February 11, 2002
February 18, 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 42-49: Two Aristocracies
Although Trollope did not live to finish this book, and in the case of the extant or present final chapter (49), we have what is an early draft of a chapter, he did get far enough into the writing of the book to let us see how the book was to end and to dramatize brilliantly how a community of people normally tolerant enough of one another, who have worked together for years, can be transformed into individuals isolated by their fear of one another, and then into a violent mob. Trollope makes it clear to the reader why to the average person living as an unarmed and unaggressive member of a community an unlawful authority, a "new and terrible aristocracy' is much worse than the previous lawful "old aristocracy." I was very impressed by these two terms: they are Trollope's way of talking about non-state military might (what we today call terrorism) and state military might (what we today call state terrorism). By no means does he say that those who ran the state before this "new and terrible aristocracy" were necessarily good people, working for the public good, and he makes it clear their ability to control everyone else was based on their access to the law and their legal right to commit violence on others (put them in jails, make them subject to laws which favor this old aristocracy). I had not remembered that Trollope did both sides this justice though I do know that in The New Zealander he denies there can be such a thing as a democracy; he insists all states, everywhere have ever been oligarchies based on military might no matter what might be the rhetoric and the ritual forms the people of the state go through to transfer power in what is recognized as a legitimate way.
Why is the "new" aristocracy so much worse than the old? The new is based on 'aristocracy of hidden firearms', led by desperate, enraged, and highly aggressive men. Unlike a legitimised authority whose laws control its instruments, the people who assume an unlawful authority need obey no law at all (Oxford Landleaguers, ed MHamer, pp. 390-92). There is nothing between them and their egoistic passions and most people cannot recognize that the difference between principle and their egoistic desires.
At this point of the novel, Trollope returns us to Ireland to make us travel through a slow curve of alarm, fear, dread, and terror in a series of accidents, intimidations and single unexplained murders -- one of a landowner who was not particularly hated except as he demanded rent no one could pay easily, and, even worse, one of a poor man who probably just had people around him who loathed him. I don't know how many people on this list have read about what happened in the US in the early 1950s and in France after the fall of the Vichy government, or, for that matter, in the early 1790s, the time of Trollope's La Vendée and Balzac's Les Chouans. Aroused political passions and rhetoric allowed all sorts of people to act on their nasty spite, egoism, vanity, ambition and just plain envy to destroy the careers and lives of others by calling them in public a Communist or socialist (in the US in the 50s) or a fascist (in France in the later 1940s). The French countryside in the 1790s was the scene of endless petty blood feuds.
In Trollope's story this kind of situation culminates in a mass murder in a farmhouse. Five people die: a very old woman, her son, her son's wife and two children. It emerges that ten people killed these five by rifles, stones, and rocks -- whatever came most readily to hand. Then rumor says three people know who did it but are afraid to tell. Eventually it is discovered that these three people witnessed the murder. They didn't want to loss their lives -- when we die we are dead for a very very long time -- so they didn't try to save the family, but they did think that by witnessing it and then telling they could help bring a stop to the cycle of vicious spiteful interaction destruction which sometimes accompanies civil wars. Trollope argues this fear of telling and the silence is as dreadful and pernicious as the incident itself. He suggests that to break this fear is the first step in stopping the cycle. Again it emerges (no one knows quite how) that those who died were killed because the man's wife had seen an attack on the poor man whose body was found at another time, and for whose murder there has yet to be a certain explanation. She threatened to tell someone in authority about the attack she had seen (Landleaguers, pp. 393-400).
Trollope does far too easily and swiftly say that after people began to tell, and the "old aristocracy" began to assert its authority, things suddenly got better. We are supposed to rejoice at the return of these servants to the Joneses. We are supposed to see how much better off they are than where there were. My response is, Tertium non est? I found myself sickened by his descriptions of Peter and how Jones told him he could just take himself off. I wish Peter had been able to tell Jones he could just take himself off. I do not feel fondness for the girls who now are delighted to find shoes for an Irish peasant girl who will do the hard work of their house and live the life of a servant (which as Helen Mirren tells us is servitude). Trollope also doesn't say how massive was this reassertion of authoitry, and how it was achieved -- how many people were put into jail, how many killed, how many destroyed by loss of tenant's rights (tenuous as these were), how many deported and emigrated. And of course he leaves the impression that all will now be well, at least for a time. Maybe on the surface it seemed so, but not for very long.
