February 11, 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chapters 32-41: Uneasy Romance
After the climactic scenes of Florian and Terry Carroll's deaths, both of them, interestingly, parallel in their "disloyalty" to the their class or group and (in effect) therefore murdered, Trollope returns to the Victorian-style love story of Yorke Clayton and Edith Jones with its undertow of sentimentality in Edith's claim that she is not going to marry Yorke because she made the mistake of encouraging her sister to love him and now is honour-bound not to take him herself but leave him for Ada. He labels his wooing scene between Edith Yorke with wording ("Captain Clayton's Love-Making") which directs the reader to compare it to the equally uneasy romance between Lord Castlewell and Rachel O'Mahony ("Lord Castlewell's Love-Making").
As in much of this last unfinished book, both scenes contain a highly sceptical and deeply male-centered if not exactly anti-feminist point of view which is made explicit by Trollope not as his own but as truth. When Edith refuses to submit or yield to Captain Yorke on the grounds of Ada's unhappiness, Yorke replies that the happiness of two is to be sacrificed for another person who will not be made happy by their not marrying, and she replies:
"'What two?' she asked brusquely.
'You and I.'
'My happiness will not be sacrificed, Captain Clayton,' she said. What right had he to tell that her happiness was in question? The woman spoke, -- the essence of feminine self, putting itself forward to defend feminine rights generally against male assumptions. Could any man be justified in asserting that a woman loved him till she had told him so? (Oxford LandleaguersM, ed MHamer, Chapter 33, p. 278).
I'm glad Trollope knows what is the essence of the feminine self :) As the paragraph moves on, the idea that Edith becomes indignant at any man assserting a woman loves him before she tells him so is only the manifestation or wording by which the feminine self attempts to keep herself free of male domination. The essence of the feminine self is the right to say no and be believed, the right to hold out and not be forced into a relationship, a relationship by which she will be wholly shaped and limited but which will be just one part of his life ("He would have the work of his life"). As they argue, he asserts he is "the legitimate owner" of her hand because he knows she loves him and therefore has a right to take her.
These assumption of Clayton's are dangerous to women: we have seen them used in previous Trollope novels by men and coopted women to coerce an unmarried women to marry someone she doesn't like (e.g., The Vicar of Bullhampton where a heroine makes the mistake of engaging herself to a man for whom she has no sexual longing whatsoever, quite the contrary and is pressured to marry him because she cannot say she has another partner in the wings or loves someone who loves and can marry her) or to marry someone she may love but in whose hands she would prefer not to put herself or future as she downright smells his animal instincts as domineering, fearful, or his personality as rigid (Alice Vavasour in Can You Forgive Her?). This is not just a temporary sociological pattern: this idea of the male that he has a right lies behind instinctive male stalking after relationships between men and women which have become sexual break up.
Edith is asserting her right to speak for herself, not to be undermined by her libidinal desires, to maintain space around herself. She also says this is not the time to marry. This comes out in a later chapter in her conversation with her now morose and embittered father ("Yorke Clayton Again Makes Love", p. 336). It may be she is putting off pregnancy after pregnancy and all the marriage implies, very hesitant before it (and who wouldn't, especially given Clayton's dangerous profession). How then is it male-centered since Trollope speaks up for the woman's point of view -- the narrator here reminds me of the narrator in Austen's Emma who argues that Emma's refusal to regret her enabling Harriet Smith to refuse a proposal from a comfortable tenant-farmer is the feminine self asserting a woman's right not to have to marry when someone who looks like a good prospect asks or just as a male who is respected by other males wants her; an argument reiterated by Austen's Fanny Price in Mansfield Park when she defends her "no" to Henry Crawford that a woman is not to be supposed in love with a man because other women want him or all the world admires him or he is simply handsome and debonair as others see this. What kind of respect for the individual woman is that?
