The Definition of Duty; : Having It Both Ways; The Best Moment in the Book Led Into by Mary's Delayed Letter: Plangency; Final Assessments?; In the Sutherland Style: Why does no one ask who is Sir Roger Scatcherd's heir?; Anthony Trollope's _Dr Thorne_: A Critique and Explanation of Sutherland's Methodology in his "Can Jane Eyre, Was Heathcliffe and Who Told" Books.

To Trollope-l

Subject: [trollope-l] Dr Thorne, Ch 47: The Definition of Duty

December 3, 1999 From: Ellen Moody

For the opening sentence of Trollope's final paragraph we have yet repeat of the idea ironically echoed throughout the book. Frank must marry money. Why? As the other characters in his family see it, he owes it to them. Kant tells us that use of owe finds its synonym in the word duty: 'And thus after all did Frank perform his great duty; he did marry money ... '

As used by Trollope, the word duty reveals its more explicit meaning in the opening words of Ambrose Bierce from his famous Dictionary where he defines 'duty' as 'that which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire ...'

Ellen Moody

December 5, 1999

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 44-47: Having It Both Ways
The Best Moment in the Book Led Into by Mary's Delayed Letter: Plangency

If a novel may be likened to a musical composition, I offer up the idea that in the last four chapters of Dr Thorne Trollope hits just the right notes to keep us going and get up from our books gratified by a deeply-felt yet comic experience. He also gives us an apparently fully romantic ending which is at the same time undercut ironically and made acceptable to the prudent by pouring money into Frank and Mary's laps. I call this having it both ways.

For a start, consider his difficulties: we know how it's going to end. He's not fooling us with Dr Thorne's anxiety over whether Mary will be recognised or not -- nor does he really mean to. Instead he exploits the fictional stance of the comic storyteller by confiding in us his determination not to be bullied by those who say he and other novelists ought to hire a barrister (Penguin Dr Thorne, introd. RRendell, Ch 45, pp. 525-26). This distracts us from the predetermined felicity, at the same time as telling us this is a fiction. We are also not worried that Frank will be persuaded away from Mary either by his mother or Harry Baker. Here Trollope carries us along by getting us deeply involved in the debate itself, and what that provides is allowing us to hear idealism affirmed while we suspect that Frank will not give up anything that matters since Mary is going to inherit Sir Roger's fortune. A key line by Frank resounds healthily in our hearts: '"Mother, I will not sell myself for what you call my position" (Ch 44, p. 512). We are delighted to sneer at Lady Arabella's notion that hard work which offers independence is demeaning:

A profession -- hard work, as the doctor, or as an engineer -- would, according to her ideas, degrade him; cause him to sink below his proper position; but to dangle at a foreign court, to make small talk at the evening parties of a lady ambassadress, and occasionally, perhaps, to write demi- official notes containing demi-official tittle-tattle; this would be in proper accordance with the high honour of a Gresham of Greshamsbury (Ch 44, p. 511).

The letter is very useful in this chapter. It puts our heroine into deep emotional suspense. And we have been made to identify with her. We may be having fun laughing at Slow and Bideawhile, but Mary doesn't know all is going to end happily for her -- and Trollope keeps reminding us of this:

And in the meantime, she was waiting with sore heart for his answer to that letter which was lying, and was still to lie for so many hours, in the safe protection of the Silverbridge postmistress (Ch 44, p. 514).

If I were to put in my finger on the most moving moment of the book, the one that places it high in achievement among Trollope's books, it would be the sentence with which the penultimate chapter ends:

'"Oh Frank; my own Frank! we shall never be separated now"' (Ch 46, p. 543).

The plangency of this has been prepared for for some 543 pages. It is not the only moment of remarkable depth: there are the many scenes between Sir Roger and Dr Thorne, the scene between Dr Thorne and Lady Scatcherd when Sir Roger and Sir Louis have died. There are the scattered keenly ironical dramatic utterances of Miss Dunstable. Keen irony comes from caustic anger. However, the plot line culminates on Mary's sudden rush of emotion in response ot the silent Frank at the window.

There are no notes equal to these in Barchester Towers. Mr Harding's long day in London is as good, but it works through cumulative effect; there is no single instance to point to. Trollope could have left off the wedding, and he spared us the wedding dress. The first mattered to Lady Arabella, the second to Lady De Courcy. I loved all the references to how the Lady Amelia separated herself off from this declination of caring about blood and rank. It's a good instance of how important it is to Trollope's technique to have told us what is to happen in future. Such statement gain their edge because unlike Augusta Gresham, we are not puzzled by all extra time the Lady Amelia condescends to share with Mr Gazebee.

