Richard Mintz and Todd Yelrom began our last week:
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 15:48:26 EDT
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: Is Denot crazy or not?
I very seldom even try to play pathologist because I'm too soon distracted: have to get a cup of coffee and/or scarf down two or three chocolate-chip cookies. Besides, as Ellen has so well shown Trollope's one pioneer venture into historical romance is a shaky three-legged stool which cannot bear the weight of the bigger bottoms.
I feel that Denot's "insanity" must be addressed, regardless, because it organizes the whole story; it establishes a dynamic emotional level which carries the narrative along throughout its length. We are either in the same room tight-chested wondering what to do or say to Denot, or he is not there and we ask where is he. Whether the republicans are here, there or elsewhere, Denot is exercising his omnipotence and we ask ourselves what is he doing now. We are presented with the specter of Denot's insanity repeatedly in a manner similar to Conrad's beating out again and again on his tom-tom in his story of Jim: he was one of us.
It was probably an innocent and quite natural remark made by Agatha or Marie about Denot's idolatrous proposal, something like: he must have been out of his mind. But, it is repeated and used by everyone ( including Santerre ) to explain Denot's strange behavior. When it gets to Denot the only conclusion is that he is crazy. Trollope knew, I'm sure, that the situation would be the same two hundred years later as it was then. The stigma of mental disease is so great, so inerasable that there is no building an accomodating ramp or widening of a door for one returning from the looney bin. This gives the reading of La Vendée an immediacy that kept my interest. It is, in my opinion, however, only the device Trollope uses to present a bigger picture.
I noticed recently that if you corrupt the French pronunciation of Denot's name ( and I can do it in a flash ) to something like "duh knot," it easily yields: the naught, the zero, the nothing. Is Trollope asking us as many of the characters in the story ask (Cathelineau's mother, Michael Stein ) if the Vendean uprising was for naught? Denot probably felt that he was a naught, that all was lost, as soon as he realized he was proposing to Agatha's foot instead of to her. But, the royalist Vendeans dreamed of prostrating themselves once again before a King/Queen. Denot did what they only dreamed of doing.
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 15:27:35 -0400
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: large canvas, small figures
I have been thinking that one quality about La Vendée that makes it stand out among some of Trollope's other novels is its wide focus. We don't follow the fortunes of a single hero or antihero here as we do in A Fixed Period or observe the resolution of a love triangle as in An Old Man's Love (to pick two novels that some of us have read recently on the list). Instead we have a parade of what we might call secondary characters -- characters who carry the action for a chapter or two and then give place to other secondary characters. They may come back again -- some characters like Denot, Agatha, Marie, De Lescure, Larochejaquelin, and Jacques have more important roles to play than others -- but no single character could be called a central character. We get two chapters on Robespierre, for example. We get a chapter on some of the revolutionary generals. We have the Jacques Chapeau/Annot Stein subplot. We have some prominent scenes, like Saumur or the river crossing. But we have no hero here. Cathelineau gets knocked out early. LaRochejaquelin and De Lescure seem roughly equal in importance. The women, Marie and Agatha, are not very fully developed. Denot is the most interesting one but he's not really a hero (He's just crazy!). The history, the period, the place -- these are what seem to be the author's primary concern. Whereas many of Trollope's novels seem like paintings featuring a few prominent human figures -- portraits, you could almost say -- La Vendée seems to be a larger canvas filled with smaller figures involved in some great task.
Dagny talked of Balzac's Les Chouans which the group read next:
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 22:23:03 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: Ch. 31 (Our first glimpse of Les Chouans)
In Chapter 31 of La Vendée, La Petite Vendée, we get our first glimpse of a band of non-soldier soldiers, one band of which will later become known as Les Chouans.
We know that this is one of the groups represented in the upcoming Balzac novel by their manner of dress and looks. In the very first page of Les Chouans we will see them described thusly (Ellen Marriage translation):
"Some of the peasants--most of them in fact--went barefoot. Their whole clothing consisted in a large goatskin, which covered them from shoulder to knee, and breeches of very corse white cloth, woven of uneven threads, that bore witness to the neglected state of local industries. Their long matted locks mingled so habitually with the hairs of their goatskin cloaks, and so completely hid the faces that they bent upon the earth, that the goat's skin might have been readily taken for a natural growth, and at first sight the miserable wearers could hardly be distinguished from the animals whose hide now served them for a garment."
