Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: Owen Fitzgerald
The one issue that I want to raise is the credibility of Owen Fitzgerald, as depicted by Trollope in Castle Richmond. He appears to have taken the view that on the strength of a walk with Clara in the grounds of Desmond Court after the Castle Richmond ball they were pledged to mutual eternal love.. In fact, Owen made a declaration of love, which Clara was totally unprepared for, and replied to with long sighs and sobbing. When Owen pressed her repeatedly, she finally let 'some sound' fall from her lips. Trollope implies that it might have been 'yes' or 'no', but in either event Owen decided that it meant that she would be true to him. On these grounds he seems to have based his own future actions.
Lady Desmond and the earl very quickly make it clear to him that such a marriage would be unacceptable, and we hear very little of Owen and his eternal love for the next few chapters - only of his carousing and whatever at Hap House.. Meanwhile, Clara does not appear to be in any way upset by the sending off of her lover, and quickly falls into a close relationship with Herbert's sisters, and from that to getting to know Herbert and accepting his love. All this follows a typical Trollope course, but when it appears that Herbert has lost the title and the money, and that Owen is to get both, Clara makes it clear that she loves Herbert, and will stand by him. Owen's response is to offer to give up the title and the money, in exchange for Clara, an arrangement which Herbert is clearly not prepared to accept.
When all 'comes right' at the end, Owen proceeds to spend his life as a bachelor exile' similar to the final fate of Harry Gilmore in _The Vicar of Bullhampton_. Trollope seems to have had a soft spot for the rejected lover who cannot give up his love. But is he really believable? After all, Tom Tringle did settle down comfortably at the end of _Ayala's Angel_.
Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2001
Re: Castle Richmond, Chs 40-45: Owen Fitzgerald
Hi all and Howard,
I am sorry to hear that you were in hospital. I was in one about a week ago, and regret to report from this or other visits (day long stays) in the last couple of years that in general hospitals in the US have gone downhill: increasingly they are run by private organizations for profit and the atmosphere of the hospital towards patients has changed for the worse. I hope you are feeling better.
I find Owen Fitzgerald believable. In my experience both from what I have known of myself and know of others, someone can be shattered and become isolated from hurt and rejection. To ask if it is believable you cannot just compare Owen to another character unless that character has been analysed and presents a history which is similar to the first. Tom Tringle has not spent a lifetime alone; Owen has. Throughout Ayala Tom is presented as continually interacting with other people, coerced into fitting in and understanding the assumptions under which others work. We see Owen has spent long years outside the "norms" of society; he has not had to bend, flex or even understand that he cannot defy customs even if his desire to defy them comes out of nobility. Tom is also presented as a somewhat dense, often thick-skinned more philistine type. He really believes buying a girl jewels can win her love; he has no idea what goes on in Ayala's mind. He does not know how to interact with other men so as to place himself out of the framework of a scapegoat. Throughout Castle Richmond Owen is presented as perceptive. He is the first to see that Clara has fallen in love with Herbert and to understand why. He has no use for society's prizes except the one which gives him the ability to ignore others (his land) and he is secure in the knowledge that he deserves it. He is, in other, without social anxieties of precisely the type Tom has which make Tom vulnerable to other men's laughter. I cannot image Owen spending even a moment with Faggle drinking. He would scorn it.
In other words, the two characters may have some plot points in common, and some characteristics: both fall in love and intensely. Both are intensely passionate about whatever happens to them. But otherwise Trollope has presented very different pyschologies with very different histories.
Howard's real question is, Can someone be so hurt as to respond in a permanently maimed fashion? The answer to this is mostly taken from our own hearts and how we explain what we see happening to others. All my life I have seen people who are what others call (rather cruelly) losers. They end up employed in a low tenuous position somewhere; they end up isolated without much network or friends; if a male, such a person is often sensitive to any kind of criticism of his status. He can have a bad relationship with his wife if she is ashamed of his status and inability to get higher or interweave with others. She can needle him. They can end up even worse: in our society that would be to be unemployed, alcoholic or otherwise disabled and ashamed. Most of the time if you look into such a person's history you will find a group of causes leading to this, one which includes a history which could have predicted this would happen. Trollope gives us such a history for Owen Fitzgerald. Trollope is often interested in how isolation from society endangers people: he has a male like this in An Eye for an Eye -- which it's no coincidence is another Irish novel. Trollope noticed that in Irish culture at the time someone could "drop" out in the way Fred in An Eye for an Eye and Owen in Castle Richmond does.
You will often also find some last straw or final experience which led to what they are. Sometimes this can happen early in life. I will adduce myself: I am rather reclusive; a series of experiences, about 4, happened to me, all of the same time in my early teens. I have never gotten over them, or never forgotten them, they taught me something which is true about society and became part of the woof and weave of my being later in my teens and then when I went onto socialize and marry for the last time (this is not my first marriage) at age 23. Owen's rejection by Clara, Clara's brother and the mother is not a single experience, but a whole group, of which the climax is the one with Clara. Had he married Clara, he would not have been a happy man or given her a happy life. He simply would have had her so as not to be so very alone and desperate. He might have with her built a semblance of respectability, but theirs would have been a dual solitude. Her mother was a poison to her and would continue to be an obstacle. The mother's love for him is a great shock to him at the end, and it is presented powerfully. I think Trollope wants us to feel that this behavior, outside all tabooes and norms, was too much for him to perceive; it functions as a strong reinforcement of what the daughter's no and his final isolation meant. We are not to forget the son, the young man, the only in the book with whom Owen forges a real relationship. This too is one based on individual subjectivites; Owen has not been able to understand that relationships also respond to what others think of us. The boy betrays the friendship because the boy hasn't the strength of passion or individuality of Owen -- nor his background. The boy went to school. (As I suggested above, strength of passion is one trait Owen shares with Tom Tringle.)
So yes I find Owen utterly believable and I am very moved.
