Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001
Subject: [Trollope-l] Castle Richmond, Riding, the week's events
I'm just back home in Hong Kong after 4 days in Mainland China, so haven't had the chance to post before. I am so glad that none of the US list members has been directly involved in Tuesday's attacks and add my sympathies for all the victims, their loved ones and friends.
While in China, I finished Castle Richmond again. Reading along with the list does give a new perspective. This time I paid more attention to the "sermonising" about the famine. I would like to ask whether we react to the sermonising because it appears to be Trollope's own opinion and he is a man whom we all admire. How would we react if these opinions had been put into the mouth of another character, perhaps someone who was presented in every other way as reasonable and tolerant? I suggest that we would say that Trollope was satirising the views, expressing them in extreme language in order to undermine them - the way he presents staunch anti-Catholicism. I also wonder what right we have to assume that the omnisicient narrator of the tale is Trollope himself, as opposed to an unnamed fictional character. If Trollope can put opinions into the mouth of Mrs Townsend and Aunt Letty that he does not himself share, why can't he put them into the mouth of the narrator?
I ask this as a general point, indpendent of any evidence that may exist as to the real Trollope's views. I came across a reference on the net (http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/t/Trollope,Anthony/l ife.htm) to "Trollope, The Irish Famine: Six Letters to the Editor of the Examiner, ed. L. O’Tingay, London 1989" and I presume that these letters would contain conclusive evidence of his actual views. Does anyone have a copy of this to enlighten us?
I also see from the website of the Mallow Archaeological and Historical Society that the 1993 edition of the Mallow Field Club journal contains a paper entitled "Letters of an Irish Postman Some correspondence of Anthony Trollope by A. Coughlin & F.D. O'Reilly". I'll try and get hold of a copy of this when I am in North Cork in around 10 days time.
A hectic business schedule does not give much time for reading - I do most of my reading when I am in Ireland. However I have started Willy Russell's first novel, The Wrong Boy" which I bought at an airport in July a few days after hearing an interview with the author on the radio and based on my having thoroughly enjoyed two of his plays, Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine.
As for leisure pursuits, I ride twice a week - mostly mad former racehorses in Hong Kong. When I am in Ireland, I ride sturdier horses and have set myself the target of learning to jump cross-country fences. The owner of some of the places I have ridden at hunt with the Duhallow and one day I would like to be competent enough to ride with them.
Re: Castle Richmond, the Narrator
Jeremy brings up an interesting custom or reality. Reading is something that has its own traditions and readers adhere to these: by tradition the narrator of a book is not unreliable; we usually rely on our knowledge of who is the author and some stronger sarcastic language or disjunctions in the plot (between what the narrator tells us to believe and what is clearly so) to be sure the narrator is not to be believed.
In the 20th century this tradition has not changed so very much as people sometimes think. What has changed is our ethics: we are far more flexible and open-minded. This is part of why the unreliable narrator is used more often; yet I would argue that it is against the background of a reliable narrator whom readers identify with the author (as one of his or her faces or as one of the aspects of his or her personality appropriate to the mood of the book). We never really read a book in isolation as the 1930 new critics used to try to pretend we ought to. We can't.
Probably were Mr Trollope to have had a very different history, a different ethnic group and not written his Six Letters, we might possibly read Castle Richmond differently. In fact this tendency of people to read a book against the common view of an author is one of the things that distorts books, for often the common view is subtly wrong or not sufficiently well-informed. Trollope used to be regarded as anti-Irish or simply uninterested in Irish questions by the generality of readers. This misperception was reinforced by Sadleir's attitudes in his book. Now we know better.
Anyone else have any thoughts? Irony is not an easy mode to understand. It's easy to say well he means something other than what he says explicitly or literally. Then each reader has to try to grasp what is not said, what is inferred, and intuition is a product of the reader's character.
I haven't made up my mind which Irish partner book to read during November. We have so many choices. I am tempted to want to read a woman (Bowen's Last September) or a 20th century biography (Sean O'Faolain on O'Connell), but am not sure it wouldn't be more interesting to read a book on 19th century Irish literature or one of those Maria Edgeworth's I'm always meaning to read (the problem with her books is they are so hopelessl prudentially didactic: I grow irritated/bored about 3/4s of the way through and never finish them).
