Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2000 17
Subject: [trollope-l] IHP - Trollope's naming of characters
I dearly love coming across some of the names that Trollope gives to his characters. So far my favorite in Is He Popenjoy? is the Dean's attorney whose name is Battle. And as an extra tidbit Trollope even has Lord George think that going to see Battle is "such an absolute declaration of war."
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Back to the Disabilities
Re our earlier discussion of the Disabilities in Is He Popenjoy? - I was browsing through the Penguin Companion to Trollope (sadly still a library copy, but I can see I'll end up getting my own!) and spotted some interesting background on Trollope's attitude to feminism, some of which I thought I'd pass on.
In the entry on feminists, Richard Mullen writes: "Trollope's attacks on the Victorian 'rights of women' campaign show a strong dislike for feminism. He never forgot the impact of the feminist Fanny Wright (1795-1852) on his boyhood: It was she who enticed Fanny Trollope to America, thereby leaving the young Anthony without a mother for almost four years. As an older man his attitudes were influenced by his visits to America, where young women of the middle and upper classes were less restrained than in England, and by his friendship for the American feminist, Kate Field."
There is another interesting snippet in the entry on "Is He Popenjoy?", where he says that, for the name of the American feminist Olivia Q Fleabody, Trollope "may have had in mind that of the American feminist Elizabeth Peabody".
He says "His inspiration for the Institute, split into rival camps and torn by jealousies, may be traced to the 1861-2 visit to America, during which he went to Cincinnati to see his mother's famous Bazaar: one of the uses to which it was put after she was left was to house 'a college of rights-of-women female medical professors."
Despite all the mocking of feminists, I definitely feel that Trollope is sympathetic to Mary, as an individual woman, in her frustration at her husband's efforts to order her about. In chapter 27, there is a brilliant exchange where Lord George pompously tells his wife he does not like her to waltz, but cannot explain why.
'I am sure,' said he, 'that when I say I do not like it, that will be enough.'
'Quite enough,' she answered, ' to prevent my doing it, though not enough to satisfy me why it should not be done."
Ouch - talk about cutting. No question about who gets the better of that particular conversation.
This type of exchange certainly shows the drawbacks of wives being expected to "obey" their husbands unquestioningly - and gives a welcome counter-balance to Trollope's satire on feminists like Baroness Banmann in the same chapter.
I also feel there is some intentional mockery of the Dean when he is so determined to stop Mary being dominated by her husband's family - and so continues to dominate her himself as an alternative!
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] ISP: Lord George
I find Lord George to be an interesting character. Trollope achieves a nice balance with him. He is an interesting blend of the pitiful and contemptible. “He had none of that strength which arms a man against flatterers -- none of that experience which strengthens a man against female cajolery.” He is not strong. He is perhaps a little needy. He is wounded in his soul; he has suffered. Adelaide doesn’t even have to work hard to conquer this guy. He falls practically before she can strike. She senses his inner turmoil and invites him to share his intimate feelings with her, which he is more than happy to do because he is essentially a lonely, unhappy person.
But we don’t feel too sorry for him because he lacks insight. He hasn’t been able to see Adelaide for the conniver that she is. He thinks she has allowed him to put his arm around her waist out of _innocence_! Come on, George. Wake up, man! He doesn’t realize that she thinks he’s “dreary.” How could he miss this?
Having fallen into her trap, he is troubled by his conscience: “The wickedness of the thing was more wicked to him that the charm of it was charming.” Poor guy. He can’t even enjoy it. If he were only a little more like Adelaide and Jack, he could have a little fun playing the game. But he respects all of the traditional social and moral norms too much for that. He’s too heavily invested in traditional ways to shrug them off and live free like Adelaide.
He’s not even very good at being a traditionalist. He goes too far. He’s too selfish about it. As a husband he has to “lord it over” his wife. He feels that he must be superior to her. So he scolds her and corrects her -- and alienates her. As a result there is little hope that he and Mary will ever be able to share anything together. Ironically, if he were able to escape this socially imposed definition of who he is and how he must behave, as he does to some extent with the evil Adelaide, perhaps there would be some hope of a loving relationship with Mary, his wife.
