The Bunces; Finis; On James and Trollope; The Belton Estate and Rachel Ray Compared; Back to Clara and Will; Layed Novels: The Belton Estate and other of Trollope's Domestic Romances; Final General Thoughts; On Will's View of Mrs Askerton; The Complexity of Trollope's Romances: The Belton Estate and What is Usually Unspeakable

Subject: TROL The Bunces

Having finished The Belton Estate only one day late (no surprises), I think I may be allowed a comment. This comment has to do with the name Bunce.

We recall that in The Belton Estate a Mrs. Bunce was the last remaining servant at Belton Castle. By either a coincidence or a lapse a Mr. Bunce was Will Belton's agent at Plaistow. Who are these Bunces? Well, Jacob Bunce was the landlord of Phineas Finn in both Finn books, and he staunchly defended Finn when he was falsely accused of murder. Also, John Bunce was the senior bedesman at Hiram's Hospital in The Warden. All four Bunces are stalwart examples of the lower class 19th-century Briton. All are honest and wish only the best for their betters. I don't think one of them was allowed to vote, even after the Reform Bill. One might look on them as the backbone of the British peasantry. Bunces, I am sure, fought for England at Agincourt, Waterloo, and El Alamein. They were always in the cap-touching ranks but, as I said, the backbone of England herself. Today the descendents of all these Bunces (remember Jacob Bunce was the father of eight) are part of the working class and, of course, now that they have the vote, always vote Labour. As far as Trollope goes, I think he was fond of the name, and he certainly respected them for what they did.


Bunce means "nothing".
It is colloquial English.

To Trollope-l

December 21, 1998

Re: The Belton Estate: Chs 27-32: Finis

I finished The Belton Estate last night. It was as intelligently done as all the rest. I thought Captain Aylmer came off very well even if at the end his letter characterises him as a man without an inner life apart from society's ideas of what he should think, feel, or do. The scene between himself and Clara was subtle. If you follow the dialogue turn by turn, you see how he pressures Clara, how she resists, how gradually she grows irritated and throws his obedience to his mother up to him, how he drives her to say she doesn't love him, but she resists with a frank avowal of how she thought she loved him, found she didn't, tried to, and was appalled by the treatment meted out to her at Aylmer Park His sudden desire for her now that she is out of his reach is worked up slowly so it doesn't seem unreal. The language is expertly handled: '''You have never loved mem and yet you allowed yourself to say you did. Is not that true?'" (Oxford Belton Estate, JHalperin, p. 382). At no point does Trollope hit a false or literary note. This is real talk between two awkward people and we follow their zig zags of frustration, embarrassment, and final parting. Too bad the man isn't given more inner life to allow us to feel there is a consciousness there from the beginning of the book through the end.

Clara is certainly no close sister to Fanny Price.

Mary Belton is perhaps a bit too perfect, and Will becomes too obvious towards the end. But Mrs Askerton remains a real and creditable character. It is beautiful how Will welcomes her into his society.

I liked Will's desire for a quiet wedding. I have come across this idea in Trollope's heroes -- let us just walk to church, do it, and walk home again -- so often I begin to believe it's Trollope's own. _The Duke's Children_ ends on the extravagant ceremony of lies in Silverbridge's affair contrasted to Mary's quiet one with her father by her side at the book's close. Hugh Stanbury wants just to walk to church. Actually the Brownings did just that.

Sig has gone over Bunce, and the book does at the end celebrate order, continuity, as all are embraced in the community. In a couple of pages Clara and Will marry, have a child, build a house, and probably will soon have another.

I read David Skilton's introduction to the Trollope Society edition (I have xeroxed a number of these introductions as, like those for the Arno edition, they are usually good). He tries to explain James's adament disgust with this book by arguing Trollope was deliberately following the latest realistic practices of the novel in the 1860s. It was a mode which Mary Elizabeth Braddon disliked because it insisted on making novels from the absolutely commonplace. She likened her art to Collins, Bulwer-Lytton (the lady was not overly modest) and said in Dickens such art reached its highest perfection. Skilton thinks The Belton Estate is one of Trollope's most carefully controlled fictions; I thought the plot was skilfully arranged into instalments which patterned ironic and reinforcing contrasts. Skilton also quotes a private letter by Trollope in which he says when he writes publicly that he forgets a novel, it's not so. He forgets none of them. Thus his comment in his Autobiography that he forget The Belton Estate is self-deprecation. Maybe.

