We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

The 1974 Pallisers -- 4 novels & 3 novellas · 26 December 07

Dear Harriet,

Now I’ve reached the Pallisers 4:7, I begin to see something I had not before as a result of categorizing film adaptations carefully and identifying what type a particular one belongs to. For why do this? If your categories work, they should help you see things you wouldn’t otherwise.

I’ve repeatedly identified the Palliser films as not the faithful type of adaptation—which for example Barchester Chronicles is.

Armed with a definition of this subgroup and its characteristics and having finished 3:6, I’ve suddenly realized the series falls into 4 distinct novels or narrative spans, with 3 small novels or novellas in it: the larger novels, the 4 are divided for us each time the group of actors returns to the Arcadian landscape of Matching Priory (where the series opens and where 3:6 ends). The new novel material begins just before the return to the Arcadian threshold which we emerge from with a new set of dominating characters, themes, moods.

These 4 are:

1) the opening Lady Glen/Plantagenet story, a separate piece in its own right and treated at great length (nearly 6 of 26 episodes)

2) the Phineas story (linked to the Pallisers in various ways, but one important link is Madame Max, possible mistress of the Duke, good friend of Glencora and then of the new Duke of Omnium in the final episode); this contains much fascinating political material and is an adult story. Madame Max and the elder Duke of Omnium may be considered an almost substory in their own right. This very long novel in the films stretches across it and is interrupted by

3) the third novel, the Lizzie Eustace/Lord Fawn story, with a whole group of interlocking characters, including pairs of lovers, Jane Carbuncle and Lord George de Bruce Caruthers (another almost substory in their own right), Frank Greystock without his Lucy visible, from Eustace Diamonds and Phineas Redux so it links forward to Phineas by way of Mr Bonteen’s involvement with proving Lizzie’s finally chosen suitor, Emilius a bigamist; and

4) the Palliser story from The Prime Minister. I think the story of the next generation (Silverbridge, Lady Mary) is part of these Palliser materials; it’s brought in earlier when the children are younger, and provides by contrast (love matches) a genuine resolution of some of the thematic conflicts begun in the first novel which in 3:6 ends in stasis, a compromise, and no resolution or contentment or meaning for the central first pair of lovers. I would also say that makes the first pair (Lady Glen, Plangenet) the most adult story of love in the series as in life there is mostly just ad hoc adaptation and living in. I have a hazy memory that the return to the garden does not happen after Phineas Redux, but am not sure.

That would omit 3 major substories: 1) Alice & George & John Vavasour (interesting, even if more upbeat and conventional than) 2) Ferdinand Lopez & Sexty Parker/Emily & Abel Wharton (a dark story about sex and money and ends in suicide for the chief male, retreat for the female, and great loss for the father & business partner); and 3) the bucolic comedy of Adeline Palliser with Gerald Maule (very small but a definite story in itself)

Looking at these films in their own right, and using the novels by Trollope for comparative study, to look at the films as an analogous film with new hinge-points, different emphases, and highlighting and critiquing different elements of the original enables us to see the films for what they are for the first time.


P.S. This is not to say a faithful adaptation of the type Barchester Chronicles stands for is not as creative as an analogous adaptation; rather to recognize the types are different and look to understand what we are so enjoying. I know my blog on BC was inadequate to it; it was meant just a preliminary counter to the totally useless way BC is usually (not) discussed.

Posted by: Ellen

* * *


commenting closed for this article