Romance and Realism; Niagara as a Required Magical Trope; The Maid of the Mist; Books on American Civil War?; Still Fighting the Civil War; "The Two Generals" and Trollope's Brave Statements

To Trollope-l

Re: North America, Ch 7 -9: Romance and Realism

March 23, 2002

I find interesting how different the three chapters are from one another. As in the earlier instalments, Trollope can't get himself to find some unifying steady kind of writing or point of view: I agree with Judy that his description of the Falls is superb. I too especially liked how he urged the reader through language to dismiss from his or her mind all the human surroundings, all the petty fakery, everything but the enormous mass of water, its strength and energy and colour and throw him or herself into an intense reverie. He rightly reprints a long sequence from his West Indies and the Spanish Main, e.g.,

And then let him stand with his back to the entrance, thus hiding the last gljmmer of the expiring day ... The rock will be at his right hand, high and hard, and dark and straight, like the wall of some huge cavern, such as children enter in their dreams ...

The music of the waters becomes a roar, passing all round, the broken spray rises. Earlier Trollope described the autumn colours of the leaves sparkling through the water:

And as he looks on, strange colours will show themselves through the mist; the shades of grey will become green or blue, with ever and anon a flash of white; and then, when some gust of wind blows in with greater violence, the sea- girt cavern will become all dark and black. Oh, my friend, let there be no one there to speak to thee then; no, not even a brother. As you stand there, speak only to the waters.

As Judy says, Trollope advises the reader to ignore all the tourist claptrap; to stay away from it as spoiling the experience. She says Twain savagely mocked it; I have to report that William Dean Howells presents it playfully and partly entertains the reader by guiding us through a natural landscape which he interweaves with social encounters between him and his bride and those they met. Howells might be called the more urbane; in this comparison Trollope emerges as the dreamer, the romantic, the uncompromising.

As someone who has been to Niagara Falls, though I missed Goat Island completely (Howells goes on about it too), unlike Trollope, I did love the rainbows. Great bows of colour thrown across the sky. I didn't mind their prettiness, but then again I don't think I saw any divinity in nature nor did I feel the falls were some symbol of nature untamed in all its relentless strength -- which seems to be the idea behind all these writers who celebrate the Falls. In the late 20th century we have seen so much power harnessed in machinery, we are so aware of a huge black universe spinning into nowhere beyond our earth, our terrifying nuclear weaponry diminishes Niagara to something closer to a just perspective. Impressive for the earth, but then the earth is this tiny ball somewhere on the side of the Milky Way which is to the side of ... and so on.

In this and other parts of the book Trollope also assumes something travel-writers actually rarely do: he assumes the reader is going to go after him visiting these places. At least he pretends to think so. He writes as if he is giving us information and advice we are going to use. It does provide him with lines of thought, but it gives to his book a curiously pragmatic feel; more like a recipe book. Most travel writers assume the reader is not going to visit the place they are describing. Guide-books do that. The reason for the intense descriptiveness of these books -- well the apparent justification of this -- is that the reader will not be going. It's the writers job to conjure up the picture. Travel books are bought for arm-chair travelling. George Sand does not assume we are going to march through Venice after her; nor, as I recall, does Fanny Trollope assume we are going to trace her route.

Trollope's resort to this guide-book motif comes from his refusal to tell us anything personal. This is not a memoir of his travels as an individual; he stands for everyman; we have gotten nothing of his life and I don't expect Kate Fields to show up. So he has to arrange his book according to some narrative story: he chooses to pretend he is going before us, as it were, showing us the way.

In Chapters 8 and 9 he drops this fiction and we are back with Trollope as Toqueville, the analyzer of American culture and Trollope as political analyst and reporter of current polemics. I found his comments on the position of the West vis-a-vis the American south when it came to slavery and the union and his description of how the land in the West was slowly being developed through the building of the railroad more than interesting and intelligent: I knew nothing of General Freemont and think apt and relevant today Trollope's comment that his Freemont's behavior as just what often happens during civil wars and results in military dictatorship. That the railway people made their money by buying up all the land which their railway ran through and selling it at exhorbitant prices sounds right. Trollope's disquiet over the acceptance of unethical and violent behavior because it degrades the general morality of a society is just the point of view he dramatizes in TWWLN. He makes good analogies: frontier men are a kind of man found now as then. We see the 19th century property-owner's point if view when Trollope remarks of four million slaves that they are "wealth" of the South. What south, pray tell? There is much of real interest, but the fiction of the trip is dropped and there is little Úlan to carry us along.

And again the fun parts are in the anecdotes which Trollope tells us in his introduction he had to include to make his book sell and entertain more than small number of people. He tells of seats are turned into beds and argues this is a very American contrivance. I guess there were no sleeping cars in Europe in the mid-19th century, nor elevators, nor hot and cold water from the tap.

However, after the description of Niagara, to me the most interesting parts of these chapters are the cultural comments of this Englishman. He says American workers were driven; there may be no beggars in the streets, little of the abysmal desperate poverty Trollope saw in London and European cities, but men here allow themselves to be driven like horses. This may be not only a product of a strong work ethic, but the reality that people doing this could look forward if they could get enough money together to buying land and getting out from under someone's harassment or silent coercion. Trollope says a "love of money to come" is an important element in this behavior. Wages he admits are higher.

