January 18, 2002
Re: Kylemore Castle
I have a volume of Irish poetry I am fond of: Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Patrick Crotty. Crotty chooses only from poetry from the later 19th century on, but there are numbers of poems whose stories and themes go right back to the issues we find Trollope dramatizing in his Irish novels: the whiteboys, scapegoating, non-state terrorism, state terrorism, intense struggles over the penal laws against catholics, absentee landlords, the famines, ethnic and religious conflicts, and they use some of the incidents and dates Trollope alludes to in his stories.
I saw Sig's poem, "Donegan's Daughter," earlier this morning and have not been able to find a poem which is apposite to The Landleaguers but I did notice quite a while back Richard Murphy's The Price of Stone: Roof-Tree, Convenience, Kylemore Castle, Natural Son. This is a long sequence of sonnets; one of them "spoken" by a castle repeats (in an ironic vein) some of the attitudes we find Trollope and his characters expressing about the famine in Castle Richmond and about the economic use of cotton (farmed by slaves) which becomes the center of "A Widow's Mite" when the Lancashire workers lose their jobs around Christmas time:
Built for a cotton king, who loved the view
Unspoilt by mills, improved by famine's hand
That cleared away people, petrified I grew
Grotesquely rich on mountainous, poor land.
To last for ever, I had to be faced in stone
Dressed by wage-skeletons; a spindly pile
Of storm-grey turrets that defended no one,
And broke my maker, with his fabricated style.
Coming from church to hold her usual place
On Christmas nights, wheeled to the dining-room,
His wife's corpse embalmed in a sealed glass case
Obey his command in the brandy-lit gloom.
Now, my linenfold panelled halls retain
In mortmain his dark airs, which nuns maintain.
The reference to stone makes a pictorial analogy between this castle and the monstrous irrational figures, those great mindless faces, on Easter Island.
As might be expected the volume has a heavy selection from Seamus Heaney, Samuel Becket, and going further back in time Louis MacNeice, but there are many poems by relatively (or in the US probably wholly) unknown poets. I will try to see if I can find some poetry which dramatizes other issues and makes comments on other of Trollope's attitudes or those of his characters and the themes and moods of his five Irish novels. They belong with this literature. When we come to read his North America we will see that it too comments seriously on the civil war (like his "A Widow's Mite" and "Two Generals") and it will be interesting to see how other sequences in the novels which dramatize American characters and issues (He Knew He Was Right, The Duke's Children) fit into the views expressed in his travel-memoir.
Kylemore Castle is situated near Letterfrack in Co Galway. It was designed in 1864 by Samuel Ussher Roberts, district engineer, for Mitchell Henry MP, a rich Merseyside industrialist, who broke his wife's health and bankrupted himself in his enthusiasm for extension of this building. The Castle is now Kylemore Abbey, a convent of Benedictine nuns, purchased by them after the first world war. An architectural extravaganza in a gothic revival style, it is like nothing so much as "wedding cake icing" brought to stone.
Re: Kylemore Castle & Irish Poetry
This is to thank Rory for the lovely pictures. The one of the lake and countryside is charming. It's clear, though, the attitude of those who put together this site is not at all that of Richard Murphy and nowhere is there taken into account who did all the work to build such a place, keep up such countryside and at what wages. So while everything looks so very beautiful on the site, precisely what the poet wanted to make us aware of about the castle has been omitted. Murphy has another poem which connects to Trollope's novels: he pictures seals and seagulls flying wildly by a cliff. It begins
The calamity of seals begins with jaws.
Born in caverns that reverberate
With endless malice of the sea's tongue
Clacking on shingle, they learn to bark back
In fear and sadness and celebration.
The ocean's mouth opens forty feet wide
And closes on a morsel of their rock ...
(from "Seals at High Island")
In another he describes someone wandering near who reminds me of Mrs O'Hara: "Gipsy of the sea ... Guest of the storm", or maybe Kate, Waif of the afterglow/On summer nights to meet your mate ... Over sea-clif and grave-year ... pulse of the rock ..." One refers to the land-leaguers; here's the opening of "The Battle of Augrim":
After the noose, and the black diary deeds
Gossiped, his fame roots in prison lime:
The hanged bones burn, a revolution seeds.