I wrote on October 23, 2000
RE: La Vendée, Chs 31-34: Trollope's Denot in a Scott-like landscape (I)
This weekend Todd wrote of La Vendée:
I have been thinking that one quality about La Vendée that makes it stand out among some of Trollope's other novels is its wide focus. We don't follow the fortunes of a single hero or antihero . . . Instead we have a parade of what we might call secondary characters -- characters who carry the action for a chapter or two and then give place to other secondary characters . . . The history, the period, the place -- these are what seem to be the author's primary concern. Whereas many of Trollope's novels seem like paintings featuring a few prominent human figures -- portraits, you could almost say -- La Vendée seems to be a larger canvas filled with smaller figures involved in some great task.
This is very much Scott's approach, and what was radically new in Scott (in 1815 when Waverley was published) was the assumption that individuals are the product of historical forces, of the period they are born in, and of the place they grow up in. Hitherto the emphasis had been the idea of universality.
This is by way of introducting my sense in these last chapters of La Vendée all sort of memories of Scott. In his _Autobiography_ Trollope singles out the famous scene in _Ivanhoe_ where a wounded Ivanhoe lays on his bed in a tower and and through a tiny slit in the tower's wall, Rebecca reports to him the on-going battle between Brian de Bois-Guilbert and (was it?) Richard the Lion-Hearted? He called it effective sensationalism because it had real people and was at the same time vivid and dramatic, and said all novelists must write sensationally to please and instanced as a scene in this vein in his novels the one where Lady Mason falls at the feet of Sir Peregrine Orme having told him she is guilty of the crime of which she has been accused.
Well, here (Ch 32) we have a repeat and reversal of Rebecca at the window reporting the conflict to her beloved Ivanhoe, unable to lift himself from his bed. This time the wounded hero watches through a large open window the vicissitudes of the seige of Laval as he lays on his bed in the large house he and his friends have taken over. Through Lescure's eyes we see "the slaughter in the street" and suggestions of "strange medleys": he does not shrink from viewing, but is eager to see his side win -- which it does for this time. This time only slowly does the wife creep to the window to watch too. And what do they see? Adolphe Denot at the head of another band of Vendeans who have come down in history as the Chouans:
"[Adolphe Denot] had lost his cap in the confusion of the fight and his thin, wan face, disfigured by the wound which the Chevalier had given him, was plainly to be seen; and de Lescure was shocked by the change which he saw there: the only weapon he bored was a huge sabre, which he swung round his head with a strength which could not have been expected from his attenuated frame; he was often the most forward, always among the first of the assailants . . . He had caught de Lescure's eye . . . " (Oxford La Vendée, Ch 32, p. 412).
When Denot hears Lescure encourage him on, we read
These last words were distinctly heard by him to whom they were addresssed, and as he again turned up his face, a ray of triumph illumined his sunken eyes; he did not, however, or he could not speak, for the heat of the battle was carried back again towards the gate, and the tumultuous sea of fighting men was hurried away from the spot where they had been contending (p. 412).
When first heard of again (Ch 31), the way Trollope treats Denot will remind old Scott afficinados of the many dark unnamed heroic knights who trail through the Scott landscape. Denot is the same great hero doing stern deeds on the side of the good who takes no credit for it, and whose behavior is mysterious in terms of the customs of the time Scott is depicting. What Trollope has done is psychologised such a figure: the result is someone who the world might label mad. Here we should recall the figure of the Rev Mr Crawley stalking through his landscape, one only of many characters whose madness Trollope is fascinated by as it is not something we put people away into institutions for, it is rather an extreme version of everyday alienation.
