The Characters & Scenes; Mark Robarts; David Case, A Wonderful Dramatic Reader of Trollope for Books-on-Tape; Landscape and Houses; Lovers' quarrels; A Comparison with The Claverings

To Trollope-l

January 3, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage, Chs 1-6: The Characters & Scenes

I agree with Cathy that the portrait of Lady Lufton is a subtle one: she is not the more one-dimensional crank that we saw in Lady Arabella Gresham. Lady Arabella had aspects of caricature: while she had levels of consciousness, and at moments Trollope showed some understanding, she was always awful to others, a cynosure of shallow notions of success, of mindless mercenary acts, of hypocrisy. In this first six chapters we find a Lady Lufton who is herself inclined to domineer, who can be rigid, who is sure of her place in society and that it is rightly high, who is a controller. At the same time, she has a real heart: the scene where she returns to ask Fanny's forgiveness was delicately touchingly done. But there are all sorts of little strokes in the dialogues and scenes which show fondness, cordiality, a sense of warm humanity lacking in the portrait of Lady Arabella, e.g.,

'Well -- well, my dear, that will do. He has not taken you, at any rate; and so we will forgive him'. And Lady Lufton kissed her. 'As it is', -- and she affected a low whisper between the two young wives -- 'as it is, we must e'en put up with poor old Evan Jones. He is to be here to-night, and we must go and dress to receive him' (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 2, pp. 52-53).

Where did Lady Arabella ever show a sense of humor, a humility; when did she ever bend in this way? Note too Lady Lufton dresses for Evan Jones. She may deem Evan Jones beneath her, but she respects his feelings and treats him with the respect she accords Mark Robarts.

The portrait of Robarts is outstanding. There is an argument that it is the book. From the opening chapter Trollope is developing for us a man on a subtle slide down when he thinks he is on a subtle slide up. As with Lady Lufton Trollope uses all sorts of delicate pictorial details and shifts in language to suggest how Mark goes to Chaldicotes partly to defy Lady Lufton (male pride, ego) as well as out of a desire to have more luxurious pleasures and status out of life; at the same time, he loves his wife, is grateful to Lady Lufton. He may write his letter as a performance for Lady Lufton's eyes, but it is also a mirror of self-revelation. His own pettiness may be seen; his embarrassment; how he is inveigled by those cleverer than he. The language is light, but repeatedly there are overtones of Christian allusion or language so that we see that from small decisions large self-destructive slowly comes. Mark is as yet blind to Mr Sowerby; Trollope begins to show us his villain here and there, but Mark is as yet wholly allured. He hesitates, suspects, is wary, but has not thought out that he is there to be used and when no longer useful, will be cast aside without ceremony. As long as Sowerby needs him, he will be companionable and offer payment in the form of invitations and allurements and even positions to come; once Sowerby no longer needs him ...

Mark also does not feel how mean and petty are all the political people towards Mr Harold Smith. Sig has mentioned that a number of our old friends are brought back: let me add Miss Dunstable to the Proudies, the Duke of Omnium, his man of business, Fothergill, and news of Mr Slope. The scene reminded me of similar social scenes in Austen: on the surface it is all comfort, luxury, apparent amusement, but each line of dialogue articulates another unkindness, another discomfort, another piece of phoniness or egoism. Mr Harold Smith does at least want to give a decent speech on the colonial peoples; he is mocked for whatever decent impulse he has. Mark doesn't see this. Miss Dunstable does, and she also likes Mark. She is again our touchstone: she saw through the maneuvrings and apparent sociability of the de Courcys and liked Frank despite his manifest failings.

There are a number of new people, some more minor than others. I think Fanny Robarts is more important than most readers writing about the novel give her credit for. She is strong in this sequence; it is just like Trollope to have her write a letter and than destroy it. Trollope is ever the sceptic about how far a letter reflects what is really in anyone's mind. How can it? The person barely knows, and is reacting to immediate circumstances, which in Fanny's case change when Lady Lufton softens. Mrs Harold Smith is more minor, but she is a kind of early Palliser figure: an amoral female politician. It's interesting to find Miss Dunstable amusing herself with such a woman; she was willing similarly to stoop in Dr Thorne. It's called living in the world. Effective if sharp and saturnine is Trollope's depiction of Mrs Harold Smith's motives for marrying her husband: she picks him up like some dog who can be a sort of front for her. We should not forget that she is Sowerby's sister: two peas from a single pod.

