La Vendée, Chapters Six Through Ten
The Interlace: The Political and War Story; the Love and Human Interest Stories, Church Facades and the French Landscape

September 17, 2000

RE: La Vendée, Chs 6-10: The Political and War Story

This week's chapters tell of a curious incident which is found in the French memoir Trollope used. Once some of the battles were won -- and a few lost devastatingly -- and a momentary lull emerged, most of the peasants in the army wanted to go home. As Trollope writes,

"many objected to enrol themselves for any length of time, to bind themselves as it were to a soldier's trade, and to march under arms to perform service at a distance from their farms, which seemed to them considerable" (Oxford La Vendée, ed WJMcCormack, Ch 6, p. 77).

It is curious how in the late 20th century propaganda has led many people to say they identify with vast swatches of other peoples, but when the draft is called, the identification has repeatedly dissolved away upon the enactment of a conscription. The peasants are close to the reality of people's real feelings.

What happened was a mysterious Bishop of Agra suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He was dressed numinously, and in the spirit of Henry V in Shakespeare's play, went about the camp inspiring people to stay on and go out there and fight. The people are stirred -- or deluded -- by this sacred figure; mob feeling overtakes them and they bind themselves to go forward. I would agree with Todd that Trollope is critical of the unthinking elements in the counter-revolution. Trollope includes a note to the chapter (10) in which this incident is fully described (pp.134-45). He says that Madame de Larochejaquelin whose Memoir he read wrote that the royalists who were leading the army were not party to the obvious fraud; they had no idea he was an imposter (p. 137). It's interesting that in this early chapter Trollope puts into the mouth of this mysterious Bishop precisely those arguments on behalf of fighting on, against hanging back (you will then be murdered by the others when they return; you will be conscripted; it is in your religous to fight) that we see the royalists in Chapter 6 attempt to use and fail so signally with, e.g,

"Is there danger in the bloody battle we have before us? --- let us all share it and then it will be the lighter? . . . let no man presume to think that he will be happier than his neighbours, for that man shall assuredly be most miserable";
and again:
"'Distant lands, say you! is not Saumur in Anjoy? and is not Anjou within three miles of you, here where you are sitting?" p 89).

The best argument the royalists really make is the one wherein they imply that if a man doesn't fight and his neighbours do, he will be hated. This shows an astute disillusioned intelligence: people fight out of community pressure as much as anything else. Trollope could have predicted why people who go to fight so loathe those who refuse for whatever reason.

We are left to draw our own conclusions about how the Bishop can repeat the same litany we heard in the earlier royalist exhortations.

There are many passages in these chapters which are meant to make us think about the nature of man as a political animal. For example, the portrait of Jaques Chapeau. Here is a man who is half unaware that he has kept changing parties as the winds of the time blew and made one party more powerful than the other. Trollope traces his gyrations with the times with panache and comments: "indeed, he was probably unaware that he had changed his party" (p. 77).

This political vein in these chapters culminates in the failure of the battle at Saumar (Chapter 9, "Le Mouchoir Rouge"). I have to say I was startled to find myself reading a rousing bloody battle scene. I have never read one by Trollope before. I can't imagine he has many in his travel books or essays so this ferocious scene may well be near unique. He's as good as Scott at it.

However, the point is the battle fails because the leaders have no authority with the men. Since people only recognise and obey what they have been taught in some deep area of their consciousness is legitimate authority, a man running a rebel army has a problem. Cathelineau comes up with a good plan; most of the army will stay behind. He and a few brave souls will go forward, create a distraction and then everyone else will attack from the rear. Alas, the army follows Henri Larochajaquelin; actually they get ahead of him, and instead of a distraction, the early foray functions as a warning signal. Those left behind are left too far behind and the signal to attack fails to reach them. What a muddle. Well many battles run by state-machines with military law to push men into keeping at it and obeying end up in similar muddles (Robert Graves in his book on WWI and George Orwell in his on the Spanish Civil war tell of other similar muddles which end in defeat.)

The terrible deaths of course demoralise the army further; they retreat back towards Montreuil and John Keegan's comments from The Face of Battle are appropriate: he says battles are lost when men retreat. Whence the appearance of the Bishop of Agra in Chapter 10.

The details are well done. Trollope traces time, place, and how the whole thing got fouled up. He also uses the climactic moment where Henri is to lead the men (until George II kings and lords led their armies and in WWI the officer corps was central in keeping the men going out to the theatre of slaughter in no man's land between the trenches). What happens is Henri says, let's go forward, and Adolphe Denot is suddenly unable to risk his life. He is suddenly terrified and slinks off. This is an important moment in the private side of the stories of the novel.