At the close of the chapters my heart was both stirred and distresssed by Trollope's depiction of the kind of man who first clears the land; not the farmer, but the rough first settler who moves from place to place, clearing land, living in hard uncomfortable conditions, very cheap, and then moving on. Like Trollope I warm to the man who has none of that "odious incivility" (rhymes with servility) of the servant:

He is his own master, standing on his own threshold, and fins no need to assert his equality by rudeness. He is delighted to see you, and bids you sit down on his battered bench without dreaming of any such apology as an English cottier offers to a Lady Bountiful when she calls. He has worked out his independence, and show sit in every easy movement of his body. He tells you of it unconsciously in every tone of his voice. You will always find in his cabin some newspaper, some book, some token of advance in education.

When I lived in England in the later 1960s it did seem that the English working class hardly read books at all while my experience of the US working class is they do.

On the other hand I felt very sorry for this man's wife. Trollope does not seem to regard her as equally a person. He tells you the husband is dirty and squalid (he finds it charming) and she is pale, exhausted, and probably will not live long. This made me wonder if Fanny Trollope also meant to make us aware of the miseries of the lot of this sort of woman. He also breezes over his own knowledge that one of the woman of such a man whom he talked to and quotes was "ill-used" by her husband who "deserted her:" She is given a heroine's stance but I am more impressed by the ill-usage and comment by her "I have known what it is to be hungry and cold, and to work hard till my bones have ached." We hear nowadays about how women went out to these wild or to colonial places to find husbands, and what a cattlemarket it was. The (in effect) sale of oneself is also treated somewhat glamorously because the original bargain has to do with selling sex for marriage. But what about after marriage? The real hardness of life for such women, its lack of glamour or interest beyond animal keeping together of body and soul is brought home to us.

Slavery and the necessity of a civil war to put a stop to it. And the lives of women and men on the frontier: these are important elements in American history which are still embedded in the culture somewhere or other. Trollope is distinguishing what makes the US different from Canada and Europe.

Cheers to all,

Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2002 Re: Niagara as a Required Magical Trope

Dear all

I've just been looking around a little for more background on Niagara and found a couple of interesting bits and pieces.

First off, I found a website which includes extracts from accounts by various visitors to Niagara, mainly from Britain and France, from the 17th century onwards:

This site tends to concentrate on lesser-known figures (no Dickens or Fanny Trollope here) but there are a few famous names, including Anthony Trollope. The site describes his account of Niagara in 'North America' as "one of the most poignant ever written".

I also came across another site

This site gives details of a book tracing the history of the falls as a tourist attraction: "Niagara : A History of the Falls" by Pierre Berton, Philip Turner (Editor). I don't know how good this book is, but the editorial reviews, taken from the Amazon website, included some interesting information, so I thought I'd pass them on:


Sometimes a place can be as good a subject for a "biography" as a person--and Niagara Falls turns out to be such a place. Fortunately, it found its ideal biographer in Canadian historian Pierre Berton, who chronicles its colorful history with a storyteller's verve. Niagara Falls was a sort of laboratory and breeding ground for a wide variety of American phenomena: carnivals and theme parks, destination tourism, industrialization based on cheap hydroelectric power, and the conservation movement, among others. Berton weaves all this together in a readable, well-paced book rich with anecdotes, memorable characters, and nicely crafted language.

The New York Times Book Review, Thurston Clarke

In his entertaining and exhaustively researched book, Niagara: A History of the Falls, Mr. Berton recounts the bizarre, ingenious and surprising ways this natural wonder has been used--and misused, admired and corrupted. . . . In many ways, Niagara Falls was to the 19th century what Disney World has become to the 20th. . . . [But] what kind of history will Disney World inspire a century from now? Surely not one as surprising, rich and engrossing as that Mr. Berton has given us for Niagara.

Book Description

Anthony Trollope's mother wept at the sight of it; Charles Dickens saw God in its rushing waters; and Harriet Beecher Stowe became so "maddened" by its beauty she contemplated flinging herself into the cascade. Few natural wonders have inspired the passions and the imaginations of so many as Niagara Falls, whose sublime beauty and awesome power have made it a magnet for statesmen and stuntmen, poets and poseurs, ordinary sightseers and exceptional visionaries. "

Interesting and a bit depressing that Fanny is once again described as Anthony's mother here, rather than a writer in her own right. Has anybody seen Harriet Beecher Stowe's account?

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2002

Dear all

A description of Niagara seems to have been an expected set-piece for a 19th-century volume of travels through America. So, as Trollope reached this famous scene, he clearly knew he would have to come up with a memorable piece of writing to express his feelings and say something different from all those who had been there before, including his mother. At the very start of the chapter, he says Niagara is the sight most worth seeing of any in the world - "I know no other one thing so beautiful, so glorious and so powerful".

