Lady Arabella and Mr Oriel, Interesting "Minor" Characters; Dr Thorne as Practitioner; The Depiction of Sir Louis's Alcoholism; Mary as Tabooed Heroine; Internal Conflicts (between Dr Thorne and Roger Scatcherd over Mary; within Dr Thorne); Mr Gazebee replaces Mr Moffat; The World of the Servants (Downstairs)

To Trollope-l

November 14, 1999

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: Lady Arabella & Mr Oriel

We have an embarrassment of riches this week. Each chapter seems to warrant separate commentary or questions. This posting will just be on Chapters 31 and 32.

Chapter 31: Here I have a question which no one may be able to answer. Yet I ask it in hope someone will. I know that when we were reading _Bleak House_ we had a couple of people on our list interested in the dramatisation of illness in Victorian novels. What do others surmise Lady Arabella is suffering from? I know Trollope uses the word 'cancer' early in the book, and also know that by the end of the 18th century, the etiology of cancer was so far understood that people identified it with hard growths in someone's body. Fanny Burney (famously) had a masectomy (without anaesthesia, everyone) for breast cancer. So physicians had understood the importance in some cases of removing the growth.

Yet Trollope's description of Lady Arabella does not sound like cancer -- I have read descriptions of cancer in 18th century novels. We are usually told the person is very thin, there's an indication of pain, weakness, and some hint of growths. In Lady Arabella's case there are also continual hints that her problem has something to do with her womanliness. She was under Dr Thorne's hands, his care . She is old enough to have gone into menopause. We are told of discomfort and fear, and symptoms which are alarming but which are not described.

I know how difficult it is to pinpoint these things and in two other novels where Trollope describes sickness he is evasive and euphemistic where he need not have been: the crippled state of Mary Belton in The Belton Estate is never really described in any exact way; if one did not know some of the vague symptoms which are described in Marion Fay and that TB was by some still thought inheritable, one would be puzzled as to what Marion has. Trollope seems to avoid the word 'consumption' with all his might.

This is a novel about a doctor and I am wondering if the Victorian reader would have found enough clues in the vague buzz words Trollope uses which escape us. Maybe they would have felt more sympathy for Lady Arabella. Certainly in the brief dialogues between the Squire and the Lady over her illness we see a rare glimpse of tenderness between these two long married people..

Chapter 32: The Scarlet Lady has come up. This was a familiar phrase to Elizabethans: the Whore of Babylon and other lurid sexually-associated phrases were common as synonyms for the Roman Catholic Church. Spenser's wicked lady, Duessa, is also the Whore of Babylon, and is dressed in scarlet.

Sig pointed out how we find in this chapter (and many others in Trollope) with no difficulty many sentences which were we to think this novel written in 1999 would be very offensive or make us uncomfortable. We historicise when we read -- automatically. Thus when Mr Oriel is attracted to High Church Toryism which was also called Puseyism and Tractarianism, Trollope writes: 'It was not in him to change his very sleek black coat for a Capuchin's filthy cassock, nor his pleasant parsonage for some dirty hole in Rome' (Penguin Dr Thorne, ed RRendell, Ch 32, p. 373). We might ask why we are not alerted to feel uncomfortable by such a sentence and are alerted by anti-semitic language or the language of caste arrogance: perhaps because these things still cause harm to us or have caused such terrible havoc in our century while prejudice against the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion have not led to any pogroms, at least not as of this evening. (Not that an Irish Catholic reader reading this sentence might not intuitively feel a start of askance at this Protestant Englishman whose nation exploited and ravaged Ireland so brutally from the time of Raleigh through to the late 19th century).

Historicise. Yes. What's interesting about this chapter -- and it's well done -- is it is the one chapter in the whole book which brings us back to a central issue of Barchester Towers. The quarrel between high and low church. Both The Warden and Barchester Towers are also strongly political fables, with the manifestation of man's political behavior in church politics.

The Warden presents us with the dilemma of the church having taken over the income and property of a man who left these long ago to support some poor working men; the world has changed utterly, and time has put the bulk of the income into the clerical officer's hands. A good man is in the office; what should he do when he comes to the conclusion he has not the right to the income? Support the church? But that's not what the money was intended to do.