November 14, 2000
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 24-29: Mary & George or Sex & Power
This is written in response to Todd's posting on George and Judy's on George and Mary. I agree that if you draw yourself back and response less viscerally to George's denseness about hierarchy (he is as tormented in his response to his brother as the mother because the brother is the Marquis) and his insensitive abrupt ordering of Mary, he is a lonely and unhappy man. There are so many of these inarticulate taciturn proud males in Trollope, males who don't begin to understand the nuances of a situation or see into themselves so can't manipulate it to their needs: Thady McDermot (The Macdermots of Ballycloran) is only the first; one could almost cite all the novels, but a second one that comes to mind because Trollope is so sympathetic to him is Will Belton (Belton Estate); insofar as George's inability to cope with his jealousy is concerned, he reminds me of Louis Trevelyan (He Knew He Was Right). The difference would be that Trollope sympathises so intensely with the first two, and at least permits us to enter into the full-blown anguish of the third. George seems only rigid, narrow, obtuse.
I'm not sure that Trollope means us to take George's scenes with Mary the way Judy has -- though that's they way I respond and read them too. One could say that since the abrupt orders are barked out so abruptly with no justification that he can offer -- as opposed to the scenes between Louis and Emily Trevelyan -- we are meant to be startled and put off by George and see how inadequate he is to the situation. There's a fascinating essay in Trollopiana by Anthony Juckers, 'Pagans and Popinjays' (No. 46, 1999), pp. 13-18 where Juckes reads a scene between George and Adelaide Houghton (reprinted p. 15) as meaning George and Mary's marriage is 'unconsummated'. Last week I saw in another conversation an implication that Mary is cold and hard to awaken sexually, but this week there was another curious question put to Mary, this time by her father, which I again read in the same way:
for the first time he asked her what immediate hope there was that Lord George might have an heir. She tried to laugh, then blushed; then wept a tear or two, and muttered something which he failed to hear (Folio Society IHP, introd DSkilton, Ch 29, p. 227).
It was part of Victorian mythology (and recently Masters and Johnson argued for a scientific basis for this) that orgasm led to pregnancy; lack of pregnancies meant the woman wasn't achieving orgasm. Juckes goes further:
Trollope subtly tells us that George is -- despite being thirty-nine when he marries -- a virgin, and an innocent ... Adelaide Houghton intuitively realises that his marriage remains unconsummated as she begins her idle manipulations (p. 15).
Juckes probably goes too far here, but we can better understand the real oddness of the presentation of this couple if we see them both as at least unawakened sexually. Trollope tells us more than once that Mary is 'childish': she certainly is when she denies that she is playing flirtatious games with Jack de Baron to Augusta Mildmay and gets all indignant at Augusta as if she doesn't know what Augusta is talking about.
On the other hand, I read the following paragraph as manipulative on Mary's part. Her way of subduing her husband when they retire together to their bedchamber reminds me of how Mrs Proudie subdued the Bishop:
It was essentially necessary that he should compose this domestic trouble, and of course he returned to his wife. Equally of course after a little time she prevailed. He had to tell her that he was sure that she never flirted. He had to say that she did not talk slang. He had to protest that the fortune- telling cards were absolutely innocent (Ch 25, p. 200).
So, to Judy I'd say Lord George is by no means the boss in this family. Remember how he moves over to her in another scene with 'forced' 'little acts of immediate tenderness' (Ch 20, p. 159). George is not a virgin; he's inadequate, supplicating all the more because he is, and Mary is cold.
Part of Mary's indignation comes from her high view of herself. In this she reminds me of a number of other heroines, beginning with Eleanor Bold. Her behavior to poor Arabin leaves him stammering. Others of this self-contained proud type (and I've no doubt middle class women were brought up to be this way) include Emily Trevelyan, Caroline Waddington (Bertrams). Though Trollope seems to feel more sympathy for the Lily Dales, Florence Burtons, and Clara Amedrozes (each a different version of a warm giving yielding woman who is not proud and quickly indignant, a form of self-protection), he is usually not so pointed about the self-blindness of such women. When I consider how Mary confides in her father, turns to him, and Trollope's comment on how dangerous this is, I begin to think Trollope didn't need to read Freud. This is deep stuff.
