La Vendée, Chapters Eleven Through Fifteen
Scenes of War, The Presence of Walter Scott, The Private Impinged upon by Public Events: The Moving Death of Cathelineau, Family Conflicts

September 23, 2000

RE: La Vendée, Chs 11-15: Scenes of War (I)

The first half of this week's chapters are almost wholly taken up by the Vendean war. They are effective as dramatic description.

Chapter 11: The Seige at Saumur

The siege is a success; the Vendeans take the place. Trollope takes us through the kind of old-fashioned battle Keegan says dominated war until the Napoleonic sweeps through Europe: the taking of a town. It takes several days of bombardment with Cathelineau at the head. It is in this chapter that it becomes the job of de Lescure & Adolphe Denot to lead the men over the bridge. As the leaders of such a step come into view, they are of course sitting ducks for the other side. Denot chickens out. He cannot face the strong possibility of death. The "show" (to use Robert Graves's term in Goodbye to All That_ is successful, and the cannon Marie-Jeanne, a kind of trophy, helps them to clinch the invasion of the town.

The Trollopean touch -- by which I mean his insight into human psychology -- is found at midpoint in the chapter and follows hard upon Denot's failure to act with courage. De Lescure forgives Denot, tears come to Denot's eyes as de Lescure promises never to speak of this unhappy failure of nerve again, and our narrator writes:

"yet [Denot] felt a kind of hatred for the man to whom he had afforded an opportunity of forgiving him. He felt that he never could like de Lescure again, never be happy in his company; he knew that de Lescure would religiously keep his word, that he would never mention to a human being that horrid passage at the bridge; but he knew also that it could never be forgotten. Adolphe Denot was not absolutely a coward; he had not bragged that he would do anything whcih he knew it was contrary to his nature to do, when he told Agatha that he would be the first to place the white flag on the citadel of Saumur: he felt then all the aspirations of a brave man; but he had not the assured, sustained courage to suport him in the moment of extreme danger. As de Lescure said, his heart failed him" (Oxford La Vendée, ed. MJMcCormack, p. 149).

This is subtle because it is not condemnatory, not moralistic; Trollope simply records what is so. However, since we are looking at the incident through Denot's perspective we end up feeling for him as we read. Have not we too hated someone who has forgiven us? Trollope's insight makes me think of 18th century satire which sees human nature without the myopia of self-flattery.

The chapter closes with an interesting incident. People sometimes assume the Nazis were the first to discover certain kinds of physical deprivations which have the effect of humiliating the average person, of removing personal pride and thus courage. One of these takes us back to the mythic story of Samson and Deliah. We remember how she cut his hair. The Nazis systematically shaved the heads of all people they didn't exterminate immediately so as to make of them craven slaves to start with, so as to mark them with some stigma. Our Vendeans come up with a similar idea which they improve on: they shave the heads of all the men in the town they have taken but also paint the head red. This colour is the colour of the kerchief worn by Larochejaquelin and was in fact a real part of the unofficial uniform worn by Vendean soldiers. Tilley reprints a print from the time. How irrational human beings are. Many of them will be made to feel emotional and follow someone because of a colour in his headband. This incident also really occurred.

Chapter 12: The Council of War

Here we see how when war breaks down the usual hierarchy and social behaviors, the inner resolve and tenacity, courage, cunning, presence of certain individuals will lead others to make of them their leaders. It's an effective scene. Cathelineau is chosen as leader; Denot becomes enraged because he is passed over. This is the first outward response to his failure of nerve at Saumur. He can't take it; he flings the low status of Cathelineau in everyone's face. Again the scene itself is not one we are familiar with from Trollope, but the one afterwards is. The private one in which Henri Larochejaquelin attempts to get Adolphe to accept the rankings. Larochejaquelin is our idealist and says to Denot:

"if personal ambition has brought you here, you had better leave us. We come here to fight, and very probably to die for our King and our religion; and, being called upon to act as leaders, we must bear a heavier share of the burden, and undergo greater perils than others; but we seek no especial dignity."

