May 23, 2001
Re: John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Trial (I)
This week brings us a series of trial scenes. Trollope has a number of novels which make different kinds of superb use of such inherently dramatic moments:
The Macdermots of Ballycloran: his first, one which ends tragically and shows how an individual can be made a scapegoat by a community to quell their fears:
The Three Clerks: the first to introduce the magnificent Chaffanbrass, where Trollope makes the villain of the piece, Undy play off Dickens's Bill Sykes whom Trollope has the curious originality to say is not as bad a man as many, certainly not as intellectually vicious as Undy; where well before the trial begins we know the hero is guilty of embezzlement but it doesn't matter;
Orley Farm: where Trollope again has the temerity to tell us the lady is guilty well before the trial opens and force us to see how she comes to be acquitted; also has Chaffanbrass; this sort of thing was complained about by reviewers: Mr Trollope was making a heroine out of a character who ought to be kept in the margins;
Phineas Redux: Chaffanbrass again, perhaps the devices a bit stale, but done with pizzazz,
and this of John Caldigate where the issue is bigamy, a stalking horse for all sorts of complex hypocrisies which made for misery and a very thin measure of security and dignity in Victorian marriage.
Trollope also likes to examine the law: Lady Anna (many lawyers) comes to mind, but also the custody case of He Knew He Was Right (includes the sort of kidnapping which still happens today). In John Caldigate last week's instalment showed Trollope meditating and dramatizing the distance between custom and law; the power of custom over law; how hard and necessary it is for an individual to assert him or herself to overcome a society's desire to protect itself regardless of who goes to the wall.
In his book on Trollope and the Law, R. D. McMasters dwells on Trollope's sceptical treatment of the courtroom. It is an arena where performance counts; people do not come to find out the truth, whatever they may say, nor necessarily to mete out fair justice to an individual. In all his novels, partly it is usually said as a result of Trollope's own experience as a witness, Trollope inveighs against the bullying and manipulative tactics of attorneys and exposes the gullibility of juries.
There is an interesting connection here between Dickens and Trollope. I hope people remember two summers back when we read Bleak House together: some of us remarked on how not only distrustful but downright obstructive was Trooper George. He does not want to be got off; he wants to be truly vindicated. It upsets him to see his attorney trying to win a "not guilty" verdict by sleazy means; he would rather go to prison than stoop to this; he says he cares about what people really think.
We might say this is naive. We never know what people really think; most of the time they don't much care about other people for real at all.
However, Trollope's heroes manifest the same truculent idealism. Phineas Finn is deeply dismayed, angry and then depressed at Chaffanbrass's indifference to whether he did the deed or not; he doesn't want to be just got off. Mr Harding loathes the way Archbishop Grantly is willing to use a technicality to win Mr Harding's right to the income. If it is not in truth and justice fairly his, Mr Harding doesn't want it. And he puts his body where his words are: he quits. It takes courage to walk away in a world where moral courage of this sort provokes sneers and derision. In this week's chapters we see the same attitude -- though interestingly more muted -- in John Caldigate. He wants his lawyer to believe, really believe he never went through anything resembling a marriage ceremony with Euphemia Smith. Alas, probably John Caldigate's lack of scalding words and self-castigating angry meditations over his lawyer's disbelief in his innocence is probably intended to make the reader feel there is something here: if not a marriage, a living together which was tantamount to common law marriage, perhaps promise in the present tense. Still the austere tone of mind Caldigate takes towards vindication is in line with Trollope's other heroes and Dickens's too.
I don't know enough about other Victorian novelists to know if they took this same uncompromising line. It shows a distaste I am in sympathy with; it shows a realisation of how a court verdict is a public ceremony meant to replace the old feuds and duels, something better than these because endless violence is put a stop to, but at the same time a discomfort with lies, with the reality that an agreement to believe in something even if all know it is a lie sometimes is what keeps the peace in a community. A desperate stopgap.