There is a moral lesson here, one we find in many of Trollope's novels, but seems to be emphasized in the Irish books. It's about the dangers of isolation: it's part of Thady's story in The Macdermots. The community turns on him because he has not forged links; is a poor landlord so fits in nowhere; and his personality is such he cannot interact and regain ground (this is a typical male character in Trollope). It's central to Fred's tragedy in An Eye for an Eye. We find extreme versions of the "lessons" in books like Kept in the Dark and Cousin Henry. I call the latter particularly extreme since Trollope's sympathy is not deeply engaged with the character's psychology. In Castle Richmond it is. Probably his own memories of his boyhood and how hard it had been for him to re-engage, how hard it continued to be so that he turned to continual writing and reading for release, are part of what accounts for his making Owen a central hero of his book -- and ending the book on Owen, not Herbert.
Cheers to all,
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001
Re: Castle Richmond, Chs 36-40: The Denouement
As you say, Ellen, never having read it before I got carried away and finished it ages ago. Although early on I had worked out what would would happen; is that because I have read lots of Trollopes and he has used the device before maybe, or because it was obvious that Herbert had to get the Castle back and therefore the only way that could happen was for his mother's first marriage to be invalid. It didn't matter to the enjoyment of the story because I was not sure about Clara. I still thought she might go off with Owen after all.
I enjoyed the book a lot, there was a certain comfort factor in getting back to a Trollope as I hadn't read one for about 6 months I think, also I just think he writes very readable books - but then I wouldn't be here if I didn't would I?
October 15, 2001
Re: Lady Desmond and Strauss's Marschallin
We still have a few chapters to go, but as you ask for summing up comments, I would like to offer a comment that I had intended to reserve until next week.
These remarks are specifically directed at the final interview, in chapter 43, between Owen and Lady Desmond. I think by now there will be no surprises, but if you haven't read this far in the novel, you may not want to read further in this message.
It has frequently been noted by members of this group that one of Trollope's great strengths as a novelist is his ability to evoke some sympathy for his unsympathetic characters and his villains, as well as to show us the weaknesses and foibles of his heroes. Lady Desmond has not been shown as an admirable character. She is selfish and weak. Enough has been said about her, so that I need not elaborate. But here at the end Trollope shows her as a tragic figure and evokes some sympathy for her plight, which I find heartbreaking.
"Had anyone asked him [Owen] that morning, he would have said that it was impossible that the Countess of Desmond whould weep. And now the tears were streaming from her eyes as though she were a broken-hearted girl. And so she was. Her girlhood had been postponed and marred -- not destroyed and made away with, by the wrinkled earl with the gloating eyes." Trollope adds later: "...or rather marred by [her] own vanity," but we feel her tragedy nonetheless. I am tempted to suggest that, as a reviewer once wrote in another context, anyone who can read this chapter (I paraphrase, of course) and remain unmoved is not fit for life in civilized society.
Lady Desmond's plight makes me think of another, but quite different, character, one of the great heroines of 20th Century opera, namely the Marschallin from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. Unlike Lady Desmond, the Marschallin is a good character, a high-ranking Austrian princess who is admired by everyone. But her situation is remarkably similar to Lady Desmond's. She was married off at a young age and now, at Lady Desmond's age (mid to late 30's), she is longing for love and is learning that she will never find it. I won't tell the entire story. Just let me quote a little of the libretto.
This is from the end of Act I:
"But why do I upset myself?
It is just the way of the world.
I well remember a girl [she refers to herself]
who came fresh from the convent
to be forced into holy matrimony.
Where is she now?
Yes, seek the snows
of yesteryear! It is easily said:
but how can it really be
that I was once the little Resi
and that I will one day
become the old woman...
'Look you, there she goes, the old Princess Resi!'
How can it happen?
How can the dear Lord do it?
While I always remain the same.
And if He has to do it like this,
why does He let me watch it happen
with such clear senses?
Why doesn't he hide it from me?
It is all a mystery, so deep a mystery,
and one is here to endure it."
[and a little later]
"In the depth of my heart I sense
that one should keep nothing,
that one can grasp nothing,
how everything runs between the fingers,
how everything we grasp at dissolves,
how everything disperses like mist and dreams.
Often I hear [time] flowing -- staunchlessly.
Often I rise in the middle of the night
and stop all, all the clocks."
And yet the Marschallin begins to come to terms with this reality, as she does more fully by the end of the opera:
"Today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow [this line is repeated like a leitmotif in the famous trio at the end of Act III]
I tell the simple truth
I say it to myself as I do to you.
One must take it lightly,
with light heart and light hands
hold and take,
hold and relinquish."
At the end the opera:
"Today or tomorrow or the next day,
Haven't I already told myself?
This is every woman's destiny.
Didn't I already know it?
Haven't I made a vow
that I would bear it
with a stout heart...
Today or tomorrow or the next day."
Taken out of context, these lines may not be as affecting -- it's hard for me to tell, because I know the context well. But I must admit that, thinking of the music and the entire opera, I find it impossible to read these words without reacting very emotionally. Trollope's treatment of Lady Desmond, admittedly a much different character but one who finds herself in a similar situation, affects me in much the same way.
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001
Lady Desmond and Strauss's Marschallin
How clever of you to see the analogy between the Countess and the Marschallin, and as I sit here this morning in Stuttgart sorting out IT problems and read those extracts from Der Rosenkavalier which you posted and the music floods into my head I am very moved. I love that opera with a mad passion, I even love the bad bits; and the good bits are some of the greatest, most moving music ever written. Especially all the bits from the end of ACT 1 which you quote about time - das ist ein sonderbar ding. This is getting very OT but all opera fans get very hot under the collar about their Marschallins, I will come straight out and admit to being a Crespin fan, how about you?