Now Casement's skeleton is flying home ..."
That makes me think of The Macdermots, especially the penultimate chapter and Trollope's first hero's end.
Most of the poems are too long to type out. Many are in Gaelic with the editor providing translations into English. There are not many "pure" landscapes: country poems dramatizing incidents in the life of the people which are connected back to history and to archetypes (a linen-worker: "Christ's teeth ascended with him into heaven"), lots of plain speaking voices. The feel is quite different from a volume of modern Scots or English poetry. Ellen
January 18. 2002
The Landleaguers_, Chs 8-16: Hunting and "The Mask of Anarchy" (Was "Kylemore ...")
To Kristi [who had commented on the pictures Rory O'Farrell pointed us to by suggesting that the castle probably provided good salaries for people who worked on it]
We'd have to get a schedule of the wages . "Good" is in the eye of the beholder. At any rate it's not just the details, it's the whole presentation of the castle, it's what the castle stands for, the role it plays in daily life, how it's seen as a status symbol and how that status is rooted in economic and social realities of life which impinge on everyone daily.
To the poet Murphy in the poem I quoted the castle stood for oppression, it took the bleeding of everyone to a false somehow inexorable ideal, the caste order. Such places were targets in the English civil war, the French revolution, and I've no doubt the Irish troubles.
This week's chapters in The Landleaguers brings us the successful attempts of a huge majority of the actual people living about the landowners to stop their hunting. It's not that the hunting per se is hated by the majority -- though we are told a little later that an old lady rejoices because her land will not be run over at least for awhile; another man is glad for his pheasants. These sorts of people figure largely in The American Senator. It's what the hunting stands for: privilege. It costs money to keep a horse, and lots of it. These "landowners" (and the history of how they got legal control of the land is important here) simply sweep over the land in a symbolic ostentatious control of it.
The association of hunting with privilege, money, and sweeping disregard of ordinary people is still with us. Just as surely as modern attitudes towards animals and guns, it fuels anti-hunting debates and legislation.
Castles have an interesting symbolic history -- William the Conqueror and his people took over England with the use of these as (in effect) as sort of standing weapon guarded by a knight (a man-at-arms). That's why they figure so largely in gothic literature whose roots are often in realisms (class as well as gender power given to the few).
While I was reading this week's chapter on Black Daly's failure to hunt, I thought of Shelley's marvelous refrain in a poem he wrote after the Peterloo massacre (a huge number of demonstrating workers were killed by the police in 1819). The title of the poem is "The Mask of Anarchy"
As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.
I met Murder on the way -
He had a mask like Castlereagh -
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:
We then get a long allegory where Shelley makes the conditions of life turn all sides, all people into fearful figures. He moves on to definitions of words, very important in politics.
Famous stanzas include the definition of freedom as it was then and is still today often understood ("market freedom"):
"What is Freedom? - ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well -
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
'Tis to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants' use to dwell,
'So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.
'Tis to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak, -
They are dying whilst I speak.
'Tis to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye;
'Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More that e'er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.
'Paper coin - that forgery
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something of the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.
'Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.
'And at length when ye complain
With a murmur weak and vain
'Tis to see the Tyrant's crew
Ride over your wives and you ..."
According to Shelley, what was defined as freedom and liberty and is by some defined so still is really slavery for some and riches for the few:
'Birds find rest, in narrow nest
When weary of their wingèd quest
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.
'Asses, swine, have litter spread
And with fitting food are fed;
All things have a home but one -
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!
'This is slavery - savage men
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do -
But such ills they never knew.
The basis of real liberty is defined thus:
'For the labourer thou art bread,
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.
'Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
For the trampled multitude -
No - in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.
'To the rich thou art a check,
When his foot is on the neck
The recent demonstrations in Argentina, indeed the
economic conditions there imposed on the population
as a whole by the IMF testifies to the relevance of the
above lines still. Altmarn's Gosford Park takes
place in a great house. "A servant has no life"
says Helen Mirren.
Shelley's refrain has often been used in revolutionary uprisings:
'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'
I'm full of poetry these days :).
