Margaret Markwick on Is He Popenjoy?; Love, Sex & Marriage; Mrs Tallowax; Authorial Intrusions; 'You wish, Mary, to be one of us, do you not?': Close Connections Between He Knew He Was Right and Is He Popenjoy?; Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 1-5: Self-Reflexive Opening: The Dr Thorne Paradig; Mary Lovelace; "Middle" Trollope; Unprofaned and profaned Beds; Trollope's Middle or Late Period: Aridity;Is He Popenjoy? - heroes and villains (and their feminine counterparts); Is He Popenjoy? and Vanity Fair: Unconventional and Conventional Female Heroines

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000

Subject: [trollope-l] :Is He Popinjoy?: Margaret Markwick

I was interested to read Ellen's view of the novel, after what she admits is one quick reading. My reaction, when I first read the novel some years ago, was also that none of the characters were attractive, and that I did not feel that I would want to read it again. I then read what Margaret Markwick had to say about it on pages 144-156 of her book, Trollope and Women. This throws a new light on the problems of Mary and George, and explains what I agree with Markwick is Trollope's unstated intention in dealing with this aspect of the novel. On rereading the book, I find that it is fully up to the standard of his major works, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I shall not set out Markwick's theory at this stage when we are starting our reading of the book. List members who have not read it before may want to see whether they can pick up the clues which are sprinkled fairly sparsely throughout the text. I would urge those who have previously read _IHP?_ (or who cannot wait) to buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy of Markwick's book, which not only covers the points I mention, but also puts forward a large number of other readings of Trollope's works, which are always provocative, although I do not necessarily agree with all of them. The book is, I believe, still available from the Trollope Society at £15.00 post free in the UK, and £18.00, including postage, overseas. Second hand copies may also be available on the net.

While writing, I have just started to read IHP? again, and my eye was caught by the comment in the last paragraph of Chapter I, where we are told that his sisters had 'fooled him to the top of his bent'. This didn't mean a lot to me, but Sutherland's note to the Oxford World's Classics edition of IHP? refers to Hamlet (III,ii,408), where the Prince says that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 'fool me to the top of my bent', which didn't leave me much the wiser. Research in various dictionaries seems to indicate that the phrase means 'to the furthest extent', and to refer to an association with bows. Can any list member who might have worked on Hamlet throw any more light on this?

Regards, Howard

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Mrs. Tallowax

My memory of Is He Popenjoy? is that it was a very funny book when I read it many years ago. Ellen looks on it as a grim book, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter when Mrs. Tallowax visited the home of Lord George, Mary, and the host of sisters, etc. These women, and Lord G. has done nothing to alter their behavior, have made the Manor into a miserable place. When we see it through Mrs. Tallowax's eyes the whole sitiuation becomes very funny. One says to oneself, "How can people live like that?" And that's exactly what Mrs. Tallowax was thinking as she was piloted through the unused yet furnished rooms in the Manor. Mary is going to have to stand up for herself against her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law.


To Trollope-l

October 16, 2000

Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 1-5: Love, Sex & Marriage

I have read Margaret Markwick's AT & Women, though it's a while back. It's good and lively and perhaps some of the 128 people on our list would like to know something of the content Howard is referring to. I don't remember exactly what Markwick said about _Is He Popenjoy?_ specifically, but do remember how she read Trollope's novels in general. I am glad Howard brought up literary criticism as it usually raises the level of our conversation to philosphical and social issues

To Markwick: she writes an enjoyable lucid prose and is concerned to show that Trollope's novels "refute" the notions of male physicians like William Acton that women had no sexual longings. Trollope has bold women who initiate relationships and are not vampires or vamps or destructive at all. I remember Markwick citing Isabel Broderick (in Cousin Henry): "'take me in your arms and kiss me,'" and he does We have already seen one such bold woman here: Adelaide de Baron, now Houghton. Funny how these books on Trollope and women are often about Trollope and women's sexuality.

However, there are problems. One was pointed out in a review of Markwick in the TLS which talked about her charts by Fiona Stafford Stafford points out that Markwick has charts of who is a virgin and who is not. Markwick's charts are also funny in ways Markwick might have not meant. Alas, it seems Lily didn't do it, meaning she didn't go all the way. To the reviewer this revealed a certain flat reductiveness in the quality of Markwick's mind.

There's a certain charm to counting them up. You'd think Markwick had a tree and was making notches. Her comments on the sexuality of dimples also seemed to me a bit coy in a kind of cloying way. According to Markwick you can tell if a woman is sexy in Trollope if she has a dimple. Does anyone recall dimples in Adelaide or Mary Lovelace? No dimples, no sex; lots of dimples, lots of sex. Mrs Hurtle (of The Way We Live Now) has quite an alluring dimple :). When Augustus Mildmay appears, see if she has a dimple. There are those who think this sort of thing is silly, though it does work in Trollope.

Stafford has a more serious objection than this kind of comic reductiveness. She argues that Markwick breezes over the problems found in many Victorian books where the sexual passion of women is taken for granted. Trollope is not alone in taking the sexuality of women as real. Says Stafford the real question for the women reader is "how to validate female sexual desire as authentic without submitting to the sexual demands of the desired male." That is, a woman should have a choice of which male to take.

Markwick makes much of The Vicar of Bullhampton because it has a prostitute in it who is a heroine. Markwick says the book is refreshing. It is more than this. It is also troubling because the plot whirls around the insistence of many of the characters that Mary Lowther take Harry Gilmore because he has asked, has money, loves her. When we discussed The Vicar on this list the talk got heated over the whether Mary Lowther had the right to say no to Gilmore and why she was saying no. In general, there was a gender faultline: the women on the list wanted her to have the right to refuse the pressure; the men were on Gilmore's side and argued she had betrayed him, had promised, owed it to him to accept him and then make the best of it. There was a strong tendency to deny that Mary's refusal was rooted in her sexual distaste for Gilmore and longing for Captain Marrable, but that was only one element of the argument. Very troubling and fascinating was Trollope's ambivalance towards Mary's insistence on her right to refuse, and his distaste for and identification Gilmore who came off as a clinging neurotic male quite in the spirit of Rev Crawley (Gilmore behaved like someone in a mad nightmare dream)

This kind of thing was replayed before us in the story of Lily and John Eames. There we all recognised Lily's sexuality. But that's not enough. Trollope's dramatisation took us to the point where we asked, What do you do with it once you recognise it? In The Small House he was daring enough to say what do you do with it when the young women is sexually awakened, and has given herself to a man who throws her over.

In this early part of Is He Popenjoy? we see that Mary Lovelace is not given much choice -- as was Lily by her mother. In fact there is a curious sexlessness in the treatment of the marriage of Mary to Lord George in this opening sequence. Not later; later the sex comes out strongly though not directly as between them but about their jealousy of one another when they are attracted to other people sexually.

