Father and Daughter; Comic Deus Ex Machina on the Way; A Certain Lack of Inwardness; A Detective or Mystery Story; Mariana and the Moated Grange; Scott and Trollope: Plot and Hero Types; Mrs John Caldigate; Mrs Smith As a Stalking Horse for Venom

To Trollope-l

May 29, 2001

To Trollope-l

Re: John Caldigate, Chs Chs 43-48: Father and Daughter

Todd talked of the magnificence of Daniel Caldigate when confronted with the narrow judgemental rule-driven religion of Mr Smirkie. It is bold of Trollope to give Caldigate the following retort to Smirkie's demand Hester return to her biological family:

"'as you know nothing about her, I regard such threats, coming from you, as impertinent, unmanly, inhuman, and blasphemous'" (Folio Society John Caldigate, introd. RCTerry, Ch 44, "After the Verdict", p.341)

It is blasphemous to sweep away someone's inner life as insignificant: there is their soul.

With unerring tact Trollope includes in Hester's loyal adhesion to Caldigate, a deeply rooted bond between Hester and Daniel:

"'Is he alone? she asked. But the woman did not know. The wheels of the carriage had only been heard.'

Alas, alas! he was alone. His heart, too, had almost been broken as he bored the news home to the wife who was a wife no longer.

'Father!' she said, when he saw her.

'My daughter -- O my daughter!', Ch 43, "The Last Day", p. 366).

I didn't find it overdone as it was no longer than and followed hard upon a brilliant chapter whose irony is rooted in the reader being kept at a distance from the judge's summing up so that we see how biased it is. It matters now whether we agree; what matters is the bias. Trollope has done this sort of thing before: in numbers of his novels we get trial scenes, speeches by attorneys and judges in which the disparity between what we know of the characters accused and accusing and the complex psychological- social events around which the trial swirls and what a judge or particular attorney constructs with language is manifest. We are to keep our eyes on how in Sir John Joram's summing up he teaches the jury not to teach into consideration Hester's misery, and the unfair punishment she and her child will endure in such a way as to urge the jury to nullify all the damning circumstantial evidence (and circumstantial evidence counts -- they were lovers; Caldigate treated Euphemia as his wife before others) for her sake. It reminds me of how Chaucer will tell us he is not going to do such-and-such and in telling us does it:

"The law is the law, and must be vindicated. In that case it will be your duty, your terrible duty, to create misery, to destroy happiness, to ruin a dear innocent young mother and her child and to separate a loving couple, every detail of whose life is such as to demand your sympathy. And this you must do at the bidding of four greedy, foul conspirators. Innocent, sweet excellent in all feminine graces as is the one wife -- unlovely, unfeminine, and abhorrent as is the other -- ... (Ch 42, p. 328).

O. J. Simpson's lawyers played the same game. And the jury in Caldigate's case is out for a long while despite the judge's summing up, despite the envelope. The problem is that for the jury the case doesn't really "hang on the envelope" (p 325) as such, but on what it stands for.

This switching of family allegiance is beautifully articulated by Hester as loving forgiveness. Shall she desert him now? Trollope works very hard to keep this possibly bigamous wife acceptable to his audience. That's how I see his presentation of her scarcely believable lack of any animus whatsoever against her mother and father. He adds to this her assertion that she will not sleep with Caldigate when he returns from prison. These sorts of concessions couldn't be helped, but the thrust remains the same: Trollope presents a bold and fierce argument against living by rule, by outward social notions of what is acceptable as he shows this is narrowly defined thing adhered to by but one group in a community and for its own interest.

There is also strong romance here. Between Caldigate and Hester (though by implication) as strong as any attachment in Trollope. And it is believable given the grimness and anti-life environment of her home and Caldigate's genuine kindness to her, the joy and enjoyment of life they knew together. It appears that he did indeed become "good husband material" in his time away.

Much of this material can be fitted into Trollope's strong adversarial depiction of Christian fundamentalism in this novel. His mother's novels argue against low church behaviors from a caste arrogant point of view; Trollope does this too -- in novels like Rachel Ray. But he always goes further, and in this novel, the creed that Mrs Bolton uses to gain power for herself and keep everyone miserable with her, melancholy, angry -- is endlessly skewered: the verdict is for this mother "a dark triumph". She looks forward to wearing "sackcloth" with her daughter. When the daughter refuses this life, she has her husband under her thumb. Trollope uses a strong word for her conduct to Mr Bolton: she jeers at her husband: "Knowing her husband to be weak from age and sorrow, she could still jeer at him because he was not abnormally strong" (Ch 45, "The Boltons are much troubled", p 349).