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 8 -16: Objections to This Novel
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002
This week takes us to the end of Volume I and much happens. As with last week's chapters, one can discern three distinct phases which in a revision might have been fleshed out into more than three instalments.
We are still debating Florian's character. This posting will add a new objection -- one which is personal and I don't expect others to agree with -- that I find Trollope's attitude towards the boy which includes an admixture of scorn and looking askance at him as weak as distasteful. Hitherto Trollope's way of swaying a reader usually depended on an allegiance to class or sex or ethnic grouping so he would deliberately present a vulgarizing or in some way sneering portrait of a man "not a gentleman" (Louis Scatcherd), a working class woman (Amelia Roper) or someone not ethnically Anglo-Saxon (Ferdinand Lopez); in these week's chapters we are not to sympathize with Florian because he is weak, because he has become confused and frightened, because he hates himself. In other novels Trollope presents male types who are sensitive, confused, at times self- destructive, but he can enter into the state of mind, in fact deeply (I instance Rev Mr Crawley, Louis Trevelyan, Tom Tringle, the young Johnny Eames, the Tudor brothers in The Three Clerks -- the list is endless); here he draws away and it's the political motive that makes for the withdrawal of sympathy. Trollope thinks family loyalty should trump all, principle and everything. Florian is too young to understand principles, and I was glad to see that Jill agreed with me that part of the lack of persuasiveness of the portrait is his father is so exemplary. What happens with such children is often they are ashamed of their parents nastiness, amorality, aggressive hurting of others because they have the power and as they see it must, are driven to it. The father is made too good because Trollope wants his head landowner to be exemplary and suggest to us that other Protestants are so. So he has made the boy unsympathetic because he cannot abide someone who is disloyal to his class: the comment all throw at Florian is that he's not acting as a gentleman; he will end up living with people who are not gentlemen. I am sickened not because the boy rebelled and was confused and ashamed but because I am expected to sympathize with bullying. I see no cause to be loyal to anyone as part of a group I am said to belong to. That's tribalism.
There are some other sources of personal distaste for me. Again I say I don't expect others to agree. I don't like it that the family is coercing Florian to tell not just because they want him to be on their side and with him, but because they want his evidence in court. They are bullying him just as surely as the other side. In the chapter where Edith tries to talk to him she claims just to feel for him, to want him to be one of them, but the last two paragraphs where she says she has not said enough (only told he saw something), shows us her intent is to put him on the stand. They are using him. They say they will protect him. But will they? To me bullying is bullying and when it's done for gain I can't stand it. I argued that The Kellys and O'Kellys has as a central theme that bullying and intimidation are central to our social structures and show us that the person who bullies best wins out. Scene after scene shows people bullying or standing up to bullying. But in that novel Trollope sympathizes strongly with Frank Lord Ballantine and Anastasia who are not bullies and shows a strong distaste himself for all bullies no matter what side or what the cause. I'm not keen on Captain Clayton. Oh no. He's not the snake that Lax is, but so what: he's an agent of the state. Any state, all states are that level of organization which attempts to keep the legal monopoly on violence mostly to protect the interests of those with much private property and wealth in their hands.
Howard mentioned he dreaded the coming of Mahomet Moss. I'm not keen on him either. But then neither do I find Rachel's behavior to him or his mistress particularly attractive. In the scene where she fends off his attempts to go to bed with her by socking him in the face and being ugly and rude in every way, I find her awful. I have been told by my daughter who works in the theatre business that until today the way to get ahead is to sleep with the right people. She is at a disadvantage she tells me because she's not homosexual. But Trollope in this scene exaggerates the way such things happen. It's usually much subtler -- and I suggest he exaggerates because he doesn't believe a girl who succeeds and is tough would say no. In other words I see little to chose between Moss, Moss's mistress or Rachel in these scenes. They are surivivors, doing what they have to to survive, but it's ugly, nasty, unpleasant. The Landleaguers is just as dark a book about survival as The Way We Live Now only in TWWLN people do it by finesse not by insulting one another with ugly words as Rachel does. She is coarse. The coarse get along; they win. But it's not to my taste to ask me to take this coarseness as a measure of Rachel's virtue. A steel cookie looking out for No 1 all the way. That's how I see her and have an idea Trollope did it to make me think her a virgin.