At any rate Skilton quotes the Saturday reviewer who disliked Trollope's books; realism is apparently not imaginative. Skilton suggests the reviewer's comments can explain to us why Henry James turned away:

"The heroine is intended to be 'exceedingly commonplace', and the whole book displays a 'realism that is sordid and pitiful', consisting of 'the careful portraiture of the meanest and most sordid of human traits."

Says Skilton,

"The last two pages of the novel, with Will and Clara retiring to bed after entertaining Captain Aylmer and his new wife, strike today's reader as fresh, economical and amusing, but they are simply beyond this reviewer's endurance: '

The heroine protesting that her old lover's wife is plain and over forty and has a horrid red nose, and the hero meanwhile turning his gigantic back and snoring -- there we leave them, O sublime picture!'"

I can almost hear the words "stupid" and "vulgar" running round in his head -- these are James's words. It is to be remembered James always has very subtle people at the center of his fiction, and makes a heavy use of melodrama. James admired Balzac.

All this said, and admitting I liked The Belton Estate very much, somehow I wish it had had something more piquant to it, something less expected in the story. I preferred Rachel Ray as livelier, more colorful, though The Belton Estate has a much realer heroine, far fairer portraits of the people we are not supposed to sympathise with, a very sombre backdrop of suicide, wasted lives (the father), cold cruel indifference and stupidity (the aunt's behavior about her property).

How did others feel about the two books generally or in comparison?

Ellen Moody

Subject: The Belton Estate: Finis Sender:

I started The Belton Escape this weekend and finished it today. In the interim, I have saved all the posts about the book without reading them. And now I have some time to comment on them. Sorry for not participating in the ordinary fashion.

Ellen Moody wrote:

If we were to ask Aylmer, he would tell us he loves her [Clara], but there is but one person he loves: himself."

I think the sad thing about Aylmer is that he doesn't even love himself. His father gave him excellent advice, for him, when the father urged him not to marry. He couldn't heed this advice, even though he probably loved Emily even less than he loved Clara. Why did he feel the need to marry? Not out of self-love. If anything, I think he wanted to marry because he thought that it was proper to do so. For Aylmer, propriety is an end in itself. That is why he though Will was "ungentlemanly" while Clara thought Will a perfect gentleman who happened to behave badly.


On James and Trollope, Ellen wrote:

"Maybe because Aylmer is the character out of a James novel, and James didn't like his emptiness portrayed so starkly, with so little surface appeal. Also, the forthright nature of both Will and Clara is not something you would likely find in James. There are no wheels within wheels here."

I certainly agree with this, but I think everyone has been too charitable to Clara. At her core, she is too proud. Will suits her because he worships her and would never injure her pride. Alymer is just the opposite -- everything he does causes her to rebel. If she married Alymer she would wind up just like -- Mrs. Alymer.


To Trollope-l

Subject: The Belton Estate and Rachel Ray

Ellen Moody wrote:

"How did others feel about the two books generally or in comparison?"

In the Autobiography Trollope says that moral instruction is one job for the novelist. One of Trollopes most common moral points is that a woman can only give her heart away once. This idea lies behind Rachel Ray, The Small House, and Sir Harry Hotspur, among others.

Yet there is a discordant thread in The Belton Estate. It is what I'm now thinking of as one of the "jilt" books. These include Can You Forgive Her? and Kept in The Dark. In these books we learn that it is possible for a good girl to get herself out of a bad first engagement and wind up happy with another.