October 16, 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: Guinevere:Elaine/Clara:Countess
Dear Wayne, Roger and all,
The figure of the Marschallin is apt: I too find that sometimes I can best express what an author has projected to the reader through the details of his text by referencing another character from another work who is based on the same archetype. This time through I have not been describing the book illustrations weekly, but at the end of each volume: on Saturday I meant to, and still will, describe the concluding illustrations to the Folio Society Castle Richmond. The last is a poignantly beautiful visualization of the Countess of Desmond. Again we have the elongation, the dark shadows, the spareness and intensity, but this time the face of the woman is left quiet, not exaggerated so we can see on it deep musing over loss. The body of the woman as far as we can tell (we see her only from the waist up) is full bodied, mature: the Marschallin. Yes. For the caption chosen is: "But I need not tell you more. You will know it all now" (Folio Society, p. 472 and facing illustration). That Rod Waters, the illustrator, read the book in the way you and I and Roger are reading it is made clear from the choice of the first illustration: the frontispiece is a depiction of Clara, very thin, desperate look in her eyes, winds blowing about her, her hands sort of clutched tightly over the lower part of her chest, the way someone does when they have an ache; she is looking down at a young man very casually dressed who we can see is nonetheless an aristocrat. The caption: "I love you with all my heart". It's the first moment in which Clara gave Owen freely of her instinctive deep affinity for him.
Wayne brings up how Trollope can swing us around from an apparently unsympathetic character to make us identify and feel deeply for them -- as for ourselves. I did agree with him that when reading Prendergast's sense of how life has passed him by and he has not grasped the moment in which to fulfill himself individually for real might not console in any direct way; it might just make us aware how frequent is this experience and how others might have it. Prendergast is the character who emotionally most closely parallels the Countess. Both have given up much to fit into niches in society. He has at least been active, made money, had ways of gaining respect through this making of money and doing things which affect the destinies of others -- modes of power. At the opening of the book Trollope did enable us to sympathize with the Countess, and he hits that note from time to time: he tells us she was self-abnegating when she wanted to turn Clara away from Herbert and back to Owen again. Not until the close of the book when she knows Clara will not have Owen does she open her heart -- and by implication body -- to him for real. She never means to hurt her daughter. Now and again we have moments in the book where we are led to see her not understanding how she is directing her daughter into choices that have made her so withered, bitter, unliving. And Trollope brings all this back fully in the close.
My only demur would be that the archetype is closer to Guinevere: she is in Arthurian myth hard, amoral, cagey. She too was married off young to someone she had no lover for; she too spends years in ambiguous stasis. The Arthurian characters are closer to Victorian writers than people suppose. I have seen a couple of illustrations of Arthur Fletcher which are strikingly like the depictions of Arthur by the Pre-Raphaelite illustrators of Tennyson's Idylls. That's Arthur Fletcher. Trollope explicitly uses Marianna of the Moated Grange in several of his books. A couple of times George Eliot will suddenly blurt out the name Guinevere in trying to get at why she thinks a particular woman character was right to choose duty over love: the sense of these seem to be the safety of woman's pride and the desperate need to believe that bonds will make people behave less unscrupulously and destructively towards one another.
I like Guinevere in this book because it helps make sense of Owen. He is a chivalric hero; Trollope tells us he belongs to old romance. In his book on 19th century Irish novels Thomas Flanagan talks about Maria Edgeworth's Osmond which he claims has several types like Owen, and he compares Owen to the Arthurian Celtic figures of legend. Owen is nothing if not Quixote. Flanagan brings up Morgana for some of the woman in the Irish types in Irish novels of this period but she is too bold, too witch-like.
It also places Clara. She is an Elaine, the maiden finally married off to the "good" man. There are many different versions of the legend, but in some she is finally parted from Lancelot who will not, cannot marry her. In some she dies; in others, she finds some other life. In this book she is given another knight. Clara's relationship to her mother recalls Elaine's to other women. The opening illustration of the book could easily be Elaine revealing her love suddenly to Lancelot.
Roger says he guessed early on that something would bring back the property to Herbert, return him from shame and exile, and what could it be but that Lady Fitzgerald's first marriage was no marriage at all. I'm with him that by the end of the first volume that is made explicitly clear. He says he didn't know who Clara would end up with. That makes sense to me too: in a number of Trollope's novels the young woman makes the intensely romantic and therefore (in the scheme of these books) potentially subversive choice: Lady Anna springs to mind. Engagements are broken, and the lady returns to her first love, sometimes after marriage. Arthur Fletcher wins Emily Wharton Lopez after all. It's not absurd to bring up the "E" in Emily: in Possession A. S. Byatt makes great play with "e's" in allusions to Arthurian romance: Elayne. Clara is a name connected to brightness, Clarissa.
I suspected not though because of the presence of the Countess and the long history of Owen as an isolated figure who does not interconnect that we are given. Trollope is too good a psychologist to present this woman and suggest that when the daughter marries this young man she longs for she is not suddenly surprized into bitterness. It would not have worked. He's playing with intense fires here. He also throughout the book has been planning this final moment for Owen. Everything leads up to his being the true tragic hero of the book, the man who carries the book's real burden of irrevocable meaning. He reminds me of Fred Neville in An Eye for an Eye whose tragedy the whole book begins with when we are in the asylum with the older woman who was similarly cut off and frustrated by her husband leaving her and suddenly driven wild with rage when this young man proposes to live with her daughter without marrying her. Fred too spends the whole of that book disconnected. Trollope is deeply engaged with this sort of male on and off throughout his career. So could Clara marry him? I doubted it. To turn to a realistic counterpart of Owen: it's Burgo Fitzgerald. The outsider.
The question for me in a Trollope novel always is, Not what will happen, but how will it happen? It's watching the nuances of the characters unfold in an unexpected series of psychologized turns and details that holds me. The mood at the end is often unexpected. As a reader of so many of these sorts of novels beyond Trollope I often guess what is literally to come, at least partly. It's how it is to come. I wondered quite what Trollope would do to pull off an ending which came out of the psychologies of the characters and gave the book closure. I didn't foresee the last paragraphs on Owen. That was an emotional surprize which crowned the book because of its justice, significance within the scheme of the book and what it tells us about how Trollope viewed himself imaginatively, emotionally. He had left England a failure; it was from a nadir he returned. I see the analogue for Owen in Trollope's departure from England as the misfit. This book is about his leaving Ireland only unlike Herbert he was not to return. So the book is his adieu; this is another source for the depiction of Owen at the close.
Re: Castle Richmond and Framley Parsonage
In my posting the other day I wrote that in a number of ways I prefer Castle Richmond to Framley Parsonag_. I recur to that here as an addendum to my posting on the analogies between the Countess of Desmond, Clara and Owen and the archetypal figures of Celtic romance.
