Dagny had asked:
"How large is this town of Brotherton? What opportunities does Mary have to meet a possible future husband?"
Brotherton is a cathedral town. As I read the text, it is situated in the mainland, close enough to London for easy access (e.g., Lord George leaves London by a morning train, lunches Brotherton with the Dean, Dean leaves Brotherton that afternoon and arrives London to stay with Mary). So a journey of perhaps 2.5 hours, putting Brotherton in the Bath/Wells/Lichfield/Birmingham circle. Say a population of 10 - 20,000. --
October 29, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 13-17: Augusta Mildmay
Last week's instalment included one of these brilliant dramatic scenes of a dinner party at which Trollope is often so good. In their epitomising function, they look forward to similar dinner scenes in Anthony Powell's novels. Powell's are theatrical and lend themselves to allegory; Trollope's seem so much more in-depth in psychological penetration, less shaped or stylised as a whole. When this week all Mrs Houghton's guests sit down to dinner, and we proceed to listen to the conversation, it is anything but nonsence. What a peculiar word that is -- or, should I say, how revealingly it is used. It reminds me of abnormal. What people want to dismiss they call nonsence. The conversation between Augusta Mildmay and Jack de Baron is anything but nonsense; it resonates with pointed comments on their feelings towards one another, on what has happened before they reach this point. It reminds me of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill at Box Hill in Austen's Emma:
'I think promises ought to be kept, Captain de Baron'.
'I can't agree to that. That's bondage, and it puts an embargo on the pleasant way of living that I like. I hate all kind of strictness and duty and self-denying and that kind of thing. It's rubbish. Don't you think so' (Folio Society Is He Popenjoy?, Ch 13, p. 98).
Well no she doesn't. Trollope only hints at it, but we are supposed to know that Jack de Baron has had Gus Mildmay, and carnally. Unlike Lily, she has not retreated in intense shame, but her feelings have been been deeply stirred, and this is crass. When I said I was attracted to Adelaide Houghton, I didn't mean I liked the concept of the character; she is heartless, and ugly to Gus precisely because she refuses to acknowledge anything has happened that counts. All that counts is money in the bank, land and rents.
To those who have read The Duke's Children and Ayala's Angel, is not Augusta a Lady Mabel Grex with the simplicity and potential for an affection heart of an Imogen Docimer How's that for a semi-allegorical resonant name? The Victorians idolised Shakespeare's Imogen and Docimer is close to dulcimer. The story of how Gus could not bring herself finally to sell herself coldly, but then again could not bring herself to accept the socially unacceptable, isolated and economically deprived existence of a poor wife with many children exactly parallels that of Lady Mabel. She could not get herself to grab Lord Silverbridge, but could not get herself to take Frank Tregear, and never expected how quickly he would console himself with the heiress Lady Marry Palliser. What's really touching here is the scene between them this week. I can't help but imagine how Trollope could have written it even 20 years later. Here is this man who was her lover acting as if none of it mattered. The letter, the dialogue, all well done because understated.
The chapter heading 'Drop it' is just what people do say to one another. 'Give it up'. 'Call me when you need me'. It reminds me of the plain phrases of Raymond Carver: 'Will you please be quiet, please?' What cruel things people say to one another as a matter of course, whose cruelty is set into acceptability through the very banality and implicit truthfulness of the alienation or advice.
It's what Augusta stands for in our experience that matter so. Therefore that Trollope was not allowed to present her liaison with Captain de Baron, now over, in full view, fades into unimportance. The same kind of thing was true of the depiction of Lily Dale. It was what the character stood for, the nature of her experience and how it was meted out by her society and came from within in response that mattered.
And see how Trollope has progressed. No longer the sentimentality of the retreat to the cottage -- though I don't know if that option is one women have not chosen. Instead Gus must come out into the world to fight yet more to win some place for herself.
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 13-17: Late Style & Pace
People have been saying how difficult it is to read just the week's instalments. I agree, and would like to suggest one reason we feel this far more for Is He Popenjoy? than we did for the Barsetshire chronicles is the difference in style or movement and detail.
Have others noticed how much shorter the chapters of this book are? The book is no shorter, but the chapters are. What we see in Is He Popenjoy? is the beginning of Trollope's late style. It is fully developed by the time of Ayala's Angel. There it is ripe: the language of that one is generalised; constantly moving out to allegorical and generalising resonance. One might say Trollope alludes to characters and situation and feelings he can no longer be bothered to develop. His language becomes a shorthand for what he has already fully-developed elsewhere.
Is He Popenjoy? has not gone that far, but it heads in the direction. We have much much less detail than any of the Barsetshire books. Look at the portrait of Jack de Baron, of Augusta. Each takes about a page and one half at most; the language is both broad and concise and what could have been a book in itself is conveyed (Folio Society Is He Popenjoy?, introd. DSkilton, Ch 12, pp. 92 & 94). Yet there is much that is precise; the conversations or dialogues go on for much longer than what we have in Ayala; the specificity of Gus's letter is (Ch 15, pp. 113-14) does not allow us to liken her to a type in romance or classical myth. Yet much is suggested speedily, and the author hastes on his way.
We haste too. Hence we get restless and want to move on. Still if we can resist not reading ahead, but not speeding over how much meat there is in this precision through quick broad suggestive strokes, there is much to make us think, much to entertain, in the 18th century sense of the word, to amuse.
Cheers to all,
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 13- 17: The 'Disabilities'
As to the 'Disabilities' I'm with John Sutherland who in his 'Introduction' to the Oxford World paperback classics edition of the novel writes,
'Readers familiar with Trollope's normally vexed-but-tolerant attitude towards women's rights may be surprised at the virulence of his satire on the 'shrieking sisterhood' ... This novel shows Trollope at his most brutally misogynistic ... Both women [Miss Dr Olivia Q. Fleabody and Baroness Banmann] and their hysterical claques are grotesques. Banman combines attitributes of feminine ugliness with transvestitet and transexual disfigurement. Trollope's narrative fairly hoots at her' (Oxford World Is He Popenjoy?, introd. John Sutherland, p. xiv).
