Anthony Trollope's "O'Conors of Castle Conor, County Mayo"

?earlier version written 1841 (September), Archibald Green story
Written 1859 (1 September - 29 October), inbetween writing Castle Richmond
Published 1860 (May),Harper's New Monthly Magazine
Published in a book 1861 (November), Tales of All Countries: First Series, Chapman and HallTo Trollope-L

December 18, 1997

Re: "The O'Conors of Castle Conor:" Keeping Track of One's Shoes

For those who thought the situation of a man separated from his dancing shoes, who had only the most hideous and heavy nailed shoes he had been so ridiculous as to pay so much money for in the first place, and who was driven to bully a servant into lending him his slippers and putting on said nailed shoes, unreal or silly, consider this: In a book review in The London Review of Book of a book about modern day Mormons who practice polygamy, one of the problems that comes up is, Where is a man to keep his clothes? Apparently women are territorial, and each wife has her own room or apartment or house, and the man travels between. Since these are modern people, the man has often to go to work--often the only place he can find some privacy, for most of these males don't have a room of their own. Thus the reviewers write of what the people interviewed in the book said the experience of polygamy is like in a daily sort of way:

"Fairness usually dictates that he [the shared husband] divide his possessions--a routine that inevitably produces its own minor crises, like that of the husband going to a business meeting who could only find running shoes to accompany his suit. Several groups of wives amused themselves by describing men who were forever losing track of requisite parts of their outfits, or haplessly bumping into unfamiliar pieces of furniture in the middle of the night..."

This is the sort of material that would have amused Trollope no end. Too bad bawdy tales are no longer socially acceptable. This book on polygamy is apparently very solemn, i.e, "the reader is obliged to endure many banal sermons on 'the holistic nature of interpersonal bonds,' their 'dynamic' character, the importance of attending to 'social contexts'...

On another element in the story referred-to above, did anyone feel uncomfortable about the way the narrator so easily bullies the servant? How the servant is the one who endures the most distress and then has to slink about as if he were to be grateful he is allowed to walk in his socks? The strong acceptance of hierarchy in Trollope is implicit in the tale: did this interfere with enjoying the tale?

A final element is the autobiography. Trollope may rename himself Archibald Green but the references to a wife he gained later are to Rose. The name is playful: the narrator is very green, and Archibald may have struck Trollope as slightly overdone. Trollope loves to play with names, e.g., St George in The Vicar is ironically named; so too is Walter Marrable. One can marry him, not Harry.


John Hopfner wrote a posting in which he suggested the story was very light, and asked me how I discussed it in my book. I replied:

"The O'Conors of Castle Conor:" From Trollope on the Net

In the second of Trollope's two Irish Tales, Green tells how he presented himself at a hunt, was invited by an Irish family to come to a dance at their castle, but discovers upon going upstairs that a servant back at his inn has not sent the dancing shoes he had sent for, but huge, heavy-nailed, and hideous hunting shoes--great for bogs, not so good for polished floors. His attempts to cover up this error, which include bullying a servant, only lead to mortification, and he finally confesses and discovers this Irish family's response is good-humored laughter, and a generous acceptance of him even without the proper shoes.

Subject: Short Stories - "O'Conors of Castle Connor" To:

I agree with John about this one being pretty light, but must say, or question I guess, are any of Trollope's stories really to be taken all that seriously?

In this one I did find one little aspect of human behavior noted well, and whenever that happens, as in Eliot or here in Trollope, I am pleased. In the story, Green drops in cold to a fox hunt, with the hopes of establishing favorable connections with the Connors. Later in the day, after those connections seem to be progressing nicely, Green looks back on his introduction to the hunt - '

We had scowled at each other in the morning as very young men do when they are strangers; and now, after a few hours, we were intimate friends.'

This is exactly how young men act today, whether at a pickup basketball game, waiting in line at the DMV, or wherever. Like it or not, we are little better than our animal brothers from whom we have evolved.


Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 10:38:12 -0500 (EST)
From: John Mize
Subject: Short Story: The O'Conors of Castle Conor" and "La Mère Bauche"

About "La Mère Bauche", Ellen wrote:

I think this is one of Trollope's first great stories.

I was amazed how much better "La Mère Bauche"was than the first three stories. The O'Conors was funny, and I enjoyed it more than The Relics. The story was similar, about social embarrassment, but this time without the symbolic castration, and while Eliza clearly relished the narrator's embarrassment, she didn't cause it. I think I liked the narrator less and Eliza more than Trollope did.

What was Trollope's attitude toward radical feminists anway? "The Relics" and "The O'Conors" would indicate that he disapproved, but I had heard that Frances Wright was a friend of his. It's hard to be more radical than Wright, who was an abolitionist, a feminist, a socialist and a free love advocate. A writer for the Ladies' Companion once said that Wright was "a mental hermaphrodite." I'd consider that a compliment. My guess is that Trollope liked Wright, but he didn't agree with her. After all almost everyone in America and Great Britain seemed to have been fascinated by her. She had a flirtation, if not an affair, with LaFayette, and Jeremy Bentham said that she had the "strongest sweetest mind ever encased in a human body." "La Mère Bauche" is a very powerful story. Madame Bauche has no intention of ever sharing power with anyone under any circumstances. She even became annoyed when Le Capitaine became too comfortable in her presence. She consoled herself by thinking that once the marriage was over, she'd bring him back in line quickly enough. Marie's position in La Mère Bauche is similar to Mary Lowther's, but since Marie had less power, Madame Bauche could bully her unmercifully. Madame Bauche, unlike Mary's friends, doesn't even pretend that she cares about Marie's interests. I wonder if Trollope would have portrayed an Englishwoman as quite being that ruthless and self-centered. Of course there's always "Our Lady of the Scissors" in "The Relics". Frankly I was surprised that Trollope didn't make that scarlet harpy Irish or American, but then he was writing for Harper's.

John Mize

Subject: Short Stories - The Servants in "The O'Conors of Castle Conor" To:

Ellen asks if were we uncomfortable on behalf of the servant who had to hobble around in the narrator's shoes. A little, I guess. As she said in her post yesterday, we bring parts of ourselves to reading. Most of us I reckon have never had servants and have to get used to reading about them and their mistreatment. Sometimes authors take the side of these poor people, as in the case of certain governesses we can bring to mind. Jane Austen doesn't mention them, and I wonder whether she considered them part of the scenery, or was embarrassed about their necessity to middle class life.

That was a good point about how we bring ourselves to reading. When I feel the women on these lists apply too much late-20th Century feminism to novels from the mid-19th Century, I sometimes take the devil's advocate for the man. I hope this is taken in good humor :)


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