In these chapters recall Austen's novels once again. Squire Gresham and Lady Arabella are again similar to Mr and Mrs Bennet of P&P. When the Lady Arabella has to make an absolute about-face and marvel over the very individual she most dreaded as wife for Frank and daughter-in-law for herself, her volte-face recalls that of Mrs Bennet. The difference is that Austen keeps to farce; by having endowed the Lady Arabella with more vulnerability and specificity in her language, more sensibility as it were, the turn-around is less funny and abrupt, but not the less effective. Squire Gresham's unwillingness to go to London (his swimming resolutely within his own pond) reminded me of Mr Bennet retiring to his library.

Is all well that ends well for our heroine and two heroes?

Re: Dr Thorne, Chs 44-47: Assessments?

And how many people feel this book is one of Trollope's great successes? I feel this. I attribute my feeling to the many strong dramatic scenes that fill chapter after chapter, each of which presents us with an intimate encounter between one or more strongly delineated characters whose conversation is allowed to meander and yet fit into a pattern. That's for structure and aesthetics. I attribute my feeling also to theme and content. I continue to baulk at the presentation of Sir Louis, though it is softened at the edges by an intense humanism, a sympathy for Sir Louis as a misfit and alcoholic. But for this a deep humanity, a compassion, an amused calm understanding of the real cruelties of people towards one another in their sheer indifference and failures of sympathetic imagination informs this book. I like it much better than Barchester Towers.

If not at the inception, during the writing of Dr Thorne, Trollope understood he was writing a cycle of novels derived from an imagined landscape he had on the first page of The Warden called Barsethsire. Do others think Dr Thorne fits into Barsetshire? In spite of Hugh L. Hennedy's Unity in Barsetshire which I like for its essays on the individual books, I am not sure Barsetshire is so very unified. Maybe all 12 books (meaning The Warden through to The Duke's Children) and then as a _roman fleuve_ in the manner of Balzac? There is no ecclesiastical satire in Dr Thorne. We will not meet Frank Gresham as an individual again until The Prime Minster. It may be argued that Framley Parsonage looks as much forward to the Palliser books as it does to The Small House, which like Dr Thorne takes us to a new group of characters. Is the landscape and its mood enough to unify the six books?

Does Dr Thorne deepen the depiction of Barsetshire through its presentation of class & sex and so many daily realities in a realistic, humane way at length?


Beth J. answered:

"2/3 of the way through Dr. Thorne, perhaps a little further, but in the end found myself unable to finish it.

There were interesting things about it, for example the look into the electoral process, along with Trollope's wry views of "corruption" within it.

But thus far into the book, and despite Trollope's saying that Dr. Thorne was to be the "hero," I haven't found enough regarding the good doctor to keep me interested in his story. The focus seems to be much more on Frank Gresham and Mary Thorne and the impediments to their love, and since I assumed that Louis would die and Mary would get the fortune, thus eliminating the impediment to F&M getting married, I couldn't find much to keep me interested in their story. Their being separated for (my guess) over half of the book made it difficult to stay involved with them, also.

What made me enjoy The Warden and BT so much was the moral dilemmas of Dr. Harding and the difficulties he feels as he gets older. I think the characters are well-depicted in Dr. Thorne. They aren't drawn in such broad strokes as Mrs. Proudie and Mr. (Dr.?) Slope are in BT. Perhaps it's that the central dilemmas of the book, being so solidly founded in money and family pride, don't resonate with me as well as Dr. Harding's in the other two books. (I did enjoy the war between Lady Arabella and Dr. Thorne!) The most interesting character to me was Miss Dunstable, who has great clarity of mind. But she doesn't have a large role in the parts of the book I've read.

I'll search through the onelist archives to see if I can gain some insights that I might've missed, that would make me turn back and finish Dr. Thorne. In the meantime, on to Framley Parsonage. :)

Beth J.

To Victoria

December 7, 1999

Re: Why does no one ask who is Sir Roger Scatcherd's heir? Anthony Trollope, Dr Thorne

On Trollope-l we have just finished reading Dr Thorne and a little while before The Mayor of Casterbridge together, and someone brought up the Sutherland approach to the latter book in the essay where Sutherland asks and answers the question, 'Why are there no public conveniences in The Mayor of Casterbridge?'. Well for fun and enlightenment I thought I would ask a similarly central and literal question of Dr Thorne and see what I could find out about this book or Trollope's method.

