Barchester Towers, Chapters 7 - 12
The Plot Thickens; Mrs Proudie's Magnificent Exit out of her own Conversazione; "My sentence is for Open War" saith Dr Grantly; Houses and Rooms and Customs as Status Symbols

To Trollope-l

July 26, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 7-12: The Plot Thickens

Enter La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni (Nata Stanhope) and one Bertie Stanhope. As 'A Long Day in London' is one of my favorite chapters in all Trollope, so these two are among my favorite characters in all Trollope. I am shameless in my enjoyment of them -- and suggest that Trollope wants me to be shameless. Yes he disapproves of them. The Signora is absurd, foolish, and seductively disreputable; she has made some serious mistakes, for which she is now paying a high price: poverty, dependence, and the reality that

'when she stood she lost eight inches of her accustomed height; so fatally, that when she essayed to move, she could only drag herself painfully along, with protruded hip and extended foot, in a manner less graceful than that of a hunchback ... (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 9, p 66).

Bertie's 'great fault' is 'an entire absence of that principle which should have induced him, as the son of a man without fortune, to earn his own bread' (p. 69). He too has been absurd, foolish, and, in his case, seductively bohemian, more extravagant than Disraeli's heroes (to whom our narrator quietly alludes and thus compares him to): he has gone in for Catholicism become an acolyte of the Jesuits, then headed for Judea where 'unable to convert the Jews, [he] was converted by them'; not content with this, he sent home 'one of the family of Sidonia, before returning himself, now in the role of sculptor, spending no less than four years 'alternating' between Carrara and the Stanhope villa. He has not as yet paid as heavily as his sister; as our narrator comments: 'Of honey, in his latter days, it may probably be presaged that he will have but short allowance' (p. 72).

Why then do we -- and Trollope -- delight in them? William Cadbury says the secret, the trick to the pleasures this novel offers is that Trollope keeps us at a distance from all the characters: the mock-heroic language (which I think is an imitation of Fielding in Joseph Andrews or Tom Jones), the way we continually see them from the outside in a group, the continual ironies and extravagant language which remind us they are fictions gives the book its tension. I think it's also because they are enjoying life so in despite of the limitations with which they are born. They rise above their position, their lack of solid money or rank. They choose risk; and they have courage, the courage to rebel and they carry it off by a shameless aplomb, a panache. The paragraphs in which we are told about them sparkle with a gallantry of spirit. Each dresses singularly -- and very attractively too. They half-dare others to object. And who would? Mr Slope is anxious to set aside that couch. Even Mrs Proudie stands there non-plussed. Juno herself -- minus her train. Bad loss that. So wounding to the dignity. We begin to half-wish we were them.

The portraits are psychologically astute (how Dickens missed the mark in his depiction of Skimpole -- how he failed to understand totally that carapace). For example, upon our first introduction to the family as a whole, we are told 'the great family characteristic' is

'heartlessness; but this want of feeling was, in most of them, accompanied by so great an amount of good nature as to make itself but little noticeable to the world. They were so prone to oblige their neighbours that their neighbours failed to perceive how indifferent to them was the happiness and well-being of those around them. The Stanhopes would visit you in your sickness (provided it were not contagious), would bring you oranges, French novels, and the last new bit of scandal, and then hear of your death or recovery with an equally indifferent composure' (Ch 9, p 62).

How many people I have known who are so good natured to people when they are face-to-face with them, who would give you the shirt off their back, and then when you leave the room, forget you exist. So do I. The key to their behavior is they know when to avoid you as inconvenient. Mr Stanhope, who looks like a sheep, is not a bad man (all negatives says our helpful narrator), not given to bad things, a bon vivant (recalling Chaucer's Franklin, with the difference that Chaucer is sterner to his character type). He's forgiving. Censuring others is such a trouble. He even has religious convictions -- as well as convictions about what is good and bad food. That he has not obtruded his religious convictions on his children is clear; alas, he obtruded his dining preferences on his wife, and made her youth miserable. But by the time we meet her, her 'great trials' are over; and she lives to dress. Do not think this is obsolete. In her Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, Mary McCarthy depicts her grandmother as a woman who lives to dress; who is ready for the world's stage around 3 in the afternoon, and whose performance is over by 5 when she re-enters her house and her husband comes home. How Trollope manages to dwell along the lines of our nerves in such portraits, our understanding of so many desperate people in our world, and yet make us a matter for satire (not the kindest of forms).