I am of Doris's mind: Mrs Bolton is a monster and Trollope's decision not to be seen too closely to expose the realities of mother- child relationships makes his novel hard to take at times. She is deliberately opposed to Daniel Caldigate and he is often given the touchstone comment. He predicted the Boltons would use physical and emotional pressures of all sort to keep Hester with them. He makes the astute comment before the the trial begins that "I often think that we have to bear more from the stupidity than the wickedness of the world" (Folio Society John Caldigate, introd. RCTerry, Ch 37, p. 289). This is a version of the idea that far more often incompetence is responsible for the things that go wrong and the injustices of the world than conspiracy, with the important difference that unlike this 20th century common saying, Trollope's fixes our attention squarely on individual minds and passions.
Cheers to all,
Re: John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Trial (II)
An important plot clue and a strand of psychology is woven through this week's trial scenes.
The clue is the envelope. Watch that envelope people. We must all now recall that Trollope himself was a postal official and he paid attention to postmarks. It is an important piece of evidence in an era when marriage was not as fixed by state law as our own. The question is, Did Caldigate publicly acknowledge, sign himself, husband of Euphemia Smith? I'd like to stress that in order to get the full flavor of the book it is important to take the charge against Caldigate seriously. As Euphemia -- who bears up beautifully when bothered by the attorney -- says, even if she was willing to marry Crinkett, that has nothing to do with whether Caldigate and she had married. She brazens it out because she has not broken the law; the logic of the case is her breaking the law does not mean that Caldigate did not break it. Here is her intrepid (if not conventionally moral) reply:
'But if it had been paid [the money she and Crinket wanted back from Caldigate] then, you would have -- married Mr Crinkett?' Sir John's manner as he asked the question was so gentle and so soft that it was felt by all to conain an apology for intruding on so delicate a subject. But when she hesitated, he did, after a pause, renew his enquiry in another form. 'Perhaps this was only a threat, and you had no purpose of carrying it out?'
Then she plucked up courage. 'I have not married him [Crinkett]', she said.
'But did you intend it?'
'I did. What were the laws to me out there? He had left me and had taken another wife. I had to do the best for myself. I did intend it; but I didn't do it. A woman can't be tried for her intentions'.
'No', said Sir John; 'but she may be judged for her intentions' (Folio Society John Caldigate, introd. RCTerry, Ch 41, "The First Day", p. 319).
In other words, Euphemia's willingness to marry Crinkett proves nothing about Caldigate's bigamy. She is brave enough to say she simply intended to commit bigamy -- just as Caldigate had. Why should he get away with this and not her? They cannot convict her as she did not do it. All this line in the letter can do is blacken her character in front of the jury. Insofar as that might lead them to sympathize with Caldigate, it helps him. Juries will vote their emotions. However, in logic it proves nothing about whether he and Euphemia had undergone some form of marriage themselves.
I wish Trollope had allowed us to see this woman from within sympathetically. The mores of his period -- and his own wariness of woman who were sexually independent and free -- simply made this unthinkable for him. It was thinkable for other Victorians and for 19th century French writers: Mary Elizabeth Braddon comes to mind; also George Sand -- whom Trollope read (there is a letter in which he refers to one of her novels offhandedly, showing real knowledge of her works which existed in translations).
The strand of psychology is probably intended to make us sympathize with Caldigate. He pays the restitution. This may seem unreal to some people. But I suggest Trollope works hard and succeeds in making Caldigate's psychology understandable here. It is the same state of mind that drove him to leave England in the first place -- and prove himself courageous, able, equal. He has a mirror in his eyes which he looks at and it demands that he do what he thinks right to achieve self-respect. Again there is a curious hint here he feels more than guilty about his treatment of Euphemia: note he continually blames Crinkett as if Euphemia was Crinkett's tool. Trollope's narrator is careful to place inside Caldigate's meditation hints that Caldigate does hope and hope strongly that this money will lead the Crinkett crew to leave England. But Caldigate cannot allow himself to behave as if he were bribing them. He would despise himself. So he doesn't follow Bollum's scheme to give them the money when they are on board and on their way. Of course they haven't his notions of integrity; money in hand why should they leave? I'll bet many of us have known people -- or perhaps ourselves -- done something we feel is the right thing to vindicate ourselves even though we are aware it may come back to haunt us later; we may get in trouble precisely for this right action which might be misunderstood. Interestingly, this kind of behavior is often seen in divorce cases where people's emotions are so torn and confused. In effect Caldgate divorced Euphemia; she was shaped by her environment into a grasping hard woman and he could no longer endure her so left.