Sutherland suggests that Trollope is 'so unusually savage' on the women's movement in this novel because they had made headway in gaining the vote, were beginning to look to take men's professions, to 'come into the arena' of the world and fight.
Sutherland reminds us that Trollope similarly gives no quarter to the dull Lord George, to the densely determined climber Dean Lovelace, to the repellent (my word I admit) Marquis de Brotherton.
Yet except for the Marquis Trollope shows some sympathy for these males -- even that low-life sleaze Jack de Baron. He feels remorse; he wishes he could act better, but then society doesn't demand it, and it's so nice to sleep in rich beds and dance with elegantly dressed women under chandeliers, and he does give what he has when asked -- upon occasion and if what is asked is momentary aid.
I suggest another explanation. In this novel we really have some women quietly and some noisily breaking away. Adelaide Houghton is 'disobedient'. How Trollope comes back to that word, no Victorian male novelist is as obsessed with it in the way he is. I can't remember Dickens or Thackeray or Hardy going on about it. We have women quietly sexually involved. We have aggressive women in other domestic spheres of life everywhere: Lady Sarah is braver, more courageous, more decent than her brother fundamentally. Our wonderful heroine, Mary, for all her apparent innocence, has banally sold herself, is bored by the husband, attracted to this new male whose words she likes to think of as nonsense. They're not.
Trollope is threatened by his own material? Maybe.
The reason women want niches in professions, some say in power arrangements in society has little to do directly with sex. Trollope laughs at their disabilities. But then he never had a child he couldn't go out and get a job and support as a matter of course. He met and suffered badly from a class bar, from class stigmas, but is unable to make the analogy with gender barriers and stigmas. Perhaps too another element entering into his failure to see 'disabilities' for women is he didn't identify with working class people. The women he saw as absurd and hysterical and hating-sex and men were upper middle. There is the Dean's jeer:
'Why should one half of the world be ruled by the ipse dixit of the other?'
'Or fed by their labours?' (Folio Society Is He Popenjoy?, Ch 17, p. 123).
Middle class or wealthy women are fed by the labours of their men is the meaning of this. Trollope does't think they are also by proxy fed by the labours of working class women as well as working class men.
Cheers to all,
Re: Is He Popenjoy?: A Great Line
Trollope's late style moves into the aphoristic.
Take this one:
It is not what one suffers that kills one, but what one knows that other people see that one suffers (Folio Society Is He Popenjoy?, introd. DSkilton, Ch 13, p. 99).
I don't say it's La Rochefoucauld, but it ain't bad.
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy: Petticoats
Trollope reporting of the 'Disabilities' meeting may have been influenced by his knowledge of Frances Wright, the founder of Nashoba in Tennessee where Fanny spent three fraught weeks in 1827. Frances Wright was a young charismatic reformer, a wearer of bloomers and a powerful public speaker. She toured America advocating, amongst other things, free love, freedom for women and financial independence, and was protected from the enraged population (male) by a bodyguard of Quaker women. She visited the Trollope home when they lived in Harrow when Anthony was a boy, and considerably later, after her American venture, gave a series of talks in London. Another link, though possibly not relevant, Fanny wrote a book called 'Petticoat Government' in 1850.
I query Ellen's statement that Gus and Jack had co-habited? I would have thought that had they done so he would have been less sure of his ability to drop her.
I am much enjoying the tartness of this book. The characters are very recognisable.
October 30, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?: Jack de Baron and Baroness Banman
I didn't mean they cohabited, merely that they had sex and I use the term flexibly to mean anything from just petting (in all its forms, to full sexual intercourse -- as we find it suggestively flexibly indicated in The Small House at Allington). Trollope also suggests that Jack de Baron has treated other women this way too:
On such occasions he would, too, at times, be very badly in love, assuring himself sometimes with absolute heroism that he woud never again see this married woman, or delcaring to himself in moments of self-sacrificial grandness that he would at once marry that unmarried girl. And them, when he had escapes from some especial trouble, he would take to his regiment for a month, swearing to himself that for the next year he would see no woman besides his aunts and his grandmother (Folio Society, IHP?, introd. D. Skilton, Ch 12, p. 94).
The language is deliberately vague. Those who want not to see sex, need not; but there's enough there to suggest Baron makes a kind of career of having women casually. On another list I was on for a while, they had quite a discussion on what is sex and what is near-sex, and what emerged was historically how you came out on this divide told far more about your willingness to acknowledge all sorts of experiences going on around you which you wouldn't endanger, challenge, or threaten yourself by. In the long conversation between Jack and Gus we see he repeatedly promised marriage: to the reader of novels and women of the period, that is a kind of signal. He promised marriage so he could have what an engaged girl would have. We are again at the door of the discussion we had about Lily Dale. Whatever way you take it though, the point is he betrayed Gus who did take him seriously, who has a feeling heart.
It's interesting we still get no insight into Mary's mind. Perhaps that's because Trollope sees the kind of woman who could marry so coolly, respond to talk as so much nonsense, would not be introspective, not take things of the heart and mind all that intensely. Until of course she too is caught up ... and threatened ... But I don't want to get ahead.
I am fascinated by Teresa's rooting Trollope's intensity over the Baroness Banman here in his autobiography. It explains a lot of the animus. But we should recall that Francis Wright by no means banned men. Nor did Fanny Trollope. The son has fixed on just that aspect of feminism that least hurt him in his explicit portrait.
October 30, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Ch 15: The Three Options
Todd mentions the three options Jack de Baron offers Augusta Mildmay. He says two are impossible: of these he is explicit about the first, marriage. The second he says he will not 'tell' her. Todd suggested this could mean to continue their ongoing liaison without marriage. I took it to mean that they resume their liasion which has been broken off. We are not told explicitly why, but from the anguish and intensity of Augusta's behavior and her own whispering of the first choice as hers, i.e., marriage, I assume he withdrew because, however ambivalently, she was pressuring him to marry her. The third choice is part. And that's what he wants which is expressed by him in the two words, 'Drop it'.
