Barchester Towers, Chapters 1-6
In A War Two Sides Emerge; Fanny Trollope's Vicar of Wrexhill, The Slimy Mr Slope and Laurence Sterne's Dr Slop; Trollope's Strong Class-Bias; His Distaste for Sabbatarians; Trollope as Mild Hedonist; Ecclesiastical Politics and a Serious Religious Dispute; Trollope's Barsetshire fictions and The World of Don Camillo; In Defense of Mr Slope, or, Trollope Far from Unsympathetic; Primates or Unintended Jokes and Dr Grantly; Satire on Fundamentalism in Barchester Towers, Miss Mackenzie and John Caldigate (early , middle and late-career Trollope); What Do We Mean By the Term, "Gentleman" and What Did Trollope Mean?: Shirley Letwin's The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct and Trollope's The Claverings; Eleanor as Imogen

To Trollope-l

July 24, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 1-6: In a War Two Sides Emerge

What we see in this week's chapters is the formation of two sides in a war -- Trollope calls it War in Chapter Six. On the one side are arrayed the Bishop and his wife, Mr Slope, and behind them those whom their behavior has pleased; on the other, Archdeacon Grantly, Mr Harding, and all those people hitherto in positions of authority or in the way of getting income from the church as an institution at Barchester. Although Trollope sets this war out comically by giving us characters whose personality clashes make us laugh (or grimace) and by providing us with the delights of all sorts of literary jokes (metaphors, allusions, salacious language, a continual vein of irony), the war is nonetheless meaningful to us on a serious and realistic level. That's why the novel's got grit; that's why we can still read it and find our emotions involved beyond the personality clashes.

When we first began The Warden we had a long thread on high versus low church and said that while it didn't seem to be applicable to The Warden particularly, it was applicable to Barchester Towers. At the time we talked politics, and I contributed a posting about how 'high' v 'low' behavior was to be and still is understood in terms of class, though at the end of it I talked about religion. This morning I'll take the liberty of reposting what I wrote in early June, and here add to it more about the religious theme in Barchester Towers.

Robin Gilmour opens his introduction to the Penguin Barchester Towers, with a long quotation from a comparison by R. H. Hutton of Jane Austen's novels to those of Trollope. According to Hutton, the larger society and controversial social institutions and thought are in Austen

above all things, mild and unobtrusive, not reflecting the greater world at all ... while the latter is, above all things, possessed with the sense of the aggressiveness of the outer world, of the hurry which threatens the tranqullity even of such still pools in the rapid currents of life as Hiram's Hospital at Barchester, of the rush of commercial activity, of the competitiveness of fashion, of the conflict for existence even in outlying farms and country parsonages ... Mr Trollope's clergy are the centres of all sorts of crowding interests, of ecclesiastical conflicts, of attacks of the press of temptations from the great London world ... Everybody in Mr Trollope is more or less under pressure, swayed hither and thither by opposite attractions, assailed on this side and on that by the strategy of rivals; everywhere someone's room is more wanted than his company; everywhere time is short (from Anthony Trollope: The Critical Heritage, ed. DSmalley New York: Barnes and Noble, 1969, "From Miss Austen to Mr Trollope", Spectator, 16 December 1882, pp. 509-11)

Consider our opening chapter: there we have the Archdeacon torn between wanting to sit by his father's bedside and mourn his death and the need he has to send that telegram off, not just soon, but NOW, and it would be much better were his father to die quickly so as to make sure those people are in power who would give Grantly the Bishopric. This is again not a matter of days, but hours. Had the Bishop died a few hours sooner, Mr Harding's hurried trip to the telegraph office would not have been in vain. The Archdeacon is embarrassed to have it seen as much he longs (to use Hutton's terms) for his father's 'room', but the pressure of time and the movement of men in positions and his own desire for power and control over others (it's not a matter of money, the narrator tells us) drives him to drive Mr Harding down to that office. Has anyone among us just missed a position because the wrong people were in charge when we were up for it? Or been lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time?

So much for the notion we have a slowly moving idyllic realm in Barchester. Hutton talks also of 'the conflict for existence even in outlying farms and country parsonages ...' We saw this in The Warden: Quiverful and Mr Smith (or other versions of him) will figure as needy pawns in the coming war. Mrs Proudie's power stems from 'the conflict for existence even in outlying farms'. Who you will kowtow to determines how you will behave vis-à-vis high or low church practices in a church grounded in a society that is capitalist and hierarchical to the core.

However, I do not want here to talk about the conflict merely in terms of social behavior which may or may not be read religiously. Robin Gilmour says that in Barchester Towers Trollope struck another 'original seam' which rang strongly in the ears of middle class English people (the first was struck in The Warden with the political conflicts we discussed for weeks). The new 'original seam', according to Gilmour, was 'the predicament of the Church of England, considered as an institution. Gilmour goes on to talk of how in Parliament the church could no longer count on only wealthy Anglicans (or their various flunkys) being able to vote. One John Keeble in a famous sermon in 1833 attacked 'the government's plan to suppress ten Irish bishoprics' and, says Gilmour, the speech marked the beginning of the Oxford Puseyite movement which increasingly looked for spiritual sustenance for individuals in the authority of a highly ritualised, hierarchical arrangement in church government and doctrine. The breadth or unconventional grounds of Trollope's own stance may be seen in his having supported the disestablishment of the Anglican Irish church in his essays, for as we can already see, in this novel, he is on the side of Grantly as someone who wants maintain ritual and respect for powerful authorities, a church governed from the top, not from the bottom (or by consulting its people, i.e., its 'grass roots '). There is also a problem with Gilmour's thesis (and Keeble's over anxious sermon too): in fact, Parliament remained mostly Anglican until the Labour Party came into Power; the first non-Anglican Prime Minister was Wilson.

Sure, the conflicts we see in these scenes are partly class-, and caste-interest rooted: Slope is your interloper, your man without manners, your non- gentleman, and Bishop Proudie is someone who has risen high by appearing to accede to the changes a growing number of people like Slope were making as they began to appear in various positions of power in government and industry and agriculture. Bishop Proudie is a trimmer. He is a man whom the new people coming into power -- Evangelicals for the first time, people who are for toleration, people who are willing to reform other institutions, just bit (sufficiently to further their own interests, not so far as to hurt them). The very fact that Proudie is not very smart and could sit for hours with dignity at a board was part of his value, and with the flickeringly sharp irony of this book, our narrator comments: 'If he did not do much active good, he never did any harm' (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed. RGilmour, Ch 3, p. 17).

However, it's more than that. It's sex or gender rooted -- that I'll save for another post tonight or tomorrow. Mrs Proudie should not be acting like Bishop because she's a woman; she is also bucking male authority in the home as a wife by the way she manipulates the Bishop's weaknesses and desire for a quiet life. It is also a matter of religion, and that's my theme for this post: a war which may seem comic and amusing, but is about our souls, and Trollope's stance is one readers have liked. This book presents an inward conflict about what constitutes a true Christian. For Trollope (and also Austen by the way) Christianity is not presented as a matter of mystic beliefs but as a set or moral behaviors. The arguments about keeping Sunday a day on which one can do nothing but hear sermons, and the whole repressive stance of Mrs Proudie and as well shall see the hypocritical Mr Slope are aligned with the worldliness of the Archdeacon against the ideals we see lived in Mr Harding.

Mr Harding is again our hero, our moral touchstone, but this time as the man whose charity, self-abnegation, forbearance, kindliness, desire to see in places of power kindly and good people -- are the mirror against which we are to measure everyone else we come across. As they come near to Mr Harding in their moral behavior so they answer to a spiritual crisis that was going on in England -- by which I mean a loss of belief, a breaking away from older modes of control, and breathe to the reader a sense that life can have meaning and beauty. Some of the characters are unconventional in their alignment with Mr Harding; that is, they act self-sacrificingly without any doctrine or authority behind them: the Ullathornes, and yes the Signora Neroni (who we have yet to meet but will soon). Bu adhering to older ways of life, pre-capitalist, feudal, with bonds and obligations of loyalty through blood and family and history intact Trollope invites us to dream we are safer and will be secure, at any rate not unsettled and anxious about tomorrow. By showing us people who can rise above (or evade from below) the perversions of nature that ambition and aggression in the modern world of places and positions and opportunities for big money demands, he extends our sympathies. Other of the characters come near to Mr Harding through alignment with doctrines and their own natures: Arabin -- who we have yet to meet but also will appear very soon.

