Strength and Weaknesses; The Real Star of the Series and this Novel: Barsetshire Society; Not one But Two Romans-Fleuves!; The Last Chronicle as a Sequel; Johnny Eames; How old is Lily Dale?; Time scale; Cradell's children; Lily

To Trollope-l

July 11, 2000

Re: Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 12-16: Strengths and Weaknesses

This week's chapters show us the strengths and -- I hope I will be forgiven for this word -- weaknesses of this last chronicle of Barsetshire.

The strengths are self-evident, but in the interests of making talk, let me throw out a few suggestions. The central most powerful element in the book -- as Trollope says in his An Autobiography -- is the character of the Rev Josiah Crawley. Trollope was proud of the delicacy of his portraiture; perhaps we would today say subtlety and careful modulation. Like real people, Crawley is a bundle of contradictions. How moving is his need to have someone tell 'I do not think you stole anything". It's not good enough that people say "I do not think you meant to steal". He also goes to Dan, the bricklayer, for this validation. He identifies with this working class man as someone plain, not phony; he thinks the man will speak the truth. The man does speak the truth as he sees it. Alas, Crawley has idealised and sentimentalised someone who is uneducated; the truth is education does help broaden our outlook and make us see things less conventionally, make us think things out for ourselves. This Dan hasn't learned to do. The words in the scene are quietly natural. (Houghton Mifflin, Last Chronicle, ed AMizener, Ch 12, pp. 97-99).

Then his self-flagellation and humility. His wife fears that the increased lack of self-esteem he is feeling he will kill himself. In fact he takes a pride in enduring his misery. His cross is his pride. This is very human. He goes to preach to the lowest because he knows others wouldn't and will disdain him; that lifts him above them. The same trajectory of thought may be found in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa: she takes pride in her abasement; it's all she has left. Crawley's utter selflessness as a curate is all he has left. The scene between him and his wife is even more powerful than the one between him and Dan because she is given the same complicated depth of motivation and feeling he is (Ch 12, pp. 91-94).

We also get a strong feeling of how hard a life in this period was that was not softened by bourgeois moneys. Cold, dark, wind, rain, minimal foods.

Then turn around to the next chapter and under the impetus of social injustice, someone using the law wrongly against him (abusing it), the scorn of an inferior mind (Mrs Proudie through her sycophantic if desperate Thumble), and he writes the first of several magnificent letters. It's a great one; it says what it ought to, to the point. It is truthful about his motives; presents the correct reasoning, tells plainly what he is feeling ("I am in a terrible straight. Trouble and sorrow, and danger are upon me and mind"); that it gets no adequate response from the bishop is the serious indictment of the Bishop's character we are to take away. It elicits no decency though, and alas in the world even such letters don't necessarily elicit even decency. Trollope says Thumble acts as an angel in that this is just the man in just the situation that would bring the fighter out in Crawley. You see Dan was saying the truth frankly; there was no self-interest, nothing sordid here. Mrs Crawley acts out of love. Thumble has allowed himself to sink very low, and Crawley shakes off the slug.

Lily is also a strong character into whose psyche Trollope has gone deeply. The scene of decorating the altar with Christmas greens has a sweet comedy. I'm afraid it made me think of Bennet's play Bed Among Lentils (a wrong parallel but I remembered it). Lily's irony, orneriness, awkwardness, are forms of refusing to compromise (Ch 16). Prickliness is her shield. We are made to feel that she has had a 'true misfortune', and Trollope is sympathetic: he says of her 'she had been able to bear it without shipwreck'. She holds her sanity; is helping Grace. She does draw the line at Johnny Eames still. I suggest we are to bring forward from the earlier book memories of how she was not sexually drawn to John; he didn't physically attract her as a man. That's why all the talk about his being a boy. Now he has grown, but Love being Irrational, she has the same response to him. There wasn't enough challenge then, and she's right not to want to be pushed or pressured by Lady Julia even if Lady Julia is acting from the best motives.

Lady Julia's letter is another masterpiece. A virtuouso performance. She lays her heart out in every word, and it's a wry intelligent one. Of Lily she writes: "she only kissed me, and told me in her quiet drolling way that I didn't mean a word of what I said" (Ch 15, pp. 116-17.).

