September 2, 2001
Re: Castle Richmond, Chs 6-10: The Debt that Must Be Paid
It has been suggested by just about all those who have written about Castle Richmond that the three plots -- the story of the Desmonds and Owen Fitzgerald; the story of the Sir Thomas, Lady and Herbert Fitzgerald, and the story of the famine -- are interrelated. In "Love and Famine, Family and Country in Trollope's Castle Richmond, Hugh L. Hennedy and in "Adopting Ireland" Roy Foster both argue in different ways that "in all three stories we confront a capricious fate which deals out undeserved blows and 'those who survive, perhaps sadly but certainly more wisely', are those who demonstrate fortitude, acting to do what good they can within the limiting circumstances of their lives." In her introduction to the Oxford Castle Richmond Mary Hamer concurs about the Providential theme in the two stories. Foster suggests the "stridency and vehemence" of the the Sir Thomas and Lady Fitzgerald plot shows Trollope's discomfort with this idea of Providence; a long essay I just got by Margaret Kelleher (who has written on the famine itself) begins as a meditation on how the plots and themes and mood of the book coheres to form a kind of horrid romance: you might say the intensity of the triangular love between Owen, Clara's mother and Clara, and the desperation of Sir Thomas and the progress of the two stories mirrors the desperateness of the famine victims; as we shall see, Herbert slowly gains hero status by his behavior. The two Molletts, particularly the son are presented as peculiarly low characters, really mean minor devils. I haven't read much of the Kelleher as yet because hers is a careful taking the reader through the imagery and mood of the book.
Last week I suggested the style of the book is appropriate to high and intense romance. Now I want to add another 2 archetypes to what others have written. I came across a set of 8 archetypal plot-types derived from a Russian formalist named Victor Propp. It seems to me that the stories of Castle Richmond fit the paradigm of the "debt that must be paid". This is also called the Faust paradigm since it concerns a fate that catches up with us all sooner or later. You could say that was the plot-design of John Caldigate: he was the hero who violated a moral law and had to be punished, put through some ordeal. This "debt that must be paid" theme fits Trollope's analysis of the famine: he argues -- with great seriousness and gravity -- that the famine that is occurring is the result of years of systematic and non-systematic neglect and exploitation which lead to an enormous overpopulation of people, each tiny group dependent dependent on a single and therefore necessarily fragile food supply. Although we do not know what exactly in Sir Thomas and Lady Fitzgerald's past has come back to haunt them in the personages of the blackmailing Molletts, we do know that some fate has caught up with them. We are told that the Countess of Desmond married young, for money and without love; she is now still young, still highly sexual, and frustrated and isolated. A beautiful young man begins to visit her house: fate is catching up. He too has chosen to live single, to have young men in his house gambling, drinking and probably having sex, not to involved himself with his neighbours because that means conformity. Fate is about to catch up.
What is beautiful in the Desmond story is that the fate that has caught up is not the result of outside or adventitious occurrences, but comes from within: it's in the Countess's character; in Owen's; in the daughter's. We recognize here another romance paradigm that Trollope favors: the triangular plot, two women vying for one man, and as we shall see, there will be two men (our two heroes) vying for one woman (Clara). As with Thackeray's Henry Esmond where the relationship between Henry and his adopted mother is such that she does not stand simply for virtue, so the relationship between the Desmonds and Owen is complicated: the Countess is sympathized with in the novel, more strongly than later in his career Trollope will sympathize with women who marry coldly for money an old man (think of Lady Julia in The Claverings who marries a tremendously wealthy but syphilitic, alcoholic and very mean old man). There is in Lady Fitzgerald's story something as ambiguous and "hot" as the famine story, something as (to Victorians) horrid. That's why poor Sir Thomas is so shattered -- though he is another of the old men whose characterization brings us back to the young Anthony looking at his broken half-mad father after his mother escaped to America. The romance archetype here is not Hercules between Virtue and Vice, but Tristan and Arthur. The Desmond triangle is Guinevere (Countess of Desmond), Lancelot (Owen Fitzgerald, all chivalry we are told) and Elaine (the young Clara). The Fitzgerald plot is a play on Tristan with Lady Fitzgerald the mute Isolde and Sir Thomas Mark; I would call their son Tristan until much later in the book when we learn what Sir Thomas is planning to tell his lawyer.