How can the two be squared? I think the most obvious explanation is that the first engagement is "really" a "false" engagement because the women did not truely give her heart away. This seems clear in Kept in the Dark, where the woman yielded to a prudent first engagement for which there was no passion on her part. I don't remember CYFH as well, but I suspect the explanation is not so easy. If this explanation is true, then I think what happens to Clara is as follows: She fancied she loved Alymer, partly because of his veneer, partly from her lack of society and experience. But at this point she was basically unaware sexually. Will came and proposed to her in a forthright, very proper way -- a way that was easy for her to turn down. Soon after this she accepts Alymer because it fits so well with her childish longings. At this point, when physical contact is permitted her, Alymer does not engage in it. But Will does. He offends her by kissing her and showing her his passion. At the same time, he awakens her to the physical. Thus, she is engaged to Alymer but Will steals her heart, which she only "really" gives away once. Then her pride is the chief obstacle to her admitting her mistake.

This explanation squares with the interpretation of Lily Dale being unable to accept anyone but Crosbie because she has been too physically intimate with him.

There are two problems with this explanation. First, how is a girl suppossed to know the real giving away of her heart from a false one? Its easy for the narrator to know -- he has authority in the matter. If he says its so in a book, its not usually fruitful to argue the point. But as moral instruction I'm not sure how helpful these distinctions are.

The second problem is more internal to the book: Mrs. Askerton is presented as admirable yet she has given her heart away twice and its not as easy to write off her first marriage as a mistake or false conciousness.

As for a general comparison betweent the two books: I liked the main story of Belton Estate much more than the love story of Rachel Ray. That was simply a question of when the man would change his mind. Very little was set in motion to try to get him to change it. The interest came for me more from the interplay of the many stories that Trollope told. In Belton Estate there is really only a single story, and again it comes down to getting Clara to change her mind. But here everything drives to that point. Mrs. Askerton is trying to put her plans into effect; Mrs. Alymer has her own plans. Both men are very active in pursuing what they want, or think they want. Thus, I never felt in this book that Clara was simply waiting passively as I often felt about Rachel.

Finally, the two characters I most liked in the book were Colonel Askerton and Alymers father. Both think their wives the "best of women." Both seem fairly similar in temperment. But the unconventional one sits quietly on a summer eve drinking tea on the lawn with his wife, while the respectable one skulks back to shut himself into his study before his wife gets back from church.



December 23, 1998

Re: The Belton Estate and Rachel Ray

I cannot agree with the conventional wisdom that Trollope characteristically has females who give their hearts away once; there are just too many heroines who fall in love more than once; who marry and then remarry. That Duffy has to resort to a theory to explain why there are so many when we are said to know Trollope believed a woman loved once suggest to me the theory is wrong. I apply Occam's razor here. In the case at hand we do have a heroine who thought she was in love wrongly, but that's not true of Alice Vavasour, Edith Wharton, Elinor Bold, Lady Glen, Lady Mabel Grex and a number of women who loved when they married, discovered the men to be bad, fell out of love, and met and married or lived with someone else for a while and then married. I'm too tired to remember the names, but I think there a numbers of these. Trollope studies many permutations in love. Lily Dale is just one individual, and I suggest she is atypical in the Trollope oeuvre.

I don't see how Duffy can say Rachel Ray is just about if a man will change his mind. The book has so many characters and themes beyond love. There are as many chapters of satire on politics and religious fundamentalism and snobbery as on love.

The characters that "rung" most true to me in The Belton Estate were Clara and Mrs Askerton. Probably Captain Aylmer is true to life. I liked Will and Mary Belton best. I was amused by many of the characters in Rachel Ray, but they were not quite as real. I loved the sequence about Rachel going to the ball; also the love scenes and letters. My favorite character was probably Mrs Ray; the realest was perhaps Luke Rowan. I very much liked the descriptive passages in Rachel Ray. I was taken by the bitter satire in the chapters on Aylmer Park in The Belton Estate.

Yes The Belton Estate is a much more sombre book; as we said when we were reading Rachel Ray, go just below the surface and some of the implications about the characters and society (human nature) are scary, but on the surface it has a vivid piquancy and real warmth. It was more sensual than The Belton Estate though I agree the point made about Aylmer is he is a cold fish; Will is the passionate man.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

December 24, 1998

Re: The Belton Estate and Rachel Ray

Dear Duffy and Trollope-l friends,

More comments :).