There is some good description:

"It was a beautiful warm evening in June, and the air was heavy with the sweet scene of the flowering hedges; it was now nearly nine o'clock, and the sun had set, but the whole western horizon was gorgeous with the crimson streaks which accompanied its setting. Standing in the waggon, Cathelineau could see the crowds of hurrying royalists rushing along the road, wherever the thick foliage of trees was sufficiently broken to leave any portion of it visible, and he could hear the eager hum of their voices both near him and at a distance" (p. 128).

There is a moral tag line at the close of Chapter 10 ending this first phase of the war and political story: "such is the lot of those who take upon themselves the management of men, without any power to ensure obedience to their orders" (p. 144). It is hard to win a rebellion; one must resort to fraud, manipulation, and, as M de Lescure predicted, there will be many defeats and much death and destruction all that results from this. Yes it is a conservative outlook but a sharp one.

Ellen Moody

To which there were a number of replies:

From: Angela Richardson
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 13:37:21 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée

My reading style for La Vendée has been alternate fits of alertness and interest followed by a sort of 'dogged as does it' reading where the narrative feels leaden.

I loved the detail of the first victory of the counter revolution and thought the moment when the gentry and peasant leaders come together and wept was very well done.

It's interesting that Trollope should want to write about the counter revolution rather than the revolution itself. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why he is considered a conservative writer?


From: Todd Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 17:25:47 -0400
 Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: The Language of Love

In Chapter 7 we get an amusing scene between Jacques Chapeau, the servant of Henri Larochejaquelin, and his young lover Annot Stein, the daughter of the blacksmith in the village of Echanbroignes. Trollope handles these characters, who occupy lower positions in society than the main characters, in a light, comic way. On the day preceding Jacques’ departure for the battle at Saumur, Annot tries to draw a response from him, tries to make him jealous by talking provocatively about Cathelineau. He takes the bait -- he’s annoyed. Accordingly, on the walk home from church he gives his attention to the men of the village, allowing Annot to walk by herself. She feigns indifference. After getting home she pretties herself up and makes out as if to visit a neighbor. Jacques follows, they walk together, and after some teasing and scolding from Annot he declares his love for her, as she does for him. Mission accomplished!

I was amused by this because I thought Trollope successfully captured the silliness that goes on between young lovers who don’t know each other all that well. If the truth be told I can remember more than a few such episodes from my own personal history!

But the scene also serves to prepare the reader for a very different encounter -- that between Agatha and Denot in Chapter 8. Denot had thought to “pique [Agatha] by a show of indifference himself, but he found that this plan did not answer: it was evident, even to him, that Agatha was not vexed by his silence...” The show of indifference brings a different outcome this time. Interestingly, even though these two had not been speaking to each other in these final days before the men went off to battle, Agatha was able to guess that Denot was about to propose marriage to her. Evidently, the language of love is not necessarily one made up exclusively of words.

Denot makes an interesting contrast to the other more noble, pure-minded heroes. As we observe him at this point in the story he is thinking less of God and King than he is of Agatha -- or perhaps we should say: of himself. Trollope seems to be playing against the high seriousness of the historical drama when he has Denot prostrate himself before Agatha and embrace her feet while sobbing loudly. Understandably, Agatha is distressed by this display, but Marie gets it right: she laughs! Denot the demoniac! He is indeed ludicrous (but he doesn’t realize it). And then to be so angry at her rejection of him as to hiss at her through his teeth! This is great stuff. I loved this scene. Denot has a great dramatic sense: “My passion for you is no idle boyish love; it has grown with my growth, and matured itself with my manhood...” You can almost believe him.

It’s interesting how Trollope never strays too far from his strengths as a fiction writer: a man and a woman, love, vanity, passion, dreams...


From: "p.geater" Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 08:00:00 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] La Vendée: The Language of Love

Hello all

I enjoyed Todd's comments on the lovers Jacques and Annot in chapter 7, and the very different love scene in chapter 8 - I think in these early stages the novel sometimes becomes bogged down in battle scenes and long speeches/ sermons, but these are two great chapters where the writing really comes alive, and we see Trollope's full brilliance breaking through. I especially like the proposal scene, where Denot's highly-wrought speeches and floods of tears are so ludicrous - he seems like a stage villain who has wandered into an ordinary drawing room, and you can really feel Agatha cringing with embarrassment. All his speeches here sound like bad dramatic poetry, while Agatha is speaking in normal and sensible conversational tones.

Just realised that I've written proposal "scene" instead of "chapter" - this is probably because the writing does seem so wonderfully melodramatic at this point. But it's a melodrama heavily undercut with Trollope's great use of irony. I was reminded of Mr Slope's famous proposal in "Barchester Towers", where he too is very pleased with his own speeches and protestations, little realising the effect they are having on the (un)lucky woman concerned!