So, in Anthony Trollope's Dr Thorne, why does no one ask who is Sir Roger Scatcherd's heir? After all, they ought to ask. What's more, they could have and nearly do suspect. We are told more than once that Squire Gresham knows the whole story of Mary's birth. He knows that Mary Thorne ought to be called Mary Scatcherd. By custom the bastard child is given the mother's name. He knows she is Sir Roger Scatcherd's niece. He and Dr Thorne discuss it several times; Frank is told the whole story. At one point in the middle of the book memories of Mary Scatcherd and Henry Thorne come flooding back to Lady Scatcherd; she realises Mary's relationship to herself and Sir Roger. But her mind hurries away fom a full contemplation of what this could mean. She grows nervous, and then doesn't want to question Mary, fears she might hurt the girl, reveal something or other she ought not to reveal - at least as yet.

It will be said, Lady Scatcherd's behavior is beautifully persuasive. She is just the type of character who would hurry away from surmises and supposes. Still when at the close of the book, Dr Thorne tells her that Mary is Sir Roger's heir and enormously wealthy, tells her, she is taken aback only for a moment. Trollope then cunningly draws our minds away from wondering why she didn't think about this before, by telling us how she dwelt on her satisfaction to think that her darling Frank will now be the heir, how she didn't worry about Mary, but yearned for the money to go to Frank. This piece of egregious dismissal of her own son, Sir Louis who has just died and over whose death she was striken with grief is, I suggest, put in there to distract from thinking to ourselves, why did this woman not busy her mind about Mary and Sir Louis before? She could have worked out they were cousins. We are told at one point Sir Louis thinks to himself he has a cousin who will inherit from him if he should die from his alcoholism. (Sir Louis has the Victorian alcoholic character's affliction of delirium tremens.) I agree that Frank does not think about the money or the will or the land or Mary's parentage in a thorough adult way because it is out of characer for his still boyish, idealistic and somewhat scattered mind to leap to this glimpse of a way out of his predicament. At the end of the novel in the midst of the coming crash, he still is going about checking on his horses.

But Frank's father, the squire? He is sitting around brooding about nothing else all novel through. Even more jarring is Dr Thorne's behavior. Suddenly he is very mysterious. Throughout his life, Mary says, he has hated mystery. He is a Mr Knightley in that. Mary Thorne says it is out of character for him to be skulking about for all the world as if this were a novel by Mrs Radcliffe. So she asks. What is it all about. We are to accept that she accepts Dr Thorne's refusal to answer her. She has been trained to accept his word, not to rebel against him, has no one else, loves and trusts her uncle-father. In any case, she is wrapped up in dreams of Frank, worrying over a letter she sent him, and hurt over her own humiliation before the world over the way Lady Arabella has treated her.

It will be said but the Squire cannot know what is in Sir Roger's will. The Squire cannot know Sir Roger left the estate to the eldest child of his sister, Mary Scatcherd. True. But then all the more reason to ask who is the heir? Instead the mystery is thrown into Dr Thorne's behavior.

More, why does the Squire not suspect? It will be said the dawn light of the possibilities for Mary do not come home to Dr Thorne until Sir Roger tells Dr Thorne about the clause in his will in which he leaves his estate ot the eldest child of his sister. Then of course Dr Thorne thinks at length about Mary's probable wealth, how she can solve all the problems of the book, exults just a bit at the irony of it all. Is happy to think of the implicit revenge here. However, Dr Thorne does brood about Mary's position several times before Sir Roger reveals what the clause in the will says. He thinks about the irony of whose relative she is. Would not the Squire have more cause to think about it? Would not he at least ask? He sends Frank to London after Sir Louis dies to find out about the estate .rank goes to London and of course never asks. Here Trollope distracts our attention from the probable wondering that the Squire would have thought about as he stayed hom by making a joke of the Squire's unwillingness to go to London. The Squire is like a duck that resolutely stays in its own pond.