Still in these final chapters of The Landleaguers Trollope's grasp on the human realities that lie behind a country caught up in a civil war is far-reaching. Trollope's first Irish book (The Macdermots) is about an single incident which ignites a fearful society into killing a scapegoat, Thady Macdermot; his last one ends on an analysis of the kinds of incidents that lead to paranoia. He dramatises how things happen that are unforgivable; how the irresistible human urge to take revenge keeps the blood flowing; and how relatively inactive people get caught up in such conflicts, how they cannot and do not avoid getting involved, and must suffer too.
This novel is as relevant today to us as The Way We Live Now. I will comment separately on the individual plot lines tomorrow.
I never did get to read Liam O'Flaherty's Famine (1930s) but I have seen the film adaptation and screen play of his Informer and know that Trollope's Landleaguers deals as squarely and perceptively as O'Flaherty's with Ireland's euphemistically called "troubles". An interesting difference between The Informer and The Landleaguers is how Trollope does move to a general level and talks in a way that is applicable to all societies. O'Flaherty really roots his analysis of "the new and terrible aristocracy" in Irish mores, Irish customs, the Catholic religion understood from within. Trollope does remain an outsider, one who knows what's happening but stands on the other side of a glass making sense of it from the standpoint of the educated mind. Probably we can see here why one needs to make a distinction between Irish literature and the Anglo-Irish: Trollope's books belong to the tradition to which Maria Edgeworth's, Elizabeth Bowen's and Sheridan LeFanu's books belong. O'Flaherty is with William Carleton, Griffin, Yeats, O'Faolain and modern Irish literature.
Cheers to all,
February 21, 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 42-49: The Qualified Happy Ending
Henry Trollope's concluding note announces what needs no announcement to anyone who has read even a few Victorians novels by the time he or she reaches Chapter 49:
"In a preliminary note to the first volume I stated why this last-written novel of my father's was never completed. He had intended that Yorke Clayton should marry Edith Jones, that Frank Jones should marry Rachel O'Mahony, and that Lax should be hanged for the murder of Florian Jones; but no other coming incident, or further unravelling of the story is known."
To many readers Henry Trollope's note provides sufficient closure to what they care about. What it lacks though is the tone and enunciation: the way the above incidents are evolving towards the ending, the way they reveal the interaction of characters with one another and the constraints of their environment. Tone, enunciation, character and environment in nuanced detail and dramatized scene that's what we read for: we recognize ourselves in the character, foresee that the character is going to get some version of his or her heart's desire, or at least hope very much for this and read on to get this satisfaction which doesn't happen to us very much in life.
As ever, though, Trollope makes the satisfaction much qualified by what goes by the name of reality but is really a version of social probabilities as most of us recognize them, of the usual. For example, it was overwhelmingly probable that Yorke Clayton would get badly wounded, so badly wounded that he would not be able to work as an agent of the state establishment enacting violence and enforcing the state's laws on others. It may be he is enjoying himself on his bed, but, as our narrator tells us, at least "in these pages [we] can never again be allowed to see him as an active working man" (Oxford Landleaguers, ed MHamer, Ch 46, p. 389). It's interesting that Edith ends up in the position of relative or physical strength vis-a-vis the captain, for Rachel ends up in a position of the suppliant vis-a-vis her landholding (I won't say owning) lover.
Since the tone and feel of The Landleaguers is done so consistently in this probably prosaic realistic vein, one which makes no real reference to anything supernatural as felt to be acting itself out in the story, most readers will not connect Rachel's loss of voice with the kind of ending so typical of novels where the heroine has transgressed some sexual and patriarchal taboos and is punished severely for this. At the end of Clarissa, when the heroine dies, she is enacting what hundreds of heroines who are raped or have sex before marriage or (quelle horreur) get pregnant when unmarried enact: they die. At the end of Les Liasions Dangereuses, when the anti-heroine gets smallpox and her beauty is ruined forever, she is enacting what hundreds of heroines who are amoral and ruthless enact at the end of novels: their beauty is destroyed, they are made into suppliants of men. Since Trollope is often so preternaturally acute about people's motives I half-suspect he knew precisely what he was doing when he took from Rachel her voice, her self-confidence and her independence. For the most demoralizing lines in the novel are those Trolllope gives to Frank Jones when he sums up what happened in the half-love scene between him and Rachel:
"Rachel had knocked under to him. It was thus that he spoke of it to himself" (Ch 46, p 385).