Anthony Powell in his critique of Trollope wrote that the inner thoughts of women as presented by Trollope weren't real. Well he certainly idealises them -- as novels do all characters to a certain extent. Yet I would read Mary's curiously empty thoughts -- contentless about all that goes on between her and her husband, between her and Jack -- as a sign she hasn't a clue about sex. The following paragraph makes me almost agree with Juckes. Mary is attempting to think about the possibility of complaining to George about Augusta's confrontation of her:
yet, how was she to tell it. It was not as though everything in this matter was quite pleasant between her and him. Lady Susanna had accused her of flirting with the man, and that she had told to him. And in her heart of hearts she believed the waltzing had been stopped because she had waltzed with Jack de Baron. Nothing could more more unjust, nothing more cruel; but there were still the facts. And then the sympathy between her and her husband was so imperfect. She was ever trying to be in love with him, but had never yet succeeded in telling even herself that she had succeeded (Ch 27, p. 217).
This might be a small girl thinking about her difficult brother, this is so shorn of adult sexuality. I suggest that in her scenes with George Mary acts as if she's the daughter, and in her scenes with her father, she acts the role of a bethrothed. It is through Mary that the Dean wants that grandchild; he has had to put George in his place, and George is just not adequate to the task of being Mary's husband and the master of the family, however you see that inadequacy.
I don't mean to dwell on sexuality for itself. In this book sexual relations are the basis of one individual's power over the other. The issue here is how people gain control over one another's lives. George wants to control Mary's sexuality because he wants to control her; Adelaide is slowly seducing George to master him. If this were written in 1974 instead of 1874 they would have been in some strongly compromising explicit position together when the husband was heard on the other side of the door.
The book is exploring people contending with one another for mastery and power over one another. Brotherton is the character who refuses to enact manners which cover up the hard basis of the characters' relationships with one another. Lord George, Trollope tells us explicitly, is unable to break away from the rules of the game, the courtesies: not in the fact of his brother's jeering, not even to gain a kiss from Adelaide: he refuses to say he does not love Mary not because he does not love her but because he won't say this truth (p. 230). It's hard to laugh at the man who is so tied up by his society's surface taboos as well as some deeper ones about sex.
This fits into the Baroness Banmann: she becomes the woman who bans men in order to assert her freedom and power. Sex is practised and understood by people in a socio-political context. Adelaide, note, has not gotten pregnant, and she appears to be the boss in her family.
Where Trollope stands it's hard to say. Certainly consciously he savages the Baroness, presents Adelaide as a manipulator. Teresa and Judy have mentioned the real parallel between Trollope's mother's running off (I would say with Hervieu), seduced by Frances Wright's apparently appealing independence. But there's also Kate Field, and in this novel he does show sympathy for Mary, having been sold by her father to get that genealogy, for Augusta, having been had and dropped, and for George too -- in a way. Then there's Lady Sarah who stands aside seeing things so clearly: she reminds me of Spenser's Britomart, modelled on the archetype Diana. Yes she's free, but she is so powerless, so in the end dependent and caught up in a mesh of relationships. What pleasure does Lady Sarah have from her repression and self-control?
I'd like to say Trollope is merely presenting it as it is, but there's an intense emotion held back here. The latest attitude towards satire does not see it as moralistic primarily, but as a form of unleashed release for the writer.
Cheers to all,
Re: Is he Popenjoy?, Ch 27: Mary and Augusta
This was a remarkable scene. I read Augusta's declaration that she and Jack were engaged as her way of letting Mary know she and Jack had been lovers for real (carnally), and that Mary's behavior is therefore peculiarly cruel and treacherous. It's not quite like Lucy Steele confiding in Elinor Dashwood that Lucy and Edward have been engaged for four years, since Edward is still engaged to Lucy. Lucy is therefore warning Elinor off; Edward has not openly flirted with Elinor nor she in return. In Augusta's case too the use of the language 'you have come inbetween' takes on carnal connotations, which accounts for why Mary gets so upset. There is, however, an intense aggressiveness about Augusta, the aggressiveness of a desperate woman:
'"I think I did hear that you and he -- knew each other".
"Knew each other! Don't be so mealy- mouthed. I don't mean to be mealy-mouthed, I can tell you. You knew all about it. Adelaide had told you. You knew that we were engaged.
"No", exclaimed Lady George; "she never told me that".
"She did. I know she did. She confessed to me that she had told you so".
"But what if she had."
"Of course he is nothing to you", said the young lady with a sneer.
"Nothing at all -- nothing on earth. How dare you ask such a question? If Captain de Baron is engaged, I can't make him keep his engagements".
"You can make him break them".