Dagny's quotation from Balzac's Les Chouans is fascinating: the paragraph could be applied (but ought not I suppose) to another army of Vendeans emerging from Trollope's landscape. They come from much further North, peasant-soldiers all, clothed roughly, their hair unkempt, people whose primary weapons are axes, and, unlike our Vendeans, they take no prisoners, leave no Republican house standing, are wild, menacing, fearful:
"It appeared they were all under the control of one leader, whose name was not known in Laval, but who was supposed to have taken an active part in may of the battles fought on the other side of the river. His tactics, however, were very different from those which had been practised La Vendée. He never took any prisoners, or showed any quarter; but slaughtered indiscriminately every republican soldier that fell into his hands. He encouraged his men to pillage the towns, where the inhabitants were presumed to be favourable to the Convention, and this licence which he allowed was the means of drawing after him many who might not have been very willing to fight merely for the honour of the throne" (Ch 31, pp. 386-87).
At last Trollope is freely moving through a simaculum of history, and more than half-inventing as he goes. There was a Petite Vendée, a small uprising in Brittany, near the sea; the men who fought were called the Chouans after their area. Serious modern historians of La Vendée like Charles Tilley have paid close attention to this extension of the counterrevolution, because they see in it Writ Large some of the more classic causes of counterrevolution, hunger, poverty, class resentment, desire to break away from the constricting routines of ordinary life, the thrill of bloodlust. It was about this uprising that Balzac wrote his book. Trollope has done his homework; he knows this uprising was different in character, mood, and leaders than the first -- and he has used the self-hatred, rage, and contempt of all things including life that now fuel the half-mad Denot to make him a natural leader of these men. He is called their Mad Captain; nothing like Mystery and Strong-Minded Leadership in whatever way is appropriate to the moment to attract people to your side.
Trollope is ever the pragmatist though, and, unlike Scott and early medieval romancers, unveils the mask almost immediately. To the realist Lescure such a story is that of a mountebank and the deluded fools who follow such people. (In tiny ways this man looks forward in conception to the sensible heroes of the later books, the realists.) It is Chapeau who discovers Denot is the man first, and I, for one, wasn't sure who it would be -- for Trollope gives no clues -- until after a scene of cross-questioning Chapeau reveals who the man is to Henri Larochejaquelin.
The scene where Henri and Chapeau sought Denot out in his new lair is every effective. I recognize something I noticed in the Irish novels: the (lower-class) baker who has become so fiercely loyal to Denot partly because it's a "way up" and partly out of genuine appreciation of what is still good in Denot reminds me of the paired heroes in some of these novels of rebellion. Joe Reynolds and Corney Dolan in The Macdermots though both Ribbonmen, have the same sort of relationship. Trollope uses it here so that he may have someone who is not a sentimental character grieving for the death of Denot as he goes out into the dark too. The dialogue between Denot and his men is concise, swift, well done; the coming of Henri through the door, and his seeing Denot for the first time in a long time and enabling us to look at him with the eyes of memory is effectively and swiftly achieved:
Nothing could be more wretched than his appearance; but the most lamentable thing of all, was the wild wandering of his eyes, which too plainly told that the mind was not master of itself (Ch 31, p. 398)
Much swift action, many details of place and objects, and good psychological and physiological detail with naturalistic dialogue makes this chapter. Denot has joined his friends and the battle is to take place at Laval. I have already described the vantage point through which we watch the close of that. The opening is in Scott's Bow-Wow vein. The big scene.
Trollope has not forgotten his new multi-perspective. Parallel to Lescure's response to the battle is Michael Stein's. Stein is appalled by the battle, and sympathises with the Republicans. As the battle begins to cease, and Stein finds himself standing near a body, he says to Chapeau, he is ashamed of himself:
'Not an hour since, that poor fellow ran this way, and as he passed, he had no thought of hurting me; he was thinking too much of himself, for half-a-dozen hungry devils were after him. Well, I don't know what possessed me, but the smell of blood had made me wild, and I lifted up my axe and struck him to the ground. I wish, with all my heart, the man were safe at Antrâmes' (Ch 32, p 415).
Fascinating truths: "I don't know what possessed me, but the smell of blood had made me wild, and I lifted up my axe . . . " Trollope is moving into what happens in war, on a battlefield.
