The Moral Nature of "Man"; One Doesn't have to have Moral Lessons and Impeccable Heroes to write or to read a novel; Allegorizing; Marrying Down; At Scroope Manor; Marrying Lower Class Women; Trollope and Thackeray: The Central Issues of Sexual Seduction; Passionate Statements About Characters; Why Did He Bother?; A Great Novel; Is he on about Flaws or Torments?; Desperate Women; The Geography of An Eye for an Eye; Anonymous Irish Poetry

To Trollope-l

November 13, 2001

Re: An Eye for an Eye: The Moral Nature of "Man"

Howard expresses himself as annoyed with An Eye for an Eye on several counts and says what do others see in this book. His statements are well put and discussion here can take us to the center of our reading experiences.

Last time he expressed dissatisfaction with Owen Fitzgerald as someone he could not believe in, and I responded that when I looked into my heart and observed what went on around me in other people I saw many aspects of Owen Fitzgerald, and that the kind of male who is isolated, non-social, archaic in his impulses, chivalrous and courteous, over idealistic and sensitive is a a repeating type in Trollope.

As I read his message, his complaint this time is different. It's not so much that he doesn't believe in Fred as he doesn't like him; when Howard puts it that Fred is not a gentleman I take that to mean Fred is not admirable:

"We are not told that Fred struggled against the temptation, or that he regarded Kate's 'all' as anything other than a casual lollipop to which he was entitled. He does not appear to show any remorse, or indeed any doubt that having got what he wanted, he would best be off and avoid the problems he would face in England, particularly in the light of the reappearance of Captain O'Hara. In other words Fred is showing himself to be totally selfish and inconsiderate, and is certainly not the stuff of which even one of Trollope's second-rate heroes is made. Trollope always talked about the way in which gentlemen behaved, and it is clear that Fred is no gentleman. What then is the point of the story?"

There are two parts to this: how am I to respond to a fiction with an unadmirable character in the center? what could be the point? I will deal with unadmirable characters in this first half of my posting, and with "the point of the story" in the second half.

Fred is certainly not exemplary. He is not admirable, but I would say he is, like Owen Fitzgerald, very much what the stuff of Trollope's central, and many secondary heroes are made. He is just such another as Harry Clavering and Phineas Finn, of Frank Tregaer (who destroys Lady Mabel Grex's happiness for life), of Frank Houston; we also find the type among the downright cads, e.g., Jack de Baron (Is He Popenjoy?), and among some of these characters, the worst weakling who is in the center of the novel and ends up hen-pecked in the next is Lord Rufford (American Senator where he attempts to seduce Arabella Trefoil but is gobbled up by a more astute aggressive woman with the help of his family against him) I would say Trollope's analysis of these types go no deeper than what we find in Fred Neville; the difference in the longer novels is our attention is distracted by other stories; in fact I'd say the pleasure of this fiction is there is no distraction, Trollope dwells at length and somewhat ambivalently on the character. He is often ambivalent about all his character.

The most sympathetic portrayals of the type are probably Phineas Finn and Harry Clavering. Phineas is closely similar: he sees one thing is good for him, but does another, especially when it comes to women. When I read Phineas's story I identify easily -- and with Fred -- for ofttimes I want to do X, tell myself I will do X, the moment comes and I again find myself responding in a way I had determined I would not (Y), and then trying to avoid the consequences. I don't want to embarrass people do don't give the circumstances; if I did I think many people remember themselves, especially when they were young and knew they were being asked to make decisions that would influence the rest of their lives, and since they couldn't see into the future didn't know what to choose; equally to the point, the decisions they were being asked to take were decisions they didn't want. They were being asked to do unpleasant things they disliked doing so that 30 years from now they could possibly be safe. My students in the two classes I have taught this book responded strongly to Fred on this level: they too were in the same point of life, being asked to do things they hated and being asked not to do things that were pleasurable to them.

Harry Clavering is someone who I find myself having a distaste for -- perhaps something in the vein of Howard's for Fred. Howard might like to know that another Victorian spoke out in irritation against this character: Mrs Oliphant in a review of the book wrote that Harry ricocheting from Julia to Florence, his disgusting behavior to Florence, and then his clinging to Julia and then his turning on Julia was sickening. But what got her was how these women could endure such a man: it was shameful behavior on all their parts, even Florence's (who is an exemplary heroine): :

It is not an elevated position for a man . . . a blunder which necessitates the intervention of three or four women in his lovemaking, and which is really arranged by them, he himself being very secondary in the matter, is humiliating . . . we should have been inclined to suppose that Florence Burton not only would never have been able to banish from her mind a certain (carefully supresssed, no doubt) contempt for her fickle lover, but that she would have indulged in a sound, reasonable, womanly hatred ever after . . . Women are neither so passive nor so grateful as they are made out to be . . . It was mean of Florence Burton to have [Harry] again after he had forsaken her, and unspeakably mean of him to consent to the retransfer, and to be happy ever after (Trollope, Critical Heritage, ed D Smalley)

What has happened here is she cannot identify with Florence; what Florence does irritates her because it defames women like her, and hence her. Dear Howard, I wonder if what irritates you is that you partly identify with these gentleman-heroes and when someone of them acts in ways that you would dislike in yourself, you can't stand it. It might be that if you look into yourself you would see milder versions of Fred and Harry's vacilitating too. Have you never chosen the "wrong" path of pleasure, never done what you were ashamed of doing while you were doing it? I have -- but being a woman my vacillations and repeated mistakes and inability to extricate myself took much more the form of Kate's and Mrs O'Hara's behaviors. I will only say of their behaviors, to enter into the sorrows of others which are taken to the point of irretrievability is a form of emotional growth and deep pleasure. Why? Well, let me write Part Two of this.

Re: An Eye for an Eye: One doesn't have to have moral lessons and impeccable heroes to write or to read a novel

In this second part I want to engage with Howard's last statement: what's the point of the story? Why read such fictions? We asked this when we read of Lily Dale's plight before the meanness of Adolphus Crosbie -- another hero who knows he is doing wrong and does it. Now here Howard and I might have to part company. He seems to suggest that if a fiction doesn't have a character in the center who is a hero, he can't see the point of the story. The hero must be admirable. Here he and I might just have to agree to differ, but I will do my best to present an argument for my point of view.