Again we miss much here by not having been shown the relationship they had when it was at its best and as it deteriorated in Australia. Trollope does justice to the reality that such truths cannot be told in court:
"He had been in love with this woman -- in love after a fashion. He had promised to marry her. He had done worse than that. [Now note we are not told what this worse is. There is an obvious gap in the meditation.] And then, when he had found that the passion for gold was strong upon her he had bought his freedom from her The story would be very bad as told in court, and yet he told it to his wife" (Ch 40, "Waiting for the Trial", p. 307)
We also miss the psychological complexity of dramatizing Hester's reaction in full. She would not seem such a one-dimensional child in her language had Trollope dare this.
In any case, this piece of psychological complexity in Caldigate and the scenes it leads to makes this past week's chapters rich in human truths.
I have not dwelt upon the courtroom scenes. The word "trial" also means ordeal. Caldigate's ordeal goes on in more arenas than the public courthouse. The plot-design of this book resembles that of the archetypal "hero violating a moral law". People have described some archetypal plots: the quest, the one where the hero/heroine seeks communication and personal validity (e.g. Lily Dale and Johnny Eames in The House of Allington), the hero killing versions of a monster. Caldigate belongs to the hero who is scapegoated -- a plot-design Trollope uses more often than is realized.
As to the rest of the court scenes Trollope has done these before, and while these are good, it strikes me he details them much less, makes the larger rounder allusive strokes of his later carreer in them -- as he makes Sir John less colourful than Chaffanbrass. He has done this before and is onto the challenge of the content of the trial rather than the meaning of such public games in themselves. He spends time on Bollum and Caldigate and Caldigate's skeins of thought over the money. How real and human for him to have gone to all sorts of people for "advice" and then when the advice was not what he wanted to hear to ignore it.
If someone would like to say something about the trial scenes themselves, he or she thinks ought to be said, please do. I'm sure we would all like to have our reading enriched by the thoughts of others on these hard days endured by Caldigate, Hester, and his father.
There is also Trollope's attention to the vagaries of the community's response. These are of intense importance in the verdict that will come next week.
Cheers to all,
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate Buying Off Tormentors with Money :
I've fallen behind with my John Caldigate reading, but am very much enjoying everyone's posts on the subject. I particularly like Ellen's suggestion about the mythic hero undergoing punishment for breaking a taboo.
What I wanted to post about though is different to the subjects that have been discussed - not the relationships between people but the power of money. I always feel that Trollope writes most powerfully when he is giving us the torture about money and public humiliation which goes with debt. For me the passages about Mark Robarts debts are the greatest part of Framley Parsonage. So too with the last Barchester book, it is the searing pain of the exposure of Crawley's poverty that is made palpable. In John Caldigate I have just reached the moment where John tries to and at the same time, tries to appear not to, buy off his tormentors. I think this is very well done by Trollope and we are made to see the powerlessness of money - it cannot really free him. It interesting that Mrs Smith is now reduced to a woman more concerned with money than anything else and has been bought off once already by John, taking money rather than a 'real' marriage.
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Trial (II)
I found the court room scenes completely gripping and the subsequent chapters devoted to the envelope were also enthralling. Its probably reveals an obsessive mind but I do like the attention to detail you get in a Trollope about such matters as evidence in law and the fine lines drawn between what is legal and what is morally right. I also like reading Trollope's lawyers, they are not exactly likeable people but you can see their brains working.
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Trial (II)
So what exactly is the law? Does his conviction dissolve his marriage to Hester?