Angela mentions money. It surely plays a central role in this book: it drove Caldigate to Australia; it drove his partners to wrest back their share of the mine when it failed; it is his conscience payment and does affect the jury. The kind of sensitivity to self-esteem and disregard of what more coarse types would make of this rationalizing behavior (for Caldigate did also hope they would go away) is seen in a number of heroes with whom Trollope sympathizes. I suggest in the scene where Caldigate makes the payment the ambiguous way in which Trollope has been treating his hero changes: we are not to sympathize with him strongly: the pariah, the outcast, the man whom others are quick to condemn because it is not their case gains Trollope's sympathy. He can identify here: the roots of this he details for us in his An Autobiography.

This week's chapters are stirring.

Ellen Moody

Re: John Caldigate, Chs 43-48: Comic Deus Ex Machina on the Way

We also have some delicious self-reflexive comedy. Now that our hero is led away -- in a scene which would recall Thady Macdermot in The Macdermots of Ballycloran except that Thady is to pay with his life -- we turn to some comic relief. Chapters 47 and 48 are filled with delicious comedy and the sort of saturnine wisdom about the politics, pettinesses and driving impulses of daily life for which Trollope is recognized among those who know his texts well.

So much good comedy is provided through entering into Bagwax's meditations upon his envelope, and the responses of his fellow clerks to his elevation therefrom. Here is "the post office mind":

"It was he who had first given importance to the envelope; and being a resolute and almost heroic man he was determined that no injustice on the part of a Crown prosecutor should rob him of the delight of showing how important to the world was a proper understanding of post office details" (Folio Society John Caldigate, introd RCTerry, Ch 47, "Curlydown and Bagwax", p. 363).

What makes this even more charming is Trollope's comment to a friend in a letter (recalling Queen Elizabeth over Richard II in Shakespeare's play) to the effect, that "Know you know he was a Bagwax?"

Equally funny are the envies -- this shows the difference between literature and real life. In real life such envies create swarms of stinging spite. Here they are funny:

"But that which gratified him was not so charming to his brother clerks. They had never enjoyed the privilee of leaving that weary office for six months. They were not allowed to occupy themselves in contemplating an envelope" (p. 364).

I can't resist playing devil's advocate on Dickens's behalf to Trollope's riposte to "the Circumlocution Office:

"The popular newspaper, the popular member of Parliament, and the popular novelist -- the name of Charles Dickens will of course present itself to the reader who remembers the Circumlocution Office -- have had it impressed on their several minds -- endeavoured to impress the same idea on the public generally -- that the normal Government clerk is quite indifferent to his work. No greater mistake was ever made, or one showing less observation of human nature. It is the nature of a man to appreciate his own work . The felon who is made simply to move shot, perishes becuase he knows his work is without aim. The fault lies on the other side. The policement is ambitious of arresting everybody ... (p. 365).

Where Trollope is taking unfair advantage is he skilfully, ever so subtly switches perspective. When Dickens inveighs against government officials who do nothing, he does so from the point of view of someone whose livelihood, freedom, peace of mind is dependent on their doings. Most government departments are not run for the benefit of the vulnerable and powerless who really concrete help right now; those which are use the techniques of delay and intimidation to keep the demands down. Trollope is looking at the government official from his own perspective, how he sees himself and from the viewpoint of those not in need or vulnerable. It would not be a joke to the person arrested that the policeman is eager to arrest everyone. Trollope's other examples (lawyers, generals) are also drawn from upper middle class occupations, the establishment, authorities, and the people they oppress (comically) are not the envisioned reader.

Still I give it to Trollope that the argument that government officials don't help people because they are not proud of their work is false. They are proud of it and are probably telling them themselves, nay do it very hard. It's just that the aim -- to help the vulnerable and powerless -- is not much in evidence.

Bagwax and Sir John's conversation was not as amusing (in the 18th century sense of the term too) as the chapter about the post office. But it had its moments: "Sydney, I am told, is an Elysium on earth" (Ch 48, "Sir John Joram's Chambers", p. 369). Bagwax's guilt, his intense desire to think well of himself to the point he will deny himself what he wants is a comic analogue of Mrs Bolton's behavior. And of course it forwards our plot -- and circles us right back to Australia. Who said this was not a post-colonial novel? Bagwax must travel across the earth to inspect a British institution to prove it works just the way he knows they work in England.

