La Vendée, Chapters One Through Five
Scene Settting, Character Portraits, The Initiation of the Revolt

Re: The Vendée

In Trollope's first five chapters, Trollope situates the action in a specific historical moment (Ch 1, opening paragraphs). He presents a group of character portraits which recall the set pieces of Sir Walter Scott (Ch 1, second half, Chs 4-5). He groups these characters by showing how they are related to one another and come out of a specific landscape (Durbellière, family seat of the Larochejaquelins; Clisson, De Lescure's seat, Chs 3 & 5). Finally he dramatises the incident which initiated the revolt, the attempt to force all able men in St Florent to sign up for war and the refusal on the part of these people to obey (St Florent, Ch 2).

In his brief defense of this novel in An Autobiography, Trollope says "the characters are distinct" and "the conception as to the feeling of the people is, I think, true" (1950 Oxford rev ed, PD Edwards, p. 81). The characters are distinct. We have the older somewhat mature M de Lescure, the idealistic Henri de Larochejaquelin, the untrustworthy Adolphe Denot, the peasant hero-postilion, Cathelineau, the intensely religious Father Jerome. Jacques de Chapeau is a comic servant (in the tradition of Scott). The women, Agatha Larochejaquelin and Victorine and Marie de Lescure are not as distinct; they are too sentimentalised. Thus far some of the best passages are those where the characters are placed into action. I see in Cathelineau's behavior a weak early rendition of the Daniel Thwaite-Anton Trendellson type, the outsider (see especially Oxford La Vendée ed WJMcCormack, p 52); he's too young to relate to Crawley but he is man beneath others whose gifts ought to place him higher. The difference is Cathelineau is really humble and accepts his status.

Other characters of interest: the history of the Marquis de Larochejaquelin's love life reminded me of Dr Thorne's: both crossed in love very young and never getting over it. Trollope's analysis of the motives of Father Jerome works in two directions. If you read carefully you find that Trollope is aware of many motives in all the characters. I see much melancholy in Trollope's most interesting characters, and notice in these chatper that De Lescure goes forward expecting defeat, all the more determined (p. 67). Since it's not done persuasively and is a bit ostentatious.

The problem is the dialogue is not natural; the conversations are unreal. What was Trollope's forte in The Macdermots and The Kellys has vanished. Maybe it's that Trollope means to write consistently in a genre in which he cannot as yet find anyway to put life. He needed some style and that he didn't find until Nina Balatka; he opts for some attempt at archaism. Maybe he's uncomfortable in earlier periods; in most of his novels he sets the action in the very year he's writing. He is at such a distance from these characters.

I don't know that the problem is their Frenchness. Later in his career Trollope is expert in his portrayal of French Catholic bourgeois-peasant culture outside the more sophisticated mainstream 'city' culture of Paris. I think the reason he became more successful was that he dropped the character's status. In "La Mère Bauche" and The Golden Lion of Granpère his central characters are innkeepers and below. McCormack -- and others too -- have suggested that Trollope chose this story partly as a result of his mother and brother's journeys and books on Western France. He himself travelled through eastern provincial France and into the Pyrenées for holidays later in life. Still I've a hunch it's the politics that fascinated him.

Yet when Trollope adds in his Autobiography that his 'tale is not dull', he doesn't recommend the book as a political parable, because that's where the interest lies, why the story has some interest. The incident at St Florent is in fact very well done because the kinds of emotions that motivate people, the reason battles are lost on one side and won on the other, and the strong role chance and mayhem plays in all riots are all there. Trollope points out the reason the more upper class people are angry is their high positions are being given away to the friends of the people in Paris. Trollope was himself against conscription -- this came out later in his career. Why should these men be forced to fight? There is no myth of 'the state' or nationalism or patriotism in the text. The games over the cannon are said to be accurate. The importance of intimidation -- the willingness of someone to intimidate or not be intimadated -- is brought home as central to who's on top in any situation. The scene moves swiftly. We get battle speeches on the part of Cathelineau. Trollope brings home to us how important is force of character and how in emergencies where life and death issues are at stake, hierarchy will dissolve and the stronger, swift, quick-thinking intuitively clever men emerge as leaders. Maybe he didn't have the language to say this sort of thing. He certainly does say he wrote The Warden as a political fable.