In these early chapters Trollope is concerned to show us how Mary is being made to conform socially, to fit in. He does try to hint that Mary is perhaps not sexually satisfied by Lord George, but that may be overreading, though maybe not. There's no pregnancy as yet :). Still the words are more than she can't manage to fall in love with him because he's dull, unimaginative, limited in his outlook, not much fun, little sense of humor, like living with a father. Trollope gets this in by telling us of how Mary sometimes thought the advice the Dean was giving her ought to have been what her husband said and what her husband said sounded like some unsympathetic paternal figure. Mary has sprung for the first good-looking dark smoldering kind of man on offer. (Trollope does suggest Lord George is attractive.). But why was he picked? Dean Lovelace has picked a husband for Mary; brought him over, even accepted him for her. Why? So he could have an exalted genealogy for his grandchild.

I had another problem with Markwick. She takes something of a simplistic attitude towards sex itself. She seems to look at sex in something of the Henry Fielding vein: two people get into bed, we shut the door, and then assume all goes spiffily along. In other words, she has forgotten the underside -- not only what might happen afterwards that can go very wrong, but that what might happen in bed itself. It's not surprising that Markwick aligns Trollope with Fielding and Smollett, very male writers of the 18th century, not Sterne so much, and never Dickens.

Markwick emphasizes Trollope's bawdiness (lots of puns -- a dirty mind is a joy forever). Markwick maintains that Trollope's bawdiness is not just in the allegorical names. It's sly. Markwick shows us that Trollope could laugh and so could his readers. Yes in The Vicar Trollope shows sympathy for a prostitute (but only limited sympathy) and shows us Mary Lowther is intensely sexual in her nature and choices. But what then? These two heroine's problems begin with their being sexy. They are not solved by their passionate nature. In fact their problem is that their society persists in manipulating this and demanding they manipulate it. And both of them have or fear they will have bad times in bed with the men their society has thrust on them or they have been foolish enough to let in (that's what the prostitute has done).

Trollope's unmarried women hedge away from the bed itself because they have that in mind. Witness Lily Dale saying 'no' to Crosbie around the middle of The Last Chronicle. Her refusal to marry Johnny stems from lack of attraction, boredom and his shallowness. Her refusal to marry Crosbie has far more fearful important grounds.

Is He Popenjoy? is not quite about this level of sexual trouble except when we turn to Jack de Baron and the woman who loves him, Augustus Mildmay (they will make their appearance soon). Maybe in the center of the novel the story of Adelaide and Lord George edges over to, though I think what might happen in bed between the two is kept more oblique. This novel -- at least thus far and for much of it -- is more about sexuality as it manifests itself in social relationships, as it is used by society to get money and positions for money.

What is so bold about Trollope's opening in this novel -- and what must have bothered reviewers -- is there is no pretense at love. Not only has Trollope opened the novel with the marriages of two of his heroines, not ended it there. He has frankly said there was no love here. There was thus far little lost between Adelaide and Lord George; there was none to begin with in George and Mary. This flouts convention. Victorians liked to pretend they married for love too. I use the too deliberately. How many of us have really thought frankly about what were all our motives when we married. Was love uppermost? I found myself thinking about what were all my motives when I married, how much I was 'in love' and how much I was making a understood bargain.

Markwick is right: Adelaide de Baron, now Houghton is a sexy lady. Sure Mary Lovelace will be shown to have sexual longings. But Adelaide is bold. She disgusts Lord George this early; she makes Mary uncomfortable. Why? Because she talks about sex. The question is, How will Adelaide pay for her boldness? Who will make her pay?

Adelaide has married as coldly as the Dean married Mary off. But will Mary pay for this same kind of decision? Or will she get away with it because her father made the choice and she doesn't talk of it and tries to love the male who has been picked for her. Or will she get away with it because luck is on her side? And who will give her that luck? Mr Trollope. That's the key.

Markwick's book is good but she doesn't go far enough. She might have compard Trollope's books more those by women. One which does (compares him to George Eliot) is Rajiva Wijesinkha's _he Androgynous Trollope. One very good book on this aspect of the issue is: Susan Ostrov Weisser in her Women and Sexual Love in the British Novel, 1740-1880

To Sig: actually I didn't say that I thought Is He Popenjoy? grim. I quoted reviewers who said that. I quite agree the book is comic, but to say something is funny is not to tell us enough. Funny in what way? Is this merry gay comedy:

When a young lady [Adelaide de Baron in this instance] takes time to consider she has, as a rule, given way; Lord George felt it to be so, and was triumphant. The ladies at Manor Cross thought that they saw what was coming, and were despondent. The whole country feared that they would be very poor; but the recompence would come at last, as the present marquis was known not to be a marrying man. Lady Sarah was mute with despair. Lady Alice had declared that there was nothing for them but to make the best of it. Lady Susanna, who had high ideas of aristocratic duty, thought that George was forgetting himself. Lady Amelia, who had been snubbed by Miss de Baron, shut herself up and wept. The marchioness took to her bed (Folio Society Is He Popenjoy?, introd. DSkilton, Ch 1, p. 6).

It's funny in a grim way, a deflating way. Trollope mocks the nonsense of these people's deepest beliefs as so much cant. He shows them to be hypocrites to themselves. Not one admits the real reasons she doesn't want Adelaide to marry in. And yet, we are to feel for them. Four old maids stuck in a house with a mother who hasn't got the right to stay in the house. Of course they don't want a woman in there they wouldn't be able to bully. They can and are bullying Mary Lovelace, but the Dean has given her an out, money and a house in London of her own.

I did enjoy these five chapters very much. I am finding I am liking the book better this second time round than I did the first.

More tomorrow.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Re: Is He Popenjoy?: Mrs Tallowax

Rereading Sig's post I thought I would agree with his comment about Mrs Tallowax and the scenes in Chapter 5. Yes when I finished the chapter, I said to myself, I'm glad I never had to live with people like this. We were probably supposed to feel sorry for Mary, though I don't know that I did. I was reminded of how so often in Trollope's novels a scene which is an ordeal for the characters is richly if grimly funny to the reader.

There was much saturnine humor in the scenes where Miss Tallowax is taken around to see the pictures. Trollope seems to believe most of what is said about such things is a mixture of total nonsense and myth, with the tiniest admixture of truth.

Maybe what irritated the reviewers was that Trollope showed this society as a place not worth getting into, as repellent. Trollope is hitting at sacred cows. What kind of society keeps up such rooms? Remember people used to pay to see such things; they still do.

Still I can't feel sorry for Mary. We are not allowed into her heart and mind in ways that would lead to that.