I don't think central characters have to be admirable; I don't think I have to like them. "Heaven" knows I didn't like anyone in Is He Popenjoy?; no one at all. The only person I could half-bear in The Claverings was Florence and to tell the truth I shared Mrs Oliphant's irritation with her though I openly admit had I loved Harry Clavering I would have taken him back even more quickly. Florence did try not to take him back, but in the end, to take a favorite phrase of The Heat of the Day, for her outside Harry lay the junkyard of what did not matter.

To write and to read fiction and find it satisfying even when we don't admire the characters in the last is not a new stance: it was first made explicit as central to many fictions in Trollope's own time that it was made explicit by many a novelist that he had no "good" or admirable hero or heroine. And I have to say that Trollope is on my side here: he thought that stories could have very important points and were better if the heroes and heroines were not admirable. He says this many many times; he defends himself repeatedly for presenting types like Harry, Frank, Phineas, on the grounds they are real. We can only learn and grow if the fiction is true to life. Trollope's idea of fiction is that it is moral because it presents real people to us with all their flaws; his objection to Dickens is that his people aren't real.

How do we learn and grow and take pleasure in a fiction where the central characters are types we don't like, who we don't want to identify with, can't admire? It works backwards if we want to point a lesson, for there is one that can be said precisely here, and it was said by Richard Holt Hutton (the contemporary reviewer of his fiction Trollope most liked and most people today say understood Trollope's fiction very well). Here is the moral lesson of An Eye for an Eye as Hutton put it into words. He introduces the novella by placing it against Trollope's other Irish novels and says "Ireland appears to rouse his imagination, and give force and simplicity to his pictures of life." Holt calls it a "tragic story of mastering passion and over-mastering prejudice, -- of a great sin, and a great wrong, and great revenge" and '"family pride'" one with "a full array of subtly observed real characters'." I certainly agree with that: Mrs O'Hara, the two elderly Scroopes, Father Marty, Fred and Kate until she gets pregnant (then Trollope hedges) are people I've met versions of Says Hold An Eye for an Eye is a "story which no man without a very powerful imagination could have written" Then he gets to the moral lesson he takes away. He retells the story of how Fred is made the heir, shown how much he owes to "society" which means his uncle and aunt and the property and their class; at the same time he falls in love with Kate and promises he will not abuse her (to Father Marty), and, "far from wishing to desert her" he is "willing to give all her has to give in the world except his rank and social position, to make atonement for what he has done".

This is the kind of dilemma Trollope loves: a character stuck between two kinds of social obligations which are at loggerheads, one of which his natural emotions wants him to choose (the love of the woman or the friend he is involved with -- in the case of Phineas there are several women, not just one), and one which will give him respect, money, prestige, and which he is told the successful people around him demand he choose for their sake and the sake of society. And here is how Hutton moralises the emotional lesson the reader is to take away by contemplating this: we see

" the strange perversion of which the moral nature of man is capable, probably none other is stranger that the tendency of certain so-called 'social obligations' to over-ride entirely the simpler personal obligations in certain men's breasts, and yet to work there with all the force of a high duty, and all the absoluteness of an admitted destiny".

The moral lesson is not one that can be stated in a sentence which say "do this or that"; this is a "warning lesson" not to do that. If it were, this would be a third grade book. Trollope is making us see how underneath our social obligations are sets of emotions which are used to manipulate us by others and which we ourselves use to rationalise whatever act we do in the end. That act may not be a reasoned choice; in fact in the end we may do precisely what we had told ourselves we would not do.

What is the value of this kind of morality: self- knowledge. Knowledge of what is really going on around us.

What is the pleasure: the same. A growth in self-knowledge and understanding of how our society works. We look into a complex map called the moral nature of man: we cannot be seen apart from our society even though we ourselves feel ourselves to be utterly individual.

In the specifics of this novel Hutton translates the above generality into on the one hand Fred's "contempt" for Kate partly because of her low rank, Irishness, and partly because she is another young woman (like Lily Dale) who gives herself to a man who then (human nature being like this) respects her less for her vulnerability, for her need for him, in Victorian moral terms, for giving in sexually; this shows she is weak. This "contempt" is at war with Fred's love for Kate and how much he feels relaxed and at ease in her company. She demands nothing from him; he feels himself higher when with her. On the other hand there are the demands of Scroopes, his obligation to them, and his "sense of family pride". Hutton regards none of these as true absolutes, and all of them work to pervert Fred into acting against "the simpler personal obligations" which Hutton here seems to think demanded that Fred simply marry Kate once he had made her pregnant:

["family pride"] grows and grows almost iwhtouthis own knowledge, until when it is at length reinforced by a touch of scorn for the object of his tenderness, it hardens him, as if it had the combined force of a spurious conscience and of heredity prejudice acting in unison"

As we get to the end of the story others may agree with Hutton (and me) that the way all the characters talk and urge even, even at the close Lady Scroope, suggests Trollope did think Fred's first obligation was to marry the girl he has made his. His obligation to his uncle becomes secondary because he committed himself sexually.

This is extraordinary, for the rough and vulgar (and might I say ugly) morality voiced by the ordinary public discourse of the period was Kate is now damaged goods, shown to be loose, and Fred is doing her a great favor were he simply to support her for the rest of his life, let alone offer to live with her. This latter morality is the morality of competition, one which is not based on the deepest way of being humane to one another. Trollope rejects it in this story and Fred is given the final punishment -- by a woman who had herself been betrayed by perversions to her moral nature, different ones from Fred's, but just as twisting.

It usually helps if one offers a modern analogy: we might imagine a young person at college, the human emotions involved in love and betrayal would be some relationship; the social obligations which pervert and twist would be the money the parent shelled out, the sense he (or she) has that it is in his interest to work hard, and to leave that college and spend years and years at some job which is not fun, not pleasurable, and which requires that he not get involved with this other person as they would not fit into the world he is to make. My students immediately talked of how their parents sized up the boyfriends and girlfriends they brought home; one girl wrote of how her parents broke up a relationship with a young man of a different background and religion. We can come further along: you have been married for years and years; you have these social obligations to wife or husband, and family, but you are bored, don't get along, find the job dismaying, and then you meet someone who for the first time is congenial and seems to give life happiness, real happiness. In this latter case, Trollope would say the obligations of the heart, of human nature are with the family, but he might not say the person had to stay with a job if another came along. How about the person who late in life suddenly becomes a monetary success, gets contacts, finds a career flowering and the wife/husband/ partner no longer fits in; she feels uncomfortable.