Barchester Towers turns the prism a little and we watch the spectacle of two parties within the church fighting for prestige, power, money in the context of changing religious beliefs. Trollope comes down squarely against religious fundamentalism as hypocritical and tyrannical. Less sympathetically (to me at any rate), he associates low church religion with people who are not upper class; they are vulgar, grasping, tasteless, and condemns fundamentalism from this point of view.

Both books seriously go into these issues even if we may not agree with Trollope's stance or like his use of his characters in the books. The chapter, 'Mr Oriel' is more playful. It buys into the same world view that we find in Barchester Towers but does not dramatise the issues or delve the religious basis of choosing spare low church behavior or baroque high church behavior. Instead he sees Mr Oriel's original apparent bent not to court any woman in particular, and therefore to remain unmarried sheerly from the point of view of the unmarried young women and their mothers in Barsetshire. This is fitting for Dr Thorne is not a novel about religion or church politics, but instead a rich depiction of a rural community in all its dimensions. Now we get the religious aspect brought in picturesquely and for comedy.

The man's name is itself quietly allegorical, suggestive in the manner of Thorne (a thorn in the De Courcy side). An oriel window is the kind of window one sees in fancy churches. The Concise Oxford defines it as 'a large windowed polygonal recess built out ususally from upper storey and supported from the ground or on corbels'.

It's interesting to note that although Trollope begins with a sneer at the Roman Catholic church, in fact the beauty and redolence of the scenes comes from his finding a real allurement in the aworldly aspect of Mr Oriel's faithful dawn worship (Ch 32, pp. 372-74). The narrator slyly lets us know that in fact Mr Oriel doesn't want anyone in the church with him; he doesn't expect it (p. 375). Much better to find peace alone. There's also the quiet humour in showing us how he did tire of it, and as Miss Gushing's ardour for such shared rituals waxed hot, so his zeal waxed cool (Ch 32, p. 375), especially when he got to know Beatrice.

Is it a coincidence that Trollope has chosen a name for the lady of Mr Oriel which alludes to Catholicism through its relationship with Dante. Trollope himself eventually had a niece born in Italy called Beatrice (his brother's daughter by a very wealthy Italianate wife later on). Bice. The name is Anglicised in this novel as Trichy, but its quiet associations are there. Or maybe this is just a happy instinct on Trollope's part.

Mr Oriel's sister, Patience is also well named -- as a contrast to Mary who is not patient, not bending, fierce in her passions and hurt.

The chapter 'Mr Oriel' is experienced as a quiet interlude in the progress of a novel whose richness is in its portrayal of a community in all its aspects -- idealised no doubt, from an upper class point of view no doubt. Its very insouciance reminds me of Dickens in that it's not planned ahead. It fits the lack of stylisation in the book.

Sickness, religion, the need of genteel women to have as many genteel males available as possible and (in Chs 34-35), a return to a depiction of' alcoholism. Some of the realities of this book; even if presented through softened lens, they are there.

Ellen Moody

Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: Lady Arabella & Mr Oriel

From: "Judy Warner"

I always wonder what the doctors are doing or giving the patient--since we've been led to believe that they didn't really have cures for much. Were some doctor's pain killers more effective and/or congenial than others? Were they still bleeding people at this time? Or was it a doctor's bedside manner that was more effective? Could they really do anything when they attend the patient for days? What made Dr. Thorne more effective than Fillgrave?

Judy Warner

To Trollope-l

November 16, 1999

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: Dr Thorne as Practitioner; The Depiction of Sir Louis's Alcoholism

Like Judy I find myself wondering what it is that Dr Thorne does to Lady Arabella that is so efficacious. We are not told anything about the medications he prepares as an apothecary. There is always this reference to Dr Thorne's hands. I don't mean this salaciously. What we have to remember was before the advent of the science of medicine -- or in its earliest infantine stages -- touching the patient, soothing, the humane side of art of medicine was all doctors had. We have to imagine the doctors' head leaning against the patients' chest listening to the heart -- very close up. No stethoscope as yet. Dr Thorne is neither bleeding nor using emetics on his patients. He is watching over the course of the disease and giving common sense advice based on watching, and close observation. A good deal was known about the human system in a way: that's why we get the comments on Sir Roger's skin colour. So Dr Thorne is in the vanguard.

