September 12, 2000
Re: The Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 62-66: The End of a Story? (I)
This week's chapters include one of the culminating moments of this novel, and of a story that began in Barset 2 or _Barchester Towers_: the death of Mrs Proudie. I am among those who remain somewhat sceptical about Trollope's accounting for his decision: as the familiar story goes he overheard some cronies at his club complaining about how often this character had reappeared, and he decided on the spot to kill her off -- as it were, to spite these people. It may be that he reached his final decision at that moment, but it seems to me that the story of the death of his marriage had by this point demanded a solution, some change which relieved these two people of the burden of one another's presence, and, given their personalities and what they are in their community, how else to dissolve this deadly yoke? The larger book was to come to an end in Mr Harding's death; everything in the book has been telling us this; with Mr Harding's death, his creator would be freed of his series. The death of the other presence who had come to be central to the series, one inimical in values, sex, emotional manipulation of the reader, to that of Mr Harding, our Mrs Proudie, is a fit parallel.
These last scenes are beautifully, touchingly right. There is no excess, and there is much courageous truth. Mrs Proudie's softening towards the end; her sudden urge to see if she can bully the man back to appearing unmaimed within; her despair when this doesn't work. The terse dialogues between the two. As in just about every novel I can think of where a death occurs Trollope avoids the death scene itself; rather he dramatises what led up to it, and how everyone else responds. The perception of the nature of this experience is 20th century. As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead remark, death is not being there anymore. Trollope registers death for us as it is in life -- by those who are left behind, in this case by a man attached, and sick to death of this attachment, to the individual who has vanished. Together with Mr Proudie and the housekeeper we look upon a corpse in the cold light of day:
The body was still resting on its legs, leaning against the end of the side of the bed, while one of the arms was close clasped round the bed-post. The mouth was rigidly closed, but the eyes were open as though staring at him. Nevertheless there could be no doubt from the first glance that the woman was dead. He went up close to it, but did not dare touch it. There was no one as yet there but he and Mrs Draper -- no one else know what had happened (Houghton Mifflin, Last Chronicle, ed A Mizener, Ch 66, p. 554).
Among the truths Trollope tells is how Bishop is now at last satisfied, quiet, free from this voice, escaped. He couldn't care less whether Mrs Draper makes any unseemly noise leaving the room or not:
Had she slammed the door he would not have regarded it. A wonderful silence had come upon him which for a time almost crushed him. He would never hear that well-known voice again!
He was free now. Even in his misery, -- for he was very miserable, -- he could not refrain from telling himself that. No one could now press uncalled- for into his study, contradict him in the presence of those before whom he was bound to be authoritative ... There was no one else of whom he was afraid. She had at least kpet him out of the hands of other tyrants. He was now his own master, and there was a feeling, -- I may not call it relief, for as yet there was more of pain than of satisfaction, -- a feeling as though he had escaped from an old trouble at a terrible cost of which he could not as yet calculate the amount ... (p. 556).
He is tender; he feels guilty to be the one left; he remembers those things she did for him. Nevertheless, 'the tyrant was gone, and he was free'' (p. 557). Among the things in these many paragraphs (I have only typed part of two) is the welling up of his unconscious to tell him what his conscience would suppress, including I suggest that note of triumph in survival Jung talked about that many can feel when they stand over someone, but only express obliquely.
RE: The Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 62-66: The End of a Story? (II)
The death of Mrs Proudie is paralleled in another off-stage death, that of Dobbs Broughton and in Crawley's own suicidal move, one in which he most unadmirably proposes to take his family into destitution with him.'
I agree with all those who have said Crawley misapprehends Hoggett's "Dogged as does it" or, perhaps I should say, that, like most people, Crawley interprets another's words to fit what he wanted to do anyway. Such a bitten-off, half-thought self-abnegating and despairing attitude towards life as is expressed by Hoggett has no intelligible content; it has no directive. It is merely descriptive of Hoggett's frame of mind as Hoggett understands it after a lifetime of wretched poverty and ceaseless hard work. Tempest produced an ethical argument, grounded in circumstances, and in Crawley's duty to others (Kant would have approved). What I liked here was Trollope's awareness that Tempest was the much more educated man, signalled by Crawley knowing it was no good going to Hoggett to talk some more, and certainly no good to talk to Tempest.