The letter was filled with resonances: it seems he has been in the habit of coming to see her; he knows 'very well' what her feelings are, what sacrifices she is prepared to make. She says the state of things they are in now is killing her. She is a driven woman, desperate, and she has lost her hold on him. He is bored, has had what he wants, and is off to new conquests. He is also frightened of her intensity; he never wanted this. What he is relying on is her self-control and sense of shame.
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 13-17: The 'Disabilities'
It is strange how since Trollope was as a boy himself in a position to watch a woman (his mother) disabled from pulling her family out of a coming chaos, disabled from finding a man who would be sane, compatible and loving once her husband went mentally under, could not even acknowledge the seriousness of this disability. At least not in this novel. I suggest what we have here is ambivalent: he overtly forgives his mother, presents her as gallant in An Autobiography, but his sympathies went out to his father. Lady Carbury is uncomfortably close to Fanny Trollope.
It is sometimes said that even if Trollope can enter so deeply into a female character he seems to express a woman's point of view, nonetheless, all his novels when looked at from the larger perspective, when these women are judged, are finally written from a man's perspective. We saw that in the Barsetshire series. We see it here. The correct word for Jack de Baron is probably cad, and Trollope lets him off lightly. He has presented such a vicious caricature of feminism, we cannot even begin to sympathise with it. The description Catherine quoted struck me as emphasising their sexlessness, their divorce of their bodies from sexual attraction in all ways. Yet take a look at the photograph of Kate Fields whom Trollope tells us he loved. There's a copy in C. P. Snow's biography. She was a very pretty woman. She went around lecturing, never married, was an independent woman. Trollope had intense respect for George Eliot. There's a disconnect here.
Cheers to all,
November 2, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy? Sex & Betrayal & Contraception
The question of contraception in the 19th century is a vexed one. The first thing to say is yes, contraception was understood, and was available. There is a long chapter in F. M. L. Thompson's The Rise of Respectability which deals with an attempt of a working-class radical male whose name I can't find just now to make contraceptives and prophylactics available, and how he was stopped by members of the community who were mostly middle class. George Drysdale was another man who atetmpted to advertise "preventive sexual intercourse" and was vitriolically attacked by Malthusiasns for attempting to control the numbers of working class people. On the "History of Sexuality", a list for academics and Victorian scholars which I got on and have since left (because I don't have the time to read the many messages) there were a number of discussions of more recent books (like Michael Masson's) where people said it has since been demonstrated that contraception prophylactics (mostly of the condom variety) were used -- by but select groups of people, and of course everyone was quiet about it and such devices were expensive and uncomfortable. They were not made of rubber until later in the century. The use of coitus interruptus occurs in the literature but such resorts leave little trace in a historical record.
Much of the groupings has been known since Thompson's book (the chapter to read is the one called 'The Family). Trollope's milieu is one such group where contraception was used by the middle of the century. At the opening of the century, his mother had something like 8 children; he and Rose had two children very quickly and stopped there. Does anyone assume they therefore stopped sex? Trollope and Rose used some sort of contraceptive or technique. Tennyson's mother had something like 13 children; he and his wife had 2. They didn't stop having sex after that, did they? This is older stuff: in Thompson's The Rise of Respectability he looks at statistics and suggests that those using these devices (from the point of view of decline in the number of children born) were what we would call white-collar workers, people on the fringe of the gentry and intellectual artist types, also high aristocrats, especially those who lived in big cities. Those whose families remained very large into the 1920s include clergymen, miners, farming people, middling aristocrats (squirearchy).
Why these groupings? There are many factors in cultural behavior. Availability is not everything, even if you can show a particular group had a sudden decrease in the number of children. One obstacle from usage of contraceptives themselves in the 19th century is a religious belief that sex is for procreation, and that when people marry there is something sinful in the use of contraceptives. The problem is complicated here because research (again into statistics, this time of disease) shows that these devices were used by men of all classes as prophylactics. This goes back to the 18th century. That is, condoms were used by men to prevent getting a disease. Many, however, would regard taking these devices home to use them as contraceptives with their wives as wrong. They saw themselves as more open to 'sin' than they would permit their wives to be.
This moves onto attitudes towards women. Even as liberal a man as Godwin when confronted by Shelley with some contraceptives (this is in a letter) hedged on the idea that Shelley and Mary (his daughter) should use this. He argues with Shelley that Shelley and other men should not promote such use in marriage because it's bad for marriage. The implication of the sentence is it makes women less dependent on men. Religious people would say that women should have as many children as God sends them; sex is not for pleasure.
Novels reflect ideals and are censored products. The ideal of the time was many children, and on Victoria we have talked again and again of how in novels the reality that people were beginning to limit their families never comes up. To have the problem of large families as an immediate concern makes marriage between people of different classes or without money more problematic and so it becomes a plot obstacle which is useful. It also shores up the belief that people should marry prudently. Novels are written to offer lessons in prudence -- or so many writers and readers have claimed. Thus in novels marriage is always presented as a condition which necessarily brings many children. But this is not so if we look at actual select groups of middle class people's behavior. The irony here is that contraceptives used as contraceptives in the family spread far quicker in the middle class than it did in working class people. Yet it was working class people who needed to limit their families were they to ever achieve a higher standard of life.
F. M. L. Thompson records the moral outrage of doctors in the period whose working class patients attempted to find books and pamphlets (there were such, but they had tiny print runs). The most common method offered by these were the use of a pessary. The interest of these is to show the 20th century reader the many odd and uncomfortable methods people did really begin to resort in the 19th century against a strong moralistic reaction which repudiated all birth-control ideas on moral and also physical grounds.
