Dr Thorne at the Center of the Novel; A Novel Unfolding Dramatic Scene By Dramatic Scene; Roger Scatcherd's Alcoholism and Social Despair; Dr Thorne v Dr Fillgrave; Dr Thorne and the Lady Arabella; Mary Thorne & Lady Arabella's Illness; Mary's Illegitimacy

To Trollope-l

October 13, 1999

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 10-14: Dr Thorne at the Center of the Novel; A Novel Unfolding Dramatic Scene by Dramatic Scene; Roger Scatcherd's Alcoholism and Social Despair

This week I am struck by the depth of emotion, naturalistic dialogue and persuasively real talk and circumstances to be found in scene after scene. I was also made aware (probably because I read just these 5 chapters) how Trollope structures the book around Dr (aka Thomas) Thorne's consciousness again and again.

In all the major scenes of this week's chapters but one, Dr Thorne is one of two leading figures in a long dramatic narrative that takes us close up to the characters. In all the major scenes but one, we see the two characters through Dr Thorne's perspective, that is, sympathetically from his point of view. Only when the narrator wants to shift us over to the other person for a moment are the words of the other person given such concise energy or reinforced by a narrative comment that we made to see how the other person sees what's happening. Even then the other person's view is not the one we are to identify ourselves with. We are to identify with Dr Thorne, even where we are shown he is over-emotional. I think we are to identify with Dr Thorne as it is he who despite whatever flaws he has (about blood, his pride) he acts on an awareness of what fundamental decency demands people be to one another. No small thing.

The scenes are all rather long., and that is essential to their strength and effect on us. We watch & hear Scatcherd & Thorne over Scatcherd's bed talking of Scatcherd's alcoholism and will. It's a scene in which we see that Scatcherd rightly depends on Thorne to do the right thing as his executor. We see Thorne as a doctor, trusted associate, physical helper, and long-time friend who shares deep history and memories with Sir Roger. Dr Thorne comes out very well as the two men meander from topic to topic; he cares. (Heidegger says the being of man is care.) Scatcherd is given an understanding of himself and speech which has a magnficence which matches Thorne's sharpness of truthful address:

'Why do you take it then? Why do you do it? Your life is not like his [Winterbones]. Oh, Scatcherd, Scatcherd!' and the doctor prepared to pour out the flood of his eloquence in beseeching this singular man to abstain from his well-known poison.

'Is that all you know of human nature, doctor? Abstain. Can you abstain from breathing and live like a fish does under water?'

'But Nature has not ordered you to drink, Scatcherd.'

'Habit is second nature, man; and a stronger nature than the first. And why should I not drink? What else has the world given me for all that I have done for it? What other resource have I? What other gratification?'

'Oh, my God! Have you not unbounded wealth? Can you not do anything you wish" be anything you choose?'

'No', and the sick man shrieked with an energy that made him audible all through the house. 'I can do nothing that I would choose to do; be nothing that I would wish to be! What can I do? What can I be? What gratification can I have except the brandy bottle? If I go among gentlemen, can I talk to them? If they have antyhing to say about a railway, they will ask me a question: f they speak to me beyond that I must be dumb. If I go among my workmen, can they talk to me? No; I am their master, and a stern master. They bobb their heads and shake in their shoes when they see me. Where are my friends? Here!' said he, and he dragged out a bottle from under his very pillow. 'Where are my amusements? Here!' and he brandished the bottle almost in the doctor's face. 'Where i my own resource, my one gratification, my only comfort after all my toils? Here; doctor; here, here, here! ... (Houghton Mifflin Dr Thorne, ed. EBowen, Ch 10, pp. 112-13).

I wonder if social despair isn't a main cause of alcoholism. The talk over Sir Roger's son, over his wife, over the uses of money are also of the above quality.

The scene is notable for Trollope's up-to-date understanding of doctoring as a profession at that point: from about the middle of the 19th through the early 20th century the doctor's business was to diagnose and help humanely. Anything beyond that or a few mediments one had as an apothecary or dangerous heroic surgeries, there was nothing a doctor could do. All else was nonsense and fraud -- quackery in response to patients' demands for a cure.

We watch and hear Mary and Thorne over his tea late at night when he comes home from a long day's work. Now the doctor is facing his resolution to tell Scatcherd the truth. He is anxious, he feels bad for Mary because he cannot provide for her securely, especially once he has died. Who will marry her indeed? -- as she herself asked in an earlier dialogue in the garden. It is Mary's turn to speak what Thorne knows in his heart is true but cannot always remember as his fears and emotions weaken him:

'But if I were to die, what would you do then?' 'And if I were to die, what would you do? People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misforutnes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. You and I are bound together, uncle; and though you say these things to tease me, I know you do not wish to get rid of me'.

'Well, well, we shall win though, doubtless; if not in one way, then in another'.