As last week I can't help remarking how disparate this is from the paradigms and moods and "feel" of The Kellys and O'Kellys. I like to do this to emphasize how varied and deep-rooted Trollope's fictions are -- although on the surface, from outlines they may seem alike.
Of course one of the ways in which the two books do resemble one another is they are set in a real Ireland: an imaginative world has been superimposed on a real landscape. Jeremy and Rory have been giving us the details on that once again. The method is that of Barsetshire and will be found again in The American Senator whose terrain slips over into Ayala's Angel. The depiction of the hotel was very realistic: the sordidness of it, the bleakness and yet human warmth was very effective. Trollope liked the place because it was so plain -- as he saw it.
We also have an astute satire against the intolerance and bigotry of the local clerisy. It's interesting to me how Trollope shows the Irish catholics to be much more tolerant and caring than the Irish Anglicans: Mr Townsend doesn't deserve to shake hands with Father Barney. Trollope particularly dislikes pretensions, and he shows Irish servants and the Catholic clergy in The Macdermots and Castle Richmond to be without false pretension. By-the-bye, souping system Trollope attributes to Townsend was real at the time: Irish Catholics were pushed into converting in return for bowls of soup. Trollope apparently (we see this in his Irish story about Father Giles) had a deep cordial relationship with a Catholic Father for many years, and he also got along very well with his Irish manservant Barney -- who was the man who woke him at 4:30 every morning to begin his writing life.
On this realistic vein of the novel, I thought the way in which Trollope depicted the people who the Fitzgeralds serve the Indian meal true to life. Those who are desperate will kick at those who are in their ken: why should these women be grateful to the Fitzgerald girls? It is the fate of those who try to do good face-to-face in such circumstances to encounter rage, anger, bewilderment hitting out at them. The only thing I would criticize adversely is that Trollope idealised the people on the other side of the counter, the people giving out the government's dole. Human nature being what it is, they will just as often be hard, cold (and on top of that disdainful) as those who have to ask and to accept it.
Consider this (which was perfectly true) that merchants and the more transient people who got hold of the Indian meal deliberately ground "up the whole corn without separating the grain from the husks and the shell of a grain of Indian corn does not, when ground, become soft flour" (Oxford Castle Richmond, ed McCormack, Ch8, p. 85). The starving and desperately poor were made to pay more money for much less food, food which had been adulterated in such a way that it was indigestible. What more pungent truth against the property system could be recorded.
It's the style soothes us, is constantly beautifully evocative, all circular. It's seen in the smallest sharp sentences too: "It is the flinching from pain which makes pain so painful (Ch 9, p. 99).
Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001
Castle Richmond Chs 6-10:
“On this realistic vein of the novel, I thought the way in which Trollope depicted the people who the Fitzgeralds serve the Indian meal true to life. Those who are desperate will kick at those who are in their ken: why should these women be grateful to the Fitzgerald girls? It is the fate of those who try to do good face-to-face in such circumstances to encounter rage, anger, bewilderment hitting out at them. The only thing I would criticize adversely is that Trollope idealised the people on the other side of the counter, the people giving out the government's dole. Human nature being what it is, they will just as often be hard, cold (and on top of that disdainful) as those who have to ask and to accept it.”
As one who has worked in a public-assistance office, I can vouch for the accuracy of Ellen’s comments here. We seem to expect that applicants for assistance will exhibit a certain meekness and gratitude, and when they don’t, we are outraged with them. A bad attitude from someone asking for help can really grate on one’s nerves. Of course a government office is not a perfect parallel for the scene from the novel. Those who work in such offices are getting paid; they are not volunteers like the Fitzgerald girls. Nevertheless many who work in social services do so out of a desire to help those in need, out of a sense of compassion. Despite this, it is very common to run into hard, cold and disdainful attitudes among such people. People can and do get hardened to the desperation of the people they deal with. They sometimes slowly go blind to what they are seeing. This is just an unpleasant reality. The truth is, these offices are the scene of much conflict, stress, and hot emotions. So I agree that Trollope has idealized the scene in some respects.
On another subject, Ellen wrote: “It's interesting to me how Trollope shows the Irish catholics to be much more tolerant and caring than the Irish Anglicans...”
