John Caldigate and Mrs Smith; Another Exploration of the Male Pysche Under Stress; Hester; Hester and Mrs B, and the Grandchild; Mrs. Bolton, the mother; JC: Hester/The Countess(Lady Anna; Hester and Mrs Bolton: Power Struggle between Mother and Daughter; John Caldigate: An Ad Hoc Design?; Why I like John Caldigate so much; A Mature Novel; Blackmail; Bigamy in Victorian Novels: Anthony Trollope's Uses

Date: Mon, 07 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate and Mrs. Smith

I found it difficult to "willing suspend my disbelief" and accept that a charge of bigamy would have made its way through the justice system given the poor proofs that Euphemia had to show it.

One of the proofs Euphemia Smith used to show that she was really married to John Caldigate is that she was frequently called "Mrs. Caldigate" while she was living with him. I recently finished reading Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and in that novel, whenever Carrie lived with a man, she just automatically picked up that man's last name during the time she lived with them. So ... Carrie went by "Mrs. Drouet" when she lived with Mr. Drouet, and "Mrs. Hurstwood" when she lived with Mr. Hurstwood. Euphemia allowing people to call her "Mrs. Caldigate" doesn't prove that she was married; even if John HAD written a letter addressed to Euphemia as "Mrs. Caldigate" doesn't prove a marriage. It only proves that they were living together.

It's pretty fishy, too, that the minister, the minister's notes, and all the witnesses to the purported "marriage" have disappeared. It just seems unbelievable that the English justice system would take such a claim seriously given the lack of evidence.

(who has already finished the novel :0) )

To Trollope-l

May 8, 2001

Re: John Caldigate, Chs 25-30: Another Exploration of the Male Pysche Under Stress (II)

This week's chapters seem to contain the matter for which Trollope invented this story about possible bigamy: we finally enter Caldigate's mind to see how he feels under the stress of having broken a couple of central Victorian sexual and social taboos: he now has to face up to having lived with Euphemia Smith; and he has to face up to having lied about this. I use the phrase "face up" deliberately because as long as he could keep it hidden, not have to face others in public and cope with their reactions to his private behavior elsewhere he didn't much care about what he had done; he didn't worry about it. In the earlier part of the book that is precisely where John Caldigate's strength comes from: he doesn't care about what others are thinking as long as they behave in ways that are convenient to him, suit him, allow him to get what he wants.

The result is Trollope's art at its strongest: long passages of inward responsiveness on the part of a character either as he copes with manipulating and responding to what others do in a crisis or as he thinks about the whole thing. There are long skeins of developed perception about how Caldigate's mind works under the stress of losing what he values most (his wife, his position): he clings to them more intently; he becomes more rigid in public, but weaker in private (he begins to be tempted to pay Crinkett). Even more fascinating there is another of these explorations of the male psyche when confronted with sexual demands, this time in the form of society's refusal to countenance what this particular male thinks an unimportant misdemeanour -- he can hardly believe he will be treated like a criminal because he does not see what he did as any kind of crime, but he is treated like a criminal, and immediately. It shocks him: "Are you aware how probable it is that you may be in prison within a day or two" (Folio Society John Caldigate, intro RCTerry, Ch 29, p. 223). The effect of the story has analogies to the way a tragic hero in a play finds shorn from him all he values and stands metaphorically naked before all. Suddenly he sees what he felt was just human behavior on his part as something others call criminal, anathema, which makes him into a pariah. There are poignant passages as when Caldigate goes walking in St John's Gardens and suddenly loves the old building, the trees, the river in winter. There are also truthful ones about his indifference and resentment;' it's curious how he can't understand or doesn't foresee how egoistic and selfish and unsympathetic will be the response of others towards him. Like most of us, he somehow predicts that his brother-in-law will see the case the way he has. Not only does Bolton not see it because his sister's interests and masculine pride go another way; he can't see it. His passion and anger are too great and strong.

The scenes in the garden, then in the church when Caldigate sees Crinkett and responds so intensely to him as if Crinkett were some ghost resurrected from his past are full of exquisitely well-done traumatic surprise: In the walk at first he sees the face and half-registers it; then he can't believe it; then he walks by as if it isn't there; then he sees the face see him. Then the vision is repeated in the church. One feels Caldigate almost jump out of his skin. He has to get himself to believe the man is there; then get himself to walk over to him; then bring him home. It's a concrete Nemesis which he has to introduce to everyone including this totem- wife he has won for himself. Psychologically Trollope's treatment of Hester as a totem gives the narrative much of its power through these chapters.

I will divide this posting into 2 parts. In the next I will talk about how the novel fits into a pattern we have been seeing in Trollope's other later novels.

Caldigate's thoughts and Hester's response to the information that she may not not be Caldigate's legal wife link the novel back to what we saw Trollope doing in Is He Popenjoy?. John Caldigate includes a pattern of interest -- or obsession -- we have been seeing for several books straight, from The Last Chronicle of Barset (Johnny Eames) through to Ayala's Angel). He is again exploring male sexuality from the point of view of what is socially expected from the male and how the male responds to this. In Popenjoy we had two brothers, one whose sexuality was inadequate, and the other who defied all tabooes. The emotional sympathy and inwardness of that novel went into the portrait of the inadequate male and the story of his marriage. We saw a young version of this type in Johnny Eames. In Ayala's Angel Trollope opposed an ideal variant of the male gentleman who is successful with women, though ugly (Jonathan Stubbs) with a poignant yet realistic depiction of the male who is not successful precisely because he doesn't know how to hide his need (Tom Tringle).