I don't know why Howard is happy to discover that the numbers of people thinking Augusta and Jack didn't go all the way, didn't have a liaison (however, you want to put it) are as high or equivalent to those thinking they did. I don't take satisfaction in thinking a particular pair of characters had sexual intercourse or didn't have sexual intercourse.
In my posting I argued that what was important was the betrayal and Augusta's inner shattering and now deep hurt over what had happened, not that she had sex or how far she went. As with Lily Dale, how far the couple went was not what I emphasised. Whether people read the hints to have concrete references or metaphoric ones tell us more than on which side of the atlantic we write from or which sex we are. They tell us about some investment in believing that people in an earlier period didn't have sex in ways similar to the ways sex is today presented as happening in public discourse. No one doubts that we are much franker in our talk today. The question is behavior which was not easily recorded then -- nor is that easily recorded today.
There is a fascinating passage in one of the many volumes of memoirs by Anthony Powell in which he discusses the actual sexual behavior of late Victorians and Edwardians as opposed to what they wrote down about it and what people today say about them and what we are willing to say about ourselves. My husband could probably find it for me -- he is our house expert on Powell. Powell argues that middle class Victorians and Edwardians were actually much less puritanical than equivalent middle class people today. This is not that interesting. What is interesting is his claim is one reason they were freer is they didn't talk about it, didn't write it down, and were therefore not as traumatised about this deep aspect of human experience. They didn't have a need to deny its existence if they themselves didn't participate this way. There was no perceived threat, no challenge. Powell is a bright man. He does use the word 'threat'. To his take I'll add I never meant to say that physical experience doesn't count when I argued that it was the betrayal in Lily's and now Augusta's case that is important, only that the novel is so shaped that our focus is on the betrayal not on the specifics of the act.
On the realities of the period from the scholarship I have read and the more recent discussions I have heard it seems that the availability or even use of contraceptive devices cannot really inform us about people's actual behavior because they were used differently by different classes of people; and don't begin to cover the ground of what actually happened between people. Birth statistics among classes of people help more.
Cheers to all,
November 2, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 13-17: Sex & Betrayal & Old Maids
I've changed the third part of my heading so as to bring in a new aspect of this topic. Let's imagine a movie adaptation to be made of this novel: there would be great difficulty in following the grain of the text. In fact, it wouldn't be followed. If there was any character who flashed passionate distaste through me in this week's chapters it was Adelaide Houghton. She just dismisses as not counting the feelings of others -- since of course she has made her own decisions irrespective of any emotional bonds she may have begun to force with Lord George. Her behavior to Augusta Mildmay to me is if anything worse than Jack de Baron's. He at least acknowledges Augusta has some right over him; however grudgingly, he offers a relationship. Mrs Houghton embodies (to me) that sort of cruelty we come across in a daily way, the kind that people get away with because it's ordinary for people to be cold and selfish and far from being any law against it, it's an advantage for an individual in the competition in life for good things (luxuries, respect, high positions, not becoming vulnerable through sexual partnerships &c).
However, I doubt a modern movie would present Mrs Houghton harshly. Mary would be the central heroine. Yet, the movie would stay away from Trollope's still controversial presentation of her marriage as somehow wrong, queasy, no good, because it was done so strongly from motives of gain and advantage, to position herself. She would, in other words, be sentimentalised. So would Mrs Houghton and Augusta Mildmay. I suggest we'd have a throw-back dream sequence where Augusta Mildmay remembered being in bed with Jack. Bed scenes sell. There is one in the film version of MP and Austen's MP does justify a scene (not dramatised by Austen herself) of Henry Crawford and Maria Bertram in bed and more than once. But it would be drenched in sentiment through Augusta's unhappiness. The hard nature of the relationship today -- in the scene Trollope presents -- would not be put before us quietly. (That's Bergman stuff I suppose.) Instead Augusta's disability (it's a disabilty her past) would be eroticised and made important and significant, when, as we know, most of the characters refuse to acknowledge what has happened to her is signficant. Her feelings don't count. The past doesn't count. There's a modern country song by Mary Chapin Carpenter in which she sings the people who win out today are those who throw the past behind them, who never look back.
We do have such a heroine in this novel: Mrs Houghton. She would also be sentimentalised More: the movie-maker would even celebrate her -- as strong, as aggressive. Much would be made of her hunting. The recent depiction of Becky Sharp in the recent _VF_ as someone admirable, someone women will like to identify with because she's hard supports my supposition. Of course later in the novel Trollope does pull away her carapace and we are startled to find something decent beneath it all.
The emotional trajectory and hard lines of this novel -- and it is hard -- would be avoided and something put in its place which Trollope would dislike intensely. The satire on the Disabilties would be toned down, maybe reversed.
And finally, Lady Sarah. She is the one character who Trollope has thus far presented as acting decently on her own terms, unhypocritically, thus far. She reminds me of Priscilla Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right. An old maid. Well, she'd be dropped as uninteresting. Or maybe turn up in a vignette, something for comedy. But she's not funny nor is her plight. We have in this novel the curious conjunction of Trollope's sympathetic portrait of a disabled women -- Lady Sarah is disabled because her society has not permitted her to do anything on her own behalf that is effective -- and his savaging of a movement to help disabled women.
Cheers to all,
Angela Richardson the posted Philip Larkin's "Annus Mirabulus":
Sexual intercousre began In nineteenth sixty-thre (Which was rather late for me) -- Between the end of hteh Chatterley ban And the Beatels' first LP.