Charlotte is perhaps the least amusing of the portraits: she is one of Trollope's old maids. Not the first. There is an interesting portrait of an old maid in The Kellys & O'Kellys, a novel similarly about people in groups, similarly a depiction of a milieus (Irish). Trollope hits a slightly more serious note when he tells us Charlotte has not been her family's keeper at all -- has in fact preferred to fill a vaccuum of non-activity and irresponsibility on their parts in order to give herself something to do in life. She is clearly also kind to her crippled sister, though we are told she is also a 'free-thinker' (!), and feels gratified when she throws doubts into her father's mind, at the same time as the idea that he might 'abandon his preferment' never 'once presented itself to her mind. How could he indeed, when he had no income from any other source?' (Ch 9, p. 65).

It was a sheer stroke of genuis to have placed this worldly pleasure-loving group in the center of a novel about conflicts in religious belief and how the church institutionalising these is to be run. It is realistic: at the time, church positions were still sinecures, for sale through connections (the equivalents of money). In France and Italy the Stanhopes would be just ordinary folks in a clerical gathering -- a little less extravagant, less coloured, and they were not unusual for members of the outer circle of families who got along by church preferment. They stand on another end of a spectrum from Mr Quiverful with his increasing family, duties, and necessarily sycophantic behavior; turn the kaleidoscope to make another set of colours, and they stand on another end of the spectrum from Mr Harding with his quiet integrity and ethical Christian behavior, genuine sensitive feeling for others and interest in ultimate ends (his audience is God to whom he plays that beautiful music as well as his soul which yearns for consolation and peace). The Signora is Mrs Proudie's opposite number in the area of sex; and Bertie, well, we've yet to meet his rival who is (to look ahead) in some ways equally nonconventional -- at least as concerns what happens in his spiritual life.

And how about that two chapter party? While Trollope has painted a milieu before, given us a multiplot design, this is his first revelling in what passes in our world for festivities. Be there at such and such an hour, go through these motions, and leave, and yes be sure to come in a carriage ... Poor Mr Slope -- I hope someone noticed how he slaved away, writing letters, putting it all together. Give the poor man a break as he sits down next to the book's siren, a kinder gentler Duessa (after all -- as we shall find) than Spenser's.

Cheers to all,

RE: Barchester Towers, Chs 7-12: 'My sentence is for open war'

Archdeacon Grantly doesn't quite say this; and while at moments he, alas, too closely recalls Milton's Mammon, Milton's Moloch's famous sentence is probably not far from Grantly's position when we are told 'up rose Dr Grantly' and consulted with his associates (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, Ch 7, pp. 50-53). He is no Belial whose position: 'War therefore, open or conceal'd, alike/My voice dissuades', Milton characterises as 'ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth/Not peace'. Nor is Grantly a Beelzebub who counsels 'guile': By strength, art, and evasion they will 'drive [others] as we were driven'. That role is instinctively Slope's:

'it was policy on the part of Mr Slope. Mr Slope had made up his mind that Mr Harding should either accept the hospital with abject submission, or refuse it altogether; and had calculated that he would probably be more quick to do the latter, if he could be got to enter upon the subject in an ill-humour ... Now the air of superiority which this man assumed did go against the grain with Mr Harding' (Ch 12, p 97).

And Mr Slope is right in his calculation, for the kind of decision that Mr Harding made in The Warden is partly a product of sensitive pride, and even at the moment he candidly admits he would like to return to the hospital now, he answers Eleanor's

'"And you won't have to ask for it, papa?

'Certainly not, my dear. There is no ground on which I culd ask for any favour from the bishop, whom, indeed, I hardly know. Nor would I ask a favour, the granting of which mght possibly be made a question to be settled by Mr Slope. "No", said he, moved for a moment by a spirit very unlike his own. "I certainly shall be very glad to go back to the hospital; but I shall never go there, if it were necessary that my doing so should be the subject of a request to Mr Slope"' (Ch 8, p. 59).

Slope goes one better than this: he makes it clear that Mr Harding is not only a suppliant, but a suppliant who had better do whatever bidding he, Slope, points out to him -- even to suggesting the old men are somehow not fitting objects to be seen in a cathedral service, at which the worm immediately turns: '"We will not discuss that, if you please" (Ch 12, p. 100).

I am often sceptical when people point out literary allusions in a text, but more than half-persuaded that Trollope has Milton's council in mind in Chapter 5 -- and expects his 19th century reader to remember Milton. Milton was epic style in its serious aspect for 19th century readers.

