August 16, 2001
Re: Concise Calendar, Introduction; Immediate and Recent Responses to His Attitude towards Famine
As everyone on this list knows, we are about to start Trollope's third Irish and ninth completed novel, Castle Richmond. Most of us all probably also know that it was begun right before Trollope had the most important invitation of his life -- to write a novel on English life which would be featured in the prestigious Cornhill undert the editorship of none other than William Makepeace Thackeray. Trollope interrupted Castle Richmond to write Framley Parsonage, the latter, the only novel he allowed to be printed in parts before he had finished it. He then returned to complete Castle Richmond, thus earning one of the reviewer's jokes that "Mr Trollope is in the position of a man who, after becoming father of an enormous family in a very short time, takes at last to having twins" (an unsigned notice in the Saturday Review).
Both books are as important for the time in which they were published as for their content. Framley Parsonage is the book which was Trollope's first famous success and turned him (for both good and ill) in the chronicler of Barsetshire for the majority of his readership. Castle Richmond was written shortly after the most of the Irish famines of the 19th century (it was not the only one by a long shot, "only" the most devastating whose effects on Irish history have been long-lasting). Unlike Framley Parsonage in England it was a commercial flop -- showing that the public does not buy novels because it knows a man is a good novelist, though (not entirely paradoxically) it was quickly translated into 5 different languages within the first year of publication and was read by many across the European continent. In comparison Framley Parsonage was translated only into Russian in the year of publication, and four years later into German.
As with The Kellys and O'Kellys, the Folio (and presumably the Trollope Society) introduction to Castle Richmond is not very good; the essayist seems unaware that there have been several good essays on Castle Richmond (one published by the Trollope Society in Trollopiana and by Roy Foster_) showing that the mood of insecurity, doubt, and loss and providential rescue-just-in-time with a melancholy close of the two plots fits beautifully with the backdrop story of the famine; he apologizes all over the place for a fine book. And as with The Kellys and O'Kellys, the introducton to the Oxford classics paperback edition is very good: in fact Mary Hamer's essay is much better because she doesn't condescend to Trollope and places the book in the context of his career as well as the social and political events he responded to. She points out how Trollope's defense of the English goverment's meagre response to the famine was even in its own day thought callous: it may be argued that Trollope's unknown status as an Anglo- Irish novelist can be traced to his essays: many Irish critics have never forgiven him and are loathe to include him in any pantheon of theirs. At the same time she shows how brave it was of Trollope to write a book about such an unpopular subject, to force (as it were) upon his English readers' attention the horror that was happening a few miles across the water, and she is not alone in suggesting that the text of his novel presents a different imaginative response to the famine from the pro-Government pro-status quo establishemtn essays, one whose images of desolation and starvation and whose love of Ireland at least emotionally refute his "judicious balanced" views outside the book. In my bibliography on my homepage I cite a couple of other essays about Castle Richmond written in the same spirit as Mary Hamer's two: she also writes the essay on the novel for the Oxford Companion. Another essay I recommend is by Mullen in his Penguin Companion: he writes eloquently of Castle Richmond as a historical novel; he calls scenes from the Famine are strong and memorable. Mullen and Hamer both write of the triangle between the mother and daughter and a young Irish landowner whose fate at the close of the novel dramatizes some of Trollope's own feelings about leaving Ireland and his earlier pariah status in England before he went to Ireland and made a success of his post as a surveyor and postal official.
I'll add that there is a strong nostalgic undertow to the book: it is Trollope's commemorative adieu, his attempt to show his gratitude by speaking aloud what was in nice drawing rooms unspeakable.
Castle Richmond is the last of Trollope's unserialized books. It was written between 4 August 1859 and 28 February 1860, and it was published by Chapman and Hall in May 1860. Trollope was so energized at the time -- by his coming move back to England, that he also wrote 5 short stories while juggling Framley Parsonage with Castle Richmond: these five include one of his masterworks in the short form: "La Mere Bauche". Still like The Kellys, Castle Richmond original volume divisions were not respected, and the chapter divisions in the published first edition differ from the volume divisions in the manuscript. For our calendar I have followed the manuscript as in reading the book, it comes clear that these first divisions are the turning points of the book.
Aug 26th: Chapters 1-5
Sept 2nd: Chapters 6-10
Sept 9th: Chapters 11-15
Sept 16th: Chapters 16-20
Sept 23rd: Chapters 21-25
Sept 30th: Chapters 26-30
Oct 7th: Chapters 31-35
Oct 14th: Chapters 36-40
Oct 21st: Chapters 41-44
We then take a week or so off and devote November into December to a "partner" Irish or travel book, after which we will have our usual Winter Solstice break of Christmas and ghost stories.
As to 20th century and recent editions, we are in the same position we have been for our last four novels (Is He Popenjoy?, Ayala's Angel, John Caldigate and The Kellys and O'Kellys): they are scarce. There was a Lane New Pocket Library edition in New York in 1906, but nothing more until 1979 when there was a 3 volume Garland which like the 3 volume 1981 Arno is an expensive facsimile of the first edition. The ones most readily available and inexpensive are: 1) a 1984 Dover of which I own a copy: it is a republication of the Chapman and Hall edition (so the text is probably the same as the Garland and Arno, minus the volume divisions); and 2) an excellent Oxford paperback classics with the introduction by Mary Hamer, a map of the real countryside in which Trollope placed his imaginary happenings and reasonable notes. There is also the Trollope Society edition beautifully bound on good paper; it is taken from a correction of the first edition; this text is the one found in the Folio Society editions which also include a series of 16 full-page illustrations by Rod Waters. As a group these pictures focus the reader on the famine story and the romantic and melodramatic incidents of Trollope's two plots.
Cheers to all,
Ellen who is once again looking forward to reading Trollope. Castle Richmond is probably the 28th novel by Trollope that I've read slowly in serial fashion with a group of other people.
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 21:37:01 -0500
Re Castle Richmond: A Powerful Book
As I get older and further removed from my graduate school days in English literature, I find I am less and less able to evaluate what I read with any kind of objectivity or critical eye and, instead, am more prone to just give myself over to the experience of reading, especially if the literature in any way echoes my own emotional life. And what's.more, this is a state of affairs that I don't care to correct. This is merely by way of preface to my saying that I just completed Castle Richmond (I brought it along as airplane reading on my recent travels) and I think it is, at least in part, a wonderful book, in spite of the fact that it is not considered one of A.T.'s best efforts. One chapter near the end (I give nothing away) is one of the most moving passages I have read in Trollope and brought me beyond tears to sobs.
I hope that this book's alleged flaws do not hinder others from enjoying its merits. There is much truth here.
Re: Castle Richmond Like Wayne, I found no flaws in Castle Richmond the last time I read it. I read books in part to find friends; I turn to novels to for some validation of my inner experience, my perception of life. With Trollope I don't often find any direct sense of his inner life flowing out to encompass mine. However, in many of his novels I find a remarkable insight into and telling of experiences that come near to be harrowing. Castle Richmond has its moments like these.