There are a few other Trollopian elements: the long descriptions of the places. The landscapes. There are good passages of reverie and deep musing here and there: "He was reading, but she was sitting gazing at the fire" (p 40). There are occasional witticisms. For example, we are told in Chapter Three of Durbellière

"There were large wooden gates at each [entrance], which were usually left open, but each of which was guarded by two white-washed lions -- not quite so much at ease as those on the pedestals, for they were fixed a-top of pillars hardly broad enough to support them. But this doubtless only increased their watchfulness" ( p. 35).

And there is much that is uncommon in Trollope. The violence. Most of the time Trollope prefers moments just after violence is over, and doesn't go for big scenes. Very unusual is his description of the church's gargoyles. I wondered if Trollope had read Victor Hugo or any other French novelist -- a number of them love to do this kind of thing lovingly. Trollope is working up a medieval point of view here -- about hell, something he identifies as Catholic perhaps?

As Judy Geater says, it does get better folks :)

Ellen Moody

Re: Why Does No One Much Discuss This Book

I suppose it's a backhanded form of praise to say that by no means is La Vendée Trollope's worst book. Of the longer fictions (novels), I would cite The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson as his one complete near-failure; of the stories the one really bad one (as to attitudes, executions, just about everything), my candidate is 'George Walker at Suez'. I've never read them but am told that Trollope's second two long travel books, one on Australia and New Zealand, the other on South Africa, are tired books.

Perhaps one reason people don't want to emphasise the many things really of interest in La Vendée is they are afraid of looking foolish. Everyone, after all, agrees, it's not his forté, and not at all the sort of book for which Trollope gains his largest readership: the big one which takes place in the present moment, presents everyday reality in such a way as lends itself to lay moralising and psychology drawn from our own lives. It has its flaws, but it also has some remarkable moments, especially once you get into the second volume. I agree the style is felicitious in its way: Trollope is trying to create some medium for his version of history--as-romance.

I also find myself wondering if Trollope read Notre Dame de Paris; it was after all a Frenchwoman's memoir which led him to write this book. I don't know much about French literature of the first half of the nineteenth century, but the years of publication for the historical novels of Alexandre Dumas (père) make an influence possible: Les Trois Mousquetaires was published in 1844; Vingt ans après, said to be about the Fronde was published in 1845, La Reine Margot (which has been mentioned and nominated as a choice for the next read in the French Literature egroups) was published in 1845 too. This last one has a powerful description of the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. We might think of Trollope as a daring young writer challenging himself to write a historical novel, a type very respected in this period. He wrote that Henry Esmond was Thackeray's best book. And as I recall it George Eliot's Romola is "not so bad" either. Trollope admired Bulwer-Lytton's historical romances. I wonder if Mark Jensen could tell us if these French books were quickly translated into English.

"It's not so bad" is New York City slang for something surprising non-punitive.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

From: Mark Jensen
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 17:29:58 -0700
Subject: [trollope-l] English translations

Ellen Moody wrote:

I wonder if Mark Jensen could tell us if these French books were quickly translated into English.

WorldCat shows the following:

Hugo's *Hunchback of Notre-Dame* [translation of *Notre-Dame de Paris*] -- three American translations appearing in 1831 (Philadelphia: John Wanamaker; New York: H.M. Caldwell; Boston: Dane Estes) and two in 1832 (New York: Booklovers Press; Boston: Estes & Laurial); one British translation appeared in 1833 (London: R. Bentley), as well as pirated editions in French published in the U.S. in 1831 and 1832. (Modern copyright conventions only begin to take effect in 1887.)
Dumas's *The Three Musketeers* -- 2 American translations in 1844 (Chicago: Harper, Clarke; New York: J.H. Sears) and British translations in 1846 (London: G. Vickers) and 1850 (London: S. French).
Dumas's *Twenty Years After* [translation of *Vingt Ans Apres*] -- an American translation in 1846 (Baltimore: Taylor Wilde) and a British translation in the same year (London: Bruce & Wyld).
Dumas's *Marguerite de Valois: an Historical Romance* [translation of *La Reine Margot*] -- an American translation in 1850 (New York: Garret).