Perhaps this makes the story sound too serious or solemn. However, I think the book's power does stem from its ability to answer some of the deeper yearnings of the human heart while making us laugh. That's one of the reasons it sold so well. Dr Grantly is better than Slope because he does not attempt to impose his will on our inner selves; he may try to make people behave with common decency publicly to one another and will not tolerate out-and-out amorality or criminality as it was understood in Victorian England (no living with a woman outside marriage for a clergyman, obviously no stealing, breaking laws &c), but he leaves your desire to enjoy your existence quietly alone, he leaves you to your natural pleasures, and he does not, like Mr Slope, attempt to become 'all powerful' over your soul (Ch 4, pp 26-27, the comparison of Slope and Grantly). However, neither of these two sides of the 'church militant', warriors on behalf of interest groups and their own power or drive for luxuries, embody what Trollope is again trying to teach us what is most good and happy in life. It's as if we switched our ambiguously good and bad angels. In The Warden, the ambiguously good and bad angels fighting over the soul of Mr Harding to make him act the way they wanted were Grantly, Bold, Towers. Now they are the Proudies and Slope on the one side, and Grantly and Arabin on the other. Only it's not a fight over what decision Mr Harding should make alone: it's over how all of us shall be allowed to live and believe.

Ellen Moody

NB: If someone wants to take up the anti-feminist depiction of Mrs Proudie here, feel free. I probably will not do justice to this vein in the novel, as I cannot bear the character as a personality.

Sig and Robert referred to a scene where there is an "improper exclamation by the Archdeacon:

Re: Barchester Towers: The Very Improper Exclamation

Sig and Robert have referred to the scene where the Archdeacon's frustrated and shocked (remember this house wherein he finds himself so harassed and set upon was his home), I say, shocked indignation leaves him so in need of release that he, as it were helplessly,

raised his hat with one hand, passed the other somewhat violently over his now grizzled locks; [and] smoke issued forth from the uplifted beaver as it were a cloud of wrath, and the safety-valve of his anger opened and emitted a visible steam, preventing positive explosion and probable apoplexy (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 6, p 37).

This is the first of many hilarious parodies of epic language to come.

The very mild Mr Harding tries to come up to this zenith of dismay: the Archdeacon looks up 'to the grey pinnacles of the cathedral tower, making a mute appeal' to what we might today call the Management. Mr Harding offers what is for him the very uncharitable supposition that he does not think he shall ever 'like that Mr Slope'. To the hint of which possibility the Archdeacon roars: 'Like him! ... like him!' -- alerting the ravens who caw their assent (the mournful disposition of the raven to utter variants on Nevermore was understood before Edgar Poe). Still Mr Harding soldiers on: 'Nor Mrs Proudie either' (p. 37).

It is then that a mystery or enigma appears in our text. We are told the Archdeacon 'forgot himself'. In modern words, he lost it. At this our storyteller has a problem, for he vows not to

follow his example, nor shock my readers by transcribing the term in which he expressed his feeling as to the lady who had been named. The ravens and the last lingering notes of the clock bells were less scrupulous, and repeated in correspondent echoes the very improper exclamation' (italics mine, p. 37).

Much scrutiny of Trollope's texts (a dirty mind is a joy forever) has taught me to understand that in a number of his novels when males seek to insult a female either to her face or to another male and Trollope draws a line, the word intended is not 'whore' but 'harlot'. (I am nothing if not thorough.) However, here I am stumped. What word could it have been the narrator is trying to convey to us by telling us the bells repeated it 'in correspondent echoes'?

What was the improper exclamation by which the Archdeacon relieved his exacerbated mind and heart? My editor remains silent upon this point, i.e., there is no annotation in the Penguin edition. Do you think Gilmour couldn't figure it out?

Any guesses?

Ellen Moody

Robert Wright answered: "trollop, trollop, trollop". I objected, playfully,

To Robert,

No. It cannot be. Bells do not echo trollop, trollop, trollop, or, wallop, wallop, wallop :).

There is something specific in mind here that Trollope cannot say, but that he hints broadly at, and we are not getting the hint. It is not necessarily a scurrilous or (today) a proscribed word. All it is, is improper. I'm not sure that it's even bawdy.


Phoebe Wray asked about "rule the roast"!?

Re: Barchester Towers, Ch 3: 'Rule the roast ...'

Dear Phoebe and all,

I own the Penguin and Oxford editions and both read 'rule the roast'.

He [Dr Proudie] was biding his time, and patiently looking forward to the days when he himself would sit authoritative at some board, and talk, and direct, and rule the roast, while lesser stars sat round and obeyed, as he had so well accustomed himself to do (Penguin BT, ed RGilmour, p. 17).

I was inclined to agree with you and think it a typo which has yet (surprisingly) to be silently corrected. My immediate way of reading the phrase was rule the roost by which we mean be master over the hen-house or that part of a bird's house where all the birds perch and sleep. However, I went to the unabridged Concise Oxford and found that 'rule the roast' is a secondary meaning for 'roast' and means 'to have full sway or authority; to be master. Here is a Victorian line the Dictionary quotes: Kingsley: 'He had it all his way, and ruled the roast'.

We might say if this was Dr Proudie's idea of a 'reward' ('his time had come') for all these years of worldly accommodation, he was to be very disappointed. We are what we have become.


Again people talked about Mrs Proudie; someone suggested he disliked her so because of how she talked in front of others. The important point was again brought up that Mrs Proudie was an embarrassment to me; she was too powerful for Dr Proudie; she was an anti-feminist figure.

Re: Barchester Towers: What is Said Behind the Doors Counts Too

Could it be that Trollope dislikes Mrs Proudie because what she says in public, and were her comments and demands done in private it would be acceptable? There are other novels where various wives (Lady Aylmer in Belton Estate, Mrs Bolton in John Caldigate), married daughters (Dorothea Prime in Rachel Ray), mothers (Lady Ball in Miss Mackenzie) do their work behind closed doors, curtains, in whispers, hints, and by simply making life wholly unpleasant. What Susan Grantly asks of the Archdeacon is not anti-pleasure; it's not mean-spirited; it's not intended to be cruel or hard or repressive to other people. In fact she restrains the Archdeacon from useless domineering. Lady Ball is a cruel woman who loathes people who have no rank; she makes her son's life as miserable as she can. Mrs Bolton is poisonous; Lady Aylmer withers people with her petty and spiteful behavior. Dorothea Prime is a repressive evangelical fundamentalist.

We really have to take into account Mrs Proudie's religion. Once again: this is a novel about religion. She and Slope are evangelical fundamentalists, and like Dorothea Prime, they are presented as bigots who want to take the pleasure out of existence for others. It's what Mrs Proudie says; it's her values that make her so obnoxious to Trollope. We have to remember our own focus on women and their rights or deprivations was not Trollope's emphasis. Trollope's emphasis is on Mrs Proudie's determination to wither people's joys -- including those of her husband. They are dangerous these joys.

On the contemporary example: I agree with John Mize that it seems that Nancy Reagan had a strong influence on what her husband did in the public as well as private arena when she was First Lady, but because she didn't present herself as his Equal Partner, it was acceptable.

Ellen Moody

July 24, 1999
Subject: [trollope-l] The Slimy Mr Slope


I have been reading the mailings with much enjoyment though have not had the time to contribute. However, here we go.

In answer to a previous posting - the dinner a la Russe was featured in Miss Mackenzie.

I believe Mr Slope to be based on the Revd. J.W. Cunningham the vicar of Harrow in the 1820s. He was of the Low Church pursuasion and much disliked by the Trollopes and their friends who thought him unctuous and insincere. His nickname was 'Velvet' Cunningham and he had the reputation of being rather too eager to bestow 'the kiss of peace' on the young women in his parish. When Byron requested that his illegitimate daughter Allegra be buried in Harrow Churchyard it was the duplicitous Mr Cunningham who led the howl of disapproval.

His reasons? He feared the example of Byron's daughter might lead the schoolboys into vice! Fanny Trollope wrote a very long poem, Salamagundi, in which she set out all the events and the cast of characters involved. It has been edited by N.John Hall and published, with the comments added by Anthony who had no love for Mr Cunningham.

When Fanny wrote The Vicar of Wrexhill, in 1837 she called him the Revd. W.J. Cartwright, and her contemporaries thought she had used the Revd J.W Cunningham as her model. It seems likely that the Vicar of Wrexhill and Obadiah Slope come from the same source. There are scenes of Fanny's Vicar caressing, kissing and praying with (and on) young women parishioners. One reviewer in The Athenaeum described the Vicar of Wrexhill as:

'handsome, silkly spoken, with his black eyes and caressing hands, which make such sad havoc among the bevy of admiring village ladies. He glides on his way, like a serpent - glossy, silent and poisonous - throwing out hints here, innuendos there; blighting with the language of brotherly love, and under the mask of Scriptural sanctity, creeping steadily upwards towards wealth and power. His is a fearful character.'

Obadiah Slope, too, is creeping steadily upwards towards wealth and power and: 'can reprove faults with so much flattery, and utter censure in so caressing a manner, that the female heart, if it glow with a spark of low church susceptibility, cannot withstand him.'

Interestingly there are several passages which link these two characters to the same role model in both mother and son's books. I imagine the exploits of 'Velvet' Cunningham would have been much discussed in the Trollope home.

Teresa Ransom.