There is a gap here. There is contrivance. We are to accept that no one asks who is the heir. We are to accept that those in the know do not put two and two together to make four. The Squire is not a fool. He at least ought to have connected Dr Thorne's extreme busyness, refusal to make any pronouncements about the engagement, mysterious comments about how it will all turn out, together. There is a remarkable scene where the Squire confronts Thorne, and Thorne asks him if he will mind Mary's lack of legitimacy if circumstances should turn out to be such that a marriage will be to Frank's advantage. The word circumstances is not attached to the noun, Mary, but a connection is clearly implied. Why does the Squire not ask? Why do we not hear, 'Oh Thorne ... my God, man, do you mean to suggest ... ?'

Could the idea a bastard girl could inherit Sir Roger's vast estate not have come to the squire? When the Squire is told that Mary will inherit the vast estates, he does not immediately object that she is a bastard and therefore it cannot be. In fact, he brings up no objections at all. Why shouldn't he? It's true he wants the estate to go to Frank, but he is an anxious, easy-swayed man, and he would think about the legal ramifications. His is the kind of personality which is more than half-defeated before he begins most battles. He is a yielding sort.

At the heart of _Dr Thorne_ is the same illegitimacy plot we see in novels like Felix Holt, Shirley and dozens of Victorian novels. The 19th century reader accepted the silence of all the characters because in their society people were silent in public. But people knew. They feared; they could be blackmailed. Trollope skilfully covers over all the unrealistic assumptions which as a realistic he knows such a plot ignores, such as the probable inclination of people to ask, to surmise, to guess.

People have asked why Trollope seemed not to praise this novel more strongly. In his Autobiography he is dismissive, and talks of how he got the initiating plot from his brother. Many critics dismiss his down-playing of this book as his 'usual self-deprecation'. After all, this was his first monetary success -- even if the money wasn't that serious yet. But maybe once again we find that Trollope was telling us an important truth about his book. The initiating plot which leads to the happy ending is creaky. This very astute novelist uses his active storyteller to fool us by pointing out the problems in the will too: this distracts us from wondering about the people not asking, not suspecting; it makes us accept the obvious fiction by openly admitting it is a fiction. A device Trollope uses throughout his career. He also engineers his dialogues skilfully so we don't much think about why no one is asking. Yet he is so honest, that he can't help bringing Mary, Squire Gresham, and Lady Scatcherd to the brink of asking before he hurries us away.

It's not so hard to do a Sutherland after all.

Ellen Moody

Trollope, Dr Thorne

From: Ellen Moody

I agree with Dagny:

"I think the Greshams, the Squire and Frank, didn't consider the possibility of Mary's being Sir Scatcherd's heir because they did not know that Dr. Thorne had told Sir Roger about Mary before Sir Roger died. If they knew details of Sir Roger's will they probably assumed the estate would go to his sister Mary's oldest acknowledged, legitimate child. Probably the Squire was not devious enough to think of attempting to overturn a will like that in favor of Mary."

But my primary question is not, 'Why did the characters not know Mary was Scatcherd's heir?'; it is ,'Why do they not ask who is the heir at all?'

To which Dagny responded:

Ellen wrote:

'Why do they not ask who is the heir at all?'

They certainly have an interest in who might be taking over. Maybe they thought no one would tell them. Or maybe they thought it would not matter one way or another who it was. Could it be that they assumed it would now be Lady Scatcherd, who has a great fondness for Frank.

Frankly I think really doesn't care one way or another. It seems to me that he has given up all idea of ever being the actual managing squire and just wants to run a farm or have a career of some sort so that he and Mary can get married.

As to the Squire, seems like he may be just depending on Dr. Thorne to keep everything on the status quo as he did when Sir Roger was alive.

The one I really wonder about is Lady Gresham. Why isn't she wondering? Maybe she is and we just don't know about it.


I responded to Dagny:

To Dagny and anyone interested in Sutherland's essays on fiction,

The point of going at a fiction through discovering gaps in verisimilitude, probability, character motivation, and calendars is not to worry over the characters. I didn't imitate Sutherland because I care what the character Squire Gresham thought or said. He is, after all, just a character.

The point is to understand what is Trollope's technique: what do the flaws in his uses of probability show us about his book, its assumptions, the problems in his plot. One points out where there is a contradiction in a character's behavior in order to understand where the author is straining his fiction. When you discover where the strain is, you can ask why is this strain there, and then understand the art of the book and its problems as an artwork for the author much better. Also and most importantly on occasion what the author is saying to us (as in Sutherland's 'Why are there no public conveniences in Casterbridge?).