This time we have a variant on the stallion ladies' man type. John Caldigate is not overly sensitive or thoughtful, but someone with a conscience and genuine feelings. There is a gap in the analysis. Trollope skips over what Caldigate felt while living with Euphemia and why they broke up: we only get these scattered references to how mercenary and grasping she became, how he was put off by this. Trollope is not quite as frank as he could be: we are shown that Caldigate rejects society's view of his behavior as criminal; he sees it as natural. We are not shown the thinking behind this; not given the inward justification of a man who lived with a woman outside marriage and then went on to live with the one he wanted to marry because she was part of society's prizes. However, that he circles round this topic is courageous and brave and must have done cultural work for his readers at the time. He is dramatizing one of the cruxes of his society: the demand that a man live two different lives, that he can have sex on the side with unacceptable women as long as he keeps the sex in place (one night stands in hotels as in the chapter where he says he'll be back later; hidden meetings, not openly in a ship) and that he take and keep his wife as utterly chaste, and behave in ways that make her protected and sheltered and safe. Thackeray complained bitterly than he was unable to present his heros' true sex life: Trollope has skilfully finessed the actual dramatization but given us enough so that we can go on to examine how society regards such a man.

Not only are the scenes in the church, and then between Crinkett and Caldigate outside really fine and strong, so too the scenes between Caldigate and his brother-in-law.

I'm not so sure about the scenes between Caldigate and his wife. It is believable that she would cling to him given the psychology that has been presented, given even more the repressive prison-like home she comes from. In Victorian times people might want to believe a woman's social pride and moral beliefs would make her leave a man in this situation as today people want to believe that a woman whose husband abuses her (physically or emotionally) will "naturally" lead her to leave him. In both cases (if she didn't then and if she doesn't now), there is a strong tendency to despise such a woman as weak or profess to find her behavior strange, enigmatic, and thus something we need not try to make part of our world view of how human nature really works. The Boltons at first assume she will leave Caldigate; if she doesn't, they are willing to trick her and think she must then "come round". Trollope explodes this more superficial and somehow comforting notion that people will follow their social interests, obey the mores above all. Rather they act in an intertwined way, with their private relationships and vulnerabilities and needs, and oftentimes dislike & fear of the very people who are said to be their protectors and will then seek to control them, this dislike and fear leads them to stay in a painful situation. So Hester does. The reason the scene doesn't quite work is not in the dramatization but in Trollope's over- generalization that "a young wife when she is sure of her husband will readily forgive all offences committed before marriage, and will almost be thankful for the confidence placed in her when offences are confessed" (Ch 25, p. 190). It goes too far to say all young women would behave this way. Perhaps Trollope is lead into this false note because he is anxious that his female reader identify with Hester, anxious that we not blame her for her adhesion to Caldigate -- but admire her for it. This too is a remarkable breaking of a taboo.

DeeDee has suggested that one can respond to the accusation of Caldigate with disbelief. I respectfully demur, though agree it requires an act of historical imagination. Our era is not Trollope's: this is now a nearly 150 year old book. My Oxford lacks adequate detailed notes, so I can't argue the case in specifics. Rather let us recall that the Marriage Act of 1751 was not that long ago; just outside of living memory the group of flexible customs that served as the marriage ceremony had been prevalent. These are discussed in Laurence Stone's Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives goes over how the young couple's vows were treated seriously, as bethrothal, particularly if there was a witness. You didn't have to stand before a preacher or a state official. One other person in the room to witness vows said in the present tense constituted a marriage; vows said in the future tense constituted a bethrothal. Notice Caldigate has to agree he offered to marry Euphemia, agree he allowed her to use his name, agree there was a witness to his behavior, agree there was even a minister involved. Trollope is writing with this older system in mind and it seems it was partly operative in Australia and other less "modernized" places too. Candid construction of the details suggests Caldigate was leading up to marrying Euphemia, but at the last moment backed off. This is how the 19th century reader would have seen it; how Bolton sees it. Remember that in later 18th century England vows said before one witness was material for litigation. Engagements were litigated in 19th century England regularly. The letter and envelope are incriminating evidence.

We should also remember that bigamy was a real and serious problem in Victorian England. It was very hard to get a divorce; records were not kept in the way we do now. Nowadays people have entitlements from the state and go to public schools: all these have created a culture of documentation and plethora of record offices. Such documentation did not exist in the 19th century. There are some essays on He Knew He Was Right and various modern cultural studies of the treatment of bigamy in novels: the truth is it was a not uncommon device, especially among the lower classes. A man or woman moved far away and started life again, and did the easy thing. All of those things we have so regularized (adoption too) existed in a state of flux in 19th century England. Most of the time, the treatment of bigamy in Victorian England is a stalking horse for a novel which implicitly argues for freer divorce. Trollope's book is unusual here: he is not arguing for freer divorce; he is exploring the underside of sexual behavior in the Victorian male, a life he knew about, personally and through friends.

So while we can read the book as a strong anti-fundamentalist, anti-reactionary religion book, it is even more interesting for its participation in what I now see is Trollope's ongoing exploration of male sexuality seen both against a scrim of universal demands on the male which are still with us (that he be aggressive, that he suceed, that he dominate his female and so on) and against the taboos that the 19th century male had to cope with in real life, taboos which are not altogether gone from us in the first years of the 21st century. I again wonder why it is that books regularly talk about the brilliance of Trollope's exploration of the female psyche under social and sexual stresses, but not of the male.