It's the very insoluablity that is the point of the story, and the pointing in each different kind of variant on this situation of what is the truly humane thing to do. Trollope is a Victorian; he does not counsel follow your heart because he sees the heart and conscience are so complicated; he says work out once you are in the dilemma what is the right thing for real and try to do that. He is hopeful. He thinks we can find it and do it. So Fred did wrong, and is not admirable; in a 20th century story Fred would not have been punished. He might have gone on to become the new Earl and shrugged away. His character would have "hardened" (that's Hutton word) all the more and he would have been one of those presences in society that make life so had to take. But this is a 19th century story and we are allowed to grieve for the young man who couldn't get himself to throw off what was a secondary selfish and false obligation in this case.

He is not the only character in the story whose story is of deep interest: Mrs O'Hara is another, and she is important; Trollope begins with her and the story may be read as an explanation of how someone is destroyed by society. The moral here is an extreme version of what we see in Fred's story.

I do like the lack of distraction, the intensity of focus that comes with the novella form.

So there is the best reply I can give.


Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001
Re: An Eye for an Eye: Allegorizing

Dear Jeremy and all,

Actually I don't know if there is any single prevalent feeling. Howard has said he feels annoyed, but he is just one person. I have expressed another point of view; others on our list will doubtless come in with yet further angles, but probably we can enter into one another's: there is a text in the "house" :), and we can agree on its specifics even if our way of "allegorizing" and emotionally responding will be different.

I can enter into the idea that Kate is meant to stand for Ireland -- with all the charcters who swirl around her (Father Marty, Mrs O'Hara, the Captain) and the Irish landscape supporting this, while Fred is meant to stand for England -- with the characters in Scroope Manor and their landscape supporting them. I even think many Victorians would have read it this way, and indeed did. I cannot remember anyone who said this explicitly but in the couple of reviews from the period I've read and in more recent essays people talk of the novel in terms of its clash of cultures and the privileged, upper class Protestant order having to confront its involvement in the poverty-striken, powerless Catholic Irish order. Trollope alternates four chapters for one and four for the other, back and forth we go.

Two individuals whose work makes me think they see it this way: there is an essay in The Critical Heritage on The Golden Lion of Granpere; it's said possibly to be by Hutton, but people aren't sure. The reviewer reads that remarkable little tale as a cultural study: he says the way the characters think and behave project social manners (that's the language) of French bourgeous Catholic Society and that's what makes the story interesting: we see the private selves coming out through this cultural nexus. He uses Victorian language to say this. I would suggest Simon Raven's highly antagonistic response to the Catholics and the Irish in the story suggest he too, albeit unconsciously and without self-reflection about what he is implying about himself, writes out of the view of the upper class privileged Protestant white and male focused order.

If we look at all Trollope's Irish novels they differ from the English fiction: he is consciously memorializing the landscape, recording the people -- and shoving this into his middle class English reader's reading matter insofar as he is able.


To Trollope-l

Re: An Eye for an Eye: Marrying Down

November 15, 2001

Todd writes:

"Trollope, while not approving of Mrs. O'Hara's attitude, seems to be accepting of it, noting that people are the way they are. "It cannot really be that all those who swarm in the world below the bar of gentle hood are less blessed, or intended to be less blessed, than the few who float in the higher air. As to real blessedness, does it not come from fitness to the outer life and a sense of duty that shall produce such fitness?" From this we can see that for Trollope social standing is no standard by which to measure the value of a person. "But," he adds, "such matters cannot be changed by the will." He seems to suggest that this attitude is a part of Mrs. O'Hara's social inheritance. It's just the way it is.

No one has a problem with marrying up, though. Neither Mrs. O'Hara nor Father Marty sees anything wrong with Fred seeking marriage with Kate. ("Adventuring" of course is another matter.) But the problem here is that marrying up for Kate is marrying down for Fred. Yet it's not Fred or Kate who are complaining. They would be satisfied to find their own way. It's more the older generation, for whom marriage is a matter of losses and gains."

I agree. Actually Todd has resaid in modern terms what Richard Holt Hutton thought was the central "lesson" of the book: the older generation twists or perverts words and feelings in the younger so as to make them believe what the older generation want is their obligation ("duty"). At the same time as we shall see when push comes to shove, Fred himself looks at marrying Kate as marrying down. I wonder to myself if Kate had not allowed Fred full sexual intercourse, if not to be coy she had not allowed him to fuck her (though there's nothing wrong with it, the "f" word is one we have not been using on Trollope-l but I feel silly avoiding it with these absurd euphemisms which privilege this area of life as somehow one we can't simply put into plain words, and as we are all adults I will use it here), he would have looked at her in the same way. Trollope skilfully blends Fred's feelings in the way he experiences them, but he does emphasize how differently Fred began to feel about Kate after he has had her. This reminds me of how Adolphus Crosbie felt about Lily Dale -- although in the English variant of this kind of sudden drop in respect from the male and consequent loss of power for the female, Trollope is nowhere as frank.

There is also Fred's respect for rank too; he does adhere to his uncle and aunt's values. He can't rid himself of them for they are an element in his high self-respect; Hutton suggests that the perverting of one's feelings is deeply inward: Fred is not only affected by his sense of duty and a need to reciprocate for what his uncle offers him; he has had inculcated deeply into him this idea he is superior to people of lower rank both in England, Ireland -- everywhere. This does not have the feel of a taboo (Kate losing her virginity belongs to these sacred taboo areas of life), but it is a strong motive for his idea that he will live with her without marrying her. Adolphus Crosbie could never have thought of this of Lily since her Englishness and relatives surrounding her protected her from even the thought of such an offer.

One of the "theorists" of fiction, Bakhtin, says that we enjoy novels and grow from them because in them "many voices" dialogue. They debate ideas and the author can say deep views he might feel in his heart but not act upon in life. Trollope did marry a woman somewhat beneath him: Rose was the daughter of a bank employee who late was found to be an embezzler. He didn't wait until he could afford to buy a house and have lots of servants. And his younger son also married slightly down. But there is no real rebellion and he apparently worked hard to stop some liaision his younger son had with a lower class woman in London (sent him to Australia to "get over it"). Many readers reading his stories will come away with the notion he supports rank utterly -- thus the BBC film of his life Judy described. But they are not reading carefully or only seeing what they want to see. It's in the statement that Todd quoted that we see this other aspect of Trollope which comes out so strongly in An Eye for an Eye, the one which punishes Fred, says he is profoundly wrong, and his uncle and especially the aunt, supporting cruelties and savagely unjust social arrangements:

" As to real blessedness, does it not come from fitness to the outer life and a sense of duty that shall produce such fitness?"