"That is not true. I can make him do nothing of the kind. You have no right to talk to me in this way, Miss Mildmay".
"Then I shall do it without a right. You have come between me and my happiness"
"You cannot know that I am a married women", said Lady George, speaking half in innocence and half in anger, almost out of breath with confusion, "or you would not speak like that".
"Psha!" exclaimed Miss Mildmay.
"It is nothing to me whether you are married or single. I care nothing though you have twenty lovers, if you do not interfere with me". (Folio Society IHP, Ch 27, pp. 214).
There are so many lies and half-lies here one can't catalogue them: probably Gus knows that Adelaide never told anyone that Jack de Baron and Gus had nearly had an engagement (and he promised marriage); but maybe not. Probably Adelaide would have lied. We know that. Mary at first says she knows nothing of it, but then backtracks and seems to have heard something for real; that's why the initial stammer and embarrassment. Gus knows that Mary didn't break her liaison with Jack; that happened before, but she wants to keep her away and by insinuating what others might say, she thinks to make Mary anxious.
Gus's refusal to obey the conventions, her breaking of courtesy parallels the Marquis de Brotherton's refusal to play false games and pretend to have feelings he doesn't have and pretend to believe others have feelings they don't have. One way people maintain power and their status is by depending on others never to break conventions. Gus can only get to Mary by talking this way. She reminds me here of Becky Sharp talking to George Osborne shortly before it comes out that Becky has married Rawdon. She gets the upper hand because she is willing to say flatly outright that George expects her to act submissively and expects her to pretend to ignore how he despises her.
So the scene fits with the themes and preoccupations of this book. I more or less agree with Sig, Howard and all those who have said they find Brotherton believable enough. I have seen him: he is a tenured professor at the college I teach at; a man so sure of his place and security, his arrogance has no control. However, I can see how someone looking for real psychological reality in Brotherton would balk: the character is used satirically and emblematically. Not Gus. I believe this scene. Its strength then comes from its place in the design of the themes of the book and its persuasiveness.
There is another character in Trollope's novels who is very like Augusta: Arabella Trefoil (The American Senator). Arabella, we'll recall. was similarly desperate, similarly tired of pretending to be happy, of the false smiles, of the hollow battles of her existence. Victoria Glendinning suggests that Trollope based Arabella on his brother's daughter, Bice, and that Trollope felt strong sympathy for Bice. This helps explain to me why I feel there's real sympathy here for Augusta who does not stamp her feet like Mary, the child, and burst out crying. If she's hard it's because the world has been hard to her and her hurt is deeper than can be shown. She is also a loser: in the scenes in public she cannot get anyone to use courtesy to make her feel at all comfortable or wanted. It's used against her to deny her feelings, to invalidate her. If this were Thomas Hardy, she'd be stabbing that man of smiles, Jack de Baron.
Dagny mentioned names. They all resonate. Jack the Baron makes me think of the Barone from Danger Mouse.
Cheers to all, Ellen Moody
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Swarthy
No one discussing Is He Popenjoy? has talked about this, but I think someone should. Everyone who has seen the young current Popenjoy has noted that he is swarthy. That is, his skin is darker than the skin of most English people. In the world of 19th-century England the swarthy people were those who lived in southern Europe, that is the Italians, Greeks, Spanish, etc. The English looked on themselves as fair haired and blue eyed. So someone who has dark skin is viewed as belonging to a lesser breed. Trollope, of course, was not alone in this attitude. Some twenty or so years after he wrote Is He Popenjoy? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote two swashbuckling novels which he called The White Company and Sir Nigel. Both of these books were set in the fourteenth century and include among their characters King Edward III and his son the Black Prince. I've been reading them recently and have noticed that again the English are fair haired and blue eyed as are the Bretons and the Normans. But the French are not. And it is the French in this novel that are usually the enemy. But even darker than the French are the Italians. And as the skin darkens so also do the deeds.
As much as I like Trollope, I do sense in him, from time to time, a sort of a Nordic prejudice. I suppose he could not consider himself guilty of such behavior, since his brother and mother spent so much time in Italy and with Italians. Still, I sense it is there. The lighter the skin the better the person et e contra.
