Rachel Ray, Chapters 11 - 15
Liking Luke Rowan; Luke Rowan & Imagined Happiness; Mr Tappitt: Complete Mediocrity; Tappitt's Vanity

From: Thilde Fox
Subject: TROL RRay Sender: owner-trollope-l@smtp.teleport.com

I find that one of the results of reading so much Trollope for the last couple of years is that things echo which perhaps should be kept separate?

Eg., Luke "had the gift of making himself at home with people" reminds me of P.Finn. And Mrs. Rowan's objections to Rachel reminds me of Lady Lufton. And the scene when both Mrs. Ray and Rachel have something very important to say to each other at the end of Ch.14 reminds me of Eleanor and Mr. Harding at the end of B.Towers. I suppose an author who writes so many novels is allowed to repeat himself.

I find Luke interestingly portrayed. We are told that he is impulsive but also light headed. But just in case we doubt him, we see him praying before he goes to bed, towards the end of Ch. 13. I think I remember that there is a discussion somewhere that he goes to Church. Obviously we are to see him as a dependable young man.

I also like the way Rachel is not afraid to say that she makes the dinner and looks after the house - and I don't remember other Trollope heroines doing real housework, ie not just arranging flowers. Does anyone know?


Subject: TROL Rachel Ray Sender: owner-trollope-l@smtp.teleport.com

Yes, Thilde, I too underlined that phrase in chapter 11, 'He had the gift of making himself at home with people.' Just a few pages earlier we are told that Luke found the Tappits a bit wanting in being his choice of friends, but that he had resolved to try to like them.

He is smooth but not oily. His friendship with Mrs Ray is genuine, and not made to curry favor with his lover's mother.

Luke is obviously set against old Tappit to contrast the old with the new. Luke wants to make good beer. He is proud of being a brewer, and wants to excell at his trade. Was it young Peregrine in OF who had some new-fangled ideas about agriculture? I forget to what extent Peregrine was able to follow through with his schemes, but it will be certain that young Luke Rowan will. Doesn't the name Rowan itself convey the meaning of a solid hard-wooded tree?

Now I will be waiting to find out how he reacts when he learns of the visit made to Mrs Ray by his mother and Mrs Tappit!


To Trollope-l

October 11, 1998

Re: Rachel Ray, Chs 11-15: Luke Rowan & Imagined Happiness

I agree with Bart and Thilde that Luke Rowan makes a positive impression on the reader in these five chapters. Indeed, if we look at the titles of the chapters, we find that two out of five include his name in the title, and in the matter of these two plus another (whose title features his opponent or partner, Mr Tappitt), Luke is a central, effective, and sympathetic player. In a fourth (the second of the series) we are invited to contemplate him through the prism of Rachel's mind and read a dramatisation of Rachel and her mother's defense of him against a clearly unfair Mrs Prime. In the fifth, we see his mother and Mrs Tappitt come to undo his work, and not succeed, partly because he has been so frank, clear, and decent in his behavior to Mrs Ray. It seems to me that since Luke is to leave the town and we are not going to see him again for a while, and instead only hear bad-mouthing and those who don't share his earnest valuing of hard work and someone's inner nature, Trollope is determined to make as strong and positive an impression of what Luke is before we lose sight of him for a while.

There is a real gallantry about Luke, a strength of character in both Rachel and her mother. I like the plainness of the speech of all three. I know some people say they don't care for Trollope's love scenes and others say he is exquisitely apt at these. Place me in the latter camp: the interchange between Luke and Rachel were not sentimentalised or overdone and yet justice was done to real feeling, without being overly coy (there is a coy note struck here and there, but then maybe Rachel would have been a bit coy). It's interesting how relieved Luke is to get it over with and then share with Rachel his plans for supporting her. He has a quiet bravery or nerve -- his proposal to Mr Tappitt is audacious. I agree that whereas last time Trollope used newfangledness and innovation to criticise Lucius Mason in this novel he uses it to show Luke a good man who wants to improve lives, be proud of himself, and make a profit all at the same time. He is also nervy to Mrs Prime; his tipping his hat to her is done quietly, but in the next chapter the narrator tells us he knew he was an unwelcome sight to her.