Ellen Moody

Date: Sat, 12 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate: Hester

Like others who have commented, I am fascinated to see how the characterization of Hester is developing. When she was first introduced, we got a great deal of characterization of her horrid mother, but we learned little of Hester. Trollope was so busy giving us Mrs. Bolton being afraid to touch pitch that there was no time for Hester. She was almost a nonentity. It was hard to know what John Caldigate saw in her, because we barely saw her at all. It was not until she was married and her husband's troubles started that she began to take shape as a human being. A great deal happens to her before we learn what kind of person she is. (We still don't know -- or did I miss it? -- what she looks like.) This seems a slightly unusual way for an author to introduce a main character. It's more common, isn't it, for an author to give us a good bid of description when a major character is first introduced.

Wayne Gisslen

Date: Sun, 13 May 2001
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] John Caldigate: Hester

I find it interesting that Hester is clearly breast feeding her baby whilst she is at her mothers. During the vigil, she says she will take food because not to will harm the baby, and the baby is brought to her, clearly for her to feed him. Its so very seldom that we get any information of this sort in Victorian novels, yet aside from employing someone else to breast feed your child, there was no alternative.


Date: Sun, 13 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate: Hester

Hello all

Angela wrote

I find it interesting that Hester is clearly breast feeding her baby whilst she is at her mothers. During the vigil, she says she will take food because not to will harm the baby, and the baby is brought to her, clearly for her to feed him. Its so very seldom that we get any information of this sort in Victorian novels, yet aside from employing someone else to breast feed your child, there was no alternative.

This same subject has just come up on the Inimitable-Boz list where we are reading David Copperfield. One of Phiz's original illustrations is a beautiful picture of David's mother breast-feeding her second (unnamed) baby - there seems to be no embarrassment about the subject-matter at all. During Copperfield, Dickens also mentions that Mrs Micawber is breastfeeding twins, and says she always has one or other attached to her. Breast-feeding also plays an important part in Dombey and Son. At the beginning of the novel a wet-nurse must urgently be found for baby Paul following his mother's death - even though one character suggests "doing something temporary with a teapot"! The snobbish Mr Dombey has to accept his son being brought into a close relationship with wet-nurse Polly Toodles.

Breast-feeding is also mentioned in Anna Karenina, where Anna is too ill to nurse her illegitimate baby girl. Ironically, it is her husband, Karenin, who steps in to get rid of a wet-nurse who doesn't have enough milk.

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Re: John Caldigate: Hester and Mrs B, and the Grandchild

This is written, also a little belatedly, in response to Judy's perceptive comments about Hester and her mother and Pat and Todd's further postings. I quite take Judy's point that people will intensely deny their pain before someone who would take advantage of the least admission of it: thus Hester would not only in front of her mother, but in front of the whole community fight strenuously to admit any doubt, jealousy, and anxiety. Lacan argued that people's very thoughts are controlled by a kind of mirror they carry around in their brains of what other people are thinking of them, so we could add that even in Hester's conscious explicit thoughts we might not easily find any admission of doubt, jealousy, and anxiety -- or anger at Caldigate, desire for some kind of revenge, even if he hinted to her he had had a woman before her whom everyone knew about. Euphemia Smith had been no one-night stand in a cab (in the manner of the Marquis of Brotherton's women in Is He Popenjoy?).

However, in other novels Trollope manages to convey the unconscious, unacknowledged thoughts and desires of his characters: through imagery, free association, analogous meditation and some speech patterns we find Alice Vavasour longs for George because he is violent; Lady Glen feels a good deal of active distaste and spite towards Plantagenet Palliser because he is so good to her. Trollope avoids long passages of inward meditation for Hester; it's as if he fears he would give this -- and sexual longing too -- for Caldigate away. It's one thing to show an unmarried heroine like Mary Lowther longing for her captain, feeling physical distaste for the man she half-romised to marry, Harry Gilmore (The Vicar of Bullhampton); it's another thing to admit this for Hester. In this coming week's chapters Hester acknowledges the town will have a bad word for her. I suggest Trollope is aware he has omitted an important aspect of what would have been a real woman's battle to remain loyal -- her own anger, doubt, and real guilt -- but chooses to present Hester as a white page lest he lose his reader's sympathy. He is doing something very daring here: he is mounting an argument against the inflexibility and punitive nature of divorce and bigamy laws of his society. He can hardly have not been aware of it, and we see that he is in lines in this coming week's chapter. It is Hester who is made to think the following thought, but the thought is one which is generally appropriate: "The law would have locked him up to avenge her injuries -- of her, whose only future joy could come from that distant freedom which the fraudulent law would at length allow to him" (Folio Society John Caldigate, intro RCTerry, Ch 41, "The First Day", p. 314). Trollope uses the word fraudulent in many novels to mean something which lies about reality, which denies what really happens in life: it is a fraudulent law which ignores how men and women really respond to one another in and outside marriage.

I would be the first to agree that Trollope offers no other law, no solution. He seems to be content to show how such rigidity leads to misery, harm, injustice.

Hester's words about obedience are also disjunctive. They really do fit a pattern of rationales which replace talk about sexual behavior in novel after of Anthony Trollope.

