Re: Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 17-22: Encounters
This week's chapters swirl around the Rev Josiah Crawley; only the last swings up back to the story of Grace Crawley and Henry Grantly, and it could be argued that the presence of Josiah Crawley is felt there as it is his situation that has made the opposition of the Grantlys to Henry's remarriage to Grace so entrenched.
The first two are among the most famous Trollope ever wrote. Mr Crawley walks a long muddy walk to the palace and finds himself confronted with not only the Bishop but the Bishop's wife. For the sake of making some debate, I'll offer the idea that perhaps Trollope overdoes some aspects of Mrs Proudie. She roars just too loudly; I find her behavior in the scene with the Bishop and Crawley more than believable -- how fascinating that what she can't stand is to be ignored, do we ever grow up (children play this trick on one another of demanding recognition) -- but she is given no shading elsewhere. Her unqualified bullying of Thumble is a case in point. Again given his sycophancy and desperation, it's not over the top; but there's an accumulation here of her ugliness, stupidity, denseness that feels unreal, exaggerated. The depiction of her bonnet as a helmet, and her monstrous swathing in rich clothes as a termagent who has never had a doubt of her value and importance, her aggression -- are all found elsewhere. In An Autobiography, Trollope says a woman just like this confronted him over what he had been promising her daughter when he was a clerk in the Post Office; a version of this woman humiliates Charlie Tudor in The Three Clerks; she is the awful lady authoress in Mrs Brumby.
The walk and encounter themselves are hard to do justice to. Again this scene occurs in other of Trollope's fiction: in Nina Balatka (written just around the same time), the same kind of woman bullies a husband with the hero mortified but winning the immediate confrontation. I wonder if this scene corresponds to something Trollope experienced. Anton Trendellson is AT. I like the way the narrator tells us Crawley did 'understand fighting' (Houghton Mifflin, Last Chronicle, ed AMizener, Ch 18, p. 144). The words we use on the surface, what we pretend to be talking about don't matter; it's the positions of dominance and submission they figure forth. The lines are perfect, just what the participants would say. Perhaps the power of the scene comes the reality that if Crawley thinks he won, it is only just. She continually insults him, using the ugliest of words in our culture. He's a thief, shameful, his office will be taken from him; nothing is beneath her. She'll say anything. That he takes this punishment and flings a 'woman' at her shows someone holding firm, and we admire it, but he doesn't get any solid blows in himself. He is, in fact, too decent, too honorable -- as is the Bishop. Would anyone care to argue Trollope is anti-feminist here? After all, the author can prove anything if he makes the evidence up; he has made up this foul termagent of a woman who terrorises her husband in bed.
I found Mrs Crawley's behavior throughout moving.
The significant question as always is the author's stance. How far does Trollope distance himself from Crawley? This week's chapters also include Mark Robarts's attempt to reason with Crawley. Robarts's encounter with Crawley matches Crawley's with the Bishop and Mrs Proudie, also Mrs Proudie's with Thumble. In the Robarts scene we see the narrator in his own voice and through Robarts offer plenty of evidence to suggest Crawley is somehow to blame for the really awfulness of his plight. The narrator calls it 'crushing pride':
There was something radically wong within him, which had put him into antagonism with all the world, and which produced these never-dying grievances. There were many clergymen in the country with incomes as small as that which had fallen to the lot of Mr Crawley, but they managed to get on without displaying their sores as Mr Crawley displayed his (Ch 21, p. 163).
I would say the clue is in Crawley's gifts. Had he not his supreme intelligence, high integrity, strong passions, he would not have these sores. Trollope is arguing strongly against the injustice of a system which starves the curate to make the Bishop fat, but he also looks at Crawley as a psychological projection of how such a man in such a society makes it worse for himself. He will not listen to Robarts; he turns his face to the wall.
Yet, Crawley's refusal to hire a lawyer as an innocent man is what we find in Phineas Redux. Phineas refuses to have a lawyer for the longest time, and there Phineas is allowed to argue against a system which demands twisting and bullying and all sorts of jury manipulation to set an innocent man free. What kind of humanity have we? Dickens shows the same disposition in Bleak House when the shooting gallery owner blamed for the death of Tulkinghorn refuses a lawyer. Crawley may be and is wrong to refuse, but the reasons adduced for reprehending the system are meant to be considered as valid charges.