Trollope is in high form and in as high spirits as he ever was.

Re: John Caldigate, Chs 43-48: A Certain Lack of Inwardness

If I have any qualfication beyond those I have registered against the depiction of Hester, it would be that Caldigate is kept off the stage. We don't go sufficiently into his view. Perhaps Trollope didn't want us to see him brooding over his time living with Euphemia? My comparison is with The Macdemots of Ballycloran. When Thady is led away, we really have entered into his meditations thoroughly. Thus the deeper critique which persuades is brought forth. Caldigate is kept an external figure. So to a large extent is Hester. And of course Euphemia. Feemy Macdermot (another Euphemia) was not so kept from us and the first novel was so much more powerful and fully sympathetic.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

Re: John Caldigate: A Detective or Mystery Story

To Sig and Wayne and anyone else interested,

I went over to several respectable handbooks to see how the learned professors defined mystery and detective story. Nary a definition. Apparently these formula genres don't make the cut -- though I found definitions of romance which in the year 2001 is formulaic in many of its phases.

So I went out to the Web to see if I could find a handy defintion. Everything was very narrow, far narrower than the defintion Wayne has come up with, or it was very vague. Thus one site defined detective fiction thus:

"At the center of most detective fiction is a murder which serves as a catalyst to answer several character’s motivations, problems, and fears. The reader is taken by the hero—the detective—on a journey which involves “the most essential and urgent problems in the human situation.” Some of these problems are racial injustices, alienation, greed, and loneliness.

The detective takes the reader on the journey by amassing information, which the reader understands is not complete, until the detective has resolved the mystery by uncovering not only the murderer but the motivation for the murder. In this sense, the narration is “oriented toward a retroactive denouement that should transfigure the whole sequence.” In other words, only when the information is complete can one understand how the parts fit; and more importantly for our focus, why the parts are created in the first place.

Historically, the reader’s attention was generally directed to the puzzling circumstances surrounding the crime. The emphasis was on investigation and only incidentally concerned with characterization and human emotion. Edgar Allan Poe is fairly universally accepted as having introduced the genre with his tales of ratiocination (the process of exact thinking) in which he constructed plots involving locked rooms (Murder in the Rue Morgue,) cryptograms (The Gold Bug,) logic (The Mystery of Marie Roget,) and even a series detective, Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin.

Detective stories became popular after the establishment of regular police forces with detective squads in the 1840’s. (Thus, the link between non-fictional situations and fictional situations was early joined.) The books of Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Wilkie Collins, solidified and expanded the popularity of mystery and detective stories. There is no indication of any diminished popularity among the reading public today. There is, however, significant change in the content of detective fiction -- in the content of the crime ..."

So Wayne's more flexible definition of suspense (you can find out who did it early) fits this pattern. Two other sites produced the same sort of definition; both also fudged the problem of a mystery story. The mystery story was almost, but not quite blended into the detective:

"Mystery Fiction in English began around 1790. Most early examples are little read. In the 1830's, the first great group of American writers emerged. These writers are known as the American Renaissance, and many of them wrote mysteries, as well as other kinds of fiction, such as science fiction, adventure stories, sea stories, and realistic novels. These are the earliest mysteries still much read today. Key Works are Edgar Allan Poe's Tales and Herman Melville's Benito Cereno

In the 1850's and 1860's in Britain, authors started writing remarkable if melodramatic thrillers, known as Sensation novels. The best is: Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White"

Soon the writer is citing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

I found myself thinking about how certain sorts of medieval plays were called mysteries. These were about the Biblical story of Christ and centered on something supernatural, miraculous, and most of the time healing (though some playlets have tragic ends).

Thus I suggest that mystery stories are different from detectives. Turning back to Northrop Frye, I'll say the detective story is low mimetic mode, sordid diurnal pungent realism while the mystery is closer to romance which does not have to be realistic, tells us of superior characters who have mythic resonances, includes heroes who can stand for important qualities. _John Caldigate_ may be regarded as a text which hovers between romance and realism; it's not low mimetic. It has an archetypal plot. What is the mystery? What exactly happened in Australia which we'll never know. What is the miracle: after the ordeal, the hero is freed. And we have a deus ex machina to set it all going: Bagwax and a postal stamp.