Chapeau tries to reason Stein out of this argument and Stein's subsequent self-scouging melancholy. He tells Stein he has only done his duty in killing a Republican, but Stein knows the sources of his behavior are not in some obedience to 'duty'. Then we get some curious comedy. Chapeau begins to worry others will disapprove. Ever the conformist, Chapeau, knowing how dangerous it is to individuals to be 'disapproved of' by the majority'. But Chapeau doesn't think this out this way; rather he simply feels ashamed, and hurries over to tell M Plume that Stein is just "a queer old eccentric man, a good royalist at heart" and no one should pay him any mind (p. 415).
I also responded to Richard:
Re: La Vendée, Chs 31-34: Trollope's Denot in a Scott-like landscape (II)
'I feel that Denot's "insanity" must be addressed, regardless, because it organizes the whole story; it establishes a dynamic emotional level which carries the narrative along throughout its length. We are either in the same room tight-chested wondering what to do or say to Denot, or he is not there and we ask where is he. Whether the republicans are here, there or elsewhere, Denot is exercising his omnipotence and we ask ourselves what is he doing now. We are presented with the specter of Denot's insanity repeatedly in a manner similar to Conrad's beating out again and again on his tom-tom in his story of Jim: he was one of us.'
There is an argument that Denot is the anti-hero Todd was seeking. Trollope begins his exploration of the mind on the edge in first novel The Macdermots when Thady, driven beyond his moral strength, strikes out at the officer who has impregnated Thady's sister, murders the man in place of the society which has tormented him, and flees, only to find himself half-hallucinating among the mountains as he watches an old man sitting on a bed in a hut, hardly ever moving. Fearful he will end up that way himself Thady returns to "civilization" and finds himself scapegoated.
Trollope has many such characters: Crawley; Kennedy from Phineas Redux, Louis Trevelyan from He Knew He Was Right, the Countess of Lovel in Lady Anna. He also has a few characters who slide into real madness: the most powerful in the woman with whom we open An Eye for an Eye. The prologue to that book is the depiction of an old woman in an asylum who keeps repeating "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is it not the law?", to which her nurse endlessly replies: "Oh certainly." This novella is an explanation of how this old woman came to be this way. There are the Kafkaesque non- conformists: Cousin Henry is the most striking one. Then there are moments in all the novels where various of the 'normal' characters (the word itself is to me always suspicious) who have moments where they veer towards wild states of feeling: George Vavasour (Can You Forgive Her?), Phineas Finn (Phineas Redux), Mr Scarborough. It's fascinating that such a figure provides the backbone of psychological feeling (such as it is) which extends across Trollope's only historical romance.
Trollope is aware of how this character has come to dominate the feeling in his landscape, or seems its ultimate outcrop. The antepenultimate chapter of La Vendée is "The Death of Adolphe Denot" (Ch33). The title tells the central focus, but it does not give the context which is a mixed straggling realistic picture of devastation over here, and clemency over there, of desultory battles which don't have a certain conclusion.
La Vendée also differs from Trollope's other novels in this death scene. In The Macdermots where the hero is unjustly hanged, the hanging itself take one paragraph. In this one the death scene opens thus: "The unfortunate man had shot himself" (p. 418). Trollope usually concentrates on the responses of the survivors: we concentrate on how Father John goes to pieces afterwards, and because he feels his society murdered Thady. In just about all the novels to come, there is no long-drawn out death scene, no sense at all of any heaven or hell or judgement or any pious or terrorized feelings. It's important to point this out as it is typical of the Victorian novel. A. O. J. Cockshut and others have taken this silence to indicate Trollope's instinctive religious scepticism. Since we are having a ghost story group coming up, it's revealing that Trollope never wrote anything that could be described as even near a ghost story.
Yet here it is otherwise. In the Oxford paperback classics, the death scene takes five pages (pp. 419-22). To be sure, we get no false rhetorical speeches. We hear little from Denot; what's moving is his instinctive comfort in the presence of his one old friend, Henri. Perhaps there is too much symmetry here: Denot too conveniently for realism remembers the scene where he was cowardly, referring to the "bridge of Samur." Here is our storyteller providing closure. However, Trollope provides the realistic or probable touch that the words are overheard not by someone who would understand them but by Henri who is mystified. He wasn't there (p. 421). Only later is he told of what preyed on Denot's mind.