It is true -- and an apt comment by Judy -- that Hester's intense adherence to ideas like obedience, fidelity, and even asserted love for her parents mirrors her own mother's intense adherence to a code. I suppose we can look at it as a kind of irony: it is said that those who live by the sword will sometimes have to die by it. Mrs Bolton has brought her daughter up to talk in black-and-white terms, to think this way, so it serves her right that the girl sticks to this kind of talk, but turns it against her mother and for freedom and joy and independence for herself. This past week's chapter are focused on the mirror psychology of the two women as they face each other on their chairs.

It is also necessary for Hester herself to insist she carries on loving her parents; it is part of Trollope's plan to keep her an ideal But again I feel that however the girl might run up and kiss the mother before she left, there should be some indication of an unacknowledged glee and deep resentment. Now here Trollope may be himself hamstrung by his own culture: the ideal for middle class woman denied them anger; they were not to be resentful. Mary Poovey has a book about 18th century heroines like Austen's Fanny Price: these are not passive-aggressive types; they are not masochists; the novelist is simply dramatizing an ideal that had been instilled in women and was very hard for women to rebel against. Hence of course much neuroticism, much real misery, and mental illness. As Judy says, the world is filled with people who can't see the gap between their rationales, their words and their actual feelings and desires and Trollope has given us a portrait of two women who paper over these gaps. Still since Trollope has gone so far into truth about the mother, we wish he would tell more truths about the daughter. As Todd says, for many 20th century readers Hester is just not quite believable. To me she would be so much more interesting had Trollope given her a fully adult mind, one with folds and complexes, one with many shades of socially unacceptable thoughts -- the way he does with some of his heroes and a few heroines.

Pat brings up the question of custody. In this case it would seem to me that the baby would be Hester's. In pragmatic terms custody battles were fought by husbands and their families to have control over the heirs. In The Tenant of Wildfeld Hall the husband is a vengeful spiteful tyrant and has an estate to leave; the question there is the wife's desire to leave him. In Trollope's He Knew He Was Right where custody rights come up, the question is whether Emily when she leaves Louis can take their son with her. Hester has no desire to leave Caldigate; he has no desire to take revenge on her; Daniel Caldigate is one of the most perceptive, kindly and foreseeing characters of the novel (he is one who sees truth from afar and acts on that rather than on what society would prefer him to act on). He would not go to court to protect the heir to the property. Who would take this illegitimate from Hester? Her parents? But parents did that when the daughter wanted to live with them so as to prevent scandal. So I don't see the question of custody coming into this book; the question of who would support Hester if Daniel Caldigate were to die with his son in prison lurks behind the story. If we could imagine Trollope killing off father and son, then we might imagine how the Boltons might send the child and mother away, might even try to separate them. But that would be another long novel.

Cheers to all,

Date: Sun, 13 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate: Mrs. Bolton, the mother

Ellen wrote:

I loved how Trollope had Mrs Bolton utter her true motive at long last: "'I will not be conquered by my own child'.

This reminds me of Lady Anna. I haven't yet finished reading Lady Anna but Anna's mother seems like she could say those very words. I'm at the point where Anna has been sent to stay elsewhere, away from her mother. Her mother is refusing to see Anna because she will not marry the man her mother wishes her to marry. Here again it appears that various characters think the young woman will cave in and yield to their desires and decisions, that they can control her, if not in one manner than in another.

Thanks, Ellen, for the descriptions of the illustrations.


From Wayne Gisslen

Re: John Caldigate: Hester

Like others who have commented, I am fascinated to see how the characterization of Hester is developing. When she was first introduced, we got a great deal of characterization of her horrid mother, but we learned little of Hester. Trollope was so busy giving us Mrs. Bolton being afraid to touch pitch that there was no time for Hester. She was almost a nonentity. It was hard to know what John Caldigate saw in her, because we barely saw her at all. It was not until she was married and her husband's troubles started that she began to take shape as a human being. A great deal happens to her before we learn what kind of person she is. (We still don't know -- or did I miss it? -- what she looks like.) This seems a slightly unusual way for an author to introduce a main character. It's more common, isn't it, for an author to give us a good bid of description when a major character is first introduced.

Wayne Gisslen

Date: Wed, 16 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] JC: Hester/The Countess(Lady Anna)

Cynthia wrote: I admired Hester's spirit and strength in sticking by her husband but I wondered if she, like the Countess, would doom herself to a lifetime of defending her child's name and rights.

Oh, I hope not! I hadn't thought yet of comparing Hester and the Countess in Lady Anna. It will be interesting to look at this.

At this point (I have not finished reading either novel) I don't see Hester as being too much like the Countess. Hester apparently married for love--and maybe also to get away from home. The feeling that I get in Lady Anna is that the Countess married for a title and money--and also to get away from home, but in her case more to escape poverty than to escape a domineering mother.

But now, indeed, Hester and her baby are without the husband/father. It will be interesting to see how the parallels play out.


Date: Fri, 18 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] JC: Hester and Mrs Bolton

Hello all

I'd like to thank Ellen for the detailed and fascinating discussion of the conflict between Hester and her mother, and the young wife's apparently unquestioning obedience to her husband. This is a slightly belated response to just some of the points made.

The more I look at these chapters, the more it seems to me that the central drama lies in the conflict between the two women, and I find Trollope's psychological understanding extremely convincing here. It seems as if the two women are almost mirror images of one another at times - we see how the mother's fanatical devotion to her God is echoed in the daughter's equally unquestioning devotion to her husband.

The most powerful motivation for both women is the desire to win the battle, to declare who shall be master.