The women don't have to be forgiven any more than men do; the books show us people betraying themselves, sometimes because they are self-deluded, sometimes because they are pressured by others into acts which twist or pervert their natures. More generally, I don't see any specific moral instruction in Trollope -- or Austen or most books that are realistic. Rather the novelist shows us experience as truly as he is able and leaves us with it. Whatever moral growth we get out of the book comes from entering into the psychologies and situations of the characters and experiencing it.

The Belton Estate is one of a number of 2 volume novels in which we have but one story. Another is Lady Anna; some others that come to mind are The Macdermots of Ballycloran and Miss Mackenzie. Trollope also has some 2 volumers where the stories are closely intertwined but at least there are several parallel stories: The Claverings and Rachel Ray fall into this category. Perhaps The Belton Estate is warmer than either Rachel Ray (or The Claverings for that matter); at the core of Rachel Ray is a quiet but biting indictment of common aspects of human nature. For me the main story of Rachel Ray is not about whether Luke Rowan will change his mind; his behaviour is no more important than Rachel's or her mother's. The center of the novel is a depiction of provincial life with the story being about simply enduring it and surviving without going to the wall. This then takes in the story of the Tappitts versus Rowan, the election, and the religious bigotry which is central to the book's design.

Funny. While on the surface, Rachel Ray is the pleasanter book, its characters never lift themselves out of the cant of their society; a number of them end up as muddled as they began and others succeed by buying into the society's coldness towards inner life. On the surface The Belton Estate has many more characters who are clearly living aimless miserable lives (both older men, Lord Aylmer and Clara's father); it has a suicide; it has outcasts, and everyone is depicted as willing to to cast other people off if it's in their interest (even Will and Mary). Yet we see a number of people who are either comforted or find real joy in their existence and characters who are quietly utterly loyal. This is Mr Askerton's role: I find myself wishing Trollope could have written a novel centered on the Askertons which no defensive apologies whatsoever. I too liked Mr Askerton.

Ellen Moody

From: (Marcella McCarthy)
Subject: The Belton Estate: Back to Clara and Will

January 4, 1999

Trolling through all my Christmastime e-mails, I am impelled to offer something about The Belton Estate. I was wondering why I shied away from the idea that it is a "one story" novel compared to Rachel Ray, and realised that it is because of the way Trollope turns the one story into many. There may be one story--will Clara marry Will?--but we come to it from so many different angles! In comparison the many-storied Rachel Ray is fairly flat. Perhaps we are speaking of layers here, I'm not sure.

In the first version of the central story in The Belton Estate, we see that it would be good if Will marries Clara, and that it will provide the obvious "solution" to the tragedy of her brother's suicide and the inheritance problems it introduces. This sort of sets us up to the plot, it is rooted in money and in history and in what has happened before the book starts, and focuses in some ways on Clara's relationship with her father. We go back to this theme from time to time. Mrs. Askerton mentions it a lot, Clara's father thinks of it as an ideal solution. By the way, aspects of this remind me of Mr. Scarborough's family, in that the estate itself is saved, because the debtor does not inherit.

Secondly there is Clara's relationship with Aylmer. First we see it from the outside--propinquinity, his kindness after her brother's death, so far so good; then we see it from the aunt's point of view--she has not got into the first story, as far as she knows Clara will be provided for by her father. She thinks it would be a good and equal match for Clara, unaware of how poor Clara now is. Clara becomes here a tragic figure--perhaps even a misguided one, though I think we are meant to feel approval and sympathy for her decision not to tell her aunt about the changed circumstances. Aylmer's courtship seems to me to be clouded by death (his first sympathetic move towards Clara in the shadow of her bereavement, then the courtship after the Aunt's death) and the dark depression of the house in Perivale. This is all very respectable and gloomy, especially against the bright sunshiny world of full harvest and healthy animals that Will Belton breathes about him.