Most of the were published without attribution to the translator.

Balzac's novels were also abundantly translated into English in the first part of the century, of course, and were often historical in their inspiration. And in the other direction, Walter Scott was extremely popular in French. Vigny, whose *Cinq-Mars* (1826) is still today sometimes called the best historical novel in French, defended himself against the notion that he was merely an imitator of Scott.

Mark Jensen
Trollope And His Contemporaries

RE: English Translations of French Historical Novels

This is to thank Mark for listing the many translations of these famous historical novelists of the first half of the 19th century. Vigny is a remarkable figure. I know him only from his memoir Servitude et grandeur militaires. A couple of decades ago now I saw a film called The Duellists (I'm not sure if that was the title) a story focusing on the Napoleonic war and, probably wrongly, ever after associated it with Vigny.

Ellen Moody

Re: Denot: Fascinating Character

Judy has remarked what a fascinating character is Denot. Yes.

As someone who is reading the book for a second time, I'd say one of the living things about him is you can't predict what will happen to him by the end, though when it happens it seems in character and probable. So it feels real. Richard remarks that Denot is "better grounded" and therefore disliked. I find this ironically true to life: even in a counter-revolution where you would think people would prize sincerity which leads to passion, real intense identification with a cause, the kind that has no sense of irony or compromise, disturbs people. We are told that the epitome of belief, the Catholic father, Jerome, "held Adolphe in great aversion" (Oxford La Vendée, ed WJMcCormack, Ch 4, p. 50). How to account for Father Jerome's reaction: he is the hopeful humane man, willing to interpret things for the best; his identification with his cause does not have the mixture of misanthropy and distrust in it that we find in Denot.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Subject: La Vendée: The Country Gentry

This was written during the first time we read the novel together.

I was struck by how much Trollope's French country gentry families resemble English country gentry families. Was that a mistake or were the French country gentry much like their English counterparts? Was there the same sort of local patriotism centered around a country squire at the time or is Trollope making France too much like England? Actually I can't remember reading much about provincial France at all. Everything I have read about 18th century France focuses on Paris. Parisians then and now seem to have the attitude that anything that happens outside of Paris can't be all that important, and the Parisians, whether native born or transplants, have written most of the books. I agree with Ellen that the dialogue in La Vendée isn't up to Trollope's usual standards. I almost have the impression he is trying to keep his characters from sounding like contemporary Englishmen and women. If so he is a little too successful.

John Mize

Subject: La Vendée: Openers

What makes this book interesting is the amount of time and thought that we've all given to Trollope over the years - in Internet reading lists, I mean. No amount of private Trollope worship would have gotten me past the first installment's awful dialogue. It seems we're all agreed on that. Not only are the women sentimentalized, as Ellen Moody points out, but their diction is perverse. I suspect that John Mize is right about Trollope's trying for a French tone. A French, ancien regime tone - tall order for the most skilled and assured writer, which Trollope certainly wasn't at this point.

As to why he's not as lively and true as he is in his first two novels (which I haven't read yet), I wonder if we mightn't look to the vast difference in his average readers' awareness of Old France and Modern Ireland respectively. Perhaps not least from the discomfort of bad faith, the Victorian English seem to have maintained a studious ignorance of Irish life. Trollope needn't worry about being second-guessed. The very same gentry studied the fall of the old regime with morbid interest, and Trollope could expect, critics aside, to be faulted for getting things wrong.

I'm reserving judgment on how English Trollope's fine French families are until I've read a bit more; but I've already got problems with Father Jerome, who reminds me of too many hunting parsons. Giving Jerome an interesting past, including travels, such as no provincial cure was likely to have seems a brutish device to bring the character into play. Indeed, one of the salient differences between the two countries was the way in which the English establishment diffused its influence through educated clergymen 'on the ground,' a feature altogether lacking in France. A priest who'd traveled around would have been far more likely, I'd think, to sympathise with the Republic than to oppose it.

RJ Keefe

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