I responded to Teresa by trying to get up enthusiasm for a coming subgroup:

Reading Teresa's interesting persuasive posting makes me want to remind or inform everyone that we have talked of reading Fanny Trollope's The Vicar of Wrexhill along with a short novel (I suggested Arnold Bennett's Anna of the Five Towns) as strong candidates for our next non-Trollope books or books (after Bleak House). I know I recently threw out the suggestion of a Henry James book, but I have never read The Vicar of Wrexhill or Anna of the Five Towns and think we would enjoy them both. This novel by Fanny Trollope is available from Amazon and it is said by some critics to be among her finest. (NB: A group of us from Trollope-l later read Anna of the Five Towns on Litalk-l; some of the same people were on both lists.)

I shall quote Teresa's book at her :), and us. Shortly before Trollope wrote The Warden, his mother wrote a book called _Uncle Walter_, and Teresa's summary and commentary on the book demonstrates that it too is centred on conflicts within the church, and has characters who are repressive puritans (evangelicals), characters who are Puseyites; she says Uncle Walter has as one theme, women's rights (which we don't find in The Warden or Barchester Towers), but does contrast "the living and behaviour of clergy from the different religious factions", and her quotations show characters examining the nature of of their beliefs. Uncle Walter has a gentle nature much like Mr Harding's, and another character from the book, Dr Harrington "would have felt at home with Archdeacon Grantly" (TRansom, FT: A Remarkable Life, pp. 200-4).

Cheers to all,

Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Who Was Then the Gentleman?

From: john dwyer

John Dwyer quoted Gene:

"Thanks to Teresa for some most interesting background material regarding the Reverend J. W. Cunningham as the model for Mr. Slope. Note that in the same place where Trollope calls Slope "greasy," he also calls him "pawing." Hall gives Cunningham's full name as John William Cunningham, so apparently Trollope has gratuitously thrown in a name like Obadiah as another measure of prejudice.

I have never liked Slope, not surprisingly, for who would? Yet the more we exchange postings about him, and the more I re-read passages about him, I find Trollope's descriptions disturbing. Especially on this concept of "gentleman."

No doubt many list members are thoroughly acquainted with Tristram Shandy. Trollope's literary pedigree for Mr. Slope points to an interesting would-be gentleman: Tristram's Uncle Toby. Since leisure seems the basis of culture and a gentleman is a cultured man, Uncle Toby's hobby-horsical focus might psychologize one for us.

The muddy end of Sterne's Obadiah's mission to fetch Dr. Slop's green bag of high-tech obstetrical equipment seems to merge the two characters in the case of knots. Dr. Slop's (a papist's) very amusing mode of reading the *Excommunicatio* (while lovable Uncle Toby whistles Lillabullero) rather ingratiates him to the reader--even though the reader's opinion is also influenced by thinking that Slop's waiting time in the parlor should have been more usefully spent in getting his medical gear. Even his failure to manufacture an adequate *bridge* in the kitchen is less than a major downfall. And we have Locke's association of ideas as an unmistakable allusion.

Mr. Slope's "adding an 'e'" and his family's changing its religion (at some indefinite time in the interim) has not altered his genetic heritage. Even his nose being "his redeeming feature" possessed "a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of a red coloured cork." It calls to mind something of revenge for his predecessor's raking over Tristram's less-than-Slawkengergian equipment: such equipment perhaps having more to do with being a gentleman than one might at first imagine. Remember Uncle Toby's problem with Mrs. Wadman. Mr. Slope appears not to have that problem.

Moreover, "none of his hearers, when [his sermon] was over, could mistake him either for a fool or a coward" (ch. 6). So we must be careful. I think Mr. Slope is not what V.P. Agnew might have meant by "an effete snob." The dean's and doctor's and chancellor's "abominable"'s hearken us back to the ladies' (the "enthusiastically religious young ladies and the middle-aged spinsters"'s) reactions: "what a nose! 'tis as long, said the trumpeter's wife, as a trumpet" (Tristram, Vol. 4.0).

John Dwyer

Re: Barchester Towers: Obadiah Slope, or The Character of a Sabbatarian

Trollope savages Slope. As with portraits throughout his novels of people who stand for ideas Trollope is concerned to directly to excoriate, more subtly to undermine, or merely to mock as ridiculous or absurd (so therefore we need not worry they will harm us as we can't follow them anyway), Trollope uses many weapons in his armory to make us dislike Slope. He uses class-bias directly and it seems to us realistic or probable or Slope would be no gentleman as fundamentalist evangelists got their basic support from those classes of people in England just below the gentry, the rising lower middle class. He makes Slope very ugly:

'His hair is lank, and of a dull, pale, reddish hue. It is always formed into three straight lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision, and cemented with much grease ... He wears no whiskers, and is always punctiliously shaven. His face is nearly of the same colour as his hair, though perhaps a little redder; it is not unlike bad beef -- beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. His forehead is capacious and high, but square and heavy, and unpleasantly shining. His mouth is large, though his lips are thin and bloodless ... (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 3, p. 25).

This could come straight out of Dickens. Trollope repeats the bad quality of that beef-like coloured skin twice -- lest the reader miss it. I don't know that he makes Slope any stupider than a number of the characters: many of them in this book are dense when it comes to understanding any point of view outside their own 'take' on the church order, their incomes and ways of life and religious & class doctrine (e.g, Mrs Proudie, Grantly, Vesey Stanhope, the Ullathornes); nor is he any more duplicitious as they are all ready to produce 'spin' on any given area which twists the truth round to validate whatever it is they are saying. The stupidity and unconcious hypocrisy of the characters in this book is part of the basis of the comedy: we laugh at them as we do at Ben Jonson characters; they are unable to break from their moulds so emit steam or lose their dresses or go into dithering distresses when thwarted.

Why does Trollope pick on Slope in just this way, meaning the technique. How about the idea that in a 19th dress Trollope returns to the techniques of satire in the 17th century, and gives us a character (meaning a highly satiric and pointed sketch) of a Sabbatarian. Let us look at the portrait of him in Chapter 3, and see what is emphasised over and over again, what Trollope constantly comes back to, and ends on: Slope is a spiritual tyrant; his religion is a means for him to denounce, terrify, mortify, control, and become master over the behavior of other people. Trollope tells us Slope cares little for the specifics of doctrine; but when he 'walks through the streets, his very face denotes his horror of the world's wickedness, and there is always an anathema lurking in the corner of his eye'. 'Forms he regards but little, and such titular expressions as supremacy, consecration, ordination, and the like' are matters of indifference to him. No, what he cares about is getting the 'sins' of his parishioners, particularly on Sunday (Ch 3, pp. 23-25)

This may seem so strange to us today. Not only in this but other books now and again Trollope returns to his rage against Sabbatarians. Robert Kennedy will not allow Lady Laura even to read a novel on Sunday; she is not to go for pleasant walks. He demands that she sit and listen to sermons -- preferably read aloud by him. She can of course read the Bible, but he prefers she do that silently. In Barchester TowersTrollope develops this theme not use as a shorthand way of indicting a tyrannical man, he brings to the fore the whole array of behaviors and clerical types that go with it -- and also some of the strains of thought that lead up to it. In Barchester Towers he will again and again return to Mrs Proudie and Slope's demand that people not do anything on Sunday but listen to sermons, read the Bible (preferably to themselves), and sit. They would both like to stop people from drinking, dancing, flirting, doing business, travelling without regard to God (who in this formula always seems in practical terms to be the equivalent of them, without regard to what their parishioners owe them) far more than on Sunday, but Sunday will have to do. After all that is the day the average person had off. That was the one holiday of the week for most people who worked in England in the 19th century. Many worked all day Saturday, and some a half day. Monday through Friday, and for long hours, goes without saying. Dickens loathes sabbatarians too. Chadband is endlessly going on about how we must not do anything on Sunday.

There is something interesting at issue here than what is permitted to a novelist to show us in a secular form meant to entertain and not offend. Remember Trollope wanted this book to sell -- later he was willing to offend (as in Rachel Ray and later books on topics beyond religion). It's hard for middle class educated people (which is what most of us on this list are) to understand what's at stake in all this anger over Sunday, and most writers aren't daring or simply smart enough to spell out the connection. I found it the other day in Henry James's father's Autobiography (written in the 1840s). The connection is Sabbatarians were trying to enforce a way of life and set of beliefs about the self that told people what was natural was evil. It is natural to want to be active; most human activities involve physical, sensual pleasure; we have fun when we play games of challenge. The Sabbatarian and Evangelical Fundamentalist was in this behavior obeying a Calvinist version of God which many sensitive people of the time found to be the basis of a vision of the world which made themselves and all around them evil with the Head of it an accumulation of 'insane superstitions' and attitudes worthy the brain power of a 'savage tribe' (these are James's phrases). They turned a beautiful world, what was natural in man, what could be an ultimate force for goodness, peace, into continual violations of the human spirit. Most middle class people today do not find themselves subject to demands and doctrines of authority figures which resemble what Henry James Sr knew as a child; but many middle class people of the 19th century did -- or they ran across them. Some people in the 19th century developed frightening psychological syndromes because of such beliefs. I'll instance John Ruskin who couldn't get himself to have sex with his wife, partly the result of his upbringing which included constant whipping for 'wickedness'. William Cowper went mad; he was convinced he was going to hell. Why? He had never had this conversion experience people who were elected were supposed to have. The one thing about High Church practices is they leave your inner self to you.