But how can he use language to express that power? He seems to be gearing himself up to this demanding task near the start of the chapter, when he writes of how he saw an artist trying to draw the falls. "Then I began to reflect whether I did not intend to try a task as difficult in describing the falls, and whether I felt any of that proud self-confidence which kept him happy at any rate while his task was at hand." There's a sort of nervous modesty about this - earlier in the book Trollope says he does not know if he is happy about describing a waterfall "and what little capacity I may have in this way I would wish to keep for Niagara." Now Niagara is upon him and he must find the words to match it.

His account takes a little while to get going, with matter-of-fact discussion of the best vantage points and a few slightly sarcastic quips about Americans not liking to walk. But then he comes to the falls themselves and the writing is lyrical and full of descriptive power.

I especially like the way in which Trollope puts the reader at the centre of the scene. Rather than simply telling us what he did and saw, he constantly addresses the reader as "you", guiding us into the scene and making us see through his eyes. The culmination comes in this passage:

"To realize Niagara you must sit there till you see nothing else than that which you have come to see. You will hear nothing else, and think of nothing else. At length you will be at one with the tumbling river before you. You will find yourself among the waters as though you belonged to them. The cool liquid green will run through your veins, and the voice of the cataract will be the expression of your own heart. You will fall as the bright waters fall, rushing down into your new world with no hesitation and no dismay; and you will rise again as the spray rises, bright, beautiful and pure. Then you will flow away in your course to the uncompassed, distant, and eternal ocean."

Would most readers coming across this passage unaware guess it was by Trollope? I suspect not, which shows what a versatile writer he could be. The whole idea of the viewer becoming at one with the tumbling river, with the water running in their veins, seems very Romantic - we've been reading George Sand on another list and this almost seems as if it could be a passage from her work, also with that joy in the sublime in nature. Another element in the writing is the strong religious flavour here, with that mention of the "eternal ocean". It seems as if Trollope was inspired to trace God's handiwork in the scene before him, as Dickens also did in his account of Niagara, and to contrast human time with eternity.

However, he quickly comes back down to earth with comments on the tourist trappings of the site. In the main, Trollope is not so savage about these as Twain, but since Twain's piece was written more than a decade later and after the war, perhaps the commercialism had increased. However, I think Trollope gives his feeling about the tower quite clearly by the amusing comments:

" has about it a gingerbread air, and reminds one of those well-arranged scenes of romance in which one has told that on the left you turn to the lady's bower, price sixpence; and on the right turn to the knight's bed, price sixpence more, with a view of the hermit's tomb thrown in."

I've been to one or two stately homes and castles which have been laid out a bit like this - I remember one where talking waxworks seemed to leap out at you as you entered a room, completely ruining any period atmosphere! But I was quite surprised to hear that commercialism on this scale was already around in the 1860s. Does anybody know any more about these "well-arranged scenes of romance"?

I'd also be interested to know if the "horrid obelisk" which Trollope condemns is still there, and if it's quite as horrid as he suggests. He is quite passionate against this building, although he still puts both sides of the argument, remembering to mention that tasteless buildings may 'tend to the enjoyment of the multitude'.

Trollope's comments here seem relevant to tourism today, too, where many sites have lost much of the beauty which made people want to go there in the first place through a sprawl of car parks, caravan sites etc. I know this is a growing problem in the Lake District and the Broads in Britain, where sheer numbers of tourists are destroying the countryside. On the other hand, it's a nightmare for anybody as an individual if you go to see a famous scene and discover that you can't park - so it's a bit of a vicious circle.

After reading Twain's piece, I'm wondering about the 'Maid of the Mist' story, and if it really happened quite as Trollope tells it. He says he spoke to an eyewitness, which should give a stamp of authenticity. All the same, I'll have a look around and see if I can find any more recent accounts of this tale.

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2002
Re: The Maid of the Mist

Dear all

I've just found that there's still an official website for the 'Maid of the Mist', at this address:

The site says the boat tours were started in 1846 and are still popular now. It also has a version of the 'Maid of the Mist' story - I hadn't quite realised until reading this that it had only just happened when Trollope visited, in the autumn of 1861, so no wonder he was able to speak to an eyewitness. By the time Twain visited it had become much older news - and, of course, the guide had built up far more practice of reciting it off pat.

Here's the account from the website:

"1861 Captain Robinson's Legendary Ride

Plagued with financial difficulties and fearing the impending Civil War in the United States, then owner W.O. Buchanon was forced to sell the Maid at auction. A Montreal firm agreed to purchase the boat, but on one condition - she must be delivered into Lake Ontario. The only way to get there was through the Whirlpool and the Devil's Hole Rapids, three miles of the wildest water in the world. It would require a competent and daring captain to pilot the large, unruly rig through the tangle of the Niagara River, and many answered the call. Upon one look at the course, however, not even the most seasoned sailors were willing to take up the challenge...none but the Maid of the Mist's own captain, Joel B. Robinson. Renowned as a bold and able navigator, Robinson was a Niagara River expert with several audacious upper rapids rescues to his credit. With the promise of $500 and the help of two crew men, machinist James McIntyre and engineer James H. Jones, Robinson scheduled his match against the lower rapids for June 6, 1861. Thousands of spectators crowded the shore. At 3:00, Jones set the steam valve. Robinson took his place at the wheel, McIntyre by his side, and pulled the starting bell. The whistle screamed. The Maid blew a blast of steam, swung out into the water and shot like a cannonball into the rapids below the bridge.