In this week's scenes which dramatise the response of the Dean and the Chapter, the bringing back of the hospital, and Mr Harding's visit to Slope and Slope's astute manipulation of nuance and outright demand, Trollope is again as strongly political -- or similarly political -- in this book as he was in The Warden. Real politics occurs in rooms where people negotiate for plums; usually of course it's not you do this and I do that in this explicit way; in fact Slope is using this as a tactic to insult Mr Harding. Slope is mean; he seeks to hurt the old man, crush his spirit sufficiently so he won't complain, and insinuates Mr Harding is part of the 'rubbish of past centuries' which needs to be 'carted away' (Ch 12, p 102). Our friend, as sensitive as ever, takes the 'venom' into his 'blood' and it saps the man's strength (Ch 13, p. 103).

There are some interesting questions thrown out which are not resolved -- not easily resolvable. Grantly says the reason the Dean and Chapter must wage war with Slope is 'he has purposely insulted us' (Ch 7, p 51). Slope's opinions are not at issue; the issue is power: 'It suited his ambitious views at once to throw down the gauntlet to us - at once to defy us here int he quiet of our own religious duties' (p. 51). That's true, but only partly so; it's the way the Archdeacon and most men will feel it. What if, Grantly asks, 'the bishop allow himself to be rules by his chaplain?' (p. 52). They will be. As all have just groaned:

'"Abominable.' [the dean] 'Abominable', muttered the meagre doctor. 'Abominable' re-echoed the chancellor. [And even Mr Harding] "I really think it was' (p. 52).

It's funny.

Yet what to do? How to cope? Debar Mr Slope from the cathedral? (Filter him out? - joke alert.) Mr Slope is too smart to try to get back into that pulpit again just now. There are those who will defend him. Shall they refuse to go to the party? An adamantine phalanx? They cave in and go -- because the bishop has power and is the bishop. Better to know what your enemy is doing than turn your back on him, especially as so many others will hurry off to the party.

It's not easy to parse all the issues or know how to respond.

Mr Harding and Eleanor also have an interesting dialogue. Mr Harding repeats the Archdeacon's point that Slope meant to be disrespectful, at which Eleanor asks:

'"But might it not be that he thought it his duty to express the dissent from that which you, and the dean, an dal of us here much approve?"

"It can hardly be the duty of a young man rudely to assail the religious convictions of his elders in the church. Courtesy should have kept him silent, even if neither charity nor modesty could do so."

"But Mr Slope would say that on such a subject the commands of his heavenly Master do not admit of his being silent".

"Nor of his being courteous, Eleanor?"

"He did not say that, papa"' (Ch 8, p. 60).

We come across the argument everywhere that sometimes you must be rude; demands for civility are a way of supporting the status quo, the people in power. You must rock that boat. Perhaps many people on our list won't agree, but the US and other societies are filled with people whose tenets include defending the right to say what you think is so in order for it to be heard. Mrs Proudie apparently believes in sabbatarianism and uses it to extend her power and control over people: that's common too, holding beliefs which neatly reinforce your power.

The light on man as a political/social animal comes from a different set of issues arranged in way that throws the focus not on the media but on the church as an institution, but it is still sharp and throws out dialogues and paradigms that are relevant and repeated in different variants in our world today.

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

July 29, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers, Chs 10-11: Trollope's Extravaganza

It's not true to say that in Barchester Towers we find Trollope's first several chapter or phase party cum-grand reception. In The Macdermots of Ballycloran we go to the wedding of Mary and Dennis McGovery -- and what an affair that is, drinking, eating, talk (which includes revolutionary plotting), high quarreling, companionableness and exquisite class and culture painting, it's all there. Later in the same book we go to the races where the human idea of fun does not include much kindness, but rough and ruthless competition, animal life in abundance, and crowds, all of which end in a scene where the character attempt to drink one another under the table -- and succeed. Nor is it the first satire en groupe. The Kellys and O'Kellys includes a couple of dinner parties which for saturnine causticness, and the sense of an-ordeal-gone-through rival what we experienced in The American Senator.

What it is, is his first extravaganza. Gene is onto something when he proposes to produce an Italian opera from Barchester Towers. This is a party in which people go over the top continually, a party of excess, one worthy a Rossini. All of it skirts delightful caricature, and by so doing reminds us we are reading a book. In William Cadbury's essay on Barchester Towers (in Tony Bareham's Casebook on the Barcestershire series), Cadbury has the daring to argue that Barchester Towers is an unusual novel for Trollope since he keeps us at a distance from his characters most of the time, leaves them as typified from the outside, and makes heavy use of articial language and the mock-heroic. What! The most famous Trollope novel unTrollopian. Well you know some critics will say anything. Still except for the Ullathorne Sports to come (which stretch across six chapters, III:2-8), I don't think there is a party in Trollope which is given the full 'treatment' of sheer startling comedy (as in let's épater le bourgeois) in the way this party is. There are parties as famous: Lady Glencora and Burgo at Lady Monk's. There are parties as full of life and vivid and interesting: Rachel Ray goes to her ball. But none as gratifying to our desire for a holiday release -- until we arrive at Ullathorne.