If Archdeacon Grantly has some serious faults -- his worldliness, his bullying, his love of power and adherence to the hierarchical status quo which leaves him on top -- these are not as bad as Slope's. Listen to the end of the paragraph in which our narrator compares the faults of the two figures:

'The "desecration of the Sabbath", as he delights to call it, is to him meat and drink: he thrives upon that as policemen do on the general evil habits of the community. It is the loved subject of all his evening discourses, the source of all his eloquence, the secret of all his power over the female heart ...

What is? How evil we are; how we need him. Trollope's attitude towards women's sexuality always includes the idea that women really like to be forced to yield, like to be just a wee bit insulted, punished, and dominated. They get a kick of thinking they are wicked. Add to this Slope's 'gift for using words forcibly' (Ch 6, p. 47); his shameless flattery' his 'silky whispering' voice; the reality, says our narrator, that women don't care about men's appearance in the way men care about women's; and beyond all that his constant visiting of them, paying attention to them, and you begin to understand why Slope is so appealing.

Let us look at his sermon. What is it he objects to? the comfortable seats. The beauty of the place. The music. Why the music especially? we not only enjoy it, it distracts us from him, his words. As Henry James Sr in his Autobiography says enjoyment, pleasure is itself suspect; things of this world, thunders Mrs Proudie more than once, are anathema to her. Think of how Charlotte Bronte loathed Brocklehurst: why, because his existence and that of his daughters was the epitome of luxury, and he wouldn't let those in his power have butter on their bread: the excuse, it was the devil's way of inveigling us into worldliness. (The reality: he made a bigger profit.) Mrs Proudie's gowns are fine because somehow that is excused as she has to stand for the Church before the rest of us as the Dignified Representation of God himself.

Let's be fair: the evolution of Protestantism in the Renaissance derives from an intense caring of what happens in the soul of people. Rituals and the like were seen as instruments of power; as things which controlled people; confessions were a means by which priests made money by selling 'indulgences'. When Slope in his sermon tells us his point of view is that what is important is 'inward feeling' not outward practice, and that we have to throw off the this reliance on external things which our ancestors used because we are better educated, can read and think and decide for ourselves, the thought is a noble line of argument that lead to more people learning how to read, and toppled the Roman Catholic church in numbers of countries. Slope doesn't use the word 'superstition' but rituals and relices were thought to be superstitious. Science and an informed historical understanding began to make inroads on people's minds -- and made them look at miracles and the Bible differently.

But to Trollope and many people, this line of thought was merely a ruse for people who were ambitious and wanted power to take over. Has there been a movement in this world which started out with good noble thoughts that was not in the end taken over by ambitious, competitive, ruthless types and used to put them in power? That's what happened to Communism; originally an ideal in the minds of people writing during the desolation and abyss of the 1840s in London. What was real in Luther, becomes a weapon for self-aggrandizement in Trollope's Mr Slope. Trollope tells us he gives that sermon, knowing he will make enemies, but thinking he has to push people aside to make room for himself. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. He'll make waves; he'll make people afraid of him; the Quiverfuls will quiver in front of him as Bishop's Chaplain.

This is a novel about conflicts in religion which inform the wars we see between two groups of people for control of the church as an institution and the people who pay the tithes and are asked to subject themselves to this hierarchy.

Slope never re-appears in another Trollope novel. Towards the end of the book I think Trollope pace himself begins to enter into Slope's case and Slope himself gets out of hand with some of his adventures, but Trollope never brought him forward again. In the next novel where we see an underdog figure in the church, it is the Rev Mr Crawley, perpetual curate of Hogglestock. Crawley is a figure who comes from the same class as does Slope; he is a gentleman by nature, but he is made to stand for a very different type in the church: the exploited curates who in 1789 provided a decisive vote when they were allowed to vote by headcount; it was they who opened the first fissures in adamantine rockface of privilege that undergirded the ancien regime. The money in France also went to the Bishops, Abbots, Deans, Deacons, Vicars (in absentia); the world was also done by starving curates -- and Trollope gives us a deeply earnest and sincere evangelical in Crawley. Crawley is not stupid nor does he ever tell a lie knowingly -- he is one of the smartest and perhaps the most noble of all Trollope's figures in the canon. Trollope thought again and replaced Slope with him: the gain is a quantum leap in depth of portrayal, and sensitivity. The loss is of course in the comedy. We cannot laugh at Crawley. But then what we have in Slope is a satirical character in the old style who has been psychologised, given all sorts of traits we recognise and who is as believable as he needs to be for the purposes of this book.

If Trollope is even-handed, it is not in his portrayals of characters; he is passionate and will denounce vicious types as vicious, not look into their hearts and 'understand' from The Macdermots on through Mr Scarborough's Family. The even-handedness is in the underlying vision that controls the figures as a whole. Trollope is forceful and uncompromising when it comes to creating characters and situations which critique our inhumanity to one another and all that sustains this.

In our culture too much praise is given to people who say they can see both sides: sometimes this only means your mind is a sive. Trollope is often for taking a real stand: think of Monk; he is only a trimmer as it suits his need to bring what reform he can into Parliament; he quits his office when it is necessary for him to make public and strong his stand on voting rights. Rather than praise Trollope as even-handed, I would praise him as remarkably intelligent with a grasp of human nature that is rare.

Ellen Moody

RE: Barchester Towers: 'The conscience of the curé'

I saw the same quotation Jill did -- we must read the same newspaper.

I can add another. In this week's TLS (July 16, 1999, pp 6-7), Robert Darnton opens a brilliant review of John McManner's magisterial volumes on Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France with the following sentence:

'Thirty-nine years ago, there appeared one of those unlikely books by an unknown author that has left an indelible mark on scholarship. French Ecclesiastical Society under the Ancien Régime: A Study of Anger in the eighteenth century by John McManners seemed doomed to gather dust on the shelves reserved for esoteric erudition. Who would want to curl up with a monograph on the clergy of Angers? But those who strayed into its pages were swept away into a fascinating world on the other side of a well-wrought looking glass. Choirboys leaning how to swing the incense boat, curates confronting plebian sin in the confessional, canons conniving against bishops, ti had a bit of Barchester Towers, but was mainly a world of its own, a tiny pocket of intense clerical life ...'

Well so is Barchester Towers another tiny pocket.

Later in the review Darnton mentions The Little World of Don Camillo as the Italian version of comic yet profoundly serious fiction about clerical life in a small provincial corner of a modern country. The author is one Giovannino Guareschi and the book is not a novel but rather a book made up of hundreds of sketches and stories that came out surrounding the life and character of one Don Camillo, a gentle yet sceptical priest who may be regarded as a cross between Trollope's Father John (in The Macdermots), Mr Harding with a strong dollop of Italian culture and attitudes nowhere to be found in Trollope. The comedy there is also the result of the conflict between a worldly disillusioned society and its structures, the madness of the average person and the well-intentioned acts of our Don. I have read a few. They are exquisitely good: filled with the same understanding of human nature we find in Trollope, but with a different way of expressing the importance of spiritual inner goodness (charity, compassion, and all the happy 'c' words of our language). Don Camillo is the soul of courtesy.

Barchester Towers is a voice in a conversation that is still going on.

Ellen Moody

Every once in a while June Siegel still wrote in and in this posting she jumped ahead to the end of the novel to defend Trollope's conception of Mr Slope and show it is much more ambiguous and sympathetic than the rest of us had been allowing for:

Thanks to RJ for providing me with the word I needed to describe Trollope's characterizations --- they are not ambiguous so much as ambivalent. And I was inspired by his perceptive analysis following to hunt up one of my favorite examples of the richness and subtlety of Trollope's delineations of character. Recently several of us have spoken of Doctor Thorne as being a favorite, but I could not have been happier when I was rereading Barchester Towers this past summer. One of my favorite characters in that novel, the slippery, unctuous, odious Slope affords a good example of Trollope's methods. I would need to quote all of Chapter IV to illustrate, but I have decided it is probably not a good idea. This much, however, should show what I mean. Here is what Slope looks like:

His hair is lank, and of a dull, pale, reddish hue. it is always formed into three straight lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision, and cemented with much grease; two of them adhere closely to the sides of his face, and the other lies at right angles above them.... His face is nearly of the same colour as his hair, though perhaps a little redder; it is not unlike beef -- beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. (Penguin,25)

But here, eighteen pages later, we are shown something very different, Slope, at Barchester, ascended into the pulpit, delivering the sermon, is invested with clerical dignity:

'Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.' These were the words of his text, and with such a subject in such a place, it may be supposed that a preacher would be listened to by such an audience. He was listened to with breathless attention, and not without considerable surprise. Whatever opinion Mr Slope might have held in Barchester before he commenced his discourse, none of his hearers, when it was over, could mistake him for either a fool or coward.