Trollope is having a problem in these scenes because he is still writing under a Victorian aegis and can't tell us openly Moss's relationship to his so-called wife. The result is luridness. Had he just treated it matter a factly it would have come across better. They seem stilted vulgar coarse caricatures not because the roles are inherently wrong but because Trollope himself is crossing a tabooed line.
It is remarkable how in this his last book -- N John Hall and others like to say Mr Scarborough's Family is his last book when what they mean is it's his last book they can sympathize with as late subversive Victorianism -- how in this last book Trollope really crosses a number of lines into modernity, just about. This is not the love domestic story Mudie's demanded. It's politics, business. We have sex openly traded upon -- or attempts at this which are overdone. We have a woman who offers to support a man. It's as up to date a book as Trollope ever wrote -- to the minute. And he turns on something inward he knows and understands through himself and grinds it down because he sees the danger it presents to the order that supported him all his life.
Not that I am annoyed at the book. I don't understand that verb. It doesn't seem to say anything specific and objective. It just says I don't like it and seems to suggest that this is not what I expected so I am irritated. Rather like a book was a can of peaches and the buyer had got the wrong brand.
What we see here is utterly in character for Trollope -- he is so varied anyway. I think it a strong book, relevant, intelligent, mostly really believable, but in moving on past the tabooes that had held him in place Trollope to me violates some of the rules he himself had held to (sympathy for all sides (e.g, another comes to mind, Sowerby in FP, sympathy for the underdog), and now finds himself at odds with his females. It is telling that he tells us that Ada and Edith have no unchaste thoughts. He never thought to tell us that before. Now that I have gotten some of this off my chest, and have also said I don't expect others to see all this the way I do but want to put it before the group as I think the point of these reads is to bring out a book's meaning fully. On another list I am on the author of the book we were reading argued that the book's meaning is not just in its texts but in the texts that grow ground it. Without them it remains unfelt as real, not working its way into our culture. I will write the sort of email I usually do, one which summarizes and interprets more in a general vein and which picks up what is admirable in the fiction.
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 8 -16: The Three Phases
The three phases of this second half of the first volume are: Rachel's establishing herself and her father in London and keeping up contact with Frank Jones in Ireland; the use of the hunting incident as a microcosm of a political moment in which everyone who understands see that a profound social/economic/political rearrangement is reconfigured through some aggressive action and impotent response upon the part of the previously all-powerful and previously all-powerless; and the coercing/bullying/pressuring of Florian to return to an allegiance with his family group. As is common with Trollope (a seasoned novelist) all three phases interlock and some start off new stories. The story of Daly brings us out into the Irish countryside and we meet groups of people who will later figure in the dramatization of non-state terrorism that emerges. The story of Rachel parallels the subversion of what's happening in Ireland, brings in the helpless of the Jones (their lack of money not that the tenants will not be paying rent and are demanding a share in the profits of the land) and the character of Frank who was probably meant to play a larger role than he gets to in the extant book. The story of Florian brings in Captain Yorke Clayton: we are told that Edith is the real heroine of the story (and I find her appealing in the manner of some of Trollope's finer female spirits -- though she doe emotionally blackmail her brother under the conscious rationale of winning him back); it's clear she is to be paired with Clayton and like Lady Anna and her tailor at the close of Lady Anna, they would have formed one of our hopeful couples at the end of the book.
The story of the hunt is politically astute. It shows Trollope has not lost one iota of his keen understanding of how politics works. It is right on that an incident which depends on custom and the un-said is precisely what is later on in time seen as the significant moment. It is right on and accurate that someone who is not himself at all politically thoughtful or even taken to taking sides necessarily finds his _raison d'etre_ removed because he happens to play a linchpin role in a custom which places (I had just about said stigmatizes) people, as so many customs do. It is so often true that looking back we see where the transitional moment was and it often culminates unexpectedly. The dramatic depiction throughout the series of scenes is effective, persuasive, true to life. I felt a sneaking sympathy for Daly.