Yet there is vagueness and confusion. The term 'delirium tremens' may be overused here. On Victoria a while back someone said the term was a kind of buzz word for a variety of conditions resulting from alcoholism. I really get the feeling that what's wrong with Lady Arabella has to do with her being a woman and having had so many children. A dropt womb? Something to do with menopause?

Teally to get what we are supposed to pick up from the hints we would need to read a good history of medicine in the period.

Still the depiction of Sir Roger's and now Sir Louis' heavy drinking is very effective. Alcoholism is a kind of disease; it is a psychological and chemical addiction which changes the system. The narrator dramatises the first scenes of Louis in Dr Thorne's house so we can feel how in Dr Thorne's drawing and dining rooms, it is an embarrassment and humiliation even for Sir Louis himself -- though he is made just the dense or thick-skinned sort to forget by having yet another drink. The scene where he knocks over the water jug is perfect.

The second set of scenes at Greshambury Park are shaped by Dr Thorne's perspective. (He is again the eye through which we are made to feel much of the action.) Dr Thorne cannot bear to endure the mortification of being with the man at someone else's house. However, the later scene at dinner and then the men drinking afterwards is also the result of Trollope also depicting Louis as someone who is wholly without tact, preening when he ought not to, spiteful and almost miraculously unaware of the impression he is making on others.

As I read it I compared it to a scene in The Rise of Silas Lapham, where Wm Dean Howells depicts his hero getting drunk because he hardly ever touches the stuff and making an absolute ass of himself. The scene there is based on something that actually happened to Mark Twain when first he went out in the world of the Brahmins of Boston. Howells registers the loss of dignity and inner self-laceration of Silas; of course Silas is not an alcoholic, rather someone who normally sees such expensive liquor just flowing. I preferred Howells' compassion and identification, but the way Trollope presents Sir Louis fits the needs of his plot and themes of his book -- as in, don't get above your place, except if you are Mary Thorne who somehow is innately a lady. It is never explained how this came to be, except perhaps that ancestry of the Thornes of which the doctor is proud and perhaps chance (the throw of the genes).

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: Dr Thorne as Practitioner; The Depiction of Sir Louis's Alcoholism

From: (Patricia Maroney)

A doctor gave one of the presentations at the Oct. JASNA AGM and I wish I had asked him about Dr. Thorne. He did say that he had great respect for the doctors of JA's time from reading the medical books of the time. He said they were enormously observant (as Ellen remarks of our doctor T.) and the books are full of information. But this doesn't answer most of Ellen's or Judy's concerns. Incidentally, speaking of the AGM, one person did mention Trollope once, something about a quote from Henry James in which he describes one of Trollope's male characters as "neither handsome nor clever nor rich," obvously echoing the opening line of Emma. I asked the woman afterwards what character he was referring to and she said someone in He Knew He Was Right. Is anyone familiar with this, or exactly who it was. I assumed when she said that that she was referring to Trevelyan, but now am not sure; wasn't he quite well off at least financially? Thanks. Pat

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: A Tabooed Heroine

One of the reasons I like this idealised chaste heroine of Trollopes is she is the underdog throughout most of the novel. As we are told early in this week's chapters, she is during the time Frank is away 'tabooed from all society' (Penguin Dr Thorne, ed RRendell, Ch 31, p. 364). And while Trollope is careful never to allow her to say anything that could be construed as actually against hierarchy, rank, and all the enforcing mechanisms of her society of these cultural sacred cows, neither does she kiss the whip. She doesn't fawn; she doesn't weep; she is not anxious to please. Even better, she shows to others, like Beatrice, just wherein they really treat her as in effect not equal to them, for all their pretenses. I think of a book by Marcia Millman on American families and society: Warm Hearts and Cold Cash. I leave it to everyone's imagination which is in charge. Add 'Rank' to Cash and you have the reality that Mary refuses to allow Beatrice to pretend isn't there when they meet. No. She won't go to the wedding. Why should she? To make Beatrice feel better? How about her? It puts me in mind of the early part of the book where Mary put Beatrice's foot on her neck. In fun of course. Natch.