A torrent from each side of the river surged to the center. As the Maid rushed against this boiling ridge, a jet of water crashed into her rudder, wrenching the wheel from the grasp of the two men. A second burst struck her starboard side, heeling her far over and ripping her smokestack clean away. Robinson was thrown to the deck. McIntyre was hurled against the wheelhouse with such force it shattered around him. Down below, Jones fell to his knees in prayer.

The Maid disappeared, swallowed by the great waves. The crowd, hushed, feared she was lost. A moment later, though, the spunky craft broke free, seemed to shake herself, then plunged into the Whirlpool. Robinson sprang up, seized the helm and swung her to the right. Barely missing the vortex of the Whirlpool, he steered directly into the Devil's Hole Rapids. At tremendous speed, the steamer careened through the violent, rock-strewn waters. Just 17 minutes after her perilous journey began, the Maid arrived at Queenston. It was the first time a boat had ever come to dock at this point of entry...and the last. Robinson's wife said he aged 20 years that day. Not only did he never again venture onto the Niagara River, he even forbade his sons to do so. Two years later, he died.

Newspapers across the country heralded Robinson's trip as the most remarkable ever made by men. The Maid's new owners sailed her across Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and on to Quebec City. There, rechristened the Maid of Orleans, she served for many years as a ferry to the Isle of Orleans."

Judy Geater

Re: Trollope's North America and Samuel Pepys's Diary

This posting is partly written in response to Teresa and Judy's posting but is also something I have been thinking about since we began reading North America. Its argument is that Trollope's North America is not a successful book -- it does not hold together as a vibrant living experience and work of art with its own inner unity -- because Trollope cannot get himself to write a travel book. He is uncomfortable with the genre. A travel book is a subgenre of autobiography; no matter what its peculiar emphasis: sometimes simply the story of the person's life during this span of life, but most of the time seen from the point of view of his or her growth/change/ response to another cultural and geographical world; sometimes imaginative recreation and often on the basis that the reader is not going to go to the place. When it's effective political-cultural-anthropological reportage -- as are a group of vivid memoirs of World War II recently published by Library of America as classic US memoirs by reporters who were on the scene -- it is profoundly intermixed with the psyche and real life details of the person writing.

Trollope refuses to do this. He is willing to write novels for there he can present himself in the disguised form of characters going through conventional plot activities. Who is Roger Carbury? Why he's a face of Mr Trollope. Who is Paul Montague? Another face. Who even is Melmotte? As he begins to slide down and out, he becomes Mr Trollope too. And how are they shown us? Through irony. Trollope's opinions on these faces are not presented directly but in reverse: we are to pick up intuitively what he thinks. Irony is a carapace, a deflector, and allows the writer to deny what many of his readers might not like to know about his views. It is important here to think about one of the roots for people's enjoyment of novels: through the disguise of this surface material we meet a friend. People who become fans of a particular author's book get a vision of that's author's personality (sometimes much distorted) and return to other books by that man or woman as they would to a friend. Where memoirs -- and autobiography -- differ is the disguise is dropped and real life details are brought forward which suddenly throw such persuasive light on the author that we can then turn to the novel and say, ah! so that's why Lady Carbury is presented thus. I'm not saying all novelists do this: many write to formulas which appeal to a mass audience for the plot itself (feeding desires in conventional ways), and make a good deal of money. These books die when the formula runs out of steam from the immediate cultural nexus. I am saying all good, great and living novelists do.

I compare Trollope to Pepys. Why? My husband is just now reading all ten volumes of Pepys' diary. He is into Volume 4: a recent splendid scholarly edition was brought out in paperback and he indulged himself on the whole thing when he saw it for sale in a Daedalus catalogue. He reads bits of Pepys aloud to me. As in the case of Fanny Burney, James Boswell, the infamous Casanova, and say, to mention life-writings in the autobiographical memoir form, Lady Mary Montague's Embassy Letters (on a trip to Constantinople), and some modern writers of great travel-memoirs, Eleanor Clark, Jan-James Morris, Mary McCarthy (for her Stones of Florence), you really feel like Pepys is in the room with you. You feel you know the guy. I should say I don't find Fanny Trollope's book that successful because she too refuses to tell what is at the heart of her book: there is precious little about her real life or what is motivating the intense animus of her book. It is hollow at the core and its unpleasantness comes from her determination to hide her heart; its false or so partial because she is afraid of her audience. She begins to repeat herself about 3/4s of the way through because she doesn't want to bring forth what is really happening to her and how this has produced her picture of the US. The same goes for her son -- everything about his deeper motives for this trip is kept from us except when he allows himself to present it in general ways -- and it comes out here and there in these descriptions of his intense admiration for the common independent non-servile US male. That's why Mullen said that the real Trollope can be found in the travel books and likes them so much. Although a gentleman himself and willing, nay paradoxically proud after years of failure to stand beyond the servant class, he spent many years as an outsider and down and out and identifies with these males he comes across, envies them their freedom from crippling stigmas he knew.