Denot says his feelings are as "pure" as Henri's; Father Jerome says the only way Denot can teach everyone to believe this is to act accordingly. Denot cannot and takes his ground upon hierarchy; the others cannot really argue against this as fighting for king and aristocracy is fighting for hierarchy. Denot will not make himself "subservient" to Cathelineau and other low class people who have emerged; he will not "deign to be a common soldier" among them; he stalks off. I think Trollope is aware of the irony of the next scene. Before Denot disappears he hints to Larochejaquelin that Agatha is in love with Cathelineau and Cathelineau with Agatha. Larochejaquelin's respect for Cathelineau apparently does not go so far as to permit his sister to marry him (pp. 168-69).

This too is a Trollopean motive: one finds it in his third Anglo-Irish novel, Castle Richmond, where the secondary hero is beloved by the heroine's mother who indeed longs to make him her husband even though he is younger than she. When this hero wants to marry her daughter, she is also incensed because he is of a lower rank. We find it in The Duke's Children when Silverbridge doesn't want his friend Frank to marry his sister, Mary. It's a central part of the plot of very late Marion Fay where the hero's sister falls in love with a postal clerk (so we see how Trollope's identification is continually with both sides here too).

We get a bit of history in the middle of the chapter: a couple of paragraphs in which the narrator takes out time to badmouth the Convention (pp. 160-61). A bloodbath such as ensued is atrocious, horrific, and an argument against revolutions; however, there is another view, one voiced most memorably by Mark Twain when Twain saidof the terror that it spilled buckets of blood in response to whole rivers and oceans of blood spilling for centuries.

RE: _La Vendée_, Chs 11-15: The Private Impinged upon by Public Events (II)

Critics who have written about Trollope's Irish novels often praise him for showing how decisions in some public realm far away from a particular individual eventually shape that individual's life -- and oftentimes make it worse. In fact, this insight can be found in all Trollope's political novels, and is here in La Vendée.

Chapters 13-14: We Return to Durbellière and Michael Stein's Forge

Admittedly part of this chapter presents material meant to be taken as universal behavior. Henri cross-questions Agatha about her love and her way of denying this love is supposed to alert the reader that she is in fact deeply in love with Cathelineau. This is also an impossibly idealistic and sentimental scene between a father and daughter about courage and loyalty. It prepares us for scenes to come in (the father and daughter do stand up to some considerable terror later in the book.). Since this time round I am also reading _Last Chronicle_ I have to admit there are tear-jerking scenes there too. False sentimentality which moves away from the hardness of real life.

The chapters also have a scene which shows a young writer: in a mere two pages we have Annot Stein approached by Jacques Chapeau, his wooing, her acceptance, their mutual approach to the old man who is obdurate and then his relenting and a final scene of reconciliation (pp. 192-99). There's nothing false here; it's just too hurried over. In fact it is the kind of matter out of which Trollope in later books would spin hundreds of pages.

Yet it's interesting to see how the private is controlled by the public. At Durbellière all is preparation; there is some good talk about seiges and the characters discuss the humiliation of the Republicans and their plans. The point of the Stein chapter is to show us there are some who make money from wars. Stein is a blacksmith. He is also someone who doesn't care so much who wins as he does that he shall keep his business and profits going. He has forbidden his sons to leave the forge. They must escape him and later endure his wrath. He doesn't want his daughter marrying because he wants to use her as his perpetual servant too. Again I think in another book Trollope would have worked this portrait up into a memorable type.

Chapter 15: The Hospital of St Laurent and the Death of a Hero

The great house becomes a hospital. Curious how the motifs are good and the right ones. This happened repeatedly in World Wars One and Two. Think of Brideshead Revisited. There is an able and interesting description of how a little town somehow naturally turns into a place where the wounded and dying are brought. It is not far from Durbellière, about equidistant to the various towns which are strategically important, yet slightly off the beaten track.

Actually I thought the death of Cathelineau was well done, moving. We are told he is wounded badly and thinks he is dying. The scene is long and has to be read in its own right; I think it works because tact is used. Cathelineau is brave but he hates dying. He wants to live. Agatha loves him. They kiss. Trollope also shows the tact we see in other deaths in his novel. We see Cathelineau brought in and the talk that occurs is in settling him. The actual death scene is not dramatised and swiftly got over (this is the way of deaths in all Trollope's novels -- as we have just seen in the deaths of Mrs Proudie and Mr Dobbs Broughton):

"He died about three in the morning, and before five, Henri Larochejaquelin arrived at St Laurent from Clisson. He had ridden hard through the previous day and the entire night, with the hope of once more seeing the leader, whom he had followed with so much devotion, and valued so truly; but he was too late" (p. 214).