Up till then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for a ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than
In nineteenth sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) --
Betweeen the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Re: Is He Popenjoy?: Philip Larkin's "Annus Mirabulus" and "Love"
November 2, 2000
This is to thank Angela for finding the poem. Someone told me that what 'Annus Mirabulus' is 'getting at' is the absurdity of the phrase: 'sexual intercourse'. Before 1963, people didn't write down and probably never used such a stilted roundabout kind of language. 'Going all the way' was the awkward embarrassed euphemism. Now people wanted to be franker, and yet they still couldn't get themselves to use words like 'fuck'. No one would speak frankly of the real motives which lie behind 'courting': 'A sort of bargaining/A wrangle for a ring'); certainly not of having been 'had' (whether just petting or in the more forthright carnal sense: 'A shame that started at sixteen/And spread to everything'. There's much pity in that last line, pity for those who have lost self-respect and are made to feel inferior, dirtied by their 'intercourse' (all intercourse) with others. But now life's 'an unlosable game', because we've admitted what it is we do even in this stilted phrase. Of course this is ironic. And he says all this came too late for him.
Here's another poem by Larkin germane to Is He Popenjoy?. The surprising thing is that it is more sentimental than Is He Popenjoy?:
The difficult part of love
Is being selfish enough,
Is having the blind persistence
To upset an existence
Just for your own sake.
What cheek it must take.
And then the unselfish side --
How can you be satisfied,
Putting someone else first
So that you come off worst?
My life is me.
As well ignore gravity.
Still, vicious or virtuous,
Love suits most of us.
Only the bleeder found
Selfish this wrong way round
Is every wholly rebuffed,
And he can get stuffed.
Why is this not as hard as Is He Popenjoy? In Trollope's novel, not one character has any trouble being selfish enough. They all find that very easy. They all have a blind persistence to upset existences of others for themselves, just for their sakes. No one has as yet (except for me) brought up the Marquis of Brotherton. This characterises his behavior precisely. He is utterly selfish, upsetting everyone's existence, just for his sake. I submit all he is is more frank than the others. None of them are shocked. Lord George says he has the right; Lady Sarah admits that, but she's not going to step aside or crawl away and die.
Jack de Baron has no problem knowing his life is him. As well ignore gravity.
There are no bleeders in this novel, except maybe Augusta -- and later in the novel a few others will spill some heart's blood now and again. Myself I like bleeders. On onother list I'm on they are reading Les Liaisions Dangereuses: there we have a bleeder. Madame de Tourvel. Lily Dale was a bleeder; Johnny Eames shed a few tears of blood.
Re: Is He Popenjoy?: The Response from Contemporary Reviewers
November 3, 2000
Like Lady Anna and The Way We Live Now, contemporary reviewers declared IIs He Popenjoy? a shocking book. Several decried a book which showed its characters (s) to be 'corrupt'. They do not outline in specifics what they mean and they avoid all mention of de Baron, Mrs Houghton and Miss Mildmay. Their specified anger is directed at the frank depiction of marrying a girl off for a position, at how the Dean supports Mary 'in her rebellion against authority'. Whether sexual congress literally occurred is being over canvassed amongst us; it was but one detail in a long posting I wrote a week ago which has attracted so much attention here. Only one person thought to argue with me on what I got emotional over more than once: that de Baron is a scoundrel, low-life sleaze, and cad.
Kristi, I think novels today are as censored as they ever were, and would suggest that the censorship is, as it was in the 19th century, particularly strong for novels aimed at the middle class intelligent reader. Why? Because mores there count. Such readers can often have an effect on social change, even if as only a tiny drop of a big stream headed in some direction. Sex is an area in our society about which we are uptight -- and present it in exaggerated ways. This mean be paradoxically because sexual activity nowadays in our society so freely occurs outside marriage. It is true we don't censor the graphic portrayals of the act itself. What I suggest is censored or shaped are attitudes towards it. These are so myriad one could not begin to discuss them in an e-mail, however overlong. Still here's one: many middle class novels (not all, just some, but perhaps I am right to say many) are on the side of powerful characters. Weakness, emotionality, vulnerability is strongly inculcated against for women as well as men. The novelist- narrator goes about analysing his characters from the point of view of who gains and who loses power, and we are asked to admire the person who wins.
I submit Trollope is interested in this and quite in the modern way. It is not moralised for us from a Christian perspective; we watch characters takes advantage of position, money, sexual vulnerability, class. He does differ from us though. He questions the goodness or rightness of seeking power. He thinks this is unhealthy as a motive (mean, selfish, against what is good for the group). And he does not analyse characters from the perspective of their childhood. Most realistic modern novelists would feel called upon to show what in the background of the Brothertons made the men so awful, one a bully, the other so dense and afraid; what made the women so rigid. Trollope does not emphasise education in this way: it's all in the character as innate somehow.
Well time to mark a stack of student essays. Cheers to all, Ellen Moody
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] The Marquis of Brotherton Arrives
Now that the Marquis of Brotherton has appeared on he scene, and turns out to be even worse than his meager communications suggested, I can begin properly to wonder what this man is up to. What is he thinking? Why does he repel his family's solicitude? I can guess, but it will be gratifying to find out for sure. Is his wife really old and ugly, or would that be the ill-will of snubbed townspeople? And the swarthy baby - Trollope might almost have come out and denied the Marquis's paternity. But I suppose there's no reason to doubt that. Why would the Marquis put himself out for another man's son? And yet anything seems possible. It's difficult to put the book down, even though I don't expect any answers for a good while.
In Lord George, Trollope gives us a very well-composed portrait of a man reduced by his own weak character to tyranny. I do not mean to say that if he were masterful he'd be more attractive to us. But if he only knew his own mind, he would be less anxious and fussy, moods anterior to jealousy. I was going to say that his having acted in bad faith (marrying Mary) prevents his knowing his own mind, but perhaps the charge of bad faith is excessive. When he married Mary, he expected her to compensate for her low birth by yielding so completely to him that she would obey his wishes without his needing to state them. Yielding on this order, however, would never occur to Mary. When she makes it clear that she expects to be told what to do, there's an implication that his wishes ought to make sense, but since he doesn't know what he wants, or why he wants it, sense is out of the question, and he falls back on the family religion.