Mary Thorne is one of the most attractive of Trollope's conventional heroines because he hasn't done the type before and does it so thoroughly. Again there is no stylisation, no patterning. The feel is of something fresh. With Lily Dale he is still exploring his heroines in depth, with detail, seriously, and without pandering. This is true in the early Palliser series too. It's in the later books he begins to throw outlines at us, and banks on our belief in cant to fill out the figure which is essentially sentimental -- one based on an avoidance of the real burdens of life, even of young girls. Yes even young middle class girls have more problems than no appetite for minced veal.

This week too we have Frank come back, and are given one of those passages where we are told how Miss Dunstable and her letters kept him loyal to Mary. The scene of the couples walking in the garden recalled the early scenes in the book during Frank's party in its ability to evoke detailed picturesque reality and the vexations of life. Et in Arcadia Ego. Even in Arcadia is debt, bankruptcy, having to marry for money, people uncomfortable, bumping into one another, and a tabooed heroine.


Ellen Moody

Marcella had to leave the list because she left the job she was at where she had an Internet connection. I place this posting of hers here although it could come earlier; it refers back to the conflict between Thorne and Scatcherd over who should have possession of Mary; but it also meditates Mary's status. She was at the time responding to the Journal-Essays by Isobel, my daughter, which I put onto the list in 1998.

Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 09:23:25 +0000 From: Marcella McCarthy Subject: TROL Dr. Thorne: Internal Conflicts

I agree with all that Ellen says about the Mary/Roger Scatcherd situation. I think that there are other factors operating as well. One is simply that Dr. Thorne is jealous of anyone staking a claim on Mary. Think of how independent he insists on being in the matter of paying for her education and "sharing" tutors. He does not want her to be obliged to anyone. The Scatcherd situation is a stage further. Having taken Mary in in at a time when no-one else saw her true value, now that she is wanted by other people he is reluctant to share her with anyone, even though the risk of her preferring the Scatcherds is low. This is one of the utterly naturalistic touches in Trollope. Like an adoptive parent finding out that their child's natural relations were rich and famous, and anxious to make contact (shades of the "Dodi baby"!); there is a completely realistic flinching away from this rather crude intrusion into the adoptive relationship.

Another thread in this exchange is that Thorne is eager to keep Mary and himself away from the temptations and contaminations of money. He has told Scatcherd rather reluctantly about her existence, and he is bound to refuse the money just because Scatcherd might think (especially given his own attitude towards money, ie that anyone can be bought) that this was a factor in his disclosure of her identity. This is not really so much about Mary as it is about Thorne's own relationship with Scatcherd. It is a slightly ritualised act of gentlemanliness. Thorne has told Scatcherd of the relationship, but he cannot have it suspected that he did so with an eye to aggrandisement. Scatcherd simply does not understand this. A good comparison is the calling-in of the other doctor, and the treatment he gets. Scatcherd is eager to use the power of money to control people, and Thorne does not want Mary even implicitly involved in this.

Another factor, I think, has to do with one of the major themes in the book, which is the importance of good birth--what makes a gentleman or a lady, in Trollope's eyes (Mrs. Scatcherd is a lady in these terms). As far as Dr. Thorne is concerned, Mary's superiority stems from what she is in herself. This is how he wants other people to value her. His reaction to the central love-story is complicated by this; he will not submit to the view that her birth makes her an unacceptable wife for a gentleman. Therefore, just as no-one has a right to disregard her on the grounds of her birth, so no-one should woo her on those grounds either.


Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: Mr Gazebee replaces Mr Moffat

Trollope is nervy. Almost without our noticing it, he slips in two new male characters. He gets away with the first new character by the old technique of telling us squarely what he is doing. This works to deflect attention and criticism. Then he amuses us with Mr Oriel and brings back some significant themes about the conflict between the low church fundamentalists and high church ritualists which we had had in _Barchester Towers_.

Mr Oriel is needed for Beatrice.