Where then is the "not exactly anti-feminine point of view" here? In Trollope's assumption that Clayton has the right to take over Edith's personality once she does give in, in Trollope's assumption that her "no" is a mere front, the sly insinuation that her concern for her sister is simply a front. It is unreal, but sentimentality (as defined by James Baldwin) comes out of a discomfort and dislike of reality, not out of there being no reality which prompts its denial. Trollope seems to imply nothing really finally important is at stake for Edith her in her refusal to kowtow on Clayton's terms. He will only allow the momentary mourning period for the death of the brother and respect for her father's misery and personal rage. Something finally important is: her autonomy, her integrity as a self for what are we but what we act in the world.
I'll break this posting into parts and make a separate one for the Rachel-Castlewell parallel.
Re: The Landleaguers, Chapters 32-41: Uneasy Romance
The uneasiness of Rachel and Lord Castlewell's engagement is also rooted in Victorian plot-stereotypes and assumptions: now the Lord is growing uncomfortable because he is marrying beneath him. He expects his "singing girl" to be grateful, to defer to him, her refusal to get off the stage is paralleled to Edith's refusal to ignore all the circumstances of her life, to cast them aside as meaning nothing when Clayton is about. Rachel's very triumph makes Castlewell uncomfortable. There is the same overexplicitness we find in the Yorke-Edith story. For example, Castlewell is allowed to express himself in nasty coarse phrases: "Was he not going to pay too dearly for his whistle?" (Ch 34, p. 290). Unlike previous novels Trollope now feels he must make explicit that the reason Castlewell is marrying Rachel is he cannot get sex from her on any other grounds. This occurred between the Duke of Omnium and Madame Max, but it was smoothed over and presented in a less crass light. Bad feeling arises between Castlewell and Rachel over her father's behavior. Being upper class and therefore thinking that caste and respect based on social position trumps all, Castlewell is embarrassed when her father is laughed at for being candid in Parliament (makes an "ass" out of himself, Ch 35, p. 298); Rachel respects him for his honesty, real "patriotism, man genuinely "desirous of the good of his country, and wishing nothing for himself", Ch 35, p. 298). To the upper class property-owner anything that suggests that caste doesn't trump all must be "nonsence". He begins to wonder if he wants to marry this girl. She doesn't like the feeling she gets he despises her father as not quite as human, not someone one really finally takes seriously. Here we touch on the essence of why Trollope so cruelly can say that the famine made everyone better off in the long run: just a few million of "Irish" people died in great misery and despair and attitribute this to God's wisdom (Ch 41, p. 343: "The famine and its results were terrible while they lasted; but they left behind them an amended state of things ... etc., etc.)"
Trollope is also curiously honest in a very unromantic way: he gives way to showing how irrational and contradictory are motives for marriage. People sometimes will marry to spite someone here and now, a parent, another man or woman. Our narrator tells us that beyond Rachel's loss of Frank and need to earn her living and the endless discomforts and desperation of the real position of someone who sings for a living and doesn't make heaps of money which secure her at least from the worst of people's envy and narrowmindedness, she wants to marry Castlewell also "simply because her doing so would be the severest possible blow to her old enemy, Moss" (Ch 35, p. 296).
The climaxes of Rachel's and Edith's story draw near in this installment. In Rachel's case it's done most unfairly. This shows the novelist's power. Trollope robs her of her voice (Ch 37, "Rachel is Ill"), what she makes her living on. Now she must submit to the patriarchical order of the book; her father has no income from property, no business to support him, has manipulated a patronage network to get himself a niche. By this time Castlewell has had time to reconsider his offer of marriage: it's embittering to see that since she can't have adulation on stage, she still wants personal fulfillment and since her voice is gone, she will now opt for the handsome _young_ man. Says her father to Castlewell: "now that she's to be relegated to private life she begins to feel that she ought to look after someone about her own age" (Ch 38, p. 322). Again this curious explicitiness: the animal in us will out. But Castlewell smells an escape; on the one hand he has liked her; on the other having lost her voice, she is no prize package, no trophy others will admire him for having: "No doubt he had offered to marry her because of her singing; -- that is, he would not have so offered his had she not been a singer" (Ch 38, p. 322). I suppose it's not as bad as a false happy ending: Rachel is not made happy by this turn of events. Of the Edith-Clayton story we see him and the hard circumstances of her life wearing Edith down (Chapter 41)
By this time in the book I positively like Moss, probably partly because I feel a strong distaste for Castlewell. I find nothing preferable in Castlewell; between the pair of them, Moss at least works for his living; it is due to Moss Rachel had her initial success on stage; it is in play with Moss on stage that she succeeds. Castlewell is an aged Frank Houston (from Ayala's Angel), an aged Jack de Baron who can't get his little trick any other way; even money won't buy this intransigent stubborn presence who goes beyond Edith not an assertion of "the essence of the feminine self"; with Rachel it's an assertion of herself as a human being equal to others, who must live on herself and remain her own woman and endure whatever she has to endure no matter what cloudy romantic words may be placed around her living off a man (including the label "wife"). It's not the obnoxious talk; it's not the not giving in which we see in both women. What's interesting in Trollope is by 1880 he is reacting to the times by making these choices and realities explicit, not covering them up. No more the sycophancy of a Grace Crawley, crawling to Archbishop Grantley, the pompous man who is actually physically attracted to her and condescends to accept her because she is someone who will say she has no selfhood, no autonomy beyond what men or upper class people offer her and then will be ever so grateful to them if they keep it up.