The best part of Rachel's story was the chapter called correspondence as well as some of her dialogue with her father. If this is "raw" Trollope, Trollope in first draft -- as I suspect it is, it is rich stuff. We see how he entered into and became a character. It shows the strength of this obnoxious steel cookie of a virgin that she doesn't want Frank to come visit her. What good would he do her against the dense unless he were well defined. I had a hard time believing that she yearned to have Frank impose himself on her, to obey him. Trollope really had a hang-up about this one: this makes me remember the puling of Hester Caldigate. I suspect Rose wasn't keen on this business of obedience and Trollope's own feelings of inadequacy come out here: he alone of the Victorian male writers goes on and on about how his heroines long to obey their men. Dickens is anxious all the woman should clean his house; Trollope that they should obey him. Rachel is given some good moments though, and here's where she is at her best for many women readers today I expect:
"I am learning every day how best to stand on my own feet. I am earning my money honestly, and men and women are saying in truth that I can sing".
Nothing forced or strained here.
There is real subtlety in the Florian-Edith chapters. Many of Florian's statements show the self-hatred characteristic of what people call a "turn-coat". His nervousness and Edith's intuitive taking advantage of it is sharp. He can easily be pressured by someone as silently patient and sure of himself -- knowing himself -- as Clayton. To me it's was also clear in the first read round that Florian wouldn't survive.
In the introduction of Clayton we have some explicit, unargued and undramatized political views of Trollope -- which means they are unearned as far as the imaginative work is concerned. He calls the "Arrears" Bill an abomination of justice. That allowed Irish people not to have to pay the enormous rent in arrears to be eligible for the constructive parts of the Bill. That they would no longer be hounded and harassed for money they didn't begin to have (Gladstone passed it) we are told in the notes brought an end to much of the demonstrations. An abomination? To whom? On what grounds? Jones got his property as a result of that famine which so opportunely emptied the land so Klylemore Castle would have an unimpeded lovely view. There are other such remarks during the introduction of Clayton; this is just one among several of this thrown off sort. Captain Clayton was intended to play more of a role in the third volume than he ever got to; unlike Daly who is the unconscious intense carrier of Trollope's values, Clayton was to be the conscious one. The arguments are made in a long chapter late in the book (which reminds me of the political chapters in Orwell's Homage to Catalonia), but the dramatization never was brought to a final culminating knot and denouement.
Cheers to all,
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002
Re: Florian's Conversion
Sig told us,
I suppose I stand alone in my attitude toward Florian.
Not quite alone, Sig. I agreed with you, in finding Florian's conversion, and his steadfastness in adhering to it, difficult to believe. Things that would have made it easier to swallow?
1)increased age, which has already been discussed
2)neglect from his father; since Florian enjoys the status as the petted favorite, this does not seem likely to me
3)the presence of sisters. The sisters would have acted the part of mothers to him, and I think he would be unlikely to so steadfastly disregard their pleas.
Judy's relation of her conversion at an age slightly older than Florian's, I think can be chalked up to growing up in a family without a strong religious bent, and wanting to be part of something larger than herself. This is not to say that the conversion was anything less than sincere. I only mean to explain part of the attraction.
A friend told me about his conversion to Catholicism about 40 years ago, when he was in his twenties. He found the idea that if you followed all the rules, and did just as the church authorities said, you could be assured of a place in heaven when the time comes. Having clearly delineated rules can be very appealing, especially when you come from a family that does not strongly enforce rules.
I can, however, understand Florian's refusing to "peach" on his less than savory friends, to protect his family.
Poor kid. He got in so far over his head, so soon.
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002
Florian's father was hesitant to further press the matter (of leaning on his son to ascertain the identities of the vandals) because in a passage laden with foreboding, he fears the consequences for his son.
" 'If, as I suppose, he saw Pat Carroll do the mischief, he must have seen others with him. If we knew who were the lot, we could certainly get the truth out of some of them, so as to get evidence for a conviction.'[I would like to draw attention to the fact that Mr. Jones does not want to get his son involved in a court case, only to discover people who can testify in court for him.]
'Can't he be made to speak?' asked Mr. Blake.
'How can I make him? It will be understood all about Morony that he has been lying. And I feel that it is thought that he has made himself a hero by sticking to his lie. If they should turn upon him!' Mr. Blake sat silent but made no immediate reply. 'It would be better for me to let the whole thing slide. If they were to kill him!!'