This fitness comes from within; it is a matter of character. It can be found in the upper classes (Jack in this story). Another interesting thing about this story is how Jack is the only one who really seems to have in him this sane sense of fitness. We are told that after the story is over Kate manifested it: she had strength. We feel the uncle could have -- had his son not so disappointed him. But no one else much. Is it that the society won't let people develop such fitness within themselves? We twist ourselves from kindergarten on up? Now in numbers of the English stories this twisting is done in everyone in such a way that groups of gentry people emerge in Trollope's stories who are comfortable with one another and the story will focus on them too. They are not found in these Irish fictions. That may well be one key to the difference between his Irish and English stories.


Re: An Eye for an Eye, Chs 9-12: At Scroope Manor

This week's chapters take us to the midpoint of the book. We are about to move into the crisis of Fred's and Kate's fate when they meet once more in Ireland: what they do then will decide their future.

This week's chapters show Fred's English relatives doing everything they can to persuade him not to return to Ireland. Lady Scroope emerges as the individual who pressures Fred into staying. Trollope has a somewhat hostile attitude towards her. He's not just ambivalent. He writes that despite her religion, she is willing to think to herself that it's okay if Fred seduced Kate as long as he doesn't marry her. Trollope's criticism of this shows that unlike others of his period he didn't see sex outside marriage as an ultimate sin: we can see this in his The Vicar of Bullhampton where he shows great sympathy for a prostitute and where his preface questions the morality of ejecting such a woman as evil and the double standard of forgiving the man. He present Lady Scroope as ruthless and amoral for her disregard for Kate:

Of the injury which was to be done to Miss O'Hara, it may be said with certainty that she thought not at all.

She thinks it's justice; further, she despises these people as not quite as real, as necessarily bad because they are "low:"

these O'Haras were vulgar and false imposters, persons against whom she could put out all her strength without any prick of conscience.

Then a comment he makes often about intrasex antagonisms, especially of "good" women towards sexually "bad" ones:

Women in such matters are always hard against women, and especially hard against those whom they believe to be belong to a class below their own.

He grows sarcastic:

Lady Scroope had the name of being a very charitable woman. She gave away money. (Oxford Eye for an Eye, ed Sutherland, Ch 9, pp. 73-74).

By contrast when Fred speaks to his uncle and his uncle wants him to promise not to marry this girl, the uncle also urges him not to seduce her, urges him to stay away from her for _her_ sake:

And, oh, Fred, as you value your own soul, do not injure a poor girl so desolate as that. Tell her and ell her mother the honest truth. If there be tears, wil lnto that be better than sorrow and disgrace and ruin. Among evils there must always be a choice (Ch 12, p. 99).

The uncle puts his head into his hands.

Fred won't make a choice. He wants to be high and have rank; he wants to have Kate on his own terms. He begins to have this mad plan of a morganatic marriage.

His combination of romance and refusal to acknowledge that one must choose in life is compared to his brother, Jack. Trollope is careful not to make Jack into a self- controlled prig. Jack again seeks Sophia out; he still wants her though she's supposed to be for the heir. But then again he does her no harm. He seems to be able to see things coolly when he has to:

"you are the heir, and you must take the duties with the privileges. You can have your yacht if you like a yacht -- but you'll soon get tired of that kind of life. I take it a yacht is a bad place to a nursery, and inconvenient for one's old boots (Ch 11, p. 90).

This reminds me of an exchange I have had with my husband upon occasion. I get frustrated, and want to escape; I threaten, Huck-like, to light out for the territories. He usually counters with how he's heard the mosquitoes are very bad.

Trollope is using this set of chapters to work us up to a climax. Everything is leading to it, and he provides sympathy for Kate: her letter is poignant; her attitude is understandable. Who would not be bored stiff, waiting for a chance at life from this young man. Again it's remarkable how Trollope does not blame her.

I would, though, like to suggest another perspective: could we not say that despite Trollope treating Kate so much more really than Trollope does any of the women in Pendennis, showing this Irish girl to be as human and more intelligent and fine than Fred in numbers of ways, nonetheless she remains secondary to the male. Everyone has to protect her. The assumption is she will succumb. She is not seen as independent with a real will of her own. This may be a factor of her youth for certainly her mother is seen as driven, an individual not to be bent and taken; at the same time though the mother too is secondary. No man, no life. I remember how Priscilla Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right and Miss Mackenzie assert their right to a life apart from men but never manage it. Trollope did know a woman who did live that way: Kate Fields (a Kate), but didn't portray it in his fiction.

Comments on this week's chapters anyone?

Ellen Moody

Re: An Eye for an Eye: Marrying Down

It struck me, reading this passage, that there are quite a few men in Victorian novels married to unacceptable wives who are kept in the background - Mr Rochester with the madwoman in the attic is the most obvious, but there are many more. In Silas Marner by George Eliot, Godfrey is married to an opium addict who lives in abject poverty with their child, while he remains at home with his wealthy family and tries to pretend she does not exist.

In Dickens's Hard Times, Stephen Blackpool, the hard-working factory hand, is persecuted by his drunken wife, who may also be a prostitute, and who returns repeatedly to take his money. Osborne in Gaskell's 'Wives and Daughters' dare not tell his father that he is married to a French governess, and again keeps their child a secret.

It seems as though, while young women feared losing their virtue, some young men from wealthier backgrounds feared being entrapped into an unsuitable marriage.

Reading An Eye for an Eye, I find it hard to understand Fred's snobbish determination not to marry a woman who will not fit his aristocratic position, but I suppose this shows what he is afraid of - that Kate will drag him down and perhaps turn into Mrs Warrington a few years down the line.

All these examples also show the sexual double standard. The women are "fallen", damaged goods - even though they are married, they fill the role of mistresses, shut away and not spoken of. We are expected to feel sorry for Warrington, but not for the nameless wife who brings up his children, somewhere or other.