We are meant to be moved by Crawley despite his stiff-neckedness self-destructiveness. He has a heart:
'At any rate I wish you well through your trouble', said Robarts; and as he spoke he found that his own words were nearly choked by a sob that was rising in his throat (Ch 21, p. 167).
We see how the community is beginning to believe Crawley guilty. People jump on a bandwagon, especially if the accused is weak, powerless, has not cultivated friends in the right places.
The outcast is being studied from all angles, why it has happened as a social phenomena, as a psychological one How it feels to others as they look at him, both the decent like Robarts and the craven, like the Bishop, for he is craven before his wife.
I have not much to say about the Grantly episode and two encounters there (father and son circling round one another, mother and son), except to say Trollope is presenting the same Archdeacon, we are again to reject the Archdeacon's behavior and point of view, but this time they are made understandable. Mrs Grantly is brought forward very effectively in this scene.
I have this general comment to make as a result of our reading of Gaskell's deeply moving novella, Cousin Phillisthis summer. When we were reading Balzac's Pere Goriot, people made comparisons between Balzac and Trollope, all on Trollope's side. I offer this contrast between Gaskell and Trollope: in her shorter works, she escapes the incessant novelising of spinning out detailed psychological presences that are complex in highly complicated situations by using her fiction expressionistically. The pastoral and ghostly fictions project an inner mood of her mind, something she wants to figure forth which the realistic texts of prudence (which are what novels are) don't really get at, don't allow for. It's a form of poetry. Trollope can do this in his novellas and from time to time in episodes within the larger works.
However, this week's chapters are strictly novel stuff. We have these large figures in front of us, the novelist has gone behind the curtain, and we must pay attention to them, talk about it psychologically, realistically, in terms of literal sociology and facts (like how checks were really used in 19th century England), and then moralise. It forces us to pay lip service to rationales. The figuring forth of motifs behind these rationales is only gotten at through seeing and feeling the patterns here which are repeated in other novels and gaining thence Trollope's perception of the experience of life: it's a long walk, a holding firm, an encounter of the outcast and powerless against the vultures and weak, one in which the good and even intelligent (Robarts) and the simple (Farmer Mangle) cannot help one another very much. In this light the Grantly encounter becomes a repetition in softer music of the chords of the scene in the palace.
Cheers to all, Ellen Moody
Catherine Crean responded to this a couple of weeks later:
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 17:52:10 -0000
Subject: [trollope-l] The unsympathetic hero
I am very far behind in the reading. I use the fact that this is my 4th time reading The Last Chronicle of Barset but that is no excuse. This novel has always made me squirm a bit because up until now I have found Rev. Crawley so unsympathetic. How can I care what happens to a man who seems driven to destroy himself, and make his family and friends crazy with misery in the process?
This time through, I am appreciating Trollope's masterpiece. I read somewhere (here?) that in LCB Trollope does the nearly impossible - he writes a novel with an unsympathetic character as the protagonist. It is a skilled artist at work here portraying every nuance of day to day life with a lunatic. I am sure that Trollope used his poor father as something of a model . What insight Trollope has into life with a crazy person. It is amazing that Trollope is so detached in his treatment of the Crawley family. I read somewhere (here! Ellen Moody said it in her e-mail the other day!) that "Trollope starts with the marriage." Quite true. And here we see a marriage in a candid light. The poverty, misery and emotional anguish are all on the page.
But so is the love. I just finished reading the chapter where Rev. Crawley has been summoned to the Palace. He insists on walking the whole way so that he will be muddy and messy by the time he gets to the Palace. Trollope lets us in on the perverse pleasure Crawley has when he thinks of "crushing" the Bishop. Rev. Crawley's wife is running around trying to get her husband a ride into town, and thinking of a way to trick her husband into accepting a trumped-up offer. Chapter 17 is a marvelous, totally amazing portrayal of a monomaniacal mind at work. I don't think I've ever read such a thoughtful, original description of life with an emotionally disturbed person. Mrs. Crawley loves this man. She loves him so much that she will jump through all kinds of hoops to help him, yet disguise the fact that she is helping him.