We have not seen much of John yet, but that he's toughened. He is the successful secretary; he refuses Cradell a loan at first, but only gives in after the man begs him. It's believable; why should he allow the man to sponge on him (as this young man would see it). Again we are to bring forward from the earlier book what we learned of John and see it hardening here.

Where then is the weakness? Why also in the bringing forward. There are a number of passages where Trollope rehearses something that happened in a previous book. If you have read it, and loved the book, that's fine. If you read this one as your first chronicle, it might lie dead on the page. You don't get it. I also think that some characters become too flat; are used as cyphers. That's how I see some of the females who when single and fighting for a husband or for a life in one book turn up in another as a married one. It's doesn't matter that they are diminished because they are married, simply that they are diminished, now dolls to be used to fit the plot when needed; sometimes the old spirit comes to life, and sometimes not. That's how I see Dr and Mrs Thorne; also the Luftons. The scene between Major Grantly and Mrs Thorne doesn't quite work for me. This romance is fodder; a love story thrown in to sweeten the mix. Grace is stereotypical so is Henry. It's a sign the vein is running out too -- and Trollope knows it which is why this is the last. Though the earlier five books are not without flaws, they don't have this filler element. At least as I see it. This gets worse as Trollope's career progresses. Ralph the Heir has a couple love stories too many; so too He Knew He Was Right and there are those who would see Ayala as book-making, superb, but bookmaking still, meaning he's doing what he has done before and at times does it in a kind of splendid shorthand.

Comments anyone? p>Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 12:06:34 -0400
Subject: [trollope-l] Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 12-16: Strengths and Weaknesses

If I disagree with Ellen Moody about what she regards as weaknesses in The Last Chronicle of Barset it's because I don't see the novel as a stand-alone work - and that may very well amount to agreeing with Ellen. No, I regard both of Trollope's cycles as comparable to Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu and for myself I can no more imagine reading the Barsetshire books out of sequence than I can starting off Proust with 'Albertine Disparue.' I would like to know how Ellen chanced to find herself in Rome with The Last Chronicle; I would also blame publishers for taking an airy view of the cycle, since it's obviously in a bookseller's interest to convince buyers that they needn't have - well, that they needn't have done anything, ever.

When I say the cycles are comparable, I don't mean that the fictions or narratives are. Proust amply fulfills Ellen's critical demand for the continual evolution of characters. His people are still throwing off sparkles from hitherto unseen facets in the tremendous finale, the party at the Princesse de Guermantes. Trollope's idea is altogether different, because he endows marriage with powers that Proust would certainly doubt. Marriage is the only real resolution in Trollope. It signifies not happiness but stasis: married people are taken out of play. The exception to this rule in the Barsetshire series, Mark Robarts, proves it: for the Robarts of Framley Parsonage is a youngish and conceited man who has not yet submitted to that marital candor that works so powerfully in the Archdeacon's dressing room. Mark doesn't just keep secrets from his wife, but really tries to maintain a line of life that's apart from her. That he comes through his ordeal intact is not inconsistent with accepting that his punishment - the bailiffs taking inventory - is very great.

The real star of The Last Chronicle of Barset is Barsetshire society, and Trollope gives it to us complete, using characters whom we have met before and whose troubles have been resolved one way or another to provide a tier that's usually absent from the fictional scene: a middle distance. We have background characters, such as the butcher Fletcher or the agent Soames, who, as in any novel, will never be rounded because we will not be drawn into their decisions. They act as natural forces. Between them and the foreground of principal characters, however, figures such as Dr. and Mrs. Thorne stand precisely as Ellen says they do: in such a way that we know what they're thinking. If we've read the earlier novels, we can invest the briefest exchanges with the habits of mind that we have gotten to know well. Even a roster can reverberate, as does the list of magistrates in Chapter VII. We know every one of these men, and as in life we know some better than others. I find this resonance a gloriously rich strength, the very opposite of a weakness.