'They would not do that. [...] There is not a county in all Ireland in which such a deed could be done.' " (p.30, the Trollope Society Edition)
Even back on page 13, Mr. Jones "thought it would be better for him to let it go unpunished than to bring his boy into collision with such a one as Pat Carroll."
Somewhere in last week's reading (I can't find it, I'm afraid) was a plaint from Mr. Jones to the effect that it was not the betrayal of his tenants that bothered him as much as the fact that his favorite son was aiding them in this betrayal. He would be willing to forget the whole thing if he could only feel all was clear and in the open, between him and his son. As Ellen said, "Trollope thinks family loyalty should trump all, principle and everything."
Howard mentioned he dreaded the coming of Mahomet Moss. I'm not keen on him either. But then neither do I find Rachel's behavior to him or his mistress particularly attractive.
I found Rachel crude and rough; it is almost as though she came ready-made out of the Cincinnati of Fanny's DMOTA. What could the gently reared Ada and Edith Jones possibly find appealing in her? I could understand Frank Jones' (whose personality reminds me a bit of Frank Gresham) attraction to this exotic.
Rachel's crude blunt evaluation of Moss as a "greasy Jew" is offensive to me, the more because she repeatedly uses the term. I look at her as a manipulative bitch (I have not read this book before, so I hope to have my opinion changed later); what else could explain her gleeful baiting of her fiance:
" 'But there is no one in the world that I detest as I do that greasy Jew. It is not for what he does, but that I simply detest him. He makes love to me.'
'Oh! he does. You needn't look like that. You needn't be a bit jealous.'
'I shall come over at once.'
'And knock him on the head! You had better not do that, because we want to make money by his means.'" (p.43)
What possible reason could Rachel have for teasing Frank, unless it were for the fun of the fireworks sure to ensue?
As Ellen said, "She is coarse. The coarse get along; they win. But it's not to my taste to ask me to take this coarseness as a measure of Rachel's virtue. A steel cookie looking out for No 1 all the way."
I also like this book. But I think I would have liked it more as a polished, finished product.
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 8 -16: The Exemplary Landlord/Father
January 21, 2002
I want to acknowledge that Jill has picked good passages showing the father worrying about what will happen if he puts his son on the stand; she also picked the pointed one about how he cares far more intensely that the boy should be disloyal than that he should have lied, but the sense is loyalty to the family, to the clan, not a personal relationship. However, both instances occur before Edith wheedles and pressures the boy into telling part of his story; then he lets everyone drive the boy into telling what is useful to him on the stand. It is Edith who tells the boy that his father will send him away to school and Claymore who says he will protect the boy. The father calls him a liar and throws him out of his presence and afterwards keeps his distance.
All this is real and convincing -- but also equally strking when upon the full useful confession coming out everyone immediately making plans to put the boy on the stand. As the father sits there thinking in the last paragraph of Chapter 16, the thought that bothers him most about putting the boy on the stand is he will have to explain what took so long. The last sentence of that paragraph is: "As he thought of this, he felt that the boy had disgraced himself forever".
Had Trollope been equally realistic about such a man's probable conduct to his tenants, we would have understood the boy's confusion and betrayal much better. He now thinks of his promise to send the boy away to school in England as rash, and Trollope puts it that "he told himself the means of doing so were further from him than ever". He ends thinking about his rent and his land. Real enough but very hard -- I don't say I don't agree a man might be just this way; what I find distasteful is that Trollope expects me to sympathize with the father's deep sense of shame and alienation at this disloyalty to the clan and at the boy's weakness, especially before other men. Trollope is using this weakness to turn me against the boy. This is a hard book -- as is The Way We Live Now (which is really just around the corner folks) -- but my sympathies there move with Trollope's.
Rachel is a woman who likes to tease. In next week's chapters she reminded me of Paula Jones's behavior in the now notorious Clinton scandal -- remember the Paula Jones suit?
The book is not polished. Note how short are some of the chapters; how uneven. And that chapter of Rachel's correspondence strikes me as a first draft of several letters got down in a rush as they swiftly came to Trollope.