Cheers to all,

Re: John Caldigate: Mariana and the Moated Grange

Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 22:23:59 -0400

Angela wrote:

"I'm just about to complete reading John Caldigate and have been enjoying the deliberations about whether it is a mystery or not. I just wanted to point out a little visual reference. When the case for Caldigate is taken up by the press, there is a reference to a picture being drawn of Hester as the main object of pity, titled 'the moated grange'. I was wondering whether it was intended that we should see this picture as a spoof on the Millais painting of Mariana : http://www.artmagick.com/ALLpaintings/millais/millais6.jpg This was produced about 10 years before the novel and must have been well known to everyone."

I think of this painting as the lady with the aching back. There is are a couple of other definitely satirical references to Pre-Raphaelite paintings: I remember one from The Warden and another in Ralph the Heir. But in these two cases the reference is a painting, not a character likened to a painting.

Trollope used this allusion to Mariana numbers of times. Sometimes he means it seriously: in Miss Mackenzie he likens her isolation and loneliness to Tennyson's poem specifically. This reference to an illustration does suggest satire. In his later books there is always this quizzical reference to them as texts; Trollope never seems to take them as seriously as he did some of his others.

Cheers to all, Ellen

Date: Sat, 26 May 2001
Reply-To: trollope-l@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [trollope-l] Scott and Trollope: Plot and Hero Types

Here is a perspective which takes both Scott and Trollope into account: as Sig knows, on Arthurnet we have been having a thread about archetypal plots (called "morphologies"), and various people have been defining types. During this now-long read on three lesser known books by Trollope I have been struck by his frank exegesis of male sexuality both in terms of its apprehensions against a macho male paradigm encouraged by most cultures and its real interactions with real women as figured forth in Trollope's female characters. The plot types of Trollope's earlier novels seem to swirl around miscommunication between characters and between characters and their society (this is particularly clear in The Small House at Allington where Lily is exploited by Adolphus Crosbie, and he destroyed by a society whose mores he interpreted as allowing him to so exploit her, and where Johnny cannot get the woman he wants because he can't manipulate communications adroitly).

I have been arguing that the plot-design of John Caldigate resembles that of the archetypal "hero violating a moral law" and having to undergo a punitive ordeal to be restored to the community. In a posting sent to Arthurnet by Bruce Beattie (based on a book by Vladmir Propp who studied the structures of fairy and folk tales and applied these to "great" literature), Beattie identifies the kind of plot we see in John Caldigate as about a Victim-Hero. To use the adjective "Victim" is to point out that the usual archetypes are at work (quest, ordeal, journey, attempts at communication, the plot based on desire for a valued object), except that the hero is someone judged unfairly by the community around him and the emphasis in the story will be a process undergone by the hero -- from within. Caldigate is not a false hero or a villain, and he is used to highlight critiques of the world, both outward and inward, Trollope lived in. According to Propp's analysis, the hero type often has helpers who are family members (Caldigate's father, his second or "real" wife, Hester); he has undergone a test (gone to Australia) and while he has succeeded in some ways, he has broken tabooes to do it, is going to be branded, and will have to live with that. It is interesting that Caldigate does not play tricks on anyone, although he does deceive the Boltons. Perhaps the payment is Trollope's way of showing how Caldigate is not a trickster. In this he links back to Johnny Eames whose problem was he was simply too truthful, too candid -- as was Lily Dale.

Scott's heros are often ultimately passive -- this is true of many of Trollope's sensitive heroes. Scott's plot-design is clearly the traditional quest. The hero or heroine is on a quest to do something. In Mid-Lothian, Jeannie Dean exculpates her sister from the serious charge of infanticide -- or gets a pardon for it, I forget which, it doesn't matter. Rob Roy resembles the couple of novels I have recently read and a few I remember by Scott in that the hero is more or less dragged into a journey in which he goes deeper and deeper into Scots culture and Scots history. I have gotten to next week's chapters and the climax of the book seems to me to be Osbaldistone's encounter with Rob Roy. And Rob Roy is a charismatic presence. This reminds me of so many Scott novels where the hero or heroine about 3/4s of the way through finally meets the numinous historical presence (be it Mary Queen of Scotts, Richard the Lionhearted, Charles Edward, Louis XI, &c&c).

In Scott's case then the plot-design permits us to journey into Scots history and culture and meet up with a figure who contains it in him. In Trollope's the plot-design permits us to see the hero's inward life against the pretended and actual mores of his or her society. Both are much interested in custom and law.