Ellen Moody

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] First Impressions

After spending so many months in the dignified purlieus of Barsetshire, it is bracing to read Is He Popenjoy?. The novel has a slapdash feel to it as If Trollope got carried away by the title, and the idea behind the title, and built a story around a premise. The title itself seems "gimmicky." At first glance this novel may seem like a comic, broadly played version of He Knew He Was Right. In IHP?, Trollope at first is carrying on as he does at times - taking a chapter or two to set up drama for us. He is making us eat our boiled mutton before our dessert. IHP? is far from a joke, first impressions not withstanding. While reading the book, it is interesting to follow the way Trollope uses clothing, food, and dancing to make his points. The dignified Lady Sarah in her brown merino dress is contrasted with the (vulgar!) Miss Tallowax's bright colors and flowered hat. Poor Mary at first seems like a pallid version of Glencora Palliser. She has money (from trade!) and is married off to a man with a title and a snooty cheese paring noble family. Mary's father, a clergyman, is rather a coarse fellow when compared to our gentlemanly clerical friends in Barsetshire. I look forward to the discussion of this little gem of a book! Because _IHP_? deals with issues of class, money, sexual compatibility, marriage, and the evils of wild dancing, the posts will be flying thick and fast!

Catherine Crean

From Beth J:

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popinjoy?: An Introduction

From: Howard Merkin

"I shall not set out Markwick's theory at this stage when we are starting our reading of the book. List members who have not read it before may want to see whether they can pick up the clues which are sprinkled fairly sparsely throughout the text."

This is fascinating and I hope the thread gets picked up again once we're done with the book!

Since I've just started my first read through the book, I don't have any theories about it yet...

From: Catherine Crean

"In IHP?, Trollope at first is carrying on as he does at times - taking a chapter or two to set up drama for us. He is making us eat our boiled mutton before our dessert.

Unfortunately this approach, and Trollope's telling us about it, *almost* got me bored with the book right out of the starting gate. If I'd been reading it on my own rather than for our read, I might not have made it! Luckily, he shortly gets into a subject that I've always found more interesting than romance, which is "what happens after the happy ending is achieved." Already there are signs of trouble, in that Mary's pre-marriage perfect love hasn't left her consciousness yet, and she hasn't quite managed to fall in love with her husband. And then there's her relationship with George's sisters, notably Sarah, and their very conflicting opinions of how Mary should dress, and how she should behave, and how all this affects her relationship with her husband.

I wonder how all of this will fit in with the parts of the book having to do with its title.

" While reading the book, it is interesting to follow the way Trollope uses clothing, food, and dancing to make his points."

I'll look at these as the book goes along--it's good to have people on the list to point these things out, without the spoilers entailed in reading an introduction! :) I've noticed the use of dress, but haven't come across any food or dancing references yet that I remember.

"Because IHP? deals with issues of class, money, sexual compatibility, marriage, and the evils of wild dancing, the posts will be flying thick and fast!"

Ooh, the evils of wild dancing! Now that's something to look forward to!


Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popinjoy?: An Introduction

Beth writes, with regard to Trollope's making us eat our boiled mutton first and, what's worse, telling us about it:

Unfortunately this approach, and Trollope's telling us about it, *almost* got me bored with the book right out of the starting gate. If I'd been reading it on my own rather than for our read, I might not have made it!

Trollope's asides to the reader, as we find in the first chapter, seem to be nearly universally condemned by the modern reader, but I must admit that I love them. I don't mind being reminded that I'm reading a novel, written by a novelist, because I am usually aware of it anyway. This kind of element hearkens back to earlier novelists that I always found a great joy to read, like Fielding. If you will recall, each of the 18 books into which _Tom Jones_ is divided begins with a chapter with a title like "Containing instructions very necessary to be perused by modern critics" or "An essay to prove that an author will write the better for having some knowledge of the subject on which he writes" or, more simply, "Containing a portion of introductory writing." My favorite has always been the chapter that begins book 15 ("Too short to need a preface"): "There are a set of religious, or rather moral writers, who teach that virtue is the certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world. A very wholesome and comfortable doctrine, and to which we have but one objection, namely, that it is not true."

Trollope is not writing in the same age as Fielding, of course, but I don't find his authorial addresses any more out of place than Fielding's. In fact, I think he does them rather well.

Wayne Gisslen

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Authorial Intrusions

I love Trollope's authorial "intrusions"! I love Thackeray's, too. Henry James, among others, in the aesthetic eighties owlishly wagged his finger at "authorial intrusions" and the "i" word has stuck ever since. I wish there were a better word for the so-called "intrusions." Maybe Trollope, and Thackeray too, were being post-post-modern with the "intrusions." Trollope is like a magician who hides and reveals. He is an expert at distracting the reader from the main event, but then - voila! The reader sees the unexpected. Trollope's "intrusions" steer the reader along and help reveal the "real world" that is Trollope's own creation. Who is a better guide to this imaginary world than the creator himself? The episode with Miss Tallowax's visit is a remarkable example of Trollope both guiding us and distracting us at the same time. Everything from Lady Sarah dissecting a chop, to the visit to the funereal ball room, to poor Mary following along in the wake of the "house tour" is orchestrated. We may think at first that we are going on a house tour, but Trollope makes us see, at the end of it, that George's family are snobs, and the Tallowaxes of the world, be they ever so rich, will never measure up. Mary's husband even objects to the ring that her aunt gave her, but doesn't give her a good reason for the objection. A woman who was "the right sort" would know without being told that the ring is "ostentatious" and that it should not be worn. Maybe she shouldn't have even accepted the gift. Trouble is on the horizon for the newlyweds! They are from different worlds. Mary's father may be a nice enough fellow, and he drives a smart brougham, but the horses are hired (!) These people will never get thing right, so it seems. Trollope takes us on "excursions" with his "intrusions" and we are the happier for it, in the balance, I think.

Catherine Crean

Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popinjoy?: An Introduction

From: Wayne Gisslen

"Trollope's asides to the reader, as we find in the first chapter, seem to be nearly universally condemned by the modern reader, but I must admit that I love them. I don't mind being reminded that I'm reading a novel, written by a novelist, because I am usually aware of it anyway."

It looks like my words were misinterpreted--I have no objection to the "intrusive author," more often than not being delighted by his company when he shows up! Like Catherine, I've enjoyed Thackeray's "intrusions" also (we're reading *Vanity Fair* on another ML). I think what got me bored-- this probably because of a 20th-century reader's expectation for a novel to begin "in media res" rather than at the "real" beginning--was the introductory material itself. In the few Trollopes I've read, I haven't particularly enjoyed the "mutton." A personal response, but now that it's been brought to mind I'll pay attention to those introductory passages a bit more, and maybe appreciate them better.


Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 1-5: 'You wish, Mary, to be one of us, do you not?'