Just about all the earlier travel-memoir writers I cited above either never published their works or intended to have them published before they died or they were men. Sometime in the 19th century there came a change where writers could really tell about themselves as the restrictive morality among educated people began to fall away, as the world change and offered niches to people which did not require pleasing standards of respectability conjured up by an imagined generality of understanding. That's why in fact travel-memoirs began to multiply for the first time in the 19th century. Sometime in the 20th century it became acceptable for women to lead independent free lives.

Both Trollopes write at this transition point:

Fanny though is defying all sorts of conventional norms, especially the sexual-familial (very dangerous even today to do so in public), and her son cannot get himself to say what it is he really feels about his wife, his trip, his self, probably (my sense of him is) because he knows the real truth would not be acceptable to his audience. He can't get himself to lie or invent obviously partial pleasant pictures: that's what Howells does. It is patently obvious that his picture of himself and his wife is highly stylized and comic. He renames his wife Isabel. One reason for the weakness of Howells's Wedding Journey is he does invent a pleasant story so his core is tepid: H. L. Mencken's complaint about Howells remains difficult to argue with in a number of ways: one of them is that Howells writes to the twee audience and curbs himself for some imagined version a lady's chaste genteel magazine. But Howells gives us enough to give some motive force to the narrative. Trollope's substitute of himself as guide who goes before us won't do.

So here we have three chapters, the second two of which are intellectually speaking impeccable and interesting, filled with information about the time and probably correct analysis of cultural and economic phenomena Trollope came across. What Trollope really should be doing with this material is writing a history or cultural book unified by an argument about American culture as say 3 countries. He knows such books don't sell well. He has an expensive house, middle class wife, two sons, and likes to live well. I found the introductory chapter to this book very illuminating. He is there complaining that he has to fill his book with sharp anecdotes because that's his business. In a real travel memoir the sharp anecdotes would not be concocted as so much condescending humorous material to amuse the crowd but the very vital stuff of the book. They would be that which the psyche of the author interacted with and out of the mix of the author's life and the real experiences he or she had would emerge the book. Trollope doesn't trust to this. He has the instincts of the more learned person and if you look at his essay-length publication, especially the early ones and his later books on people like Cicero, Palmerston, you see that his idea of solid truth which lasts -- which to him has to appeal to many people and be agreed with by many -- is something based on impersonal, based on studies of documents and reasoning.

The first one or 7th of the book is effective description but there is something very performative about it. Trollope gears himself up and does the thing expected: since he has in him an understanding of the motive forces of poetry he produces effective description. But note how it's generated: by a general idea of let's get away from the world and into nature and be nature. It's interesting this idea is precisely the one he bothered to report a woman voicing at the close of Chapter 9. Judy quoted it and I'll repeat it: she longs to be "two miles away from any living being" So Niagara allows the dreamer to shut out the pettiness and stupidity and phoniness of the world. This reminds me of the depiction of Roger Carbury's house and the partly ironic moat. But what the travel book demands is the writer tell us why he feel this way; bring it out of his life and use that trajectory of emotion as the deep inner living stream on which the analysis of the cultural and economy of the next two chapters can become a sort of surface. Like his mother, Trollope is very wary of his and believes only a very few of his readers would like to know the real man. If you read the criticism of his novels, the real man peeps out now and again, but for the most part most critics keep Trollope the man at bay or present the conventional view that an unironic reading produces: rare exceptions who make the real Trollope the center of the book include A. O. Cockshutt, the Stebbins's.

What's so alive about Glendinning's biography is she's more daring than N. John Hall and brings this Trollope to the fore repeatedly. I find Mullen funny when he comes near this Trollope: in his analysis of The Bertrams he suddenly gets very irritated and talks about what "normal" people feel; normal people apparently wouldn't like these heroes or the narrator's attachment to a very different definition of success in life.

Each of Trollope's travel books are said to be worse than the one before. The best is said to be the first. What needed to be done is some editor say to Mr Trollope: Mr Trollope you don't want to write a travel memoir. Face it. You can't get yourself to do it. Rewrite this book as cultural/geographical/economic history and take the anecdotes and descriptive chapters and sell them to a magazine as one-shot deals of entertainment.

Nonetheless, I read on for the real man is still here and what he has to say about North America in the 1860s is accurate enough, interesting and shows us a general portrait of a liberal-minded anti-slavery very well-educated and intelligent Englishman coming into as direct contact as he can with US culture. We have to be content with his robustness. I suppose I like him as a person and am willing to be patient too.


Re: North America, Chs 7 - 9: Romance and Realism; Books on American Civil War?

Hello all

Many thanks to Ellen for her comments on this week's three chapters of 'North America'. Although I loved Trollope's description of Niagara, I somehow found it harder to get a handle on the other two chapters. In a way they seem to be rather bitty, jumping around from political discussion to a few scattered observations, with no settled viewpoint.

I think using "you" rather than "I" as the focus in the section about the Falls works brilliantly, helping to give a feeling that the astonishing natural beauty would make the same indelible impression on everyone, not just Trollope as an individual. But the deliberate distancing from his own material doesn't seem to work as well when he gets back to his travels through American towns and countryside, to me anyway. At times I find myself longing for the greater pungency of his mother's book, even with its greater unfairness.