Will Belton introduces the third angle--the glowing and hearty life-force that infuses the dark places of the book with its own relentless good nature. He disarms the preconceptions of Clara (and of the reader) by his delicacy, his frankness, his generosity. He breathes new life into the estate. The opposite of the experimental farmer Lucius Mason, he is an innovator who knows what really works and knows how to do it without upsetting the old order. Now he presents himself to Clara, and his love for her is like a flowering of his zest for life. We can see that it is the answer in so many ways, yet we are torn. We worry about it being the easy answer of the first scene, too fairy-tale-like to be real feeling; we worry about it changing the story laid out in the second scenario of Clara and Aylmer. Like Clara, we can hardly believe the prospect of radiant love. At this point, we also feel some loyalty to Aylmer, though the clues to his personality are evident.

Belton's courtship is seen from so many angles--from the first, as the logical , the generous, and the traditional "happy Ending" solution to the entail problem. From the second angle it becomes a thing to mock--Will is despised beside his ultra-civilized rival for his naive enthusiasm, for his passion, for his inability to hide his real feelings. True, Captain Aylmer could not be imagined smothering Clara with passionate kisses in the face of her rejection of him, but do we admire him for this restraint, or suspect that the passion is just not there? From the third angle this courtship is infused with Clara's desire for friendship--her yearning for the stability and the love that Will offers, her shrinking away from his physical passion.

Another angle briefly comes in with the Mrs. Askerton story. She is the epitome both of the woman who marries unwisely, and the woman who follows the dictates of her heart, and is held up as an image of what Clara might come to. As such she is dealt with by the Aylmers and the Beltons in different ways. The Aylmers are in no coubt that she has done wrong to leave her husband, wrong to marry the major, wrong to be happy in the teeth of her own early misjudgements. The Beltons, Will and Clara both, are saddened by her past, but glad of her present, of the love of her husband, and pity what she has suffered.

But then--and this really makes the book for me--the central story is seen in yet another way. We see how Will really feels, the situation from his point of view. And he fully appreciates the charm of the fairy-tale, seeing it is a fairy-tale, and he is dashed by the Aylmer relationship, seeing that it is a real relationship, and he yearns towards the simple acceptance of his suit. But he is not just the clownish big-hearted rustic, and Trollope masterfully paints both his grief and his understanding. His tenderness of his sister is important here. He is also tender of Mrs. Askerton and reserved about his knowledge of her, in a way the apparently gentlemanly Aylmer is not. Will mourns that he didn't see Clara first, and that life is not so simple and good as he would have it, and we mourn with him.

The way that Trollope weaves together these different views--or what I think of as these different stories, because each person's understanding of the story is different--delights me. The "who will Clara marry" plot is fragmented into different stories depending upon whose life we follow in each chapter. We even sympathise with the lonely father, who rather fancies Clara as a daughter-in-law, with the miserable sister, with the Askertons worrying about the lease on their cottage. Each little vignette is beautifully drawn. The way that Trollope paints Aylmer and traces his revulsions of feeling is like the way he deals with Crosbie in the Small House, except that Aylmer is really happier with his bride than he would have been with Clara, it works for him. Clara is smarter than Lily and she can see through her first lover. Will Belton is Johnny Eames fully come to man's estate, the simple country man with an honest and true heart, without Johnny's fatal flirtatiousness.

I do disagree, by the way, with the view that Clara is petty and small-minded about Aylmer's bride. I think that the episode is incredibly true to life. She is still a little wounded by Aylmer's marriage, still a little hurt by the way in which he rejected her at various times, and she not only wants to show off her husband to him, she wants him to feel what a mistake he made. Aylmer is complacent in his choice, so no dice there, and in any case she doesn't want anything very much (she doesn't want him to make love to her!) she would just like reassurance that she was the one who made the choice, that she decided not to marry him, not that he tried to throw her over for a better match. Aylmer does the same when he thinks about Will as boring.