The only example I can think of where an upper-class young man marries a poor girl and the marriage works out well is in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, where Eugene Wrayburn scandalises polite society by marrying Lizzie Hexham. Can anybody think of any more examples?

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Re: An Eye for An Eye: Marrying Lower Class Women

One of the elements that makes me admire Trollope is how in An Eye for an Eye he himself as narrator, Fred's uncle and his nephew all tell Fred his plan either to live with Kate and not marry her, marry her "morganatically," or simply seduce her and eventually tire of her (which is what Jack says his plan amounts to) is appalling and cruel. The uncle says to do this is to injure his soul, but he does talk in anguished terms. They are all thinking of Kate.

Further, until the time that Kate does yield her virginity (her "treasure"), Trollope continually reminds us about how much better educated she is than Fred. She spells better; her style is better; she thinks more clearly; she is better read; she is splendid at French and has good manners.

From our -- a twenty-first century perspective -- this still will not do. Kate should be respected as a person, not because she has education, manners and high intelligence. We might agree Fred should not "toy" with her on the basis she will not fit in and not be a partner for him for life, but having impregnated her and given her children, he should not treat her like some leper he visits every once in a while and gives money to because she has no manners and education, or conversely, go to Europe with because she has.

On the other hand, it is a far cry from the examples Judy has shown us in Thackeray's Pendennis, Bronte's Jane Eyre and Eliot's Silas Marner. In these the female character is built so that we will assume a person of lower class background will inevitably be inferior from within: stupid, sexually ravenous, an alcoholic (we do see this in Trollope's "The Spotted Dog" but since the male aristocrat is as much an alcoholic as she, again the inference that someone of lower class background must intrinsically be inferior is not to be drawn from the story), mean, stupid, vulgar. Gaskell's Wives and Daughters takes us in Trollope's direction because we discover Squire Hamley is wrong: he destroys his son, his family, and almost this lovely girl. And all around him we get nuances that this absolutely unjust way of regarding and treating other human beings is unreal -- based on keeping a certain group of families, a network of power relationships in power, whether or not their members are "worthy".

It is to be recalled that we see many sleazes in Trollope among the male aristocrats. One reason the Maginn portrait is so awful is we are to sympathize with this man through his wife's supposed continuation adoration of him. Thackeray knows that in decency he has to soften the real man because even this class laden, power-driven system (power to a few sets of people already in power) a violent alcholic womanizer would not be admirable, so Shandon is made physically faithful, non-violent and non-alcoholic.

In Thackeray's discourse, Eliot's in Silas Marner and Bronte's in Jane Eyre the man who cannot bear this shame is given full hearing. The focus is on him. Again Trollope and Gaskell come out better. Gaskell has Mr Gibson's presence, and there is a harsh criticism of the superficiality and humanely harmful conduct of his second wife Claire who is just the sort of woman whe reinforces a system which destroys all sorts of women because they are not part of upper class families. Claire's behavior is harmful to her daughter: she cares nothing emotionally for the girl in comparison with status.

Trollope goes a little better by making the Countess of Scroope likeable in some ways. I can never understand how women readers can sympathize or identify with Claire -- or Rosamund Vincy, the small type: so small minded Eliot says that they have no room in their brains but for luxuries and class prejudice. We are to understand why the Countess thinks class trumps all: it's all she's got. She has a perverse rationale in her fundamentalist religion. There is the kindness of her good husband whom this is hurting. And yet by the end of the story it is she who is condemned. An Eye for an Eye can be read as a novel in which two strong women dominate, both twisted by society: Mrs O'Hara, the outcast who takes her "eye for an eye" out on Fred because of what society has done to her, and the Countess of Scroope who urges Fred not to do the right thing (the way it is seen in this novel) after he has impregnated Kate, urges him to treat Kate the way Warrington treats his wife because she has had only rank to be proud of. She drives Fred to drive Mrs O'Hara into that final murderous striking out. As I recall she contributes to the upkeep of the crazed woman in the asylum: that's fitting. She is the "kind of hard woman" who drove this woman who "sank" into the final murderous rage by urging her stepson/nephew to betray Kate as a human being utterly.

Like Judy a few years ago I would read some of these novels passively, supinely, in effect ignoring the marginalized and savagely mistreated of 19th century society who after all represent the sort of person I am: a woman, not of the upper fringe elite. Although I didn't realise it then, one of the joys of Trollope's texts -- and Gaskell's -- was that they did justice to these marginalized human beings, in fact wrote stories in which those who were twisted and twisting others were shown to be callow, unjust, and destructive of what counts for real in life.

Trollope never says that one should marry down, nor does Gaskell. They say that if you become involved with someone of a lower class background, they are your equals in every way except that rank and that the rank is superficial. They admit the rank counts, and if you get involved you may find lots of people in the world despising you. Of course it would be easier if you fell in love with someone of your class, but class comes by chance, and the truly congenial person may often be someone who does not share some of your outer respectable characteristics (like money from the family, or long standing rank). So you have to make up your mind what your choice will be. How you want to live. It's a choice says the Earl. The problem with Thackeray is he hasn't gotten to the point where he sees it's a choice and what values Warrington has made his choices for.

Ellen Moody

I forgot to speak to Judy's citation of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend_. I read that book when I was in my thirties and feel I did not get from it what I should have. I don't remember it very well except that for once Dickens brings out real sex, it's a dark book and I really liked it.


Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001
Trollope and Thackeray: The Central Issues of Sexual Seduction

This is written in response to Judy's thoughts on how Thackeray avoids the central issues of sexual seduction and Trollope confronts them squarely. I have just finished reading this week's chapters (9-12); I won't post on them until Sunday, but they do make a striking impression: among other things, Trollope does not mince words when it comes to presenting Fred's rationalizations, self-deluded hypocrisies, and the intimate nature of his relationship with Kate. Nothing is kept at a distance from us but the act itself.

I am wondering if this is possible to Trollope partly because he came from a lower class group than Thackeray and because of his knowledge of his mother. I know these are fine distinctions, but they matter: Trollope came from a middle middle family who themselves descended precipitously; he also had a very frank mother: she went off with Hervieu; she was no hypocrite to use religion as a pretense, cover or moral blackmail. Thackeray's people were much richer; he was a high gentleman. I can see when Trollope was growing up that he could get into a close relationship with Kate; a Fanny would be several steps away from Thackeray. It's not that Thackeray would not have sex with such a woman when he grew up, but that it had been instilled in him to regard her as "other" and inferior, as someone who really didn't count. Paradoxically, Thackeray married a woman who sounds close to Kate, but I am talking of childhood when minds are set.

