La Vendée, Chapters 16 - 20
The Social Meanings of War, Trollope the Conservative, RBolt's A Man for All Seasons, BBrecht, "A Worker Reads History"; The World-Historical Figures in the Novel, Trollope and Scott, Trollope and Sterne, Prejudiced "Introductions"

Re: La Vendée, Chs 16-20: Trollope the Conservative Todd started us off this week by referring to last week's postings:

Something that Ellen wrote a while back made me realize that La Vendée is more than just a historical novel set in the period following the French revolution but is rather Trollope's anti-revolution novel. Someone else commented that this novel helps to account for Trollope's reputation as a conservative writer.

In the chapters that we are reading this week Trollope portrays the revolutionary leaders as bloodthirsty, ruthless men. “These are not times in which a man can be chary as to the work which he does,” one of them observes.

This week we also see the revolutionary army taking vengeance on the local population of Saumur and a royalist barber strung up on a lamp-post despite the pleadings of his wife. Trollope calls it murder. He indicts the republicans for this type of behavior; the royalists behave differently. Plus the revolutionary army is clearly intent on the total annihilation of the Vendean population.

In a recent post Ellen wrote: "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 said of the terror that it spilled buckets of blood in response to whole rivers and oceans of blood spilling for centuries."

I don't know how Trollope would respond to this observation, but it seems to me that the answer to excessive blood-letting is not more blood-letting. I believe Trollope would argue that established institutions are worth preserving in part because they protect people against the violence of fanatics.


To which I replied with one of my weekly "facilitating" posts: Re: La Vendée: Trollope the Conservative

I agree with Todd that Trollope would not care for Twain's approach. In that Trollope seems very like most of the 'great' or at least famous widely-sold Victorian novelists. Todd wrote: "I believe Trollope would argue that established institutions are worth preserving in part because they protect people against the violence of fanatics." That sentence could also be used as the moral of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.

Still it interests me that Trollope chooses not to write about the citizenry, innocent and not-so-innocent who are mowed down by the revolutionaries, but rather about an anti-revolutionary army who are in this case the underdog but who are willing to kill and maraud and are themselves violent and irrational when pushed. I've not read Balzac's Les Chouans but mean to do so with the group to see what Balzac's take on this could be.

If I were to try for some aphorism which captures Trollope's attitude it would be in Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons where Thomas More and his son-in-law get into an angry debate and Roper says to More that he should not let Richard Rich go free because Rich is a corrupt, dense, amoral man who is going to sell what he can, do whatever he can to rise to the top of the tree, and it seems the first way to climb up is to give evidence against More. More, says Roper, has the power to stop Rich now. To this More replies that Rich has broken no law, and he is unwilling to manipulate the law so as to place Rich in prison. Manipulation of the law to place someone in prison is done all the time today in totalitarian countries; it was commonplace in 16th century England. More says he would give the Devil benefit of the law, and Roper replies that he, Roper, would cut down every law so as to destroy the Devil. Then the great speech comes:

MORE (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on ROPER). And when the last law was down ,and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Although the Vendeans are not presented as quite as bloodthirsty as the Revolutionaries, we see in Denot and in the behavior of the mob of men, in the false bishop who can exploit the mob, deceit, evil, falseness and great appetite and danger. In fact, the leaders of the Vendeans cannot get the men to obey them readily because they have no legitimacy. Trollope is showing us a picture of what happens when the laws are cut down. It is a conservative perspective, but not quite the same one which says let's uphold the establishment because they protect people from fanatics. I suppose an interesting comparable modern novel to read would be Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago

What Trollope seems to be for, as he says himself in his An Autobiography where he describes his campaign for office as a liberal is gradual change, gradual reform. He would replace first this law with another legitmate one, then that law with a legitimate one, piece by piece. Mr Monk has a letter in Phineas Finn where he outlines just such a gradual plan. The heart of this is not let's keep the status quo in place, but rather let's keep legitimacy in place. I see Trollope choosing to show us two armies, two groups of men trying to kill one another, and analysing how these men all interact irrationally, out of personal motives an embodiment of the speech Robert Bolt gives to Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.

This is not the same thing as showing an interest in war and what war means. Earlier today I wrote that Trollope doesn't seem to be interested in the idea of war as legitimate at all. He seems unaware of any functions that it serves. Throughout history wars have been fought which were terrible, but at the end of these the resolution or new & perhaps better social order that emerged -- as when in the US a war was fought to free the slaves -- could not have emerged without a war. I suppose no one among us who were born in the USA (as the song has it) will say the American colonists were not justified in going to war. They were, let us recall, revolutionaries, and some of them quite radical, even fanatic. World War II is tiresomely dragged out as legitimate. But it was. And that war was savage, barbaric -- because people can be that way to one another. In civil wars, one man's freedom fighter is another man's incendiary.

