Crawley & Sowerby/Mrs Smith and Mr Harding: Great Characters; Dr and Mrs Thorne: "How to Write a Love Letter"; More Copulatives & the Cost of 'Quiet Continued Sunshine'; Hauling Out the Clowns; A Touch of Gentle Bearing Around the Heart of Pitch? Sowerby Once Again; The Book Climaxes in Money Woes; Outrageous & Quiet Spite v Civilised Reciprocity; Lucy Robarts: One of Trollope's Successes with the Good Chaste Heroine

Towards the end of this read a number of us began to post on chapters which had occurred earlier in the book and post on chapters beyond the week's "instalment" so the following really includes Chapters 36 and Chapters 43 - 45.

February 12, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage, Chs 36-40: Crawley & Sowerby/Mrs Smith and Mr Harding: Great Characters

I'm not sure but that the most deeply understood and strikingly memorable characters in this novel aren't Crawley and Sowerby. Mark Robarts and Lucy Robarts, Lord and Lady Lufton are believable, but they pale before the intensity and inwardness of depiction we find in Crawley and Sowerby. It's curious too how both these two characters have not quite allegorical, suggestively-resonant names. Crawley is required to crawl before all others in his world who proceed to admonish him if he manifests a stung humilating pride in self-defense. Sowerby's way of providing what is admired by much of his world, and what they want to climb up to (at almost any price) is sour at heart: the experience of social life at Chaldicotes was sour unless the people were blowing bubbles; he is sour on life, someone who disbelieves all moral professions and will himself say what others want to hear in order to get what he wants; he sours the lives of those who come near him, embitters them. Like Crawley there is much to be said for his point of view: he is himself drained, and then dismissed like the hollow man he has been. RJ brings up Melmotte: at the close of that book Trollope makes the point the very people who most despise Melmotte when down and dead hurried to his dinners and adulated him when they thought him rich.

We can compare and contrast Chapter 36 (the last of the second of last week's instalments) and Chapter 37 (the first chapter of this week's first instalment). Spring has come to the parsonage at Hogglestock, but it is no romantic scene. Trollope's lovely paragraph of description of early spring highlights the very bareness of the place: what Trollope urges us to appreciate is the fragility and lack of abundance, the very light green covering of the bare twigs. Against this we see the 'bleak' hard road with the cottage standing by the road. There is nothing cozy here; if readers have read this into the book, they have projected what they want to see, not what is there (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 36, p. 429) As Sowerby walks through his property in a bitter moment, wishing he had never been born, his mood resembles the tortured mood of Crawley. The dreariness RJ felt is there all right: in the lack of human planning, human activity, human upkeep, and human noise. All is still; no one running after Sowerby now. But if you look you see the grounds around Chaldicotes have a poignant quiet beauty: we are told of forest trees, the tenderness of nature, birds singing; he picks wild flowers (Ch 37, p. 440).

The conversation between Arabin and Crawley is on an adult level. I can see that Crawley overreacts to Arabin's exteme-case argument (what is Mrs C were starving), but he has a good case to make in response. Why should his wife be hungry? Does he not work as hard and harder than most men:

'Is not the labourer worthy of his hire? Am I not able to work, and willing? Have I not always had my shoulder to the collar, and is it right that I should now be contented with the scraps from a rich man's table' (Ch 36, p 431).

I played Devil's advocate last week by saying that Trollope presented in Crawley the depiction of the utter injustice of the way the world's prizes were then and are still meted out and then asked us to blame Crawley for pride. I can answer myself by quoting Crawley himself who says it is not a matter of pride. It is a matter of hard work not fairly paid.

Crawley also makes a good argument when he says it is easy enough for another fellow to accept his pain and mortication. (I have seen this on lists when X is flamed by Y; all the others seem to say X should not be upset, until of course Y flames them.) Myself I share Crawley's kind of pride; it is the pride of the outsider: 'it would hurt me to know that there were those looking at me who thought me unfit to sit in your rooms' (p. 432). It should never be said that Trollope didn't know what the lower orders felt in his world. His explanation for why he became a liberal at Beverly generalises this depiction of Crawley into a depiction of those beneath gentleman in his world. Of course Crawley is also a depiction of Trollope's father and his agonized pride in failure, his loneliness because of his inability to reach out.