This may be an odd phrase to describe an affair with begins with Mr Slope's long arduous preparations -- many letters, skilful rhetoric in getting Mrs Proudie to disburse funds, marshalling the Proudie forces properly, and so on. Poor man (Penguin Barchester Towers, Ch 10, pp. 73-9). Still was there ever a party without hard work? Robert Louis Stevenson's phrase of the strain and expense of gaiety doesn't begin to particularise the heroic efforts involved. And the money. It's curious how much fuss and bother people can go to for three hours of distraction -- for the party begins at 10 and everyone is to have left by 1 (Ch 10, p. 78). Trollope is still ever the realist.

Our party proper begins when the La Signora is announced, and our 'bewildered prelate mutters 'La Signora Madeline Vicinironi' (Ch 10, p. 79). The room soon fills up, including such presences as 'a lady very learned in stones, ferns, plants, and vermin, and who had written a book about petals. A wonderful woman in her way was Miss Trefoil' (Ch 10, p. 80). Our Madeline knows how to stage her entrance, for it is only somewhat later that she is swept in, and spectacular is her costume: white velvet dress; rich white lace worked with pearls across the bosom and armlets of her dress; across her brow a band of red velvet; in its center a Cupid in mozaic, 'the tints of whose wings were of the most lovely azure, and the colour of his chubby cheeks the clearest pink'. Apparently the bracelets are Very Important. They will catch the eye -- and of course distract from the lower portion of her body, swathed in crimson wlikd mantle and shawl. Above it all the bold bright staring eyes. Three Italian servants complete the scene (Ch 10, pp 81-82). The first line after the Bishop's 'Why doesn't she come?' is that of the man in sky blue, silk, with coral ring on his fingers, and a very soft glossy beard has Bertie. "'Bishop of Barchester, I presume?", said Bertie Stanhope"' (Ch 11, p. 82).

Far more mileage is gotten out of this pair then appears at first. Bertie gets most of the consciously funny spoken lines. He is a parodist himself:

'"But the work, I suppose, is different?' continued Bertie. 'Is there much to do here, at Barchester?' This was said exactly in the tone that a young Admiralty clerk might use in asking the same question of a brother acolyte at the Treasury' (Ch 11, p. 83).

Bertie has 'wonderful blue eyes' which he 'opens wide'. It is he who feel hot, cornered, smothered for a moment by a near- by 'fat rector' and suggests sliding Madeline's couch over to make room. As we all know, the couch 'rushed from its moorings', accelerates, increases its motion, and runs 'halfway into the middle of the room' where Mrs Proudie is ungraciously holding forth, actually resentful at the attention Mr Slope is paying the Signora; and 'beginning to be stiff, stafely, and offended when' -- wait for it --

'unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train, and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture. Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open, flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves -- a long ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet, and still clung to the vile wheel on which the sofa moved.

So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemented stories, show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small spark is applied to the treacherous fusee -- a cloud of dust arises to the heavens -- and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and ugly fragments.

We know what was the wrath of June when her beauty was desised. We know to what storms of passion celestial minds can yield ... ' (Ch 11, p 85)

Gentle reader, have you ever been to a party and watched some overdressed pompous self-important Dignity who thought him or herself above the Rest of Us strut about, and wished he or she would slip on a banana?

You have your wish.

Bertie is, as we expected up, to the Great Moment. He rises to the occasion by throwing himself on his knees and dithering about to 'liberate the torn lace for the castor; but he looked as though he were imploring pardon from a goddess'. Mrs Proudie attempts to retrieve the situation, but, alas, her repertoire of dramatic poetry leaves something to be desired:

"Unhand it", sir!" ... "I'll fly to the looms of fairies to repair the damage, if you'll only forgive me", said Ethelbert, still on his knees.

"Unhand it, sir!" said Mrs Proudie, with redoubled emphasis, and all but furious wrath. This allusion to the fairies was a direct mockery, and intended to turn her into ridicule. So at least it seemed to her. "Unhand it, sir!" she almost screamed' (Ch 11, p. 85).

It gets better.