Mr Bolton is inside the house, John looks helplessly in through the glass, but in a way both are bystanders, unable to do anything to stop the war between mother and daughter growing ever more bitter.

Both women lie to themselves, at least to a certain extent, about their motives for fighting their corner. Mrs Bolton tells herself that she loves her daughter selflessly, and is trying to save her soul, rescue her from a marriage that isn't really a marriage.

But a more powerful motive slips out in the passage Ellen quoted from Chapter 36:

" 'I will not be conquered by my own child.' There spoke the human being...' I will not be beat by one who has been subject to my authority' "

Beyond the dictates of her fanatical religion, Mrs Bolton wants to prove to herself that she was right all along, that she has always known what is best for her daughter. There is also a strong suggestion that she wants to take over the upbringing of the next generation, to prove she knows what is best for baby, too.

When she is still trying to persuade Hester to stay by emotional arguments rather than force, in Chapter 33, she says: "As for your babe, your darling babe, whether he be yours in joy of heart or in agony of spirit, he is still yours. No one will rob you of him. If it be as we fear, would not I help you to love him, help you to care for him, help you to pray for him?"

This, surely, is Hester's ultimate nightmare, and suggests her own most powerful motive for fighting back. Her love for her husband is genuine, if colourless, but it is also the only way she has of creating a space for herself, making herself a home which is not dominated by her mother's dark and gloomy version of religion.

She makes a powerful statement about both her childhood and her marriage in Chapter 29, when she says:

"And John, when you were out just now, and when I am alone and trying to pray, I told myself that I ought not to be unhappy; for I would sooner have you and baby and all these troubles, than be back at Chesterton - without you."

Being back at Chesterton, back under her mother's influence, is just what she doesn't want for herself and even more for her baby. She cannot allow herself to question her love for John, any more than her mother can allow herself to question her religious faith - because, once she lets in a doubt, there is a danger that her opponent might win, that she might end up shut away in the dark, oppressive childhood home she has managed to escape.

During some of the passages where Hester is actually talking to John, I would agree with Ellen's view

And yet, there is gap, an untruth. Hester is too idealised. Her words are entirely those of obedience. She wants to obey her husband; she loves him and believes in him utterly. Trollope registers not a slither of doubt in her, not an anxiety. The surface content of her rationales are presented wholly in terms of pious cant.

I also feel that surely Hester would feel at least some disappointment, some jealousy, at the discovery of John's past. However, when she is talking *about* her husband to her mother, I think her pious cant has a psychologically convincing ring. She is speaking to her mother in the only language she understands, quoting scripture and appealing to St Paul to back up her own argument that she must be allowed home to her husband. Her mother would have taught her to argue in just this way, but on her behalf - not against her.

Ellen wrote

She registers no hatred of her parents, only a kind of frantic resentment and despair, and the minute she is freed, she is presented as running up to her mother to kiss her. At no point does she utter one word of rebellion or anger at anyone.

Again, I feel this points up a parallel between Hester and her mother, who is also full of resentment, despair, bitterness, but keen to deny the existence of all these corrosive emotions and insist that she is motivated by pure love. The mother, who has lost the battle, cannot bring herself to return her daughter's caress properly straight after the battle, but she soon writes her a letter calling her "Dearest" and insisting on how much she loves her. Both women want to paper over the cracks and deny the pain of what has happened between them.

The psychology seems astonishingly acute and this whole sequence makes me think I will definitely want to re-read this novel in the future. This is one of my favourites among the Trollope novels we've read since I joined the list and I would really like to thank whoever suggested it!

Although the characters are very different, I'm reminded of the passage in Great Expectations where Estella defies her adoptive mother, Miss Havisham. Estella tells her she is the one who taught her to be proud and hard. ' "But to be proud and hard to *me*!" Miss Havisham quite shrieked, as she held out her arms. "Estella, Estella, Estella, to be proud and hard to *me*!" Mrs Bolton didn't teach Hester to be proud and hard, but she did teach her to be single-minded in her devotion. And she finds it hard to accept when that devotion is turned in another direction from the one she herself chose - to a man rather than to the church.

I would be interested to know if there are other powerful battles between mother and daughter elsewhere in Trollope, or in other Victorian writers. Dagny has already mentioned the conflict between Anna and her mother in Lady Anna, which is perhaps even more extreme than Hester's battle with her mother.

Bye for now, and sorry this has turned into such an epic!

Judy Geater

Date: Fri, 18 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] JC: Hester and Mrs Bolton

I am enjoying both Ellen's and Judy's comments on this batle between mother and daughter, and see now that Hester must be pushing down what one would expect to be great distress about her husband's hitherto-untold past because she can't let anything interfere with her side of the battle. One question: wouldn't there be some doubt as to who would get to keep the baby (or as Julia hints, maybe two; I love AT's comment on her daring to say that now that she herself was entering the married state). Didn't the husband have the right to the child? Wasn't that a major factor in the plot in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? Pat

Date: Sat, 19 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] JC: Hester and Mrs Bolton

I have been following the discussion concerning Hester and her mother with interest. There can be no doubt that Trollopeís sympathies lie with Hester and that in the authorís view Mrs. Bolton is a twisted personality. Mrs. Bolton is as interested in preserving her own selfish interests as she is, ostensibly, in saving Hester from the wickedness of the world. We see this but she doesnít. She has little insight into herself. She is an absolutist. She lives in a black-and-white world. She is unwilling to consider that the world is an inextricable mix of good and evil. I suppose she would say it was just evil. She is not open to the world or to other people. Why is she like this? I wish Trollope would help us understand how she came to be the way she is. However, he just presents her to us as an already-formed character.