When Clara presses Will about Lady Emily's nose, she wants him to declare that she is more beautiful than Lady Emily, which he eventually does (by declaring that there is no way he would want her to swap noses) and she is able to leave the subject alone and he can get to sleep. Of course, he doesn't want to be rude about Lady Emily, but he can't see why she wants to be either, which is why she is driven to such extremes. I think it's a deft touch from Trollope, and I know people, reasonable, sweet and happy in a second marriage, who have still yearned to hear their husband make a derogatory remark about their ex-husband's new partner. No-one wants to be the person who is rejected; no-one wants to feel that an old lover is happier because you're not around. Happy, that's OK, just so long as they are happy despite your absence, not because of it....

ps Happy new year.

To Trollope-l

January 4, 1999

Re: Layered Novels: The Belton Estate and others

What a beautiful post, Marcella. I come onto lists for the deep pleasure and instruction of such posts. Rarely are academic essays allowed to talk so sensitively about details without some agenda or "new" discovery, and close reading is nowadays out (or at least so it is said).

This layered approach works in a number of Trollope's medium-length books. I suggest we find a trial run for it in Dr Thorne. There we have different sets of characters but they are all swirling around Frank and Mary, and the center of their plot hinges on the single mystery (known only to the two uncles) of Mary's parentage. When he returns to the medium length novel after expending himself on more Irish novels, some singletons that are multiplot and several Barchester, we find a more subtle approach. The closest thing I can think of to The Belton Estate is The Claverings which I recently studied carefully. Again it is more like Dr Thorne in that we can pick the threads apart, but they are tightly interwoven so that everything emerges from Julia Ongar's original decision not to marry Harry but instead Lord Ongar; all the various characters' stories are closely intertwined. Harry's choice to study engineering is the second choice which sets the action going, but it is skillfully intertwined.

Rachel Ray can also be seen as layered; George Eliot likened Rachel Ray into a natty acorn or nut and said it was intertwined. Rachel Ray may seen more heavy-handed. But as we went through it we saw that no one plot is happening at any one time, but they all move together. The election affects the love story which affects the brewery story which affects the election . . . And religion and politics are threaded through them all.

It's interesting also that a number of us agree that although on the surface Rachel Ray seems the more cheerful book, in fact its implications are a bit scary (people can do anything to someone they declare different from them) and sex is about submission and enthrallment. Clara and Will's story is redeeming; they redeem the land, the estate; his intense sexuality is healthy; she is a strong character; both are realistically depicted. There is sympathy for Mrs Askerton who is not cast out at the end. The "villain" Aylmers too are punished by being Aylmers, and Aylmer himself is allowed to have a destiny he would have chosen.

Belton Estate is one of Trollope's many smaller books which is ignored because there are just too many. I should not "bad-mouth" Henry James but I suspect he was put off by the earthy coarseness of the central young couple at the close.

I haven't read Mr Scarborough's Family in a while, and then only once. Probably because of my most recent reading I was reminded by Clara and her father of Nina Balatka and hers and Thady Macdermot and his (and of course Anthony Trollope and his); I also thought of "The Parson's Daughter of Oxney Colne" (a favorite story which ends in non-redemption). If I try to think of another and later medium-length book often said to have one plot which has a layered approach I come up with John Caldigate, the novel which takes place in Australia partly and is about bigamy. Perhaps there too we see this careful peeling and turning of points of view there too. I know we see it in The Claverings though I am too tired tonight to peel this orange so neatly as Marcella has done Belton Estate.

I'm really so happy we read these two so carefully as a couple; I think we got a lot out of it.

Happy New Year too to all

From: The Hansens
Subject: Belton Estate

Thanks to Ellen for keeping this reading going. When I retired in May I thought I would have far more time for these Internet readings but that seems not the case. :(

What about the Askertons? Such a lot of mystery! Can there be any more to them than 'just' that they lived together and became married before her first husband died? While realizing theirs is a serious transgression, certainly that would not be enough for a community to drive them out of town, would it? In her case, I suppose she might fear the loss of her main source of society, the friendship of Clara. Will is concerned about them for Clara's sake. Would the truth, as defined above, be enough for him to bid her forcefully to drop them?