Ellen wrote:

I suggest Trollope's resort to this guide-book motif comes from his refusal to tell us anything personal. This is not a memoir of his travels as an individual; he stands for everyman; we have gotten nothing of his life and I don't expect Kate Fields to show up. So he has to arrange his book according to some narrative story: he chooses to pretend he is going before us, as it were, showing us the way.

I agree with this. It seems as if Trollope is determined to hold himself back and not let too much of his own personality seep in. Fanny's personality is stamped vividly on every page of 'Domestic Manners', and I think we feel we know her by the end - but Anthony stubbornly holds back, saying 'My wife' rather than 'Rose', refusing to give us the personal details which give so much of the flavour to autobiographical writings. We know from his autobiography that he could write vivid personal accounts, but that was different because it was going to be published after his death. Perhaps it's to the point here that Trollope so rarely writes in the first person in his fiction (I think only in a couple of short stories and in 'The Struggles of Jones, Brown and Robinson', which I haven't yet read) - he does not want us to identify him with his characters, even when they contain strong elements of himself. Yes, we have the chatty first-person narrator who is almost a character in the novels, but in the end it isn't his story and he is outside, looking in. Trollope seems to try to remain as this same detached narrator in 'North America', with varying success.

In Chapters 8 and 9, I think his detailed discussion of the war is absorbing, and I was certainly left wanting to know more about General Fremont. It was also interesting to see how important the West was by this stage, and that Trollope regarded it as a power of similar importance to the North and the South. I'm probably like many British readers in feeling a great fascination with the American West - I remember eagerly watching 'The Virginian' as a child and thrilling to the romance of it all, and also devouring the 'Little House on the Prairie' books. Inevitably, as an adult, I have read a lot about the fate of the Native Americans and can't look at all this in the same light. But I still enjoy reading frontier literature, which is probably why I liked 'Harry Heathcote of Gangoil' even though I know not everyone agrees.

But I'm digressing... The point I wanted to make was that, even though Trollope's discussion of the war is so intelligent and incisive, it is also rather distant. In Chapter 9, we learn that he actually went and visited a group of soldiers under canvas at Milwaukee, and also visited other regiments - yet he tells so little of what he saw. We just catch a haunting glimpse of the men in a passage like this:

"There was the raw material of the regiment, but there was nothing else. Winter was coming on, - winter in which the mercury is commonly 20 degrees below zero, - and the men were in tents with no provision against the cold. These tents held each two men, and were just large enough for two to lie. The canvas of which they were made seemed to be thin, but was I think always double... I saw the German regiment called to its supper by tuck of drum, and the men marched in gallantly, armed each with a knife and spoon. I managed to make my way in at door after them, and can testify to the excellence of the provisions of which their supper consisted." Somehow I think that Fanny would have told us exactly what that supper consisted of - although, of course, as a woman she would be unlikely to have got access to the tent in the first place.

This description leaves so many questions unanswered. How could the men survive in this cold? What were they wearing? How much hardship was there, and what were their spirits like? There is something heartbreaking about that "armed each with a knife and spoon", suggesting the woeful inadequacy of the camp's preparation in general - but here I was left longing for more thick factual detail, the clothes, the food, the conversation. Maybe all that will come later.

It particularly struck me that none of the soldiers speak. In the passage Ellen quoted from the end of Chapter 9, at least the poor woman is allowed to speak for herself and her words carry force, showing how she longs in a way for the independence of the backwoods even though it comes with so much misery and hardship attached. I've just read a book called 'Sisters in the Wilderness,' by Charlotte Gray, about the sisters Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, both originally from Suffolk in England, who both emigrated to Canada and lived in the backwoods, in conditions very similar to those Trollope describes in these chapters. Their husbands acquired free land and had to clear the trees, and at times the families were almost starving - but Catharine in particular clung to the freedom of being away from the town, just like the woman Trollope quotes who longs to be "two miles away from any living being".

Jumping back to the war, I'll just pass on a link to what looks to be a very comprehensive website with biographies of all the main figures, including Fremont:

However, I'd really like to find a book which gives a brief history of the American Civil War - something like the short book Don (I think it was Don) recommended on the Irish Famine, by Peter Gray, which was full of illustrations, maps and press cuttings, would be ideal. Can anybody recommend any titles?

Sorry this is all a bit rambling.
Bye for now
Judy Geater

Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002

I am working my way through North America, but I have to confess with an increasing sense of duty. I do agree with Ellen's remark that some of it is a bit like a recipe book. When Trollope gives us his vignettes of people and places the book springs to life and becomes vivid and very enjoyable, but sadly these snippets are separated from each other by long passages of rather dry information. It is a strange book. It seems sometimes as though he is just page filling.

I will persevere in hope.


Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002

Hello all

I'd like to thank Ellen for her thoughts on 'North America' and the contrasts she drew with other life writings and travel books. I was especially interested in the comments on Pepys because it was mentioned recently on my Dickens list (Inimitable-Boz) that Dickens was a passionate admirer of the diaries - he had a complete set with his own annotations in the margins and he had also written down his thoughts about each volume and pasted them into the cover.