I thought it was interesting that Trollope speaks as a Protestant. He makes the statement that in Ireland “staunch Protestantism consists too much in a hatred of Papistry” rather than “in a hatred of those errors against which we Protestants are supposed to protest” (emphasis added). Perhaps he does so in order to claim the right to criticize. It is as if he is saying that he is a Protestant and can therefore speak against Protestants if he wishes. I have noticed that Trollope is fairly consistent in this from novel to novel. He may refer to Catholics using the traditional anti-Catholic language (references to idolatry, whore of Babylon, etc.) but he portrays individual Catholics sympathetically, frequently more sympathetically than their Protestant counterparts.
And lastly Ellen wrote, “It seems to me that the stories of Castle Richmond fit the paradigm of the "debt that must be paid". This is also called the Faust paradigm since it concerns a fate that catches up with us all sooner or later.”
Ellen, I appreciated this analysis very much. It is illuminating.
Castle Richmond: Establishment Romance
In response to Todd's posting I thought I'd say how much I am enjoying Castle Richmond. I know it's an establishment romance: it is telling the tale of the famine from the point of view of people only indirectly affected by what is happening all about them. Perhaps this is one of the reasons one still finds such prejudice against the notion that Trollope wrote good or significant Anglo-Irish novels at the beginning of a tradition of them. But I like romance -- and probably it's just that at times we are in the mood for a certain kind of book. I am finding the style and mood of this book alluring. Probably that's one of the reasons I think the story matter, landscape and characters could be translated into an effective movie which would draw attention.
Of course in the manner of movies, it would not do to open where Trollope opens. Instead the opening scene would focus on the famine -- and the matter of this week's Chapter 7 ("The Famine Year"). Here lots of close ups with scenes which epitomize the suffering, as well as conflict stress, and hot emotions (Todd's words, quoted below). Then you would fan out with panning shots interspersed with montage to capture a large landscape. I'd use an overvoice -- Mr Trollope's at the opening of the book. One problem the writer might have is that the story the film would prefer -- given the history of film and its audience -- would not be the Castle Richmond group but the Desmond house group. It's far more romantic; you would have to switch the emphasis so the Desmond group would carry the story while the Castle Ricmond group would be fitted into the narrative. However, since both plots are intertwined through Clara, this emphasis would not demand a change in title.
I've never worked in a public assistance office nor have I ever actually gone for public assistance. Twice in the 1970s the union group to which college teachers in NYC belonged struck; both times I went to the unemployment office because I was advised to. I can only quote Todd's words as describing what I saw: "The truth is, these offices are the scene of much conflict, stress, and hot emotions."
Cheers to all,
Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: The Topography
I have always has a soft spot for Castle Richmond as I first read the book a couple of years ago - just a year before buying a house in the area where it is set. We are about 10 miles from Kanturk and I would guess about 15 miles from the fictional location of Castle Richmond itself.
Trollope of course would have known the area well from his time at Mallow - the major town of North Cork. On Main Street, outside St Ann's Church is a map of Mallow on which "Anthony Trollope's House" is shown. But there is no plaque on the building itself and I have never been sure whether it is the house which now houses an optician or the one next door. Opposite is the present-day post office - I like to think that this may have been the same building that was the post office since Trollope's time but I have no evidence for this. There is a bookshop next door to the post office but the owners are either ignorant of or have ignored the Trollope connection - they do not appear to stock any of his books, Castle Richmond included.
The barony of Desmond is a figment of Trollope's imagination. All the land in the area is in the baronies of Muskerry, Duhallow or Orrery and Kilmore. But the name of Desmond is well grounded in history. There were Earls of Desmond until the 15th Earl led an unsuccessful revolt against the British Crown. The Earl was killed in 1581 and his supporters surrendered in 1583, at which point the Earldom was attainted and his extensive lands covering much of Co Cork, the North of Co Kerry and part of Co Limerick was forfeited. The family name of the Earls of Desmond was FitzGerald - they were part of Tudor Ireland's most powerful family, which also included the Earls of Kildare. The 8th and the 12th Earls were both called Thomas FitzGerald.
I remember once reading a fascinating book entitled "In search of Blandings", in which the author attempted to track down which house had inspired PG Wodehouse to create Blandings Castle. (The author's answer was 3 different houses - one for the garden, one for the exterior of the Castle and one for the interior.) Does anyone know whether any research has been done on whether there are identifiable sources for Trollope's fictional locations?
It has become a diversion for me to guess where Castle Richmond, Hap House and Desmond Court might have been. There are plenty of clues in the text as to where they would be - but of course Castle Richmond is fiction and the houses are in a fictional barony so any detective work could well be pointless. Nevertheless, for what it's worth, here are the clues so far.