'"It's not me; it's the cursed sofa ... holding up his hands to show that he was not touching her belongings, but still remaining on his knees' (p. 85).

And then the nearly final touch, _la pièce de résistance_:

Hereupon the signora laughed; not loud, indeed, but subtly (p. 86).

The final touch is: '"Bertie, you idiot, get up"' (p. 86).

Trollope wrote as well as this again, but he never satisfied our longings to deflate the hypocrisies of powerful prigs more satisfyingly. It's the common language that does it, the common language of that phrase and subtle laugh after all the overinflation.

It's not over yet. Somehow Trollope does not fall into bathos or anticlimax. He keeps it up. The fat rector emits a laugh. The bishop and chaplain join in, doubtless to cover everything over as 'so much humour', which move prompts Madeline to apologise, and begin to draw the Bishop over to her lair, oops, couch: 'It was solely for the pleasure of meeting you that I have had myself dragged here'; he thinks she looks like an angel, sits, utters a platitude, and when she says, '"Of course you know my sad story?", puts 'on a look of ineffable distress, and said that he was aware how God had afflicted her' (Ch 11, p. 87). She matches the cant: 'while her child was left to her, everything was left' (p. 87). I have listened to professors say that mocking pious language doesn't attack the piety. I think it does.

Alas, all good things come to an end. Madeline begins to overdo it when she pleads with the bishop to visit her 'the last of the Neros' (her child). Some grain of common sense tells him what she is proposing is actually ridiculous, and upon parting from her he discover 'papa's house' is the house of Dr Vesey Stanhope. The gig's up.

Our narrator moves to ecclesiastical matters. Our bishop now attempts to soothe the Archdeacon:

""Well, Mr Archdeacon after all, we have not been so hard upon you at Oxford".

"No,", said the archdeacon; "you've only drawn our teeth and cut out our tongues; you've allowed us still to breathe and swallow" (Ch 11, p. 89).

This brings us right back to the quarrel over how the church is to be run, who is to run it, what kind of people are to get and make appointments, and the theologies used to support the differing factions at the time. Poor Mr Harding is heard conversing in another corner of the room with that wicked Bertie Stanhope who is now giving him the excellence of German universities -- which had been secularised. We get jokes over the Archdeacon's water "'by no means as good as his wine" -- this from a witty canon. Perhaps beer is preferable after all. Trollope skirts blasphemy by playing with these words, and when Bertie talks of a Jewish professor, the Archdeacon 'stalks' off (p. 91).

There are two more scenes. One preparatory: the bishop goes over to Mr Harding, hinting at his desire to give the wardenship back to Mr Harding. This will lead to the scenes with Mr Slope which form the next couple of chapters. The other preparatory and lovingly done in themselves: Mr Slope's seduction by La Signora. Opposites attract? As ever Trollope gives a number of motives beyond the erotic: Mr Slope feels his time for obedience to Mrs Proudie is coming to an end; it's time to get beyond her. La Signora is ready to discuss the Sabbath schools; it is the wish of her heart to have the children brought to her (Ch 11, p. 93). In the meantime he can play cavaliere servente.

And then we get an acute discussion of the many forms sexual jealousy takes -- as in Mrs Proudie's cup of indignation flowing over as she attempts to part Slope from La Signora. The real crudity of Mrs Proudie's mind is caught in her response to Mr Slope's justification of his conduct that La Signora is lame: ''"Lame, said Mrs Proudie, "I'd lame her if she belonged to me"' (Ch 94, p. 94). I imagine she bullied her daughters physically and as thoroughly as she does her husband.

Then there's the waiting for the carriage. This last scene makes me remember the Netherfield Ball in P&P, a scene of many mortifications, the last of which is Mrs Bennet so contrives it that the Bennets are the last to leave. The same impatience and discomfort characterises the sets of people here awaiting release.

Still if not everyone at Mrs Proudie's reception enjoyed themselves, most readers will have. What are ordeals for Trollope characters become fun for readers if only because we empathise as well as laugh.

Ellen Moody

Subject: Re: [trollope-l] The Party; traits of the privileged

Dagny replied

Oh, yes the party was super. I thought I would crack up when Bertie sent the couch with his sister on it reeling into the center of the room. Then, when it got Mrs. Proudie's dress and he was trying to help out, pure comic relief. I agree with Ellen that these two siblings are fun characters, especially Bertie whom I truly enjoy. But I don't much care for La Signora--hmmm, must be because I'm female. She just seems proud to the point of ridiculousness, not wanting anyone to see her walk. I guess I can understand that but it does seem a bit much to be carried everywhere, especially when it has been going on for six or so years.