Buried into the book, never dramatized is the full relationship of Moss, Rachel, and Madame Socani in their capacity as theatre people. I've suggested that we find the same thing in Ayala's Angel and it's a drawback. The parallel with the Corinne style book where the realities of theatre-singing life as a profession are hardly ever brought into play makes Trollope's attempt at the petty sordid difficult aspects of such a life superior in its way when it comes to realism. But it is true of the Corinne style books too that rarely are what are the real nature of the triumphs ever brought into play in such books. In Diana of the Crossways, Meredith comes close in his ironic story of how the heroine can sell a rumor and truth to her editor and get back at someone, but there are also happinesses about such lives. Trollope gives us none of these. I am now wondering if we see them in George Sand's Consuelo, as I understand yet another of these books where the heroine is made a glamourous star in the arts - I'm not sure which, I think singing.
My favorite male in the book remains Gerald O'Mahony: I liked his trips to the British Museum. Trollope mocks his theories and books, but interestingly, as Mary Hamer demonstrates in her introduction, no where does he mock this easy-going independent and non-domineering male. We are to see Rachel as a product of his upbringing. There is no mother here to do that kind of thing Trollope sometimes (sickeningly in my view) talks of: teaching her daughter to submit, making her into a kind of person who stays away from men, doesn't engage at all until parents permit it and then in a very controlled environment: Grace Crawley will be an earlier instance in Trollope again, although there are many others.
I'll conclude this series of postings with some comments on a letter.
Re: The Landleaguers, Chapters 32-41: Uneasy Romance In this week's many chapters (we did speed through this book), a really fine passage by Trollope occurs in Rachel's letter to Edith (Chapter 36). The chapter is very short (as are many of the chapters in this book) and has aspects of an outline, a backbone which Trollope meant to return to in order to flesh out. One of the finished moments is its center, the text of the letter from Rachel to Edith which she writes just before Trollope downs her with loss of her voice, when she is still strong and independent, healthy and fully capable of gaining for herself a destiny which includes more than a competency to live on.
Curious: in this book earning one's living by sheer getting of money seems to be better, safer way than buying property. Castlewell's property is safe, but then he lives in England. Philip Jones should perhaps have invested in the theatre? (joke alert, joke alert, joke alert).
I said I was positively beginning to like Moss, and in Rachel's letter she testifies to the positive aspects of the man as they began to emerge before he was removed from the stage of the book by Castlewell, the richer better connected man:
"Then there is lover number three -- Mr Moss -- who, I do believe, loves me with the truest affection of them all. I have found him out at last. He wishes to be the legal owner of all the salaries which the singer of La Beata may possibly earn; and he feels that, in spite of all that has come and gone, it is yet possible. Of all the men, who ever forgave, Mr Moss is the most forgiving" (Oxford Landleaguers, ed MHamer, Ch 36, p. 304).