This week's instalment recalls the first six chapters of He Knew He Was Right, a novel which, like The Way We Live Now, interests modern readers. Both He Knew He Was Right and Is He Popenjoy? open up with a marriage. In both Trollope sets the stage for the oncoming conflict. Sig may agree with me that _HKHWR_ is grim: there we come upon a couple married for 2 years; it is apparent things have gone seriously wrong between the couple well before the book opened, and that the marriage has not reached a crises of antagonism by the birth of a baby; that being over though, the sources of distaste have arisen again, and by the close of the 6th chapter we are in a crescendo of wrath. The angle here is private: something happened upstairs in the bedroom, and Emily is just not going to take these kinds of accusations that Louis Trevelyan throws at her anymore. If he tries it again, she'll not sleep with him anymore. It's not just the immediate sexual jealousy and quarrel over power that is breaking this couple apart, there are other elements to the relationship we have yet to watch dramatised. Trollope is going to explore the inner dynamics of a marriage where two people have not begun to understand one another, and are uncongenial. We are to try to grasp why they married too.

So too here we have a marriage set up, a stage put before us. This time, though, we see how the marriage between two near strangers has been arranged. There is a third party: a father. Freud would make a great deal of how the father found a partner for his daughter and how their relationship seems much the tighter, more sympathetic, with chords of understanding. The husband is here an outsider whose own ties to his mother, sisters, and lineage are at least as important to him as the getting of an appropriate wife to sit at his table. We ought to pay attention to the triangular nature of the relationship in this book. While it's true that Dean Lovelace is a coarse, hardened and much less sympathetic replay of Dr Thorne, and Mary Lovelace an as yet unknown heroine something in the mould of Mary Thorne (she is lower in status than the family she has married into), in Dr Thorne there's no question that anyone can come between Frank and Mary once they marry.

Dean Lovelace is permanently there for his daughter, providing a house, providing money, encouraging her to enjoy life. And we have had a few scenes which show us that enjoyment is not one of the Germaine family priorities.

Another difference is the social perspective. We are looking at marriage not from its inner dynamics, at least as yet, but a cornerstone of social institutions and myths. There's a larger issue here. Freud talked about Civilization and Its Discontents. Trollope asks us what are we giving up desire for?

Consider the close of Chapter 5 and its relationship to the parade in front of the family pictures. At the end of Chapter 5 , the question is about what will come of this marriage which sees it not as a relationship between two people, but as an experience in which others are interinvolved. Mary's aunt, Miss Tallowax, has given her a diamond ring, and she wants to wear it. George is uncomfortable. He instinctively knows he is on weak ground to object to the ring on the score of its richness: he married Mary partly for the money; he cares about money intensely. He knows it is also no longer acceptable simply to say something is beneath him because of her ancestry: virtue by the later 19th century was also a matter of inner integrity, what you earned, did, were in yourself. So he resorts to the comment his family values 'personal conduct' above such ornaments. He soon is beaten back from that one; it becomes clear he wants her to dress as his sisters because somehow this is to be on their side, to support them. Against quite what she is not told, but she sees what he aims at: to subdue her spirit to theirs, with the question, 'You wish, Mary, to be one of us; do you not?' (This reminds me of the opening line to Sylvia Plath's poem , 'The Applicant' which begins, 'First, are you our sort of person?'. Mary has a strong sense of herself:

'She paused for a moment, and then she answered, 'I wish to be always one with you'.

He almost wanted to be angry at this, but it was impossible. 'To be one with me, dearest', he said, 'you must be one also with them'.

'I cannot love them as I do you, George. That, I am sure, is not the meaning of marriage ... And I don't think I can quite dress like them. I'm sure you want not like it if I did.

As she said this she put her second hand back upon his arm (Folio Society, Is He Popenjoy?, ed DSkilton, Ch 5, p. 40).

The hand on the arm is the whiff of sex. He wants her to be beautiful, to be alluring, to enjoy himself with her weknowwhere. She has implicitly won this round, and he begins to fear what will happen when she goes to London: 'It was true that he would not have liked her to look like Lady Sarah, but he would have liked her to make some approach in that direction, sufficient to show submission'. He worries about what he will do if Mary begins a campaign to join London life without 'any of them' (meaning himself too). At the same time, Mary has 'resolved that she would never allow herself to be domineered over by her husband's sisters. She would be submissive to him in all things, but his authority should not be delegated to them (p. 40.

In the immediate sense of the characters fighting with one another, a knot is tied. Mary and her father are one pair, and her father talks to her as one might expect a husband to (so Mary intuitively grasps); George and his sisters are another pair. Inbetween there's Adelaide de Baron inviting Mary to her house in London, someone who is not going to be controlled by any cant or pretenses to convention: she has already made no pretense that love for her husband was the reason she married. Two social groups with sex in the middle. We can see, though that neither sex or love, had much to do with why Adelaide married Mr Houghton or why Mary married George. Yet now she is expected to submit, and Adelaide expected not to speak of these things.

It is Miss Tallowax who carried the larger meaning here. She is the outsider who doesn't have the thing everyone else is giving up personal desire for; ironically of course she is all agog at them. That irritates them. Her function is, of cousre, to show the Germaines up. She also intuits trouble ahead and the scene between her and the Dean suggests Trollope's sympathies are on the side of freedom and truth to reality not pretenses about lineage. The scene about the pictures explodes that. Readers may come away remembering the slightly unrealistic emotional interchange between the Dean and Miss Tallowax after they come away from Manor Cross:

'I don't suppose an old woman like me can ever be of any use, and you'll always be at hand to look after her. But if ever she wants an outing, just to raise her spirits, old as I am, I think I could make it brighter for her than it is there'. The Dean took her hand and pressed it, and then there was no more said (Ch 5, p. 37).

But much directly to the point is the dialogue that ensues in front of the pictures:

'Some people say [the Queen] never did actually come to Manor Cross at all', said the conscientious Amelia; 'but there is no doubt the room was prepared for her'.

'Laws!' said Miss Tallowax, who began to be less afraid of distant royalty now that a doubt was cast on its absolute presence.

'Examining the evidence as closely as we can', said Lady Sarah, with a savage glance at her sister, 'I am inclined to think she certainly did come. We know that she was at Brotherton in 1582, and there exists the letter in which Sir Humphry Germaine, as he was then, is desired to prepare rooms for her. I myself have no doubt on the subject.

'After all it does not make much difference', said Mary.

'I think it makes all the difference in the world', said Lady Susannah. 'That piece of furniture will always be sacred to me, because I believe it did once afford rest and sleep to the gracious majesty of England.

'It do make a difference, certainly', said Miss Tallowax, looking at the bed with all her eyes. 'Does anybody ever go to bed here now?' (Ch 5, p. 35).

I'm not saying that these dried up women did not find sexual or marital fulfillment or personal joy because they are simply martyrs to a myth. They were not married off because they lacked money. But the cant which supports this system is such beliefs about lineage, ancestry, the idea that some people are special and if we are related to them, we are special too, and the key is to remain exclusive, and so what's necessary to keep oneself 'sacred' too.

So it do make a difference whether another old woman slept there. Otherwise why keep the room and the bed. I like the symbol of a bed with no one in it.