The sentimentality of the scene is undercut by the impersonality of the exposition and is therefore still effective for the modern reader: "Again the eyes were closed, and the struggle to speak was discontinued. Plume gave over his task for it was evident that no care of his could any longer be of avail" (p. 421). Our sympathies are all with Denot who cannot reach us: he moves his head, pulls his friend toward him with his hand, mutters the sister's name, but this slightly over romantic note is quickly countered: "Adolphe Denot survived this last effort of his troubled spirit, but a few moments" (p. 422).
Trollope is interested in the irrational and in the inexplicable in human nature. However, in the realistic novel he usually writes which adhere to verisimilitude which is not the real, but what people think is most common, he can't dwell on it in the way he can in this romance. His commentary on Denot and Plume contains his sharp assessment of what binds odd companions that we see in life quite frequently, including many a marriage which seems to outsiders inexplicable:
'For three months Denot and Plume had consorted together; they had been a strange fantastic pair of comrades, but yet not altogether ill-matched: nothing could be more dissimilar than they had been in age, in birth, and previous habits, but they had met togheter with the same wishes, the same ambition, the same want of common sense, and above all the same overweening vanity; they had flattered each other from the moment of their first meeting to the present day, and thus these two poor zealous maniacs, for in point of sanity the Lieutenant was but little better than his Captain, had learnt to love each other (p. 422).
The scene ends on the half-comic, self-interested yet genuine grief of Plume. We then listen to Plume from the perspective of Henri who gives us the moral grounding of how to take this: we are not to see in this death anything grand, but all that is mad and pitiful (p. 425). Trollope draws back from the romantic genre he has now really entered into.
So we return to the calm, the orthodox mode of novels, and its continual movement towards the happy ending, the resolution about life going on and being good: Vendean marriages (Ch 34). In the penultimate chapter, so to speak, with the only one hero of the four we began with still alive: Henri Larochejaquelin. Lescure still lives, but we know that's not for long. However, he has been the voice of sanity with Henri. Our parallel plots are now brought together to provide a semi-comic ending. Henri and Marie marry and behave in aristocratic ways, with aristocratic customs (which Michael Stein is on hand to be made uncomfortable by) and more robustly and cheerfully Jacques Chapeau and Annot Stein. There is some good imagery here, and some sweet comedy.
The conclusion or last chapter is called "Twenty-Years On" because what was to come inbetween was no comedy. Only by moving us to some distant point could Trollope engineer some probable happy ending. Yet his medium has allowed him to present what is crazy about humanity and the societies it builds which is often a significant, even instigating element, at the center of his fictions.
Angela was next to write having finished the book:
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 07:29:10 +0100
Subject: Re: [trollope-l] La Vendée and Scott
Finishing this novel has made me simultaneously want to read some Scott and a 'real' history of the counter revolution. I read Scott when I was a child, Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, but have not read any historical fiction as an adult, that I can recall. Its a very strange genre. (I wonder if the big historical paintings of the Victorian era were also contemporary, such as When Did You Last See Your Father? - must look this up)
Earlier in the year I read a 'fictional biography' of the Edwardian poet/novelist Charlotte Mew which made me rush to find a 'real' biography so I could sort out fact from fiction. These sort of works which morph real pictures and characters together remind me of movies like Forest Gump where the character is cut into old film footage and appears alongside Nixon.
Reading a Victorian historic novel brings home that great divide between us and Trollope's contemporaries - their education and reading habits compared to ours.
I then wrote a close reading of Trollope's Coda:
Re: La Vendée, Ch 35: Twenty Two and Thirty Five Years On
As everyone can see, I rather like this novel. I had a hard time getting into it the first time I tried it alone. In fact I didn't get past the first few chapters. That was in the early 1990s. Then I read it in a group setting on Trollope-l; I found I had to read it straight through first to enter into it, but then could go back and reread each chapter at leisure. So this is really my fourth read, and I have found it an extremely interesting and towards the end finely imagined intelligent historical romance-novel.