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002
Re: The Landleaguers, Chs 8 -16: Rachel O'Mahoney: Unreal Ideas about American Women?
Would you say, then, that Trollope had an unreal idea about American women. They are by no means as a group coarse and aggressive at all. Nineteenth-century American women as we come across them in their diaries and letters, and especially women who are bourgeois tend to be solemn, earnest, genteel in public.
Your examples are good. And I did think of Mrs Hurtle - but I also thought of Mrs Smith and a couple of the other unchaste women who live out-of-wedlock with men in Trollope (the woman Sir Harry Hotspur's nephew lives with and supports him). They all sport daggers -- as does Rachel. Knives. Or guns. We could lump Rachel into a group of somewhat unreal women whom Trollope fears because their sexuality is not inhibited, because they have had or can have men outside marriage. When it comes to women who are unchaste Trollope exhibits a failure of the imagination due to his own nervousness at what they are capable. This goes back to much anti-feminism ever since it has been written down. The all-powerful woman with the snakes beneath her waist who will tie the man down. As the "dimple" is in Trollope the "sign" of the sexually arousable woman (not frigid) so the "dagger" is in his fiction the "sign" of the fearfully uncontrolled woman -- not sufficiently kept down by her men. He sometimes talks in his fiction of how a chaste young girl is made so by her mother, and how society relies on "mothers" to do these things to their daughters. This gives me the chills for metaphorically -- at a great distance it's true but still the analogy is there -- it reminds me of other societies where it is the women who bind one another's feet, the woman who perform vaginal mutilation. The archetypes here are the ones that are telling. One emerges in overtly crippling behavior, the other in inwardly crippling behavior. It is interesting that Trollope feels a need to tell us his other heroines have no unchaste thoughts -- that's because he has gone beyond other books in making Rachel apparently chaste yet under no man's control and his third heroine. Paul Montague does not marry Mrs Hurtle; John Caldigate denies marrying Mrs Smith and, if he did it, did it in a clandestine quicky ceremony.
So my analogy would be not with other American women but other uncontrolled women.
I'd rather Rachel have gone to bed with Moss than behave in this obnoxious fashion. I know in the fiction he is a horror and that seems untenable, so I can only say that Moss is horrifically over-the-top, and I would rather Trollope have given us a realistic portrait of what such a man would have been and not accompanied him by the absurd mistress -- who acts as further barrier. Later in the book someone asks Rachel to marry him so I'll substitute him. If Rachel found Moss so awful, she should have quit instead of exploiting him -- that's why I compared her in the next chapter to Paul Jones. There's a moment that makes me think of what Paula Jones probably did say and do to Clinton when he proposed sex. Between Moss and Rachel in these scenes I see no one to choose. And like Jill the anti-semitism on Trollope's part makes his depiction of Moss all the worse.
Obnoxiousness does win out in the world -- but only up to a point. Pleasantness and then underhanded giving of the slip takes us much farther. The great _prima donna_ of the Met was fired in the 1990s -- for obnoxiousness. Trollope had to take away from Rachel her gift because otherwise he was stuck with an unreal situation on his hand.
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002
Ellen, you feel that Rachel is a bit coarse, especially when she slugs Mr. Moss. But Rachel is an American, and in the world of Trollope American ladies usually are rough and tough and not to be fooled with. Remember Mrs. Hurtle. Plantagenet Palliser was suspicious of Isabel Boncassen until he realized that she was not like other American women. Now Rachel stands somewhere between Isabel and Mrs. Hurtle. She's not as bad as one nor as good as the other. In fact, I really like Rachel, and I think Mr. Moss had it coming to him.
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002
Naturally I don't believe that Trollope thought that all American women tended toward the uncontrollable. But I do think that the British view of American women is that they usually run things. The same holds for the Irish view. When we were newly in Ireland we were invited to a party. Our host said to both of us, "Would you prefer whiskey or wine." Nan turned to me and said in a whisper loud enough to be heard around the room, "Sig, do I prefer whiskey or wine?" Immediately all the Irish ladies in the room began whispering among each other. Eventually one of them spoke up and said to Nan, "My dear, we always thought American women told their husbands what to do. And now we see you asking your husband what you should do." The fact is that many people have a misconception of the other guy. Maybe this has something to do with Rory's idea that guide books often provide misinformation. I think American women are no more demanding and no more submissive than women (or men) in other climes.