One way of getting at the difference between Framley Parsonage and Castle Richmond is to see that Framley Parsonage comes out of a bend the novel took in the early 18th century towards domestic realism. Just before Richardson wrote his Pamela there was a group of women writers producing short novels which directly look forward to the prudential domestic fiction of many of the minor writers of the 19th century. This line of fiction was on the surface of it anyway what Fielding, especially in his Amelia and then Austen took up. Framley Parsonage belongs to this subset or subgenre of the novel. Underlying this domestic realism is still the romance archetypes, but they have been much subdued and twisted to fit a prudential common-sense view of the world, one which gained respect with the establishment and began to be praised by the time of Edgeworth. Edgeworth wrote this sort of book in her English novels: Patronage, Ennui.
Another subgenre or line is the kind of novel that stayed resolutely with the intensity of romance as it had first been developed in the Greek period (in narratives Shakespeare had access to through the compilations of his era), in Arthurian books and once again in the later 18th century in the gothic sentimental novels. They often have a castle at the center, work symbolically to some extent. They are not unreal or unbelievable. The tenets of verisimilitude are strictly observed. There is no hard and fast difference between this type of novel and the more realistic ones, but the difference is there and it's important. Often the moral lesson we come away with is much different: it speaks a dissonant, dissenting mood at its base. Scott writes this kind of novel. To this type belongs Trollope's Castle Richmond and perhaps his other Irish books too. An early subtitle he chose for The Macdermots was "A Historical Romance". Certainly in the period An Eye for an Eye was recognized by Richard Holt Hutton as "poetic romance". That's what he called it.
Well as a reader I prefer the latter romantic line or mode or emphasis to the former domestic realism. It seems to me so much the freer, so much wider, so much more can be said through it.
At any rate to see these two books through these lenses helps account for how Trollope, the same man, could produce two such different texts. I believe he understood that he was writing a different sort of novel in the two different cases though he would not have used the language for this description I have. In his remarkable essay strongly praising Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and in his own descriptions of his novellas like Nina Balatka and Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite he shows he understood there was a version of romance within the novel and that he knew how to pull it off. He had it in him to let go for real and show us what was in his heart of hearts and what pulsed through his blood and unconscious mind this way.
Cheers to all,
October 16, 2001
Castle Richmond: The Imaginary Screenplay
At the beginning of our read I suggested that were someone to make a movie of this book the emphasis would be wholly through on the Desmond Court story. As we are come to the ending, people can see why. Repeatedly in the film adaptations of Austen's and (Henry) James's novels, the movie-maker, director, writer, camera man, everyone takes the romantic element with its archetypes and builds the strong moving-forward line (needed by films) out of that. Sense and Sensibility becomes the story of Marianne with Elinor the alter ego, instead of vice versa; The Golden Bowl focuses on the prince and Charlotte Stant with Maggie and her father the controlling outward instruments of these archetypal figures' destiny. These are not misinterpretations: what they do is make public and manifest what a particular reading of a text has been which no one has had the nerve or position to write up; they bring out into the discussably open the longings, the nature of the choices, the distortions and assumptions and identifications commonly undisclosed by readers even to themselves. We enter the imaginative process of interpretation without having to make it explicit. The conveyance of the information through pictures frees us from censorship.
Also that such interpretations appeal; they are popular. A small thing: the movies vindicate Freud, Jung, psychoanalysis (the way bio-chemistry industry is simply based on Darwin's theory of natural selection).
A comparison of the novel The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje with the screenplay by Anthony Minglella bears this out. Better yet go see the 1940 Wuthering Heights with Olivier and Oberon, and then the 1970s one with George C. Scott & Susannah Yorke, and the most recent with Ralph Fiennes & Juliet Brioche and reread the book.
It would make money a film adaptation of Castle Richmond. And you wouldn't even have to put the characters to bed with one another. In fact the point would be they couldn't -- or they are already there.
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001
From Judy Geater
I'm one of those who read Castle Richmond quite quickly early on, and haven't taken much part in the discussion over the last few weeks - but I had some thoughts about the ending, and the uneasy portrayal of the famine, which I wanted to share.
Trying to be honest here, when I first read the book I really didn't enjoy it and reacted strongly against it. As I've already mentioned, along with others, I was disturbed by Trollope's defence of the famine as a demonstration of God's mercy, and the way in which (at times, anyway) he seems to see the starving peasants as a mass rather than individuals. It is chilling to read his argument that the deaths of all these people were of benefit in the long run because those who were left were better off economically.
On first reading the novel, I found it hard to concentrate on the romance plot at all - the lovers' problems and the bigamy plot seemed insignificant in the face of the terrible suffering of the famine victims. The haunting chapter about the dead baby, described again today by Ellen in her posting about the illustrations, is still the moment which sticks in my mind the most. However, thanks to Ellen and others who have posted on the book, as we have gone through it slowly together over the past weeks I've been able to appreciate the novel more and see just how powerfully Trollope does portray the main characters, in particular Clara and Lady Desmond.
Also, from reading the short book Frank Biletz recommended, The Irish Famine by Peter Gray, together with the deconstructionist book I've mentioned a couple of times previously, "Writing the Irish Famine" by Christopher Morash, I've realised that Trollope was by no means alone in looking for signs of divine providence in the tragedy. These books show that many commentators struggled to make some sort of sense of what had happened and to find some reason to think God had not forgotten them. All this helps to give Trollope's views more of an historical and religious framework, even if it can't excuse them.
One of the passages I find hardest to take is the sermonising in Chapter 44: Conclusion, where Trollope enthuses over how promptly rents are paid nowadays, and how pleasing this is for a country gentleman. He even refers to famine, pestilence and exodus (all Biblical words with so many tragic connotations) as "the blessings coming from Omniscience and Omnipotence by which the black clouds were driven from the Irish firmament". I haven't seen any contemporary criticism of Castle Richmond, but have to wonder whether this sort of dismissive comment upset and angered some readers even at the time.