That leaves Augusta. So Mr Gazebee is brought in, but, as with Mr Oriel, Trollope shows the intensity of a real literary gift and flexible language and tact by using the character is many ways at once. Gazebee connects to the theme of the Squire's impotence: Trollope wants us to understand the Squire is to blame for a good deal of what happened to him; he is a weak man. Yet he wants us to sympathise. We see this when Gazebee is introduced as someone who can handle Sir Louis's demands much more cleverly than Mr Yates Umbleby. Two great names: Gazebee and Umbleby. Trollope has great fun with the firm's pompous playing with names too. Dickensian that. But not our narrator's cleverly rhetorically calculated concession:

'There may be those who will say that the squire had brought them [Sir Louis's demands] on himself, by running into debt; and so, doubtless, he had; but it was not the less true that the baronet's interference was unnecesary, vexatious, and one might almost say, malicious' (Penguin Dr Thorne, ed RRendell, Ch 34, p. 396).

Lady Arabella's interfering ways, Gazebee's snobbery, and Augusta's sudden alert attentiveness to Gazebee's 'hundred little ways' of making himself agreeable are a compound of dramatic elements which highlight the book's evolving themes and carry the plot further. That Trollope was aware of what he would do with Gazebee vis-a-vis the arrogant deceit of Lady Amelia and the gullibility of Augusta can be seen in the very moment of introduction too:

'The Lady Amelia smiled in her own peculiarly aristocratic way, shrugged her shoulders slightly, and said, 'that Mr Mortimer Gazebee was a very good sort of person, very'. Poor Augusta felt herself snubbed, thinking perhaps of the tailor's son; but as there was never any appeal against the Lady Amelia, she said nothing more at that moment in favour of Mr Gazebee' (Ch 34, p. 396)

Always watch out for people who say of others they are 'a good sort of person'. Damning with faint praise doesn't capture the insinuations of some indefinable stigma and unacceptability sufficiently.

Trollope's ability to use everything in a novel in multiple ways is something we also find in Austen.

Ellen Moody

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 31-35: The World of the Servants (Downstairs)

This week's chapters also give us a glimpse of the life of Dr Thorne's servants. While I think Trollope has other scenes in other of his novels, where we go downstairs and see parallel happenings in the servants' lives to the lives of the mistresses and masters, I cannot now think of any off-hand. In the Irish novels we have many scenes in the lives of the lower orders; however, they are depicted for their own sakes, as major players and not servants.

Can anyone else can think of another novel where we have a vignette similar to that suggested occurs between Bridget, Thomas, Janet, and Sir Louis's man, Joe? Comic or serious ones?

I was glad to see Joe get a bit of comeuppance, except that I thought Trollope was a little cavalier about the breaking of a man's nose by a rolling pin. Trollope seems to expect we will simply laugh, not think about how ugly he must now be or how much pain he would have had. I was never much for laughing at a man slipping on a banana.

We are also supposed to find very funny how Bridget thinks she is so helpless, but is a little King Kong or Tarzan or Wrestler on her own. Trollope would not quite present a lady this way: Eleanor is allowed to slap, not punch and take hard objects to Slope. Again we see the perspective of class operating in Trollope's expectations of what we will find funny. We are supposed to find servants qua servants funny, not take them seriously as human beings the way we are to take the characters upstairs. Joe is presented as slime, but Bridget is a clown.

There are amusing lines where an irony plays over the servants' emotions towards one another, such as Bridget retelling to Thomas what happened and his admiration of her valour (even there there is this condescension).

Trollope does improve on many 19th century English authors who never mention the servants at all. Or others who present them as simply tedious. They are part of the action. Sir Louis certainly doesn't regard them with any respect -- and Dr Thorne does. Dr Thorne is the saving grace, the central figure of honour in this book; around him we find a few others, Mary, Frank, Miss Dunstable; then there are a few treated with respect, Sir Roger and occasionally with poignancy his wife; a few with sympathy, the Squire. However, the comedy itself is often shot through with class condescension.

Right around the same time, Trollope writes two books where this is not true at all: The Three Clerks and The Bertrams is without this strain or, to use a better word, stain. I wonder if this caste view of the servants has anything to do with the Barsetshire point of view.

Ellen Moody

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