This is not irrelevant to why people today behave the way they do in public, make the choices that they do for marriage, for jobs.

This is comic certainly, rich comedy. I like the book because it explores the domestic in yet a more sophisticated reaching sceptical way than Trollope managed in books like The Claverings, The Belton Estate, Miss Mackenzie where some of the same issues were raised.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?

I agree with Beth about the introductory chapters. I found them rather boring and dull as well. I really dislike when Trollope begins his novels like this. As a teacher of composition, I want to write in the margins. "Don't tell me. SHOW ME!" It was only a couple chapters here, so I pored through it, but I remember with Dr. Thorne there was practically an entire novel in the first few chapters that could have been elaborated on. There were the potential for many fine scenes to be developed for a man with Trollope's skill, and I would have gladly read a longer book if he had written out the introductory material to make it more interesting.

Tyler Tichelaar

To Trollope-l

October 17, 2000

Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 1-5: Self-Reflexive Opening: The Dr Thorne Paradigm.

I guess I'm with Wayne, Catherine and those who have said they find the way Trollope uses the narrator intriguing. People have suggested that he probably started with an approach to the narrator and his fiction which insisted on his role as storyteller and the story as a story as a result of his reading in Fielding and those influenced by Fielding like Thackeray. The problem with that is from the very first Trollope presents himself as a storyteller, not a historian or biographer, and he does it in tragic fictions like The Macdermots which opens with Trollope himself talking to someone who then tells him the story. He upset writers like Henry James very much: James couldn't understand anyone who would take a stance other than an historian, a pseudo-biographer. Trollope is less solemn about himself and less willing to encourage the reader in naive pragmaticism (which is what we do when we talk about the characters as if they were people).

J. Hillis Miller and others have applied to Trollope the word Catherine applied: postmodern. Trollope has postmodern affiliations. In this particular novel it seems one thing he is not interested in very much are individual characters. He sees the characters as figures in a group and conveys his perception of the experience of life through dramatic scenes between them. Thus far this is not an inward fiction at all. I have been allowed to see inside Mary no more than I have been allowed to see inside Miss Tallowax. As much information has been given me about Lady Sarah to make me feel for her position though Trollope has not worked that vein up. As much information has been given me to let me know a good deal about Adelaide who is potentially the most interesting female before us.

Now it may be that this more fable-like approach to his book is one of the reasons it has not been popular. Once Trollope has given us 2 chapters of past history in Dr Thorne, he moves from inside the characters outward to dramatic scenes. Not so here.

There is also this curious sordid squalid story he begins with -- and very importantly -- likens to the matter of his novel. As he tells it, the story of Popenjoy is 'in nature akin' to the following:

'You remember Mary Walker. Oh yes, you do -- that pretty girl, but such a queer temper! And how she was engaged to marry Harry Jones, and said she wouldn't at the church door, till her father threatened her with bread and water; and how they have been living ever after as happy as two turtle-doves down in Devonshire, till that scoundrel, Lieutenant Smith, went to Bideford! Smith has been found dead at the bottom of a saw-pit Nobody's sorry for him. She's in a madhouse at Exeter; and Jones has disappeared, and couldn't have had more than thirty shillings in his pocket' (Folio Society, Is He Popenjoy?, ed DSkilton, Ch 1, p. 1).

He says he cannot tell his story after this fashion because he is a novelist and must make his story 'intelligible' to novel-readers in the way they expect. That means going on about it at length and offering up the patina of psychological-moralising. Yet -- and he insists on this- -- his story is like that of "Mrs Jones, who was happy enough down in Devonshire till that wickend Lieutenant Smith came and presecurted; not quite so tragic, perhaps, as it is stained neither by murder nor madness ...," but nontheless similar in mood and perhaps moral. He then goes on to liken the above story with what's to come:

Mary Lovelace is the young woman coerced into marriage; Lord George, grim, gaunt, sombre, old, is the partner with whom she is to be "happy as a turtle-dove'" until some scoundrel approaches. When will that happen? We know it already: Mary is going to go to London, and there will meet with Adelaide. It takes little thought to realise a man who is a scoundrel awaits us. Someone whom no one will be sorry for. I'm not giving much away to tell his name: Jack de Baron. We'll meet him very soon. Note the name: de Baron, the same as Adelaide. We are warned to watch out for who is attached to de Baron, someone who is analogous to the woman who ends up in the madhouse.

Trollope tells us his story will not end so very tragically, but that its import is analogous. If people read his story sentimentally, it's not because he has encouraged us to. There is an extraordinary distance here between the man and his story; this tells us something about Trollope's sensibility whose is after all the mind we are coming into contact with.

I would say to Tyler and Beth: the purpose of the opening is to prod us into not thinking this is the usual tired bourgeois fiction, but to distance ourselves and see Trollope as storyteller with something to tell us about life through his story. Something, as the reviewers, said, jeering, saturnine in the long run, at a distance as it were, an astringent tale, one which maybe mocks us too. He is half-saying he is tired of all this and wishes he could tell his story 'straight' but must pretty it up with rationales.

Although I've only read the novel once before, I do remember what's to come, and did study it once beyond that to see how the letters are used in it. I had forgotten this opening fable and this jeer at the outside -- not only at readers but at himself, at his own troubles in telling these stories. Somewhere Anthony Powell says the worst thing in telling a novel is putting it together afterwards; his worst problem is to figure out which part of his reverie comes first. I now see that this fable opening is indeed a key to Trollope's attitude towards this novel -- and perhaps what he wants to say to us about life and bourgeois fictions and the variety of pretenses middle class people obey. As a novelist who seeks to sell his wares, he obeys them too. Remember the non-bourgeois reader read fables just like the one above in the penny-dreadfuls.

Maybe Trollope is suggesting these readers and their writers are just more honest. Like Miss Tallowax looking at the empty bed.

Ellen Moody

From Richard Mintz:

I'm not reading Is He Popenjoy?, but I couldn't help noticing the similarity of Trollope's popenjoy to the popinjay (a parrot, a strutting supercilious person) in my collegiate dictionary. Has this been covered before? Is there a connection between the two: is one an earlier spelling of the other? I'd have to completely clean off my desk to open my copy of NED, plus I need a much stronger magnifying glass, now, to check it myself. I'm still wrestling (or better "rasslin'") with the idea: why read another Trollope book? Do I really want to know the whys and wherefores of the Reverend Crawley? But, what I have read of Ellen's Niagara-falls commentary on the Barsetshire series does pique my interest, and Mr. Crawley sounds like a very interesting character.


Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 1-5: Mary Lovelace

I like the character of Mary and I hope that as she grows she will take up for herself more. She is making a bit of a start. She has refused to spend her time working on the petticoats for the poor. I laughed when she calculated what her work would be worth and gave her sister-in-law exactly that amount as her contribution.