The scenes differ from those of Dr Thorne: the scenes in were throughout utterly naturalistic; they had the serendipity of life; they seemed to move lazily, giving room for this appercue and that momentary reflex of a character's mind or reaction to another character. The scenes here are much more patterned, the dialogue more pointed: thus we know that in Mark we have the story of a prodigal as we move through the fiction; we know that in Mrs Smith we have a sly woman who is not to be trusted; in Sowerby a man dangerous to get too close to. Trollope is in more of a hurry; he is working to pressure and to keep the story moving within the pattern of instalments. There is loss, but there is also gain: the book is sharper, more satiric, and within the dialogues and scenes we get intricate moral patterning which leaves a mark on us while the scenes in Dr Thorne are just let to flow psychologically to climaxes.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage, first six chapters

Like all of us, I have read (in my case reread) the first six chapters of Framley Parsonage and am prepared to comment on what I have read. First of all, it is a pleasure to get back to Anthony Trollope after reading the inferior productions of his mother, whose biography seems of more interest than any of her popular novels.

Also, I note that in Chapter VI we get a synopsis of the events of Barchester Towers, where Mrs. Proudie tells Mrs. Harold Smith about the activities of Mr. Slope. Mrs. Proudie, who is always a delight to read about, is back in character. In Dr. Thorne she made only a cameo appearance. Now we not only see her in full form but also we learn that Mr. Slope married the widow of a tallow chandler. A tallow chandler, I presume, was a maker of candles and certainly not a gentleman. Candles, like shoes, had to be made by someone so they could be used by gentlemen and ladies. But the artificer who made them would not be welcomed at either Mrs. Proudie's or Mrs. Grantly's dinner table. So we see a well-deserved comedown for Mr. Slope, who once aspired to the hand of the lady who is now Mrs. Arabin. Again, I say to Trollope, well done.


From Catherine Crean
Subject: [trollope-l] Mark Robarts

I am listening to the Books on Tape recording of Framley Parsonage read by David Case. What an enjoyable experience! There is a big difference between reading a book and hearing it read to you - at least I am finding it so. I have read Framley Parsonage two times already. I had never understood the character of Mark Robarts. Trollope calls Robarts "our hero" but for some reason, I never took to the vicar. Ellen's posts on Framley Parsonage helped open my eyes to the marvelous arc of the Robarts story - promising young man to ruined young man to sadder but wiser man. The reading by DAvid Case is making Mark come alive to me in a way I never experienced before. I have also always been puzzled by "The Chaldicotes set" but that is another psot.

Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage

After I finished Dr. Thorne, my wife told me I'd love Framley Parsonage, even though, she said, it had no plot. "That's a serious lack," I replied, "for I like a plot." But I know Trollope thought little of plots -- "You want a plot," he said in essence, "read Thackeray." So I went into the book somewhat skeptically.

However, as I read Framley Parsonage, I found myself fascinated. Perhaps it doesn't have a plot, perhaps it does. If there is no one major plot around which everything else revolves, there are certainly what could be called minor plots enough. It's a beautiful story, and contains some of the best characterizations that Trollope ever did (Sowerby is far more complex than appears at first). Trollope does recycle his characters, however (why not? if you've hit upon something good, flaunt it). Miss Dunstable is a preincarnaton of Madame Max.

Gene Stratton

To Trollope-l

January 5, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage: Having It Read Aloud

My experience is similar to Catherine's: when I have listened to Trollope's novel read aloud dramatically by good readers (David Case, Timothy West, Donada Peters), a dimension is added, not taken away. I have found that I understand the text in an intenser way because I hear it; perhaps I remember it better too. I would agree with criticisms of audiocassettes that they don't allow one to linger on a page; you can't flip back and forth and reread and have reveries; the reader does impose a distinct tonal interpretation on the text which may differ from those you would have were you reading silently. Yet the sound of a voice which is alive when it is intelligently done gives to the text a quality of felt life that counterbalances these other possible losses. Then you can always read the book to yourself after you have finished listening. I also find that I can understand a line better, gets its inner life in a way I might not have (because one sometimes nods) by listening to someone who is alert throughout.

It was David Case who I listened to for _Framley Parsonage_. His insinuating elegant drawl and the muscularity of his cutting pronunciation was perfect for Sowerby. He can also do the emotional passages very well: delicate, brisk yet filled with feeling.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Re: Framley Parsonage, Chs 1-6: Landscape and Houses

I agree with Gene's wife, Ginger, that for a long time in Framley Parsonage there seems to be no plot: there is not much forward thrust of events; nothing locks inexorably together in the way of a high point after which we move through an unraveling of consequences to an inevitable dénouement. However, it does come. It takes time.