Another important element in Trollope's personality is emotional self-control. We don't "know" him until he is a mature man so what he was like when he was Johnny Eames, we can't say. When we do know him, he is in control of himself. He seems to face a situation, and live with the consequences of his choices -- much more readily than, say, Dickens. This is an enabling factor in writing a novel.

A while back Judy was writing on another list about Pamela and said how astonishing it was to see how frankly men could write about sex in the mid-18th century. Certainly here Thackeray's novel doesn't resemble those of the 18th century. When we think about Clarissa, which, to me, presents sexual experience from a closely inward point of view of a girl, rich, bourgeois, but still not upper class, who is allured, tempted, seduced, then abused in many ways and finally raped and threatened with rape a second time. It's done in s-l-o-w motion. There is a painful loss of reality in the 19th century novel, and reality from the woman's point of view. I have read convincing arguments about how one difference between the Victorian and the 18th century novel is the Victorian, is written out of a male pro-establishment prudential point of view very strongly, this in reaction to the stream of subversive fiction which Richardson's _Clarissa_ gave rise to in the form of gothic and sentimental and fantastic romances of the latter 18th. I

have been trying to think of a match for Clarissa in the 19th century and have come up with one, not English: it's Lelia, a first person semi-epistolary French novel by George Sand.

I am just throwing out a few thoughts,

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001

The recent postings from Judy G, Ellen, Todd and others about marrying down gives me an opportunity to put in my views on An Eye for an Eye, and also to reply to Ellen's postings of a week ago, dealing with my impatience with Fred Neville's behaviour. Firstly, throughout his writing career, Trollope does not appear to be critical of 'marrying down'. Frank Gresham in Doctor Thorne, Lord Lufton in Framley Parsonage and Lady Anna Lovel in Lady Anna all marry down, with the evident support of the author. Certainly their aristocratic relatives put every possible obstacle in their way, but the novels describe the way in which the difficulties are overcome, with Trollope's evident approval. All three 'lower class' spouses turn out very successfully. Admittedly, Mary Thorne and Lucy Robarts are 'ladies', but Daniel Thwaite is initially drawn as a common tailor. In each case the 'upper class' character sees through the aristocratic twaddle, and recognises the true worth of their future partner.

What annoys me in An Eye for an Eye is that Trollope takes the opposite stance. Although Kate O'Hara is a 'lady', the attitude of the Scroopes, and later of Fred, is that such a marriage would be inconceivable. Despite Fred's taking of Kate's virginity, and the impending arrival of a child, we are not shown Fred's better nature coming through, or a recognition that his obligation to Kate must far outweigh his obligations to his family. From everything that we can see, Kate would have been as likely to succeed as Lucy Robarts. Like Jill I can only cheer when Fred gets his come-uppance (although put-downance would probably be a better description). I only think that Father Marty might have merited the same treatment.

Ellen suggests that Fred Neville is not exemplary, and suggests a list of Trollope's characters who could be similarly criticised. None of them in my view commits an act of betrayal comparable with Fred's, Getting young ladies pregnant was not something described frequently in Trollope's prose, or that of any prominent Victorian author, but since Trollope has introduced the subject, I think that he must be criticised for choosing the worst way out for his hero. I agree with Ellen that we all sometimes choose the worser way out of a dilemma, but I hope that we usually make the right choice in fundamental matters such as Fred faces. Incidentally, I cannot regard Adolphus Crosbie as a hero. He is one of Trollope's worst villains, who ends up with what he deserves.

Ellen goes on to discuss the purpose of a novel, a subject on which she is a great deal more knowledgeable than I. I simply find myself fully in agreement with Hutton, when he says that Fred's obligation to his uncle becomes secondary because he committed himself sexually. While I agree that a story about a scoundrel who meets his just deserts can be made amusing, I don't think that this book comes up to Trollope's usual standards.

Regards, Howard

Trollope usually reserved the worst of fates for those who betrayed love for either money, or "marrying up". Think of Lady Laura Kennedy, in addition to Adolphus (is there a nonvillainous Adolphus in one of Trollope's novels?).

do stand by my assertion that Fred got precisely what he deserved.

Jill Spriggs

Well, Dolly Longstaffe in The Way We Live Now might be a twit, rather in the Bertie Wooster style, but I wouldn't see him or his father, also Adolphus, as a villain! I haven't come across an Adolphus I'd describe as a hero, however.

Does Trollope's less than flattering use of the name betray something about his feelings towards his brother Thomas Adolphus, or am I reading more into this than I should?

Judy Geater

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001

I must thank Ellen for my reading of Trollope. She recommended Small House at Allington about two years ago, and I was off and running. I have not read the more popular Barchester Towers; I'm following this group's choices, and I have enjoyed all of them. What is it about Trollope? I am pulled into his world and don't want to leave until the book is done. He has less humor than Dickens, but his characters are as memorable.

Now for An Eye for an Eye: it is not up to his usual standard. I really enjoyed the previous two Irish novels. Trollope had much sympathy for Ireland and its people. The scene in Castle Richmond with the mother and two children who were starving was chilling. Here, too, Trollope appreciates the burdens of the Irish and the class consciousness of the British. His Father Marty is totally sympathetic. But An Eye for An Eye lacks something. Perhaps it is the immorality of Fred. I kept thinking his better nature would triumph. But it was more than class and money difference. Trollope said it in so many words - it was over once Fred had his way with Kate.

To close: Thanks Ellen and Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans. Cheers to all.

Doris White

Judy wrote:

Does Trollope's less than flattering use of the name betray something about his feelings towards his brother Thomas Adolphus, or am I reading more into this than I should?

That is something I have always suspected, especially considering the way his older brother always beat up on him when they were young, and Fanny's too apparent preference for her older son.

Jill Spriggs

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind has been a memory of a past read on this list with a wrenching relation of one of these marriages. It came to me; that of Alfred Yule and the wife whose name I cannot recall. Gissing wrote of this situation sensitively, in New Grub Street.