Is his son still his legitimate heir? I'm a little confused. I too like the parts about the obsessive employee ( and perhaps the light note here presented makes us feel there is hope, that this is not a tragedy that we are reading) and found much of it, such as the cottage that is the older man's retreat, Dickensian.Pat
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001
Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Trial (II)
I don't pretend to be any sort of a lawyer, but dealing with Pat's point about the dissolution of Caldigate's marriage to Hester, it does seem to me that if he had validly married Euphemia, then he committed bigamy, for. which he was found guilty, The consequence of this must have been that his marriage to Hester was void, and the child was illegitimate. Caldigate could only have married Hester if Euphemia had died, or if he had gone through a tortuous Victorian divorce. In either event, I do not think that at that time the child would have been legitimised by his parents' subsequent marriage.
In fact, I do not believe that any sound case was made for the marriage at the trial. All the evidence came from the four conspirators, who had clearly set out to extort money from Caldigate. I feel that Sir John Joram could have made much more of his client's case. He had got his friend to accompany him to the meeting with the conspirators when the money was paid, when he made it abundantly clear that he was paying the money because he considered it an obligation, and not as a condition of their withdrawing their evidence. Trollope never makes it clear what the burden of the judge's summing up was, or why the jury found against him eventually. We know that one juror is supposed to have held out for a long time, reputedly because he was a partisan of the Caldigate family, but what was it that made the rest of the jury so certain that a marriage had taken place, and what made the twelfth man give up in the end?
We can begin to learn from the events leading up to the trial what the circumstances of John and Euphemia's liaison were. They had become attracted to one another on the Goldfinder, and despite the best endeavours of the passengers and the captain, he had committed himself to her at the end of the voyage. She had not, however, tried to get into touch with him again after they parted, possibly because his prospects were likely to be very poor. When he met her again in Sydney, having found gold, she became much more pro-active, and although Trollope tells us that they separated for the night, to meet for breakfast the following morning, I imagine that most list members will think that this was most unlikely! We know that she joined him in Ahalala, where they shared a home or more probably a tent, but that she became more interested in gold shares and drink, so that eventually he paid her in money and shares to go away, on the understanding that she would not trouble him any more. While they undoubtedly had good sex together, it is clear that they had very little else in common, and Trollope tells us that the image of Hester was what brought him back to the United Kingdom.
I believe that Trollope meant us to be sure that there had been no marriage with Euphemia. We shall see as the novel continues how he ties up the ends.
R: John Caldigate, Chs 37-42: The Jury's Verdict Understandable
While I agree with others that Trollope means us to think there had been no legitimate ceremony (and thus lies were told about the preacher who now cannot be found), he does means us to understand why the jury came to the conclusion it did and why Sir John Joram seems so hamstrung -- and expect that we would sympathize with the jury.
My argument does not come from law, but custom, and it's based (as I argued earlier in this read) on Lawrence Stone's two books on bethrothal, marriage and divorce from the early 17th through the mid-19th century. The reality is that up until 1752 marriage ceremonies were not rigidly fixed, and a number of customs were recognized by courts as legitimate ceremonies. These included simply having a witness in a room where the pair of people made their vows in the present tense. They also included bethrothal with consummation. A promise to marry was very important. It was tantamount to marriage, and if there were consummation (especially if the girl got pregnant), the community regarded them as marriage. Caldigate admits he promised to marry Euphemia. It is true that in England (and other more secularized societies in Europe where industrialisation and the movement of capital was changing the function of marriage in society) a law was put in place to change all this: by the Marriage Act of 1752 you had to have a legally recognized state official there; you had to have two witnesses; you had to make out certain forms. However, as Stone shows, custom moves slowly and until the beginning of the 19th century in England cases continued to be litigated where the old customs had been observed.
Thus I would say that in living memory in Trollope's time these older patterns of behavior were still part of people's consciousness. It does tell very badly against Caldigate that he addressed Euphemia as his wife, and that he wrote to her as Mrs Caldigate. This fits in with Stone's book and various cases where public recognition of the other party was something you could go to court on. All the many references to Australia having wild or older or unsettled customs are (I would argue) Trollope's way of suggesting in a less settled territory where there are not state officials and forms everywhere these older customs would be observed. If we don't think that Caldigate is really guilty in the minds of the jurors, and probably guilty in Joram's mind and certainly guilty in the judge's the novel doesn't work. Much of the intensity of the case falls away. His payment in money is part of his guilt.