I know this is ironic. Mr Moss really loves Rachel more selflessly than the others because (to use a wonderful phrase from The Godfathers), it's not personal, just business. Of course he forgives her. His affection is the least interested: this irony grazes over how what Frank and Castlewell both want centrally is her body, sex, and her submission to them which Moss is not so bothered about at all.
The truth is, says Rachel, more earnestly, that although she is now engaged to Castlewell, she still yearns after the young man. She suggests that she is not entirely comfortable with becoming the Marchioness: she may be badly singed by her own new flames. Or worse yet consumed: lose her integrity, her personality, be forced to take on new values, or at least act in accordance with them. And then Frank "has spoiled her altogether". Her appetite, her love, her gladness of spirit would only come out with someone she is congenial with, would like physically, and is comfortable with. She now offers to make some money for a couple of years and give up the career; would they not take her in then: "Surely a little money won't be amiss ..." (Ch 36, p. 305).
She keeps her carapace on firmly except for one moment: "Of course I am asking for mercy" (p. 305). What a cagey young woman. She knows how hard and mean the world is, and if you reveal desire for another more than they do for you, you will lose advantage, respect; still, she is willing to be decent, more decent than most in the world:
"I do not see why I am to be ashamed of my devotion, -- seeing that I was not ashamed of my engagement, and boasted of it to all the world. And I have done nothing to be ashamed of since" (Ch 36, p. 305).
Rachel does have her great moments. This is not "feisty"; it is the courage of candour and of someone willing to live on real feelings and show them. There is nothing rebarbative here.
As in all of Trollope's letters from the first novel on, he sets the letter in an epistolary situation. There is epistolarity here: as we read we are made aware that the fictional reader of the letter is Edith immediately when the letter ends. It's Edith fineness of spirit to which Rachel appeals. Rachel would not write such a letter to anyone else in the book. Edith sits and thinks about the letter, about Frank's state of mind right now, about the circumstances (by this time Trollope has forgotten the other equally dead man's first name was Terry and is calling him Jerry) all around her, the murders, poverty, boycotting. She thinks to herself that men do become more weary of private romance than women under this kind of weight: Frank's self-respect as a male is tied up with his position vis-a-vis other males and now he is working as harder than his sisters out in the fields and elsewhere (Ch 36, pp. 305-6).
Still as she reads, she thinks to herself a thought which is meant to make us feel that Frank would have responded rightly to this overture: "there was something in the constancy of Rachel's love to cheer her brother, and therefore the letter made her contented if not happy" (Ch 36, p. 306). Rachel's sticking to humane feeling, letting that come out finally should reach Frank because according to Edith he is capable of this. I wonder. He returns after she gets sick. The text tells us that it is Edith whom such a letter reaches.
I enjoyed the letter for its sophisticated cynical ironies (over Moss and the other men) and because it brought out and dramatized a female friendship and an acknowledged (or open) decent non-manipulative community of feeling.
Re: The Landleaguers, Chapters 32-41: The State of Ireland
Trollope begins Chapter 41 with a statement that one may find parallels for in several of George Orwell's books, among them, Homage to Catalonia (a rousing memoir of his adventures and about the politics of the 1930s Spanish Civil War):
"It will be well that they who are interested only in the sensational incidents or our story to skip this chapter and go on to other parts of our tale which may be more to their taste" (Oxford Landleaguers, ed MHamer, Ch 41, p. 341).
There simply are a certain kind of truths about human situations and connections between these truths that can not be brought out so as to make their meaning clearly understood through dramatized stories. Trollope has presented these sorts of truths in earlier books, sometimes through the medium of a character's letter (e.g., by Mr Monk, Plantagenet Palliser, & Phineas Finn in the Palliser novels; Senator Gotobed in The American Senator), sometimes through a dramatized conversation (e.g., between Plantagenet and Phineas during a walk in The Prime Minister), sometimes through the narrator's meditation inserted inside a longer chapter. I take this chapter to be such matter which had Trollope lived he would have come back to divide up and interspersed through the third volume of the book. This is speculation, for it may be that he would have preferred to keep his line of argument unmistakeable and clear, clean of the distracting particulars and ambiguities a story and characters provides. He wants his reader to pay attention. The device of inviting us to skip -- as in Orwell's case -- recalls all those medieval authors who tell us that they are not going to tell us about A or B while telling it.