In the opening to this "Conclusion" our narrator emerges to wish he could provide us with a happy ending. We could say from the first two paragraphs of the piece we learn that one can provide a happy ending to any story were one just have the right to choose at which moment to pull down the curtain:
"We have told our tale of La Vendée; we have married our hero and our heroine; and, as is usual in such cases, we must now bid them adieu. We cannot congratulate ourselves on leaving them in a state of happy prosperity, as we would have wished to have done; but we leave them with high hopes and glorious aspirations. We cannot follow the Vendeans farther in their gallant struggle, but we part from them, while they still confidently expect that success which they certainly deserved, and are determined to deserve that glory, which has since been so fully accorded to them" (Oxford La Vendée, ed MJMcCormack, p. 434).
The glory mentioned here is rooted in an idea that there is an afterlife and also that what is recorded in books in praise of people somehow counts.
Trollope though is not satisfied with this: his downright fondness for the characters and sense that his reader really wants a concrete happy ending in this world leads him to tell us he wish he could tell us that long-range pleasant arrangements for everyone eventually came to be. So he excuses himself for not being allowed to "indulge the humanity of his readers" throughout the book where he had to keep to history or even now "by ascribing to the friends we are quitting success which they did not achieve, or a state of happiness which they enver were allowed to enjoy." Note how flattering this is to the reader; there is an assumption here we are humane and that our desire for a happy ending is a function of our compassion for others as well as ourselves. Then he goes on to dream before us:
"It would be easy to speak of the curly-headed darlings, two of course who blessed the union the union of Henri Larochejaquelin and Marie de Lescure; and the joy with which they restored their aged father to the rural delights of his château . . .
He could tell "of the recovery of that modern Paladine, Charles de Lescure," of how his Clisson was rebuilt, of Father Jerome's ecclesiastical honours . . . "
In Barchester Towers and Framley Parsonage Trollope provides the said happy ending (Framley Parsonage refers to living happily ever after and the requisite two children in its final chapter title). But there it's ironic, it's in mockery. There he invites us to laugh at ourselves (and he laughs at us and himself too). Here he uses the distance between fiction and reality to create a poignancy.
Referring back to our conversation last week about the fictionality of Trollope's work, here's a good instance of why Trollope often refuses to allow us to forget that we are reading a book, and that he is our storyteller and is in charge. The pleasures of Trollope's fiction come from its being a fiction. Life, after all, ends in death; it is unshapely; it's altogether too easy to find points in our lives where all is misery. It's fiction which allows us to chose moments which are happy. James said he was offended because the only possible stance the novelist could take was that of the historian. Why? Trollope's fiction can paradoxically be more truthful by being frank and exploit the difference between reality and fiction, set up a close friendship between the reader and storyteller, and make us feel the emotions in the text all the more strongly because we are surprised at ourselves that we have them. Here we are at this distance from this story and yet we laugh or feel sad. Surprise is an important element in making a text affect the reader's mind.
Back to our narrator. He tells us "it is necessary that something should be said of what really occurred" and in order for us to take what happened
"we will beg the reader to advance with us at once over many years; and then, as he looks back upon La Vendée, through the softening vista of time, the melancholy termination of its glorious history will be less painful. On the 7th July 1815 . . . " (p. 435).
So Waterloo is, according to Mr Trollope, less painful. A remarkable but grievous day for Parisians no doubt (p. 435), but a day when war ceases -- at least for time. Our narrator imagines a holiday moment and takes into the shop of, guess who, why the Chapeaus. The reason the Chapeaus suddenly are brought to the fore in the latter chapters of the book is their fictionality enables our narrator to give us the mixed picture of cheer he wants to conclude with. Like the Thenadiers in Les Miserables they're still here. A gentleman has come to call; he knew Lescure intimately, Larochjaquelin, and "had made one of a party of Englishmen, who had done their best to send arms, money, and men from his own country into La Vendée". Would Monsieur Chapeau be so kind as to tell him what were their fates? "And so he did" (p. 439).
The journey from Laval in a jolting carriage was too much for Lescure and he died "at Fourgeres, on the third day after we left Laval." Madame has had too many adventures for Chapeau to retell, many strange and others daring, but of course the gentleman knows all that (he has of course read the Memoir upon which this novel is based), and after the death of M de Lescure she married M. Louis Larochejaquelin, Henri's younger brother. He too is dead, died two months since, leading the Emperor's troops and Madame is once again a widow: "Poor lady, none have suffered as she has done!" (p. 440). I suppose those who long to make Trollope into a modern feminist would have loved a book of Madame Larochejaquelin's adventures. It was not the story Trollope chose to tell, though it was her book which inspired him to write this novel.
