Beautifully Woven; A Macdermots in the Making?; The Continual Little Asides; Trollope and Class; The Politics; Dorothea Prime & Religious Fundamentalism; Blessed are the Pure; Bawdy: Prong and Prime; Mrs Prime and Mr Prong.

To Trollope-l

October 27, 1998

Re: Rachel Ray, Chs 21-25: Beautifully Woven

We have three stories in this small novel. There's the love of Rachel and Luke and how it is almost thwarted. This is linked up to the religious puritanism of Trollope's era, an element which when taken to extremes he manifestly doesn't like. I offer the qualification taken to extremes because it is evident he thinks Rachel quite right to sit and wait for Luke to return and not to set out by herself to London in an aggressive move to fulfill her sexual and emotional longings. I find this story poignant and the central one to the novel. The chapters called "Mrs Ray Goes to Exeter" and "Mrs Ray's Penitence" are moving because Rachel's anguish and her mother's inability to help her are so understated but real. Trollope fills his words with feeling; the scenes between mother and daughter are touching.

Mrs Ray herself is a charmer. She as much as Rachel is the heroine of the story. Her brave trip to Exeter makes this reader smile. I am always afraid of getting lost. Since she does "stand for" an older world, she enables Trollope to give us a sense of how the world first appeared to those who got on the train for the first time, how time speeded up, and how they got used to it far quicker than they ever supposed they would. I think also Mrs Ray's sense of helplessness before the ability of the lawyer, the tenants and the man who buys her property (Luke himself, cleverly brought in to link the plot in another way) is just the way people really feel very often when they are caught up in "forces" bigger than themselves.

Then there's the replacement of Tappitt's tradesman way of life and doing business. He and his wife, Mrs Tappitt come out of the "lower orders" and are tradespeople in every sense. They sit uneasily near by but do not feel equal to those who own land and collect rents. Luke replaces him: his education and comfortableness with himself enables him to try to brew good beer; he is not afraid to trust to his customers. He is also comfortable with those who do live by manufacturing and commerce. A small aspect of this is what Trollope denominates "domestic politics": the relationship between Mr and Mrs Tappitt; there are also the domestic politics of the Ray household (with Mrs Prime contending for domination and control); we glimpse domestic politics in the Cornbury group through the strong presence of Mrs Cornbury (nee Patty Comfort -- another person comfortable with herself).

Here again there's poignance and comedy. I at least feel for poor Mr T. Trollope means me too. Who wants to retire? What does Torquay hold for him? Mrs T only wants to retire lest staying make them lose all. Her ability to pressure him on just those spots he is vulnerable in is beautifully done. I am not as comfortable with the portrait of Worts whose relationship to Mr T reminds me of Mr Harding's relationship to Bunce in Trollope first novella (The Warden); Trollope condescends to Worts in a way he does not to Mrs Tappitt and yet makes him a spokesman for a point of view which supports the wealthy and the law and the establishment. I also don't quite believe in this "master" and "man" relationship: when I was reading other Irish novels at the time I went through Trollope's and literature on these it became apparent to me Trollope sentimentalises this kind of thing very much. Perhaps a result of Trollope himself never dealing directly with tenants or one's workmen? Probably.

That said, the chapter "Domestic Politics at the Brewery" is well done -- another married pair caught off persuasively -- in the pastoral or idyllic mode. The Tappitts are resigned to life as it is and rub along a little too sweetly. Let us recall Trollope's portrait of Mr and Mrs Furnival. We are not invited here to wonder what it is Tappitt does at the Dragon. Tappitt gets up to no sexual mischief. Real people are harder than the Tappitts to one another -- as they are harder than Mrs Ray. But if you are going to pull the sting out of life to make a pastoral you must shade away from the hard core of people's egoism and indifference to one another.

The third story is that of the election. The first story takes us to the class of people below the gentry and comfortable tradespeople -- let us not forget the Rays live in a cottage, have a very small income, do their own housework and are friendly with the Sturts (whose name is euphonic, appropriately enough, with Worts as they play a similar role with the difference they counsel rebellion against the absolute puritanism of Mrs Prime and the wary suspicion of the moneyed Mr Comfort and Mrs Rowan). The second story takes us into the world of commerce and manufacturing. The third brings us into the county families, the squires, squirearchies, those who control the seats in Parliament or can, and those whose views dominate the newspapers.