'Win through! Of course we shall; who doubts our winning? but, uncle --'

''But, Mary?'


'You haven't got another cup of teas, have you?' (Ch11, p. 124).

Here is the resilience and hope of youth. Yet she's right: too many people are afraid to choose what they want now for fear of something happening later which may not. So they choose to do something they don't really want. The inconsequence of conversational tones is wonderfully caught throughout. Tired, full of real anxious feeling, a couple talking to one another. One thing I admire about all these conversations is their apparent lack of stylisation. The Warden and Barchester Towers were stylised throughout; dialogues were worked up to be epigrammatic, punning, have pizzazz. The result was entertainment, but not deeply-felt reality in the way of the above naturalism. Meandering is natural. Dr Thorne's quiet style is important to its mastery of reality.

I already talked about the 'Two Uncles' in my earlier post today contrasting Sir Roger Scatcherd with Augustus Melmotte. There are some minor but well-done moments leading up to it as Lady Scatcherd and Dr Thorne meet eye-to-eye, like old friends who know what the other is thinking. This kind of thing makes the reader feel we have real people in front of us, not just words on a page.

The scene of Sir Roger and Thorne and Lady Scatcherd and Thorne also links back to Chapter 10, and forward to the next Chapter, 14, Thorne and Gresham, then Thorne and Lady Arabella, and finally Thorne and Mary.

We are to compare Squire Gresham with Sir Roger and not necessarily in Gresham's favor at all. Gresham has been the far weaker man, and his weaknesses are presented as the result of vanity, foolish ambition and even spite. He kept the hounds partly to spite his wife -- although they gave him the only joy he knew for years. He should have known better than to try to run with the foxes (Whigs) and the hounds (Tories). He married out of caste arrogance, and what does he get? Sneers. We are made to feel for the man because he too understands fundamental decencies and what is humane just behavior, because he is not a total fool. On the other hand, note how Trollope is careful to show us the minute the Squire thinks he is going to get his debts paid for the moment, he becomes dismissive of his troubles and even Thorne:

And Mr Gresham, feeling that that difficulty was tied over for a time, and that the immediate pressure of little debts would be abated, stretched himelf on his easy chair as though he were quite comfortable; -- one may say almost elated.

How frequent it is that men on their road to ruin feel elation such as this! ... (Ch 14, p. 147).

The narrator goes on to remind us of all the trouble Dr Thorne has had securing this loan from Sir Roger, and tells us the doctor feels 'angry for what he had done when he saw how easily the squire adapted himself to this new loan' (p. 147). After all, it is Sir Roger's money that is supporting the Lady Arabella -- as later in the story, Sir Roger's son, Louis, will try to remind her dense ladyship.

The conversation moves on, as conversations do, to Mr Moffat's proposed marriage to Miss Augusta, after of course a considerable bribe, which bribe has occasioned the Squire's need for money. The two older men look at the letter, and as the doctor reads it, we are given his interpretation which shows how hypocritical and shameless is the demand. The squire, blind and obtuse as he is, is made uncomfortable:

'It may be all right', said the squire, 'but in my time gentelman were not used to write such letters to each other'.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

He did not know how far he would be justified in saying much, even to his friend, the squire, in dispraise of his son-in-law. (p. 148).

This letter-reading will lead into one of the closely-intertwined stories of this novel: the proposed match of Mr Moffat to Augusta Gresham, whom, with much money, he is prepared to accept partly because her uncle is an Earl De Courcy. It also gives Trollope a chance to show the doctor's sense once again:

The doctor stood stilent for a moment, and then he said, 'I am no a love-making man myself, but I think that if I wer emuch in love with a young lady I should not write such a letter as that to her father (p. 149).

Several paragraphs by the narrator take us back in time to Arabella's having offered to sell herself -- or, better yet, allow her father to buy Mr Moffat for her, because she has been taught, such is the Way of the World. This flashback (also thrown into dramatic narrative) leads onto the last and the most climactic of Dr Thorne's encounters, that with the Lady Arabella (pp. 150-57). If I am right, this last encounter ended the volume with Mary's exile, and a final vignette:

'Uncle, she said at last, 'what makes you so sombre? Shall I read to you?'

'No, not to-night, dearest'.

'Why, uncle; what is the matter?'

'Nothing, nothing.'

'Ah, but it is something, and you shall tell me'; and gtting up, she came over to his arm-chair, and leant over his shoulder.

He looked at her for a minute in silence, and then, getting up from his chair, passed his arm round her waist, and pressed her closely to his heart.

'My darling!' he said, almost convulsively.

'My best, own truest darling!' and Mary, looking up into his face, saw that the big tears were running down his cheeks.

But still he said nothing that night. (p. 158).