Sowerby's startlingly sharp conversation which matches this one occurs earlier in the book when he and Mr Fothergill meet. I did quote from and discuss that earlier in terms of its affinities with The Fixed Period ('South Audley Street', Ch 27). In 'Mr Sowerby Without Company' we get only a sharp decisive conversation with his sister (Ch 37, pp 441-42). The brief conversations in Trollope tell a good deal too: this one between Mrs Smith and Sowerby may be matched to Mr Harding's brief conversation with Griselda Grantly (Ch 40, pp 472-73). With a very few words, a gesture, a movement and dismissal on the part of one character, the other sees through him or her (and we do too). The moral shaping is simpler, but the meaning of these scenes is as complicated as the longer ones of this week.

More tomorrow.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

February 13, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage: Dr Thorne and Mrs Thorne: "How To Write a Love Letter"

Here I go again on Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable :)

I thought I'd devote a separate posting to the subject of the marriage of Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable. I know we've hashed around this but now the marriage is upon us I want to try once again, this time talking about their wonderful letter exchange.

When I read Framley Parsonage for the first time, I was at first dismayed when suddenly (as it seemed then wholly unprepared for and still seems a opportunistic thought) Mary about 1/2 way through _Framley Parsonage_ begins to hint how suitable Miss Dunstable would be for her uncle (Penguin FP, ed DSkilton, Ch 28, pp 341-42). Though Dr Thorne escaped in embarrassment, the emotional nature of the scene told me it was not a joke and a marriage was in the offing.

It seemed to be a betrayal of Dr Henry Thorne and Miss Martha Dunstable as I understood their natures and probable destinies in Dr Thorne. For me one of the most memorable passages in Dr Thorne had been the conclusion of its prologue where we are told how the young woman he loved had not loved him enough to understand what he had gone through and the hero's role he had played in the murder of his brother, and had given him up because he had (forsooth) lost respectability in the eyes of the 'world':

In those stormy days of the trial she told Dr Thorne, that perhaps it would be wise that they should not see each other any more. Dr Thorne, so counselled, at such a moment -- so informed then, when he most required comfort fomr his love at once swore loudly that he agreed with her. He rushed forth with a bursting hart, and said to himself that he world was bad, all bad. He saw the lady no more; and, if I am rightly informed, never again made matrimonial overtures to anyone' (Penguin Dr Thorne, intro RRendell, ch 2, p. 30)

Miss Dunstable had been presented as not a marrying woman. That was part of her charm. She stood free of the marketplace and of Eros.

Now I was to see them united so that the putative reader who wanted 'country copulatives' made of all the characters at the end of the comedy. As I have said, I don't like happy endings when they are tacked on. I find false happiness which I know doesn't exist in the world depressing. As I said off-list to someone at his best Trollope reminds me of Samuel Johnson: the comfort and strength he offers the reader is that of hard truth (as in the stories of Crawley and Sowerby, the temptation of shallow ambition of Mark) combined with strong integrity and kindness that is believable in other characters because it's partly in their interest to act that way. I like Framley Parsonage insofar as it is steely at the core.

Is there anyone who feels the way I do here? That Trollope is spoiling his design, his original conception for the sake of a neatly tied ending. After all, there needs someone to live with Miss Dunstable at Chaldicotes.

I make a separation because I admit I have gotten used to this violation. To be truthful, the first time I read Framley Parsonage what I admired was how tactfully Trollope had carried it off by the use of a comradely letter, by his de-emphasis of the sexual element in the attraction of Miss Dunstable. Dr Thorne likes her for her character. There are also gentle hints that it is not 'absurd' sexually either (as if sex between old and therefore not-so-pretty people must be absurd). We are told Dr Thorne is a young fifty-year old, and our narrator forgets about Miss Dunstable's wide mouth, tight black curls, bony structure and loud voice.

On a fourth read I find myself paying attention to the letters. I suppose one does two things when one rereads a book several times: one becomes detached from the text a bit; at the same time, one also invests more sympathy in the author and begin to lose sight of your original objections. This is one real danger of literary study: a text that was once boring becomes interesting since you are spending so much time on it. Something you recognised as basically pandering begins to become admirable sleight- of-hand and you look to see how humane and intelligent is Dr Thorne's disinterested letter (which it is).

The chapter 'How to Write a Love Letter' fits into a number of things I said about Trollope's use of letters in my lecture 'Partly Told in Letters'. Trollope makes the act of writing a part of the story. He allows us to enter the characters' mind and see the distance between what gets down on paper and the inner self -- as well as the closeness. Dr Thorne's letter is both performative and sincere. It is appropriate that he should propose by letter. Like George de Courcy, though for very different reasons, he is not sure of himself. It's easier to be rejected by letter. A letter forms a bridge and a barrier at once. You are both present and absent. How kind this is.