Jill Spriggs

To Trollope-l

November 21, 2001

Re: An Eye for an Eye, Chs 9-12: Passionate Statements About Characters

I see that for the past few days people have been making passionate statements about characters. I take that if nothing else to mean that this book "works" in the way Trollope intended.

What follows is a series of brief responses to the posts on An Eye for an Eye for the past couple of days. I hope others beyond those who have written about this little book jump in eventually.

To dialogue:

I came to Howard's posting first. I'll reply that he has demonstrated that he reads Trollope's books to enter into exemplary admirable portraits of people which he defines as the heroes and heroines of Trollope's novels. If there is no such figure at the center of a Trollope novel, he can't see its point. The characters he takes to be deplorable, immoral, are to him the villains.

As I wrote I see Trollope's fiction very differently and do not believe Trollope wrote this way. He wrote mimetically.

For myself, I can be deeply moved by characters who are not exemplary, who do very bad things: I am not amused at Fred, don't like him. This does not come from any learning in my background but rather that I can identify with the unadmirable and see myself in them. I don't always make "the right choice" in what others might call fundamental matters: which I take it means decisions on how to behave to children say or parents. Probably though I suspect I don't necessarily agree with Howard on what is fundamental. So he and I read differently, come to fiction with different demands, and we think about life and perhaps ourselves differently.

I think Jill makes a good point when she suggests that Trollope's characters often seem to be punished as a result of marrying up. In those cases I can think quickly of the woman or man has married sheerly for money, prestige or out of ambition, but there are characters who are driven to it by others, praised for it, and spend their life hollowly, who, simply put, need the money. Yet Trollope would seem to punish them.

Once again I'd understand this contradiction by pointing out that Trollope writes mimetically. There is no poetic justice in life and there is only minimal poetic justice in a Trollope novel. Just enough to pass muster to produce what seems like a happy couple at the close of the book -- if you read with attention you will see that much is left on the page to make you see they will have rocks and shoals ahead, are even experiencing them in this last chapter of the book (this is true from Framley Parsonage to Is He Popenjoy?). Trollope's novels live on because they present characters who are utterly believable and in real life there is no poetic justice.

Fred got what he deserved not because he was irresponsible and cold but because he was insufficiently irresponsible and cold? Had he been a George Hotspur (from Harry Hotspur), George Bertram's father or any of a numerous group of amoral males who in Trollope live on by preying on others, he would not have returned to Ireland. Fred's problem was he was not amoral enough. He tried to make amends; he couldn't get himself to listen to Lady Scroope and forget the O'Haras exist, except sending the occasional check. So he was murdered because he had too much good in him, too many decent feelings which he was not strong enough to act upon.

In response to Judy, I'll reply the name "Adolphus" in intriguing, but in the depiction of Adolphus Crosbie I see a good deal of Anthony. He has poured two different aspects of himself into his two heroes in the book: Johnny Eames and Adolpus Crosbie. I would maintain both are heroes: Trollope often puts a less than admirable male and female characters in the hero heroine roles. The Small House is a great book.

Jill is, though, astute to point how how Johnny Eames gets to beat Adolphus up. It was Thomas Adolphus Trollope who beat his younger brother badly and every day with a large stick. Anthony tells us this. Anthony got back in the fiction. Characters though are not all one or consistent: they are "pulped" (as Fanny Trollope suggested) from several people. There's a lot of Trollope himself in Adolphus. Trollope does seem to portray himself and Tom in the Germaine brothers in IHP (the Marquis has aspects which recall Tom, George Anthony -- especially in the scene in the railway carriage where George tries to appeal to the Marquis and is turned off by the dense obtuse man).

Doris thinks An Eye for an Eye is not up to Trollope's usual books. I wonder if what is the trouble is it is a novella and done in a concise style. Fred behaves very badly to Kate, yes indeed: there is a real parallel between his response to her and Crosbie's to Lily (another suggestive piece of evidence for the interpretation several of us have here that Lily lost her virginity to Crosbie). She does agree with me that Castle Richmond is a poetic book.

Some of these things are sheer matters of personal response: I can't sympathize strongly with Father Marty. The Father who is a sympathetic figure is the Father in The Macdermots. I think he means well but doesn't understand the young Englishman who stands in front of him doesn't regard Kate as quite as human as he. Kate is a secondary woman: Fred's attitude here is rather like Warrington's towards the woman he keeps like she's some leper.

I don't think Father Marty a calculating Machiavel villain either. That's Simon Raven's paranoid feeling -- he sees himself as the "trapped male" and identifies with Fred -- hey people really ought to read that one, it is written out of real sympathy with Fred as if he were a Johnny Eames and Kate if not in personality at least in functon an Amelia Roper. To me Marty is one of the marvels of the book: in a very few strokes Trollope repeatedly creates very real or believable characters. Perhaps that's why we are talking more about this book than we did about Castle Richmond: that book is, I would maintain, an intense providential romance. Its characters are "over the top" in a number of ways; An Eye for an Eye is realistic gothic.

Jill writes of New Grub Street which we read on this list. Gissing was strongly influenced by the milieu out of which Trollope came; their fiction is similarly rooted in class realisms; John Halperin wrote books on both of them (as well as Austen -- all three writers are linked). In his life Gissing couldn't prevent himself from self-destructing more than once: he stole and was caught; he married down and was miserable. In his fiction he deals with the issue of marrying down with great pain and sensitivity. New Grub Street is great and moving novel. Alfred Yule's daughter is the figure there to think about in this connection, as well as Rawdon who ends committing suicide.

Again I hope others write in. We are having more excitement over this book than we have had since Is He Popenjoy? and for a brief flurry on John Caldigate. That's what's really interesting :)

Cheers to all,

To Trollope-l Re: An Eye for an Eye: Why Did He Bother?

I have read an Eye for an Eye with a certain lack of enthusiasm and though I have now finished it, I really do wonder why Trollope bothered to write it. Do you think he needed the money?

The plot is transparent from the start and although the characters are reasonably well drawn they are so predictable. Sorry I can't be more constructive. Bit of a disappointment - for me anyway. If I was writing his report card I would say 'should try harder'.

Teresa Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001

Re: An Eye for an Eye A Great Novel

Isn't it the flaws in Trollope's characters, and how they attempt to resolve situations caused by those flaws, that make his novels great? A story in which perfect hero A meets and marries perfect heroine B would seem rather dull (and probably rarther short).