On another tack, has anybody found a good historic map of La Vendee region anywhere on the net? I have visited this area of France, the Loire Valley (on my honeymoon 16 years ago... wonderful scenery, chateaux and vineyards!) but don't really know it very well and kept thinking it would be good to look at a map while reading about the battles.

There is a map on the website I mentioned earlier, but, although the rest of the site is great, the map is badly out of focus I'm afraid. Anyway, for what it's worth, I'll just repeat the link to the site, because it does contain a lot of very interesting information and detailed biographies of the real-life individuals behind Trollope's characters:

Judy Geater

RE: Father Jerome

One image from Chapter 10 that stands out is that of Father Jerome holding his crucifix aloft to inspire the soldiers following behind him. The narrator notes that it is coated with gore, Father Jerome having apparently used it as a weapon in close combat. Trollope means to shock us with this detail, I think, and implied is a criticism of Father Jerome and the faith of the royalists. Trollope is supportive of the royalist cause but he is not uncritical. Generally he presents Father Jerome in a positive light, but most readers, regardless of their political sympathies, would have to cringe at the thought of a crucifix as bludgeon, I would think.

The Catholic peasants are portrayed as simple, credulous people; their faith is not something they have chosen but rather is an inheritance. Such is their credulity that they lend themselves to being tricked and deceived, as when an impostor bishop arrives to exhort them. “The word of a priest with them was never doubted, but the promises of a bishop were assurances direct from Heaven: they would consider it gross impiety to have any doubt of victory, when victory had been promised them by so holy a man ...” Father Jerome knows how they are and is content that they should remain so. "...The people were as superstitious as they were faithful, and [Father Jerome] never hesitated in using their superstition to forward his own views... He was unwilling that they should receive other education than that which they now had." In other words he would prefer to keep them ignorant as long as in this way they remained faithful. His approach to the people under his care is paternalistic. He would protect them by sheltering them from the outside world.

Is Trollope fair in his portrayal of the faith of the people? Is his picture an exaggeration or is it accurate? Is he being critical or merely being descriptive? I can't quite make up my mind -- but I sense a criticism.


RE: The Church Facade

I was very struck by the detailed description of the facade of the Church with its depiction of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Do you think AT made it all up or that is is based on a real facade he once saw.


From Kristie to Roger and All:

I think Roger will probably be familiar with France and the Continent, but for others I note that many French churches (particularly the older mediaeval ones) often have very ornate doorways, where the surround depicts a scene such as God the Father, holding Christ crucified, with the Dove representing the Holy Spirit perhaps standing on an arm of the cross, or in flight near God the Father, sitting in judgement on the souls at the last day. On one side would be the Blessed, on the other the Damned. In front would be ranks of souls awaiting judgement. There could be little cameos in the design, such as St Michael weighing souls in a scales, with a devil attempting to pull down one side of the scales, representations of various professions being shepherded to one side or the other (often being encouraged by a devil with a fork), perhaps with devilish and angelic sentinels delimiting the entry to Heaven and Hell.

I've had a quick look at the Trollope Chronology - I find the Trollopes visited France in 1827 when AT was 12 and he was in Belgium in 1834 (AT 19) (Brussels and Bruges). I have no doubt he saw something of such a doorway, perhaps in Belgium, at some stage prior to the writing of La Vendée.


Re: More on the Landscape and Tom Trollope

Hello all

Thanks very much to Kristi for finding those maps of the La Vendée region. It certainly helps to have an idea of the lie of the land when reading.

On Roger and Rory's comments about the memorable description of the church, I suppose it is just possible there might be a similar description in one of the books by Trollope's brother and mother which he apparently drew on as background for La Vendée.

WJ McCormack mentions in the introduction to the Oxford edition that Fanny and Tom Trollope "walked the battlefields of the Vendean civil war in the interests of English tourism". He goes on to discuss "A Summer in Brittany by T. Adolphus Trollope, edited by Frances Trollope (1840.) and its sequel, "A Summer in Western France" (1841). His introduction says that the first of these books includes brief "reminiscences" of the Vendean war, drawn from "the pages of Madame de Larochejaquelin's delightful Memoires", while the second French tour features more extensive coverage.

I don't suppose anybody has a copy of either of these? Somehow I suspect that most of Tom Trollope's works are not in print! But it would certainly be interesting to know how much of his family's research Trollope did use, and whether some of the same scenery which features in the novel is described in the travel books... maybe even that church.

Another point on Tom Trollope... McCormack mentions in a throwaway line"In the case of La Vendee one can no longer overlook the deliberateness with which Trollope provided his one invented villain (Adolphe Denot) with his own brother's distinguishing Christian name (Adolphus)." I don't really understand what he means here as, from what I've read about Trollope, I thought he and Tom usually got on well... am I missing something?