Cheers to all,
September 17, 2001
Re: Castle Richmond, Chs 16-20: The Plot "Hooks" In
In this week's chapters the story of Sir Thomas, Lady Fitzgerald, Mollett and how it affects young Herbert "hooks" in. It reminds me of when in Shakespeare's Othello, Othello promises Iago he will murder Desdemona. We know he is deluded; we know the whole truth about Cassio, but no one but we are in this position. And now what comes feels inevitable. So Sir Thomas's "old family friend" whom I have called the novel's "helper" character confronts Mollett. Did people notice how when Mollett sees it is not Sir Thomas but Mr Prendergast whom, much to his previous discomfort, Mollett has meet before our narrator prods us that "doubtless" we need not be told the secret. We know it. For my part I always find dramatic irony so much more satisfying than mystery: Trollope explicitly argues for it in his An Autobiography because, says he, it makes the reader focus on what goes on inside a character, how a character reacts to what he can know and we watch from what we know.
This week's chapters did not show us how Herbert will react. He is still in the dark. That makes for tension, interest, reading on.
The depiction of Mrs Jones interested me. She works very hard at not telling the truth. She cannot understand why telling the truth is the best recourse. Prendergast knows it's the only way to stop a blackmailer, but she thinks everyone knowing what has happened is worse than being blackmailed. Her inability to get beyond this narrowness is significant: Trollope throughout his working career brings us back to the realities of individual psychology (how inflexible they can be) in the context of social situations.
The depiction of Mr Prendergast was among the most penetrating of portraits we've had. He is a type. Trollope shows the man neutrally: while Prendergast will "solve" the problems Sir Thomas has, he does not solve them in soft easy ways. Trollope admires Prendergast but says no one ever really "genially human" who has such thin lips. The man's rigidity is one reason he cannot reach Mrs Jones. Prendergast is conceived as a presence the opposite of Father Barney.
The story of the Castle Richmond characters is interrupted by Herbert's meeting up with the starving woman and offering her help although the law says she should go to the (rightly dreaded -- they deprived the people in it of important forms of self-respect and adulthood). I found Trollope's depiction of the men forced to perform genuinely useless make-work in order to get money to be also effective propaganda against the government's intransigence lest the private property system be softened even by the smallest. As several people have remarked, Trollope dramatic imagination transcends his conscious lack of real identification with the starving Irish. I also find Trollope's even-handedness both consciously and through his imagination towards Catholics and Protestants alike another perspective that makes this book attractive to me.
Finally at the opening of this week's instalment we have a beautifully evocative scene of romance at Desmond Castle. Owen got some true hits in: Lady Desmond is prepared to sell her child to the highest bidder. Again Trollope's perception of the inflexibility of people is central: Owen simply cannot see Lady Desmond as other than an older woman; he wants the young girl, she agreed, and he won't let go. There's a strong sexual charge in the atmosphere, descriptions, dialogue, and exchange of notes. One can see the origins of the novel in erotic Greek romance again and again. Whatever people may write, this is where the modern novel first emerged -- ancient Greek prose narratives.
A curious switch is in the making between Owen and Herbert. Owen is, we are told, the real heir. The Countess objects to Owen on the grounds he has no money; she accepted Herbert for her daughter on the grounds he was to be heir to Castle Richmond.
I am glad it is a grave romance -- it seems fitting and appropriate to have this sort of semi-tragic, poignant, and socially real text before us.
Any comments on the novel thus far?
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: Mrs Jones
I too was rather interested in the character of the very faithful Mrs. Jones. I have seen this in other books, where some members of the staff are more concerned at times with what everyone will think than the family members themselves.
I'm really looking forward to the remainder of the book: Herbert's reaction for one, but even more so, the Countess's reaction should it come to pass that Owen is proclaimed the heir instead of Herbert.
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: Mrs Jones
I was thinking today about Mrs. Jones and how she had rather the money be paid to the blackmailer than for the truth to become public knowledge. I think part of this may be that she has no conception of the large sums of money. She may think in her mind that her employers' wealth is, for all practical purposes, unlimited. Without being able to realize that blackmailing goes on and on, thinking it would end with a "settlement" I can see her point of view. Take the path of least resistance. Save the family name by paying the money. She probably believes that there would be plenty of money left.