I don't know what ails Mary Belton, but coincidently Shirley has a very similar character. Novelists like Trollope and Bronte make heavy use of orphans and motherless young girls, I suppose to isolate and make more perilous their situations. Perhaps characters like Mary Belton are needed when the hero or heroine needs just a little bit of parental-like counselling.

I like this book.


On Will's view of Mrs Askerton:

He may regard her as "damaged" but its an odd sort of damage. The external manifestation of the damage is that she is deprived the company of the likes of Mrs. Alymer. That is a kind of damage we all should seek. She also tends to punish herself, by focusing and dwelling negatively on events which turned out to be her salvation. I'm not sure what Trollope makes of this.

BTW, Will does not alter his opinion of Mrs. Askerton because she has taken up his side. It was the reverse. She changed her opinion of him because he decided on his own to keep her secret.


Subject: The Belton Estate and Rachel Ray

I find I liked Rachel Ray a bit better than The Belton Estate, and I think the final difference is tone. There's a darkness to The Belton Estate which I like--as many people have observed, Clara's situation is truly frightening--but increasingly toward the end Trollope presents her almost jokingly. We know she's going to end up with Will and so does she, but for a remarkably forthright and strong young woman she becomes very "missish" in the last chapters, not wanting to appear to be doing what she knows perfectly well she is doing, transferring her affections from Aylmer to Will. It's the right thing to do, and apparently Trollope thinks so too, but also thinks it would be unwomanly for her to be frank about it. I keep hearing a whisper behind the text (perhaps the voice of Trollope's original audience) saying, "Isn't that just like a woman!" Rachel is accorded more dignity. Mrs. Askerton has had to make a similar transfer of affections under much more dire circumstances and having frankly done it has been enough to cancel her membership in polite society forever, at least as far as the Aylmers of the world are concerned. And, until she helped his own cause along, Will agreed with them. Trollope doesn't altogether agree, and I like that in him, but he does make her a sort of "brazen" foil to Clara's maiden modesty--I think he does regard her if not as beyond the pale still as permanently damaged by what she's experienced as well as by what she's done.

I'm extremely curious how these extremely English and Victorian attitudes will figure in La Vendée (if they do)

Judith Moore
Anchorage, Alaska

Here is a posting I wrote much earlier than the above read, but thought might provide a fitting coda and provide yet another perspective on The Belton Estate and this group conversation:

To Trollope List

April 2, 1997

Re: The Complexity of Trollope's Romances: The Belton Estate and What is Usually Unspeakable

This phrase comes from a book I am reading just now, Susan Peck Macdonald's AT. I thought I might following her bring together three books which she says first were written close in time to one another, and second, are better understood when seen against or the light of one another. They are: The Small House at Allington, Can You Forgive Her?, and The Belton Estate. I am listening to the first as dramatically read aloud by David Case, am reading with the group the second, and just finished the third.

I want to call attention to one circumstance which occurs in varying ways in all three, to wit, a girl experiences a broken engagement. In the first book Lily is deserted and betrayed by Crosbie (the verbs are verbs the narrator uses); in the second Lady Glen is forced to break a what she and Burgo wanted to be an engagement, and Alice breaks 3 engagements altogether if we count up her back-and-forth movements from George to John to George (and so on); in the third Clara Amedroz finds herself engaged to a man she does not love, and manages to break it, and marry the man she does, manages being the operative term here.

One phase of feeling that all these heroines undergo which we have not paid that much attention is what Macdonald calls "feelings of guilt and unworthiness," and Macdonald says the reasons for this are they feel in different ways sullied because they have been engaged to a man and broken off from him. This was a serious taboo according to Macdonald. Macdonald is much more interested in Alice than she is in Lady Glen, and in the following paragraph her analysis concentrates on Alice, but I would like to suggest that Lady Glen's feelings about herself, her semi-abasement at least in the privacy of her mind when she thinks of her husband, and her sudden collapses into absolute obedience before him (I'm not talking about her action, that's conventiona, I'm talking about the mood in which she obeys him), as well as Lady Glen's willingness to run off with Burgo and assertion that it doesn't matter what happens to her is explained by Macdonald's analysis of Alice's collapses before first George's demands for money and then John Grey's appearance. Macdonald writes: "Alice's feeling are actions are further complicated by vulnerabilities inherent in the Victorian female role. Alice desires independence, but she hates to be unfeminine, so while jilting her suitors, she nevertheless struggles with the guilty feeling she acted impurely in doing so. Thus in the midst of her attempts at independence, she still places very little value on herself; she asks herself, 'What after all did it matter? (34), and is weak enough to give up her money to George even after she realizes his worthlessness.