Nor can we say that Hester, despite having the sympathy of the author and the reader, has much insight into herself. She is the very image of fidelity. She is one-dimensional, as Ellen said. She is invoved in a struggle of wills with her mother but Trollope implies no criticism of her as he does of her mother. Doesnít Trollope present her ordeal as the testing that a hero/heroine must endure? The problem is that we canít quite buy into it because Trollope hasnít given her enough reality. Or so it seems to me.

I believe Hester is the positive manifestation of her motherís intense -- negative -- religiosity. Its hallmarks are fidelity and charity. It is open to the world and to others. It isnít bound to a cramped program of prohibitions.

I would also like to say that this novel is puzzling to me in its design. It starts out as one kind of novel and then seems to turn into a different one. It starts out as the story of John Caldigate but turns into a meditation on the social institutions of marriage and property. At the point in the story where we are now, Trollope doesnít seem to be terribly interested in his hero, who in any case doesnít seem to have a lot of psychological depth. Our interest is piqued by the conflict of Hester and her mother, but this isnít introduced until the novel is practically half finished. What gives?


Re: John Caldigate, Chs 1-30: An Ad Hoc Design

Todd brings up a sense I have also had in reading John Caldigate. I have wondered if Trollope changed his mind about what he would write somewhere after the opening 14 chapters. I suggest the book remains the story of John Caldigate even if in the last few chapters he is not in the foreground and even if he is not depicted as a self-analytical thoughtful type. Trollope has numbers of heroes who don't have much inner life; even if Caldigate is not in the foreground, it is Hester's living with him that is in dispute; he is called upon to tell Hester to go live with her parents, and he refuses. He is the direct cause of all that is happening before us. Yet I agree there seems to be a zigzag. Trollope seems on the way to telling us a story of a relationship outside wedlock and the life of the ambitious, competitive hard colonialist-miner; he drops this so totally it is startling. Several of us have registered a sense of cheating when we learn nothing of Caldigate's life with and (to his fellow Australian-English) apparent marriage to Euphemia.

It may be the material was too daring for a middle class English novel, but Trollope does seem to have meant to deal directly with it, and he swerves away.

Now we are wholly in England, and the plot is taking us to court: the hero is undergoing an ordeal and he is going to be punished His lying to everyone but Hester, and even there somewhat lying is dismissed. We are to understand it. His living with a woman in Australia is defended as natural and inevitable under the circumstances. Even the giving of money to Crinkett and Euphemia in the following chapters is made psychologically understandable: it is important to Caldigate to as far as he can retrieve his self-respect; he wants to have done nothing wrong as far as true integrity (something different from social codes about sex and marriage) goes. The story is not following a logical pattern because life isn't logical. Caldigate will be treated unjustly because life's like that. His father tells him juries convict for the wrong reasons as they acquit for the wrong reasons. It's all emotional, all reactive; they don't think through the evidence for real or accurately.

Still I agree with feel something's missing, and there was a change of purpose somewhere along the line. I don't feel the book lurches from sequence of chapters to sequence of chapters as if Trollope were desperately trying to make another book (which is the way Phineas Redux can feel); still there is a certain opportunism going on -- I recognized in this week's chapters in court rehearsals of themes and attitudes in many other court trials in Trollope's books (Orley Farm, The Three Clerks, Phineas Redux, The Macdermots of Ballycloran). This is after all something like Trollope's 32nd book and he struggles to make trains of development. The themes and even denouement (though the use of the envelope and post office) are consistent throughout, are planned, but the working out of the story is somewhat ad hoc.

Date: Sun, 13 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] Why I like John Caldigate so much.

One of the reasons why I like John Caldigate so much, but not by any means the only one, is the scene toward the end of this week's assignment, where Mrs. Bolton and Hester Caldigate sit side by side in the front hallway of the Bolton house and stubbornly spend several nights there. Trollope has spent much time getting inside of Mrs. Bolton's skull. She is a type we have seen before: the fundamentalist bigot. Only this time Trollope emphasizes and reemphasizes what her character is. Either everything she believes is the word of God or it is not. And she would rather die than admit that it is not. She is very much a prisoner of her own training. She goes through life thinking that only she knows the pure truth. She cannot give up. Both women believe that they would rather die than surrender their beliefs. We, as readers, sympathize with Hester. We would much rather see a young woman with her husband than with a bigoted mother. Hester represents light, love, and the future. Mrs. Bolton represents darkness, hatred, and the past. But having said that I must point out that Mrs. Bolton has no choice. She has painted herself into a corner. She can't help herself. Her point of view was created to be defeated. And, so far as my own reading goes, no one creates a character half so good and half so believeable as Trollope. The portraits of these two ladies are done with the most delicate of brush strokes. And that's one of the reasons why I like John Caldigate the best. Another reason will come up later in the book.


Now we go back in time to the first read of this novel on Ms Thomson's list and an intelligent posting from Jo Ann Citron:

From Jo Ann Citron, 1997:

JR asked, how are we to rate Trollope on the basis of his growth as a novelist? Yes, Trollope entertains and teaches, but are we getting more than variations on a theme--and do even the variations suggest growth in the author's insights?