At the end of the delightful chapters on the fete champetre at Ullathorne, Slope tries to make love to Eleanor Bold, and here Slope is hilarious:

'Sweetest angel, be not so cold,' said he, and as he said it the champagne broke forth, and he contrived to pass his arm round her waist. He did this with considerable cleverness, for up to this point Eleanor had contrived to keep her distance from him. (384)

He is about to try to "give her some outward demonstration of that affection of which he had talked so much."

She sprang from him as she would have jumped from an adder, but she did not spring far; not, indeed, beyond arm's length; and then, quick as thought, she raised her little hand and dealt him a box on the ear with such a right good will, that it sounded among the trees like a miniature thunder-clap. (384)

So much for passivity in Trollope's women. Although he says that she should not have dealt him this blow, she nevertheless has, and Slope is infuriated:

There are such men; men who can endure no taint on their personal self-respect, even from a woman; men whose bodies are to themselves as sacred temples, that a joke against them is a desecration and a rough touch downright sacrilege. Mr Slope was such a man.... (385).

Trollope asks, "But how shall I sing the wrath of Mr Slope....?" in a deliberatley mock-Homeric passage, then shows the man to us, and suddenly it is not as funny as it seemed:

There he is, however, alone in the garden walk, and we must contrive to bring him out of it. He was not willing to come forth quite at once. His cheek was stinging with the weight of Eleanor's fingers, and he fancied that everyone who looked at him would be able to see on his face the traces of what he had endured. He stood a while, beoming redder and redder with rage. (386)

Slope, consumed with wrath, thinks of the sermons he could preach against his enemies, but then he thinks of his other escapades, and his state of mind again, is no longer laughable:

He had an inkling, a true inkling -- that he was a wicked sinful man; but it led him in no right direction; he could admit no charity in his heart. He felt debasement coming on him, and he longed to shake it off, to rise up in his stirrup, to mount to high places and great power, that he might get up into a mighty pulpit and preach to the world a loud sermon against Mrs Bold.

There he stood fixed to the gravel for about ten minutes. Fortune favoured him that so far no prying eyes came to look upon him in his misery. Then a shudder passed over his whole frame; he collected himself, and slowly wound his way round to the lawn, advancing along the path and not returning in the direction which Eleanor had taken. (387)

No matter what else we feel about Slope, at this point, I believe we are intended to be moved. There is no simple way to see Slope; we either see him whole or we don't really see him at all. In the autobiography Trollope says, "In the writing of Barchester Towers I took great delight. The bishop and Mrs. Proudie were very real to me, as were also the troubles of the archdeacon and the loves of Mr. Slope." ( 87) Trollope had great affection for all his characters, indeed for all of Barchester. Here, in the autobiography, speaking of Framley Parsonage, he says:

I need only further say, that as I wrote it I became more closely than ever acquainted with the new shire which I had added to the English counties. I had it all in my mind,--its roads and railroads, its towns and parishes, its members of Parliament, and the different hunts which rode over it. I knew all the great lords and their castles, the squires and their parks, the rectors and their churches. (129)

Perhaps because Barchester was so real to Trollope, he invested all his characters with at least as many dimensions as those we generally like to perceive in our own lives. But he was a benevolent creator, seeing above and beyond the immediate. Perhaps to see his people as Trollope saw them is to try to remain outside the confines of the novel as well, or maybe to be inside and outside at the same time. Perhaps we need to view the loathsome Slope with the same degree of impassivity and fondness as Trollope seems to bring to the writing, and to remind ourselves from time to time that we are not only in the sunny, country lanes of Barchester, but also seated in our chairs, in the lamplight, book in hand.


I wrote in to say "Dear June, what a pleasure are your postings. I love them.

Then I supported her idea:

Re: Barchester Towers: On Behalf of Obadiah

Even the name stigmatises the man -- it's curious how so much in our society is continually understood in terms of which group of people chooses it. Names betray class and religious and other biases too. I see a direct connection between Josiah Crawley (who we will meet later in this book), Dickens's Uriah Heep and Obadiah Slope; the names seem to me variants: while I can see RJ Keefe's point that to Trollope Slope has become a man who has broken away from his proper place, I would argue that at the same time he is seen as someone who is not a gentleman either by virtue of his birth or his inner nature. We are not given a parentage -- which has the effect of keeping Slope a literary caricature, but we are told he is 'a sizar at Cambridge' by which was meant 'a poor undergraduate in receipt of an allowance from his college, in return for which he had at one time (but not by Mr Slope's day) to undertake certain duties subsequently performed by the college students'. My husband went to a public school as a day boy based on his superb grades on an 11-plus: he had to wear a different coloured shirt; I wonder if Mr Slope asked to carry some insignia of his inferiority in some way.

While we probably ought to remember that Trollope was himself someone who was tormented by having to go to schools with boys from aristocratic or very wealthy families while he turned up in a worse state than a farmer's boy; still, it's clear the narrator who cannot bear to shake Mr Slope's hand has not identified with him at all -- as yet. Later in the book we will find the kind of curious half-sympathy Dickens gives to Uriah Heep. I think what is off-putting is the sense I have in Trollope's fiction here -- and occasionally elsewhere -- is the idea that innately gentlemen are superior to 'the lower orders'. Although again to be fair in other and later stories Trollope presents us with people who are given equal and better intelligence than their so-called betters, better hearts, more tact, sensivity and so on, in this book and in the portrait of Louis Scatcherd (in Dr Thorne) , Trollope allows the reader to infer that the differences between the classes are not merely a matter of nurture and education but something in the genes. Were Mr Slope presented as a black man, we would (I hope) be enraged at Trollope. I think when Trollope presents a Jewish person using the same techniques we ought to be discussing his similar use of anti-semitism.

This morning I read in this week's Times Literary Supplement another way of dividing feminisms from those I outlined earlier last week which I think bears on Trollope's presentation of Slope. In my categories I was attempting literally to describe the actual positions of differing feminists in our decade. There is another way to divide feminists: by abstract overriding principles. According to Nicola Lacey, if we think this way we can see two main schools of feminist thought: "the first 'liberal feminism' sees the law as capable of achieving gender neutrality and the abolition of discrimination; it inherits the traditions of Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill. The second, 'difference feminism', believes that gender neutrality is unattainable, at least without profound changes in society beyond the reach of any law reform per se'" (quoted from Michael Beloff's review of Nicola Lacey's Unspeakable Subjects, TLS, July 16, 1999, p. 29).

The first school is actually an optimistic one. The idea is behaviors are mostly social constructs which we can reshape; we can through laws change behaviors too, which all too often can mean teaching women to act like men traditionally have in order to succeed in the world outside the family. However, this is thought to be possible and certainly we see women behaving differently in the 1990s than they did in the 1890s. Men too can be freed from unfair discrimination when they don't come up to 'manly' ideals (see below) or are homosexual or bisexual.

The second school would today be called more pessimistic, and I would place Trollope there. He believes men and women are fundamentally different: they respond to sex in different ways; women are shaped by their biological roles as mothers; men are when they are strong aggressive, seek to make some long-lasting impression on people through achieving of place and position in social hierarchies; they will be more easily shamed than women, and need to duel. I tend to agree that men and women have fundamental differences, but part company from Trollope probably in the way I define these differences. In addition, Trollope rejoices in these differences. They are Good Things. They make for beauty in life, pleasure, variety and happinesses that are close to natural rhythms and deeper dreams of the psyche. I find this idea of a strata of unchangeableness which takes us back to our animal ancestry with all its aggression, amorality, and modes of competition an occasion equally for dismay. These are truths about human nature which lead to much misery and frustration for many individuals who have other gifts and qualities which lose out in the dominance-submission competition of life. Rousseau said men are born free and everywhere in chains; alas, that's like saying sheep are born carnivorous and everywhere eat grass (I owe that to a writer on Maistre).

I wonder though if we are all of us not that offended by Trollope's looking at women as fundamentally different from men -- at least we accept this position as not outrageous. Does then Trollope present Slope as someone fundamentally different from, say, Arabin? Should we accept this position as outrageous? Is it not the kind of thinking that underlies racism?

I offer this up in the spirit of devil's advocate -- for this post is on poor Obadiah's side. He needs to eat; why should he not claw his way up too? To take a position in our society is often to take it from someone else. They are not infinite in number.

Ellen Moody encouraged by June into playing devil's advocate

Sigmund Eisner answered a query from Penny Klein:

Penny: I think what AT means when he says that Mr. Slope does not know the New Testament is that the Old Testament was believed to preach an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but the New Testament was supposed to preach love and forgiveness. Mr. Slope is incapable of knowing love or forgivness. Some Biblical scholar (which I am not) may correct me in the next post. But this is what I think.