In addition, we do have hints of in what the emergent crisis and its results will inhere: on the one hand, Trollope is clearly shaping his portrait of Mark Robarts to correspond to that of an Adam who cannot resist temptations, partly because they are so subtle, so unobtrusive. After all, it would be mortifying to a man like himself to refuse the Duke of Omnium's invitation. Fothergill asserts it is the Duke's. Fothergill repeats the invitation. It is an honour; it confers status; Robarts may win something from going. Not to go is to admit himself Lady Lufton-pecked, not an independent man. Who would not go? At the same time, we see that this Chaldicoats group is shot through with a form of corruption I'll call indifference, indifference to decent human feeling, and Sowerby is living well beyond his means -- and has somehow or other involved Lord Lufton. One of the more deeply felt scenes in terms of the character's presence is that of Lady Lufton at her desk reading her son's letter in which she learns she must give up a piece of property. Lufton is in debt; it is Lufton with whom Robarts has formed his fast friendship since a boy. We also learn that Lufton is stubborn: he refuses to hunt in his own county. Now that wouldn't hurt. Is he too rebelling against the over-commanding woman, Lady Lufton? Will he lean on Robarts? If he does, we have seen enough of Fanny's lack of immediate funds even to help Robarts over this long weekend, to suspect Robarts will not be able to take such leaning.

Stay tuned.

Nonetheless it is developing slowly, much more slowly than the plot of The Warden or Dr Thorne, both of which unfolded quickly. I have a suggestion for why the events do not come too quickly at first. Trollope was hired to write this book. He was in the throes of another. He had in his brain the fully imagined world of Barsetshire, but was not deeply into imaginatively realising any story. Yet he had to produce an instalment and he had to produce it yesterday (so to speak). So what we get in this opening is the shaping of the moral fable which will undergird the action. He does not yet know how he will bring this action about.

We also get a loving depiction of Barsetshire. Chapter 2 reminds me of the turns in Dr Thorne where we would be taken to Greshambury place, and then to De Courcy castle, and then to Gatherum. Except this time Trollope seems unqualifiedly affectionate: he likes how unpretending, serendipitous Framley Court is: it is the product of human efforts and culture across time. It is not irrelevant that it is a low building: it is not falsely high, not phony:

Framley itself was a pleasant country place, having about it nothing of seignorial dignity or grandeur, but possessing everything necessary for the comfort of a country life. The house was a low building of two stories, bulit at different periods, and devoid of all pretensions to a style of architecture; but the rooms, thought not lofty, were warm and comfortable, and the gardens were trim and neat beyond all others in the county. Indeed it was for its gardens only that Framley Court was celebrated (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 2, p. 43).

Halperin argues that Trollope disliked the lies of celebration, or at least if he liked its physical pleasures, not its pretensions. There follow after this paragraph several in which the Court is linked to the locality called Framley Cross, the Lufton Arms, 'the shoe-maker who kept the post-office', and then to Framley Church, apparently a 'mean, ugly building' which Lady Lufton's heart is set upon rebuilding so as to bring dissenters back. From the Church we move to the schools, and then to the grocers (Mr and Mrs Podgens). We turn left to the Vicarage which has a garden path separating it from the Podgens; it is a perfect parsonage for a gentleman with moderate desires: it has gardens and paddocks in good order, but is 'not exactly new, so as to be raw and uncovered, and redolent of workmen; but just at that era of their existence in which newness gives way to comfortable homeliness' (p. 44). The we move to some more shops, to the curate's house, and then expand outwards to set the whole in Eastern Barsetshire, which 'all the world knows' is, politically speaking, Tory. Alas, alas, Lord Lufton is a Whig. Trollope is having fun here, but he hopes perhaps we may be among those who read of what happened when Squire Gresham joined the Whig magnates in West Barsetshire.

There is a contrasting description of Chaldicotes. In brief, the point is made that it looks impressive, is 'a house of much more pretension than Farmley Court'. It has many more marks of nobility: the forest, the chase, the old oaks, the centuries old land. The irony is underplayed: 'Some part of it' is actually still owned by Sowerby, who 'though all his pecuniary distresses, has managed to save from the axe and the auction-mart that portion of his paternal heritage' (Ch 3, p. 53). The implication is he has not saved much else, and is having a hard time holding onto what he has, though you wouldn't know it to watch the way he spends his hours.

All this is done lovingly and it is effective. It is redolent of a sense of place and presences. Trollope is building and filling in the world of Barsetshire further.

I agree that the character of Sowerby is a match in subtlety and depth to Trollope's depiction of Mark Robarts and Lady Lufton. The portrait is introduced with the narrator's ironical insinuation that Mark has not allowed Lady Lufton to understand quite how friendly he and Lord Lufton are with Sowerby; it is on the surface (like Chaldicotes) that of a man most people at the time would give teeth up to know, someone in whose circle plums are given out. 'How was it possible that such a one as our vicar should not relish the intimacy of Mr Sowerby?' (p. 55). Mark tells himself women do not understand such things.