Proust (to put it perhaps too briefly) was interested in the variegations of personality and the fugitive opacity of the self. Trollope, for better or worse, does not for a moment appear to have believed people capable of inspiring much surprise, and I think he would have agreed to the proposition that you can know other men and women as well as you need to know anything if you're sufficiently attentive. The difference in outlook becomes understandable when we bear in mind that Proust, while affluent, was an outsider vis--vis the world that interested him, and that Trollope, although initially rather poor, was always an insider vis--vis his. So it will be for readers, I suspect. Reading about people like yourself is an experience imbued with a familiarity that, depending on your passions at the moment, will be either comforting or dull. Reading about people whose circumstances are utterly unlike your own will afford a novelty that's either fascinating or meaningless.

So, as so often happens, I agree with each of Ellen's critical observations, but draw different conclusions from some of them - or, to put it properly, feel quite differently.

R J Keefe

I answered R. J. thus:

Re: Not one But Two Romans-Fleuves!

RJ is right to say we have come to the same conclusion, only write about it from a different perspective. Not only have we come to the same conclusion, I wrote a version of what he has argued in Chapter 9 of my book on Can You Forgive Her?.

What I did for each chapter was retell part of the conversation a group of people had on a list over the book or books, at the same time I set the conversation in a framework. Each time the framework was in effect an interpretation of some aspect of the book or Trollope's life. Chapters 1 & 2 were on Ireland, Trollope and Irish Literature and then on the books. One chapter on short fiction and romances as kinds and Trollope's use of these. Chapter 8 was Autobiography as such and then on the book. And so on.

In Chapter 9 I argued that the Pallisers should be read as a roman-fleuve. Now in passing I suggested that the Barsetshire chronicles need to be restudied and looked at again because they too fit the criteria and would be better appreciated and understood if they were seen as a first attempt at a cycle. I didn't argue it myself so couldn't do more than suggest. In a book (as opposed to a posting) you are supposed attempt a thorough demonstration of something before you assert it forcibly.

Now among other things I brought forward on behalf of reading the Barsetshire as well as the Palliser books as romans-fleuves is an important article written a half century ago now. It gives a thorough answer to the questions we have had on how did Amelia Roper have 6 children in a short time and how old is Lily. It's by Frank E. Robbins: 'Chronology and History in Trollope's Barset and Parliamentary Novels', Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 5 (1951), pp. 303-17. To quote my own note:

See Lynette Felber's Gender and Genre in Novels without End: The British Roman-Fleuve (Gainesville, Florida, 1995), pp. 1-74. Felber brings together many earlier studies of Trollope's Palliser novels (by James Kincaid, Jerome Thale, Elizabeth Epperly and others) to demonstrate that Trollope's Palliser novels have all the central characeristics of a roman-fleuve in the Balzac mode. She will not allow that the Barsetshire novels are equally a _roman-fleuve_. However, the Barsetshires contain most of the characteristics she finds in the Pallisers and fit the definition of roman-fleuve found in the 1987 supplement to the second edition of the _Oxford English Dictionary_: 'a sequence of self-contained novels' (see 'roman', p. 1334); almost half a century ago in his 'Chronology and History in Trollope's Barset and Parliamentary Novels', Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 5 (1951), pp. 303-17, Frank E. Robbins produced an account of the chronology, reappearing characters, places and causal connections between the Barsetshire and the Palliser series, and demonstrated how impossible it is to separate the two and deny the Barsetshire series its cyclical and self-contained nature.

Those who would like to know how old Lily is, what year The Last Chroncle takes place in, how that relates to the years of all the other five cycles, the ages of most of the important characters and so on, will find all this information in Robbins. Trollope really is consistent over the long haul. What's as interesting is how contemporary both cycles are. Many of the books are set in precisely the year Trollope is writing or at most 1-2 years before, and the events alluded to really took place.

Still the Barsetshire series lacks some of the characteristics of the cycle, or let's say, it did not begin as a cycle and it's a first try. Trollope conceived of the Pallisers as cycle in the first place. The books are really consistent as to texture and type. The Barsetshire chronicles are not. The Warde is a political fable; Barcheter Towers is a rewrite of The Warden as a conventional comic romance, with a new perspective, religion, religious politics and corruption of a personal kind, also fundamentalism. Dr Thorne is another kind again. The books are not alike in the manner of Proust's or Dorothy Richardson's or Anthony Powell's. The Pallisers are.