Ellen Moody

Naturally I was "accused" of criticizing Dr Thorne too adversely on Victoria. Let us that there were people who understood I was disinterested and didn't reply; however, in cyberspace, those who reply don't like not to be answered.

I hope the gentle reader of these postings imagines what would have been the response to Sutherland's essays had he put them on literary lists.

I answered patiently:

To Victoria

December 8, 1999

Re: Why does no one ask who is Sir Roger Scatcherd's heir?
Anthony Trollope's _Dr Thorne_: A Critique and Explanation of Sutherland's Methodology in his "Can Jane Eyre, Was Heathcliffe and Who Told" Books.

To Lucy Sussex and anyone else interested in Trollope or Sutherland's methodology,

I didn't mean harshly to criticise Dr Thorne at all. I think it's one of Trollope's finer books. What I was doing was applying Sutherland's methodology which seems to be that of the common reader, but is not. He amuses the common reader by talking so explicitly about the characters and events in the novels as if they were real people going about the real world doing things the way we might in life. However, his purpose is deeper than that -- and it sheds light on the books and authors and milieus he discusses.

Now repeated through four books of essays (Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?, Is Heathcliff a Murderer?, Who Betrayed Elizabeth Bennet? and the recent one whose title refers to the improbable way in which the murder of Rebecca by Max de Winter is described), Sutherland's idea is to to through novels which purport to be utterly realistic ('imitations of life') to discover gaps in verisimilitude, probability, character motivation, and calendar time. What's fascinating is how often these gaps occur at crucial points of a narrative.

He then takes these flaws in the uses of probability to reveal the preoccupations and deeper concerns of the author or his or her laziness, commercial goals and willingness to exploit the lurid, romantic and melodramatic. These preoccupations, concerns, and declinations from integrity conflict with probability and serious moral realism. Thus Sutherland uncovers the author's assumptions, motives, sometimes the problems in his plot, sometimes what the author wants to say to us that strict realism would prevent.

In the case at hand, Dr Thorne, I was pointing out where there is are contradictions in Trollope's characters' behavior in order to understand where Trollope is straining his fiction and where he succeeds in covering his tracks. When you discover where the strain is, you can ask why is this strain there, and then understand the art of the book and its problems as an artwork for the author much better. What interested me is how not how contrived Dr Thorne is, but how near to honesty Trollope is. It is a book very like Felix Holt in its central core plot device, yet we don't recognise the kinship because Trollope is more skilled than George Eliot in bringing out the events of his book from the psychologies of his characters.

I also wanted to underline how Trollope's own half-dismissive commentary on Dr Thorne may be explained when we grasp that at the core of the book is a creaky illegitimacy-blackmail plot such as we find repeatedly in many Victorian novels. These may reflect and gain depths of emotions from the realities of the time: women forced to give up illegitimate infants; people having to hide their sex lives in order to maintain their respectability in order to keep their economical niches (=jobs and positions) and thus subject to possible emotional if not financial blackmail. These stories speak to the loneliness and desperation of their Victorian readers. But they are executed from the point of view of surface verisimilitude.

Good books on the reason one finds all these illegitimacy and blackmail-over-sex plots include: Alexander Welsh, George Eliot and Blackmail (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985); William A. Cohen, Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction (Durham, NC, 1996). But such books don't show how the contradictions between the purposes of an author, the mores and demand for sensational entertainment of his or her audience, and the demands of verisimilitude make the experience of a Victorian novel what it is. Sutherland does reveal that. I was trying to do the same for Dr Thorne which I regard as a strong effective masterpiece in the realistic novel kind.

Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Dr Thorne: Hereditary Titles


I am wondering if someone can clarify how the titles in Dr. Thorne, and British society work.

Why is Lady Arabella a Lady if her husband is only a squire, not a knight or baronet or lord. Is her title merely honorary, or does she have a legal right to this title because her father was an earl?

Secondly, since Mary Thorne is the Scatcherd heir, will she inherit a title of Lady? I seem to recall about 6 or 7 years ago that I heard Parlimanet was debating whether women could inherit titles. Does the Scatcherds title then die with them? If Mary had been a boy, would she have received the title? Or if she married, would a case exist where her husband might agree to take the last name of Scatcherd and receive the title?

And has the law changed? Are women now allowed to inherit titles in Britain, the royal family of course being already the exception, when there are no male heirs?

Thanks for any help.

Tyler Tichelaar

P.S. Thanks for all the posts about the doings in London. You make me all envious.

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