Now Walter Scott in his novels is interested in this process of war as a clash of cultures, ways of looking at the world; thus, he is interested in public history and its private embodiment. Trollope isn't in the same way.

Ellen Moody

September 29, 2000

Re: La Vendée: Trollope the Advanced Conservative Liberal

I thought under this title it might be appropriate for me to cross-post a poem by BBrecht which someone placed on C18-l when they got to talking about the differences between a conservative and various liberal and radical outlooks. They were discussing Walter Benjamin (whose essay on the technological reproduction of visual art seminally influenced the way people regard art in the 20th century), and someone posted it as underlying the attitudes of Benjamin. To me it underscores the ambivalent of Trollope, why he is such a mix that he called himself an "advanced conservative liberal":


"A Worker Reads History"

by Brecht

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
 The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima's houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the mason's go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesers triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Apain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Greak triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.


When you read a novel by Trollope, you rarely feel the presence of ordinary people in the streets; this happens only when Trollope wants us to sense his ladies and gentlemen feel pressured or are frightened. You don't hear about the servants in the rooms with the main characters until one of our ladies and gentleman turn to them with some order -- or again for some specific reason Trollope wants to bring them into play, as in the case of the gardener in The Small House.

Having said that, though I immediately remember the stance he takes towards the average person he meets in his travel books. He cares about them; he finds them fascinating and identifies. This is especially true in his North America. As part of his writing about Australia, he put a series of articles in a popular Liverpool newspaper encouraging English people to emigrate to Australia. In these letters which have been published in a thin paperback, (if anyone is interested I'll give the information), he shows that he knows very well what the lives of average ordinary people in England were -- very hard, abysmal poverty and very little self-respect or chance for self-fulfillment through education. He urges people to move to Australia where he says they may be able to better themselves, and escape the English class system. He doesn't use words like class system, but he means this entrenched hierarchy. He did plan to write a sequel to _Lady Anna_ where Daniel Thwaite, ex-tailor's son, would have been the hero.

Turning back to the book at hand, in La Vendée he has figures who in Scott-like fashion stand in for ordinary folk: the Steins, father and sons, and especially Annot and Chapeau. Yes, the latter are treated comically, and at moments I have uncomfortable memories of how Radcliffe condescended to servants in her romances yet liked them too; still there is a nice feel to scenes like the one at the close of Chapter 7 ("Sunday in the Bocage" -- recalling Sunday in the Park with George based on the famous painting of workers out on a Sunday by the pointilliste painter), pp. 103-105 in my Oxford edition, e.g., when Annot teases Chapeau:

'But don't you know Cathelineau is a saint, Jacques?'
'Oh! but you said saints might marry, and have a lot of children and so they may.
'But I never saw Cathelineau, Jacques', and she put her hand upon his arm ...

Later in the book there are even better scenes between Lescure and his wife, but as we shall see Chapeau and Annot emerge as important figures in the concluding chapters of the novel.

Cheers to all,
Ellen who likes the Brecht poem

A number of threads began to spin.

First here's Sigmund Eisner and Gene Stratton on historical novels and some of the world-historical figures:

To: Trollope-l
Subject: Westerman

I have been somewhat fascinated by Westerman in La Vendée. Trollope makes him out to be a Teutonic beast, the likes of which I had always thought was created in 1914 and recreated in 1939 by Allied propaganda. Yet Westerman fits the type. Trollope has him gloating over what his troops will do to aristocratic Vendeean maidens once all the men who are supposed to protect them are killed. It's customary to demonize ones enemies in war time or even in the U.S. Congress. But Trollope does even worse than that to Westerman. He gives him (dare I say it) bad grammar. Now maybe he was a German talking broken French. Look at this: "The tiger is a noble beast,.... He is hungry, and he seeks his prey; he is satisfied, and he lays down and sleeps...." Now the French language does not confuse "coucher" and "mettre." Could Westerman be one of those Germans who confuses "lagen" and "liegen."? Now the French language does have past participles, but Westerman couldn't handle them either: "Whenever they have encountered a few peasants with clubs in their hands, your doughty heroes have invariably ran away." Westerman is a vicious man, but don't you agree with me that Trollope goes overboard a bit when he puts unspeakable grammar in his mouth?


To which Gene Stratton replied:

Regarding General Francois-Joseph Westermann, there are some bits about him in Simon Schama's Citizens and elsewhere. Although Trollope calls him a Prussian, Schama says he was an Alsatian, which is more consonant with his given name, which in turn implies that he might have spoken fluent French, although perhaps German as well. If Trollope did incorrectly think him a migrated Prussian that could account for his putting some incorrect grammar in his mouth.

I suspect that Trollope is using a letter that Westermann wrote to the Committee of Public Safety after his massacre of Vendeans as the source for the fictional conversation which Sig refers to below. In this letter (I've seen two versions, but will use Schama's), Westermann wrote: "There is no more Vendee, citizens, it has perished under our free sword along with its women and children. I have just buried it in the marshes and mud of Savenay. Following the orders that you gave me I have crushed children under the feet of horses, massacred women who at least ... will engender no more brigands. I have no prisoners with which to reproach myself."

