September 14, 1998
Re: Rachel Ray: Looking Ahead
I have just finished reading P. D. Edwards's introduction to Rachel Ray and the man made me enthusiastic.
Edwards writes that Rachel Ray is a George Eliot-like book in its realistic study of the domestic and social and voting politics of a real provincial town in England (Baslehurst is Kingsbridge). I have read it once before and remember it had beautiful and erotic descriptions of landscapes, places, and at times a wonderfully evocative Arcadian mood; Edwards says it is a fallen Arcadia.
I also remember strong satire directed at puritanism, religious hypocrisy, bigotry. I have read descriptions of it as an attack on the right-wing element of the Evangelical church at the time, and Edwards tells of how it was originally commissioned to run as a serial in Good Words, a periodical aimed at those who were or would be sympathetic to religious fundamentalists at the time. That's astonishing. When the editor, Dr Norman Macleod rejected it as precisely what would be anathema to his reader, Trollope asked him, What did he expect a man like Trollope would write? Apparently Dr Macleod was one of those who had not read the Barsetshire books very carefully or only seen in it what he wanted to see. There is an uncomfortable class element in Rachel Ray. According to Edwards, Trollope is disdainful towards Evangelicals as much for their low class origins and manners as he is for their repressive ways. I certainly think we will find a fine analysis of the all the paranoia and humiliations of class that we find in other of Trollope's novels, maybe more so. Imagine the intensities of small town competition.
The novel was written between 3 March and 29 June 1863. There exists a lovely frontispiece for it by Millais. It was published as a book by Chapman and Hall in 1863. It was written directly after The Small House and directly before Can You Forgive Her?. It is primarily a love story -- that is what holds the book together. I own a paperback Oxford Classics, edited by David Skilton which I recommend. There is also extant a Dover edition (1980), an Arno edition (1981), and a Trollope Society and Folio Society edition (1990). I always find it interesting to find out if a book has been translated and can say Rachel Ray was translated into French in 1869 by one L. Martel.
My copy has 30 chapters and is 402 pages long. This is relatively short for Trollope. That's an average of 13.4 pages a chapter; both 5 and 6 "go into" 30 neatly and it's a matter of deciding whether to read the book in 5 or 6 weeks. Between the two I'll opt for 6 to give people more flexibility. Let me give everyone 2 weeks to get the book and that means we can start the last week of September. The calendar would look like this:
I propose a two week break between books. As we have agreed, our next will be The Belton Estate, written not long afterwards (2 years, with Miss Mackenzie and The Claverings coming inbetween and Nina Balatka right afterward), of a similar length (32 chapters).
One more item of interest. If people would like to read a book by Margaret Oliphant I have one to propose, if they can find it. When I first read Rachel Ray (only once and a while back and I don't remember it very well), I posted a few pieces on it on Ms Thomson's list; I had some very nice replies. One was by Anne Long who wrote to say:
"I have recently read both Rachel Ray and Mrs. Oliphant's astonishing and wonderful Hester. I wish I had time to write a comparison of these two novels. Read together, they throw light on the talents of each author. I found interesting the dilemma's of Rachel and Hester who each have to cope with a lover who's neglectful behavior puts her into a difficult position."
Anne thought these books would be beautiful to read together. George Eliot's books of provincial life would fit here too. We might say Eliot read Trollope who read Oliphant who read Eliot who read ...
Cheers to all,
Re: Rachel Ray: The Editions
I have been going through those editions of Trollope's novels which were originally illustrated, and when I came to Rachel Ray I suddenly realised I had never listed the editions available. Not that anyone necessarily needs me to do this. But just in case, let me say, the most recent five editions are those of
1980 a Dover, an inexpensive facsimile of the 1863 book published by Chapman and Hall, ISBN 0-486-23930-6;
1981 an Arno Press edition, 2 volumes, introduced Andrew Wright (an expensive facsimile of the same text);
1988, an Oxford World Classic paperback edition which is a resetting of the same 1863 book, edited and introduced by P. D. Edwards; it has a lovely cover illustration, a reprint of A Beauty by Jean Jaquet; this is the one I'll be using; I expect it is the easiest one to find, if not the cheapest; ISBN 0-19-281809-0
1990, the Trollope Society edition, introduced by John Letts, and the Folio Society edition, illustrated by David Eccles.
There is an old (1952) Knopf's if you can find it; this one was introduced by B. R. Redman. As I said the book was translated into French in the 19th century which I find revealing.
The reason Rachel Ray crossed my mind was it was almost illustrated. It would probably have been illustrated had not the Rev Mr Macleod rejected the book for Good Words. The real motivation for illustrations came from periodical publication in magazines where it was thought the pictures help sell the magazine. One of the illustrations for the week would be placed in shop windows where the magazine could be purchased. It served as an advertisement. However, Millais had originally been contacted, had liked the story, and had when the book was first printed a frontispiece accompanied it which Millais redid as a watercolour painting. A reprint is in Hall's Trollope and His Illustrators; it is a lovely thing, an instance of what I'd call the psychological picturesque.