What of M. Henri? Chapeau was there when he was killed by a bullet: "I was as near to him as I am to her," and [Chapeau] put out his hand to his wife's head" (p. 440). A story of long struggles which then ensued when they had no leader; had it not been for Stein, they might have perished, "he was a crafty man, and he made the blues believe he was a republican": "Well, there we were hunted like wolves, from one forest to another . . . " Larochejaquelin actually died because he held his fire upon two Republican soldiers; the result: they shot him, and he "fell dead without a groan." They did not escape. Chapeau murdered them. The implications of this brief narrative are interesting: a similar ironic scene is to be found in Trollope's story of the American Civil War, "The Two Generals."
We are told that for a while Marie de Lescure and Agatha lived disguised as peasants; then they escaped to Spain, and now are in Poitou and "although they have not chosen absolutely to seclude themselves, they both pass the same holy life, as though within the walls of a convent." This is Arthurian; Guinevere retires to a convent.
Then the narrator steps back for a bird's eye view of the ensuing history by telling us it "was long befroe Chapeau discontinued his narrative." Apparently our gentleman has not kept up on recent general events, and we hear named all the Vendeans leaders who all fell, but are assured La Vendée was never really conquered. The people would not serve republic or empire; the _noblesse_ would not visit the new courts; the sons will not fight in the armies, and the daughters not marry anyone who has forgotten their allegiance to the throne. And many skirmishes and small riots and outbreaks have ensued. The last assertion is certainly history; if the earlier ones are I doubt such refusals were out of the noble motives assumed here.
We end on a picture of Chapeau as barber. There is some comic resonance here because the first battle at St Florent was the one in which he and others humiliated the Republicans by shaving off all the hair on their heads and faces and painting their polls red. Chapeau admits the task of barbering is not much to his taste, especially since most of his customers are people who are active in the empire, but he consoles himself with the thought there is a difference between these people and the Republicans. I would like to think there's a strain of implied Trollopian irony here.
The last paragraph jumps another thirty-five years and tells us another war has ensued, the Bourbons are again gone, and France again a Republic. How long will it be, our narrator asks, before
"some second La Vendée shall successfully, but bloodlessly, struggle for another re-establishment of the monarchy? Surely before the expiration of half a century since the return of Louis, France will congratulate herself on another restoration" (p. 442).
I'm afraid our narrator is wrong. After Louis Napoleon, there were no more thrones, no more baubles. I suppose Trollope cannot believe that firm belief in a regime's true legitimacy -- which is after all what keeps people quiescent -- can reside in any other arrangement than that of ancient monarchies. Legitimacy is our safety net from the utter selfishness and dense minds of individuals, from the strange barbarism that arises from mobs, from the savagery that emerges when violence becomes the order of the day.
Trollope seems to value peace above all. And he does not identify with working, agricultural, non-gentlemanly people, women who are not ladies. These people can every once in a while be galvanised into riot and revolution because the lives of most until the 19th century were simply bursting with misery. Today in the 20th century it is still only a portion of the world which has been able to provide some measure of comfort for all classes and income levels. And this has been I fear the trouble with his book. He is an author who cannot show us the theatre of politics by others means -- the brutal force and irrationalities which underlie any regime, whether stable or unstable. He is an author who has never seen the underside of life, the real underside where there is no food to be had at times, no roof, no clothes to cover some rip, absolutely no money for anything to put on one's feet. Unlike the other novelists of Ireland in this period we get no scenes in Anglo-Irish books where one character who is starving comes to another who is only a bit richer and is so because he has the wherewithal to hoard food and demands from the first money for bread which the first character has not got. Paradoxically, he's too much of a romancer, needs too strongly himself to provide some justification for establishments, for the way things are, to write deep romance.
Cheers to all,
Angela did ask in one of hers towards the end of our read, "Was La Vendée an economic success for Trollope by the way?
To which I replied: "Financially it was a miserable failure; in his An Autobiography Trollope defends it while telling how it provided an occasion for someone to sneer at him over his historical novels."