This is awful. I don't wish she had married Moss or Castlewell. Rather than this she should have returned to New York, gotten a job (of which there were increasing numbers and kinds in the 1880s) and let Frank come running to her begging. Let him knock under to her. The scene itself has her telling Frank she loves him, is desperate for him, and him enacting the male saying no out of "prudence". The 19th century novel is one dominated by males who by this time had all the prestige; the kind of novels that were respectable are those which present as the only possibility that is safe and virtuous a fierce refusal to dramatize anything as happiness, as what women want but repression of themselves "knocking under" to a male. What is the point of Rachel's feistiness when she is subjected to a network of disciplinary mechanisms (the aging roué nobleman with money who is relieved to get rid of this lower class woman; the Jewish entrepreneur who hopes to make money on her; and now this great need I say "stiff" lover), all of which work to repress and frustate her, when she is not repressing herself. Well it's a sop to women. Rachel is last pictured for us thus:
"She was utterly discomforted in that her voice was gone from her. She would lie and sob on her bed half the morning, nad would feel herself to be inconsolable" (Ch 46, p. 384).
Her great consolation is the caresses of her father and Frank Jones (Ch 45, p. 373), need I say wrenched out of the latter by such performances.
Still I must say we are told that she is not going to marry Frank right away; right away she is going to New York or at least plans to. So there is hope for Rachel yet.
In my earlier posting I dealt with Trollope's triumph over the Irish servants who are grateful to return to their master and mistresses so will leave Peter and his staff in peace here.
There is no one for Ada. What happened to her? As Henry Trollope suggests, like the endings of the feuds and violence in the local story, Ada's story was still awaiting a "coming incident" and "further unravelling".
After considerable research in the remotest caverns of the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and Columbia's archives -- and also the archives of Michael Powe's website, I have managed to put together the pieces of this story.
Ada went to London, met up with a book illustrator and painter from the continent (a sort of Hervieu) and ran away with him where she travelled through the US about which she wrote a book in which she didn't tell the reader what had happened that had counted for her. She of course got rewarded for playing the world's games -- she had read the opening chapters of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now and knew very well what the literary marketplace was about by this time. Her reward: she made enough money to keep body and soul together. Her relationship with her Hervieu didn't work out -- but then the world doesn't let such things work out easily. You are ostracized, derided, and can't get work (as my very own mother once told me "when the wolf is at the door love flies out the window"). So Ada took to sewing and got so good at making clothes that soon her clientele included actors and actresses and singers too. She became the linchpin workaholic and good buddies with the business manager of the New York Phiharmonic Orchestra depended upon: her name was Rachel O'Mahoney for our Rachel had thought the better of returning to that dull drag of a male in violence-torn Ireland with its still savagely unjust economic and political arrangements. She had decided not to knock under after all.
Ada did marry. But then she was always sentimental. Who? Why Phillip George Vavasour, son of Jane and George Vavasour. Phillip, some of us may recall had become an accomplished street musician who rose to lead tenor in the Philharmonic, and married a wealthy stockbroker's daughter. She had died. So Ada husbanded wealthily and moved in with Philip and Jane (George had long since passed into that eternity of nothingness from which no one comes back) . They lived in one of those vast mansions directly across the street from Central Park West, one right near to the mansion where the present Frick Collection is kept. Ada was lucky; she need have no children as Philip's wife had done that job. She and Philip and Jane did have to send Philip's children from his previous marriage to college but that is another novel.
Rachel lived on with her father who in his very old age could be seen going to the New York Public Library where he wrote another book. In her old age Rachel liked to sit in her apartment on the upper West Side looking at the river flowing by.
If you want to find out who the hell is Phillip George, George, and Jane Vavasour, why you need only read the final pages of my book where you will discover what Sigmund Eisner discovered in a similar foray into the great research libraries of New York City some 5 years ago.