Not that the giving up of the position is not as understandable as Lily's in context. Repeatedly Crawley refers to how as he looks about him, in the eyes of others that they believe him guilty. At one point he says, how can he stand and preach on Sundays looking out at those who think he could be a deliberate thief. It's not the two fools who wouldn't have come to church anyway, but his sense of increasing humiliation and shame. What he fails to take into account is something he characeristically couldn't see: that in fact, most people are simply indifferent and don't care. If he gets off, they won't care either. It is he who cares whether he did it so strongly.
I can't add much to Mark's excellent comments on Crawley last week: Crawley does disdain the modern world, has no understanding of the money-nexus, and has yet even to begin to learn how to make his way up a class-ladder, how to network. It's true he has a strong adherence to a Greek nobility such as he finds in his classics, but he is also a Hebraist. There is this love of Milton. The text he clings to is Samson Agonistes. I have noticed that Trollope seems to have loved Milton himself; he and his wife read Paradise Lost at night; in other novels he alludes to Samson and 'Lycidas' at some key points too.
I too wish Trollope had given us what Crawley's interpretation of the poetry was. Instead we are given a sense that only in such moments of communing did Crawley know any of the joy and hope he had known as a young man when his high idealism had not yet been withered by the tough realities of a world where symbolic intelligence such as his are not what wins out. We see for a moment why Mrs Crawley was attracted to him; what she saw. We also get a feeling that maybe if someone would only help them, he could be brought back to something of that original spirit. He can still write a magnificent letter in which we see him confront through memory that some of this has been his fault, his trouble. He can cast pride aside before the very friend whose success has most (unluckily) galled him. A second reading of this letter brings another angle in because the reader who has read the book before knows that it was Crawley's agonised shame before Arabin that made him not pay attention to how he got that check.
I triumphed with Jane (quietly) when she told the truth and then asserted her own need to express hope. Mr Thumble is 'not right' she says; and, as people do, insistently denying what is real around them because it is so painful, against her mother, they are 'not at all sad' (Ch 63, p. 531).
The last death is the horrific suicide. Bangles who saw it will never be the same again, There is a sly note of black comedy hit here (Ch 64, p. 535). Again we grasp the meaning of this man's death and life in the response of those who have to cope with his disappearance and what he left behind -- or didn't. Trollope is nowhere as kind to Mrs Dobbs as he is to Bishop Proudie. It's true she never cared for her husband, is a silly shallow woman, but not as deliberately malicious as M.D. How about that second anonymous letter? Come to think of it the woman who writes a key anonymous letter in Marion Fay is in the habit of doing such pernicious things. Trollope sees a type of mind here. I can't say much for Johnny Eames's taste or common sense with respect to M.D.
I see a thread which unites all three stories: Trollope is too wise to think that life comes to an end just because some crisis is going on, even when it includes the death of someone. Life goes on. This is the essence of the comedic vision: when Hamlet dies, the play comes to an end. Perhaps this is is part of the romantic heart of tragedy, the dream that there is some place to rest. No, life makes it demands. Now the Bishop must make choices on his own, and construct his existence yet some more. Mrs Dobbs Broughton has to eat and to dress and to find shelter.