Today when we have contemplated this terrible scene of anguish and victory in defeat on the part of Crawley -- and through him Anthony Trollope who too thus exorcized and dramatised his inner life for us, it's worth contemplating:
Only in semblance are the outward and inward seasons of a life identical; in verity, wealth of experience is the sole measure of living, and the spirit is timed by another clock than that of the calendar. Under the intoxication of destiny, the mind may traverse lengthy periods in a few days; whereas long years may count for nothing when life is void of momentous spiritual happenings. ---Stephan Zweig, Mary Queen of Scots
Tomorrow I shall bring in what Robert Louis Stevenson had to say about such scenes.
Rory quoted what I wrote:
"For the sake of making some debate, I'll offer the idea that perhaps Trollope overdoes some aspects of Mrs Proudie. She roars just too loudly; I find her behavior in the scene with the Bishop and Crawley more than believable"
I think that throughout The Last Chronicle, Trollope is building up the picture of Mrs Proudie - admittedly perhaps over the top, but this is an author's privilege. She goes from bad to worse, all the time pushing the Bishop aside, no doubt in her eagerness that he should do the right thing [read: what she wants him to do]. She roars because he won't roar. Then, near the end of the book, when she softens, it is too late. One of the most touching line in the book is the scene of the Bishop praying that God might save him from being glad that his wife was dead.
Can we see also that after the meeting in the Palace that Crawley becomes reconciled to the Bishop - he submits to the bishop.
Rory O'Farrell Email: email@example.com
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 17:52:10 -0000
Subject: [trollope-l] The unsympathetic hero
I am very far behind in the reading. I use the fact that this is my 4th time reading The Last Chronicle of Barset but that is no excuse. This novel has always made me squirm a bit because up until now I have found Rev. Crawley so unsympathetic. How can I care what happens to a man who seems driven to destroy himself, and make his family and friends crazy with misery in the process? This time through, I am appreciating Trollope's masterpiece. I read somewhere (here?) that in LCB Trollope does the nearly impossible - he writes a novel with an unsympathetic character as the protagonist. It is a skilled artist at work here portraying every nuance of day to day life with a lunatic. I am sure that Trollope used his poor father as something of a model . What insight Trollope has into life with a crazy person. It is amazing that Trollope is so detached in his treatment of the Crawley family. I read somewhere (here! Ellen Moody said it!) that "Trollope starts with the marriage." Quite true. And here we see a marriage in a candid light. The poverty, misery and emotional anguish are all on the page. But so is the love.I just finished reading the chapter where Rev. Crawley has been summoned to the Palace. He insists on walking the whole way so that he will be muddy and messy by the time he gets to the Palace. Trollope lets us in on the perverse pleasure Crawley has when he thinks of "crushing" the Bishop. Rev. Crawley's wife is running around trying to get her husband a ride into town, and thinking of a way to trick her husband into accepting a trumped-up offer. Chapter 17 is a marvelous, totally amazing portrayal of a monomaniacal mind at work. I don't think I've ever read such a thoughtful, original description of life with an emotionally disturbed person. Mrs. Crawley loves this man. She loves him so much that she will jump through all kinds of hoops to help him, yet disguise the fact that she is helping him.
Re: The Last Chronicle, Chs 17-18: Mr Crawley and the Bishop's Wife
The lead-up to this scene, Crawley's wife's finangling of a cart to bring Crawley part way, the muddy road, Crawley's disdain for the absurdity of cards (not gone from us by any means), the scene itself, the aftermath in the intense struggle of a walk way, Mrs Crawley waiting up, the Farmer losing his passenger, all ending on Crawley's triumphant coda of a sentence, 'I do not think the bishop will end for me again', he said, as his wife tucked the clothes around him -- are rightly famous. The sequence is the equivalent in our memories with Mr Harding's long day in London in The Warden.
The interesting question is, Why? Someone has answered this: Robert Louis Stevenson in his A Gossip on Romance. This meditation opens with the following sentence: "In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscope dance of images, incapable of sleep or thought'. How does a novelist get us to do this? I once wrote a long piece in a book which I argued the novelist did this by throwing us into this special state of imaginative belief (or suspension of disbelief) called reverie. When we are in reverie, we forget where we are sitting, who we are (for the moment, so that if someone hits us on the shoulder they 'bring us back'). Then we his subjects to work upon. Ready for a dramatic daydream.