What indeed can Lady Arabella (or the Augustas of the world) know of the basis of such a relationship? It's certainly not position or money. Barchester Towers is that of Dr Fillgrave v Lady Scatcherd and her five-pound note and Dr Fillgrave v Dr Thorne. It's there for relief, to make us accept and enter into the deep-musing sentiments of the others; it underlines them by contrast for money and position and pride are at the heart of Dr Fillgrave's agon. It's quite a joke, Sir Roger's, the idea of putting the man under the pump. Har har. The question is, Would Fillgrave come back to murder Sir Roger or die of shame himself? Probably not. He'd get over it. He has too much self-complacency not to. Something neither Sir Roger, nor Dr Thorne, nor Mary nor Lady Scatcherd nor even the Squire have. The Aesop fable of the ox and the swelled toad is a jeering analogy, but it works in context. Even here though it is to be noted that Dr Thorne becomes a lightning rod for the scene in which he figures as a player on the side of the stage.

I'll save the climax which precedes the above and gives it its bite, Lady Arabella v Dr Thorne for tomorrow night.

Ellen Moody

I forgot to say I consider Dr Thorne to be one of Trollope's masterpieces. There is no tired repetition here, no hackwork.

To Trollope-l

October 14, 1999

RE: Dr Thorne, Ch 14: Dr Thorne and the Lady Arabella

This is the last of several long scenes in which Dr Thorne figures centrally, and it is told from his point of view. We could view it as a local battle of an on-going war and the climax to Volume I.

The local battle: Lady Arabella has tried to rid herself of this insufficiently respectful man before. The result was a perhaps quicker death for her four flowerets and real anxiety over her cancer.

Digression: I thought the word itself of interest: what does Trollope mean by it? does he understand by it malignant growth of cells which corrode the parts they enter. The word has an ancient history going back to chancre and canker. This book seems to have been written in some transitional time between the 18th century when (to us) unfamiliar general words were used for diseases in ways that make it hard for us to identify what these diseases were to the later 19th century when one begins to come across wording and descriptions that are familiar to us.

At any rate Dr Thorne and Lady Arabella have apparently long aligned themselves on two sides of faultline. On the one hand, everything is to give way to class, rank and money, except perhaps when death and disease threaten (Lady Arabella's point of view); on the other, while class, rank and money cannot be ignored, they are not to shape what we decide to do in important moments in our lives, unless we can't help it (Dr Thorne). Lady Arabella's is the more consistent, Dr Thorne's, the more humane attitude. One could say as figures they correspond to Mr Arabin and Mrs Proudie of Barchester Towers. Trollope is not often credited for using symbolism, but he does: characters, landscapes, houses, types of people come to stand for complexes of opposed ideas by the end of his novels frequently. That's why we can refer to a Dosett existence (Ayala's Angel).

So they are part of an on-going battle in which Dr Thorne has taken the squire's side -- insofar as the squire is capable of holding to it. Which is not very far as the Squire is caving in to Mr Moffat's demands. A stronger, smarter man would have sent Mr Moffat packing. We may note that Mr Moffat doesn't have the nerve to ask the Squire for this money face-to-face; he uses a letter as a mediator.

The second way to view the scene between Lady Arabella and Dr Thorne is as a climax to the whole volume. In a way it is. The early history of Mary Scatcherd and Henry Thorne intertwined with the early history of the Roger, Lady Scatcherd and Thomas Thorne; this provided a vivid anecdotal contrast to the story of the DeCourcys and Greshams. The former is a private and domestic tragedy; the latter is said to affect the whole county (considering the wealth and position of those involved). What happened then led to the education of Mary Thorne by the Doctor and his profession took him to Greshamsbury; it also led to the impoverishment of the Squire, and the need for Frank to marry money to 'save' the Greshams. At the same time changing times and strength of character makes Sir Roger the new rich and powerful man whom we know is dying and who means to leave his property first to his son, but after to his sister's oldest child. We can see in the last plot development a way for things to be reconciled, but of course Lady Arabella does not know what we and the narrator do. Meanwhile caste arrogance, fear, and stupidity, as well as resentment against Dr Thorne himself for his behavior towards her instigate Lady Arabella to demand that Mary never come to Greshamsbury any more. Mary is to be exiled.