These chapters include a number of delicately done and effective scenes, each of which contributes to a theme or character portrayal and also strengthens our sense of the cultural milieu to which everyone belongs. I read the introduction to the Trollope Society edition today, and thought I'd quote two snippets from John Letts's opening paragraphs:

"Rachel Ray is a deceptively simple novel. It is simple in that, like all Trollpope's two-volume novels, the plot is unencumbered with the digressions that so often make the three-volume Victoiran novel seem so unwieldly . . . It is what one might call a serious social comedy. The dissection of society depicted -- the small Devon town of Baslehurst -- is almost clinical. Yet the tone of voice in which this expert performance is conducted is always affectionate . . ."

Mr Letts also refers the reader to Jane Austen's books where we get a dissection of a society which become a microcosm of society as a whole.

I suggest that in Rachel Ray Trollope is, though, conscious of not giving us a universal picture. The book reminds me of The Golden Lion of Granpère which is consciously about a specific place and time, French quasi-bourgeois, quasi-peasant Catholic society in Alsace-Lorraine; this is consciously about some Evangelical types in a town dominated by a specific old-fashioned Tory squirearchy which is changing slowly as the new commercial types take over (next week we'll have some electioneering and references to the Jewish Mr Hart, the clothier apparently from London running on the Liberal line. (Jews could run for Parliament from 1858.) Hart is supported by Tappitt. Mr Letts quotes Gilbert Phelps who calls Rachel Ray the picture of a closed society. In this connection I recommend a long chapter by P. D. Edwards in his excellent survey and analysis of all Trollope's novels (his "art and scope") which goes over it in the context of the other two-volume novels of this period.

I often like these shorter books. I don't think Trollope wrote the vast books naturally. He strained for them. He says he had trouble with the intricate plots they required. His first book was a two-volumer (The Macdermots); he enjoyed writing novellas ("that pleasant task"), and I invite people to watch how lucidly yet suggestively the novel's story unravels before us.

One note touched me. It shows Trollope's concision, how much he can say or suggest in a line. He says of the night after Luke's second visit

"That evening was probably the happiest of Rachel's existence, although its full proportions of joy were marred by an unforeseen occurrence" (Oxford Rachel Ray, ed PDEdwards, Ch 14, pp 190-91).

The marring is in the ominous brief note from Luke saying he has gone away. So even this the happiest night of the girl's existence is not quite perfect. A world of truth told about the difference between imagining life and really living it, between imagined love and and a real experience of its mixed qualities. The final line hits the same poignant truth. Luke promises to write from London, and the narrator comments:

"But Rachel was almost as happy without him, talking about him, as she would have been in his presence, listening to him" (p. 190).

Ellen Moody

Re: Rachel Ray: Mr Tappitt: Complete Mediocrity

Mr. Tappitt has very little to be proud of. The long hours that he's reported to have have put in at the brewery - all we see is his moping in the counting house - yield only bad beer. Worse, he has lulled himself into imagining that he owns the place outright. The irritation of a vanity based on bad faith, and not, I think, what John Mize calls Luke's 'bumptious' behavior, is what drives Tappitt crazy. Tappitt is the compleat mediocrity, and like mediocrities everywhere he has a vested interest in obstructing excellence.

RJ Keefe

Subject: TROL Rachel Ray: Tappitt's Vanity
Sender: owner-trollope-l@smtp.teleport.com

RJ Keefe wrote:

"Mr. Tappitt has very little to be proud of. The long hours that he's reported to have have put in at the brewery - all we see is his moping in the counting house - yield only bad beer. Worse, he has lulled himself into imagining that he owns the place outright. The irritation of a vanity based on bad faith, and not, I think, what John Mize calls Luke's 'bumptious' behavior, is what drives Tappitt crazy. Tappitt is the compleat mediocrity, and like mediocrities everywhere he has a vested interest in obstructing excellence."

I agree. When I was in the US Navy, it was those officers who were most incompetent who made the most fuss about their rank and demanded that others respect their position, because they had very little else going for them. If Tappit were brewing good beer, he would have the self-confidence to either agree with Luke or argue with him on the merits. I would add that Luke is not at all sensitive to Tappit's situation and naively expects him to go along with Luke's improvements. That seems to me to be a type of callow, self-aborbed arrogance not at all uncommon to the young, and that sort of attitude is especially annoying to the those old people who know that they really are just in the way. When Judge Carswell, one of Richard Nixon's Supreme Court nominees, was attacked as a mediocre jurist, Senator Hruska defended Carswell on the grounds that there were a lot of mediocre people in the US and they needed representation on the Court too. Hruska was an all too effective tribune for the mediocre.

John Mize

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