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Wwarthy
I'm a little puzzled. It would seem it would be expected that the child would be darker if the mother were Italian (I know there are blond blue eyed Italians but imagine they are in a minority). But do we think that Trollope sees this as in itself repulsive? Or is it so dark that that throws the paternity into more question; is the child's parentage not even half English? Or is the description of the child's features suggestive of some kind of deformity that no one in the household (not even the normally outspoken Marquis) will mention? There is no mention of its walking or talking. I don't know that there is any definitive answer to these questions but it all becomes curiouser and curiouser.
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Swarthy
In fact a lot of the northern Italians are very fair, and as the Marquis's house is on Lake Como which is next door to Switzerland it would be more probable that the Marchesa would be blondish - IF she was from that region. In fact I don't think we get to know where she is from in Italy, her mad husband was an Orsini (who I think are Roman's) but what was she??
I couldn't wait to find out what happened so I have rushed to the end I'm afraid (also I was stuck at an airport for 3 hours)- Can I say how much I have enjoyed IHP, although the internal characterisation ma not be as acute as in some others (as per Ellen) the plot is gripping. Incidentally I just love the Marquis, an absolutely ghastly person of course but he is such a breath of fresh air when he breezes into a scene, he is just unilateraly awful to everyone (although there is a bit if a twist at the very end).
Incidentally he was quite right about preferring to live on Lago di Como than the English Midlands, IMHO Como is possibly the most beautiful place on earth - specially in May when the hillsides are covered in a mass of azaleas. Lake, mountains, flowers, italian food, beautiful villas, warm climate ... what more do you want???
(exhausted back from Paris)
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 24-29: Mary & George or Sex & Power
I found Ellen's views on the relationship between Mary and George most interesting, but I think that she has missed the point regarding their sexual experience. Trollope lays a (fairly well-concealed) track, from which we can see that Mary has a fair idea of what it is all about, and it is George who doesn't really know what it is for. In Chapter XI we have Mary trying to be demonstrative in the railway carriage when they are going up to London, 'leaning against him, inviting him to caress her'. At dinner that evening, she
'hovered around him, touching him every now and then with her light fingers, moving a lock of his hair, and then stooping over him and kissing his brow. It might still be that she would be able to galvanise him into that lover's vitality of which she had dreamed. He never rebuffed her, he did not scorn her kisses, or fail to smile when his hair was moved.... But through it all she was quite aware that she had not galvanised him as yet. (Trollope Society edition pp. 86-87)
And George fell asleep! I am indebted to Margaret Markwick for pointing out that Trollope is telling a story of a sexually dysfunctional marriage. It is, she says,
'the story of a man who has led a very sheltered life with his mother and sisters, who sowed no wild oats in his youth, who never went out in the world to gain his sexual spurs, never indulged in any dalliance with women from the lower orders. At thirty, he first felt the pull of desire for a painted, vulgar woman, but ultimately marries the archetypal chaste virgin-heroine, very young, completely inexperienced, unaroused, guileless..... Georges problem seems to be that he can only feel sexual arousal for the whore, being impotent to express a physical love for the Madonna presentation of Mary Lovelace.' (Margaret Markwick Trollope and Women p146)
We get further hints of Mary and George's problem in Chapter XVIII, where Adelaide says to George 'Think of Mary. Think of Mary's child - if she should have one.' As she said this she looked rather anxiously into his face, being desirous of receiving an answer to a question which she did not quite dare to ask. (p 140) As Margaret Markwick says, what she really meant was 'You're surely not sleeping with her!', with George understanding the unspoken question, but dodging the answer.
Then there is the conversation between Mary and her father, when the Dean asks what immediate hope there was that Lord George might have an heir. She tried to laugh, then blushed, then wept a tear or two, and muttered something which he failed to hear. 'There's plenty of time for all that, Mary,' he said with his pleasantest smile, and then he left her. Did Mary mutter 'There's not much chance of that'? The Dean's suspicions had evidently already been aroused, because when he makes a reference to George about his child, George replies 'I have no child'. The Dean says 'But you will have'. The Dean, as he said this could not keep himself from looking closely into his son-in-law's face(IHP p227)
I think that Trollope has made it clear enough what the problem is. George is aroused by Adelaide, but not 'galvanised' by Mary We shall see later on in the book how matters develop, but it is reasonably clear to me that at this stage the marriage has not been consummated.
November 15, 2000
R: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 24-29: Who will bell the cat?
