March 30, 2001
Re: Immediate Context and Concise Calendar: Say rather Mrs John Caldigate or John Caldigate's Wife
John Caldigate is the third of our relatively unknown later novels by Trollope. It was written between 3 February and 21 July 1877, just after The Duke's Children. It connects back to Is He Popenjoy? (written October 1874 to May 1875) because it too is said to have been inspired by the Tichborne case: just about everyone who has written about it tells how Trollope wanted to call it Mrs John Caldigate or John Caldigate's Wife because it focuses on bigamy, and has people turning up thousands of miles from where the hero thought he had left them forever in order to lay claim to an estate. The question is again legitimacy. It is also linked to Trollope's Dr Wortle's School (a novella written 8-9 April 1879) and to "sensation" novels like Ellen Wood's East Lynne and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret. There's a dramatic trial, a disreputable past (clandestine sex is what happens), and some harsh emotional violence between a mother and daughter over her sexual and emotional allegiance to the man she calls her husband.
It also has a number of chapters set either on board a ship bound for Australia or in Australia itself. Trollope had twice (1871 and 1875) journeyed to Australia to see his son, Fred, and had completed a long travel book about his time there, Australia and New Zealand (published 1873). It is one of several fictions set in Australia or on the way "out" & back to a colony (Harry Heathcote, "The Journey to Panama", "Catherine Carmichael", "The Return Home"). The toughness of the life presented, the frankness which which life is lived connects John Caldigate to the Irish books as well as to other novels with romantic and adventuresome locales. The intransigent (and anti-sex) mother of the heroine, Mrs Bolton, recalls a similar female in Linda Tressel; the intolerance of everyone Nina Balatka. Although many of the novels' chapters are set in England and explores English provincial life, particularly the narrowness of a provincial community, its lack of choices, what happens on board and in Australia initiates everything else, and we return to Australia in order insofar as this may be done vindicate the epononymous hero in the end.
Another factor separating it from the two we have just read is it is admired by those who have read it. N. John Hall opens his introduction to the Oxford Classics paperback by talking of it as among Trollope's best; in the introduction to the Folio Society edition, R. C. Terry gives it high praise: he connects its matter to The Way We Live Now with its "evolving world of money, greed, and materialism in which ethical issues are becoming more urgent and difficult; it has a romantic myth of a young man who disappoints his father but wins out through high adventure, court-room scenes and stints in jail. There is much autobiographical resonance in the depiction of the estrangement and then coming together of the father and son. I think it's one of Trollope's strongest novels: I rate John Caldigate with The Macdermots of Ballycloran (to name another one people don't often think to name as great) as among Trollope's most interesting and best.
It did help his reputation. After several novels which were strongly criticized or didn't sell very well, this one was liked and sold, and reviewed favorably. Trollope hadn't placed it quickly but when he had he got £1,200 from Chapman and Hall for exclusive book rights, and £600 from Blackwood's for serial rights. It was serialised in Blackwood's Magazine from April 1878 to June 1879. (There are some good letters between Trollope and Blackwood about the matter of the novel where Blackwood advises this or that and Trollope rejects said advice and where Trollope tells of how Samuel Bagwax, the deus ex machina postal clerk is himself when young -- comically seen.) There are altogether 64 chapters and they appeared in instalments of 4 or 5 chapters each.
If we aim to read and talk about the novel for under 3 months, we have to move along at 6 chapters for most weeks. I propose that we begin on April 8th, so the schedule would look like this:
April 8: Chapters 1-6
April 15: Chapters 7-12
April 22: Chapters 13-18
April 29: Chapters 19-24
May 6: Chapters 25-30
May 13: Chapters 31-36
May 20: Chapters 37-42
May 27: Chapters 43-48
June 3: Chapters 49-54
June 10: Chapters 55-60
June 17: Chapters 61-64.
Anthony Trollope, John Caldigate, ed., introd. N. John Hall. Oxford Classics paperback. 1993, ISBN 0-19-282817-7
Anthony Trollope, John Caldigate, introd. R. C. Terry. Illustrations Francis Mosley. Folio Society, 1995.
There has been very little written on John Caldigate by itself (meaning separate essays beyond those which introduce editions). It is of course included in the books which cover all Trollope's novels and/or life, of which I cite a whole slew on my site (http://www.JimandEllen.org/trollope/trollope.section.lead.html). To name but one of these many I recommend P. D. Edwards's AT: His Art and Scope as succinct and full. Edwards did an excellent edition of Australia and New Zealand and teaches at Queensland.
Cheers to all,
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001
Reply-To: email@example.com Subject: [trollope-l] John Caldigate
I have to confess I have been reading ahead with John Caldigate. Can't wait for the posts to begin. Its quite unlike any Trollope I've read (but that's not much compared to others on this list). I was tempted to tuck my copy into my bag because I've got such a little secondhand edition in the Worlds Classics series. It can fit into my coat pocket (what a boon of a book that is).
Dear Angela and all,
This is just to encourage everyone to begin when they want!. So often on these group reads on Trollope-l people wait for me or someone else to start on the Sunday. I won't be able to begin reading until Sunday night and might not be able to begin posting until Monday night -- this week is superburdened because I have to go on journeys around Virginia looking at colleges with my husband and younger daughter (who is to go to one in two years).
I wish Trollope had been able to call his novel Mrs John Caldigate or John Caldigate's Wife -- which was the title he wanted. It points to the most subversive level of the novel -- who is she? A question not answered by the end of the book if you read very carefully.