That this chapter wherein Trollope declares he is in this particular instance moving away from his life-long liberalism because he cannot stomach a group of laws which put strict control on property rights for the sake of those who do not own property but need to live on and use it and believes and because, as he argues, they will not improve the situation for either landlords and tenants is neglected even by those who profess an interest in Trollope's political ideology may be seen in John Halperin's Trollope and Politics: there is not one entry for The Landleaguers. Nor for La Vendée. Several other much more recent books which profess interests in the ultimately political basis of cultural groupings and mores show a similar blank. Yet here we have Trollope saying in no uncertain terms that throughout history what one sees in political and cultural and social struggle after struggle is a direct conflict of interests between
the two classes whose interests have always been opposed to each other since the world began, -- between the owners of property and those who have owned none" (p. 344).
When about half-way through the chapter he turns to try to argue that the new laws will not work, he feels himself obliged to admit that there is this direct conflict, unresolvable, unchangeable. His argument is that not enough will be given to the tenant to tempt the tenant to stay in Ireland, to stop rebelling; that what is being offered is a sop:
"the extra £2 or £4 or £6 will not enable the tenant to live the life of ease which he will have promised himself. If his interest has been made to be worth anything, -- and it will be worth something, seeing that it has been worth something, and is saleable under its present condition, -- and it will be sold, and emigration will continue" (p. 349).
There are some fallacies here. Why does Trollope think the tenant has promised himself a life of ease? Throughout the section, he talks similarly strictly in terms of the immediate exchanges of money rent, ignoring the other parts of the law: not only fair rents and freedom of sale but fixity of tenure is offered to the tenant. He may improve his property and is guaranteed peace of mind in that he will be able to live on the property he has fixed for a set period of time that cannot be abrogated by the landlord. That projects us into the future, and it is such laws that lead to the improvement of property. In effect now the tenant has a stake -- for what is property but control. My husband and I are said to own our house; what that means is we have a contract which says a bank paid for the house and we are paying it back and as long as we can keep these payments up when we are done, we can live it as long as we like, leave it to our children, sell it at whim. That's control. At the beginning of the 20th century in the US you could not buy a house over time this way, and there were very few "owners" of property. The 30 year mortgage concept enabled people to switch from contracts which called them tenants and gave them limited time and expectation of the same rent to mortgages.
Throughout this section which comes out of Trollope's admission of this conflict he says very frank things which are rarely admitted in public (at least here in the US) nowadays. In the US all talk of class conflicts is cried down -- mostly by those who own property -- as false, untrue, and divisive. If laws are passed which give a huge taxation advantage to the wealthy, they are described in doublespeak: it is said these are meant to help the vulnerable against recession. A pious hope is enshrined but not said that such moneys will go into opening businesses and hiring people at good wages. Unemployment insurance is not extended for that takes taxes from property owners. Trollope says frankly that there have ever been bargains, the world works on bargaining and the weak repeatedly go to the wall, and he accepts it as the way things are. He says in several places that there is much suffering because of this (e.g, "There are cruel cases ...", "bargains will be made between man and man, though the intervening injuries will be heartbreaking", p. 349, 348). His argument that this is the way it is and cannot be changed is his weakest point. All he can think to write is that to attempt to change it is "romantic and therefore unjust". The word "romantic" is made to do far more work than it is capable of in this formulation.
As you read on, you see what he is really getting at is that when bad times and the strong pressure by the many agains the few is over, then the few will reassert themselves, and will act on the supposition such "laws are unjust", their rights have "been tampered with" and will somehow or other get back their own. At the same time those who have been rewarded for rebelling, will have learned a lesson that rebelling works: "they [will have] learned what a minority can effect by unbridled audacity" (p. 350): the word minority can be used here as it is true that those who act forcefully, organize and risk themselves are always far fewer than those who over a long period of time may gain from riot and revolutionary legislation and action. It seems he is not only troubled that property rights will thus be permanently weakened but a state of perpetual incipient civil war will emerge. He seems also to fear that the results of this will be no one will pay any rent (the end of the first paragraph on p 352). He also fears "the whole nature of property will be altered" (p. 349).