However, as we have discussed, Trollope's portrayal of the famine goes way beyond these arguments. He tells us it was all for the best in the end, but he surely does not believe this himself when he shows us the human suffering - the half-naked woman with her dying baby on her back, the starving workers standing in the cold waiting to build an unwanted road in return for handfuls of corn, and above all the woman in the bare earth cabin with one child already dead and the other one dying in her arms.
No amount of authorial commentary can take away the horror of a scene like this - and there's an irony in the fact that the very author giving us the commentary is the one who has made us see the harsh reality so unforgettably.
Morash mentions that there is an incongruous detail in this chapter, where Herbert lays his silk handkerchief over the baby's body. I have had to take his book back to the library so can't quote exactly, but, from memory, he says the silk is a sign of luxury in the midst of the most abject poverty - there is no furniture, nothing in the cabin. This detail brings the haves and have-nots up against one another very starkly. Even though at this stage Herbert thinks he has lost his all, he still has far more than the dying mother and the thousands like her, as he himself recognises.
This reminded me that I noticed another moment of odd apparent irony early on in the book, in Chapter 8, where Clara and the Fitzgeralds are discussing how best to organise the supply of cornmeal. Trollope portrays the conversation very sympathetically, showing how deeply they all care about the suffering of the peasants, and how keen they are to make the poor food as palatable as possible.
But then comes this passage:
" 'Herbert says that the millers will grind up the husks and all at the mills, so as to make the most of it; that's what makes it so hard to cook,' said Emmeline.
'How very wrong of them!' protested Clara; 'but isn't Herbert going to have a mill put up of his own?'
And so they went on, till I fear they kept the Castle Richmond dinner waiting for full fifteen minutes."
Ouch. This line brought me up short the first time I read it, and I've been wondering ever since whether Trollope consciously intended the irony here. However kind and sympathetic Clara, Emmeline and the rest may be, they will not be going without their dinner - the worst that happens is a 15-minute delay. We are not told what they have to eat, but the very words "Castle Richmond dinner" suggest formality, silver cutlery, linen etc. The haves and have-nots are sharply juxtaposed here too.
Sorry, I seem to be jumping around a bit in this posting, but to return to the ending, I was pleased to see that Trollope does not leave us with his sermon about the famine. Instead we have the quiet and sombre wedding of Clara, and the departure of Owen - who leaves the area for good, to wander abroad.
I think the last paragraph is wonderfully haunting:
"Many a long year has run by since that, and yet he has never come back to Hap House. Men of the county Cork now talk of him as one whom they knew long since. He who took his house as a stranger is a stranger no longer in the country, and the place that Owen left vacant has been filled. The hounds of Duhallow would not recognise his voice, nor would the steed in the stable follow gently at his heels. But there is yet one left who thinks of him, hoping that she may yet see him before she dies."
Ellen has written about the ambiguity here, the doubt in the reader's mind about whether Clara or her mother is the "one left". I would agree that it must be Lady Desmond - she is the one who feels she has been left behind, who has not found any happiness of her own.
However, I also felt this passage has a Biblical/poetic cadence, and seems to go beyond Owen to conjure up shadowy images of all the others who had also left Ireland to live abroad, and who might never return. The whole last paragraph is applicable not only to Owen and Lady Desmond, but to all those who had departed for America and Canada, and all the loved ones left behind.
It's also interesting that the very last sentence of the novel leaves us with death, not life. Even though Trollope tries to see hope for the future, he cannot escape from the tragedy of it all.
I was really meaning to write something about Pendennis today but then found myself thinking about Castle Richmond instead - however I will get back to Thackeray in the next day or two!
Bye for now
October 21, 2001
Re: Women in Pendennis and Castle Richmond
In response to Judy's posting,
Until about two years ago I would have read Castle Richmond much more passively. I suggest to you and others who are interested, that the mores instilled in us from a young age still (today, not just in the 19th century) train us to pass over things in art which if we met them in life would disturb us and make us think. About two years ago I began to read what's called "theoretical" criticism. Like "terrorism" this is a misnomer or inadequate word. What these critics did and do is more than examine the grounds for a typical analysis of a book: for example, the grounds of Simon Raven's analysis of An Eye for an Eye is his own distrust of women and his own comfort in his position as a male and right to see women controlled and behaving in ways which leave males in charge. They look at such grounds when they undergird the central mores and behaviors in our society which uphold the power structure. Among these, a central area to be controlled is sex and the sexual instinct.
What if in life you were to come across someone like Lady Fitzgerald. Excluded, keeping herself apart, accused by her society of sexual transgression, found to be apparently innocent of at least knowing what she was doing, and then re-excluded, choosing not to live her life, but acting as an endlessly shamed woman. Such women were to be found among our society when repressive sexual mores were very strong; they are not gone from us by any means, but they have been transformed so that a girl getting pregnant out of wedlock need not have her life ruined. Indeed in the US she need not leave school or stop her regular life in any way except that now she has a burden on her which she has to deal with: the care of a child.
What if in life you were to come across someone living like Helen. Never mind Laura. It's Helen who is the central important figure in Pendennis. She plays the role Lady Fitzgerald has supposedly transgressed.
Once upon a time when people read these scenes in novels they passed over them without much thinking. Since the era of deconstruction we look at them.
The novel has had a central function in our society since its inception in the late 17th century. The reason it is so compelling is said to be that it's realistic and profoundly (when it's good) psychological. But what theoretical criticism asks you to do is go beyond such a question and answer. Why is its realism and psychology compelling? In brief, it enables readers to live out their troubles and deepest desires through their imagination. Good novelists along the way make readers think about such things. Now there are areas in Thackeray's novels where he runs fleeing from life; among these is woman's sexuality. Trollope is a singular male novelist of the period since often he confronts sexuality insofar as his own limited views will allow. He is not pulling punches or avoiding hard truths with lady Fitzgerald; he is registering a deep response to woman's sexuality from his society.
The key for us today is not to stay in these repressed and twisted kinds of behavior. Theoretical criticism wants to make novels live again, very old and new ones by bringing out what is "dialogued" (this is Bakhtin's famous word) in them, what is debated strongly and what is evaded. Why? Because we today are still subject to such twistings and exclusions and harms -- and in Castle Richmond scapegoating. In Pendennis the issues don't quite come up because the whole area is lied about or presented in ways that are the result of Thackeray's own traumatic response to sexuality from the perspective of a gentleman in his society. He can't tell it to himself, much less us. And he suffered and suffered very badly in his life because he couldn't tell a number of important truths to himself. My view is Trollope did tell himself a few.
