Anthony Trollope's "The House of Heine Brothers in Munich"

Written 1861 (7 - 10 April)
Serialized 1861 (16 & 23 November), Public Opinion
Published in a book 1863 (February), Tales of All Countries: Second Series, Chapman and Hall

Robert Wright introduced it: "The House of Heine Brothers" is also a great read, and one you will find it hard to put down. I would recommend taking it into a long slow bath, with liberal additions of hot water to keep you comfortable for the hour or so you will need to read it in one sitting. The romance is heart warming. The Germanic coldness of the girl is balanced nicely by the way she comes to admit her love and act on it in a very ungirl like way, showing unusual bravery againt stern odds. The ending is happy - altogether a worthy Trollope romance.

Robert J Wright

To Trollope-L

February 4, 1998

Re: Short Story: "The House of Heine Brothers in Munich"

I found this one somewhat Germanically (smiling) dull and heavy; however, since Trollope's purpose is to delineate a cultural group and milieu which is itself mostly utterly conventional and plodding, he has done his job. The point of the story seemed to be to bring out certain curious differences between bourgeois German culture and English gentry culture, and to show that at least in one young lady a spark of real passion and desire overcame the usual caution and rule of prudence and safety first, joy only in small amounts and when it cannot possibly do any harm to your position in life. Victoria Glendinning quotes a passage from another Victorian writer about the relative acceptance among the lower and aristocratic classes of marriage between people of somewhat different statuses and without necessarily having all funds in place for a lifetime and the rigid adherence to codes which would ensure status in the middle class who most feared change, and it seems this German banking group who are not opulent and whose business can go bankrupt exemplify this extreme caution.

Although the cultures are different, the depiction of this group of bourgeois Germans reminded me of Trollope's tales of French peasants and bourgeois in novellas like The Golden Lion of Granpère and short stories like "La Mere Bauche." The lack of romance and overt passion in Isa and the young Englishman's hurt and inability to understand how she can sit and wait for years reminded me of the similar situation in "John Bull" where again we have a European girl who has been thoroughly trained not to feel any sexual impulses or show her deeper levels of passion until the young man has the money in hand. èThe delicacy and tact of the insights into love seemed to me subtler in "The Parsons' Daughter;" "The House" is rather a story about a house which focuses on an obedient daughter who for once in her life actually asks something from an older male relative and (incredibly even to herself) moves the man's emotions. Of course in keeping is the final line: the young man certainly made enough money to justify the place given him.

I did like some of the quiet pictorial details giving insight into the recesses of people's hearts, and also the quiet satire, as in the description of this German family's over gaudy drawing room (for company) and the meagre comfort they allowed themselves in the rooms they lived in. Trollope also brings home the self-abnegation these people practiced as a matter of course by having the young man automatically given the best room because he pays money while the children take what one supposes are even darker and more meagrely appointed rooms. Practical people.

The girl also reaches out to make sure she has her young man and is not deprived of her opportunity for some joy. He moves her. That's where I see its line to Patience Woolsworthy who is delineated in a more varied and dramatically effective way.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

February 5, 1998

Robert answered me very patiently:

It is interesting how different people react. As I said in a previous post, I enjoyed this tale rather more than Ellen obviously did.

How true to life was the interview between the niece and her uncle. Working with predominantly female managers, I am always reminded how much easier they find it to wheedle money out of my boss when expenditure is required than I do, asking for the same amount on their behalf. That is a tactic I ometimes use - send in one of the women to put their own case, it saves me time and is generally more effective.

The old man did not give in right away. Old men sometimes don't. It's >pride, maybe, but then how good it is for them to reflect on the charming way the young lady has made her request, and decide to be magnanimous after she has been disappointed at first.


To which I responded:

Now I gather on this scene Robert and I agree since I take it he found it the most interesting scene in the story. I thought whatever Trollope writes in justification for this story ("character painting," explicating the inward differences between German and English middle class culture, a picture of Munich, &c), Trollope wrote it for this scene. The point was to bring us to this scene and show how the girl's inner life and sexuality could evoke in the old man some private self long since buried by the demands of gaining the respect of his society safely and pull money from it. "The House" lets us know Trollope is not so much interested in the love story but only in the love story as it plays out in this rigidly cautious or wary public world. It seemed to me this was a family which almost had no private life. Yet there it was: the girl had something in the recesses of her nature. I will remember this scene from it too.


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