There's an argument that aspects of the Barsetshire books show the cycle developed haphazardly and remains a series of opportunistic sequels in part. It's true Trollope was a genius and artist and did just about lift his work into the genre of roman-fleuve, almost because he couldn't help himself. There are so many of its characteristics here. But they also have some of the characteristics and flaws of sequels.

In the case in point, there is no crowning book for the Pallisers. No final sum up. There is no sudden harking back so we can get a warm glow. Throughout the streams of the Pallisers it has been interwoven subtly and there's no need to bind it all together now. Among other problems in the Barsetshire is this looking back to try to make up for the reality that Trollope didn't conceive of his first cycle as a cycle in the first place and learned how to master the form as he went.

So to return to Balzac, we see how apt was Trollope's toast to Balzac:

'the man who invented that style of fiction in which I have attempted to work'

Trollope had attempted to work in it, only realised what he was doing as he carried on. That's not to say the Barsetshire books don't become richer if we read them as a roman- fleuve after the fact. They do.

Others noticed it. Mrs Gaskell's remark about Trollope writing FP forever testifies to her sense it's a roman-fleuve in the making. Oliphant wrote her Carlingford Chronicles in imitation.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

From Rory O'Farrell

One could argue that in the Barchester series, Trollope was remembering a past setting, captured in his mind at a moment in time, like a photograph. Hence the nostalgic looking back to this "golden period". On the other hand, the Palliser series were written about the world as it currently surrounded him, a world in which he now took part - busy London, rubbing shoulders with the makers and breakers of society, getting the daily dose of current gossip and intrigue from his club.

The publication chronology of the Barchesters and the comments in the very strongly suggest that there was no overall plan for a series. But having by great skill and good fortune retrospectively formed them into a series and closed it off by The Last Chronicle, Trollope was an astute enough businessman to realize that another series of novels would be well received by the public.

I would doubt that he had any detailed overall plan beyond reusing the same pool of characters for the six novels of the Palliser series at the beginning, or indeed at any stage. If he had, some of the "infelicities" would not have occurred - witness for example, the treatment of Mary Flood Jones in Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux. I think this treatment is inartistic in the extreme; surely advance planning would have caused a nicer handling of this. Similarly, in The Eustace Diamonds, some elements of the plot show distinct signs of just being thrown in on the spur of the moment. Advance planning would surely reveal itself in a smoother plot. And even Lady Glencora's ... - but enough! Not wishing to spoil the read for those who haven't yet opened the Palliser series, I am not dealing in any detail with the points I would like to make, only hinting so that those who know can see the outline of my argument.

All this might suggest that the Palliser series is an inartistic cludge, and not worth the reading. Nothing could be farther from the truth - the list has six great reads ahead of it when we get to the Pallisers, with the usual gathering of notable - either likeable or dislikable - characters.

There may have been no final Palliser book because he had written out Lady Glencora. I rather suspect that without her, Trollope lost interest.

If any newcomer to Trollope is anxious for a pointer of something to read which will be generally helpful, they could not do better than read his Autobiography. This is the story "from the horse's mouth", although it does have its shortcomings - at times over reticent on matters which we might reasonably expect to be dealt with in an autobiography. Victoria Glendinning wrote Trollope, a very readable biography. Anthony Trollope - a Victorian in his world by Richard Mullen, and Trollope , A Biography by N John Hall are two of the more academic approaches to his life and work.

I would suggest the Autobiography then the Glendinning Trollope, in that order, for newcomers.

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 06:57:55
Subject: [trollope-l] Last Chronicle of Barset_, Chs 12-16: As A Sequel

Rory wrote,

With a cast of characters as large as that in The Last Chronicle, should one expect that all characters should be intense and "rounded" (I use the >term in contrast to "flat") all the time? Might not such a novel become over-powering, in that, swamped with the all round intensity, one would loose track of the intricacies of the plot and of the major characters, which characters actually form the story?'

I guess I should have been a bit franker. It's not so much as they are shallow or not sufficiently rounded, but that I find a certain dullness in the presentation of Dr Thorne and the Luftons especially. They are just cyphers on a page; they stand for utterly conventional and not-quite-alive feelings. I don't want all characters to be intense, but all characters ought to have energy, not just be factors in a plot or scenario. It's that once we see what their attitude is going to be towards Crawley, we can predict what they are going to say or do next. A character should always leave us with this feeling that like people we cannot quite say what they will say or do next. When it comes, we feel it's in character, but it has an element of serendipity. That's not so of Dr Thorne or the Lufton set; not even so of Mrs Thorne (aka Miss Dunstable) when she is in the carriage with Henry Grantly.