Trollope seems to take Lord George's feelings about family religion, and those of his sisters, fairly seriously; he doesn't mock them or hold their claims up to a ludicrous light. I think that Trollope himself probably regarded such reverence as excessive, but as a novelist he's interested in its consequences.
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?: The Response from the Reviewers
Brotherton seems to be totally without redeeming virtue or attraction. Almost more shocking than his arrogance is his mother's siding with him as he is discarding her--my only way of understanding what he's about is that he doesn't want anyone who knows him to be where they can look closely at what's happening. I'm wondering what other people are thinking---Judy Warner
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2000
Replyemail@example.com Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?: The Response from the Reviewers
I have my suspicions about Brotherton, that much of his claims about his wife and child are a sham. I have no firm proof of this, but the growing distrust the Dean and George have for the man seems genuine and well-founded. I'll be interested to see what they dig up on him..
Indeed, the man is foul. He's disrespectful to his family, snide to the Dean, and seems very much as if he's hiding something. I find him a thoroughly repellent character. At the same time, he is key to the plot and a very well-drawn character. He's one of those characters I personally despise, but when he's present things are definitely interesting..
Now those are the questions I'd love to see answered! Of course, we knew he was likely a cad before he even appeared on the scene, ignoring his sister's letters the way he did, and only telling the family of his marriage in a very off-hand manner. I knew before he must be extremely full of himself, and was not surprised at all when we actually met him and saw what a jerk he truly is.
Is his wife really old and ugly, or would that be the ill-will of snubbed townspeople?
I'm fairly sure it's the fact she knows his secrets that makes him reluctant to bring her visiting. After all, the Dean speaks Italian and his wife could slip and say something Brotherton doesn't want the world to know..
And the swarthy baby - Trollope might almost have come out and denied the Marquis's paternity. But I suppose there's no reason to doubt that. Why would the Marquis put himself out for another man's son?
Because he needs an heir, perhaps? When he learned of Lord George's marriage it seemed highly convenient he himself was suddenly married, and with a son to carry on the family name..
And yet anything seems possible.
Indeed, that is so! And that's what keeps me reading this book..
It's difficult to put the book down, even though I don't expect any answers for a good while.
I'm having the same experience, and I believe this is the best Trollope novel I've read thus far.
In Lord George, Trollope gives us a very well-composed portrait of a man reduced by his own weak character to tyranny. I do not mean to say that if he were masterful he'd be more attractive to us. But if he only knew his own mind, he would be less anxious and fussy, moods anterior to jealousy.
Anxious and fussy are good terms for Lord George. I'll be interested to see how he develops, as the novel moves on. Will he be unfaithful or will he be able to break Adelaide's spell? I'm not sure what will happen, at this point.
When he married Mary, he expected her to compensate for her low birth by yielding so completely to him that she would obey his wishes without his needing to state them. Yielding on this order, however, would never occur to Mary.
Yes, and I enjoy Mary's character very much for this! She's respectful of her husband but doesn't lose herself in the process. That's quite admirable, to my mind.
Trollope seems to take Lord George's feelings about family religion, and those of his sisters, fairly seriously; he doesn't mock them or hold their claims up to a ludicrous light. I think that Trollope himself probably regarded such reverence as excessive, but as a novelist he's interested in its consequences.
From the limited bit I know about the Trollopes, I'd have to draw the same conclusions about AT's treatment of religion. He definitely doesn't seem to mock, but rather to present everything very matter of factly. I very much enjoy how he presents religion and morality in his novels.
I had gotten several women on Trollope-l very excited with my frank comments about sex and idea that sex was happening among non-married in Is He Popenjoy?. They insisted that even until very recently a Victorian morality was instilled into girls. I disagreed in two postings as follows.
November 2, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?: From a Distance and Philip Larkin's "High Windows"
Dear Gwyn, I am going to be 54 in three weeks. I too grew up in the 60s and no one breathed fire and brimstone at me. Here in the US the 60s were a transitional period, but such things begin much earlier, and I would point to the beginnings of the popularity of rock-n-roll (Elvis Presley's earliest appearances on US were in the mid50s) and films like Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean.
On the other hand, I do have good memories of my grandparents who were (all four) born in the 1890s, and there my memory shores up yours and also adds something to what RJKeefe said and F. M. L. Thompson's book. The great irony is that at the opening of the 19th century it was not respectable to admit you were trying to limit your family by the beginning of the 20th it was not respectable to have endless children, superlarge families. Both my grandmothers would speak with disdain of families which had 12-13 children. These couples were not exhibiting self-control. It was a kind of pride with my grandmothers that they limited their families to 4 in the one case and 3 in the other.
AlthoughThompson's _The Rise of Respectability_ is one of the great books for Victorian social mores, it needs to be supplemented with Michael Masson's _Victorian Sexuality_. Masson has gone to doctors' records and has read enormously in the area of sexual behavior. Another important and readable book is Laurence Stone's Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives whose subtitle is Intimate and Revealing Accounts of Marriage and Divorce in England. Stone goes to court cases; the evidence there is adversarial and hostile so both sides of many cases are continually accusing one another of sexual transgression, but there is such evidence for it that it is striking. Stone is particularly good on the behavior of couples during engagement (the practices of bundling and the still unknown today high rate of pregnancy before marriage among working class people into the 1820s when 'the rise of respectability' took its toll on the working classes of England)
I have the same memories as Gene and Rory. Boswell's journals are rare instances of frankness (he never expected them to be published in his lifetime). There we see him going with all sorts of women and using sheep's-gut condoms (they cost £5 a piece in Byron's time in the 1820s, available in London), but he never brought such a thing home. The sorrow -- or ugliness of this -- is he gave his wife syphilis as well as a child every year until he died (he died at a young age -- excuse the heartless expression, lucky her insofar as the bearing of more children as well as her illness). When you think about it's not being respectable to bring home a contraceptive device to be used either for contraception or prophylactics you begin to wonder how many women shared Mrs Boswell's plight. We only know about her case since we have these startlingly frank diaries. I have somewhere in my house a book about the campaign against prostitution in England in which the author suggests one reason middle class married women got involved in the suppression and control of prostitution was that venereal diseases were brought home to them. As we all know, today in Africa AIDS has spread to women badly, and it is spreading among the Latino population in the US to women and then to children because the macho-male culture there allows men to refuse to use condoms.