I suppose Howard and I can this time genially disagree. He quoted a few paragraphs and I quoted other ones. As he was startled to be asked to read into generalised flexible language in the scene between Augusta and Jack that they had had full sexual intercourse, so I am startled to be asked to read into the enigmatic or questioning language of the scenes between George and Adelaide and the Dean and his daughter, that the couple hasn't. I can believe George was a virgin until marriage, but not anymore. It's true he turns away in the carriage, but he does not turn away in the two scenes I quoted. He is working hard to arouse Mary and the scene then fades away. Curtain closes. I'll go for inadequate sex in which Mary has no orgasm, and thus there's no pregnancy. Mary only yields to his sexual advances in the second paragraph I quoted after he agrees she didn't flirt, wasn't doing wrong etcetera, etcetera. Why should he offer these untruths up but to get her to let him in? The Ruskin scenario is uncommon, and were Trollope to write such a character into his novel, I would expect someone far more along the lines of Cousin Henry. In fact George's ruminations over whether he ought in fact to go ahead and answer Adelaide's open invitations do not signal a man afraid of fucking, just a man who is concerned lest he get into trouble with another man. And George is a stickler throughout for his obligations to other men: look how the Dean, his father-in-law, bullies him with ease.
Neither Mary nor George comes out of these scenes very ideally. He is the inadequate male begging for it, forced to be dishonest; she is the self-possessed guarded maiden as yet untouched, unable to love him. He also clings to the formalities that suit his patriarchical view of the world. He doesn't worry about betraying Mary, about what he might be doing to Adelaide; no, he can't resume his affair with Adelaide (one I would agree was never consummated before the marriage of either) because he would be betraying another male, taking the other's male property, being disloyal to his sex. I've know men who get indignant at the younger men who have seduced their daughters as an insult to them, not to the daughter.
I agree with Roger that the Marquis is fascinating. Taking him as a psychological portrait, another way to see him is he is utterly alienated from his world. A lot that he says is true. When he denies the others give a goddamn about him, he's right. When he treats the Dean openly as someone demanding rank and prestige from him, someone who is there to try to wrest the title for a grandson of his own, he's right. When he looks at George and asks why he wants to see him because he doubts George cares about the infant as a individual, he's right. I offer up the idea that on a deep maybe unconscious level the Marquis is in this novel Trollope -- Trollope is deeply alienated and apart from the world he is dramatising. Lord George is the kind of male Trollope often identifies with, and he does so a bit here, but it's the Marquis who tells hard truths. The Marquis occupies the position in this novel that Mr Harding occupies in _The Warden_ and Plantangenet Palliser comes to occupy in the Palliser series.
I'd be harder on Trollope than Sig: I see Lord George's comment as coming out of Trollope's racism. The language recalls Trollope's way of describing Ferdinand Lopez. Trollope can be attracted to brown-haired thin women, but 'swarthy' is a bad word. To say it's a sign of illegitimacy would require that we have a description of the new Marchioness. We don't. We don't know that she's blonde. We don't even know her name. The language use is not about George's doubt over legitimacy; it's about his distaste: no Marquis of Brotherton ought to be so very dark: 'very unlike such a Popenjoy as Lord George would have liked to have seen." So much for George's concern for the individual child. The thing that signals the possible illegitimacy is the child's size and age: he is big enough to walk.
The theme that unites all this is dishonesty. Everyone is dishonest about their motives, including Lady Sarah. Does she really want to prove the baby legitimate now so as to spare the Marquis later? Come on. I am struck by the underlying Freudianism of it all. Innately people are aggressive, utterly self-centered; their society is kept civilised because they are willing to lie, meaning live out false ceremonies, pretend to feel and want one thing from one another (love), when they want something very different (security and prestige). It's even Lacanian: there's a hollowness to all the sexual relationships: the father and daughter do feel for one another, but there he's controlling her body too. Everyone is to live out an idea of themselves that society imposes -- even the Marquis. Roger says there is a bit of a twist at the end in his character. We shall have to see.
But I am moralising too much, taking this all too seriously, solemnly. The vein of mockery should continually be taken into account -- as it slithers through what is happening. Trollope opened the book by telling a crude anecdote he says would sum up his story were he permitted to write fiction such as one finds in rough narratives of the type that were sold on railway stations. But his middle class novel reader wants it prettied up, psychologised, moralised. The question for this week was "Who will bell the cat?" Who will approach the Marquis? No one dares. George writes a letter -- wonderful devices letters. And then the Marquis jeers at him. The phrase "belling the cat" jeers at George and his sisters as much as it does the Marquis. Adelaide is jeered at; her husband is emasculated and weak; the heroine is a dense child who nonetheless knows how to get her way in just the way Mrs Proudie did. The Dean does have dignity in the way Lady Sarah and Mr Price do: maybe that comes from the sense we have that they don't get befuddled by the difference between what they want and how the world categorises them.