No job, good sun tan, long fingernails--how about being overweight? This could well have died out by the 1800s but at some point in time men were proud to have an overweight wife, showed they had money to indulge her. And all those paintings by Rubens.


Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Barchester Towers, Chs 7-12: The Plot Thickens

From: "R J Keefe"

Ever since the Stanhopes appeared, Barchester Towers has taken on a slapstick coloration unique (so far as I'm familiar with it) in Trollope's work. The caroming sofa, the ruined train - have such Marx Brothers elements figured before in 'respectable' fiction? The Stanhopes themselves prefigure the Bullocks of 'My Man Godfrey.'

Ellen Moody's point about mock-heroic language should cannot be overemphasized. The parody of epic poetry and drama works as hard as any plot machinery to generate the novel's comic force. Not that 'Barchester Towers' resembles Pope's 'Rape of the Lock.' There the humor lies in the ridiculous inflation of minor motions. Trollope uses parody to highlight the contrast between his characters' intense passions and their respectable behavior. It slyly ennobles those passions, raising them above the merely grasping or nasty. If observance of the outward forms of civility is the 'mould' that Ellen said characters such as the Archdeacon couldn't break out of, then I agree with her that their rigidity causes them to emit steam &c.

RJ Keefe

From Dagny Wilson:

Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Barchester Towers, Chs 7-12: The Dress

This is veering to the other side of your topic and also going to Trollope. The scene at the Proudie's party where the couch careened into the center of the room and ripped off Mrs. Proudie's dress. Well, I did find it funny and I did laugh. But, it's not really funny. It was a terribly embarrassing and dreadful thing to happen to Mrs. Proudie (yes, even if it WAS Mrs. Proudie). I suspect I would have laughed about the couch regardless of who it happened to, but maybe not, hard to say. I don't like that vain sister, but I was also laughing at the sight of the couch going flying. But if someone else's dress had gotten entangled, say one of Harding's daughters, I would have felt sorry for her and don't think I would have laughed.


Subject: Re: [trollope-l] Barchester Towers, Ch 11: "By no means so good as his wine ... "

From: "R J Keefe" Ellen Moody writes, "Sometimes I wonder if there is anything we do in our lives which is not marked and perceived as indicative of status." My own feeling is that there is not, never has been, and never will be. The salient is the quality of our consciousness on this point. In a given situation, with all other things being equal, one person might feel painfully judged while another hardly notices the scrutiny. I think it's a given of an animal life that we have not yet outgrown, though, that everybody is sizing everybody else up, all the time.

That said, I think that questions of status have been unusually obtrusive during the past two hundred years - ever since the liberation (vel non) of 1789. The toppling of the ancien régime was followed by a previously unimaginable upswelling of the middle ranks of society, growing steadily through the nineteenth century and expanding cataclysmically after the Second World War - in such a way that has led analyists like Francis Fukuyama to find that absolutely everybody belongs to the middle class. Familiar as we are with the concept of the bell curve, it's counterintuitive to recall that the bourgeoisie used to be the smallest segment of society, smaller by far than the aristocracy and infinitesimally imperceptible next to the peasantry.

I've always believed that people devoured novels in the Victorian period for the same reason that we go to the movies now: fantasy aside, we want to learn how other people do it. Do anything. How do they cope with the problems that we face? One necessary consequence of upward mobility is the unfamiliar situation. Almost anybody will be somewhat cowed by the prospect of dinner with the Queen Mother, but as readers of 'Wives and Daughters' know, many people in Victorian England were cowed by what other people would think of their dinner hours. It was a matter of immense concern because it was immensely new. All of life was one awful high school hazing.

RJ Keefe

People brought up the various social conventions which govern the characters' behavior, e.g., when and where they eat, greet company, and sleep.

To Trollope-l

August 3, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers: Cultural Practices and Words (more than a bit OT)

In response to Sig and Dagny,

The hours at which we eat and the names we call these meals reflect a class bias, realities of our existences, and cultures too. As a young girl growing up in New York City in the 1950s and early 1960s in a family where the father left for work at 7 am, and the mother 7:30, I found myself in a home where the meal in the morning was breakfast; the meal around noon, was lunch (cold -- I made myself a sandwich); and the meal at 7 cooked by my father (who got home from work by 5 pm) was supper. Dinner was a fancy meal with many courses which was associated with evening eating (in restaurants) and on occasions, but the word dinner was also used for fancy many-course meals in the afternoon on Thanksgiving or Christmas day (and other similar holidays) when we visited relatives. I knew of people who had Sunday dinner in the afternoon after they came home from church-going.