Westermann was a friend of Danton, and Danton already had found his fortune reversed and had started on the road to his own guillotining; his friends were in trouble. Westermann was recalled, perhaps to face the Revolutionary Tribunal himself. He was later sent to fight the Vendeans, and probably wanted to ingratiate himself with his masters in Paris. However, as bloodthirsty as he was, he was no more so than hundreds of the Parisian and local French Republican leaders -- note that he claims he was following orders. Schama says, "In true Terrorist style, Westermann may have exaggerated in order to show his zeal. But a policy of extermination, if not already embarked on, would shortly become an all too exacting reality in the Vendee." There is no need to mention here all the various types of atrocities of this period in France, but Schama points out that the Republican leaders and their henchmen were virtually as inventive as the later Nazis in coming up with new ways of killing people, both simply and terroristically.

I had mentioned earlier to Ellen what I called the "Sinkings," but had forgotten the French word. Now I see it was "Noyades," drownings, accomplished by piling people aboard barges and then sinking the barges, just one more way of quick mass executions. Schama mentions at least one case of a man being boiled in oil. Many sexual type killings also took place.

As was his friend Danton, Westermann was soon himself sent to kiss La Guillotine.

Gene Stratton

He then wrote:

Re: La Vendée: Santerre

With my limited resources I can't find much on Santerre in the Vendee, and in writing the following I am aware that Trollope might have had more facts available about Santerre than I know of. Still ... a few things bother me about Trollope's treatment of Santerre.

Santerre had been commander of the National Guard and he had apparently appointed the first tribunal to try royalists and send them to the guillotine. He had been instrumental in securing the sentence of death against Louis XVI. Later he was sent to help put down the insurrection in La Vendee. But I find nothing showing Santerre either raiding and capturing the estate of Larochejacquelin or committing the stupid act of dallying there. Nor of being captured by the royalists and then released. I assume Denot is fictional and therefore not so much a problem as Santerre.

Several items stand out. First, Santerre's dallying, it would be as if the Israeli raiders of Entebbe, having accomplished their mission, decided to stay a while and make small talk with anyone they captured, or likewise with Skorzeny, following his dramatic rescue of Mussolini, hanging around to give himself the opportunity of being captured.

Second, Santerre is one of the men most associated with the execution of the king. Schama puts it this way: "Santerre, who was in charge of [preparing the mechanics for the execution] had even stationed cannon at strategic points along the route and elsewhere in the city." Schama shows an illustration of the execution with Santerre on horseback holding upraised sword as the head of Louis XVI is shown to the public, as if Santerre himself had given the actual order to release the blade. Schama writes: "At that moment Santerre ordered a roll of drums, drowning out whatever else the King might have had to say. Louis was strapped onto a plank which when pushed forward thrust his head into the enclosing embrace. Sanson pulled on the cord and the twelve-inch blade fell." How, one has to ask, could all these fervent royalists, peasants and aristocrats alike, including Henri Larochejacquelin and de Lescure, whose great motivation had been to avenge the death of the King and secure his son on the throne, how could they conceivably have done as Trollope writes: "De Lescure and Henri together agreed to give Santerre his unconditional liberty"?

Nonetheless, Santerre shows interesting character development, much more so than Denot. I can imagine a later Trollope taking us inside the mind of Santerre much more than he does and gradually showing his progress from bloodthirsty Republican to indecision to philosophic saviour of the Larochejacquelins.

Not that I want to rewrite the book, but with the benefit of hindsight I wonder if it might not have been more effective yet for Trollope to have put Denot in the place of Santerre: Denot betrays the royalists, convinces Santerre to put him in charge of a raiding party (while Santerre stays behind), Denot captures the Larochejacquelin household, menaces Agatha, then has a philosophical change of heart, and finally redeems himself by rescuing the very people he set out to get revenge on, preferably dying tragically as he does so. Well, at least it has the charm (IMHO) of not violating history so much. I can well accept and approve of historical and fictional characters interacting with each other in novels, but, for myself, I like to see the historical characters act, and be acted on, in a way consistent with the other known facts of their lives. The unconditional release, and other treatment, of Santerre suddenly swoops me out of the fictional world and plunges me back into the reality of my having chores to do, and I'd better put the book down and do them tout de suite.

Gene Stratton

Then he wrote another posting which began:

Some of my best thoughts are afterthoughts. After I wrote the following:

"I can well accept and approve of historical and fictional characters interacting with each other in novels, but, for myself, I like to see the historical characters act, and be acted on, in a way consistent with the other known facts of their lives."

a few illustrations occurred to me in the form of real-life Victorian figures and how they might be treated in serious fiction in ways that conceivably could offend -- if only a teeny bit -- the sensitivity of some modern-day Victorian readers:

Queen Victoria laughed uproariously, as she tossed her pink polka-dot shawl across her shoulder and said, "Very good indeed. There's nothing that amuses me more than a real good smutty joke."