It is largely through Alice's feelings of guilt and unworthiness that George is able to prey upon her; at one point he demands money of her in a letter so insolent that a healthy reaction would have been to repudiate his claims. Instead the narrator tells us, 'The unparalleled impudence of this letter had the effect which the writer had intended. It made Alice think of her own remissness,--if she had been remiss,--rather than of the enormity of his claim upon her" (1987 Twayne, p 38).

Two comments: one, it's in that "if she had been remiss" which Trollope so characteristically inserts in his sentence that the mystery of how he achieves one kind of complexity lies; and, two, is this not very like Lady Glen willing to abandon herself to Burgo as much because she has lost her self-esteem by having been forced to abandon him as her lover and take up with Palliser as his wife? like Lily's intense sense of humiliation and guilt during the long sequence after he breaks off with her, Lily's strange semi self-abasing mood when she declares to her mother she is still Crosbie's wife in feeling, and cares for him, and thus wants to know every tiny detail about his wedding to Lady Alexandrina, as well as Lily's instinctive flinching-like withdrawal before the demand that she go and stay at Guestwick manor and later before Eames himself almost like some snail badly hurt who winces back into its shell?

People ignore or dismiss because they are embarrased by these aspects of Trollope's heroines ordeal, agon, trauma, the intense loss of pride and self-esteem and how much they play in his heroines' self-destructive behaviors. To me they are among the finest parts of his books. They make the novels important: they move us into what is normally not spoken.

I'd like to conclude with Clara Amedroz of The Belton Estate for the book stands as a corrective to some generalizations people often assert about Trollope's outlook or his books. First she loves a man, stops loving him or realizes she was wrong to love him, and then loves another. So the explanation that Lily cannot marry Eames because no lady in Trollope falls in love with a second man is refuted by Clara Amedroz. Emily Lopez also falls in love with a second man: after Lopez kills himself, she gradually succumbs to her cousin, Arthur Fletcher, a John Grey type, but this is not as close since it is not a case of a girl breaking an engagement to marry another man, that is, of a girl being involved with two men at once. Clara Amedroz is involved with two men at once; at one point one man, Will Belton, takes her to London and hands her over to the other, Captain Aylmer. While she is with Aylmer she feels in herself deep passion for Will.

Now although Trollope's narrator does not say anywhere in The Belton Estate Clara ought to break her engagement with Aylmer, he implies it everywhere and strongly both by phrases and of course the whole story makes us yearn to see her break with the cold conventional materialistic Aylmer and marry the warm kindly passionate semi-idealist (he's also pragmatic) Will Belton. And all the good characters want to see her break with Belton. So Trollope's attitude towards Alice's jilting John Grey is not so simple as he's against her breaking the engagement as such. It's the circumstances, the reasons why, the situation and individuals involved that create the need for "forgiveness."

Clara is able to switch from man to man without too much difficulty. It may be that she is relatively guilt-free because she didn't break the engagement until driven to, but she did break it--Aylmer follows her twice, and twice gets her to renew it, before the third try when she breaks it for good. Now Clara is stiff-necked, self-contained, she has that hardness so characteristic of Trollope characters in his later books. Still Alice is no sloppy sentimentalist who needs others to the point of not being able to live on herself with dignity and in silence.

If we start to look round at other of Trollope's novels we will find we need to enlarge and complicate the perspective we have been bringing to Alice and Lady Glen in CYFH?.

Ellen Moody

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Page Last Updated 11 January 2003