Where Trollope becomes very interesting is when he approaches the sexually inadequate male, the male who has been driven to hiding himself in all sorts of ways by the demands put on him that he be a macho male. He likes to take such characters and put them up against strongly sexualized or aggressive females. Then we watch some fireworks. This type doesn't appear in Castle Richmond: we saw him in Is He Popenjoy? (George Germaine with the prototype for a Mrs Cadawallader in the young Mary); in He Knew He Was Right (Louis with his angry because frustrated and unawakened ice queen, the aggressive irritated Emily).
To stay with on our own parts these old views of sex, to say, oh here see where Thackeray does show some understanding of sex, some response to the reality and go no further is not to grow on our own. The thing is to ask yourself why you are doing this. Why stay content with a glimpse? What is it you are protecting in yourself, keeping from yourself, what's at stake in it for you to hold back this way. For some it might be that the establishment is upholding their safety and (limited) power and it's scary to look over the fence. For others that the establishment is depriving them and over the fence is something worth the risk.
These new approaches are about coming alive in our own reading: that's what theoretical and the new criticism should do when you really grasp what they're after -- at least those genuinely engaged with literature and not just a power agenda or not just parrotting a new kind of thought. There will always be such people and lots of them.
Yesterday I was reading Carlyle's apparently unjust and notorious essay on Sir Walter Scott. It is said repeatedly how he excoriates Scott. Not so, or at least that's not all. This essay includes some long passages of extraordinarily high praise for Scott as a novelist -- and more -- as a courageous man. In fact reading this essay tells you far more about Scott's art and imagination that's important than all Edgar Johnson's hundreds of pages. Johnson includes Carlyle's views but snows them under with his normalizing point of view Carlyle's essay is one of the best things I've ever read on Scott.
Carlyle does aim some heavy blows at Scott's fiction: what is often remarked is he says Scott wrote the novels for money. He does not say they are simply thin amusements (which is the way he is sometimes paraphrased). Instead he predicts Scott will as a novelist die; his books will bore people; they are intelligent, they are filled with interesting thoughts, but they sold basically originally piggybacked onto the poetry, then because they were respectable and admired and picturesque and taught people new things. These new things are now old hat, says Carlyle. The picturesqueness is not enough; Scott avoids the depth psychology of his own insights is the charge. But along the way Carlyle suddenly stops and talks about why it's worth while to read literature seriously, where the pleasure and healing - and that's his word not some 2001 cant (in the US this word is irritatingly all the rage, like fiesty and spunky for women). In Scott, say Carlyle:
Literature has other aims than that of harmlessly amusing indolent languid men: or if literature have them not, then Literature is a very poor affair; and something else must have them; and must accomplish them ,with thanks or without thanks ...
Under this head there is little to be found in the Waverly novels ...
The sick heart will find no healing there, the darkly struggling heart no guidance the Heroic that is in all men no divine awakening voice ...
I skipped some ejaculations which added nothing to the sense. People today writing about the gothic are engaged in bringing alive what is in Scott and Dickens: their way of calling to that heroic, that darkly struggling heart is not through realistic psychology. Carlyle couldn't see another way. He didn't have Freud nor other recent perspectives ultimately derived from Freud. Unhappily Carlyle himself is often dismissed and excoriated by deconstructionists who have their own hang-ups among which is fascism and reactionary politics of which Carlyle presents one face -- at least at times he does. But he always has much to say worth reading. He talks for real and truly and sincerely. He speaks what's in his heart.
So does Trollope -- he tries to. Now Thackeray avoids what's in his heart; it's too painful to him; he's suffering too much from it and he can't get out of the hole he's dug.
For us reading them we want to see them as living breathing presences, not, as we have been taught to, erase from consciousness what would bother us if we were thinking about it for real, especially (I submit) for women and men too still in the area of sex. We can help free ourselves by trying insofar as our minds will let us to look into these books freely. I don't say a person can live his or her life any differently nor that society is going to be changed very much by "close reading" (this is the great joke thrown at F. R. Leavis who really is the father of modern criticism). But you will at least understand what terms your social existence is grounded upon. Novels are always probably ultimately social in orientation.
Among the books that have much to offer here from the Victorians are Gissing, Hardy, the later Victorians because they were so close to what the mid-Victorians endured and yet at long last had moved outside the deep freeze of understanding what is being done to you and around you.
Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001
A second thought or qualification. I wrote:
"Now Thackeray avoids what's in his heart; it's too painful to him; he's suffering too much from it and he can't get out of the hole he's dug."
Let me amend that to "avoids in _Pendennis_". I haven't read the later Thackeray and it's true that in Henry Esmond in the portrait of Rachel while she is still married to her first husband and in the portrait of Beatrice at court (before she is bethrothed and directly after when she is jilted), Thackeray does move into profound areas of his own thought and feeling. He does try to examine them through Esmond in the earlier parts of the novel especially.
What he does later -- after Esmond -- I don't know. I have a hunch he doesn't go much further, and can't tell from what I have read about him as much of it is written on the wrong side of an aegis of repression about sex which is with us still.
Re: Castle Richmond: Contrivances and Evasions
November 1, 2001
Sig makes some good points about the flaws in Castle Richmond which I'll speak to. Basically I'm in accord; what I want to do is suggest why he resorts to the deus ex machina device. As I've written a long one this morning already I'll have to answer each concisely.
First, I think the ending is contrived, although it is contrived in other (and better) Trollope novels such as The Last Chronicle of Barset. At least in The Last Chronicle we are told that Mrs. Arabin is out of the country and accordingly out of touch. From that information you might guess that she holds the key to the mystery. But in Castle Richmond you are given no hint that the ending will be what it is. If Lady Fitzgerald were not legally married to Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, all of their common children would be illegitimate and consequently outside the limits of inheritance. And all the information we were given pointed to that conclusion. The only hint we had that something else might be the case was that we were told that both Molletts were scoundrels. Yet Mollett the Elder might be a scoundrel and still have a case. But fortunately his earlier marriage precluded that case.