Here Stevenson says that the dramatic daydream demands the highly pictorial epitomizing moment. He says the power of a book turns not on the turns and plays of human conscience; that's what you can spin your story line from, 'the passionate slips and hesitations of the conscience'. You use this for your poetry of conduct; what the characters are said to be doing and saying. He says many people say that's three-quarters of a book. He begs to differ: 'There is a vast deal in life and letters which is not immoral, but simply a-moral; it's simply there, brute life like the mountains, the roads (the mud), the given of a character's personality set on working, the appetite we feel for things, for our surroundings. What is needed here is to use these realities to make some epitomising picture. That's what I meant by the Bishop, Crawley, and the wife representing to us Trollope's perception of the experience of life intensely, a kind of distillation. Stevenson calls this 'the right kind of thing ... falling out in the right kind of place'; with 'the right kind of thing' following: 'not only the characters talk aptly and think naturally, but all the circumstances in the tale [at that moment] answer one to another like music:
The threads of the story come from time to time together and make a picture in the web; the characters fall from time to time in some attitude to eadhc other or to nature, which stamps the story home like an illustration ...
He gives examples: Achilles shouting over the Trojans; Ulysses bending his great bow. In his An Autobiography Trollope gives some more in talking of the sensational in novelistic art and instances Rebecca and Ivanhoe at the window watching the battle rage; he also names a scene from Jane Eyre and another from Henry Esmond. Well Stevenson names among this high company of great pictorial epitomising memorable moments: 'Mr Crawley's collison with the Bishop's wife, Mr Melmotte dallying in the deserted banquet-room' (from The Way We Live Now). Also Rawdon's blow at Steyne in Vanity Fair; were this blow 'not delivered, Vanity Fair would cease to be a work of art. that scene is the chief ganglion of the tale; and the discharge of energy from Rawdon's fist is the reward and consolation of the reader'.
Mr Crawley standing firm against this woman and her husband are a chief ganglion of The Last Chronicle; the 'discharge of energy' of his journey, roar back, and gratified return the reward and consolation of the reader. Trollope can't resist the undercutting note as his wife then tucks him into bed. The woman has the final strength here, quietly. This is how Trollope sees the world in this novel, the perspective of the central consciousness of it, that of the Rev Josiah Crawley, partly Trollope's alter ego.
So too do I see Mr Harding's long day in London a chief ganglion, a fitting pictorial moment which epitomises the whole of The Warden imaginatively, on the level of the intuitive daydream which communicates something well beyond the specific moral of the moment or scene itself. Again Mr Harding is the moral touchstone of the book.
And Stevenson would add to this Melmotte in the deserted banquet-room. Some prefer Melmotte's last moment, his standing up in Parliament to speak while very drunk indeed. Trollope did, that's why he had his illustrator picture that moment. A center of a book need not be an admirable hero; he may be an intensely fascinating and finally sympathetic villain.
This is the poetry of great novels. I didn't have the time to write about the scene of the Bishop, Crawley and wife in detail, so in lieu I offer up this meditation with a little bit of help from RLS.
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 07:19:44 -0600
Subject: [trollope-l] Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 17-22: Encounters
Ellen, of course, is very good when discussing the very famous scene in The Last Chronicle where Mr. Crawley visits the Bishop and finds Mrs. Proudy seated by the Bishop. One point that no one seems to make is that Mr. Crawley does not react against being bullied. He's been bullied before, and more times than not he agrees with the bully. What Mr. Crawley objects to is that a woman is doing the bullying. In the 19th century we still were in the world of the Great Chain of Being, that is that everyone and everything below God on the natural scale is ranked. In the Great Chain a Bishop's wife is inferior to a Bishop. To believe otherwise would make one guilty of the sin of Pride, the first and the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins. Therein lies Mrs. Proudy's fault. It isn't so much that she is a bully. She is far worse than a bully: she is guilty of Pride. She wishes to elevate herself above her God-given position on the Great Chain of Being. In doing so she shares her wickedness with Macbeth, who tries to do the same thing. The Great Chain of Being was not just a Catholic viewpoint but was shared by many Protestants including Shakespeare, Spenser, and now, we see, Trollope.