Cheers to all,
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] Is He Popenjoy?: George and Mary
If I didn't mean to imply that orgasm is necessary for a woman to get pregnant. I meant rather that an ancient belief that satisfactory sex which in various treatises is explicitly linked to impregnating a woman was still common in the 19th century. Michael Mason in his _Victorian Sexuality_ quotes a few of these as well as the letters of physicians at the time who were trying to help women who were said to have sexual problems -- I forget the euphemisms used just now, but these 'problems' were treated because the woman hadn't produced the requisite heir.
Public discourse of the Victorian period in England and the US especially meant for the bourgeois is notoriously prudish. Real behavior and folk beliefs are another thing. Beyond the 19th century, this folk belief goes back to time immemorial as they say. it's an old commonplace. You can find it in Renaissance treatises, there usually talked about in terms which warn the man against awakening his wife too strongly -- lest she become too sexy and therefore not controlled (i.e, unchaste). The belief is still with us in the common sense notion people sometimes express that sexual satisfaction means more children for couples. And the folk belief has some scientific evidence. In the most recent Masters and Johnson book, they show tests demonstrate that during orgasm the women's vagina and uterus expand slightly, become more receptive. When I was young, you could hear a doctor say, "Relax, and don't worry so much, and you'll get pregnant".
Trollope uses this folk belief in Can You Forgive Her?. When we first meet Lady Glen and Plantagenet, we are told he stays in his room with his blue books until 3 in the morning, then first going to bed. She is deeply anxious because she hasn't gotten pregnant, and there are scenes where it becomes clear not that they haven't had sex, but that it's not satisfactory. Then they leave London, go on their tour, and he begins to go to bed much earlier -- we are told. There is a description of Lady Glen smiling one morning. Soon we find she has become pregnant. Orgasm wasn't necessary, but it facilitated the pregnancy if only because we see they are doing it more often. I find myself sympathetic to Lord George in the scene where he tries to arouse Mary with his "little immediate acts of tenderness" and we are told just a little later, she found that she couldn't love him (coded language for he didn't satisfy her), and then in the scene where in order to get her to yield or to submit to him (choose your verb) he has to retract all the things he has said (she flirted &c) which she did in fact do.
The irony we are set up to see is that eventually Mary will be the de facto boss where it counts -- as was Mrs Proudie. Though in her case she will be quiet about it -- she is not given to the kind of outward humiliating bullying we see in Mrs Proudie. And given Lord George's attitude towards hierarchy and children, I'd add, especially if he manages to impregnate her. Her stubbornness, self-possessed high opinion of herself, denseness and ability not to admit what she is doing when it's unpleasant to do so gives her strength in the eternal submissive-domination pattern Trollope repeatedly dramatises as central to all human relationships. It's not that Lord George is too sensitive and smart, but that despite all his crude barked-out commands, he really isn't firm and aggressive enough, really isn't that driven to domineer. He's nervous and insecure, anxious sexually -- especially before de Barone -- because he doesn't satisfy his wife. So he barks out commands forbidding her to waltz. But in other areas of life he is quite content to let others lead him about. The Dean, Lady Sarah, even the lawyer can push him.
One of the more fascinating aspects of Trollope's characters is how he breaks many stereotypes about men as well as women. The kind of man people instinctively recognise as weak vis-a-vis dominating other people and getting his way is frequently his hero or a male we are led to sympathise with -- from Thady Macdermot through to Bishop Proudie. In other cases there is an almost Kafkaesque depiction of diffidence where Trollope's stand is hard to fix: the clearest example of this is Cousin Henry. Lord George belongs to this type: Louis Trevelyan is the most analogous character as in his case we again have a man who fears he hasn't satisified his wife (though they have a child), who is anxious about her strong sexuality and overcompensates by awkward attempts to domineer which of course fail because they are so awkward.
Trollope is often -- rightly -- admired for his complex psychological depictions of his characters. What makes _IHP_ different is the hard attitude of the narrator, his lack of emotional identification with anyone.