However, I'm also currently reading "The Small House at Allington" which of course features the not very admirable Adolphus Crosbie - so does anybody think that McCormack might have something here, or is this suggestion of a biographical reason behind the choice of names possibly pushing things a little?

Talking of Oxford editions of Trollope (the paperback variety), it seems as if some of them are currently being remaindered, along with Oxford classics by many other writers.

Today I visited our local remaindered bookshop and was lucky enough to pick up four titles - Orley Farm, Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, An Old Man's Love and The Claverings, for just under £6 altogether - the cover price for the four was around £25. I was of course thrilled with my bargain, but at the same time rather sad to think that books like these are being sold off in this way. They were all stamped "damaged" (although they are in good condition as far as I can see) presumably to stop them being resold at full price.

I noticed that the Penguin edition of Ayala's Angel is on back order at, so I have ordered a copy - fingers crossed!

Judy Geater

Re: This reminds me of the crusades.

If anyone is interested in a little side read, I know of a good short story. It is around 20-25 pages. Un Episode sous la Terreur (An Episode under the Terror) by Balzac. An English translation is available at Project Gutenberg. promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=1456&full=yes&ftpsite=

It takes place around 1793-1794 and focuses on two nuns and a priest who are in hiding plus a mystery man.


Re: More on Art Treasures and Mood

I very much enjoyed these sections, found them quite fascinating in fact.

Trollope doesn't say they are frescoes but he may have been inspired by Tom Trollope's travel book on Umbria, Italy. In Orvieto there is a particularly writhing fresco of the Last Judgement. It covers hell and the ressurection of the dead. I am not sure if purgatory was also covered. I don't think I've seen an illustration of purgatory - though I would love to see the one described, if it exists. I've not read the Tom Trollope guide so I do not know if he covers Luca Signorelli's paintings in the Orvieto Duomo, but I would think it unlikely that he would omit it.

I find I am also enjoying the brooding sense of doom in the novel. It reminds me of reading Sebastian Faulks 'Birdsong' or the Pat Barker trilogy of books about the First World War where you already know they will die in great numbers and find yourself overwhelmed but unable to stop reading.


RE: La Vendée: Chs 6-10: The Love or Human Interest Story

I can add a few comments to Todd, Judy's Angela's, and Dagny's:

This week's chapters seem to show the split so familiar to readers of Trollope's Palliser novels We alternate between a political and a love story. I am very attracted to Cathelineau who falls in love with a girl who is above him, Agatha Larochejaquelin. We have seen how he emerges as leader although he knows he is socially and somehow therefore eternally below those who elevate him; we see him longing and uncomfortable. This is not quite the story of an Anton Trendellson or Daniel Thwaite because they are angry, but it falls into the same pattern and I feel that Trollope identifies with Cathelineau more than with any other character he has depicted; he seems to enter into his inner soliloquies. We sympathise with Cathelineau; Cathelineau's friend, whom Trollope respects, Henri, respects Cathelineau as a man but cannot accept him as a prospective husband for his sister. This is the nub of the many plots of in Trollope's novels from Castle Richmond to Marion Fay.

As Todd and Judy have said, in these chapters we also have a highly romantic portrait of Adolphe Denot's intense passion for Agatha Larochejaquelin who cannot return his love. In a way it looks forward to Johnny Eames and Larry Twentymans, except of course Adolphe is a figure out of opera, sublime romance. He throws himself at Agatha, and the turns of the scene are striking. If you can involved yourself, the physical gestures are believable, and the speeches strong:

"My passion for you is no idle boyish love; it has grown with my growth, and matured itself with my manhood. I cannot now say to myself that it shall cease to be. I cannot restore calmness to my heart or rest to my bosom. My love is a fire which cannot now be quenced; it must be nourished, or it will destroy the heart which is unable to restrain it (Oxford La Vendée, WJMcCormack, Ch 8, p 117).

Then, in contrast, Adolphe shows his cowardice at the moment of high demand in the battle. He also refuses to accept Cathelineau as his leader, and disappears, after he plants in Henri's mind a suspicion about Cathelineau.

Probably the most disappointing thing about the book is the depiction of the women. We see in other of Trollope's novels that young girls have to be coaxed into admitting their love for a man by an older woman, but here it is done so sentimentally, it's barely acceptable. On the other hand, I did like the suggestion of a firm friendship between the Lescures as the basis of their marriage. Although not much characterised and given dreadful dialogue to speak, I thought the depiction of Lescure effective as a whole. I believe such a character could exist in concept though Trollope does not give him sufficient life after the early meditation on the probability of a coming defeat he is given.

Certainly our narrator tells us the women work hard and are useful in war by keeping their estates running, providing food, linen, and care.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

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