[JAC] JC strikes me as different from the other novels, especially the "canonical" ones. As you know, I'm interested in the way English novels address marriage and CYFH? is one of my favorites for the way it foregrounds the question of whether a woman must marry at all. I admire the directness and openness with which Trollope exposes the sexual politics of his day. Usually, those politics are played out upon the marriage market we're all familiar with through Austen (I know she's one of your favorites, Jan {grin}).

Here, though, they're played out on the one hand between our hero and the various women he contemplates and rejects, and on the other between his eventual wife (Hester -- I've never read JC before and am assuming that it all turns out ok in the end) and her biological family. Hester and John don't struggle with one another; they're in accord (at least so far -- ch. 32) and stand together, united, in a true marriage. Hester is right to say that if it turns out that they're not legally married she'll remain with him as his mistress. I think Trollope approves of her stance and that this is a fairly liberal position.

It seems to me that this is quite daring on Trollope's part. Other novelists address the issue of bigamy as a device of plot. Of course Trollope does that here. But I think he is also meditating on what it means for two people to unite themselves in marriage. Blackstone's comment that in law a husband and wife are one person is brought to life here in the separate persons of Hester and John. Ironically this emotional unity appears in response to doubts about its legal aspects. John's openness in discussing almost all of his past with his wife is another way in which these two people are presented, within marriage, as equals. And this is probably a good time to recall that property plays little part in the courtship.

All of this is set against the religious fanaticism of Mrs. Bolton. Trollope has exposed clerical hypocrisy before: in Mrs. Proudie and in Mr. Slope and others. Mrs. Bolton is a more profound hypocrite than any I've found in Trollope up to now, and his description of her religious views is more complete, more serious, and more critical than the social satire he practiced on the Proudies et al. Though Mrs. Bolton's family doesn't participate in the outward forms of her fanaticism, they're affected by it all the same. Trollope emphasizes in chapter 31 (I think) that the entire Bolton family were determined to think ill of John and to uncover evidence of his guilt instead of trying to prove his innocence. This is meanness without the light touch of comedy to temper it. One thing it leads to is the plot to lock Hester up. Shades of Clarissa and all the gothic horrors Northanger Abbey spoofs (there's JA again).

Here is a novel that dips its respectable hero into the steamy setting of Australia, land of thieves and misfits; looks squarely at drunkenness, debauchery, sexuality, and brutality; handles blackmail more realistically than Middlemarch did; takes bigamy seriously not only as a realistic element of plot but also as a way of posing the serious and central question of "wha is a marriage?"; juxtaposes the religious fanaticism of the mother with the liberal humanism of the daughter while relegating the Anglican clergy to the margins of the tale . . . I think this is a mature work. And I admire the way Trollope incorporates all kinds of gothic and sensational elements into this novel, strips them of their sensationalism, and shows us how strongly they are implicated in lives of solid respectability. I think this is 19th c. English realism of a high sort.

Jo Ann Citron

A year later on Victoria:

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1998
Reply-To: VICTORIA 19th-Century British Culture & Society
From: Marie Fitzwilliam
Subject: Blackmail

Have a look at Trollope's John Caldigate In this novel, the protagonist is accused of bigamy; his alleged first wife and her cohorts come from Australia to England to "persuade" John Caldigate that they will go to the courts if he does not give them a large sum of money. The plot thickens when Caldigate insists, against the advice of his solicitor, in giving them the money NOT because he wishes to hush up the scandal and protect his new wife, but because he owed it for selling them a "dry" gold mine. Needless to say, the extortioners greedily hang about and testify against Caldigate anyway.

The novel has a rather striking case of emotional blackmail too in the relationship between the new Mrs. Caldigate and her religious zealot of a mother.

Good luck!

Marie A. Fitzwilliam

Five months after the John Caldigate reading and discussion had ended:

To Victoria and Trollope-l

October 20, 2001

Re: Bigamy in Victorian Novels: Anthony Trollope's Uses

I sent the following to Victoria in response to someone who was asking for examples of bigamy in Victorian novels and also asked if we could on Victoria have a discussion of the ways in which bigamny was used by Victorian novelists. I cross-post this to our list as we have recently read two of the most interesting cases of dramatized possible and real bigamy in Trollope's novels: John Caldigate and Castle Richmond. We have also in recent past history talked about Dr Wortle's School and in our more remote past read together Lady Anna and He Knew He Was Right.

Bigamy figures centrally in a number of Anthony Trollope's novels and he handles them in somewhat different ways. For example, in Dr Wortle's School the possibility of bigamy is a trope which enables Trollope to investigate what happens when a woman cannot divorce a man who is brutal and will not support her properly. Dr Wortle's School provides the reader with ammunition for considering divorce as an option after marriage that society should institute by showing us what happens when there is no out. Trollope has loaded the cards in ways that vitiate the power of the argument: the man is really terrible and in life women often want to divorce someone who is not so awful, but is "merely" ruining her life emotionally, thwarting her, or when she finds herself in a marriage she was forced into by relatives, one which she is now old enough to realise is awful in less drastic ways, but still awful. He also treats the situation as highly unusual. Still these are typical ploys of a fiction which presents an idea supposedly radical which the society which produced the book is nonetheless ready for.

Lady Anna is not as strong a candidate for someone seeking the use of bigamy as a trope for the need for divorce, for although the situation presented is similar (the man is a dastard), the plot line does not develop the woman's apparent re-marriage (bigamous marriage) as nor her attempt to free herself as in Dr Wortle's School, but rather the woman's fierce indignation when she discovers the man she married because he had a title and he sexually aroused her was probably married to a previous woman. He then offers to make her his mistress; he dies, and the novel investigates when happens when the daughter grows up and has a tenuous hold on the title and estate and another branch of the family wants the title and estate. In other words, in this novel the bigamy is initiates the plot, but the reasons for it (the man's sexual treachery) lead to no investigation of serious issues. It's a plot device which warns women not to marry sheerly for money desperately or out of sexual allurement.