The scene is very good. On the way there the Dr has talked to the Squire and also Beatrice, and we have seen how Augusta has been led to buy herself a husband. Perhaps what's best about the scene is how the Doctor and Lady Arabella are continually at odds, continually are talking past one another, but managing to say things that hurt badly. The Doctor is better at this than the Lady, as she well knows: 'the doctor, when hard pressed, was enver at fault: he could say the bitterest things in the quietest tone, and Lady Arabella had a great dread of these bitter things' (Houghton Mifflin, Dr Thorne, ed EBowen, Ch 14, p. 151). This sensitivity on Lady Arabella's part make her weaker (as she would see it), but it makes me like her much better. It shows she has a sense of how badly she behaves. Some of the misunderstanding is funny, as when the Doctor thinks Lady Arabella is literally worried about Frank's health. But for the most part Trollope works the scene up slowly with Lady Arabella beginning with ominous apologies so we know she is going to whip up a storm in the doctor. And she does. He is indignant at the insinuations cast at his niece's behavior. Understandably so. Remember she is a bastard; her uncle, Sir Roger, asks first if she is decently good. The prejudice against illegitimacy extended to thinking the child must be somehow bad. There is the same rich meandering quality to the dialogue that we see in all of them but Lady Scatcherd v Dr Fillgrave:

'Doctor, there have been love-makings, you may take my word for it; love-makings of a very, very, very advanced description ...

He sprang up another foot in height [recalling Dr Fillgrave here], and expanded equally in width as he flung back the insinuation.

'Who says so? Whoever says so, whoever speaks of Miss Thorne in such language, says what is not true. I will pledge my word -- '

'My dear doctor, my dear doctor, what took place was quite clearly heard; there was no mistake about it, indeed'.

'What took place? What was heard?'

'Well, then, I don't want you to know, to make more of it than can be helped. The thing must be stopped, that is all'.

'What thing? Speak out, Lady Arabella ... ' (p. 154-55).

The tones and movement are so real. I liked Dr Thorne's 'savagery' towards the end, and of course his strong determination not to go anywhere his niece is not wanted. He moves away muttering the word 'allurements'. It is large of him to agree to come as a doctor still; a physician was not that respected a figure. He did take a fee (pace Dr Fillgrave's attempts to hide this sad fact of life).

On coming away, Dr Thorne meets Beatrice who says she will be 'savage' if Mary does not come to visit her tomorrow, but the savagery is rightly Dr Thorne's, and his appeal to the ignorant Beatrice not to blame Mary is touching.

Chapter 15 takes us to another part of the county. We leave Tory and East Barsetshire for Whig and West Barsetshire, Greshamsbury for De Courcy Castle. When Frank returns he will find Mary gone from his sight. The doctor cries for her because it's not fair; why should she have to run away? and he be without her when she goes a-visiting. The question is explicitly put to us more than once.

Ellen Moody

Pat Maroney had joined us by this time:

From: pmaroney@email.unc.edu (Patricia Maroney)

Two things have always bothered me about Dr. Thorne and maybe someone has some insights that I don't. One, how can he talk of Lady Arabella having cancer, and then have her go on and on without really appearing to be ill? Two, how is it possible that no one, especially Roger s. ever questioned who this niece was? Roger knew many years back that Dr. T. had only one brother. And to name her Mary! This would be like Esther's aunt naming her Honoria and then never expecting anyone to make a connection between her and her mother. Any thougts? Did people perhaps assume Mary was an illegitmate child of Dr. Thorne's ? Oh- a third thing -- why is Mary not considered a "cousin of the Thornes of Ullathorne?" (which she is) -is her cousinship dependent on legimate birth? Thanks. Pat

To which Dagny replied:

Re: Mary's Name and Illegitimacy

I don't know, but I think that Mary was probably a fairly common name at that time, so that in itself would not arouse as much suspicion as a less common name. And then too, niece might have had a looser connotation than just the actual niece/uncle relationship. Much as with "cousins" the relationship would have a broader meaning in general useage. So many years had passed that I doubt Roger gave the matter much thought. It seems to me that his wife would have been more apt to wonder than Roger himself, women often being more concerned with family relationships.

You might have a point though in that many locals may have wondered if it was an illegitimate child of the Doctor's. Now that you mention it, I would be surprised if no one had wondered about that.


To Trollope-l October 15, 1999

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 10-14: Mary Thorne & Lady Arabella's Illness

I'm not "giving anything away" if I say that I remember later in the book rumors fly about that Mary Thorne is the doctor's illegimate daughter. If we use Austen's S&S as an analogy where an older man, Colonel Brandon, adopts the illegitimate daughter of a cousin, we find that several of the characters assume the girl is his illegitimate daughter. As Dagny says, Mary is a common name. Thorne did send his niece away so the scandal could be forgotten, though I seem to remember that (later) Mary is said to resemble her mother. Perhaps it is a convention. I don't find the apparent forgetfulness or silence improbable: when I was young, and in high school girls got pregnant, they would go away for a while, return, and nothing much would be said.

I don't know why Lady Arabella does not seem much sicker. I too have wondered how the word 'cancer' was used. Perhaps it was used for some other female complaint than what we think of as cancer? There is some wording which suggests to me that Dr Thorne was acting has Lady Arabella's gynecologist. It is always such a puzzle to try to understand descriptions and labels of illness before the early 20th century.

Ellen Moody

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 11 January 2003