Let's notice that we are also only told about deaths from afar. The only death we get close to is that of Cathelineau. We are not told about rape, torture, spiteful murders, destruction of villages, houses, the misery of many. The way soldiers were paid was through their seizing booty. The excitement of war was the barbarism that was unleased -- so many books exist on sacks of this or that city I needn't cite any. Yet we get none of this in Trollope. It's remarkable for by his not giving us any sense of this reality beyond some hints and a scene which refers to rape as a fear of our (protected) heroines in the later chapters Trollope's argument against revolution is weak. If he wanted us to hate this revolution, we should have gang rape, children put to the sword. None of this here. I mention this not because I am bloodthirsty, but as a sign that Trollope is at odds with his own nature when he writes a romantic history of war. He himself shies away from the brutal violence a novelist would have to imagine intensely to write this kind of novel effectively.

As for Cathelineau's death, I would say the problem is this is sort of scene which should be saved for the end. I felt bad that Cathelineau was gone because he was interesting. What now, thought I? Again less experienced novelists often go for the big scene too soon; they have not learned how to extend themselves over a large arch of verbal space so as to provide a climax like this near the end of the book.

I hope others make comments either on what I've written or what they think of the book thus far as we did last week. We are actually half-way through. The death of Cathelineau is unexpected and climactic. In how many books by Trollope does the noble hero with whom he identifies die?

Ellen Moody

RE: _La Vendée_, Chs 11-15: Scenes of War (II)

I did forget to say that a sign of Trollope's inability to write a fiction about war on its own terms, his ultimately affectionate heart (for that's the problem) is that in the seige we are only told about deaths from afar. The only death we get close to is that of Cathelineau.

We are not told about rape, torture, spiteful murders, destruction of villages, houses, the misery of many. The way soldiers were paid was through their seizing booty. The excitement of war was the barbarism that was unleased -- so many books exist on sacks of this or that city I needn't cite any. Yet we get none of this in Trollope. It's remarkable for by his not giving us any sense of this reality beyond some hints and a scene which refers to rape as a fear of our (protected) heroines in the later chapters Trollope's argument against revolution is weak. If he wanted us to hate this revolution, we should have gang rape, children put to the sword. None of this here.

Ellen Moody (who is not really a bloodthirsty reader)

To: TrollopeReadingList
Subject: La Vendée, Ch 15

La Vendée, is starting to interest me more than at the start.

The death scene of the postilion-general with the lovely Agatha is sympathetically written and tugs the sensitive heart. For once, the humble but distinguished is allowed to aim high in his choice of love and be accepted. Sort of.

The historical context interests me. I had the vision from history classes at school that the king and the aristocracy were oppressive and corrupt. The French people seemed in my mind to have risen up en masse and overthrown the king, albeit producing some cruel side effects like la guillotine, but basically like 1066 And All That, I conceived of the revolution as a GOOD THING. Trollope paints the picture quite differently, very much on the side of the royalists against the raping, pillaging and generally anti religious and nasty rebels. Substitute slavery for religion and we have an interesting parallel with some other rebels who overthrew their lawful king and tipped tea in Boston harbour. They still can't make tea - dunking a bag in a cup of warm water does produce something more drinkable than the average American restaurant coffee, but can hardly be called tea! Where does the truth lie, between the Trollope version and my history class?

Another interesting parallel is between two authors, Trollope and Dickens. [Sig: please don't show this to your wife, or else we will have another battle royal]. "Let's write a novel about the French revolution" they each said. Trollope produced La Vendée. (3 marks out of 10). Dickens produced A Tale of Two Cities (9 marks out of 10, and great memories of Dirk Bogarde as Sidney Carton - "It is a far, far better thing I do....) Not much doubt about the winner there, even if Trollope beats Dickens hands down on most other counts...

Perhaps George III was the lawful king; one could argue that the lawful king was in France pretending that someone still cared. As far as the French Revolution goes, the French are still fighting it with no end or conclusion in sight. My personal sympathy is with the Girondists, even though I realize that moderates are always the first to be executed no matter who wins. As Jim Hightower likes to say, "The only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos."