The reason Trollope cannot allow that Mary Wainright was not legally married to Sir Thomas is twofold: he cannot himself tolerate nor does he think his audience could that two good people could have a fully sexual life, happy, contented, and not be married. It goes against basic taboos of the period. The couple in Dr Wortle's School have no children; Mrs Askerton in The Belton Estate had no children. Somehow to Victorians this made the out-of-wedlock good relationship more acceptable.
He wants a qualified happy ending.
An interesting unconscious revelation: the theme is parallel to the famine theme. The idea is God really means things to work out fine, is testing us and building character. Judy has talked of how distasteful this dismissal of real Irish people is. Well the Providential plot doesn't work here either. It's a contrivance: I actually take some amused ironic satisfaction in this being so.
Okay, so the ending is contrived. But the characters are not consistently drawn. Lady F. is stalwart heroine at the end. She stands for all that is right in society. But if she were that kind, how could she marry such an oaf as Matthew Mollett? You have to stretch a bit to absorb that one.
Here I would disagree this far: we never see the Mary Wainright who married Mollett. We are told she was innocent and naive, and it makes sense from all we see of Victorian bourgeois girls, especially a clergyman's daughter. However, it is not believable that she would slink about the house in avoidance of her husband and all her relatives, given the portrait of her as a strong type vis-a-vis that husband and in the one powerful scene we are given with her and her son. Again a sexual taboo is working against realistic portrayal. She is seen as polluted and must be silenced, for real talk would shatter such stereotypes. A real voice would make nonsense of the notion she spends the rest of her life in exemplary self-abnegating non-sexual satisfactions tantamount to waiting around to die.
Now, we come to Clara and her mother, the Countess of Desmond. It is a Thackerayesque problem to have a mother and daughter in love with the same man. I had trouble believing such a situation when I read Thackeray and trouble believing in it now. I know that there are instances where people of disparate ages do marry happily, but I do have a little trouble believing in their ultimate contentment. What music do they listen to? If I had to listen to my children's music day in and day out, or if they had to listen to mine, we couldn't stay in the same house.
Maybe they would not be ultimately content, but the sexual longing of the older person for the younger is real: it's not socially acceptable. I feel Trollope felt this in his older years towards young girls: a reread of "Mary Gresley" (a touching story), Miss Ophelia Gledd (another crude first-person narrative), the daring dramatization of himself, his wife and Kate Fields as Mr Whittlestaff, Mrs Bagget and Mary Lawlie (An Old Man's Love) is just some of the demonstrable evidence of this.
This novel is unusual for the number of sexual tabooes Trollope approaches or breaks. It is not common for him to show a mother and daughter in rivalry, but in life it does happen; I have seen it, and it's mostly ugly. We are (I suggest) supposed to admire the Countess for her controlled behavior towards her daughter, her willingness to give up her sexual satisfaction so that her daughter will get a rich titled husband. It is ironic as that big prize destroyed her happiness. At the close when it's clear Owen will not be able to have Clara, her coming forward for her one chance for happiness in life makes sense to me. She is again probably wrong: it wouldn't work.
The novel is romance.
Last point, Trollope appears to be insisting on the innocent relationship between Owen Fitzgerald and young Lord Patrick. Whom is he kidding?
Yes I agree here. There is a strong sense of homosexual attraction here. This fits Owen's iconoclastic behavior and unsocialized interactions with people. Had this been a 20th century novel, Owen would have gone off into the sunset with Patrick. They would go to Venice and live in a kind of amused mutual satisfactions ever after, debauched and supporting one another with a sense of how mad the rest of the world is. They would be right.
Trollope really does do much better. I don't mind the deus ex machina ending if it is done well and consistently with what has been offered us previously. Cf. The Last Chronicle. But when it comes out of the blue, oh, my.
There are a couple of other novels besides The Last Chronicle where the deus ex machina clangs but Trollope manages to make it acceptable: The Claverings (he has to kill off not one but two males for the property to go to Harry) comes to mind. He has to switch everything we have felt and know about Alice Vavasour and Lady Glen's character to give Can You Forgive Her? a happy ending. We are supposed to rejoice with the harridan's point of view? I find that ending violates the whole book suddenly, though since it is over quickly it is endurable.
Sometimes though without deus ex machinas Trollope's endings can be untrue to what happens before. That is how I see the final chapter of Framley Parsonage. I am supposed to rejoice in the reversal of Lady Lufton? The marriage of Dr Thorne to Miss Dunstable is another sudden reversal where their letters just about carry it off, but not quite.
So maybe I should reconsider my reluctance to make a list of Trollope's worst novels.
I would say Castle Richmond dares themes and subject matter that Trollope wasn't quite up to the challenge of. That's why I quoted Johnson on Shakespeare. He says we must take a man's designs, his aims into account.
Cheers to all,
Re: Trollope's Injustice and Inhumanity in Castle Richmond
Judy makes some good points about how hard it is to take Trollope's ability to dismiss the Irish as not quite people. Could he have talked as cavalierly of rents going up had it been middle class English people who died in the thousands and emigrated? The resort to "Providence" is easy when you and yours are not the ones sacrificed for the "greater good". Whose? The whole notion of the greater good is questionable: is there such a thing Trollope himself would probably have disliked Benthamism, the greatest good for the greatest number: it leads to calls for socialistic amelioration which would disturb the property system, something Trollope adheres to firmly -- as we shall see in The Landleaguers -- in the face of yet further misery, violence, and the patent injustice and counterproductivity of the system as worked out in Ireland at the time. Where there others who found the book similarly unacceptable when it came to its treatment of the famine? Or if you didn't, how did you reconcile your heart to it?