The letter itself is surrounded by interesting stylistic commentary. Our narrator tells us

it is not always easy to use simple, plain language, -- by no means so easy as to mount on stilts, and to march along with with sesquipedalian words, with pathos, spasms, and notes of interjection (Ch 39, p. 461).

How true :}. How easy to begin a paragraph 'Equally importantly'; how hard to put into simply words a sum-up of what has gone before and explicit words for what is coming and convey its importance all at once. And the strength of emotion in the letter is at its best when the words are home-y-ist:

I will plight you my word and troth with good faith, and will do what an old man may do to make the burden of the world lie light upon your shoulders (Ch 39, p 462).

Note he doesn't promise any heroic feats or even success. He will do all the best that is in him to do. These are also all Anglo-Saxon words. No Latinate roots.

And Miss Dunstable's reply is short and says clearly why she knows she is lucky to have this man:

I do and will trust you in everything (Ch 39, p. 464).

Of how many people can we say we will trust them in everything? We have seen in Dr Thorne itself that Henry Thorne is this rare person.


February 16, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage: Chs 40-41: More Copulatives & the Cost of 'Quiet Continued Sunshine'

I agreed a couple of weeks ago with RJ that the marriage of Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable fits the themes of this book: here we have a warm companionate disinterested marriage. I had forgotten Dr Thorne conveniently gains stature and money just before marriage. I feel pretty sure Phineas doesn't. Marie marries him just out of prison, and helps lift him out of a despairing depression. Still in both cases we have couples marrying not for position or money, but deep sympathy and congeniality of temperament and shared humane values.

The marriage is also contrasted to Griselda Grantly's marriage to Dumbello. The merit of this part of this week's chapters is the satiric or ironic treatment of Griselda's preparing her trousseau, the way she carries on as if she were assuming some high throne (today the position of CEA on a board of governors). The dialogue between her and Mr Harding places her as hopeless. There's no use talking to her, for, as Eleanor Bold hints (much to Mrs Grantly's irritation), Griselda has a heart inured to all feeling but triumph (and as we saw about Lucy spite). Not a pretty portrait, but made sharply amusing by the language. The best line is given to Eleanor Bold: 'I think it would be almost difficult to frighten Griselda' (Penguin FP, Ch 14, p 271, Ch 40).

But we should not think that Trollope rejects the notion that hierarchy or place counts. The next chapter gives us a dialogue between Fanny Robarts and Lady Lufton in which Fanny defies Lady Lufton insofar as years of friendship, support, and their nearly mother-daughter relationship allow. She stands up for Lucy's right to love Lufton and his to lover her. She argues Lucy is making a heroic sacrifice for the sake of Lady Lufton not because hierarchy ought to triumph love. The contemporary reader might then have read the scene as liberal, enlightened, idealistic. However, the intense fuss made about the whole thing, the difficulty Fanny has to defend her friend, the gravity with which Trollope argues for a marriage across ranks demonstrates equally that Trollope does care about hierarchy. Otherwise why go on about it, why make such fuss. Lucy is to be admired because she is willing to give up moving up so Lord Lufton can marry someone closer to him in rank.

Trollope loves to have it both ways.

There were some good lines in the scenes between Fanny and Lady Lufton. In a way the scene paralleled that between Mrs Grantly and Mrs Bold. Lady Lufton and Mrs Grantly are taking the side the novel would seem to present a case against. Yet Fanny and Mrs Bold's very few words ring true with sincerity and integrity.

We stand warned though that soon the sheriff will be active against poor Mark. Fanny may a creature 'fitted for quiet continued sunshine' but in Trollope's real modern world 'quiet continued sunshine' costs.

A complicated book.

Cheers to all,

Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage: Chs 40-41: More Copulatives & the Cost of 'Quiet Continued Sunshine'

From: Sigmund Eisner

Just one point, Ellen. As usual I enjoyed and respected your analysis of the final dispostion of all characters in Framley Parsonage, but I hasten to remind you that Eleanor's surname is now Arabin and not Bold.