Dressed in a wrinkled tweed jacket and brown and tan checked trousers, Oscar Wilde said, "I just don't see what all these so-called aesthetes see in paintings that distort reality so much. I don't know much about any of the arts, but I know what I like when I see it."

"Fox hunting," said Anthony Trollope in his mild-mannered tone which everyone had to strain to hear, "not on your life. I can't imagine anything more unproductive or cruel than to sweat a horse all day chasing some poor trembling little creature."

Benjamin Disreali wished he could stand up to that fellow Gladstone, but he knew that the Grand Old Man was just too witty for a simple-minded oaf like himself. At questioning time he arose, looked around in a diffident way, smiled meekly, then said, "I'm speechless," and sat down again.

"Evolution!" exploded Thomas Huxley. "If the good lord wanted man to look like a monkey, he would have given him wings, or horns, or something like that, I don't know, all that kind of thinking just makes me sick to the stomach."

Lord Tennyson smiled as the audience applauded. "Would you like to hear that last line again? I think it's the best I've ever written. Ready? 'Poems are articulated by fools like me, But only God can conceive of, design, and implement a tree.'"

Prince Bertie looked aghast at the suggestion. "Madame," he said in shocked tone to the beautiful Irene Adler, "no sex please. Do keep in mind, I'm British."

Gene Stratton

I replied in two ways:

Re: La Vendée: The Problems of a Historical Novel

Gene's wonderful posting has prompted me to write again today of La Vendée. As my husband and I were sitting over the remnants of our dinner, and drinking our wine, we got to talking of Scott. We couldn't decide what someone imitating Scott would be called: Scottesque? Scottic? Scottian? Scottite? However, in talking of Scott it struck me that the problem with Trollope's novel, La Vendée is Trollope is not bold enough. He doesn't depart from history enough. I throw out the idea that he doesn't do this because he is closer to our own times and anachronism, the distance between fact and fiction, dare I call it, the intimations of a post-modern sensibility which is alive to how the past is another country afflicts him far more than it ever did Scott.

My sense of this comes from Trollope's failure to use Robespierre. As with Scott the really Big person comes on the stage about 2/3's to 3/4's the way through. As with Scott we get a brilliant disinterested witty and dispassionate portrait which tends to the conservative side. It last for 3 chapters. But unlike Scott Trollope does not have the nerve to involve Robespierre in the action of his historical and fictionalised characters. Richard the Lion-Hearted doesn't just turn up and wave at us in Ivanhoe; his behavior affects the lives and characters of the people who are our best friends in the plot. Some of the best scenes in the novel derive directly from a fictionalised (meaning untrue -- it's a lie) act of Richard. Ditto for the great Quentin Durward wherein the Spider King (Lous XI) makes the novel; ditto for The Abbot where Mary Queen of Scots turns things round. I cite these as I remember them better, but I have read a number of the Scots history novels which stand up to history's scrutinising standard much better and there too Scott is bold. Trollope invents a few fictional characters; he (and it's effective) puts the embittered Denot at the head of the Chouans. Denot even turns up as a mysterious personage whose identity no one knows (very Scott this). But he does not have the nerve to involve Robespierre with Agatha Larochejacquelin (totally fictional).

Thus I am in a way taking an opposing view from that suggested by Gene, and yet I am in agreement, for I think we today are alive to distortions which seem to rub against what we imagine to be essentially characteristic of earlier figures. I of course laughed at the Trollope -- once he came alive in Ireland, Trollope was not mild-mannered; I believe it was Collins said Trollope blew your hat off. I looked up in my Tilley for a portrait of Santerre; alas none is there. I trust Tilley more than Schama -- whose politics are conservative and it affects what he writes. I fear I trust Tilley because he's dull while Schama is amusing. So I went to my 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. There I found a portrait of Santerre which seems to support Trollope's conception. We are told he was a brewer, and gained great popularity in faubourg St Antoine because of his generosity with his purse. He took part in storming the Bastille. A warrant for his arrest was issued at one point, and he went into hiding only to emerge to lead the people of St Antoine in storming the Tuilleries. Thus as far as I am concerned, he's a good guy.