To be honest, I don't know that I was that upset or bothered. Probably because I have so often heard similar arguments on behalf of totally free capitalism, similar reactionary justifications in the face of obvious misery that I am somewhat inured. Increasingly I find myself getting irritated at hypocritical professions of caring and leftism after which the person gets into power and does worse than nothing: betrays the group he or she pretends to care about. That's how I take Clinton's welfare "reform" bill. The university is supposed to be a haven for liberal leftist thought: I only wish people who supposed it this would come and work in one of these places for a year. They'd soon see it is a caste system, a business many of whose practices resemble law firms. Nothing wrong with law firms, but they do not profess egalitarianism.
Still probably the reason I concentrated on the romance elements in the novel, its style, and only talked of the famine in those dramatic scenes where Trollope has his characters manifest real sympathy or in those meditations where he showed he did understand the corrupt system which led to such dependence on the potato in tiny rented plots of land because otherwise the book's power and what it has to offer would be lost.
Unlike Is He Popenjoy?, John Caldigate and say La Vendee, Castle Richmond is not a nearly unknown book. It stays known partly simply because it is a tale of the famine written by an expert novel-writer. But it is also effective as intense romance, and the subgenre it belongs to is appropriate to the depictions of personal tragedy, loss and famine it attempts.
I dislike cruelty; I'm not amused by callousness or light insouciant comedy aimed at social problems or social customs which are painful in reality (I'm not one for Woodhouse, P. G. or Max Beerbohm). I can't forgive Trollope when he consciously supports bullying, intimidation (the male violence in some of the early novels); when he shows ugly class bias in some of his depictions of lower class men (Louis Scatcherd); when he depicts working class women as "loose" and male entrappers (the women Johnny Eames disdains), but he did mean in this novel to be compassionate. He meant to bring to the attention of his reader Ireland's serious problems. He meant to celebrate the land which had given him back his "manhood", where he had pulled himself out of a many-year depression. Had it not been for the placement of Framley Parsonage, this one too might have sold very poorly and been more than half-forgotten. Smith didn't want it; nor Thackeray. "Write us another of those clergymen comedies with the candy of a love story that ends happily Mr Trollope." Our readers want pleasant pictures of themselves. But he kept the book up and sold it piggybacked onto the "candy" (that is Thackeray's word for novels in his letter of welcome to Trollope).
Somewhere in his "Preface to Shakespeare", Johnson says one should look to "how far a writer may extend his designs, or how high he may rate his native force". Trollope had this extensive design and was pushing his native force. I do love the style of this book -- the rhythms of the sentences and imagery are poetry.
Special pleading? Well Judy is now on C18-l where she is witnessing the ludicrous spectacle of a bunch of scholars proving Hume an appalling racist by finding statements by others who lived in his period which are supposedly prejudice-free or where they are equally intent on proving that Jane Austen's Bennett family is on the edge, fringe people economically speaking. Both because it makes them more comfortable. I don't say the treatment of the famine or Lady Fitzgerald is very comforting in Castle Richmond.
Cheers to all,
Re: Deconstructing Castle Richmond Status: Dear Judy W,
Lois Tyson is remarkable. She has converted me! After reading her book so much that was opaque opens up and in such interesting -- and relevant ways.
One of the things she has enabled me to do is genuinely ask myself where I stand in relationship to a text and the presence in it. Not just from the standpoint of individual emotions, but as someone who belongs to a certain niche in society, is coerced into certain roles. As I wrote while we were reading Castle Richmond, the first time round I simply accepted the depiction of Mary Wainright, Lady Fitzgerald; now I saw that she too was me and she was being treated as a fearful taboo figure; her right to sexuality was never acknowledged in the slightest. This element in the novel's tapestry throws a whole new light on the Countess of Desmond's utter frustrations, the manipulation of her daughter, our supposed heroine, and Owen Fitzgerald in whom Sig saw a homosexual paradigm as well as outcast. I don't drop my previous "reading" of the novel as a providential romance; instead bring it alive into today's world as well as learn something about the maiming of people in the Victorian period, men and women.
When you have gotten through all the jargon of the modern deconstructionist approaches and faced what they are getting at in frank language you find yourself at the same point the Romantics were the first to voice frankly: where am I in this text? how does it really relate to my existence, inward and outward, the things I am able and the things I find myself unable and forbidden to do? Whether this be some 19th century novelist or non-Western or whatever text. Also what would this author's view of me have been or of persons analogous to me in his or her life? How does his or her outward life relate to mine? Sometimes it can be painful to face up to this, but it seems to me a first step, a sine qua non for serious reading.
This kind of frankness is not popular to state. It threatens. Tax-payers are not to be told this is the center of literary study. Pride forbids us from telling most others in public (or even in bed) where we stand in these texts for real. To me if writing doesn't come out of some such penetration, the reader is just going round in circles, remaining superficial. Johnson comes from the pre-Romantic generation and pride and the toughness of the intensively social networking of his era has to keep this sort of thing underground. Now one of the places it does begin to peep up at his is life-writing and the new forms of biography, novel, memoir, journalism.
Actually Tyson doesn't go far enough because she hesitates at choosing a position. All positions are not equal. I see in her a new reluctance to be radical -- probably because the academy is going so reactionary of late. The new deconstructionist approaches originally came out of liberal, leftist enlightened thought -- like Leavis's. It's great prophet is Orwell: "all art is propaganda." So you ask yourself at the end of her book, why do this? And she's got no answer. So you have to turn to Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory.
Another lucid book I read, this one after Tyson, is Roger Horrocks's An Introduction to Sexuality, ISBN 0-312-17282-6. He is not a literary criticism, rather a psychiatrist, but he founds his discourse on both clinical work and an analyses of great texts (in the Freud tradition I suppose). Tyson is weak on Lacan, and Horrocks is very good. It was Horrocks who enabled me to understand what is going on at the core of Is He Popenjoy?. The thing about Horrocks is his view would bring Thackeray truly into view too -- and deeply sympathetically. As a man as wounded as his emotionally stunted and previously (by her mother as the instrument of the society) abused wife
Thanks again Ellen,. I am going to read more about this and will get these books. Currently I'm working on another of your suggestions and finding it very enlightening--the Lois Tyson book about theory. It's very accessible, I'm enjoying it--she is addressing me--and I'm finding it is enriching my reading immensely. I have identified my college experience as New Criticism--now I can expand my horizons.