This plot is much less filled out. It does take up two of this week's five chapters: the election itself and the story of what appears in the gazette. The latter shows how well Trollope weaves, for that is centered on just that element of Luke's speech which refers to Rachel so brings us back to the love story again. It seems to me the second and third set of five chapters intertwined Rachel's & Tappitts' stories with the election: Rachel can be the belle of the ball because she is protected by the aegis of Mrs Cornbury (Patty Comfort that was); Dr Harford persuades Mr Comfort that Rachel should break off the love match because Harford is thinking of himself; Tappitt supports Hart out of pique and identification; Tappitt loses his hard-ball negotiation with Luke because words not pokers are today's weapons. Now the election brings Luke back; Trollope is truthful enough to show us that Hart nearly wins; the story in the paper functions much like Wentworth's letter to Anne Elliot in Austen's Persuasion (I suppose I show my Austen background when I say some of Rachel's moments of longing reminded me of Anne Elliot's, the sense of something irretrievable of the earlier novel, Luke's anger and resentment of Wentworth's).

I hope someone else comments on any of the above. I am enjoying this book. I must have been in the mood for it. It does show me a novelist of great power at play. I am not sure this is in its quiet way one of Trollope's best: it is the equivalent of The Warden in a different kind of area.

Ellen Moody

Re: Rachel Ray: A Macdermots in the Making?

This is written in response to both Duffy and Jill.

I like Duffy's response and he gives me more food than I can cope with. I agree that when we think about what these people say and are and do, we have people who are capable of great harm. As with most human beings, one ought not to say there is no evil they are not capable of, especially when its results occur at a slight distance, and I mean slight. The mood of The Macdermots and say Phineas Redux (which I am also listening to right now) is very different. The essentials we are presented with are the same and I am not one of those who sees Trollope as complacent or optimistic about people at all. A little famine, a little more religious division it would not take much to set these people at one another's throats in effect and through the box office. When Tappitt takes up his poker, he means it.

On the other hand, a writer has his privilege to choice of genre.

It may be reading against the grain to see in this book a dark comedy. It is a deceptively simple book: 4 not three plots says Duffy, and I'll bet we could find yet more. For those who can see more deeply this has the potentials of Macdermots and Redux. But it is also soft, sweet, and kind. Trollope is forgiving. Perhaps herein was the way he thought to place the Rev Dr Macleod and his periodical readers. Macleod's Good Words was an important periodical; it reached more people than the Cornhill. Later Trollope did publish in it. In this book he elects to show us what happens when luck is with the individuals within the community. Mrs Ray does love her daughter and feels for her, which is more than one can say for many a Trollope mother or father.

On the issue of people who believe fervently that they are right I agree with Trollope. The notion that people can always agree to differ is not so. I am always amused by colleagues who cannot accept their students not liking their liberal assumption we should all on principle be tolerant. In fact the world is filled with people who dislike tolerance. Our founding fathers were unusual types. Many people think tolerance a bad thing; they may on occasion pay lip service to it; they may be kind to their own. But when people really think they are right, those who disagree must logically be wrong. For myself when I agree to differ I am keeping the peace sometimes; sometimes I can see both sides; but ofttimes the truth is something is far more important to me than this matter and there are many matters people think are supposed to count which I don't give a damn about or have given up on long ago. Mrs Ray believed in her religion; Mrs Comfort doesn't know the meaning of giving up. She has been lucky and is powerful because of who she married.

Watch out for sweet ladies on the bus. There was a funny cartoon which mocked the Clint Eastwood films: we see a lady on the subway knitting away. Her knitting needles and yarn come out of a vast shopping bag. All peacefulness she. Comes along a man and threatens her. She pulls out her handgun and says, "Go ahead, make my day."