I haven't treated these plot-designs adequately, but hope this way of looking at Scott and Trollope helps bring them together in the same era and show where they intersect and where they differ

Iheers to all,
Ellen Moody

We once again go back in time:

To Trollope-l

October 11, 1999

Re: Mrs John Caldigate

I thought I'd mention that from Trollope's letters one gathers that Trollope originally meant to entitle John Caldigate Mrs John Caldigate. Trollope persistently entitled the book this way for letter after letter, and at one point asks Blackwood if he agrees. Blackwood apparently nixed putting the spotlight on which woman was Mrs John Caldigate: it coupled Mrs Euphemia Smith and Miss Hester Bolton as on an even plain too clearly. Who after is is the real Mrs John Caldigate is what the novel asks? At one point in his letters Trollope protests that only the novelist ought to name his novel, for he or she knows what is at the center or core of the story.

Ellen Moody

To which Duffy Pratt wrote:

When the author uses the title as an attempt a wry criticism of "what is at the center or core of the story, " he often reveals himself as a bad critic. Trollope has his share of clunkers for titles -- He Knew He Was Right is a catching title for the one truly unsuccessful thread in an otherwise fairly good book. I would have preferred a rewrite eliminating Trevalyan altogether, and focusing on the changing attitude of the aunt. It could have been called Aunt Jemima, and possibly avoided lots of bad commercials about pancakes and syrup.

Is He Popinjoy? is simply terrible. Marion Fay is a bizarre name for that book. The core of the story doesn't even make an appearance until well over a third of the way in. An Eye For An Eye only gives away the ending of the book -- in my opinion, it has little to do with the core of the story and is another cluncker.

Mrs. John Caldigate would have been a little coy. Trollope wrote a bunch of "problem" books, and he had a tendancy to want to evoke the problem in the title, not always with the happiest result. I prefer the name John Caldigate, and I probably would have liked the book less if it had had the name Trollope wanted.


Subject: [trollope-l] Mrs John Caldigate

From: Ellen Moody

I guess Duffy and I will have to agree to differ we are so far apart. I think the Trevelyan story is what gives HKHWR its power. Without it, the novel makes little sense thematically, and I see the other stories, while sufficient and interesting when background for the Trevelyans, as progressively softening the punch of the main. Aunt Jemima is fine as a comic character, but alone she is a stand-up joke.

I agree with Trollope an author should in most cases get to title his or her story. I of course am now biased. No one but the author knows what the story is meant to be about -- I'm one of those who trusts authors as well as texts. Sometimes the author choses a title which is not catchy and doesn't sell the book well. The publisher is a capitalist, businessman and of course that's his or her main concern.

As to specifics of other titles, I prefer Mrs John Caldigate because it is a novel about bigamy, and a great one. To leave off the Mrs is to bowlderize the book. I agree on Is He Popenjoy? and find Ayala's Angel coy and therefore embarrassing -- I am uncomfortable being associated with such a book and the readership that could go for the title. But I can see that they fit the books for real, and in general I like the titles Trollope chose for his later books -- as I like the later books very well -- although they are very different in spirit and often technique from a book like Dr Thorne.


From: "Duffy Pratt"

From: Ellen Moody

I guess Duffy and I will have to agree to differ we are so far apart. I think the Trevelyan story is what gives HKHWR its power. Without it, the novel makes little sense thematically, and I see the other stories, while sufficient and interesting when background for the Trevelyans, as progressively softening the punch of the main. Aunt Jemima is fine as a comic character, but alone she is a stand-up joke.

It's fine with me to differ. But I vaguely recall your liking the side stories of HKHWR way back when we read it on another list. Of course I may be wrong, but I thought you had really liked the Jemima Stanbury character, and regarded her as more than a stand-up joke. The reason I remember this is because I started out thinking her very one dimensional, and remember disagreeing with you on that point. Through the course of that discussion, I came to agree with you about her. Very interesting.

I agree with Trollope an author should in most cases get to title his or her story. I of course am now biased. No one but the author knows what the story is meant to be about --

I agree that the author should name his novel, but not for the same reason. I think the name is part of the novel, and therefore part of the authorship. When the name instead is an act of criticism, I think the matter is different. An author is not necessarily a better critic than anyone else might be.