Finally Michael Powe joined in on this Barsetshire Marathon:

It's a bit of a joke by Trollope. He's making fun of the way The Rev tortures his Sunday listeners with his sermons -- Sunday being "that one law given for Jewish observance," that "seventh part of man's alloted time here below"; for him "the mercies of our Saviour speak in vain" when it comes to giving his wearied listeners a break.

In the background is a reference to the doctrinal separation between Christians who rely heavily on the doctrines of the OT and those who rely heavily on the doctrines of the NT. Not an inconsiderable subject, actually. And it does recur throughout his work. Indeed, it was a major theological issue.


Subject: [trollope-l] Trol: BT: Primates and Unintended Jokes

From: John Mize

Dr. Grantly finds it demeaning to have to fight Mr. Slope. Trollope says that Dr. Grantly wouldn't have minded fighting with an ape as long as the Queen had made the ape a bishop, and the ape was fighting his own battles, but he can't stand having to fight a vulgar nobody like Mr. Slope. If I didn't know that BT was written in 1857 before Thomas Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce's famous 1860 debate on Darwinian evolution, I would have thought Trollope was taking another shot at poor old Soapy Sam. Huxley said he would prefer being related to an ape than to Bishop Wilberforce, and Dr. Grantly would prefer an ape as bishop of Barchester to someone who allows Dr. Slope and Mrs. Proudie to control him. If not for the dates, I would have assumed that Trollope was suggesting that Wilberforce wasn't his own man either.

John Mize

Subject: Barchester Towers, An Uncomfortable Story?

Ellen, I love your postings. You said you could not think of a male figure equivalent to Lady Ball. Would you buy Mr. Slope in Barchester Towers?


Re: Mr Slope As a Figure in Another Arch

To answer Sigmund's suggestion, I'd say Mr Slope is not an male analogue for Lady Ball, partly because he does more harm to himself than he does to anyone else. Finally, he is an ineffectual figure. She is not ineffectual. She has just about destroyed her son--though he was willing enough to go along with her, when the only joy of his existence, whom she hated, the poor first wife, Rachel died. The fairy tale element in the book is that her power is simply broken by a speckled hat and the good witch Mrs Mackenzie who drops in out of nowhere, quite like the Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz.

In his inability to hurt others (partly because of his enemy Mrs Proudie), though in a book which is redolent of spring, he resembles Mr Jeremiah Maguire of Miss Mackenzie far more than he does Lady Ball. Jeremiah Maguire is also a religious hypocrite; so too Mr Stumfold (though he combines it with sex); their religious position is to them a way of getting on in the world; Maguire nearly does a great deal of damage to Margaret, and is aided and abetted by Lady Ball insinuating not he but Margaret is the liar (which she knows is not so), but finally Maguire, like Slope, is defeated and his punishment, as is the punishment of other of Trollope's seriously presented religious hypocrites is to be himself and to value and have to live with people like himself. He deserves Miss Colza where the narrator tells us "we will leave him, not trusting much in his connubial bliss." Slope's punishment is to be Slope; some of this brings us right back to Fielding's Blifil who everyone remembers marries a rich old woman who makes his life a misery, but then this is all he understands. Blifil can't get at Tom because Tom's Tom, so Maguire can't get at Margaret because she's Margaret. Not finally. They are strong in their fundamental decency, and have the confidence of decency.

What's interesting in the later books is that that which is more or less good-natured in its approach --- the satire of a worldly clergy -- the heart after all of Mr Harding's son-in-law is finally as worldly as that of Mrs Proudie, and yet he is treated nowhere as harshly and is presented as a man with some noble and decent instincts and a kind of beauty in his character after all. What those who write about Trollope say is that what Trollope really is getting out is the fundamentalist idea of religion and their ways of practicing it. Mary Bolton, Hester's dark mother, practices religion as a way of hating life, and of worshipping death; she also practices it (as does Mrs Stumfold in Miss Mackenzie) as a way of gaining power over people, of mastering them. And she will take any dishonest tactic that comes her way, no matter how much it hurts the victim whose welfare she is supposedly "caring for." Mr. Bolton whose life she makes into a kind of death sees this, but cannot break away because this would be "immoral:"

And she was dishonest with him. Because she felt herself unable to advocate in plain terms a thorough shutting up of her daughter,--a protecting of her from the temptation of sin [which in her mind is really equated with joyful sex in marriage] by absolute and prolognged sequestration,--therefore she equivocated with him, pretending to think that he was desirous of sending his girl out to have her hair braided and herself arrayed in gold and pearls. It was thoroughly dishonest, and he understood the dishonesty..."

Harrassed, angry, embittered, he remains under her hypocritically religious tongue (John Caldigate, 175-6).

It's not funny in the way the presentation of Slope is because it's so deeply internalized in a passionate relationship.

Perhaps Robert Bolton, Hester's brother, comes close to Lady Ball at times, but at last he turns round and on the last page of the book, while some of the things that Caldigate did still "stick in his throat," he can bring himself to see he was wrong and try to be a good brother to his sister once again--earlier in the book he was determined to destroy her if necessary, but again, even here his motive is not prestige or money so much but what he sees as a moral betrayal of his sister; he truly believes that Caldigate has bigamously married her. Lady Ball is all hard avarice and prestige.

The strains of religious satire and what one make call the presentation of the Phil Gramms (now I can think of a many males, but stay with just the one)& Christine Whitneys (people often forget she not only has endangered the pensions of thousands of people in her state to return tax dollars to the wealthy but is herself the wife of a millionaire) of their time criss-cross, and after all Gramm (I'm not sure if it's two "m's") appeals to modern fundamentalists and is a rival to Pat Robertson. But I think the target is distinct and analyzed in somewhat different terms.

In Miss Mackenzie Trollope also drops the Stumfoldian group about three-quarters of the way through the novel, where in John Caldigate he successfully intertwines the web from the strands of 1) Mrs Bolton's death- worshipping mastery of her husband and all who she says she "loves" and are in her grasp 2) the anger of the Bolton family at their disgrace, shame; 3) Daniel Caldigate's role as a non-religious man who misunderstood or underestimated his son and had to learn forgiveness in order himself to be forgiven and to be loved; and 4) the sex and marriage plot involving the shaded mirror of "bigamy" instead of coming out openly and presenting a liaision without marriage. I thought John Caldigate was one of Trollope's hard masterpieces; as Barchester Towers is one of his more cheerful ones.

So we need numbers of arches with characters fanned out along schemes of judgements upon their characters, values, and behavior.

Ellen Moody

Robert Wright wrote in with a story of one way to define a "gentleman". A gentleman was a man who didn't do anything for a living. What is wrong with Obadiah Slope, I replied quickly, taking up the rhetorical question, is that he is not a gentleman. John Dwyer and Gene Stratton replied (I can't find their postings) and then R. J. Keefe:

Re: Barchester Towers: On Behalf of Obadiah

From: "R J Keefe"

The issue of gentlemanliness in Trollope is one I'm still inclined to stay away from. Last fall, on the other Trollope list, the discussion surrounding Shirley Letwins' The Gentleman In Trollope, a somewhat ramshackle book studded with, I think, brilliant insights into both Trollope and the larger idea of the 'English gentleman,' took off in a direction that I found so uncongenial that I withdrew from the group permanently.

I will always be grateful to Trollope for having shown me, in his Autobiography, the importance of being a gentleman. I had been brought up as one, but permissive times had dulled my sensibilities - not so much, however, that Trollope's book didn't make me sit bolt upright. I've identified keenly with flounderers like Paul Montague and Harry Clavering ever since.

Jill Spriggs calls our attention to Brooke Astor's endorsement of Trollope. While I wish that more of the people photographed with Ms. Astor week in and week out in what remains of the Times's society pages would take her advice on this point, I wince at the connection of New York's grandest of grande dames with an author who's been dismissed as pandering to the upper middle class. I can't say what Trollope looks like from outside this class, but I far from feeling pandered to I read in Trollope (among other things) a bulletin of responsibilities that I only wish I could meet more completely.

But as to Ellen Moody's assertion that Obadiah Slope is 'not a gentleman,' this is as true as death and taxes are inevitable.

RJ Keefe

July 25, 1999

Re: Who Was Then the Gentleman? or Slope, the Rake

I liked Robert's story of the lady who said her husband didn't 'do' anything; he 'was' a gentleman. It does seem that a common definition of the gentleman in the 19th century was he who didn't have to work for a living; this is the way Charles Darwin consistently uses the word in his Voyage of the Beagle. He, Charles, is a gentleman, because he need not make money to support himself; instead he can devote his life to scientific learning, exploration, and spending five years travelling round the world. Behind this definition lies the connection John Dwyer made explicit for us: 'leisure seems the basis of culture and a gentleman is a cultured man ...' Good manners, tact, sensitivity, continual courtesy are things the man who is not trying to wrest money from the world, can, as it were, afford: Trollope's Daniel Thwaite, ex-tailor by the end of Lady Anna, makes just this point to Sir William Patterson at the close of that novel.