On the Henry Grantly-Grace Crawley story: the struggle between Henry Grantly and his father has strength and interest. The Archdeacon has maintained his inner life and presence; Henry is a new character. Their conflicts and struggle has this sense of unpredictability within expectation. We don't know how the story will end, quite what either will say or do next. Grace's place in the Crawley story has metal, reality. But their romance is sentimental and to me has the feel of filler. Sentimentality is when an author avoids real feeling to give us conventional expectations which skim over all the coldnesses and realities of life. I see this in Grace's automatic supposedly tender love for the Major's daughter. I am supposed almost to believe she wants to marry him to be her mother. Again there's a strong element of predictability here. The two together make a flaw for me.

We might say there are several levels of meaning in a narrative. There's the literal. What is happening. There's the immediate inference. Neither Crawley nor his wife talk of suicide directly, and only towards the end of their conversation does he allude directly to it. Yet we get it. Then there's the moral which is often what gets talked about on lists -- as well as the literal and immediate inference. But our enjoyment often comes from something harder to 'get at' or demonstrate but there: these are significances we feel in the text which come from our sense of the author's presence, his emotions implied through nuance, tone, irony, and the complicated emotional affects of the characters also implied through nuance, tone, and irony, all of which the narrative projects as we move through the sentences. The characters have the advantage over the narrative because they are also visualised so we imagine them in scenes. The last two senses of depth in this book are flat in places in The Last Chronicle.

To my other cavil: '

Where then is the weakness? Why also in the bringing forward. There are a number of passages where Trollope rehearses something that happened in a previous book. If you have read it, and loved the book, that's fine. If you read this one as your first chronicle, it might lie dead on the page. You don't get it',

Roger wrote:

I quite agree, as I was reading it I realised more and more that if I hadn't read the others I would not really be understanding any of the situations or characters (especially Framley Parsonage and SMA). I would have thought you had to have lived through the Lily Dale/Crosbie/John Eames story to really understand any of that part of the story, ditto the Lady Lufton/ Mark Robarts story. As Ellen says you wouldn't get it. In fact the first new characters who we meet are the two old ducks who run the School where Grace works, and that's chapters into the book. Of course if you have read the other books then this is great, there is a nice warm glow when someone walks onto the page who you know already, you don't have to be introduced as it where'.

Again I should be franker. When I first read this book in Rome, I had not read Framley Parsonage or The Small House at Allington. I had read Dr Thorne many years before. My time in Rome was in 1992-93, before I ever got onto a Trollope list and began rereading the novels I had read and read just about all of the rest for the first time and then reread. So when I read The Last Chronicle I was in the situation of someone who had never met the Luftons, didn't know Lily and John Eames, had hazy recollections of Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable. A good example of what I missed was Cradell had little meaning for me. I read it sheerly as a Dickens-like scene. Now I have met Mrs Cradell (Miss Roper) and have some idea of what this character could be.

Thus as I was reading I knew things were being referred to I had not read elsewhere. I didn't get this nice warm glow. Instead I understood intellectually I was supposed to have this warm glow. Be happy to pick up the threads of what I had known. But I hadn't known it. So I felt perhaps I should have read the other books first. But then in life we know it doesn't always work this way. You begin where you can. So it was frustrating. I ended up reading the passages sheerly as filling me in on what I'd missed. And indeed I think Trollope also means them as handy summaries. We need to know that Lily and Crosbie were lovers, that she still has the capacity to love him, that the death of the wife therefore opens this channel for her; that John was rejected by her but pines after her.

There is a problem in writing a novel like this which is meant as a final crown or summing up of an experience. I suggest the earlier novels were not meant this way. The Barsetshire chronicles did not become a set until Trollope was well into Framley Parsonage. Even Dr Thorne was not written as an on-going member of a series. It was set in the same countryside, but Trollope switched the characters, brought the Proudies on just for a cameo appearance, and changed his themes from religious politics to an exploration of class, marriage, the new man coming up who doesn't fit in (Sir Roger Scatcherd). Tnen in Framley there was no loving rehearsal as if someone saying this is our final round -- which is the feel here. The Small House imitates Dr Thorne in bringing us outside the countryside; only Mr Harding appears from the original cast as a sort of touchstone.