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: The Week of September 11th
Ellen asks for comments on Castle Richmond. It's the only book I have been able to read during this past week. I don't know why, but every free minute I take it up and seek to lose myself in the intricacies of its somewhat convoluted plot. The problems of the Fitzgeralds and Desmonds take me away from my view across the Hudson River and the phone calls summoning me to funeral services for the many people I knew at Cantor Fitzgerald.
I am in group reads of Within A Budding Grove, Ulysses (which I was so into), Kristin Lavransdatter, two Dickens novels and War and Peace which I was so eager to begin with Victorian Literature. For now, I can only read Castle Richmond, and I am thankful for that.
Best regards. Doris White
Dear Doris and all,
I too find myself able to read Castle Richmond during this time. A few of those Doris cited are difficult and convoluted; perhaps another difference between Castle Richmond and the other books is the heavy romance atmosphere, the lyrical rhythmic sentences, the evocative landscape. Trollope means this story very seriously, so you need not feel guilty, yet he also offers the escape of another era. I am getting so aware of how shaped Victorian realistic novels are; how they are made to fit a peculiar mold. This one too: when I pick it up, it seems to announce to me (rather like the pudding Alice was asked to carve), "I'm a novel". My response is to feel ambivalent yet charmed by its stubbornness in being what it is, almost unconsciously, for I doubt Trollope was that aware of the providential romance patterning he has set on foot or the analogies between his type characters and prose style and those we find in earlier romances.
Cheers to all,
September 23, 2001
Re: Annie Keary, Margaret Brew, & the key house of Castle Richmond
I've been very slowly making my way through a book I mentioned before, Writing the Irish Famine by Christopher Morash, which uses some deconstructionist ideas and is difficult to understand in places (for me anyway), but fascinating all the same. Morash includes quite a bit of information and discussion on Castle Richmond, and I thought I'd pass some of this on.
He suggests that Trollope is in part influenced by/ responding to Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent - one of the partner books some of us are intending to read. And he compares Castle Richmond with a couple of lesser-known novels, also with 'Castle' in their titles, published some years later.
"...three novels in particular inscribe the Famine in narratives of social improvement: Anthony Trollope's Castle Richmond of 1860; Annie Keary's Castle Daly: The Story of an Irish Home Thirty Years Ago of 1875; and Margaret Brew's The Chronicles of Castle Cloyne: Or, Pictures of the Munster People published in 1885. These novels share more than the similarity of their titles with Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent of 1800; they also share in the construction of a narrative of the transition from an aristocratic to a bourgeois society which Edgeworth intimates but leaves enigmatically unresolved".
He goes on to explain this further and says that in 1800 Edgeworth was worried that the land-owning aristocracy to which she belonged must either reform or perish, a fear which was later given still more urgency by the famine.
Has anybody ever come across either Keary or Brew? From Morash's discussion,their novels sound interesting. Keary's book is about an English brother and sister who emigrate to Ireland to manage their aristocratic cousin's property, Castle Daly, but I'm even more interested in the sound of Castle Cloyne, which has two central characters, Oonagh MacDermott, a peasant woman growing to adulthood during the famine, and Hyacinth Dillon, the heir to the estate where she lives."
There is a longish paragraph on this Anna Maria or Annie Keary (1825-79) in John Sutherland's Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. According to Sutherland, she was herself not the product of Anglo-Irish or Irish culture. While her father was an Irish clergyman and former soldier, she was born and grew up in Yorkshire or Bath. It's not certain. She portrays a small town in a late novel, Oldbury (1869) and it is thought the portrayal is of the place she grew up in. Sutherland pictures her taking care of a brother's motherless children until he remarried and moved away, and then having a nervous breakdown when an engagement she formed broke up. He writes: "In 1858 she travelled to Egypt wher she experienced a relgious crisis. Much of her later fiction was writtein in a condition of semi-invalidism in the south of France. She wrote a series of domestic pious novels in the 1860s. She also wrote a popular children's book, Mia and Charles (1856) and a tale of school life which became popular, Sidney Grey (1857). Sutherland's words somewhat support Morash when he writes that Keary's "best work was Castle Daly (1875), subtitled, 'The Story of an Irish Home Thirty Years Ago' and set during the Irish famine." Sutherland says it is "sympathetic to home rule, and recreates an Ireland for which, reportedly, she had no real affection and no first-hand knowledge. Nonetheless, the work went had gone through 12 editions by 1900." He then describes another later novel, tells us her publisher was Macmillan and that her sister, Eliza Keary wrote a memoir of Annie.