Sadly I've never read any Pepys so I don't know if he had any influence on Dickens's style. But it is interesting to hear Ellen's comparison of him to Boswell - I certainly agree that you feel you know Boswell after reading his work. He seems to hold nothing of himself back, even including his dreams, and in his account of the Scottish tour he gives us the arguments and power-struggles that Johnson edits out.

Trollope does hold back a lot in 'North America', as Ellen said, and I agree this is probably because he doesn't have the distancing irony he has in a novel. He doesn't want to present himself to us as a character (as Mark Twain does in 'Life on the Mississippi', and Dickens also does in 'American Notes' to at least some extent) - he wants to stay as the narrator, at the edge, and I suspect it is difficult to do this successfully in a travel book.

This diffidence as a writer also leaves something of a hollow at the heart of the book. Despite the beautiful description of Niagara, Trollope is really more interested in people than in landscapes - I suspect the thing which keeps us all reading his work above all is his psychological insight. But in 'North America', or as far as I've read anyway, he doesn't give us enough people. There are some poignant glimpses, such as the soldiers armed with their cutlery filing in to eat their dinner, or the poor deserted wife we have talked about who longs to live two miles away from everybody else. But so much of the time it is all generalised and we don't see people close-up - there seems to be very little conversation, and very few portraits of individuals he met. It seems telling in a way that there are so many tables of statistics - Trollope himself admits that these figures do not speak to his imagination and don't mean much to him, but he still presents them to the reader. To be honest, I also find the cultural analysis and the political discussions rather dry at times, as Teresa said, even though these passages are so intelligent and thoughtful.

And yet, despite all this, I have to say I still find the book extremely readable, because of course it is written in Trollope's unmistakable style, which tends to leave me wanting just one more page, one more chapter, with this as with his novels. Today I found myself spellbound by a long description of a grain elevator, which I suspect might well have left me cold if written by any other writer.

I also feel he is starting to let more of his own feelings come through as the book goes on. For instance, in Volume 1 Chapter 10, it is clear he is feeling lonely - he tells us that he doesn't enjoy the steam boat ride because he can't persuade anybody to speak to him. Ellen wrote about some of the travel writers she admires, both from the past and contemporary. Does anybody else have favourite travel writers or diarists?

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Dear all

Following Ellen's helpful suggestion, I posted a question to Victoria about useful books on American civil war history, and have received a few suggestions which I'm passing on to the list. I will now see which of these are available at my local library!


Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002
From: Rwjeep@AOL.COM
Subject: American Civil War history


I would suggest: Richard Wheeler: Voices of the Civil War or Henry Steele Commager: The Blue and the Gray (two volumes)


Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002
From: Rick Albright
Subject: American Civil War history

The American Civil War continues to inspire a great many books, especially in the years since Ken Burns's documentary series (just called "The Civil War," I think). By the way, the videos of that series may be a good resource, since Burns relied extensively on first-hand accounts, some of which are by generals and other high-ranking officers, but a goodly number of which are by common soldiers. I haven't checked, but I would imagine this series should be available in the UK.

For a good one-volume history that covers the subject fairly comprehensively and is very readable, I like James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom (Ballantine 1988, is my edition). Not many first-hand accounts, but a good historical resource that begins mid-century.

I've used some first-hand accounts in a course on representations of war. All for the Union is a collection of diaries and letters by Elisha Hunt Rhodes, edited by Robert Hunt Rhodes (Orion Books, 1991--not sure if it's still in print). Rhodes, whose account was often used in Burns's series, rose thru the ranks of a Rhode Island regiment. It's only one viewpoint, but a very literate one, and this regiment was in most of the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac.

For a more diverse collection, Carroll and Graf's The Mammoth Book of War Diaries and Letters (1999, and still in print) is a collection of letters and journals from most of the American wars from pre-revolutionary times to the Gulf War. There are well over 100 pages devoted to the Civil War--by far the longest section--and they represent a good mix of northern and southern, officers and enlisted, black and white soldiers. Many of them are very powerful.

For a more unusual account, you might try An Uncommon Solder, edited by Lauren Cook Burgess (Oxford 1994). These are the letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, a woman who impersonated a male and enlisted in a New York volunteer regiment. The book refers to at least 200 documented cases of this phenomenon. while the letters in this slim volume are not the most exciting, they still provide a fascinating look at this issue, and some insight into the life of the Civil War soldier. (Wakeman's gender was never revealed until many years after her death, unlike a number of other females whose identities were exposed when they were killed, wounded, or had babies.)

The Trollope account is a good resource, and I used portions of it to provide a British perspective on the war (along with some Times of London stories).

Best of luck,
Rick Albright

Judy Geater wrote:

I was wondering if anybody can recommend a good introductory history book on the American Civil War, ideally including some first-hand accounts. At the > moment on the Trollope-l list we're reading Anthony Trollope's 'North America' , which was written after he travelled through the US in 1861, and I would like to read more about the war to help to put his book in context.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002
Subject: Re: American Civil War history

You might try James McPherson's *Battle Cry Freedom* -Heather Schell Georgetown University

To Trollope-l

March 27, 2002

Re: Trollope's North America: American History

I can't answer Judy's call for a specific citation of a general history of the American civil war.