In the later 1960s I lived in England both with my husband just as a couple and for a few weeks with his mother and father. I would call his mother lower middle to middle and his father working class. The first meal of the day was breakfast, and, as in my house, was cereal, or a roll and butter or toast or eggs, maybe bacon and kidneys (on weekends). However, before that in my mother-in-law's house, she got up, put on the fires, and brought my father-in-law a cup of hot tea to their bedroom. This was a house without central heat, just two gasfires in fireplaces in two rooms. She also put in my and Jim's bed before I went to sleep a waterbottle which was a thick rubber thing filled with very hot water -- meant to warm the bed. (Nice lady -- I was told this was not done when it had just been Jim.) Like my father, my father-in-law left for work very early, but unlike my father who travelled on the subway for over an hour each way to work, my father-in-law went by bicycle to the railway yards and it took him about 20 minutes. So my father-in-law came home around 1 by which time my mother-in-law had a 3 course hot meal and desert for him and her (and Jim and I when we were there): this was dinner. Around 5-6 when he returned once more was tea. Tea consisted of tea! But you could have coffee if you preferred or milk. You ate cake and bread and butter and slices of cheese (once in a while slices of meat). Supper was a very late night meal; my father-in-law would make himself something that sounded like Welsh Rabbit. There was no rabbit in it. It was toasted cheese on toasted bread.

I never saw a high tea or was invited to one, but it is a gargantuan feast of sandwiches and lovely cold cuts and cheese and cakes on a mid-Sunday afternoon. Again you don't have to drink tea with it. You can have coffee or milk.

For a while I worked at John Waddington in Leeds and saw people eat a hot 3-course meal in the cafeteria for 3 shillings 6 pence. This was subsidized by the company, and most of the people eating there were said to be eating what was their dinner. They would then go home for tea (as it was served at my in-laws.) I was a secretary to the General Engineer and Chief Salesman and ate in the cafeteria once in a while. I would eat with the factory manager (I don't remember how this came about) and 3 people who worked in the factory. They were gay and witty. The people who worked in the factory said their children got their hot meal in school for a similarly subsidized price.

It was my impression from what I saw in more middle and upper middle homes in England that men often no longer came home for lunch (excuse the Americanism) and an American-style hot supper (my word again) is served at 7-8, and this is called dinner. Supper is still the very late meal -- say after the theatre. Some Americans do use the word supper in this way, and I think many years with Jim have made me use the word dinner for our meal at 7-8 and supper for when we eat after coming home from the theatre or going out after theatre or concerts and such.

The above shows people using words as a reflection of their realities, class biases and cultures. I would say too the word 'drawing room' in England shows an upper class usage, while front room is more middling. In American when I was growing up the room with the TV and couches and chairs was the living room. Nowadays I don't know what it's called, but lots of people have such a room which is not meant for show or company at all and it is called the den. Our equivalent (Jim and mine today) is front room.

I can't deny the above is a bit of autobiography but it is relevant in this sense: Trollope is very alive to all distinctive uses of words, times, manners as indications of class, lifestyle, education and rank. The ways in which characters address one another face-to-face and in letter is also carefully nuanced.

Cheers to all,

Subject: [trollope-l] BT-Quiverful's name

From: "Wayne Gisslen"

I was just wondering about Quiverful's name. Ellen mentioned his "quiverful of children" and in an earlier post, if I remember correctly, his quivering before the bishop. My first take on the name is that the reason he has so many children is that he has so many arrows in his quiver, so to speak. Could this allusion also have been in Trollope's 19th-century English mind, or is it only in mine?

Wayne Gisslen

Gene answered him:

Wayne, in the OUP World's Classics edition, David Skilton as narrator explains in an endnote that "Mr. Quiverful's name is ironically derived from Psalms 127:3-5: 'Lo, children are the heritage from the Lord ... Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.'"

Gene Stratton

Sig asked about the use of the term "lounge" in England:

Subject: [trollope-l] Barchester Towers: Cultural Practices and Words (more than a bit OT)


My husband says that in England 'lounge' is definitely non-U. (For those not into these designations, U = upper class.) Great room seems to me an Americanism, and one which my husband suggests 'aspires'.