We are also told that he attempted to protect the royal family against the violence of the mob, and on the 7th of August, attempted to make a reconcilation but "was frustrated by Marie Antoinette." (Perhaps this article is written by an anti-MA person.) Still the essay goes on to say as Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard, he was appointed as the person in charge of Louis XVI's captivity, and did what he could to "alleviate" it. We are told opinions differ as to his conduct at the execution: did he command the roll of drums to drown the king's voice or silence them? Also: "as a military commander he was not a conspicuous success, his début being signalized by the defeat of the Republicans at Saumur." We are also told he was not popular among his men, seen as luxurious; that the people of St Antoine remained faithful to him; on the other hand, he distinguished himself more than occasionally, and drew attention to the problems of the Republican army in Vendée -- what army has it easy it will be asked. He was accused of "Orleanism" and imprisoned, but released after the fall of Robespierre. He then resigned his position as general, but his business as a brewer was ruined, and he died in poverty on Paris on the 6th of February 1809.

All of this is in line with Trollope's general conception of the man and suggests Trollope thought he was sticking to historical truth as it was understood by at least some people in his period.

For me though the question is whether Santerre's behavior is believable in terms of the fiction itself. While we are shown he is capable of reason, told he can be mild, see him feel remorse, I just don't believe any man would be able to maintain his authority over his men after he gave an order to kill a group of people and then rescinded it so he could reason with a crippled Marquis all his men would despise. I don't believe a man in such a position would protect an Agatha. Why should he? Why waste his chits? Trollope has given us enough to see through his refusal to take the logic of the situation to its unhappily human conclusion.

On the other hand, I would say Trollope's problem is he is not bold where he ought to have been bold -- as with Robespierre. Here we come to the problem of the historical novel. I have read about half-way through Henry Esmond and it's a lot bolder than La Vendée. Most of the characters are fictional; and the glamourous Names interact with them. However, Thackeray was drenched in the history and literature of the late 17th and 18th century. Similarly, George Eliot felt comfortable inventing based on her erudition. Of course Scott was even nervier: when he went outside Scottish history, he was still bold.

So the problem of the historical novelist is to be bold, to still be truthful within the terms of his own fiction and what the reader instinctively knows is human nature, and yet not to go beyond what the reader has read and himself imagined of the earlier period.

A difficult form, no? A. S. Byatt managed it in _Possession_ but note she does it as a fiction within the 20th century and presents her earlier period through the documents and an inset- 19th century novel.

I wish I could think of something as funny and appropriate as Gene's imagined jarring scenes and dialogues.

Comments anyone?

Ellen Moody

I also thought about "The Social Meanings of War" and why a historical novel was so difficult for Trollope:

RE: La Vendée: The Social Meanings of War

Here's a suggestion for why Trollope could not write a Scott-like history novel -- which is what La Vendée was meant to be. The central plot-knot (if I may coin a phrase) in a typical novel by Scott is a war between two groups of people, one which is founded on differences in culture as well as the result of a struggle for power and wealth. In his best novels he analyses what war is, and how resolutions are achieved. In Scott war is not an effort by one side to annihilate the other, but rather, as a famous war historian put it (whose name I can't remember just now except that it begins with an "a"), politics by other means, an attempt by two sides to establish a social relationship in their favor. In a sense it is a mass extension of the duel: duelling was a way of redressing some balance, a regulated form of violence in which one side sought self-respect and the other a means of punishment, retaliation or enforcement of some code. What Scott does through his story is to present the things fought over in the cultural sphere.

I suggest Trollope does not see war clearly; he can present it with high intelligence, accurately portray how individuals emerge to high power or self-destruct in such situations. But he doesn't connect war to resolutions of conflicts and then dramatise what those conflicts are. So his war story seems oddly disconnected with his social material. He also flinches in the presentation of it. He continually presents human relationships as a struggle over who gets to dominate and who submits, but does not extrapolate out to see this working at large in societies or communities at war with one another.

To write a great historical novel with epic sweep, you must look to larger abstract forces working themselves out through individuals. Hugo as I recall was interested in culture as such and analysed it; Manzoni is fascinated by time as a force for change and rebooting in society. Trollope's interest is in the mind itself as this interacts with other minds in a group setting. We can see in La Vendée that it is in the intimate scenes, the particular characters his book comes alive.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

No one answered my two to Gene, but Judy Geater took up an earlier comparison I made:

Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 15:06:52 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: Trollope, Scott and Sterne (long)

Hello all

Thanks to Ellen for the information on the Scott heroines mentioned in The Small House at Allington - it is good to have this background. It certainly deepens the effect of the scene in La Vendée where the battle is seen through a window to know that it is partly a tribute to Scott's similar chapter.

Ellen wrote "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 must admit I've read very little Scott, but will have to read more now that you've explained more about what an important influence he was on later writers - just as I had to read Radcliffe's Udolpho after re-reading Northanger Abbey earlier this year!

It's all too easy to forget that a writer or a work out of favour today may well have been hugely influential in the past. We've already had some discussion on this list of how Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" was regarded as one of his major plays in the past although it is largely forgotten now - in fact since we talked about this I've come across a passage from one of Charlotte Bronte's letters (quoted in Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte) where she also mentions it as one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, and tells a friend she must read it.