This theme can help explain Crawley's decision. Among the many complicated sources for his giving up his position is a desire to bring things to an end, to rest. I suggest he believes that he will go to prison. He has refused counsel; he has no story to tell against whatever will be said against him. He knows what happened when he presented himself to the Grand Jury with no lawyer and no story. Thus he assumes he will go to jail. And, perversely, he takes that dread that he will never have to come out again or not for a long time to make what he thinks is an irretrievable decision. He has understood that Lady Lufton is standing by to help his wife. He also knows that when he goes to jail, the position will be taken from him so she will have no income anyway. He is getting it over with; getting the burden off his back of the community (as he imagines it) thinking he ought to give up his place. Not admirable conduct, but in the confused half-mad state of mind the tortured man now is in, understandable. We try to throw off what is torturing us. I thought in the letter there were hints that he obscurely hoped that maybe by giving up the position he wouldn't have to have a trial. I don't remember if the text warrants this conclusion. He does refuse to show up to see Tempest with the other clergymen; that's why he comes early. In effect Mrs Proudie by forcing this commission to meet has provided a straw to break this camel's back as M.D's anonymous letter was the straw to break Lily's back.
Of course there is Johnny to the rescue with Mr Toogood, our angelic lawyer, ready to sleuth out just what happened. This is a novel with something of a fairy tale ending for one of its central characters. In the end the author was kind to his Rev Mr Crawley -- but then he defended his father in other characters too. Cheers to all, Ellen Moody
Someone (I known not who) suddenly wrote in:
I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Trollope had been planning to do away with the Bishop. This would have left Mrs. Proudie punished by having her continue to live but completely shorn of her power. Then, as the series commenced with "Who will be the new Bishop?" (viewing The Warden as Prologue) so it would end with the death of the new bishop. Of course, this is just a hunch, but I believe the death of the Bishop after the brewing crisis would have felt more natural than the death of Mrs. Proudie -- which has always struck me as a little forced (even before I read The Autobiography).
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 11:46:15 -0400
Subject: RE: [trollope-l] Josiah Crawley and Samuel Johnson
Surprisingly, Ellen Moody hasn't pointed to Josiah Crawley's resemblance to Samuel Johnson. Perhaps, Ellen, you don't see it - but in that case your comments on my misapprehension would be no less interesting!
Writing of a dark moment in Johnson's life (c. 1759), W. Jackson Bates has this to say about Johnson's finances: "Certainly he had been living beyond his means for some time, largely because of his generosity. Though he was a good arithmetician, and able to give sound financial advice to others, there was a side of him that felt a proud disdain about being too mindful of his own expenses. He preferred instead, and found it more compatible with his pride, to go without things and live as simply as he could." (*Samuel Johnson*; Counterpoint, 1998; pp. 343-4)
As for the Greeks and the Hebrews in Mr. Crawley's mind, Matthew Arnold's important (if unfashionable) essay, 'Culture versus Anarchy' comes to mind. Arnold felt that mainstream 'highbrow' English culture needed more Hellene and less Hebrew.
September 14, 2000
Re: The Last Chronicle, Chs 62-66: The Case of Josiah Crawley I agree with RJ that Crawley recalls Samuel Johnson. This link is the one which leads to Trollope's own identification with his hero, for much of Trollope's vision often reminds me of Johnson. For example, a story which concludes in which not much is concluded. Only there is this: Johnson was no Milton lover. Of _Paradise Lost_ he wrote no man ever wished it longer; _Lycidas_ he thought a stilted and unreal. He didn't like pastoral as artificial: in fact, he accused Milton of looking at life through 'the spectacle of books'. He's not kind to Samson Agonistes: 'it could only be by long prejudice, and the bigotry of learning, that Milton could prefer the ancient tragedies'; Johnson complains about the lack of a causal chain in these. The play has 'many particular beauties', but can't attract attention, only presents character in the 'gross', and show Milton to be 'deficient in the knowledge which experience must confer'.
I didn't mention Johnson because I wasn't thinking of literary contexts, but rather the story's ethical content. I have just now finished reading a book whose content seems to me to provide insight into what Trollope shows us in the case of Crawley. It's by D. W. Harding and called _Social Psychology and Individual Values_. In one of Harding's chapters, he talks about how psychologists and sociologists often
too easily sanction the view that social adjustment is only a matter of the individual's adjustment to his group. The group's adequacy to its members is an equally vital question. Many people in a society like ours are bound to feel that although in their simplest basic desires, material and social, they have the sympathy of most men and women around them, yet nmuch else that matters to them the social group in which they dwell is uncomprehending or hostile. If in some directions their individual development has been carried far there can be no certainty that the sub-groups concerned with nominally the same interests will in fact be able and willing to give them sympathy. Within limits this is no cause for lament.