From: "R J Keefe"
Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage, Ch 45: Hauling Out the Clowns

February 23, 2000

From: "R J Keefe"

Ellen Moody postulates two attitudes toward, or ways of regarding, his characters that we and Trollope alike might choose from, the first 'serious' and the second 'entertaining.' In the first view, characters' traits and vicissitudes are to taken seriously. It's extraordinarily malicious of Mrs Proudie (according to this reading) to engineer a whispering campaign against the Dumbello-Grantly alliance. The 'entertaining' view simply reads the scene for laughs. Mrs Proudie becomes a trickster, because of her gender always just beyond the crush of the Archdeacon's fist.

I have always read Trollope in both ways whenever possible - and it's possible, I find, most of the time. Indeed, what I treasure most about Trollope is his ability to create characters who make me smile even as I sigh - a mastery that, among English novelists, I find he shares only with Jane Austen. Reflecting in tranquility on the ambivalence of Trollope's people - an ambivalence beautifully reflected in Trollope's prose - is one of my life's deepest pleasures. The contrivances of plot don't bother me in the least, because this ambivalence is so true to life. Sometimes, in the writing alone, it's life itself.

Not surprisingly, I rather dislike the unambivalent characters like the Rev. Crawley, who occasion no laughter. Crawley is not well-served by Trollope; he belongs in Eliot or Hardy, writers who would give a better account of the abstractions that so palpably drive this woeful man. (It's the lack of an imagined larger world - a world of possibility and hope - that's Trollope's biggest failing.) I can't think of any Trollope character who's simply ridiculous, but perhaps other readers can.

Inserting a scene for its local dramatic value - hauling out the clowns - is a crime that Dickens commits or seems about to commit on every page. I have never sensed such calculation in Trollope. A propos the marriage of Dr Thorne and Ms Dunstable, for example, while it's obvious that Trollope didn't 'set this up' in the approved, foreshadowed manner, I think it occurred to him as he was going along, and captured his fancy - just as sudden fancy of a different kind inspired him to kill off one of his most famous creations.

RJ Keefe

To Trollope-l

February 23, 2000

Re: Framley Parsonage, Chs 42-45: A Touch of Gentle Bearing Around the Heart of Pitch?

We are not unanimous the way we regard Trollope's marrying Dr Thorne off to Miss Dunstable. Perhaps we will also find interesting disagreement on the subject of Sowerby: to my mind he is the most interesting character in the book. Even more interesting than the Rev Josiah Crawley because Trollope has worked out his attitude towards Crawley and while it is complicated, it is consistent. Trollope recognises up to what point he sympathises deeply with Crawley. Insofar as Crawley has a hard and in some ways unrewarding and demeaning task (as his society sees it) for which he is paid too little to live comfortably as a gentleman upon Trollope sympathises; insofar as Crawley cannot unbend, cannot adjust to the way other upper class people treat him even though he is morally and mentally their superior, is driven wild by shame and pride to act against his own interests and those he professes to love Trollope does not sympathise with him.

Trollope is ambivalent and draws no hard and fast lines about Crawley. I find that makes Sowerby more realistic; he does not fit a moral pattern in his own right. Mark is the prodigal son taught a hard lesson. But no lesson that is conventional is taught us through Sowerby. Sowerby squeezes Mark a bit, and then squeezes him some more (reminding me of how Willy Loman in _The Death of a Salesman-) will be squeezed like a lemon till he dry and then turned off without a pension. However, the bigger sharks (the Duke of Omnium and his lawyer-henchmen) act the same way towards Sowerby. The lesson might be you need to be superrich to pull off such amorality. I think not. That's too cynical and disillusioned for this book's narrator. Rather I suspect we have here a quiet foreshadowing of the theme that will begin to dominate Trollope's work later in the Palliser series: an indictment of society as based on money and nothing else. Sowerby fall and the attitude towards it does anticipate Melmotte in The Way We Live Now.

We can see Trollope's ambivalence in Chapter 44. There Trollope spills tells us we must try to bear and forebear with, even love, because he was not actively malicious, merely selfish and unhinking. Sowerby's lies and negligence are condemned by Trollope's narrator, only to turn around and say we must forgive him because he knows how he should have acted and has "an abiding taste" for the better higher things of life (Penguin FP, Ch 44, p 519). Then again his letter to Mark is a spineless piece of escapism. Trollope strongly respects truth-telling and the way Sowerby tells lies to please and to flatter people disgusts and revolts him. Sowerby deserves to be stymied by the Slows and Bideawhiles. Trollope moves back and forth.

Any one else find Sowerby fascinating and believable?