Which brings me on to Sterne - like Scott, a writer who seems to have been far more influential in the past than he is today. In La Vendée Trollope several times quotes a particular phrase from Sterne's "Sentimental Journey" - "God will temper the wind to the shorn lamb." The Oxford World's Classics edition draws attention to this in a rather withering footnote by WJ McCormack, who writes: "The remark occurs on several occasions in La Vendée, arguably too often, as if the characters had only one English text at their disposal."

As soon as I read this comment, it struck me as unfair. (I hate footnotes which seem to sneer anyway - surely editors of classic texts should remember that they are interrupting the author every time they put in one of those little asterisks, and stick to interesting background and facts rather than their own critical opinions. Keep it for the introduction or afterword!)

But this comment seemed particularly unfair because surely we can take it that a great writer like Trollope is quoting the same line several times quite deliberately, not out of laziness but because of its thematic importance. Unfortunately, McCormack doesn't give the page references for all the quotes from Sterne, but I've been meaning to look through the book and see if I can find them all and see whether (as I suspect), all the mentions are at moments when the characters are in emotional turmoil, looking disaster in the face.

The first time the "God will temper the wind" line occurs (page 67 in the Oxford edition) it is spoken by Madame de Lescure, who goes on to say hopefully: "Our trials will not be harder than we can bear." It seems to me as if the comment already has an ironic flavour at this early moment, as it is only too clear that the trials of war may indeed be harder than some of the characters can bear - and, as the violence increases and the picture steadily darkens, sadly there isn't much "tempering of the wind" in sight.

Coming to The Last Chronicle of Barset not long after La Vendée, I was surprised to spot at least two places where Trollope quotes exactly the same line - again at emotionally fraught moments. In Chapter 50, looking ahead to her husband's trial, Mrs Crawley tells Lady Lufton: "We must only bear it with such fortitude as God will give us. We are told that He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb." A little later, in chapter 61, where Mr Crawley is telling Dr Tempest of his determination to give up his living at Hogglestock, he is told to think of his wife and children. Crawley replies: "I can only trust that the wind will be tempered to them...They will, indeed, be shorn lambs." At this stage in the book, it looks very likely that Crawley will be convicted of the theft, and the words seem to express forlorn hope rather than belief... although, in the end, the wind does change direction, with a little help from Johnny Eames and Mr Toogood of course.

Getting back to Sterne's influence on other writers, a different line from Sentimental Journey is quoted in Mansfield Park. "I cannot get out, as the starling said." Ellen has included a discussion of this passage on the Mansfield Park section of her website. A few months ago I read Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau, written in 1839, where she also refers to this line but without actually quoting it - if I remember rightly, she mentions "the starling's famous remark" and leaves the reader to fill it in. Clearly, it could be assumed that an educated 19th-century reader would have read Sterne.

There seem to be quite a few favourite phrases and quotations which occur numerous times in Trollope, but I'll save the others that I've spotted for another time, because I've already gone on too long...

Bye for now,
Judy Geater

Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 12:01:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [trollope-l] Sterne and Scott

I had noticed the footnote about Sterne, and like Judy thought it was a bit overbearing on the part of the editor. We will have to all be on the lookout for quotations, references, etc. to Sterne in the next read, Balzac's Les Chouans.

Sterne was the favorite author of Balzac's father. Balzac grew up hearing items from Sterne quoted by his father, that is when his father would leave off his reading of Sterne and join the family. The father's favorite character was apparently Uncle Toby.

I forget if Sterne was a favorite of Balzac himself or not but he always says how great he thought Scott was.


I replied to both Judy and Dagny:

RE: Trollope, Repeating Phrases, Sterne & Scott

Trollope liked the phrase, "God will temper the wind to the shorn lamb"; it had for him religious resonance. We must remember the harsh boyhood he had and how intensely sensitive he was -- this is all retold powerfully in his An Autobiography. One reason he remained religious -- or would not allow anyone to discuss Darwin and other strong sceptical currents of the period -- was he needed to assert that life was ultimately good and there was a protective kind God behind it all. Otherwise, he would have at times been too shattered to pick up the pieces.

There are several phrases he repeats in the novels, and they too are rooted in his life experience of trauma and getting over it to be strong and work. Work was his salvation -- he says so more than once. There is an argument that he died younger than he need have because he worked himself to death; he wouldn't stop his intense living. This comes out in another favorite quotation which is found repeatedly through the novels: 'The labour we delight in physics pain'. This comes from Macbeth and it is spoken as something one does to keep the darkness away.

A third I can't remember exactly just now comes from "Lycidas". Trollope loved "Lycidas". It comes from the pastoral section and is about the strength one derives from holding fast to a moral and beautiful goal in life.