And yes myself I think the real reason we didn't have a holocaust before the 20th century is the science for it and the reach of people who run governments didn't go deeply and far enough. Nowadays they have taxes and vast armies with terrific military power. If Trollope didn't make these people "deadly" he'd be lying. He does lie about individuals on occasion; he panders and is sentimental. But not I think in this book.

To Jill: I can see your point. Again like Duffy you go beneath the mood of the book. I did see somewhere inherent in the scene the seeds of the Furnivals. On the other hand I felt sorry for Mr Tappitt. The trouble is that neither partner is charitable. When Mr T can keep the amounts to himself, he dominates over his wife; when she can be the active person of the family, she will dominate. Now this reminds me of what really happens sometimes over integration in schools. We are told that when black and white people are integrated, all will be well; the implication is those who were powerless will not try to get back or be angry or dominate over those who used to dominate them. We discover otherwise. How few altruistic and forgiving and yielding people there are in the world -- yet many weak and powerless.

Wait a minute. This is not a grim book. Even I who suck melancholy as easily down as Shakespeare's Jacques think this is not a grim book.

I love the arm in the sky, the two young people each sitting on the bench and the deep eroticism of the scenes and the love relationship. Again we have an animal level here which some will find anything but ultimately optimistic. Still I think Rachel will hold her own and hope I am giving nothing away if I say in the next chapter we learn Luke Rowan invited Mrs Ray to come and live with them.

All's Well That Ends Well is an ambiguous play too. Johnson said he could not reconcile his heart to the hero. What did others think of Luke? One piece I read suggested Trollope originally meant to give him an Irish background.

Ellen Moody

From: Ellen Moody
Subject: TROL Rachel Ray: The Continual Little Asides

November 1, 1998

Just back from my trip and responding very quickly to many messages:

Judith, I too am made very uncomfortable by some of Trollope's attitudes towards class. Not always because sometimes he comes out directly for political and various forms of social equality. Of the latter I would say there are (sadly) many people today who share many of his prejudices and snobbery; they are just cleverer at expressing it or express it in different ways. Someone today will sneer at someone's accent or correct their grammar or point out to you the awful TV so-and-so watch or imbecilic books they read, especially when the latter are associated with working class tastes. But Trollope seems truly to hold to the idea that while virtue is the true nobility, nobility of blood and background somehow count and add to an individual's genuine merit, intrinsic good nature, or solid education. I just listened to David Case's reading aloud of the trial of Phineas Finn in _Phineas Redux_. I was very turned off by the solemnity with which everyone treated Violet Effingham, Lady Chiltern. Apparently she's some numinous prize package because she's rich, married to a nobleman and chaste. Had she been working class everyone would not have kowtowed to her and bent so sweetly before her.

What is one to do? So many writers today hold attitudes I find offensive. I also get a sense of some of them as people through their mask which makes me turn away. At least in Trollope's case we can say he meant to be enlightened, he aimed at increasing the sympathetic imagination and humanity and charity and kindness. He meant to argue against the worship of money and class and prestige and glamor. He is limited by his background, personal identifications, complex attitude towards sexual experience in women, and period. Dr Johnson said it is always necessary to judge a writer by his or her aims as well as achievement.


Rachel Ray: Trollope and Class

I have a little more sympathy for Mrs. Prime, since I definitely think Mr. Prong is a man to avoid. There is a lot to fear in life, and there's a fine line between cowardice and a necessary prudence. I'm sure it is reading against the grain, but I wonder whether Rachel should not have avoided Luke. I suspect that someone like him would not age well, especially if he doesn't become the successful man he expects to be.

John Mize

Rachel Ray: The Politics

Yeats once said that it is degrading to live in a country where one has to pay any attention to popular opinion. I agree that there is something degrading in the fact that an intelligent woman such as Mrs. Cornbury has to ingratiate herself with fools like the Tippits in order to secure Mr. Tippit's vote. She gives up on his vote when she realizes that she would have to betray her friend to get that vote. Many politicians are less fastidious.