I don't mean to say to anyone, you have to have read the earlier books. I read The Last Chronicle out of sync, and enjoyed it a good deal. But I was aware of this problem at the time and I see it again, this time not as not quite being part of the glow, but in the flatness or mechanical predictable usage of some of the characters as puppets set to new purposes in a new tapestry they were not originally intended for. This is particularly true of Mrs Thorne who here is a conventional married sensible woman. That she originally was not. Part of the delight originally was her unconventional disillusoined scepticism about the motives and realities of all around her.

The idea of talking about a book is to tell the truth about our experiences of it, where it is great, and where it has troubles. Sequels have trouble as a form.

Roger also said:

A propos of nothing much, after having not liked Lily Dale in SMA I now find I like her a lot - especially in the "bed among the lentils" scene.

I see Roger has read or seen Alan Bennet's Bed Among the Lentils. That is a great short play. So are all his Talking Heads plays. Very moving, very poignant, very hard.

Ellen Moody

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 19:56:51 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [trollope-l] LCB -- Chapter XV John Eames

I found this chapter to be very enjoyable. I love recurring characters and catching up with what has been happening to them as time has passed. I don't much care for books that bring back characters and they are exactly the same as when we left them.

I was quite intrigued to visit John (can't call him Johnny any more) Eames in his office after the passage of a few years. He is quite mature now and I see he is still secretary. One presumes he was never asked to fetch boots.

Of particular interest was how the story of his set-to with Crosbie had grown into virtual legend status with Crosbie now almost dying and still not being able to speak and having to eat his food pulverized.

And speaking of Crosbie, since this is my first read of the book I was surprised to learn of the death of Lady Alexandrina and am waiting to see what repercussions arise from that.

Poor Cradell, there he is married to Amelia Roper and with six children already! I hope he is happy.

It was saddening to hear of the death of Earl de Guest. Hmmm, I was not saddened to hear of the death of Lady Alexandrina though.


At 06:47 PM 7/12/00 +0100, Rory O'Farrell wrote:

Roger Batt:

"Yes, because Lily Dale is only 24 in LCB. How old was she at the end of SMA can anyone remember?

I picked up the timescale another way:

"P144 Oxford Classics Last Chronicle (Chap XV, about third page) ".., yet the secret was known to them all. It had been historical for the last four or five years,... " and goes on to tell about Johny Eames and Lily Dale and Crosbie.

P452 of same edition, (Chap 44, third page) Crosbie says "But life has been so bitter with me for the last three years!"

So I think we can take the period between The Small House and The Last Chronicle as three to four years - five at the outside. There is a clue in Lily's age, but I've got to go and cook the dinner, so someone else can look that up!

Rory O'Farrell

Subject: [trollope-l] -- Time scale; Cradell's children; Lily

Rory quoted Dagny:

"When I first read that Cradell and Amelia now had six children I figured six or seven years had passed since SMA. But all other indications seem to point to a lesser period of time, four or five years as Rory pointed out. There is Grace's age to go by also.

Near the end of Chapter 15 (the John Eames chapter), when he is sitting by the fire at work and thinking about the letter received from Julia de Guest he thinks "It was now four years since this Crosbie had been engaged to Miss Dale, and had jilted her so heartlessly as to incur . . . ."

Poor Amelia, at least some twins, if not triplets.

How is Lily's character striking everyone these approximately four years later? She described herself as an old maid, and indeed, much of her conversation does strike me as being "old maidish."


Leaving aside the technicalities of having six children in so short a time, Trollope is trying to show us, by way of contrast, Cradell's life style; he has become the victim of rampant domesticity - married to the divine Amelia, there are now small children everywhere, and not enough money. Contrast this with Eames, now a relatively well off man, with kind, well meaning friends, able at the drop of a hat to take himself off to Florence for a few weeks. Then think of Cradell being wakened for 2 o'clock feeds; there, but for the grace of God, went Johnny Eames!

Rory O'Farrell

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