Someone whose judgement I trust once told me offlist from Victoria that Sutherland does not always check his sources endlessly -- that's how he manages to publish so much. It may be that Annie Keary did have the experience of an Irish childhood through her parents and the stories they told her.
Margaret Brew turns up in Robert Welch's Oxford Companion to Irish Literature but gets only a brief paragraph. The dates of her birth and death are uncertain, and nothing is know about her beyond her having been born in Country Clare. It is thought she was the daughter of a landowner, but all that is sure is she contributed poetry and stories to The Irish Monthly and published two novels, The Burtons of Dunroe (1880) and Chronicles of Castle Cloyne (1886), "both of them seeking social accommodation between the religions and classes" of Ireland. We are told in the brief entry under Brew's name that she "warmly defends the Catholic convictions of her middle-class characters, but depicts the Irish peasant as areligious" There is no entry for Chronicles of Castle Cloyne but there is one for The Burtons of Dunroe where we are told it is a novel "set before the Catholic Emancipation" (1829?). It is a story of thwarted tragic love between Rose, a Catholic Irish peasant girl, and William, the son of a Protestant landlord who compels his son to go to war. William leaves and Rose dies of grief; he returns married to a Spanish girl whose religion is left vague. The hero met this girl while fighting in the Peninsular war) and the child they have is named Rose. The writer of this second entry on the novel says The Burtons "contains eviction scenes, romantic scenery, Irish ballads and a sympathetic portrait of a parish priest who addresses his parishioners in Irish (Gaelic?). This entry doesn't square with the first entry which also says Brew treats peasants as areligious and is not respectful of Irish peasants.
Annie Keary is not mentioned in the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, while Margaret Brew is not mentioned in Sutherland's Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. When I was writing my book I did keep at home a number of library books which specialised in 19th century Irish fiction; I don't own them but took them out of libraries. It may be that one of these can supply a more sympathetic and explanatory description of Keary and Castle Daly and something a little less contradictory about Brew. I did cite these books in my notes at the back of the book.
It's interesting that Trollope's characters in his first novel are called the Macdermots. Thinking a bit more about what Morash said about the three houses in Castle Richmond, I would demur a bit. It's so easy and neat to contrast them the way he does: after all, Castle Richmond is the place the book is named after and it is there that the central loving older couple is thought to be unmarried. One might suggest that this neat modern upbeat non-romantic residence is like the Greek stage with its stairs and the door at the top behind which tragic primal events occur. Also Castle Richmond owes a lot more to Edgeworth's The Absentee than it does to Castle Rackrent; beyond the titles Castle Rackrent and Castle Richmond are very different in mood, narrative technique, all sorts of ways. The hero and the plot and the use of Providence in Castle Richmond is close to Edgeworth's The Absentee which also has a key house.
Cheers to all,
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 John Letts asks for help in finding a novel by
"Somerville and Ross" set during the troubles of the 1920s.
I just had a chance to go over to my trusty Oxford
Companion to Irish Literature (editor Robert Welch).
It is usually a great help, but the three column entry
doesn't go at the novels of this pair of women from
that angle. For those not familiar with these novels,
the writers are Edith Somerville and Valerie Martin;
they came from long-established Anglo-Irish families
and are usually thought of as writing "light satiric
comedy": their best known books are Some Experiences
of an Irish R.M., which was followed by Further
Experiences of an Irish R.M..