Finally, the poem in which it's said sex began in 1963 and with the Beatles: it's by Philip Larkin and one of these terribly lonely flat despairing poems. The remark is to be taken as personal and with a grain of salt -- like Virginia Woolf's about the world changing in 1910. I don't have a collected works. However, I can type another poem which seems to me to have all the hardness and indifference to sexual and emotional life we find in Jack de Baron and Adelaide Houghton. It also suggests why the Dean is so dismissive of what happens to his daughter once she is married and has to go to bed with a man she feels nothing for. You see it doesn't matter. This comes out even more strongly in the story of Augusta. The difference between the way we are to take Lily's trauma and loss and Augusta's is in the Barsetshire books it is assumed that Lily's loss was meaningful; people understand why she wants to retreat; they understand she is shamed; they understand they are to feel for her. Not so Augusta.
Fast forward to 1967 and the situation has gone yet further:
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise.
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives --
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life:
No God any more, or sweating in the dark
About hell and that, or having to hide. And immediately
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide Like free bloody birds
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless
Is He Popenjoy? measures a step from a belief in meaningful life to the despair of high windows. Is He Popenjoy? Why, who cares? Only those who are worried lest they not inherit a title? And what's that title worth? The selling of Mary to Lord George Germain.
Did Queen Elizabeth sleep in that bed or not? To the Dean it doesn't matter. Nor, come to that, to Miss Tallowax who, however, would not have married Mary off that way and would, if she were not to be too shocked, be sorrowful for poor Gus.
Think of how distanced from his characters in this novel is Trollope.
Cheers to all,
November 5, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy? and The Way We Live Now
My posting of a couple of days ago suggested some possible contemporary approaches to Is He Popenjoy? if someone filmed it. Among other things, I thought Mrs Houghton would be presented far more sympathetically, and Augusta and Mary far more sentimentally. I didn't emphasise sex as that was the central topic of our other thread. However, I did think that the hints in Trollope's text might be turned into some kind of dream sequence where Augusta remembers back to some hard moment after some sexual intercourse or intimacy: Jack making his little joke and walking away. It seems I did miss one other change that might have been made to the moral. In an upcoming film adaptation of The Way We Live Now, Mr Andrew Davies talks of how he means to present the cad of another novel by Trollope which in many ways closely resembles Is He Popenjoy?: The Way We Live Now. Davies thinks the cad's behavior to the girl he seduces will be acceptable to his audience. Yes, The Way We Live Now is now about to be turned into a film adaptation for the BBC. Those who read the story (which I have copied and pasted from a piece in The Telegraph which appeared on the Web) will see that Davies does not regard a gentleman-cad of Jack's type with any real distaste at all.
"A BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope's novel The Way We Live Now is likely to infuriate admirers of the Victorian author by featuring sex scenes not included in the original.
Andrew Davies, who wrote the screenplay for the £1.5 million drama series, is to include physical relationships which he admits Trollope only hinted at. Mr Davies believes that the author, best known for his gentle stories about the fictitious cathedral town of Barchester, would have approved. He claims that Trollope would have probably included more graphic scenes himself if it were not for the Victorian conventions of censorship and strict morality when the work first appeared in 1875.
Mr Davies, who successfully adapted Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair for television, said:
"As with lots of Victorian novels, Trollope is heavily hinting that at least two of the relationships are more sexual than he actually says they are. That is something we are bringing out in the adaptation. Most Trollope experts I think will agree that is what he had in mind."
The Telegraph understands that two relationships in particular are to be expanded for the screen. The first is the long distance friendship between one of the young heroes of the book and an older American woman. The second is the relationship between a character called Felix and a young female acquaintance who lives in the country.
Mr Davies said:
"There is a delightful young reprobate called Felix who is wooing the daughter of the millionaire financier crook while at the same time conducting an affair with a country girl called Ruby Ruggles. He goes to the countryside and gives her a good seeing to. These things are in the novel but because of the conventions of the time are played down."
The decision to develop the relationships has angered purists who initially welcomed the BBC's plan to film what is regarded as one of Trollope's best but least well-known works. They fear that the emphasis on sex will detract from the novel's overriding theme, which is the immorality of greed.
John Saumarez Smith, called "a leading member" of the Trollope Society, said:
"I understand that there is pressure on someone like Mr Davies to bring out these sort of things to ensure it gets an audience. He said: "It seems that anyone who is adapting a 19th-century novel is obliged to go down this road. But I think it is something which will sadden a large number of Trollope fans."
Mr Saumarez Smith said:
"I think there is a reason why Trollope hints or plays down certain things. He leaves it to readers' imagination to read what they can into certain relationships. I admire Mr Davies but I know his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did upset some Austen purists. He did go a little too far in some respects. It would be sad if that happened here."
The Way We Live Now is radically different from Trollope's other writings in tone and theme. It chronicles the career and moral decline of the financier Augustus Melmotte. As such, it does not hold back in depicting what Trollope believes was the amoral and unsavoury business climate of the 1870s.
Historians believe that the author based the central character on an unscrupulous banker called Albert Gottheimer and the Victorian railway king George Hudson. Like Hudson and Gottheimer, Trollope's villain changes his name and becomes a Member of Parliament. Mr Davies believes the story has universal and contemporary appeal.
Mr Davies said:
"It is not like anyone's normal idea of Trollope. It's not about bishops and clergyman. It is about a big City scam and the leading character is very much like Robert Maxwell. No one is sure which country he has come from or what nationality he is although he claims to be English. He draws a great variety of characters from all walks of life into a scheme to build a fictitious railway in Mexico."