And hooray she has refused to dress like her sisters-in-law and even gone so far as to tell her husband that he would not like to see her dressed that way.

Aside from the age difference which makes it seem natural for her to follow her husbands wishes sometimes it is hard for us to remember that in her day women were expected to obey their husbands.

I will be quite interested to see what happens when they go to London; I'm just sorry that George came up with the idea of having one of his sisters there.


Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Popenjoy: 'Middle' Trollope

When we finished The Last Chronicle of Barset, Ellen Moody solicited comments on the experience of reading all six Barsetshire novels in a row. I'd enjoyed the readings hugely, but I could think of nothing to say about the experience. I suppose I mean that I could think of nothing new to say, nothing that I hadn't said a dozen times before. As experiences go, moreover, this one was pretty elusive. What were my impressions upon closing the last of many pages devoted to Barsetshire? I wasn't aware of having any. Mystified, I sat the discussion out.

Popenjoy, I thought, would at least be new. And it would be late. I am very fond of the novels that Trollope wrote after publishing 'An Autobiography.' I would think of them as 'late' if I didn't associate this term with 'fully ripened,' as in, famously, Beethoven's late string quartets. Trollope presents the interesting problem (to me) of a writer who did not live to do his late work. The last novels partake of a turbulent 'middle' quality that I should have liked to see resolved in truly 'late' works. The issue above all others that distinguishes these books from Trollope's earlier ones is virginal innocence. He takes it for granted in novels like 'Dr. Thorne' and 'The Eustace Diamonds,' but already in 'The Claverings' and 'The Small House at Allington' it has become tortured and problematic. Trollope's theory of virginal innocence, which I believe his late works would have discarded or transcended, postulated that young women wait passively for the right lover whom, despite their total lack of experience they will recognize as such, and to whom they'll stick through thick and thin.

Mary Lovelace is obviously not such a virgin. It has been remarked that we are not taken into her confidence. That's because, I think, she has no confidence to give. Her innermost state of mind is very confused. If she has done something wrong in marrying without love, Trollope painstakingly showed that she still thought she was doing the right thing and believed, in good faith, that she could come to love her husband. Trollope's ambivalence is a hallmark of what I'm calling his 'middle' style even though he didn't live to create a 'late' one.

Another hallmark of 'middle' Trollope is aridity - a note sounded in The Claverings (Clavering Hall is a more modest version of Manor Cross; Sir Hugh Clavering has some money, but won't spend it at home. The descriptive passages in the novel's first chapter presage the emptiness of Julia Brabazon's future. Later examples include Belton Hall and Puritan Grange. Sometimes the aridity is a matter of unnecessary stinginess: Mrs. Mason's 'hot luncheon' at Groby Park provides a humorous (and early) example. In 'Mr Scarborough's Family' nobody seems to live comfortably except Mr Grey, the lawyer. I can't think of anything, though, that tops Manor Cross for sheer dreariness. The house is like a dry and rocky prominence where there's no shelter from the pummeling sun of Lady Sarah's dowdy righteousness. It is hard to belief that life there can be worth living.

The bed in which Queen Elizabeth may or may not have slept would be worth a monograph, although this list is not the place for it. Unlike paintings, even the most beautiful pieces of furniture, with the most interesting historical associations, must eventually be retired from use. Do we throw them away or put them in museums? These are the only options, but there are many variations of exercising either of them, and Manor Cross shows a type of the museum approach. Like Mrs Tallowax, many readers won't think much of it. "'This is the room in which Queen Elizabeth slept,' said Lady Sarah,' entering a large chamber on the ground-floor, in which there was a four-post bedstead, almost as high as the ceiling, and looking as though no human body had profaned it for the last three centuries." I have puzzled over this passage in vain; I'm not sure what an unprofaned bed would look like to Trollope. Bearing in mind that most of what we see when we look at a bed is fabric, I suspect he meant that the bed was so uninvitingly stale that no one would have wished to 'profane' it, but he also may have meant that it looked about topple down. Ah, I had better cut the monograph short.

RJ Keefe

Re: Is He Popenjoy?: Unprofaned and profaned Beds

RJ Keefe wonders how an unprofaned bed differs from one which is profaned. That's a good question. Both a bed which has endured the most flagrant of profanities and a bed which has enjoyed pristine purity from its creation may look the same. At a risk of stating the obvious, I would like to suggest that since the most recent occupant of this bed was the virginal body of the last of the Tudors and that no once since that untouched monarch had occupied the bed, the unprofaned state of the bed had something to say about the virginity of the Virgin Queen plus the virginity of the present ladies of Manor Cross.


Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] The unprofaned bed

That wasn't obvious to me, although doubtless true; I just figured it meant unprofaned by ordinary non-regal mortals sleeping in it. Thanks for the comment. I have to say I am really enjoying this book, without quite knowing why; I am half way through and wish I weren't, because it's better to read with the group and gain more insights as I read along, but can't seem to stop reading.I would also like to comment that although I am not rereading La Vendée along with the subgroup, reading their comments makes me feel as though I were back among old friends in the war. The chapter with Agatha and the mother still moves me just in hearing other's comments on it.I hadn't remembered just how much I had liked La Vendée. Pat

Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] The bed

I am reading all the posts on IHP? with great interest. IHP? is one of my favorite of Trollope's novels, along with Ayala's Angel and The American Senator. John Letts - I agree with you! Sig and R.J. - fascinating stuff about the bed that Queen Elizabeth may, or may not have slept in. When reading Trollope, I have always looked to clothing, architecture and food as having symbolic value. Trollope is fairly consistent in using frugality and meanness with food to show meanness of character. (Think of Lady Sarah scrutinizing and dissecting her chop!) Of course, we have the famous "Tudor windows" to show us that Trollope approves of a character. But furniture - ah! A brand new vista opens up to me! I hope other people will post on the subject of the bed that Queen Elizabeth slept in. The scene where the virgin Aunts and the new bride (along with Miss Tallowax) inspect the regal bed has always puzzled me, but thanks to Sig and RJ I now have more insights. Sexual compatibility and the lack thereof is a major theme in IHP?. To add to Ellen's marvelous summary of the first section ("You want to be one of us.") these chapters not only give us the cast of characters and set up the plot - they show us what the battle fields consist of. Ellen has spoken about the two triangles and the war zones of money and class. The first chapters of IHP? take us to the real battle zone - the bed. Note, not just the bedroom, but the bed. Trollope deals with marital "curtain lectures" in a rather explicit way. Mrs. Proudie always reasserted her ascendancy in the bed(room). I look forward to hearing more!

Catherine Crean

Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Trollope's Late Period?

Humph (Joke alert, joke alert, just kidding)

RJ suggests Trollope didn't have a late period. Trollope only had a middle period as he died before he became fully ripened. This makes me think of Wallace Stevens's beautiful poem about Death being the Mother of Beauty.