Rachel's objection to Moss because he is a "greasy Jew" is typical of the prejudice that we see not just against the Jews but always against the other guy. In my part of the world the same epithet has been applied to our Mexican neighbors. In it there is a suggestion that the other guy is somewhat unclean. Yet, I am quite willing to observe that our Mexican neighbors are no more greasy than ourselves and also that they bathe as frequently as we do. When, for one reason or another you don't like someone, it's easy to blame him or her for all sorts of wickedness, including a greasy skin and a lack of personal hygiene. Prejudice is prejudice no matter where you find it. So my point is that Trollope in his depiction of dagger-wielding American ladies was just echoing the conventional prejudices of his own land and time. He doesn't claim that all American ladies are uncontrollable, but apparently he thinks that enought of them are so that he is able to create a type, and it is a type that many of our good readers object to. But I still rather like Rachel's feistyness.
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002
I want to acknowledge that Jill has picked good passages showing the father worrying about what will happen if he puts his son on the stand; she also picked the pointed one about how he cares far more intensely that the boy should be disloyal than that he should have lied, but the sense is loyalty to the family, to the clan, not a personal relationship.
Ellen's right. I was reading into the passage how I would feel if one of my children withheld information from me about someone who had done harm to me. I tend to personalize things; "How could she do this to me?"
But Mr. Jones did fear the revenge the Landleaguers would take against his son, and he did, at least at first, feel it would be better to let them off scot free than to endanger Florian. But he allowed himself to be swept along by circumstances, and apparently forgot his earlier compunctions.
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002
Re: Crippling Stereotypes of Women
Dear Rory and all,
It's not the knife per se. It's what it stands for. You too just a snippet and that distorts my meaning. Here is the whole paragraph:
I did think of Mrs Hurtle - but I also thought of Mrs Smith and a couple of the other unchaste women who live out-of-wedlock with men in Trollope (the woman Sir Harry Hotspur's nephew lives with and supports him). They all sport daggers -- as does Rachel. Knives. Or guns. We could lump Rachel into a group of somewhat unreal women whom Trollope fears because their sexuality is not inhibited, because they have had or can have men outside marriage. When it comes to women who are unchaste Trollope exhibits a failure of the imagination due to his own nervousness at what they are capable. This goes back to much anti-feminism ever since it has been written down. The all-powerful woman with the snakes beneath her waist who will tie the man down. As the "dimple" is in Trollope the "sign" of the sexually arousable woman (not frigid) so the "dagger" is in his fiction the "sign" of the fearfully uncontrolled woman -- not sufficiently kept down by her men. He sometimes talks in his fiction of how a chaste young girl is made so by her mother, and how society relies on "mothers" to do these things to their daughters. This gives me the chills for metaphorically -- at a great distance it's true but still the analogy is there -- it reminds me of other societies where it is the women who bind one another's feet, the woman who perform vaginal mutilation. The archetypes here are the ones that are telling. One emerges in overtly crippling behavior, the other in inwardly crippling behavior. It is interesting that Trollope feels a need to tell us his other heroines have no unchaste thoughts -- that's because he has gone beyond other books in making Rachel apparently chaste yet under no man's control and his third heroine. Paul Montague does not marry Mrs Hurtle; John Caldigate denies marrying Mrs Smith and, if he did it, did it in a clandestine quicky ceremony."
The dagger is what the unchaste uncontrolled woman carries with her. It's the twisted nightmare of the sexually fearful male dramatized in terms of the only partly realistic novel.
I did think many would disagree with me over my real distaste for obnoxiousness and am glad that at least Jill sees it the way I do. I rather suspect we won't even have a gender divide here: that is, I suspect my preference to see a woman be a decent personality trumping any notion of female pride over her chastity is unusual even today -- at least among many readers of 19th century novels. As an imagined person I prefer Edith. I do know both are unreal fundamentally; that is, important parts of their realities have been omitted as unallowable in such novels.