Cheers to all,
Re: Is He Popenjoy?, Chs 24-29: Mary & George or Sex & Power
November 15, 2000
Victorian husbands and wives always had two rooms and hence two beds. The large room was the bedroom in which the doublebed was set. That was referred to as her bed and sometimes (in the case of the Grantlys), her room. Next to it was a small 'dressing room'. This had a small bed in it; it was where the husband undressed. It is usually said that the reason for this arrangement was to keep the dressing of each person by his or her servant in a separate room. The male valet was not to see the wife undress; the maid was not to see the husband. However, the two rooms could be used to dramatise who was the boss -- in power. In Barchester Towers Archdeacon Grantly has the most curious way of hesitating before he leaves his dressing room and joins his wife. A sign of her power. In He Knew He Was Right, Emily Trevelyan shuts the door of the large bedroom on Louis.
The first scene shows the couple not talking. I see them lying there next to one another not talking -- in a very strained manner. They may or may not have had any sex together. It's not clear.
In Chapter XXXV, the opening line is "During the whole of that night Lord George lay suffering from his troubles, and his wife lay thinking about them. ... "George," she said to him at breakfast the next morning, "do not let us go on in this way together." (viz: not speaking to each other)
In the second he has left her large room and her bed and returned to his. It's better to do that than afterwards staying there having failed once again to enjoy themselves at all. Again they may or may not have had full sex; my view in the second one is this time he got beyond the hopeless foreplay we have seen, managed to get it up, in the language of romances, 'shot his bolt, and then got himself out of that room. As usual, he could get no response from Mary. He seems not to know how to. And she wouldn't help him if she did know how.
In Chapter XXXIX (after the Kappa-kappa incident) : He did not see her again that night, betaking himself at a very late hour to his own dressing room. ... He went into her room a few minutes before their usual breakfast hour, and found her, nearly dressed, with her maid.
It is pathetic -- I don't mean that word harshly. I feel sorry for George. Again if we were Freudian, we could hypothesize a childhood which instilled into him a sense of deep inadequacy -- as the second son. While the Marchioness is such an overtly clinging emotional type, note that she is strong enough to provide her older son with information against her daughters and younger son. And it is against: the Marquis wanted to eject them from the neighborhood. In this week's instalment he tells Lord George he will not forget how they disobeyed him. He will get back.
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000
Subject: [trollope-l] swarthy
I'm a little puzzled. It would seem it would be expected that the child > would be darker if the mother were Italian (I know there are blond blue > eyed Italians but imagine they are in a minority). But do we think that > Trollope sees this as in itself repulsive? Or is it so dark that that > throws the paternity into more question; is the child's parentage not > even half English? Or is the description of the child's features > suggestive of some kind of deformity that no one in the household (not > even the normally outspoken Marquis) will mention? There is no mention > of its walking or talking. I don't know that there is any definitive > answer to these questions but it all becomes curiouser and curiouser.
At first I thought that perhaps the child's parentage was under question with the insistence on his 'darkness' - until the dowager Marchioness points out that the Brotherton's 'family complexion' is generally dark. I don't personally feel the child is deformed, although so far he hasn't walked or talked (even in Italian) before an 'audience'. However, the marquis has remarked that he doesn't think that the child is physically strong and may not live to succeed to the title, so the possibility is there already.
A 'spooky moment' occurred today. I was taking my youngest daughter to Harrods today (there's 'posh'! Welsh colloquialism!) and I was reading IHP on the tube, and just as I read the words 'He walked homewards across St James's Park' (Chapter 22) I looked up and realised the train was just approaching St James Park station! So only about 125 years and the depth of the underground was separating me from Lord George!
One thing that seems to becoming evident now is that Trollope is also displaying a concern that was common to many Victorian novelists, namely the effect of bad/mistaken upbringing on children. Mary seems to be the product of a possibly over indulgent father and the lack of a mother figure too. She does not seem to be aware of how her conduct could be misinterpreted and also does not seem to be aware of the 'double standards' of a society which would allow indiscretions in a man without censure but not in a woman. Mary is also 'unworldly' and expects everyone to be as honest and direct in their dealings with one and other as she is. Once her eyes are open, she seems to be beginning to view society in a similar way to Thackerary in 'Vanity Fair', which I and I know some other list members are also reading on another egroup.