John Mize

From: "Robert Wright" To: Subject: Warning - blatant sex in La Vendée (blood, guts etc) Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 15:07:42 -0000

Wrote Ellen: Bah! Death to all Aristocrats! What care I whether they are of the sword or the robe. :) As I keep at La Vendée it gets better.

To which Robert replied:

Ah but the robe! Our gallant hero takes his Marie in his arms and all present understand he has at last declared his love. The scene: Clisson. He is hot and sweaty, with filthy clothes, dishevelled, grass stains and much in need of a bath. But all this is manly, and Marie is happy to endure the odour and ordure just to secure her man before all the world.

But what follows. Raw sex that's what. Not that he Clintons her, but we didn't expect that, did we? No, but we hardly expected the titillation which Trollope gives us. It must have set a few hearts racing, where the mere sight of an ankle was enough to make grown men swoon.

The rebs arrive, thinking the castle at their prey. The ladies are in bed, and our hero barges down the door of his fiancee's boudoir. Wow she thinks, after last night, he can't wait and prepares herself for what is to come. (I embroider a little). The music rises. Cut to her face as she hears the sound of horses and bad men entering the house to rape, pillage and nick the video. In a moment, she realises (alas) her virtue is safe for the time being. Our manly hero picks her up in one arm (the left) but his face is modestly turned from her bare bosom as he covers her with a cape which comes conveniently to hand.

Down the stairs he rushes, only to encounter an animal of a person whose brains are spilled by the butt of a gun. Serves him right for wanting fraternity, liberty and human rights I say. Oh no! The baddy grips the cape in his rigour mortis and no amount of prising will free the cape from his fixed grasp. There is nothing to hide the lovely white neck and the 36D cups from the sight of the peasants but a flimsy white nightdress. Oooh, but Marie swoons as her body is pressed against the now rather smelly hero, and who could blame her.?

Taking a look out of the first floor window at a sheer drop onto gravel which would kill a lesser man stone dead, like Superman with Una Thurman and her lips in his manly grip, he sails down in slow motion and lands on his feet. Bionic or what? We have the technology. We can rebuild him. The 36D cups bounce as he launches across the manicured French parkland, hotly pursued by a baddy with a gun he forgets to fire in his haste.

Bingo, and Trollope has to find a way out. I know, he says, let's put in something about a walk our hero happened to take only yesterday (before he proposed I suppose?) when he happened to find a key in a lock which he just knew HAD to break if anyone gave it a tweak. They'll buy that, thinks AT and so away we go and our hero escapes with the swooning maiden (still) in his left arm.

Wonderful stuff. I nearly missed getting out of my train breathless this morning, and could have ended up in Wales had I not realised we were stopped at Reading.

Then AT spoils it. What a daft encounter with the cad Denot. I mean - are we meant to believe Denot wants to kidnap Agatha against her will and in time she will learn to love him? Come on. Then there is the lip curling, grimacing stuff. Oh dear, bathos. We move from high melodrama to absolute garbage. Pity. On the whole, I agree La Vendée is getting better, and recent episodes have been hard to put down, but it's a flawed work I'm afraid. Still, there's enough fun to make it worthwhile, but I could do without some of the contrived scenes and dialogue. I did like the ambush by the royallists of the republicans from the trees and bushes though.


Subject: The Death of Cathelineau

While I, too, was surprised at first by what looked like a premature death for Cathelineau, I was completely reconciled to it by the time Henri arrived at the convent, because I'd foreseen that Trollope would have to get rid of the postillion somehow, and sooner rather than later, so that, whatever happened to Agatha, he would not be around to rescue and so claim her. For the union of Cathelineau and Agatha is simply unthinkable to Trollope at this stage in his career; the glee with which he capered over 'Lady Anna' shows just how far he thought he'd come. (And the force of that story's 'misalliance' is diluted considerably by the device of having Anna and Daniel grow up together as playmates.) At no point in the moving deathbed scene does Agatha confess to anything like an ordinary love; she's more like a Marianne of the royalists singing hymns to the dying martyr.

The further we get into Le Vendée,' the more I'm reminded of the mushy operas of Massenet and the 'verismo' composers.