I can tell something of my experience reading towards a course I gave called "American Literary Masterpieces" in a Washington D.C university which used to like to call itself The American University (recently it dropped the pompous "The"). Central to US history and therefore literature is that civil war: in my class about half-way through the term we read Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Frederick Douglas's autobiography. I set myself to reading about the US civil war, but this was in the late 1980s and even then the books I read were old-fashioned and, as I recall, often partial. People were still fighting that civil war which Trollope is right to say was also a cultural fight, one which (I'll add) is still going on through not through guns but legislative battles. Vietnam was a lightning rod for these cultural wars. Bruce Chatwin wrote the best of the northern accounts, very good indeed, and Shelby Foote was very good on the south. I half-remember that Chatwin does have a slender general book which simply retells the basic political events; Foote tells you about battles.

In the past couple of years a number of books have been written about the US civil war and reported and reviewd in The New York Review of Books: nowadays the argument that the war was about slavery is accepted, but the fight rages over what the life of the slaves at the time was really like. I have not read but am willing to believe the great book to read is William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman's Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Slavery: based on exceedingly careful research they expose what the reality of slave life was, how the agarian system depended on treated people like property to be exploited to the nth degree, as cheaply as possible, and how the caste system with its devastating stigmas worked. Without Consent or Contract is the title of another of Fogel's books. I have read one Judy might really enjoy: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South. Based on diaries and journals of real women of the 19th century Fox-Genovese gives you a real life portrait of the lives of women who lived in the patriarchical slavery system. She does give a softened account of concubinage which was a frequent element in the (vicious) inhumane set-up. Fox-Genovese also has an extensive bibliography, and her husband writes on the civil war too. To show how the civil war is still being fought, C. Vann Woodward (another writer on the civil war and America) called Fox-Genovese "a daughter of the Deep North."

This may seem far afield but I suspect Trollope would have preferred to write a book on America more like the sort Milton J. Bates wrote on Vietnam: it's called The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling. I used it when I set Bobbie Ann Mason's novel, In Country (about the return of a working-class Vietnam veteran to his home in Kentucky) for a class. It's about how the war that was fought was understood in terms of cultural/class/sex/political conflicts -- and to give him credit Trollope is trying to show us that is precisely what is happening to the way the West, the South and the North were understanding and responding to the war they were fighting. Bates's book is good reading for anyone who wants to understand the US today, say, for example, who is Bush's support and how he garnered enough votes in specific states in regions of the country to take power.


Re: Americans Still Fighting the Civil War

It is qualifiedly true that books written about the civil war today are still very much shaded by whether the author is from the North or South. What happens is that the "coded" language has changed since the 19th century and that in lieu of slavery African-American people were legally and institutionally discriminated against and were repressed by overt violence (it has been estimated that during the first three decades of the 20th century something like 1 to 4 lynchings occurred across the south in each month of the year) so that the discourse which concerns attitudes towards race and caste is complicated, but the allegiances remain. What can happen is a northern writer can be very conservative (which usually includes attacks on books like Time on the Cross) or a southern writer can be unusually liberal (and, for example, openly admit "states rights" remains a stalking horse for justifying whatever it is the particular politicized group is seeking); nonetheless, historians are still fighting the culture war that was part of the civil war as that culture war is still alive and well in the US time. As I wrote, it lay behind the intensities of the controversies over the American position and behaviors in Vietnam.

The same is true in many disciplines. If you read Renaissance histories, you will soon discover that accounts are shaded by whether the author is an atheist, Catholic or Protestant. I suppose this is true of just about everything that is written, and the modern "deconstructionist theory" movement is an attempt to demand that the writer explore the bases of his thinking before launching into whatever discourse he means to present. Theory comes down to an insistence that the honest writer present the underlying moral assumptions of the subtext of his book. That the result is often a couple of chapters of obfuscation only shows that human beings find it very hard, and ultimately threatening to write unbiased and candid discourse. If your shaping thoughts are subversive or transgressive, you turn to very abstract terms not just because the publisher wants to sell a book widely but because taxpayers are often those who ultimately support these scholarly books and they don't like to think that such writers are teaching their children or themselves.


Date: Fri, 05 Apr 2002
Re: Trollope and the Civil War: "The Two Generals" and Trollope's Brave Statements

Trollope does tell a story about just such painful internecine conflict in his "The Two Generals". This, "The Widow's Mite" and North America all show Trollope's genuine concern over the events occurring 3000 miles away from Trollope's home. In his Victorian and His Times, Mullen calls Trollope an honorary American and argues for a profond engagement on Trollope's part with Americanism. He thinks Americanism more important and appealing to Trollope than interest in the Irish.

Trollope deserves credit for insisting slavery was a cause of the civil war, for going into why the North went to war (over power) and for trying to argue that the problem in the US is it is made up of different cultures.

Cheers to all,

Contact Ellen Moody.
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