A necessary quality for the attainment of individuality is the ability to tolerate some degree of loneliness, in the sense of independent adherence to values that those around you will not support.
At the same time, a group whose culture fails notably to elicit its individual members' possibilities of development or a group that handicaps its more highly developed members by extreme isolation must be judged inadequate to their needs.
Groups, in other words, may fail the members they produce.
Harding says that people often think of the isolated or disparaged or those who are not understood in dramatic terms: the persecuted reformer, the discoverer, the scientist with the new theory, creative people. However, 'among much more ordinary people the same thing is constantly occurring in a less dramatic form'. People who have high talents or skills or dormant abilities which will not provide material comfort and prosperity (what the society as a whole values), who are deviant through these talents find themselves ridiculed or ignored, and can't find a niche to support these interests through.
The portrait of Crawley is one which does justice to both sides of an equation. On the one hand, Crawley is partly responsible for making his situation much worse through pride, through highly defensive behaviors, through rigidity; he has become neurotic, paranoid, and his mind paralysed and confused. He has come to the point he wants out. Ye on the other, Trollope presents the society around him as inflexible, as not being willing to value him for the good he does and is, as not willing to pay him adequately. As we all know, the money you get for your work is one yardstick by which people measure your 'success' and worth.
Catherine Crean has asked a couple of time, Why do we have Jane Crawley as a character? I can't answer that big question, but can say that in this week's scenes she plays the role of the one person in the book who reads Greek with her father, with whom he can flower and offer up talents no one else cares in the least about, no one else comprehends. We must assume at one time Mrs Crawley entered into these wholly. I like to think the portrait of Saul and Fanny Clavering in The Claverings shows us what Mr and Mrs Crawley were when young and first married.
Harding says that 'at any given period in the history of a culture some people will be concerned with unfashionable, disparaged, or uncomprehended values and will be subject to social deprivations not because they are 'socially maladjusted' in some morbid way, but because their contemporary group is insensitive to the range of values that mean most to them'. Among these for Crawley is an intense religiosity. When we first met Arabin he was presented as a man deeply concerned with religion; his and Crawley's early friendship flowered because both were idealists. Now Arabin likes books with expensive fancy covers, and, so Crawley thinks, doesn't worry so much about what is in them; he goes to Jerusalem, but as a rich man's holiday trip. Crawley has remained true to his young strong adherence to religion and learning.
This does fit in with the idea that religion and the church in England both as it really was and as Trollope ideally thought it ought to be provides the Barsetshire series with an underlying somewhat unifying subject matter. The Warden, Barchester Towers, and Framley Parsonage all explore religion to some extent, although the accent is on politics. The Last Chronicle continues this subject matter and exploration in the characters of Mr Harding, the Proudies, the Grantlys and Crawley. Looking at the book from this perspective, Archdeacon Grantly is still the worldly man who looks upon the church as his private property, and wants to give positions to those who are presentable or can provide prestige for his caste. The Proudies carry on their embodiment of power relationships in the church. Mr Harding remains an ideal touchstone. And Crawley is the man who doesn't fit in. Trollope shows us how the psychological conditions of his social life have made his very gifts the bane of his existence. Many in the community think him mad or a crank, but Trollope has showed us the larger picture very cleverly and sensitively.
Cheers to all,
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 10:17:02 +0100
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: [trollope-l] The Last Chronicle of Barset, Chs 62-66: The End of a Story?
I found the fall of bodies a bit thick and fast, I must say. I especially didn't care for the sudden introduction we get of Mrs Proudie's heart condition. We get a glimpse of a strange draught that she takes when in her room alone and that is all. But as Ellen says, there is a balance in the construction of the novel which makes this death necessary.
I agree to that Crawley's rush to destruction is a human touch, part of the many moments we have when insights into his inner self, help to mitigate against harsh judgements.