Trollope tells us that the village outside Desmond Court was the town of Desmond. There is a town called Ballydesmond (Irish for the "Town of Desmond") about 20 miles from Kanturk but it is due west, near the Owentaraglin River (is this why the cadet branch of the fictional Fitzgerald family is represented by Owen?). Desmond Court would have had to be South of Kanturk in order to to be "in a bleak unadorned region, almost amongst the mountains, halfway between Kanturk and Macroom" (Chapter 1). This latter description places Desmond Court in the foothills of the Boggergah Mountains.
Castle Richmond and Hap House would both be to the North of Desmond Court, nearer to Kanturlk, as we are told that they are both on the banks of the River Blackwater. In Chapter 7, we are told that Hap House is halfway betwen Kanturk and Mallow and Owen chooses to support Mallow's famine relief efforts rather than those of Kanturk which are led by Herbert. From this, I would deduce that Castle Richmond must be to the West of Hap House. We know from Chapter 8 that it is within walking distance of "the turn to Ballyclough" , which places Castle Richmond quite near to the Bannagh cross-roads, with Hap House about 5 miles to the East.
One day, I'll follow the river through this area and see if there are any houses which meet the description. I can also look through Samuel Lewis' 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland - the volume on Co Cork is still in print. I have a copy but unfortunately I do not have it with me at present. I'll be able to look at it in about 4 weeks time and if I find anything interesting I'll post it.
Finally, to the City of Cork to South Main Street and the Kanturk Hotel. Trollope tells us that North and South Main Streets had lost their appeal with the opening of the more fashionable Grand Parade and Patrick Streets. There is no Kanturk Hotel in South Main Street today - but I can confirm that the street is as unfashionable today as it was in Trollope's day.
Re: Castle Richmond: The Topography
Trollope gives a fine description of Desmond Court itself in Chapter 1...
A huge place... ungainly and uselessly extensive...three stories high, and stands around a quadrangle, in which there are two entrances opposite to each other. Nothing can be uglier than that great paved court... Outside.. no gardens close up to the house, no flower beds... no sweet shrubs peeping in at square windows. Gardens ... half a mile off; and the great hall door opens out upon a flat, bleak park, with hardly a scrap of what courtesy can call a lawn.
There are sufficient diagnostic features here, I think, to identify with an actual original, although I suspect he might actually have transplanted the house from its origin to its fictional location. Consider: Three stories high, forming a quadrangle, entrances to the quad opposed, quad paved with no features. No domestic gardens, either flower or kitchen near the house, square windows, great hall door (i.e., not an insignificant one) opening to a flat bleak park. This is a good a description as the houses at Allington. Lewis is a good start, and possibly also some of the pre 1922 descriptions of houses.
Re: Castle Richmond: A Possible Film Adaptation?
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001
I too am enjoying Castle Richmond very much. I read the first section early and now am just getting to the second section so I have almost forgotten what I read earlier.
Ellen, you're right, the first part would not be the good opening to the movie. I though, being a mystery fan, would begin the movie with Chapter VI and the Molletts in the rundown Kanturk Hotel plotting and scheming their secrets. Just a different focus.
I enjoyed Chapter VI quite a lot with Fanny and one-eyed Tom. I haven't really gotten into the famine part yet since I am a bit behind in the read.
A belated thanks to all for the background, geography, etc.
September 4, 2001
Re: Castle Richmond: A Possible Film Adaptation?
Dagny suggested another way to begin a film adapation of Castle Richmond would be in the Kanturk Hotel with the Mollets plotting and scheming. Fanny would be the first female presence we see; we would get a full picture of Irish life which is inbetween those who were edging into starvation and the landowning classes and their servants and employees and tenants. A hotel would provide a landscape in which to figure forth much about Ireland all at once: I would use Trollope's very realistic picture of the rooms.
I'd like to add that another reason for focusing for the romantic interest on the Desmonds would be the simplicity and archetypal nature of the romances. The Fitzgerald story is very complicated. You would probably have to begin with a flashback: movies rarely go back and forth in time; usually they move forward from the earliest incident in the story (even if told very late in a particular novel) to the last. But then Herbert would be the quest hero and provide a solid story line: Owen Fitzgerald corresponds to Propp's "false" hero, the man who ends up isolated. His tragedy is inward as is his Countess's. They would begin and end our film adaptation.
Cheers to all,