I thought McCormack's attitude towards Trollope egregiously prejudiced. To my way of thinking his assumption that Trollope is simply a complacent conservative-Tory Englishman shows he, McCormack, can't read or hasn't bothered to read with any care. I see Trollope as using irony in the manner of Austen: by communicating through irony he avoids the minimum risk of losing the large numbers of his readership; one could argue his books are enjoyed and read by precisely the sort of people he is anatomisingly but not by any means necessarily sympathetically; his attitudes undermine a good deal of what such readers hold to as real and true and what makes living worth while.

The starling allusion comes from A Sentimental Journey which I read a long time ago. It is true that like Scott once upon a time Sterne was very popular. Slope in Barchester Towers is a take-over on Dr Slop, a man-midwife in Tristam Shandy. Sterne is strongly emotional and sentimental and that doesn't go over very well any more. He is also bawdy and wildly, irreverently comic; the problem is that comedy often doesn't last for centuries. Notoriously comedy doesn't last as long as tragedy. What is funny today is not funny tomorrow; comedy feeds off the immediate too. So what was hilarious and ribald in Tristram is today simply puzzling -- at least often enough.

They all thought Scott was great, Dagny. I am determined to read at least one more Scott novel this semester, so as to re-orient myself and give Scott another chance. I liked the books so when I was young.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 11:14:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée, Chapter 16

Ellen wrote: "Tilly's history of La Vendée confirms that in fact in the earlier stages of the war the Republican generals were often half-hearted about murdering everyone in sight, and doing away even with all vegetables (that line and word there strikes me as slightly comic, the sceptical and imaginative Trollope not being able to stop himself from seeing the incident even from a ludicrous standpoint).

Thanks for the bit of real history about the generals. It is easy to understand that they would be reluctant. It seems to me that it would be hard, being harsh with what is still, after all, one's own people; not like conquering another country.

I took a different reading on the "vegetable" bit though and it did not strike me as comic. I read vegetables to be "crops"; destroying the crops so that there will be no food for any survivors. This would be the other side of the coin of the French march to Moscow, arriving there to find nothing to eat in the dead of winter.


Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 22:12:47 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] Prejudiced introductions and notes

Hello all

Ellen wrote "I thought McCormack's attitude towards Trollope egregiously prejudiced. To my way of thinking his assumption that Trollope is simply a complacent conservative-Tory Englishman shows he, McCormack, can't read or hasn't bothered to read with any care."

I couldn't agree more! The sneering tone in so many of the notes to the Oxford edition of La Vendée really got on my nerves. When McCormack sees a repeated phrase, it doesn't seem to occur to him that Trollope may be repeating that form of words quite deliberately and because it is important to the theme - it must be laziness. I was also irritated by his comment (in yet another intrusive footnote!) on Michael Stein's name not sounding French - surely Trollope has chosen a German name on purpose here, to make Stein stand out from his neighbours, emphasising that he is different from the rest. (The meaning of stone also suggests Stein's immovable quality.) He could easily have chosen a French name if he had wanted, as he did with Denot.

Sadly, if anything, the introduction to the Penguin edition of Last Chronicle of Barset is even worse! In the copy I have, the notes by Peter Fairclough are fine, mainly sticking to useful background information - but the introduction by Laurence Lerner is awful, at least in part. Basically, he quotes a famous passage from the Autobiography about Trollope writing against the clock, looking at his watch to ensure that he writes 250 words every quarter of an hour -and comments "The serious reader, now as then, can only feel repelled by this."

Well, as a journalist, I'd have to disagree - I have seen people writing furiously while glancing at their watches every day of my working life! Often, when writers have to work quickly, they have been thinking over what they are going to write for some time before getting it down on paper, as Trollope did.

Lerner then proceeds to look for signs of hastiness, slipshod work, and quotes the story about Mrs Proudie's death from the Autobiography as ospel - simply accepting that of course Trollope wrote this because of the two clergymen he overheard chatting in the club, not because of the demands of the story. Surely, one look at the novel should tell him otherwise - Mrs Proudie's death is essential to the plot and gives rise to some of the most powerful writing.

Worse still, he seems to have no appreciation of Lily's character at all, and says that, when Johnny is with her, "she joins the indistinguishable, the alas not anonymous throng of pretty and sexless dolls." Is the same Lily in my copy of the book?

I'm not saying that all introductions to classic novels should be full of gushing praise of every single word in the book, but it would be nice at least to feel that the critic has looked at the text carefully and without prejudice! I do like many Oxford and Penguin introductions but was rather disappointed by these two.

Bye for now,
Judy Geater

Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 17:49:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée

Judy wrote: "I was also irritated by his comment (in yet another intrusive footnote!) on Michael Stein's name not sounding French - surely Trollope has chosen a German name on purpose here, to make Stein stand out from his neighbours, emphasising that he is different from the rest. (The meaning of stone also suggests Stein's immovable quality.) He could easily have chosen a French name if he had wanted, as he did with Denot.