(I love that use of the the word "normal". It's like "common sense". It means anything that differs from me is "abnormal". It's quiet bad-mouthing, not just "normalizing".
The BBC is due to begin filming next month. The four episodes, each 75 minutes long, will be screened next summer. Trollope's Barchester stories were successfully adapted by the BBC in 1984. The author's admirers include John Major and Lord Biffen.
The last line reminds us that The Telegraph is said to be a Conservative paper.
There are numbers of interesting assertions in the above: Davies says this novel is radically different from Trollope's other writing. Not so. It's only radically different from the books that have been popular with those who consider themselves his established fans. Mr Saumarez Smith says the inclusion of explicit sex will make the viewer emphasise the sex instead of the morality. But he fails to notice that the morality is actually different from what some of us have been assuming is Trollope's.
The real question is, Does Trollope strongly condemn Jack or Lord George or the Dean for their behavior to their women? This morning RJ suggested he does not strongly condemn Lord George; bad faith is not bad faith is everyone agrees to use one another and marriage as instruments for positioning oneself and getting money. Is that Trollope's view? I think not. I am not saddened to see hypocrisy swept away partly because to bring out such scenes necessarily brings out how people who read the book or watch the move really feel about sex and marriage -- about which it may be that people talked hypocritically in Trollope's time too. I wonder how far people of Trollope's time as well as our own really condemn sex or just wanted to squash it, to put it out of sight, so they could get on with positioning themselves higher than others, making money from this and so on.
The contradictions in the story also can make us think of how different is what is really popular as opposed to what people say about popularity. When we originally got into this debate I thought about how my opinion as expressed on the list coheres with that of most academics, but this movie adaptation reminds me that many ordinary readers may now try Trollope's novel for the first time. The BBC P&P was very popular among Janeites and sold well. It was screened at many regional JASNA meetings. The reason the recent MP was disliked was not the sex, but the lack of gentle optimism, the insistence on the importance of slavery in the book, the way the characters were presented as deplorable, and the transgressive or non-upbeat ways in which sex was presented.
Those who read The Way We Live Now on this list with us, which we did shortly after the list opened will remember we had a debate which resembled the one we have just had. We decided that indeed Mrs Hurtle and Paul had not only had a liaison, but had cohabited. We did not pay attention to Ruby Ruggles and Felix except as she is bullied by the rough countryman Trollope thrusts on her as a 'safe husband'.
Cheers to all,
November 3, 2000
Re: OT: Mores of Any Period
In response to Kristi who wrote:
Ellen, I'm a year older than you are, but grew up in the midwest and went to a Catholic girls high school. I think most of us did internalize a rather "Victorian" set of moral ideals which changed abruptly in the second half of the sixties.
Actually what I wrote was that I was not confronted by any brimstone and fire. In speaking of myself I did not generalise out from myself. I came from a wholly secular home: neither of my parents believed in hell -- or any afterlife at all, come to that. I suspect there is no 'most of us'. As you know the US is not one country, but at least nine; within these nine regions there are many classes and many subcultures. Then individual families have individual milieus. Then there are schools. I went to a public school.
Of those girls in NYC where I grew up which I knew I would say they did not have anything strongly religious in their background. I don't say no religion, just not strongly, overtly religious. There has been a revival of evangelical and other kinds of intense religiosity in the public sphere in the last 25 years. I was young before this.
I would go further. I am not sure what you mean by Victorian moral ideals, but if you mean the idea that sex outside marriage is deeply wrong, that's not true for my generation. I was told -- and so I remember other girls saying -- you needed to behave a certain way, especially in public, lest people ostracize you. Not that it was wrong. These are very different propositions. Divorce was wholly acceptable to my parents. So too women going out to work, having careers, regarding themselves as wholly the equal of men.
I would even argue that the emphasis on the 60s is wrong. It was the thing to say that mores were changing swiftly during this period, but in the real experience of people I knew that was not so. One could as reasonably argue that in the 1980s there was a strong 'backlash' against feminism. There is a good book which argues this, though many of those who have read it are not persuaded.
The generalisation that "all Victorians" felt some specific way is also falsifying. The Victorian period is long: the way people behaved in the Regency period (in which Trollope's mother grew up) was different from the climate of the 1830s. Different classes behaved differently. There was no such intense rigorous inhibition of girls in working class or aristocratic culture. Behavior in the provinces was different from behavior in London and the spas. What readers tend to do is imagine some monolithic ideal which validates their reading and then argue from it. The only ideal Anthony Powell picks out -- and he did live through it -- at least in his house and among his group, which is to some extent, the milieu of the Trollopes, is silence on sexual and monetary matters in print.
If there's one thing most scholars and historians of the period are agreed upon, it's that you can't make these sweeping generalisations. Laurence Stone's book which goes into legal documents makes quite a hash of all sorts of cant about sex and money. We must not forget money. And yes, death. The two unmentionable topics in our time are money and death -- with class taking a back seat but silently there. For the 19th century press it was sex and money. They were not squeamish about talking in ugly class terms; they never avoided death. Dickens's picture of the death of Little Nell is typical of the period: there too, Trollope is an innovator, thinks for himself, tells more truth than his contemporaries. No pious or terrorized deathbed scene occurs anywhere in his novels. No fire and brimstone at all -- and this is unusual. He was later in life overtly for cremation, proselytized for it. 'People' were said to be shocked, and maybe some were. When my father died, I suggested to my mother, let's cremate him. 'No', said she, 'your Aunt Helen says it would not be acceptable to the family'. My Aunt Helen is, as Trollope would say (it's a phrase of his) a 'strong-minded woman', so the corpse was embalmed, dressed up, and he was buried. I have no idea what most of the people who came to the funeral home would have thought of cremation. Maybe they would have preferred it. He might have -- to save money, though for all I know cremation is as expensive. I haven't yet looked into it :).
Cheers to all,