As to specifics of other titles, I prefer Mrs John Caldigate because it is a novel about bigamy, and a great one. To leave off the Mrs is to bowlderize the book.

Another reason why John Caldigate is less than perfect as a name, is because Caldigate himself basically disappears from the book in the second half. He is the eye of the storm. Mrs. John Caldigate doesn't work for me because the novel is not at all evenhanded in its treatment of the two women. Mrs. Smith gets short shrift and through the course of the novel devolves into a one-dimensional villain. Hester, on the otherhand, has always struck me as one of the characterless icons of feminine perfection that Trollope used over and over -- the same image of a woman used again and again in different books with different names. Naming the book would have created a false expectation, and I usually think this is a bad idea. (I flip flop on the same issue with regards to The American SenatorDuffy

Re: Mrs John Caldigate

I spoke too strongly out of a sense of debate. I just wrote a book in which I talked about the complexity given the comic character of Aunt Jemima :). Still I think part of that complexity is given her through the contexts she appears in; the story of Dorothy Stanbury takes its rise in terms of the battle for dominance and desire to possess the other totally that we see in the Trevelyans. I think I wanted to stress my idea that the Trevelyans are central to the novel.

I agree with Duffy that after the initial ambiguity and some sympathy for Mrs Euphemia Smith, she is blackened and dissed almost up to the end of the book. She is given a moment of humanity towards the end of the trial, but that's it. John Caldidate disappears physically, but he as a figure in the minds of everyone remains the core issue to some extent: did he or did he not commit bigamy. Trollope has other male characters who disappear for long stretches of time but who nonetheless remain present in the fiction through the minds of the other characters: Thady McDermot, Phineas in Phineas Redux, Colonel Stubbs in Ayala's Angel. Trollope himself in his letter talks in exalted terms about Hester Bolton so I think Duffy's right on that one; perhaps Trollope meant the name 'Mrs J Caldigate' simply to refer to Hester. I prefer the woman who is not our Supervirgin -- Mrs Smith. I preferred Mrs Hurtle too, much. She and Mr Breghert were the only characters I warmed to in HKHWR.

Ellen Moody

And back two more years to the quarrel which was the last straw for me on Ms Thomson's list:

To Trollope List

June 21, 1997

Re: John Caldigate: Mrs Smith As a Stalking Horse for Venom

While I agree with June that if we can we ought not to ignore an author's intentions, the problem is very often we don't know what these intentions are, especially in the case of an author who uses irony and presents complex psychological fictions. We are in fact luckier with Trollope than we are with many an author because in his Autobiography he at least outlines the general principles of his art, as a journalist he wrote some literary criticism, and in the case of Mrs Smith who we may regard as a fallen woman, he wrote a preface about a character type the conventional reader of the time would have regarded with horror, Carrie Brattle, the prostitute towards whom Trollope displays such sympathy and understanding in his Vicar of Bullhampton.

The general principle of Trollope's art which relates this discussion is his conscious intention to show all sides of a question, which aim he says from his first novel on was misunderstood by many average readers. The discussion of Mr Harding (from The Warden) shows the kind of thinking that underlies not only Mr Harding, but Mrs Smith, Burgo Fitzgerald and a whole host of characters who are not admirable and at times do very bad things, and that includes even Sowerby who is something of a devil to poor Mark in Framley Parsonage. What Trollope says about Mr Harding is he is determined to be honest, not to slander or libel or caricature (which he thinks many novelists do), but through his irony and satire show views that are even opposing. In the case of Mr Harding he says he was determined to show the reader the "evil" that Mr Harding as a professional had taken advantage of: "the possession by the Church of certain funds and endowments which had been intended for charitable purposes, but which had become incomes for idle Church dignitaries. But at the same time he was struck by an "evil" which was its very "opposite:" "the undeserved severity of the newspapers towarsd the recipients of such incomes, who could hardly be considered the chief sinners in the matter." Thus he wrote a paradoxically ambivalent book--and he meant to.

He returns to this charge or burden as he sees it in a later chapter of the book. Here he talks generally again and again about how a writer must be honest and tell the whole truth about people: "truth of description, truth of character, human truth as to men and women." He mentions two novels he considers very worthy and talks of them as books in which "we feel that men and women with flesh and blood, creatures with whom we can sympathise, are struggling amidst their woes. It all lies in that." In the sympathy and the truth and the understanding.