From Alaric Tudor to Fred Neville via John Eames we get a series of characters who do not always act as the perfect knight. The interest in the story is often how they try to resolve the internal torment from knowing that they have fallen short of their own standards.

An Eye for an Eye was no disapointment to me.


Re: An Eye for an Eye, Chs 9-12: Is he on about Flaws or Torments?

November 22, 2001

Ian wrote:

Isn't it the flaws in Trollope's characters, and how they attempt to resolve situations caused by those flaws, that make his novels great? A story in which perfect hero A meets and marries perfect heroine B would seem rather dull (and probably rarther short).

From Alaric Tudor to Fred Neville via John Eames we get a series of characters who do not always act as the perfect knight. The interest in the story is often how they try to resolve the internal torment from knowing that they have fallen short of their own standards.

An Eye for an Eye was no disappointment to me.


This is my view too. You have expressed it beautifully.

The novel is a form which grows out of romance; the idealization so common with which such books are shot through comes out of romance. And when we look back we discover the knights and ladies of old were far from perfect too. In fact the interest is in watching how they cope with their internal torments. Fred did fall way short of standards he could not let go of -- what makes Trollope so hard on the Countess is she dismisses any standards so ruthlessly and, had she won out, and Fred not returned, could probably have lived on phlegmatically, sending that occasional check -- doubtless by means of a servant sent to the post office. She would not want to be seen mailing it.

Cheers to all,

Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001
Re: An Eye for an Eye, Chs 9-12: Passionate Statements about Characters

In a recent post Ellen commented on the female characters in this novel. I, too, found myself wondering about them - as a group. I agree that Trollope seems to have a hostile attitude towards Lady Scroope. Among other things, she is an example of religious hypocrisy, isn't she? Trollope says she has the trappings of religion but no charity. This is a serious indictment since charity is supposedly what religion is all about. Trollope says of her, ".she would have no more mercy on such a one as Miss O'Hara than a farmer's labourer would have on a rat!" That is an impressively violent image. I am wondering about Lady Mary, too. She strikes me as very sinister. What is her motivation for taking such an interest in Fred and acting as Lady Scroope's spy? It's creepy somehow. Then Mrs. O'Hara, she's a ticking bomb. I suppose I'm wondering why Trollope has chosen to invest his female characters with all of this subterranean passion. In the case of Lady Scroope, perhaps the point is that without social position she would have nothing at all, would be a real nobody. As a result, she regards position as something that must be preserved at all costs. Mrs. O'Hara, on the other hand, has been a victim of injustice. Her husband abandoned her, leaving her exposed and unprotected. In this one act of injustice she was deprived of nearly everything she had. She hasn't much left, but she dreams of a settling of accounts in "eternity." Perhaps the point is that these two women, lacking the ability to protect and provide for themselves, feel desperation about their place in the world?


Re: An Eye for an Eye: Desperate Women Earlier this week Todd wrote a posting in which he pointed out how emphatic is the emphasis upon the women in the novel. Except for Kate, they are shown as determined and ruthless. This goes for Sophie Melville who is as monetarily poor as the Countess of Scroope was before the Earl took pity on her. Todd suggested that the Countess and Mrs O'Hara are also "sinister". Lady Mary Quinn is a frustrated old maid, powerless except for her ability to snoop. I agree with him that when Trollope enters the Countess's mind (in free indirect speech) and says the Countess could dismiss Kate as someone would a rat, that is hard. Mrs O'Hara, though, is just as hard, though more fierce: Trollope, especially in Chapter 5 when we first met Mrs O'Hara and in this week's Chapter 16, enables us to understand why she is so savage from within: she has herself been betrayed; it may have been her fault to have been fooled, but once fooled and married to this man, everyone in her world dropped her. I like Todd's reading of the way the way the women in this book are presented:

"Perhaps the point is that these two women, lacking the ability to protect and provide for themselves, feel desperation about their place in the world?"

We could read the book as a struggle between two worlds dramatized in two women, both of whom have been made desperate and lack self-esteem from within. Fred ricochets between the two.

I also see Mrs O'Hara as more central: the book opens and closes on her. An eye for an eye refers to more than what Fred did to her. She is a unique figure in Trollope's fiction: perhaps the Countess of Lovel in Lady Anna comes closest: this woman was also abused by the world after having been fooled by man was told by him he was married to someone else. The Countess tries to murder Daniel Thwait, the tailor whom her daughter wants to marry; she is made with unfocused rage, resentment, frustration. Yet she does not love her daughter; there is no softeness in her. She is simply desperate for herself. Mrs O'Hara has softness, some beauty; we are made to feel that if Kate could have been happy on the cliff, so too would Mrs O'Hara have been. The Countess of Lovel never for a moment forgets her mirror image of the world; its views have entered the crevice of her soul and she takes them as real. Oddly, Mrs O'Hara seems to know better; she's less mad really -- until the final scene.

It's interesting to me to see that the other novels by Trollope which this one compares with are the lesser known darkly passionate or biting ones.

Cheers to all,

Subject: The geography of An Eye for an Eye

Sig wrote:

Those of you who live in Ireland are probably familiar with the works of Percy French, an Anglo-Irish songwriter who died in 1920. One song that comes to mind while reading An Eye for an Eye is his wonderful "Are Ye Right There, Michael?" This song is about the difficulties in taking an excursion train from Ennis to Kilkee. Actually the railway sued Mr. French because of this song. He was late to court, and when the judge asked him why, he answered, "I took the train." Towns that are prominent in An Eye for an Eye continually turn up in this song. These are Ennis, Kilkee, Corofin, Kilrush, and Lahinch. For instance:

At Lahinch the sea shines like a jewel,
With joy you are ready to shout,
When the stoker cries out, "There's no fuel,
And the fire's taytotally out.
But hand up that bit of a log there--
I'll soon have ye out of the fix;
There's a fine clump of turf in the bog there;
And the rest go a-gatherin' sticks."

In response to Sig,

The landscape of Castle Richmond and An Eye for an Eye are central the story and pleasures of the text. Had Kate and Fred not been isolated, they would not have gotten together. I remember reading that Trollope wrote this novella shortly after he and Rose took a trip to this part of Ireland together.

There must be much Irish poetry which is evocative of the terrain of Trollope's Anglo-Irish novels.

My idea of poetry is it includes the coarse and ugly. What it excludes is the phony except to satirize it.


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