Then we meet Miss Dunstable. She does not deflate pretension so quickly and obviously as she does in Dr Thorne. But then if she did, we would wonder why she is friends with Mrs Harold Smith. However, there is a cutting exchange of witty metaphors between Miss Dunstable and Robarts which goes far to expose the domineering of Mrs Proudie.

Trollope's depiction of Supplehouse and Harold Smith would fit into any of the Pallisers: he is into secular politics now. Miss Dunstable tells us Mr Supplehouse would do better not to write articles (they are sycophantic); Harold Smith's lecture is also singularly unhelpful for those he professes to want to help and to himself. They remind me of figures in The Prime Minister: the Robys for example.

So plot there's not much of as yet, but who reads for plot? Trollope tells us we should not read for plot, and likes to tease us by giving away parts of his endings.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage

From: katwoman Kathy quoted Angela Richardson:

"Gradually the world of the novel gained its grip on my mind and it became extremely hard to read it in such small sections."

Indeed. I don't know if I'll be able to keep to the pace we've set here, I usually don't once I start the book.

Could someone please translate the title of chapter 5 for me? I'm reading a cheap Penguin Popular Classics edition, sans notes, and my Oxford Pocket Latin dictionary is of little help.

I'm assuming the Robarts's cook Jemima is meant to be Jamaican, mon, but I must admit I'm squirming with embarrassment at Trollope's rendering of her speech.

When Lady Lufton quarrels with Fanny I thought she was going to be Arabella Gresham all over again, and was pleasantly surprised when she came to the parsonage to apologize. But I still suspect there's an ulterior motive. How convenient it was that she caught up with Fanny before the 4pm post went out.

I found the heckling at the lecture in chapter 6 quite amusing, as well as Bishop Proudie (Mrs.) wresting the last word away from Mr. Smith. It was also good to see old friends such as Miss Dunstable and Mr. Harding again.


From: "Catherine Crean"
Subject: [trollope-l] Lovers' quarrels

Chapter V of Framley Parsonage is translated "The quarrels of lovers sre the renewal of love." This is from Terence, I think. Trollope has several latin phrases that he used again and agian, and this is one of them. Another is "Black care sitting behind the horseman." My latin is not all that good, but I think that's what the chapter title means.

Catherine Crean

From Roger Batt. This was written in 1996, to Ms Thompson's list, shortly after the group had then finished The Claverings, but I thought it belonged here because of its beautiful enthusiasm:

I was fascinated how similar in a lot of ways Mark Robarts (the vicar) was to Harry Clavering. Is there a danger of there being a stereotyped "Juvenile lead" in T's novels - essentially good but weak? It was also interesting to read T's thoughts on "Hunting Parsons" in the book just after having read his article on them in the Trollope Society's "Hunting Sketches" book. He in fact says more or less the same thing, but somehow it comes over better in the novel, maybe because we are associating iot with a specific example (our hero) and not just with a generic parson.

As our beloved leaderene says that we can read other books apart from the one the list is reading, I took advantage of a cold, wet weekend and read Framley Parsonage - which is the latest to arrive in the Trollope Society edition. I had not read it before and I really enjoyed it - do I remember rightly and it was this novel which brought him fame at last or I got this wrong? In any case it deserves to.

SPOILER WARNING - if you haven't read it - don't read on!!!!!!!

Lucy Robarts is another of his wonderful women - you fall in love with her at once and you know straight away that she will succeed over the ghastly Griselda Grantly - although for one moment when Lucy goes to nurse the typhoid stricken Mrs Crawley I did, with a shiver of fear, wonder if she wes going to contract it too and turn the story into a real tragedy. Then I realised that this was not by Dickens (who might have done) but by T, and one of the comforting things about T is that you know that it is going to be all right in the end.

Mind you even he slightly overdoes it at the end, I mean four weddings in one chapter!!! Is this a record? I seem to remember reading another one where there were three weddings in the last chpter but I can't remember which one it was.

I also thought that Lady Lufton was a wonderful character, there is something so true and beleivable about her, the scene where she goes to see Lucy in her carriage and asks her to marry Lord Lufton was very moving - it brought a tear to my eye.

Finally there is the wonderful "richest woman in England" who marries dear old Dr Thorne. She is what silly Julia in The Claverings should have been. I thought she was another very genuine aznd believable character - and one of the funniest of his I have read.

All in all - an excellent read, I am looking forward to The Small House at Allington when it arrives. (as well as Can you Forgive Her of course)

By the way it was nice to have a cameo appearance of the Duke of Omnium, it whetted my appetite for the Palliser Novels.


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