me think of T. Berry Brazleton who wrote a series of books about child-rearing which implied the person who really counted was the doctor.
There are a number of vivid remarkable and ironic scenes in this week's instalment and we get two more satiric letters. The setting of the bishop's library is beautifully visualised. I can really see how this place is a corridor which takes you from one spot to another. The physical connection becomes symbolic.
Jill has noted the scene we are not shown: Trollope does not take us up to the bedroom scene from which the Bishop emerges an emaciated and subdued man. I'm not sure what to infer. I can almost see Mrs Proudie as Dominatrix, but leather and whips were not in the Victorian repertoire. Or were they? Did she scold and scold and then withhold sex? Then when he agreed to change the offer back to Mr Quiverful, did she overwhelm the man with sex? It's true we are meant to leave it vague with a sense of this woman as punisher in bed. Think of the difference between this highly effective use of comic-enigmatic insinuation and the complete absence of any mention of it in Dicken's bullying women. I wonder if we are meant to infer something similar about those women (punishers in bed) without Dickens saying anything. The hum and buzz of what's understood from another time is difficult for us to get. When I read _The Tenant of Wildfell Hall_ recently I was similarly intrigued by passages in which the wife says her husband subjected her to terrible sinful and obscene kinds of scenes; some of the references were not to drink but to sex. She tells us around that time it was decided they would only have one child. So we are left to wish we knew what exactly was inferred by the reader at the time.
A good deal of Chapter 32 (II:13) is made up of Slope's thoughts as he sits down to write his two letters. Trollope lets us enter into his mind so that we will view his two letters as carefully calibrated performances (Penguin BT, ed RGilmour, pp. 295-302) The one to the the man high in Government is easier to write because the tone can be more consistent: all Slope needs is an appearance of genuine concern, piety, intense respect for Sir Nicholas, and an assertion of his own high motives. That's of course. Sir Nicholas will know the flummery pose and 'read through it'. The letter itself is the flattery (pp. 303-4). With Tom Towers Slope must somehow convey more 'truth' about his own self-interest; simple high-motivation will be read as unreal, and therefore unconfiding, not friendly enough; yet Slope must not be too open about his eagerness for the office. Slope must be nonchalant. He must also flatter but not on the same grounds for newspaper men liked to see themselves as not that all-powerful yet be respected as all-powerful. So Slope must deny asking Towers to help him (pp. 304-5). I think we may say Slope acquits himself brilliantly -- or should I say Mr Trollope. It's interesting that Trollope worries we may just read the letters straight anyway, so after the second letter the narrator points out a number of the deviations from truth ('lies') in Slope's letters. Trollope shows us how the letters themselves contradict one another: Slope cannot both be young and not young (p. 306, paragraph beginning 'Mr Slope will be accused of deceit ...' )
There is just so much content in these chapters -- and partly it comes from handling language in such a way as to have many points of view from which to read what we are reading all at once. Ellen Moody
Re: Barchester Towers: La Signora Neroni and the Rev Mr Slope
I am glad Jill digressed for Madeline is worth much commentary, especially from a woman's point of view. Jill wrote:
'I, too, have found myself vacillating between sympathy for Madeline, and aversion. But for me, the sentiment is largely compassion. Even if it were her sharp tongue that brought on her, her injuries, I think the punishment was out of proportion to the crime. The Signora possessed the perceptiveness to realize that if she gave into the instinct for peevishness that I think all of us would feel, it would only drive people away.'
This is what I feel too. Whatever Madeline might have subjected her husband to, he has maimed her for life. Perhaps since she is presented as such a pleasure-loving subversive creature, and somewhat caricatured as sensual and sexual, critics like Jane Nardin are uncomfortable with her. Feminists are often very gung-ho on the work ethic, and rather puritanical in their approach towards sex. Still Madeline seems to me a third early female character who embodies the damages and oppressions and injustices the double sexual standard, the lack of secure access to property and money through ownership recognised by law, the abuse of women because they were more helpless than men vis-a-vis a family's desire for aggrandisement. The harsh realities and hardships of life endured by women in through these injustices are brought out beautifully in Trollope's characterisation and the stories of Feemy Macdermot and Anty Lynch in The Macdermots of Ballycloran and The Kellys and O'Kellys. In Madeline we have another problem which is no longer condoned in Western Society, but still with us: physical brutality, abuse.
And as Jill says Madeline knows she must be gallant, she must be brave; she must not make herself more of a burden than she must already be to her family. I find Madeline's relationship with Charlotte particularly interesting. In some ways Charlotte is the most interesting character in the book as a woman: she is the old maid, holding the family together, keeping the bills in order, helping her brother towards a wife with an income, and succouring Madeline.
Jill also wrote:
'Trollope has so succeeded in creating a distaste in me for Mr. Slope, that I feel no compunctions to the teasing the Signora Neroni gives him. He made have had his passion aroused, but I think it too apparent just what the bishop's chaplain had in mind, if he were allowed to exercise his desires unimpeded. Mr. Slope was not going to content himself with flowery phrases; the guy had the hots for her, and her damaged leg would prove no obstacle to the horizontal mambo. Remember back in Chapter XVII? "He sat himself down in the chair beside her, and took her proffered hand and leant over her. ... she raised it towards his face. He kissed it again and again, and stretched over her as though desirous of extending the charity of his pardon beyond the hand that was offered him. She managed, however, to check his ardour. For one so easily allured, her hand was surely enough." (OUP Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 282) To me it is obvious that Mr. Slope deserved all he got.'
Yes. Slope is disgusting the way he slobbers all over her. It is a kind of sleazy grasping at flesh and sex. Jill has picked out a passage which makes just her point. It is remarkable how astute Trollope is at conveying sexual content to us in this novel. It may be that in books like Is He Popenjoy? Trollope goes beyond the mere physical to hint at how in the normal lives of the upper class extramarital affairs were not uncommon and the result of the system of marriage as a career in itself; in these earlier books he is just as sharp in showing us other kinds of hypocrisies, in this case what this Cupid (Mr Slope) really wants from his Psyche (Madeline). The high comedy and stylisation in both the portrayal of Madeline and Slope enables him to glide his taboo-breaking past the reader, but the careful reader can take note.