RJ Keefe

In reply Gene Stratton wrote:

The reason why Cathelineau had to die was that in real life the real Cathelineau died. As I read La Vendée, I find myself occasionally forgetting that so many of the characters are based on real people with the same names, just as many of the events are based on real events. Some of the absurdity of La Vendée is due to the absurdity of reality.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "On June 12 [1793] Cathelineau was appointed commander in chief. Crossing the Loire River, he marched east, seizing Angers (June 18), but failed to capture the important centre of Nantes; in the fighting he was mortally wounded." Earlier in the article we find, "The peasant leaders Jacques Cathelineau, Gaston Bourdic, and J. N. Stofflet were now joined by royalist nobles such as the marquis de Bonchamp, M.L.J. Gigot d'Elbee, F.A. Charette, and Henri comte de la Rochejacquelein."

Gene Stratton

RE: Sticking up for La Vendée

In response to both Robert Wright and RJKeefe, I guess I am going to defend La Vendée in a backhanded fashion. I agree it's nots as good as The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson which, like Victoria Glendinning I see as a bad good book. That is the general perception or insight which drives it -- the dishonesty of advertising, the total phoniness of credit, the falsehood upon which capitalism thrives and people go rich, the funhouse mirror to our society it holds up -- is good and accurate and more than ever relevant. Many scenes are also funny. The Struggles is not consistent and goes on a bit too long. It also has some suddenly melancholy passages where Trollope suddenly drops the mask of broad irony.

La Vendée does not have this kind of accurate insight at the center. Trollope also buys into some of the silliest notions about peasants and priests that royalists ever promulgated -- doubtless never thinking anyone who knew the mindset of the average agricultural labouring person would never buy into it as hopelessly, ludicrously sentimental. Nevertheless he has chosen a revealing angle and as he gets into it begins to treat it from a psychological standpoint (the individuals involved) intelligently. As we get private scenes in the second half it suddenly get better. There is real complexity and sympathy in the portrait of Robespierre, in the portraits of Michael Stern and the closing scenes. There's a real fine stroke using a temporal perspective thrust well forward into the future at the end. (I admit to having finished it tonight. I think it ends well. I was moved by the last chapters. I was glad I had read it.) This will sound like faint praise but when the novel began to resemble _Gone with the Wind_. I said to myself that had i come across this novel at age 12-13 I would have eaten it up. I liked this sort of thing -- I read Ivanhoe and Scott at that age. There's good sweep in the outdoor battles and river scenes. Trollope's a realist when he imagines how one crosses an enormous mass of people over a river with no money, few people, and little resources. He shows the real insides of houses destroyed. He understands how the norms of life are dropped utterly during these intervals. There was a very blood subuprising at the time too -- as he shows it, though Adolphe Denot was not at its head.

I think Trollope meant to rival Scott, yet there is no Scott scene where the heroine is naked to the waist, nothing so intensely sensual. I thought the whole of this getaway scene effective. I don't want to give anything away but the famous scene in _Ivanhoe_ where Rebecca peers out a thin slit in a castle and describes to the wounded Ivanhoe a battle scene has an exactly analogous scene at the close of _La Vendée_.

While I agree the basic source for this novel is the lady's memoir, I suggest Trollope read a number of other pieces and was interested in the topic because it holds a clue to realities of revolution itself. McCormack says Trollope's novel shows evidence of reading other histories of the period (Carlyle's was not the only one). It has ever been a subject which fascinated authors: it was written about by Balzac, Hugo, Dumas.

What seems to happen in the latter half of the story is Trollope gets close to his characters psychologically; he also identifies with defeat, with failure; he loves to present people who can't be convinced; also pairs of people who cannot possibly understand one another, one being irredeemably vulgar (let's say) and mercenary, without even knowing it, the other equally unrealistic or idealist. I often disagree with RJ so he won't be surprised if I agree that Trollope kills off Cathelineau partly because he can't marry him to Agatha, but find that nonetheless in typical Trollopian fashion we are supposed to pick up and see she shows her intense love for him. In a later scene this is brought back and we get a remarkable admission from her which matches Lady Anna's capacity to marry Daniel Thwaite. There is also a matching death scene later in the book between a married couple which is much more effective yet less lovingly sentimental.