Thanks Judy for calling to my attention that Stein is a German name. Of course I saw it wasn't French but hadn't really put a nationality to it. Another good reason for picking a German name could have been their good work ethic. Stein thought more of having his sons stay home and work to make money than go off to fight. It seems that a purely English name would not have worked so well here because of the English tradition of honor and country.


Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 18:29:30 +0100
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] La Vendée, Ch 20

Like the others who have commented on this chapter, I too have enjoyed it very much and felt taken up and involved in the larger than life atmosphere.

One thing I have observed though which has made me think about the modern novel and Trollope and that is the way that the action intercuts. Modern thrillers cut us back and forth with no introduction and the pace is kept up by this method (amongst others). Trollope feels obliged to tell us he must leave us here and take us there, or go back from this point to tell us the action from the other view point. I've noticed this in other Victorian novels too. I don't think it would have seemed clunky to contemporary readers but it does at times take me by surprise.


People got to talking about the characters and the sex and the "villain", Denot, and the scene of near-rape, so Richard Mintz wrote:

Dear Group,

Trollope writes (in Chapter eight, volume two "Glisson" where Marie is being rescued from the jaws of death): "Henri stumbled as he came to the hard gravel, but still he allowed no portion of Marie's body to touch the ground" and "Her pale face, and white neck and bosom were exposed" from which later he appropriately (I guess) averts his eyes. Henri would not want even her little toe to get the least bit dirty.

I am reminded (to stretch out the emotional train of thought in the last sentence) of an incident early in The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner) where a seven year old Caddy squats down in the branch (creek, beck, stream, rivulet) and gets her dress wet and her drawers muddy. A few minutes later on a dare from her brother Quentin, she takes her dress off. And shortly after that Faulkner says "We watched the muddy bottom of her drawers" as she was pushed up into the (chinaberry?) tree.

Aren't these two scenes from opposite ends of the (Victorian?) sexual spectrum? The highly choreographed minuet performed in the hall of the chateau (or the drawing room of the countryhouse) is, in my mind, directly related to the unrehearsed, imperfect, very brief, jig performed by Faulkner's children of nature.

I remember from the late 1940's in a lower middle class neighborhood of my hometown, Wilmington, North Carolina, that my brother and I spent much of the summertime at an uncle's house (no indoor plumbing) situated on a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River. It was a common sight to see girls, aged about five to eight or nine years, sent out to play wearing nothing more than white, cotton briefs. Were these marmelade mademoiselles in training, or what? (Smiley Face- I don't speak from any bitterness of heart.)

Yours truly,

A final one by Judy and me on Adolphe Denot:

Hello all

As mentioned in my previous post, I do have slightly mixed feelings about La Vendée, but must certainly agree with Ellen that it is an interesting and very worthwhile read. I'm now making a start on volume three (but promise not to post any spoilers!) and am finding it increasingly compelling as I get further on.

In the early chapters, I feel there is perhaps too much undigested historical summary, but there are also some brilliant passages - Denot is an especially intriguing character.

His snobbishness and the self-centred nature of his so-called love for Agatha comes across very clearly in two striking sentences.

First, in chapter three, we are told: "Adolphe Denot loved her as warmly as he was capable of loving aught but himself; but, were she to die, his grief would be very short lived; he would not, however, endure to see that she preferred any one to himself."

Then, in chapter four, he is horrified to hear that Agatha has been weighing out gunpowder. Trollope tells us: "Adolphe was disgusted that Agatha's white hands should be employed in so vile a service, but he thought little of the danger to which she was exposed."

These two sentences together sum up just what is wrong and rotten about Adolphe's "love". If he really loved Agatha as somebody separate from himself, her life would be the most precious thing to him - and he would surely fear her death more than her falling in love with somebody else.

Also, when she is measuring the gunpowder, an unselfish lover would be mainly concerned about the danger rather than any feeling that this kind of work is degrading - and would surely also be impressed by Agatha's courage.

I think Trollope gives us Adolphe's measure very early on!

Judy Geater

To which I'll add a response to Robert Wright on Denot that I wrote at an earlier time:

Re: La Vendée: Adolphe Denot

Robert Wright calls Adolphe Denot a cad. Along with Cathelineau he also represents among the most conceptions in La Vendée. In a remarkable meditation by a young boy at Durbellière, Trollope enters the mind of a persuasive enacted psychological presence and writes paragraphs of internal monologue and soliloquy. I haven't come to anything like this for Adolphe; on the other hand, he looks forward to so many characters in Trollope who are twisted by passions, become humiliated, turn mad and self-destruct and end up outcasts or exiles.

There is, as everyone has remarked, also a neat get-away scene with a damsel in distress; people pouring into the front of Clisson as others flee out the back. We are distracted from the reality of this by the frisson provided by the lady losing the upper part of her dress.

And then there are other remarkable portraits: the generals, the political figures: a sympathetic one for Santerre and the set-piece we have talked about of Robespierre.

Ellen Moody

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