Probably one of the reasons RJ and I see this differently is I regard the early Trollope differently: he sees optimism and richness and like it; I see as much despair and calm cheer in the early as the middle Trollope.

Still let's give the guy the conventional thee part life: Keats has an early, middle, and late period and he died by age 26. The trouble is also that his early poetry feels riper than his late. His late is much more austere. Shelley has an early, middle, late and very late period and he was dead by 30. Let us grant poor old Trollope his late period. He wasn't exactly cut off in the manner of Miss Austen. He got to write 47 novels, 5 travel books, 42 short stories, and I don't know how many essays, an autobiography, biographies &c&c.

In 'Partly Told in Letters', I distinguished 3 periods, one which began after The Bertrams (1858) and one which began afterLady Anna (1871). So The Way We Live Now (1873) is the first of a 'late' period; Is He Popenjoy? is the large novel written directly after TWWLN in 1874. My criteria were several things, but for IHP I'd focus on the narrator's distance from his characters. From around the time of The Way We Live Now Trollope ceases working to make us like his characters; the narrator doesn't sympathise particularly with any of the characters; there is a tendency to become less psychologically particular; the perspective is social psychology or psychology as it is impinged on by the social world. The result is less subjectivity, a much harder atmosphere all round. And the narrator veers from strong satire, indeed invective, to the kind of arid saturnine feel you rightly point out is here.

Whether this is ripeness I don't know. Robert Tracy locates a later period which begins after He Knew He Was Right -- as do other critics. That's around 1867-68. Tracy calls his book The Later Trollope.

Some of the critics like to talk of a more pessimistic Trollope, a darker Trollope, and others talk of how many more novellas he casts off. There is a ripeness, and maybe we'll feel this in the 'mellow' or full qualities of moments in Ayala's Angel and John Caldigate.

However, without denying Trollope the honorable epithet, I always appreciate RJ's analogies and comments, here especially his paragraph about how this novel recalls The Claverings:

'Another hallmark of 'middle' Trollope is aridity - a note sounded in 'The Claverings' (Clavering Hall is a more modest version of Manor Cross; Sir Hugh Clavering has some money, but won't spend it at home. The descriptive passages in the novel's first chapter presage the emptiness of Julia Brabazon's future. Later examples include Belton Hall and Puritan Grange. Sometimes the aridity is a matter of unnecessary stinginess: Mrs. Mason's 'hot luncheon' at Groby Park provides a humorous (and early) example. In 'Mr Scarborough's Family' nobody seems to live comfortably except Mr Grey, the lawyer. I can't think of anything, though, that tops Manor Cross for sheer dreariness. The house is like a dry and rocky prominence where there's no shelter from the pummeling sun of Lady Sarah's dowdy righteousness. It is hard to belief that life there can be worth living.'

The word arid, the house like a dry rock prominence ... the poetry of the book is there.

I remember when we read The Claverings (1864) people called its landscape a wasteland. Trollope does, though, have this bleakness, as you see, as early as Orley Farm (1860). What I noticed that I hadn't expected was it reminded me also of Miss Mackenzie as well as The Belton Estate. It's like He Knew He Was Right except not on such a private issue. They are all domestic novels: there's no politics outside the drawing and dining and bedrooms. People often don't connect these middle period domestic novels with Is He Popenjoy? because Trollope is so much colder towards his characters. He is really sympathetic towards Miss Mackenzie, towards Clara Amedroz. Now in Mr Scarborough's Family there is a magnificent hatred, a seething sort of admiration towards the central male: he's a Machiavel. That's a sign of its lateness I would say; this peculiar cold feel.

Mary Lovelace is an unusual presence for a heroine. On Victorian Fiction at egroups, the people are reading Vanity Fair and I was struck by the originality of Trollope's conception of his heroines in comparison with Thackeray's (see below). Not as characters, mind you, or personalities. Trollope's are nowhere as vivid. But as conceptions; they are not common types for the roles they are to play in the novel. Mary Lovelace is not your romantic heroine of sensibility. Women say nowadays and probably always said that they don't want such heroines. Yet one reason this book hasn't been liked is Mary is not your archetypal heroine of feeling and subjectivity. She's phlegmatic. She stands up for herself without getting at all emotional. Self-contained, self-controlled. Selfish. Not filled with strong feelings. She may be making efforts to love the man, but she didn't marry him loving him. Nor he her. The ones who loved were Adelaide and George.

Trollope is the more original conception. Thackeray's heroines are brilliant studies in types which go to the roots of psychological attitudes of mind, Amelia, the compliant-clinging-conventional, and Becky, the aggressive-sceptical-individualist; nontheless, they are types. One can find this kind of opposition again and again, and because it occurs over and over. It poses a conventional paradigm which does not make us go further than the usual responses: oh yes, I just love the Becky puppet; I know she's bitter, cynical, but she exhilarates and is so free &c&c; and oh yes, how blind and coy is the Amelia puppet, how passive, and how I wouldn't want to be like that, though I admit I have some of that in me &c&c ...

Trollope has three heroines in Is He Popenjoy?. They are not neatly opposed: the heroine has real hardnesses and is willing to marry for money and prestige, and she's the compliant type or takes on that role; the 'bad' lady, Adelaide, who is the sceptical one turns out to have the most clinging erotic of personalities, and wait until we meet Gus Mildmay who fits no stereotype. Adelaide turns out to be a fascinating study, more interesting than Mrs Hurtle (of The Way We Live Now). I can't think of an equivalent to Gus who is the closest Trollope gets to a free heroine (implicitly not a virgin yet not despised, not low class, someone we are to care about, who is given the privilege of anguish and sincerity. She reminds me of Imogen in Ayala.

The hero is also unconventional -- though Trollope did this with John Ball in Miss Mackenzie. Both Germane and Ball are dull, bleak, grim; Germane is younger and allowed to be smoulderingly attractive. But he's without an ounce of imagination. I imagine he's dull you-know-where, and think we are supposed to guess this.

The book does not invite predictable responses.

Ellen Moody

Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy? - heroes and villains (and their feminine counterparts).

I had initially intended to head this posting 'A naïve pragmatist answers back'. On reflection, I thought that this might appear aggressive, which I certainly don't want to be. I do find Ellen's suggestion on Thursday strange that when we talk about characters in Trollope's novels as if they were people, we are being naïve and pragmatical. Surely this is what we spend our time doing on this list. Of course, we all understand that what we are talking about is Trollope's description of characters, and the way in which he helps us to understand the behaviour of the individuals in his novel. It is hardly naïve to talk about 'Mary', 'Adelaide' or 'George', as Ellen does in her posting today 'Trollope did have a late period', without adding every time 'as depicted by Trollope in his novel'.