I also suggest we are to take very seriously that originally Caldigate was not only drawn to her but loved her. I quoted one of the two passages where Trollope's narrator says this. The narrator also says the Caldigate sought to exonerate her by blaming Crinkett. By doing this the narrator blackens her because from such a sentence we are to infer Caldigate's memories and desire not to despise her altogether, to look back with some sense of self-respect lead him to try not to see her as active in this case. We can see she is. We can also see she has become much harder. Her dialogue with Joram is meant to make us see the changes that have transpired in her character -- and the narrator tells us they are more than what Caldigate saw when last he left her.
As to their original relationship, Trollope does fudge it. We just don't know for sure because he didn't dare dramatize it. We see that aboard ship, they enjoy one another's conversation. Their way of communicating to one another so quickly and through words reminds me of Knightley and Emma. They are the adults. They share books; they share attitudes. It's this drawing towards her that brings down the Captain on him. There are also a couple of passages (I quoted one of these too) which say that at first Caldigate was happy with her, but that what happened was she hardened. This is repeated several times. She became grasping for money. In a piece of free indirect speech where we are in Caldigate's mind he (and the narrator with him) think about how the the life and circumstances in which they lived changed her, and there are hints that part of this change came from her living with man openly outside marriage and the very rough unmannered frank lives they lived. She may be a sort of parallel to Dick Shand who also descended but in a different way.
It's clear that when Caldigate went to Hester he didn't go to her for companionship. She was a trophy virgin; an image, part of what he saw himself as earning. Trollope takes no time to show us any inner relationship between them growing. To be sure, Caldigate is not an inward guy; he doesn't seem to go to a wife for companionship -- on board ship and the scene just after which Howard quoted suggest that he anticipated good sex with Euphemia and the quick pregnancy of Hester suggests he did pretty well in that woman's bed too. He's not a supersensitive hero like John Eames, doesn't love and look for a wife in the same way. I see a couple of hints -- but admit it's more interpretive that part of the change that came over Euphemia in Australia was also the result of her living with man openly outside marriage. Trollope harps on the rough unmannered almost animal existences they live. He means more than just manners. The original man who helped Caldigate become wealthy descended into alcoholism and then suicide.
Mine is just one reading, but I suggest it makes the book make sense and gives it the complex interest Trollope intended it to have. His culture and audience didn't allow him to go any further into the above matters; he is very bold for going as far as he does -- not only about marriage and sex but about religion.
I strongly recommend Laurence Stone's Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives (especially the first chapter), but also his Family Sex and Marriage, 1500-1800 and Road to Divorce give more background too. Dickens makes comic use of these older customs in a number of his novels. As with Is He Popenjoy? and Ayala, John Caldigate still suffers from an initial lack of popularity upon publication. Sutherland says the reviewers were not impressed: "a good novel expanded into a dull one"; "decadent" and "not well sustained" are from two different reviewers and suggest they felt the novel fell off. So there are no long essay-like treatments of the book. The usual suspects (Mullen) don't go into this issue (which is interesting); they talk about the strong attack on religious evangelism.
However, there is one book which does coincide my view -- and that's in P. D. Edwards Art & Scope. He doesn't argue that Caldigate was necessarily bigamous (which I agree we are not to think), but argues that Caldigate had certainly done enough to make the jury, his lawyer and judge feel he probably was in effect married by custom and so make whatever happened in court somewhat superfluous. It doesn't matter that the four people are lowlifes; Caldigate lived with them and married her. The reasoning is the same about Euphemia's intention to commit bigamy too. Because she was willing to commit bigamy, doesn't mean Caldigate didn't. To P. D. Edwards, this makes the novel into a story about a man who refuses to see that he has done serious wrong and tries to get out of it: Edwards writes about Caldigate's promise, his living with Euphemia, his lies to Hester and the Boltons beforehand, and thinks the novel gains much from its "equivocalness about the hero's culpability" (pp. 216-221) I agree. Where I feel Trollope missed an opportunity is the lack of inwardness in his approach to Caldigate himself.
Cheers to all,