I am a democrat with a small d, because I agree with Madison that any one faction is less likely to do any great harm if all the big and little factions have their place at the table, but I certainly have never confused the voice of the people with the voice of God or truth or whatever. Every time I watch television and hear some partisan try to prove mathematically that the American people are on his side, I wait for his opponent to say that he doesn't give a damn what the American people might think; he is concerned with what's right. So far only Randall Terry, the head of Operation Rescue, has obliged me. Terry and I may disagree on what is the right thing, but at least he's not afraid to be alone.

John Miz

Rachel Ray: Dorothea Prime & Religious Fundamentalism Hi, Ellen: Your points are excellent that Mr. Slope is not the religious fanatic that Mrs. Bolton is. Dorothea Prime in Rachel Ray is. Trollope saw very clearly that fundamentalists were so single-minded that they blocked out any cogitation which contradicted their narrow theories and consequently were very dangerous to other people. This, of course, is a lesson that is, as you point out, very worth consideration in today's world.

from Sigmund Eisner

Rachel Ray: Dorothea Prime & Religious Fundamentalism

I thought that Mrs. Prime's more basic reason for ending the engagement was because her prospective husband wanted control of the purse strings. The issue of just who would be the master, both in money and pretty all else, was what caused the final split.

Jill Spriggs

I agree with Jill. The issue is emphatically Mrs Prime's desire to control her money. She wants to be the master. Any small quarrels are rationales for the basic conflict.

This is a central theme in Trollope. Again and again he shows men who are even glad their wives to bring money into the marriage in the first place so they can fully dominate them.


From: John Mize
Subject: TROL: RR: Blessed are the Pure

At 05:40 PM 10/31/1998 -0600, Duffy wrote:

"The amazing thing is that she can keep up appearances by breaking off the engagement for an ostensibly moral reason -- Prong's willingness to vote for a Jew. This is how she claims the moral high ground and avoids the appearance of squabbling over control of her purse???"

Right. I think that's another one of Trollope jabs at the Evangelicals. Wanting to control ones own money is immoral, but refusing to have anything to do with a Jew is a sacred duty. Somehow that reminds me of Johnson's joke that a friend's mother was the receiver of stolen goods on the pretext of running a bawdy house.

John Mize

Rachel Ray: Bawdy: Prong and Prime

A belated response to Jill's allusion to the pun in Prong and Prime:

Trollope's Miss Mackenzie has three suitors who are called: Rub, Ball, and Handcock. Then there's Mr Glascock of He Knew He Was Right, later Lord Peterborough. HKHWR will pass muster as sufficiently probable, but Prong? Let us recall General Chassee and his 'relics'.

There is a good deal of bawdy in Trollope, and I have to wonder with RJKeefe, what could Trollope have been thinking of? The only argument I can think of which could possibly have made him think he could get away with this is the Uriah-Heep like unctuousness and apparent eagerness and gratitude with which Macleod originally approached him. Here are the opener and some choice bits:

"My dear Sir,

As the Edtior of a humble sixpenny monthy -- 'Good Words' -- I approach you with the respect & reverence becoming a beggar seeking crumbs from a rich mans table. But as the Chaplain of the Gaiters, I knock at your door with the boldness of one having authority. Be so good my son as to hear your Revd. Father! . . .

Please read on & don't pitch this into the fire. . . .

You never heard of Good Words? . . .

You fancy we wont pay up to the mark? Well, name your price . . . (Letters, ed. Hall, I:177-78)

The tone is enough to make me ill; I would see this as total posture, and I suspect Trollope did too. Perhaps it caused some of the irritation with fundamentalism that lies behind Rachel Ray, and perhaps Trollope was also fooled by this suppliance into believing the man would take any story from him. I think both of them underestimated one another. Such flattery is an insult and to talk like this makes the listener think you have no integrity you are going to stick to. Whatever else motivated Macleod though, he would not offend his subscribers.

Ellen Moody

Re: Rachel Ray: Mrs Prime and Mr Prong

I have a little more sympathy for Mrs. Prime, since I definitely think Mr. Prong is a man to avoid. There is a lot to fear in life, and there's a fine line between cowardice and a necessary prudence. I'm sure it is reading against the grain, but I wonder whether Rachel should not have avoided Luke. I suspect that someone like him would not age well, especially if he doesn't become the successful man he expects to be.

John Mize

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