What I really want to talk about is the categorisation of Adelaide Houghton as a heroine, and her brother Jack de Baron as a scoundrel. Adelaide appears as a perfect example of a self-centred woman without consideration for anything other than her own interests. In Chapter I she 'consulted her heart, and found that in that direction she need not trouble herself'. She accordingly turned down George's proposal on the grounds that he had no money, and that his only prospects would arise on the death of his brother. She then proceeded to marry Mr Houghton, a man with a great deal of money but no apparent redeeming features. When we first meet her in person, at the party at the deanery, she seems intent on making both George and Mary uncomfortable, but there is no hint of affection or passion on her side towards George. In Chapter VIII, her behaviour on the hunting field appears to be entirely designed to defy her husband and to put herself forward, and shows no consideration for Mr Price, who has offered to show her the way through the hunt. I felt like cheering when she met her just deserts, As the novel unfolds, we shall see how she behaves, but I can recall nothing which makes me change my opinion that she acts throughout like a selfish bitch.

When we come to Jack de Baron, we shall find that he is a fairly typical young officer, impecunious, and hanging on to the fringes of society which gives him meals, invitations to balls and the opportunity to make a marriage which will solve his money problems. We shall find out that he has decided that he cannot marry the woman that he has some affection for, and intends to carry on like the rest of his colleagues with flirting with any moderately attractive young woman, be she married or single. He talks amusingly, and is, it turns out, a good dancer, and he plays an important role in the development of the plot. At the end, however, he is rewarded for behaving kindly to the most unpleasant character in the book, and at no stage does his behaviour go beyond what might be expected of an officer and gentleman. A scoundrel? I really cannot see it.

I am sure that Ellen will have a number of points that I have overlooked, but at present we seem to have diametrically opposed views on these two characters. It will be interesting to read the reactions of other list members as we go further on in our reading.

Regards, Howard

Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy? - heroes and villains (and their feminine counterparts).

A quick reply because my use of the term 'naive pragmaticism' has been a little misapplied. This phrase may have negative connotations, but it is the one used by people who talk about having different approaches to literature. I have recently been reading a book called The Reader in the Text and it is there used continually. That's probably why it popped into my head. I aplogize for the negative connotations.

There are very different ways of talking about books; the posting I was putting on was one which took a non-psychological or emblematical approach and I was justifying the approach by using the term. It's not my term; it's one in common usage and it's really fair enough. When we talk about characters as if they were people, it's a form of shorthand. We are also being pragmatic because many people can't talk about novels in any other way: they are indeed written so as to make people believe in the characters. The word 'naive' is used for the approach since when it is done, people sometimes forget they are not talking about people. They forget the character is a rhetorical device and really a reflection of an author's attitudes. One could say they don't put it in the post because it's too much trouble; true enough. But there is the reality that readers on lists get into heated debates over characters more than anything else and that most often happens because they are thinking of the characters simply as people and either identifying with them or identifying some value or belief system of their own with these characters. We all do it. It's easy. I do it too.

However, to understand a book far more adequately, you need to get outside that approach. As, for example, RJ did when he talked about the atmosphere at Cross Manor created by Trollope through his words. A character is just one element or device in a story whose whole meaning is the sum of all its parts, many of which are not immediately psychological or cannot be understand through 'pretend psychoanalysis'. Not that we really do that here. Finally, a book is just a book and should be seen as a product of a mind, one now long gone of course.

In my posting I was defending this text which Anthony Trollope produced from the objection it's uninteresting or doesn't grab you because he is so insistent on its not being real, but a story he is telling.

As to Adelaide and de Baron, I quite take Howard's points. I think you could read the characters in another way, and that if you do, they become so much more interesting. Very often Trollope's marginalised characters are among his most fascinating; he himself exhibits great ambivalence about Adelaide and Augusta Mildmay later in the book -- meaning he enters deeply into their cases. I find a great distaste towards de Baron, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here as in our schedule we have not yet met him.

As yet Trollope has not really been intensely psychological or subjective at all. Now this may indeed be one reason the book doesn't grab people. However, it's not the only way to write a story.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

To Victorian Fiction

October 20, 2000

Re: Vanity Fair and Is He Popenjoy?: Unconventional and Conventional Female Heroines

I know people are not reading Anthony Trollope's Is He Popenjoy? on this list, but Lisa's comments on Thackeray's two heroines made me think of something which could stir a little discussion as it can be taken as adversarial criticism of Thackeray's great masterpiece; to wit: although both of Thackeray's heroines are brilliant studies in types which go to the roots of psychological attitudes of mind, Amelia, the compliant-clinging-conventional, and Becky, the aggressive-sceptical-individualist; nontheless, they are types. One can find this kind of opposition again and again, and because it occurs over and over (in Austen think of Fanny Price v Mary Crawford; in Edith Wharton, the two opposed types come up in many of the fiction), it is repetitive, simplistic, and easy to discuss. It poses a paradigm about human nature v society which does not make us go further than the usual responses: oh yes, I just love the Becky puppet; I know she's bit, but she exhilarates and is so free &c&c; and oh yes, how blind and coy is the Amelia puppet, how passive, and how I wouldn't want to be like that, though I admit I have some of that in me &c&c ...

Trollope has three heroines in Is He Popenjoy?. They are not neatly opposed: the heroine has real hardnesses and is willing to marry for money and prestige, and she's the compliant type or takes on that role; the 'bad' lady, Adelaide, who is the sceptical one turns out to have the most clinging erotic of personalities, and wait until we meet Gus Mildmay who fits no stereotype.

Now. Trollope's novel has not the sparkle, the cynicism and the dazzle, the sheer verve and colour and sweep of Thackeray's. Thackeray's is the masterpiece; Trollope's merely an excellent late Victorian novel looking to modernity. I would be the first to rank VF over IHP. Nonetheless, Thackeray is not original in his perception of the heroines. Later on when we get deeper into Dobbin, we could argue he does go more deeply, and yet we have a stereotype: we find his alter-ego in many Victorian novels, the man who loves the girl and does all for her, including getting her a husband. His type is found in Meredith's _Diana of the Crossways_. The gambling cool seemingly dumb Rawlin Crawley eventually shows depth and unexpected traits. And yet he too is a type.

So where is the greatness of Thackeray's fiction? Do you need deep original characters to have a great novel?

I'd like to suggest to Ben that another reason the English novels leave out the characters' name is actually to offer a sense of realism and thrill. Supposedly -- and in the 17th and 18th century it was thought this was so -- the character stood for someone real. Oh, you the lowly common reader, were getting into contact with the scandals of the upper class.

I really enjoyed Judy's posting on Thackeray's racism. Don't get me wrong. I love Thackeray's work and think the man himself, his attitudes and sensibility are of the finest. The _appercues_ in his fiction and the scenes are piquant and unforgettable.

So how about these conventional heroines? Where all you get is predictable responses. Nothing to subvert our stereotyped ways of regarding one another -- and maybe ourselves?

Just throwing out some thoughts on Catherine's favorite book, Vanity Fair,

Ellen Moody

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