Who cannot see clearly in _John Caldigate_ that Trollope is limited by his emotional adherence to the taboo of virginity and by his class (Mrs Smith is also not from the same class as Caldigate)? Nonetheless, "unsavoury" is not his word. He does harden Mrs Smith and later in the book she does some hard desperate things, but in these opening scenes and later, as with Burgo Fitzgerald, Trollope shows not just charity and understanding, but understanding and even at moments a level of identification which permits him to present these characters in a convincing way. Since the issue is sexual, what anthropologists have called the primitive abhorrence of the savage mind towards the unchaste woman (and we have seen something of this on this list this week and it is disturbing--one might expect such talk if we were members of a tribe which practised the maiming of the woman's vagina that is done across Africa, but to see it so strongly here was upsetting), since the issue is, I say, sexual and about primitive tabooes, any statement Trollope made about such women who break them is relevant to Mrs Smith. What was of interest to me in the woman in "Journey to Panama" was how deeply sympathetic Trollope was to her, but she was probably a virgin, even if driven and sold to a husband by her family, so she is not relevant here. Carrie Brattle is, because she is anything but a virgin.

Carrie Brattle is a prostitute, and when we read the words of Trollope towards her we see in them condemnation but also love, pity, understanding. He says he presents her in order to teach his readers not to regard her with horror or prejudice. He calls being appalled at women like Ms Brattle prejudice. One of the problems with the whole discussion of intentions is that not only do people confuse their own prejudices with Trollope's but they attribute to Trollope the opinions of the average Victorian of the period. Trollope was an original genius and was often misunderstood by many of his contemporaries--and still is so today. To point to some dense bigotry or venom one can find in some of the men and women of the Victorian period towards woman who had broken the taboo of virginity and call this Trollope is not simply to misunderstand, it is to defame him. We would not read Trollope were he Samuel Smiles or Mrs Grundy. Here is how Trollope talks about fallen women--and Carrie Brattle lies, steals, protects criminal men, and does all sorts of wicked things Mrs Smith need not resort to:

"she is what she is, and remains in her abject, pitiless, unutterable misery, because this sentence of the world [that once a woman is no longer pure, has fallen, as Mrs Smith immediately admits is true of herself, "all her own sex is against her,--and all those of the other sex in whose veins runs the blood she is thought to have contaminated"] has placed her beyond the helping hand of Love and Friendship."

He argues that the "punishment" meted out to such women "is horrible beyond the conceptions of those who have not regarded it closely." He says he writes his book so those women who are tempted by men will see what lies in store, but also so that all his readers will understand how someone like Carrie Brattle can be driven like a beast.

I have written this posting because it hurts me to see Trollope presented as if he were among those in his time or today see women who have been sexually active with more than one man as "contaminated." The word Trollope uses shows that he does adhere to the taboo; he is limited himself, but his attitude and stance is not that of scorn. He meant to be honest and truthful, to teach us to extend our sympathetic imagination towards other people. If his fiction were such that we were taught to hate or call someone else other than us and therefore eject them as outcasts, his books would be very different. No-one in his book is an outcast. He in fact uses a word similar to this in his preface to The Vicar of Bullhampton: Carrie Brattle is a "castaway" and what he has done is "endeavoured to endow her with qualities that may create sympathy." He has not been as kind to Mrs Smith as he is to Carrie, but he gives her honesty, intelligence, wit, stability, and love for Caldigate who is no catch when she takes up with him. Of one of his worst villains, Sowerby, Trollope sorrows at the end because he is an outcast; he will show sympathy for Mrs Smith at the close of this book despite his stern judgement of her conduct at the time.

Trollope is I think a writer most singularly free of malice or venom. He's almost remarkable for this. Few writers are as genial; I can't think of a character whom he attacks with malignity or scorn. George Eliot had it right when she said of Rachel Ray that it was typical of Trollope's art in that we emerge from it healthier, kinder people, more cheerful, stronger and having learned sanity, decency. I know it doesn't matter what is said on this list even if it goes out across the world. There are but 200 or so of us. But I add a voice to those who protest against Trollope being mistaken in this particular case as a scornful primitive male and by extension sullied as by a monster of prejudice.

I guess I have to be frank and bring out the subtext here I find in this perspective a way of attacking and repressing women today too. To talk of Mrs Smith in the way it has been done here is to let loose venom on this list, insinuating overtly ugly (because of the language not anything else) things about women here.

Ellen Moody

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Page Last Updated 11 January 2003