In John Caldigate bigamy becomes a trope for a rather more daring exploration of what happens when a young man goes abroad to a country (Australia) where the "norms" of (supposedly) "good" English society are not in place. He meets and goes to live out of wedlock with a woman who uses a Mrs in front of her name and dances in dancehalls for a living. It is a good candidate for a post- colonial analysis of sexual interaction across boundaries of cultural groups. The young man then comes home and marries the girl he had idolized from afar and enters a wholly conventional relationship which he wants because it's wholly conventional. He lies or covers up his past; it is found out when his (possible) first wife and her new lover/husband come to blackmail him because the business they shared has failed.

In other words in John Caldigate Trollope looks at bigamy from the point of view of a man who wants two women; it is really about the desire for serial monogamy which has become the reality of life in our society today. The novel is worked out as a court trial and ordeal so that the male ends up punished and expiates the possible crime; interestingly though the community feeling after he has been declared guilty ends up on his (possibly) second wife's side since she is suffering so. It doesn't in other words really matter in plain sense whether a "sin" was committed but the pragmatic effects of putting him in jail.

Again Trollope loads the deck by never really making it clear whether Caldigate did marry the first woman. He makes Caldigate's release from prison occur at the same time as his blackmailers are sent to jail for (possible) perjury. He treats the situation as superlatively singular. Still, here is this radical argument for sexual freedom for a male. Clearly the material here is in a psychoanalytical sense autobiographical.

On Trollope-l we are just finishing reading Castle Richmond another treatment of bigamy in which it is investigated for its own case, as a phenomena which may be exploited by criminals or desperate people. As developed in the novel, the mother of one of the heroes thinks she was married to a man who she thinks died. He did not, and returns to blackmail and harass her husband literally to death. The sense of the book is this sort of thing went on: people did live bigamously, and the unscrupulous could take advantage of the traumatic response surrounding any publicity.

Particularly striking is Trollope's treatment of the woman, Lady Fitzgerald (Mary Wainright that was). He persists in presenting her as an absolute angel: it reminds me of Walter Houghton's book, The Victorian Frame of Mind. The novel positively slithers around and shudders over the reality she has been having sex with the hero's father for decades and produced three children for him -- because now we are to think it has all been out of wedlock.

Houghton says that sex was the big secret in Victorian middle class homes. We are made to think about her having sex with the hero's father, the man she thought was her husband as a bad thing when until this revelation the novel would not have allowed us to think of the parents as a sexual couple at all. Then when the hero's father dies (of harassment, a nervous breakdown and heart failure), we are told she was dead to life.

Apparently it is unacceptable to think of her as wanting to live again, remarry. In other words she is treated as a sacred tabooed figure who has been polluted: it turns out in the end that the man who claimed to have married her first was in fact married to another woman. The hero is now not illegitimate, but implicit in the narrative is the reality that she lived with the lying man outside marriage. The feel really is that she must expiate some pollution although our narrator, our hero, and the lawyer (who is our sleuth and instrument for bringing all into the light) insist that common sense shows her to have been a good virtuous woman who did nothing wrong. If that's so, why must she be dramatized as impeccable (meaning as wholly unsexed now that she knows this terrible truth of her background), why cannot she be allowed to go into society and lead a life of her own again?

The bigamy charge this time reveals to us Trollope and his generation's use of women as emotional cynosures, shelters for men to depend on as utterly loyal, stable, unchangeable, not having desires of their own in conflict with others -- as long as they are seen as sexually "pure".

In other of Trollope's novels one may find implicit arguments for divorce (sometimes one must read against the grain to do this, e.g., He Knew He Was Right, The Claverings -- where there is an old man who a young woman marries for his money who is characterized in such a way as to make readers suspect he has syphilis), about sexual frustration, revealing the use of women as sexual totems, but only in the bigamy ones do these elements move into the center of the books. There may be other novels where bigamy comes to the fore but I am not remembering them this morning.

Alexander Welsh has a book which deals with the use of the blackmail plot in George Eliot's novels as a way of bringing in the sexual and financial realities of Victorian lives: think about the Bulstrode case in Middlemarch. In three of the above books, Dr Wortle's School, John Caldigate and Castle Richmond, blackmail figures centrally in the plot. The possible bigamy is brought out through blackmail. (It does not in Lady Anna as the bigamy is the initiating device and not the thing to be developed at length through the plot). Thus one could also use the bigamy plot as a way of investigating how the demand for respectability, and how jobs and niches depended on someone appearing acceptable, not a scapegoat in the 19th century. If your real sexual life came out, you would be ejected from the community, from your job. So one could presumably use the novel as a way to show how a community's willingness to scapegoat the trangressor can be exploited in societies which regard sex as so loaded with significance, as a boundary and "test" of one's legitimacy (in all senses). It would be an argument which uncovered the ugly results of the "rise of respectability" in Victorian times.

We (in the 21st century) are perhaps free of this because there are so many niches, so many jobs, so many communities and are not dependent on a small group of people whom we cannot easily escape, for respectability as a measure is still with us even if it is no longer dependent on what we do sexually.

Ellen Moody

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