Ellen Moody

RE: Framley Parsonage: The Book Climaxes in Money Woes

My Penguin edition of Framley Parsonage sports Millais's depiction of Fanny and Mark Robarts just at the moment the bailiffs enter the house. The scene was originally chosen by Trollope (who in his letters chose all the scenes for illustrations in his novels of the 1860s). Its the climax of the book; the love stories emerge from Mark's temptation, fall, descent, time in The Slough of Despond, and painful struggle upwards towards the light. He minces no words to himself. I like Mark because he doesn't flatter himself at all. He can also sob. I like his pride in not going to Lady or Lord Lufton.

Lord Lufton also comes across very well as he promptly scares the bogeymen away. The narrator need not point out to us how lucky and unaware he is lucky Lord Lufton seems. Lufton is the noble king who has the common man Robert-Burns values. He makes all right. Too bad the world isn't that way. His only problem is his mother who loves him dearly and will give him what he wants. No problem at all.

It is interesting that the climactic scene in FP focuses on money and the love interest comes up secondarily with Crawley's wretchedness and Mrs Crawley's illness functioning to make Lucy angelic.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Re: Framley Parsonage: Outrageous & Quiet Spite v Civilised Reciprocity

There is a theme of quiet spite going on at Framley. The servants are half-glad to find their once self-assured and upper class ("butter wouldn't melt in their mouths") master and mistress brought down to their materialistic level.

This quiet becomes strong in the story of Mrs Proudie and her daughter, Mrs Tickler. In my study of letters in Trollope I became convinced that all anonymous and pseudonymous letters in Trollope are ugly, replete with envy and spite, and cause pain. Mrs Proudie is so hubristic she thinks she can scare the young man away or give him a loophole to climb through if she starts rumors that Dumbello is about to break the engagement. Shamelessness is a strong weapon in our civlised society. Mrs Proudie looks extremely mean in her scene with the Archdeacon Grantly who comes out as a tender affectionate but headstrong father in the scenes of the engagement of Griselda and her preparation for her trousseau. Do other agree there is something outrageous about her nerve in this scene?

Against this Lady Lufton emerges a generous figure. Her objections to Lucy are small-minded: Lucy will not shine before such as Griselda Grantly is about the size of it. False. Even stupid: Lady Lufton reminds me of the older women in Austen who mean well and have generally a good understanding but lack a fine sensitivity as Austen calls it towards the psychologies of others and themselves. In the passage where she thinks of how she would have welcomed most girls to queen it over her she shows how little she knows herself. Lord Lufton is right to remark she would have married him to a "block of stone". However, she means no harm. She doesn't mean to hurt her son or Lucy. Mrs Proudie means to hurt people. We are told Lady Lufton would do nothing to hurt her son; she needed to live with people who loved her and whom she could and would love.

Upon first reading the novel I wondered if Trollope had overdone Mrs Proudie here in order to have some acid in the sweet ending of the book. Or had he seen just this sort of thing in his life. If we think about hackers and pests and trolls on lists and websites, we might say malice is strong in the human character and many will act upon it if they think there can be no punishment. Coleridge said motiveless malignity was the key to evil in human characters. Of cours Mrs Proudie would say she has a motive: Mrs Grantly hurled many knives into her, but these were all mental and Mrs Grantly did not try to influence events.

Ellen Moody

Re: Hauling Out out the Clowns

Oh RJ what a beautiful posting. How I enjoyed it.

I am also delighted to agree that both perspectives of serious and comic are in the penultimate scenes between Mrs Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly. Where he and I differ though is in the idea that the Rev Crawley is simply ridiculous. Trollope sees him very sympathetically: we see wherein he is limited in his views of what makes for a full, good and rich life (to put it at its strongest and to say the least), but the pathos is so strong there is no ridicule. Crawley is never a clown in the sense that Mrs Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly occasionally are.

Crawley is also used in the shaping of events in this, earlier in The Warden and Barchester Towers and again in The Last Chronicle: this shaping presents a strong criticism of the way in which church positions are given out and the injustice of the unequal rewards.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

Re: Framley Parsonage: Lucy Robarts

This is a much delayed response to a couple of postings on this character.

I rejoice to delight in another Trollope heroine. I may have a reputation on this list of detesting quite a number of Trollope's goody-goody heroines. I am impatient or unimpressed over the miseries of a Madeline Staveley or even an Elinor Bold. However, here is a second novel in a row in which I am very fond of the heroine, identify just as strongly with her as I do with a number of Austen's heroines (to wit, both Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, Jane Fairfax and Anne Elliot). I can also cite in good conscience a real love for Rachel Ray, Clara Amedroz, and even Madame Victorine de Lescure (among the character in books we have read most recently on this list).