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 42-49: The Punished Heroine; Lax Hung?; Trollope's Son's Notes
I read The Landleaguers on my own a few months ago, but I don't think I really realised the full force of Rachel losing her voice until reading Ellen's posting today.
Since the tone and feel of _The Landleaguers_ is done so consistently in this probably prosaic realistic vein, one which makes no real reference to anything supernatural as felt to be acting itself out in the story, most readers will not connect Rachel's loss of voice with the kind of ending so typical of novels where the heroine has transgressed some sexual and patriarchal taboos and is punished severely for this.
I had not made this connection, but, of course, it is there - Rachel has tried to strike out on her own, to show that she does not need "Mr Jones" to look out for her, but now a brief illness (she is one of the many heroines who fall ill at a moment of crisis, with an illness which seems to be partly psychosomatic) takes away her chance of an independent livelihood. As Ellen points out, at this stage in the 19th century she could have gone back to America and found another job, but that is not presented as a possibility in the novel. Being a "singing girl" is the only alternative to being Mrs Jones, or marrying one of the other men - and would Mr Moss still want her without her voice?
I'm also reminded of Jo in 'Little Women', (my favourite book when I was a child), who, I suppose you could say, loses her voice in another way, giving up her Gothic writing (although Louisa May Alcott continued publishing such books in real life) when Bhaer says it is unworthy of her. She too has to give up her art in order to become worthy of a good man's love and become Mrs Bhaer.
It isn't only women who have to be punished by losing their looks or their special talents, though. Recently on Victoria there was a thread about characters who are disabled in some way at the end of the book, as in Mr Rochester's blindness at the end of Jane Eyre and Romney's blindness at the end of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh. Both of them have transgressed against sexual taboos, as Ellen says, and they have to be cut down to size. I've been trying to think of any women who are blinded or otherwise disabled at the end of novels, but haven't come up with any at the moment.
In The Landleaguers, I suppose Rachel's loss of her voice is in a way paralleled by the wounding of Yorke Clayton, who loses his special talent, the physical strength and presence on which he prided himself - he too has to be punished for his confidence in himself before he can marry the person he loves.
One thing that surprised me a bit about Henry's note was that Lax was intended to hang for the murder of Florian. I had half-expected him to get away with it, as earlier the saboteurs get away with the flooding of the field. In the closed society dominated by terrorism that we see in the novel, it is hard to believe that enough people would be found to point the finger at Lax and give evidence against him in court - after all, we have seen what happened to Florian when he spoke out.
I've been reading The Landleaguers in the Sutton edition which has the closing note by Henry but not the note at the beginning - can anybody sum up what this says?
This will be my last posting for today - I've been at home with a sick child so have had more free time than usual while he has been asleep this afternoon!
February 23, 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 42-49: The Punished Heroine; Trollope's Son's Notes
Judy asks for other heroines punished for sexual transgressions, blinded, disabled or otherwise put out of service. The most spectacular case is that of Lucy Westenra. Like Rachel, she has the temerity to have three suitors at once, and she is turned into a ravaged sexually ferocious child-luring vampire who has her head cut off and a stake driven through her heart. The scene where the stake is driven through her heart is remarkable because the chief lover stands by while the other two watch and help. The symbolic or allegorical equivalent is obvious. Verdi's Traviatia is based on a French story where the courtesan dies of TB. It's funny how Trollope's adherence to this tradition passes us by since he does it so prosaically.
I too was surprized by Henry's statement that the government officials got to hang Lax. We are told he is now in prison, but until the last couple of chapters where we are told everyone is now turning state's evidence and therefore safety is returning (irony alert), Trollope insists you cannot find a jury to hang Landleaguers, and even in these two chapters we are told that part of the reconciliation process was to turn a blind eye to those who perpetrated all sorts of "crimes" against the landowners.
Henry's opening note for his father's posthumous book is as follows:
This novel was to have contained sixty chapters. My father had written as much as is now published before his last illness. It will be seen that he had not finished the forty-ninth chapter, and the fragmentary portion of that chapters stands now just as he left it. He left no materials from which the tale could be completed, and no attempt at completion will be made. At the end of the third volume I have stated what were his intentions with regard to certain people in the story;but beyond what is there I know nothing.