I have begun Tilly's La Vendée, a sociological analysis. It's a classic. He argues that the revolt we see in the Vendée resembles the revolts of the Captain Swing riots, and a number of other deeply entrenched and bloody riots and revolutions at the turn of the 19th century. He locates the cause in the unequal urbanization among peoples in one area and from area to area. In fact the people who were most active in the revolt in Anjou and Poitou were the textile workers and artisans. In a newly impersonal organization of society, they no longer had the right not to starve; only the church had been willing to recognise responsibilities between classes. Certainly the new bourgeois didn't recognize anything but the individual & his family's right to aggrandize themselves. What enclosure and technological "progress" did in England uneven urbanization did in France. I am not doing justice to a sophisticated interesting thesis. It bears on our modern troubles today: welfare was destroyed and not revamped because the working classes in America today are suffering, and if life is precarious to them, they want to know why they aren't being helped and instead some supposed indigent group below them is "entitled" to help.

Ellen Moody

Re: La Vendée: Scott and Trollope

To Judy, Richard and Trollope-l friends,

Scott does have a heroine who walks from Edinburgh to London: Jeannie Deans in The Heart of Mid-Lothian. She walks to save her sister's life: I think she asked for a pardon (not sure); her sister is accused of having killed her illegitimate baby.

Scott also has a heroine who reports a battle scene through a window to the man she loves: Rebecca to Ivanhoe in Ivanhoe. Trollope was clearly imitating that scene in his similar one late in La Vendée. Trollope mentions it again in his Autobiography as one of the great scenes in fiction.

It is hard for us today to realise how well-known were some of Scott's novels in the 19th century. Many bought and some read all of them. Like Dickens today, people would quote lines or allude to scenes they had not themselves read, but read about in other people's writing or picked up in conversation.

I am always drawn to these self-reflexive passages in Trollope's fiction. They tell us a good deal about his aims and the nature of his art.

I agree with Richard that Trollope gives us a picture of a real father's feelings towards his sons. The ambivalence the modern reader may feel comes from not identifying with the father as opposed to the son. The Oedipal conflict Freud was the first to describe comes in many forms.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Mailing-List: list
Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 20:33:51 -0400
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: Agatha & Cathelineau

In Chapter 15, the dying Cathelineau confesses his love to Agatha and Agatha receives his confessions with a grateful heart ("The memory of the words you have spoken to me shall be dearer to me than the love of man..."). However, I must object that these two are virtual strangers to each other. Cathelineau has perhaps proved himself to be a courageous leader and might have earned a position of high regard in Agatha's eyes, but Cathelineau has had no opportunity, apart from one war-room meeting at which Agatha was present, to get to know her. In my opinion his protestations of love are not believable.

Todd Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: de Lescure, Denot

Ellen wrote about the scene where de Lescure and Denot talk about the incident at the bridge. When I read Denot's feeling that he would hate de Lescure because of his forgiveness to him it really seemed true. I agree with Ellen that this happens a lot. Where I diverge is that I did not feel sorry for Denot. This scene did not evoke any sympathy from me for him.

Looking back on it, a few days later, I can feel some sympathy now. It is probably human nature to feel uncomfortable in the company of some one who has witnessed us in a shameful act. Whether or not the act was actually shameful does not matter, it is our perception of it. If we think it is shameful then we forever feel ashamed in the company of witnesses to said act.

So why didn't I feel any sympathy for Denot when I first read the passage? Probably because I don't care that much for the character and therefore wasn't feeling for him, hadn't put myself in his position.


From: "p.geater" Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 22:13:12 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée, Chs 11-15/ Small House at Allington

Hello all

Once again I must say how much I enjoyed Ellen's posts on this section of La Vendée. Reading all these fascinating comments, I feel the danger of becoming like Mr Thumble at the clerical commission in "The Last Chronicle of Barset" (you see, I'm catching up!), whose main contributions to the conversation are to murmur "Of course" and "Just so".

Because I've been so far behind the rest of you, I have only recently finished reading The Small House at Allington - I really wish I'd been a member when you discussed this great novel, and hope nobody will mind if I start talking about it now with reference to La Vendée In The Small House" I was struck by one passage where Lily, Bell and Mrs Dale discuss novels - and seem to be talking about scenes very much like the battle scenes and deathbeds in La Vendée. I'm thinking of Chapter XLII, "Lily's Bedside", where Bell complains that novels are too sweet and always end happily, but Lily defends their escapism, commenting "... a novel should tell you not what you are to get, but what you'd like to get."

