November 6, 1998
Re: The Belton Estate: Our Concise Calendar and Some Editions
Looking forward to our coming group read of The Belton Estate, here again is the concise calendar:
We would begin November 15th and proceed as follows:
According to Lance Tingay's A Collector's Catalogue (and John Halperin's Oxford Classics edition of the novel) Trollope wrote the book between 30 January and 4 September 1865. So it took 11 months. It was serialised in The Fortnightly Review between 15 May and 1 January 1866. Trollope was intimately involved with this publication which did not come out every two weeks but once a month. It was also serialised in Littell's Living Age between July 1865 and January 1866. The first book publication was that of Chapman and Hall in 1866. It was translated into French for the Revue Nationale (as L'Heritage des Belton), and appeared between January and July 1867 in that publication. Rachel Ray was another novel quickly translated into French. I find it interesting that The Belton Estate was also translated into Dutch in 1867 and appeared in the Netherlands. It was also quickly published in America: in 1871 in Philadelphia and New York. Then there was a Russian translation in 1871 and 4 years later another different French one.
John Halperin has argued that the book was not paid attention to at the time: it seems rather that later critics who have a number of other large and supposedly greater novels to work with from just these years (Trollope was just pouring novels forth) have ignored the book. At the time it sold and was therefore probably read. In this connection I'd like to mention that Halperin argues Trollope's theme of mediated desire (that we desire that which is unavailable, hard to get, and wanted by others far more than that which is easy to get and not considered valuable by others) is unusual for him. Not so, or at least there is a brilliant and moving analysis of just this theme in Trollope's short story, "The Parson's Daughter of Oxney Colne." Of course this theme is but one in the novel; it is writ much larger in the short story.
I will be using the Oxford World Classics paperback edition of Halperin's; it's inexpensive, has a good introduction and notes. ISBN 0-19-281725-6. There is also a Dover edition, a Trollope Society and Folio Society edition.
November 1998 Re: Belton Estate: A Fortnightly Review Novel
As we all now know, Rachel Ray was originally intended for a periodical called Good Words whose readership was mainly people just like those Trollope depicts in the novel. He held up a real mirror to them, and the buyer (Rev Dr Macleod) said it wouldn't do.
It matters who one writes a book for; one writes with an imagined audience and publisher in mind. When a specific periodical picks up or refuses a book, that tells us something too. Well The Belton Estate and Lady Anna (the latter said to be so radical) both first appeared in The Fortnightly Review. This periodical is still somewhat known among Victorians for not coming out every two weeks. It was originally started by Trollope with George Eliot's companion, George Henry Lewes and meant to be a highly liberal and intellectual magazine for the advanced and intellectual of its day. Sutherland writes that it was a kind of English Revue des Deux Mondes and "pitched at a higher level than other English journals of its class." Of course, it lost money. Its reviews were signed. Its first novel was The Belton Estate; one cannot say it never had a sheer entertainment (for it also serialised Eustace Diamonds),but it was the place where Meredith placed his novels (not easy for him to do). In the 1880s it had established itself as a leading organ of liberal thought of the period. Frank Harris was one of the later Victorian editors.
Here we have a novel which opens with a suicide of an elder no-good son who has wasted the estate. This is anti-aristocratic. We have a useless father. Chance has put the property into the hands of a farmer- gentleman type (a Mr Martin [from Emma] is what Will Belton is in type, if not money and education -- though Mr Martin does read Radcliffe and poetry aloud at night). The novel exposes religious bigotry, the motives of such a man as Aylmer in his daily behavior (hypocritical continually), how property passes and is treated and held. The heroine is not a sentimental attractive miss like Rachel Ray. Mrs Askerton has a shady past and we will see Clara insist on remaining her friend. At the same time Mrs Askerton is not a lady with a heart of gold; when she had sex outside marriage, she did not lay down and die (like Gaskell's Ruth or Richardson's Clarisssa); she is not sentimentalised at all. The book does not pander. It is not written just to please, but with a passionate desire to bite at us.