However, there is in Darwin also a strong sense that there are people who are nature's gentleman -- and nature's gentlewomen. People who are gentle by virtue of their genes, home environment, a stroke of luck which brought them within the province of someone who could educate them, another which brought them to some remunerative task which was not degrading in some way, nor regarded as somehow dishonest. Gene points out to us examples of this kind of person in Trollope, not from the working or labouring classes, but from those just beneath those with highly secure incomes -- the Hugh Stanburies of Trollope's world, those who have to earn their living somewhat precariously, the Josiah Crawleys, and the Slopes. Some of these we find are by virtue of their moral nature and intelligence gentleman; at the same time, we are shown many aristocrats who are sleazes, bullies, corrupt, amoral -- I think of Sir Hugh Clavering, Sir Harry Hotspur's heir, George Hotspur. In a remarkable passage Trollope declares the ordinary woman he lives with outside marriage, and who supports him (and writes his letters for him) is far above him as a human being. She ought not to throw herself away on such a sleaze.

And yet we have passages like that Gene quoted in which Dr Vesey Stanhope meets Slope and turns away because he will not associate with someone so clearly, so innately beneath him. Is this innate inferiority a matter of his inner nature (genes), nurture (education and life experience) or rank? Does one of these three weigh more strongly than the other with Trollope -- with us? We too differentiate between manners and morals. Samuel Johnson said Chesterfield taught his son the manners of a dancing-master and the morals of a whore. Yet such manners go a long way. Most of us meet one another only on planes where we interact through manners, and our deeper morality or natures only come into play when it's a matter of demanding reciprocation, loyalty, during those moments when, as people say, push comes to shove.

RJ mentioned Shirley Letwin's The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct. I suppose any book can become the basis of an uncomfortable conversation, and our own period's public discourse demands that we all appear to adhere to egalitarian ideals. I thought her book idealistic, though she doesn't say the ideal of a gentleman as someone who is so through his nature and not rank is so much Trollope's as one she can infer from many incidents in his book. Talk about slick turn-around? What she does is weigh heavily all those instances where virtue is the true nobility, and discount or count less heavily those instances where rank is insisted on. When I read her book I think of Count Pateroff in The Claverings -- a gentleman everyone in the book agrees, but a more corrupt luxurious drone you would be hard put to find. The book appears to meditate the irony that Pateroff and Sir Hugh are the gentleman -- and Harry who is spineless -- and the courteous perfect gentle knight of the book, Theodore Burton, hard-working, decent, compassionate, the man who supports others, somehow doesn't quite 'make the cut'. I agree with John D and John Mize that a man's nose, an aspect of his manliness in the Shandean sense underlies the less idealistic meanings of gentlemen. You had better duel when you are challenged (this is in Gay's book on the cultivation of hatred and aggression in gentlemanly 19th century culture).

Arthur Pollard's more old-fashioned literal insistence in his 'Trollope's Idea of a Gentleman' (Trollope: Centenary Essays, ed JHalperin) that for Trollope social rank, 'gates, barriers, differences' set up by one's class and social heirarchy are never forgotten provides a salutary antidote for Letwin's book-length essay. In his Autobiography Trollope declares that 'Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, is a perfect gentleman. If he be not, then am I unable to describe a gentleman' (Oxford 1950 ed., MSadleir and FPage, Ch 20, p 361). I think Trollope could not have regarded Mr George, the trooper, of Bleak House as a gentleman; though to me he's just as surely one as Dickens's John Jarndyce.

What's all this to us? We still care about hierarchy. People today still marry to position themselves and gentility is still a result of a group of conditioners which include money, who your parents were as well as what they did, and your inner nature and education. There was another interesting review of a book in this week's TLS, Harvey Mansfield's of Francis Fukuyama's The Great Disruption. Fukuyama is a philosopher and his book is about 'the loss of social order in advanced democracies since the late 1960s. The 'great disruption' is apparently 'rampant individualism that goes beyond cutting traditional, hierarchical, often oppressive social bonds to overturning the elected authorities and denying the voluntary obligations that were intended to replace them'. Fukyama seems to believe that many of the norms of measurement which characters adhere to in Trollope are important for the maintenance of civility, harmony, and security in our world: like reputation, pride in rewards and prizes, fear of shame. Says Fukuyama, 'Human beings by nature like to organize themselves hierarchy'. I suppose the military must then be the most natural organization on this earth (joke alert). The philospher also says people don't dislike hierarchies so much as those hierarchies in which we, as individuals, end up on bottom.

How far do any of us identify with Slope? or Mrs Proudie? Insofar as you do, you will not be comfortable with Trollope's use of anti-feminism, class-bias and other stigmas to satirise them as bullying, amoral tyrants somehow (to Trollope's mind) characteristic of Evangelicism. Mrs Slope's little boy and the niece of an Earl are energetic, filled with life.

John Dwyer mentions Slawkenbergius's Tale in Tristam Shandy wherein, as Shandy laments, the word 'nose' is ruined forever which is when read aright so salacious and raw as to be hard to find acceptable quotes, e.g., O Julia, my lovely Julia - any I annot stop to let thee bit hat thistle (=nose) -- that ever the suspected tongue of a rival should have robbed me of enjoyment when I was upon the point of tasting it. That 'low silky whisper' of Slope is accompanied by one 'redeeming' feature, says our narrator, his nose: it is pronounced straight and well-formed; though I myself shoudl have liked it better did ot not possess a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of red-coloured cork' (Penguin Barchester Towers, edRGilmour, Chs 3, p. 25 and Ch 8, p. 55).


From: John Mize

As Ellen says, there is a lot of class bias in Trollope's hatred of Dr. Slope. Slope is vulgar, narrow-minded and low church. All three seem to go together as far as Trollope is concerned. Church affiliation in the United States, especially in the South, is still primarily determined by social class. The Episcopalians are on top, followed by the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists, and then the Church of God, Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. I don't know the order of the social hierachy below the Baptists. Since our family belonged to the Baptist Church, we just called everyone below us Holy Rollers and dismissed them. We were more aware of the distinctions between those above us than those below. Jews and Catholics didn't really count, because no matter how long they lived here, we considered them to be transplanted Yankees. There seem to be similar class-based religious distinctions in the North. My favorite line in the movie, A River Runs Through It, comes when the Presbyterian minister learns that his son is dating a Methodist. He says something like "A Methodist, that's a Baptist who can read."

I also found it interesting that Trollope says that Mr. Slope's power is primarily over women. You get the impression of weak-minded, emotional, ignorant women being swayed by Mr. Slope's moral bullying. What about the low church men? Are they less religious than the women and simply spend their Sundays drinking? Or do they think for themselves and are too manly and independent to let Mr. Slope intimidate them?

John Mize

RJ Keefe wrote in again on the subject: BT: Class, Gender and Religion

From: "R J Keefe"

It strikes me that Mr. Slope is no-class rather than low-class, and I take my cue from the trope of his ancestry. Slope is that most detestable of Trollopean types, the man on the make. Not to be confused with the ambitious man. The ambitious man in Trollope seeks an outlet for developing and profiting by his talents, whether as an engineer or a barrister or a politician. The man on the make has but one talent, and that's the manipulation of others. In August Melmotte, Trollope confers a certain grudging dignity on the type, but there's never any question that the world isn't a better place without him. Melmotte's effect on the City is pretty much that of Slope upon his ladies. (Speaking of ladies, Trollope's women on the make are an altogether more attractive bunch. They wouldn't have a make to be on otherwise.) It's interesting to consider that a man with Slope's clammy propensities would make no headway whatever in today's corporate world. (I don't think he'd make any headway with today's women, either.)

It's impossible to avoid the bearing of the concept of 'breeding' on Slope's profile. The term seems to have been borrowed by the English squirearchy from the world of animal husbandry - when? Shakespeare has the Prince of Morocco, suing for Portia's hand in The Merchant of Venice, assert "I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,/In graces and in qualities of breeding." (II, vii, 32-3; thanks, OED!) These qualities of breeding are understood to spring, at least partially, from one's forebears. An aspect of this idea is that unpleasant characteristics will fall away in the course of generations of 'suitable' marriages. But Trollope declines to tell us what kind of marriages produced Slope, just as he never really identifies Melmotte. Aren't both men, in the Trollopean universe, monstrosities? Somewhere, I think, Trollope writes of a character who knew, or didn't know, who his grandfather was: this knowledge is a sine qua non of respectability. Denying it to us is Trollope's way of placing Slope and Melmotte outside the social system altogether.