Bell answers: "If so, then, I'd go back to the old school, and have the heroine really a heroine, walking all the way up from Edinburgh to London, and falling among thieves; or else nursing a wounded hero, and describing the battle from the window. We've got tired of that; or else the people who write can't do it now-a-days. But if we are to have real life, let it be real." "No, Bell, no!" said Lily. "Real life sometimes is so painful."

The sort of book described here sounds like Scott, of course (I fear I'm not very up on Scott so I'm not sure if any of his heroines actually do walk from Edinburgh to London), but also like La Vendée, where Trollope does give us scenes where our heroines nurse wounded heroes - Agatha with Cathelineau in the section we've just been reading - and, in a later chapter, a battle is indeed seen and described from a window. I wonder if just possibly Trollope was thinking back to his own historical novel when he wrote this passage, and perhaps even putting in a touch of self-criticism when he wrote "or else the people who write can't do it nowadays". In The Small House at Allington, Trollope has turned away from the sort of public events in "La Vendée" and is concentrating on the type of domestic dramas he is best known for. But Lily's answer "Real life sometimes is so painful" shows only too clearly why this isn't a soft option. The "real life" he describes in his mature novels still contains heartbreak and disillusionment, even though without the melodrama we see at times in La Vendée.

Getting back to La Vendée, I do feel that Cathelineau's death is genuinely moving and he is an interesting character - but it's just a shame that the portrayal of Agatha is so sentimental and cliched. Probably it's unfair for me to compare this early and in some ways flawed novel with a masterpiece like The Small House at Allington but, reading the two books so close together, I can't help but feel the huge difference between a living, breathing woman like Lily and a pure and noble but lifeless figure like Agatha. You can't imagine Agatha, Marie or Victorine, who all seem to be completely colourless and interchangeable, arguing over a novel... or even reading one in the first place.

I was interested to read that the historical Cathelineau was a middle-aged man, married with five children, but Trollope has chosen to make him young and give him the hopeless passion for Agatha. I think this is an interesting example of him shaping and changing the historical material to create his novel, but there's a limit to how much he can do this - the early death scene is sadly unavoidable because Cathelineau did in fact die at this point in the wars.

Judy Geater

Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 09:55:55 EDT
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée, Chs 11-15: The Private Impinged upon by Public Events (II)

In a message dated 9/25/2000 8:40:15 AM, writes: "They must escape him and later endure his wrath."

Dear Group, But, Trollope says on page 421, of the Penguin edition that they "... were delighted with their unexpected kind reception..." by a father who "... gave a hand to each of the two young men...." Michael Stein says, "I gave my boys a good trade, and desired them to stick to it; they have chosen instead to go for soldiers, and for soldiers they may go. They don't come into my smithy again, that's all" and "not a hammer shall they raise on my anvil, not a blast shall they blow in my smithy, not an ounce of iron shall they turn in my furnace."

I know exactly how he feels.

Now, for me to explain the feeling without going off the deep end is impossible. Trollope says of Michael that he "... was never found without one or two implements; he had always either his hammer or his pipe in full activity." I say that it is not really Michael Stein who is speaking, or who has his hammer in full activity. Of course, Michael gets the credit (or the blame) for what he says just as Michael Stein, the smith, is credited with what he produces at his forge. However, it is _____ (a blank to be filled in by someone known and loved by Michael), the one who is transformed by the hammer-extended-arm "doing" the tempered iron who is (in my opinion) speaking. Peter and Jean come back from Saumur different buggers who can go fire up their own forges, or go work in a factory where the wages may be higher, but where there is no distinction between "the hammer" and "the tempered iron" and where the worker is not some special person but just another cog in the machine.

Thank God and my ancient brethren for Freemasonry. In spite of the present order of things, where it's almost impossible for sons (or daughters) to follow in their father's footsteps, it is still possible for fathers and sons and grandfathers and uncles and nephews and cousins to work shoulder-to-shoulder in the Lodge.

Richard C. Mintz

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