Why has this perpetual state of conflict not emerged? I suppose because of a technological revolution which has really increased the amount of wealth and comforts available (at a much cheaper rate than they once were) and the numbers of jobs which pay good salaries across Western society. You really don't need to please your family members or close connections to get a job; there are other networks through public institutions (paid out of taxes) for an individual to get ahead. Trollope didn't foresee this. He also doesn't foresee the uses made of propaganda, the new media, how nationalism criss- crosses identity and class politics, the growth of race politics, the liberation of women to go to work, and the uses made of mass military armies in civilian life within the states that produce them (a military position is a job; the military in the US is rightly regarded as a huge jobs program) and outside the states to subdue the riots and revolutions of others who threaten the prosperity of the generality within.
That the whole nature of property has been altered or changed is probably true. Income tax for all, especially when it is progressive represents a very gentle redistribution of property, a creation of a large kitty out of which roads, schools, institutions of all kind have been created since Trollope's time. A revolution is what Trollope senses is going on underneath the violence in Ireland, one which would unseat his class as in charge and significant and somehow special and different from others. (Gosford Park may be seen as a hard take and satire on Trollope's group.)
The first half of the chapter is not as far-reaching and is not couched in such generally applicable terms. Before going on to general principles and arguing out of them that this new turn is "romantic and therefore unjust" and will not produce what is wanted but something that is not, Trollope describes how the situation in Ireland has come to be so desperate as to emerge in a guerilla civil war (non-state illegal violence against state and legal violence). He cleverly does not go back before the 19th century, and at one place acknowledges this in one of the few indirections of the piece by suggesting how hopeless it is to judge whether someone legitimately owns property today by going back a couple of generations to see who owned it then.
Here too though he is generally remarkably candid. He shows his cards. (No wonder he go nowhere in real politics as a candidate). He tells us he sees the situation from the outlook of an Englishman, from the point of view of the interests of English society when he writes that Ireland must remain a colony and under the military and legal control of England because:
"It is necessary, -- necessary at any rate for England's safety, -- that Ireland should belong to her. This is here stated as a fact, and I add my own opinion that it is equally necessary for Ireland's welfare" (p. 343).
That last opinion was much disputed then and has long since been dismissed as not so. In the details of the argument it emerges that Trollope is not against Home-Rule as such, but Home-Rule in the way it is emerging. In both parts of the chapter he has recourse to the shibboleth of outside agitators, these Americans he has in other chapters of the book blamed as misguiding and misteaching the hitherto complacent subdued (and "happy") Irish; it is probably true that that the money that came from the US was important in getting the rebellion off the ground and keeping it going. It still was recently. It's curious how strong a force imagined nationalism and real tribalism (individuals who themselves have emigrated and send money back to a group that at large they identify with) is.
It is significant that books like Halperin's and (say) Geoffrey Harvey's (the modern deconstructionist political type) don't bring up The Landleaguers or other equally suddenly frank arguments in the other Irish novels, or La Vendée (which hardly anyone has written much on in published books and essays) or even the dialogues, letters and conversations about politics that we find scattered throughout the Pallisers and The American Senator. The authors say they are writing about Trollope, are interested in him. Are they? If you read Halperin's you discover the book is fueled by Halperin's desire to put an "in your face" argument very aggressively "at" the supposed reader who wants to think Trollope more liberal than he is. Spite is at the heart of it, gratified irritation to prove someone wrong that Halperin has been irritated by. He also includes a lot of who's in and who's out and who was who in the 19th century. Titillation. Many of the modern books belong to a political agenda that is recognizable; it need not be socialist at all, just participate in the conversation, make the right gestures. This is not to say that all critical essays or books on Trollope's politics are not interested in him or the politics for real (I can think of many which are -- some older ones and newer), but that you cannot assume one is until you really look to see what is being discussed, what books by Trollope are under discussion, and what really fuels the discourse. Now about this Trollope would not have been at all surprised; in this area of human behavior he saw clearly what actuated people and made up other people's texts. But then he was a writer.
Cheers to all,