RJ Keefe

To which John Mize replied:

Yes, but couldn't he be a successful televangelist? I don't know about the modern day UK, but he'd probably do just fine here in the US. I can easily see Mr. Slope on television talking to Jerry Falwell and Tammy Fay Bakker about the threat to America posed by the witches of Lilith Fair.

John Mize

Jill Spriggs responded to an older thread:

Subject: [trollope-l] Meet the Slimy Mr. Slope


A hasty post between two trips ...

Near the beginning of Barchester Towers we meet the shudderingly icky Mr. Slope, and reading again the description that so effectively seals our distaste, as Sig has already told us, " I never could endure to shake hands with Mr. Slope. A cold, clammy perspiration always exudes from him, the small drops are ever to be seen standing on his brow, and his friendly grasp is unpleasant." (Oxford University Press Barchester Towers, ed. Sadleir and Page, p. 29) A sweaty man seems to be an aversion that spans the generations; just remember how the moist Richard Nixon with that five o'clock shadow roused the distaste of the masses.

Interesting that Mr. Slope, and Mr. Arabin, his antagonist, were both scholarship students. Both serious young men who seemed to have sown no wild oats. But Slope was a graduate of Oxford, while Arabin was an alumnus of Cambridge. I have heard that there is a friendly rivalry between the educational institutions, on the line of that between Harvard and Yale. Does Slope's low church propensities, and Arabin's high church affinity, in any way correspond with the atmosphere of the two universities?

In The Warden we had the worldliness of Tom Towers and Archdeacon Grantley contrasted with the idealism of John Bold and Mr. Harding. In Barchester Towers we will have the same conflict between Mr. Arabin and Mr. Slope. But Mr. Arabin, whom we will meet in Chapter XIX, is made of sterner stuff than Mr. Harding. A more comprehensive discussion of these opponents' ideals will have to wait a couple of weeks.

Jill Spriggs

Gene Stratton corrected her, and she replied to him:

Ah, Gene, you are right. I turned them around.

"[Mr. Slope] had been a sizar at Cambridge, and had there conducted himself at any rate successfully ..." and ... "From Winchester [Mr. Arabin] went to Oxford, and was entered as a commoner at Balliol." (Oxford University Press Barchester Towers, ed. Sadleir and Page, pp. 25 and 187)

Jill Spriggs

Then Gene wrote in:

From: "Ginger Watts"


Here Ellen is playing my role as devil's advocate while I blithely defend orthodoxy. O tempora o mores.

In BT, Trollope goes out of his way to induce us to dislike the Reverend Obadiah Slope. Not only could Trollope not endure shaking hands with this man who always exudes cold, clammy perspiration, but he even uses one of his most severe adjectives to describe him: Slope has a "greasy" way about him. Too, as Ellen points out, his name sets him apart. "Obadiah" would have been fine 200 years earlier during the Puritan Protectorate, or even 100 years earlier, when distinctly Biblical names were still in fashion, but by the Victorian Age they had become rare with an musty attic-like odor. Yet it does fit Low-church clergymen, for they were the heirs of the Puritans.

It has been been observed that Slope is a clergyman on the make. Ambitious. But, as Conrad said, "All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upwards on the miseries or credulities of mankind." The trouble with Mr. Slope is twofold.

First, he is duplicitous. His dealings with Mr. Harding, Eleanor Bold, Mr. Quiverful, Mrs. Proudie, and even Signora Neroni, all show this. Promise them anything and then shrug your shoulders when you obviously cannot deliver to all.

Second, and even more unforgivable, he is stupid. His duplicity could not help but become known to his detriment, as Signora Neroni eventually shows him in song. And as Mrs. Proudie likewise demonstrates to him most painfully. What is the expression? -- When you strike at a king (or a Madam Bishop), make sure you kill him. And yet the poor man followed his chosen course as if he had no choice but to lead himself to the slaughterhouse.

But what I don't understand is where is Trollope's much-lauded even-handedness in dealing with Mr. Slope? In his 3rd novel, La Vendee, he painted black-and-white figures. In his 4th, The Warden, he began on the path that henceforth distinguished most of his writing. But now in his 5th, BT, his depiction of Obadiah Slope seems atavistic. I can only feebly suggest that the needs of the story -- which should always be the paramount consideration -- demanded it. To his everlasting credit, Mr. Slope did perform one good deed: he was highly instrumental in making Barchester Towers one damned good novel.

Gene Stratton

John Mize then elaborated further on another point he and I had made:

Subject: [trollope-l] BT: Slope the Rake

From: John Mize

I certainly agree with Ellen that Trollope emphasizes the sexual nature of the attraction Mr. Slope has for women. Trollope explicitly identifies Slope with John Wilkes, the famous 18th century rake and political troublemaker. All the gentlemen know that Slope is no good, but the women are blinded by Slope's oily, insistent, slightly bullying sexuality. Slope is a little like Jane Austen's Mr. Collins, but while Slope dazzles most of the local women, very few women are impressed by Collins. Collins' patron enjoys his groveling, and Collins' wife marries him, only because he has an income, and she fears she can do no better. As another Austen character, Anne Elliot in Persuasion, reminds us, it often does make a difference whether the storyteller is a man or a woman.

As Ellen says, female sexuality for Trollope always involves a willing submission, which at times approaches masochism. That and Trollope's insistence on lecturing us on what constitutes appropriate manliness or womanliness always annoys me a little. I suppose that's because Trollope celebrates the fundamental differences between men and women. Even if there are fundamental differences between men and women in the aggregate, there is a lot of overlap between the two groups, and I tend to like the people in the overlap better than those on either end of the spectrum. Trollope is not overly fond of the women in the overlap, although he often tries to be fair to such women, for example, the Miss Tristrams in Orley Farm.

John Mize

July 28, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers: Ruthless Dispatch

Catherine Crean asks about the metaphor of the clinging vine which Trollope uses for Eleanor Bold and Thackeray for Amelia Sedley. I read the passage as a comical rendering of a cliché. In Chapter 2 Trollope is concerned to untie those knots he had tied in the final chapter of The Warden and tease out from some open-ended threads a rehearsal of the previous story in new terms. He is as ruthless with Bold in this book as he will be with the Duchess of Omnium (poor Lady Glencora that was) in The Duke's Children. He is swept away in four words: Mrs Bold 'now, alas a widow' (Penguin, Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 2, p. 10). So much for him.

In The Duke's Children Trollope immediately makes up for the hard-heartedness by having us enter the devastated shock of the Duke and his loss; in Phineas Redux where he rids himself in a similarly inexorable fashion of Phineas's wife (and babe too), again we get a sense of the loss through Phineas's consciousness. But this is to be comedy, and as with The Warden Trollope is not intent on persuading us we have an utterly individual consciousness in Eleanor. So while due justice is done for a few paragraphs, which however begin on a half-overdone repeated note 'Poor Eleanor!', and we get a serious feel with the knowledge she was pregnant, but this was God's way of tempering 'the wind to the shorn lamb'; nonetheless, this 'affectionate, confiding, manly' man is not really to be missed. We are reminded he had faults; that his were not 'first-rate abilities, and I see the language here as deliberately distancing us so as to move us into the spirit of comedy as soon as a necessary bow to the conventions of grief for the supposed imagined dead will allow. Within about 8-9 paragraphs, we are told that this baby, 'as a baby.. was all that could be desired'. 'Is he not delightful'. And the grandfather -- Mr Harding -- would gladly admit the treasure was delightful, and the uncle archdeacon would agree, and Mrs Grantly, Elanor's sister, would re-echo the word with true sisterly energy; and Mary Bold -- but Mary Bold was a second worshipper at the same shrine' (Ch 2 p. 14). I don't know what words to use for this tongue-in-cheek way of saying something that is more than half-serious: the tone enables Trollope to reinforce the genuine feeling while undercutting it through the panache of chummy shared exaggeration:

'The baby was really delightful; he took his food with a will, struck out his toes merrily whenver his legs were uncovered, and did not have fits'

What more could you want? As our storyteller avers,

'These are supposed to be the strongest points of baby perfection, and in all these our baby excelled' (Ch 2, p 14).

The key is in the pronoun 'our'. This is our baby for our story. She is our heroine who clung like a vine with perfect tenacity, but now that the oak has vanished, is available for new adventures.

Eleanor is also going to be a conventional heroine, and one we are supposed to like. The similes and descriptions of her convey that like a sort of shorthand. As the story opens, she has her baby, she is 'tranquil', has asked her father to come live with her, but he, wise and prudent as ever, 'could not be prevailed upon to forego the possession of some small home of his own, and so remained in the lodgings he had first selected over a chemist's shop in the High Street of Barsetshire' (Ch 2 p. 15).

There is a beautiful use of the simile which makes it come alive -- not a cliché -- at the close of Cymbeline: Imogen is suddenly brought face to face with Posthumous Leonatus after they have been long separated, and she intwines herself around him, and he says, 'Hang there like fruit, my soul/Till the tree die'. Trollope pulls on that, but with comic verve.

Ellen Moody

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 11 January 2003