Lucy Robarts reminds me of Lucy Morris -- against whom I have learned to only half-believe modern women prefer Lizzie Eustace. Both Lucys defy the Victorian idea of 'majestic' beauty which we find in Griselda Grantly and Arabella Trefoil: the big blond, buxom, fecund, someone with a plump body which declares to all she is a woman who never does any work for a living but drop babies. Lucy Robarts, Lucy Morris -- and also Madame Max -- are thin, rather flat-chested, narrow wristed, with a 'brown' complexion (meaning not pink and white). I think Madame Max is tallish, but both Lucys are small, dove-like. Trollope repeats these kinds of physical details so often, and attributes them to his favored heroines from the very beginning of his career (Feemy Macdermots is a small brown beauty), it has to be a deliberate anger at the sources of the ideal of the time.

However, it is not for her looks I love Lucy Robarts. It's for a behavior apparently diametrically opposed to that of Miss Dunstable: the latter is overtly ironic, disillusioned, sharp, sceptical; the former is overtly sentimental, believing in the ethical pretenses of her world as better than anything else that has come along, kind, self-abnegating in conversation. However there is a center where they join hands: it's called a certain integrity, a stubborn adherence to whatever is the truth of their feelings and what they recognise in others, a stiff-neckedness if you like. Lucy is the true underdog; Miss Dunstable someone who would be the underdog (despised by people like Griselda Grantly and half-dismissed by the Lady Luftons) except she's got such a lot of money. I did like Trollope's depiction of Lucy's behavior at Framley Court; I thought Lord Lufton depicted so persuasively. I believe in this ever-so-self-confident lord who is yet kind, with a decent heart. Maybe that's it too: both Miss Dunstable and Lucy Robarts have that. And Lucy is rebellious like Mary Thorne: she will stick up for herself and not be a sycophant. I like precisely the form of pride they share.

So here are two Trollopian virginal heroines in a row I like: Mary Thorne and Lucy Robarts.

Non sequitor: I also agreed with Dagny there is an awkwardness in the introduction of Frank and Mary (Thorne) Gresham in Framley Parsonage. I see it coming out in the coyness with which Trollope introduces them: why not tell their names outright. He does so with Bishop and Mrs Proudie. However, as Dagny says, it may be that for the Victorian there was a delight in scenting without being sure that the characters of Dr Thorne were reappearing. Readers love reappearing characters.


The following was written in response to a misunderstanding of what I wrote in the above posting.

From: Ellen Moody
Subject: [trollope-l] Framley Parsonage: Lucy Robarts

Dear Rory and anyone else interested in the good chaste heroines seeking husbands in Trollope:

I never doubted that an upper middle class young women needed to find a husband to establish herself in a comfortable, relatively fulfilling, self-respecting life. What I was getting at was the importance in some of the books about which young man she would marry. In Orley Farm Madeline Staveley must choose between two young gentlemen, both of whom could provide her with the comfortable stable home. She prefers one young man to the other, and we are supposed to care intensely that she gets that one young man over the other. Of course to the romantic young women reader of Trollope's day it mattered intensely which young gentleman she ended up marrying. However, to a modern reader such a myself this decision over Mr X or Mr Y, both of whom are decent, comfortable, well-meaning, neither of whom would dare to threaten her one little bit doesn't seem to have the intense significance with which Trollope and other Victorian novelists endow it. Far more important is how many people in 19th century England lived in abysmal poverty, how hard life was, what a struggle for these poor and many of the middling sort on the edge. Also far more important are questions like how should one choose to live once one marries, what are the values one should live by. It's not the young girl's need to marry itself I am questioning, but her need to marry just this Perfect Man and dominating importance it is given in a novel over other issues of wider and deeper significance.

Now what distinguishes Lucy Robarts, Lucy Morris, and until she becomes a rich heiress, Mary Thorne is that they are not comfortable. For them it is not a matter of whether they marry Mr X or Mr Y, but whether anyone will respect them at all because of their lack of status, complete lack of money and parents and connections, bastardy, and so on. The question of marriage in their case brings with it other larger questions about class, society, money, rank. These larger questions are the ones that makes their fates of interest to this modern reader.

Cheers to all, Ellen Moody

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