But that's not all the books they wrote and some were
not in this light spirit at all. From what is described, my
hunch is the closest thing John might find to what he
wants is a novel written written just by Edith in 1925:
The Big House at Inver: The writer of this column (there
are no initials at the end) calls The Big House at
Inver "the most impressive" of Edith Somerville's
books (written alone). It fits the time scheme. Apart
from two more written by her in the 1920s (An Enthusiast,
1921) and French Leave, 1928), all the others are
by Edith alone or by both of them before 1920.
(Valerie Martin died in 1915.)
Two that are praised and sound interesting of these
non Irish RM types are An Irish Cousin, 1889.
This was by both Edith and Valerier and was originally planned as
a Gothic, but eventually became "a story about the decline
of the Anglo-Irish gentry"; it seems to be set in
West Cork. The masterpiece of the collaboration
of these two women is said to be The
Real Charlotte, 1894, which "encompasses a
broad spectrum of Irish life, from peasants to lower-
middle class Dublin, to "the wilful energy of a powerful
woman,eager for love and avaracious for land".
Words like "caustic wit" and "unsentimental
appraisal of human nature" accompany the description
of The Real Charlotte.
The reason I am drawn to Elizabeth Bowen's The
Last September is it is set during the time of the
We ought to remember that Forrest Reid who wrote
one of the best books (entertaining, intelligent, full
of wonderful reproductions) on Victorian illustrations
was an Irishman. He wrote some excellent novels:
Following Darkness (1922), a young boy's troubled
growing up in the household of a cold father at
Newcastle and in the homes of "coarse relations" in
Belfast; this was revised as Peter Warring (1937).
There's At the Door of the Gate (1915), a novel
about working class life in Belfast; his autobiographical
books have been much admired (A Family Chronicle,
1911; A Private Road, 1940). He wrote on Walter
de la Mare, and there have been good studies of
his life as a collector, writer on illustrators, novelist
Cheers to all,
From: Ellen Moody
Subject: [Trollope-l] Edith Somerville and Valerie Martin (pseudonym "Somerville and Ross");
Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 11 January 2003
John Letts asks for help in finding a novel by "Somerville and Ross" set during the troubles of the 1920s. I just had a chance to go over to my trusty Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (editor Robert Welch). It is usually a great help, but the three column entry doesn't go at the novels of this pair of women from that angle. For those not familiar with these novels, the writers are Edith Somerville and Valerie Martin; they came from long-established Anglo-Irish families and are usually thought of as writing "light satiric comedy": their best known books are Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., which was followed by Further Experiences of an Irish R.M..
But that's not all the books they wrote and some were not in this light spirit at all. From what is described, my hunch is the closest thing John might find to what he wants is a novel written written just by Edith in 1925: The Big House at Inver: The writer of this column (there are no initials at the end) calls The Big House at Inver "the most impressive" of Edith Somerville's books (written alone). It fits the time scheme. Apart from two more written by her in the 1920s (An Enthusiast, 1921) and French Leave, 1928), all the others are by Edith alone or by both of them before 1920. (Valerie Martin died in 1915.)
Two that are praised and sound interesting of these non Irish RM types are An Irish Cousin, 1889. This was by both Edith and Valerier and was originally planned as a Gothic, but eventually became "a story about the decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry"; it seems to be set in West Cork. The masterpiece of the collaboration of these two women is said to be The Real Charlotte, 1894, which "encompasses a broad spectrum of Irish life, from peasants to lower- middle class Dublin, to "the wilful energy of a powerful woman,eager for love and avaracious for land". Words like "caustic wit" and "unsentimental appraisal of human nature" accompany the description of The Real Charlotte.
The reason I am drawn to Elizabeth Bowen's The Last September is it is set during the time of the 1920s troubles.
We ought to remember that Forrest Reid who wrote one of the best books (entertaining, intelligent, full of wonderful reproductions) on Victorian illustrations was an Irishman. He wrote some excellent novels: Following Darkness (1922), a young boy's troubled growing up in the household of a cold father at Newcastle and in the homes of "coarse relations" in Belfast; this was revised as Peter Warring (1937). There's At the Door of the Gate (1915), a novel about working class life in Belfast; his autobiographical books have been much admired (A Family Chronicle, 1911; A Private Road, 1940). He wrote on Walter de la Mare, and there have been good studies of his life as a collector, writer on illustrators, novelist and autobiographer.
Cheers to all,