I am typing this e-mail in the room I still persist in calling my study. I have seen people come into my house and call it an office. The electrician who upgraded our electricity in this room (to allow for all the computers) labelled the circuit-breaker office. To me an office is a place away from home. I think of it as a room filled with desks and filing cabinets and typewriters (nowadays computers) where people called white-collar workers work, but the dentist's waiting room can also be referred to as his office. The reason I say I persist in calling my study a study is that I do this even though my older daughter began to call it 'Mommy's workroom' when she was very young and she and the younger one have maintained this label even though in recent years my husband takes equal space with his desk and several computers.

On Long Island where my father owned a house, many houses had only crawl spaces between cement slabs and the bottoms of the houses, most of which were made of wood. But those which had a cement room called it a basement.

I agree on bedrooms. In England I remember that bathrooms were called a loos. A euphemism?

We can connect this toBarchester Towers. The bishop has been relegated to the ground floor and has a small room for his study; this was in the days of Bishop Grantly a back parlor. Mr Slope's study (wherein he talks with Mr Harding) is a second small room next to the Bishop's on the same ground floor (Penguin Barchester Towers, ed RGilmour, p. 96). Bishop Proudie is to receive his clergy in the dining room. Presumably the allotting of these rooms was done by Mrs Proudie, for the four rooms opening into one another on the first floor are her two drawing-rooms, a reception and a boudoir (my goodness). The narrator says 'In the olden days one of these had been Bishop Grantly's bedroom, and another his common sitting-room and study' (p. 78). The bishop would like to take one of those drawing-rooms back for himself. Somehow when he is talking to Mr Slope, Mrs Proudie's bedroom door is not far off, as the narrator says she was above putting her ear to the keyhole though she strained to listen.

My husband remembers Mr and Mrs Jorrocks have a drawing room each; his has fox-hunting paraphernalia all over it; hers is all feminine. Mrs Jorrocks has a 'whatnot' in rosewood by the fire with a finely bound set of Sir Walter Scott, in wood.

There is some interest in the repeated use of two terms in Victorian novels for the places the top married couple sleeps in. The bedroom is always referred to as the wife's, while the small dressing room right next to it is the husband's. I gather there is a bed in the husband's dressing room, and there is a door between the two rooms. I pick up a sense that the wife has some power in the sexual relationship which is not made explicit in these novels as the bed is called hers. Presumably she could try to keep the husband out -- he would sleep in his dressing-room. On the other hand, she dresses in her bedroom because the dressing-room is his. He is expected to leave while she is dressing. Some of this has to do with control of the servants. He is not supposed to be seen in undress by her maid, and she is not supposed to be seen in undress by his valet. They don't dress themselves. (In his _The Rise of Respectability_, F. M. L. Thompson says one way in which contraception was practiced (or limiting one's family) was to have separate bedrooms.)

They don't mention bathrooms in these novels. It is said that the first novel in which anyone 'goes to the bathroom' is Joyce's Ulysses. However, some funny doings are detailed in The Memoirs of a Lady Pleasure, aka Fanny Hill and I have never read The Nun in her Smock (a famous 18th century frank and funny pornographic novel).

I just thought of another use for the word office I have come across. In Austen's novels the rooms where the servants work are called offices.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

We did return to the question of religion; was there anything really serious about religious doctrine in Barchester Towers. Someone mentioned the teasing question Bertie put to the Bishop. I have lost the posting and name of the person who posted it. It contained comments on customs and habits and the relationship of these to class in England at the time.

August 2, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers, Ch 11: "By no means so good as his wine ... "

It might be enlightening to see the whole context in which the bishop asks the question. It occurs just after Bertie Stanhope has been deliberately bringing up controversial and uncomfortable questions about the secularization of the German universities, and our narrator comments:

'There was no answering this [Bertie]. Dignified clergymen of sixty years of age could not condescend to discuss such a matter with a young man with such clothes and such a beard.

"Have you got good water out at Plumstead, Mr Archdeacon?" said, the bishop, by way of changing the conversation.

"Pretty good", said Dr Grantly.

"But by no means so good as his wine, my lord", said a witty minor canon.

"Nor so generally used", said another, "that is, for inward application".

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the bishop, "a good cellar of wine is a very comfortable thing in a house".

"Your German professors, sir, prefer beer, I believe, said the sarcastic little meagre prebendary.

"They don't think much of either" said, Ethelbert ...'

The bishop is trying to change the conversation from areas which are controversial and uncomfortable to something which will make for relatively relaxed genial conversation. It is true that public awareness of the importance of clean water supply in preventing the spread of disease had received its first public demonstration with John Snowe's famous sleuthing over the Broad Street pump. However, the emphasis in the conversation is on the luxurious lifestyle the Archdeacon enjoys -- and which he probably doesn't mind being teased about at all. He likes to show off.

On the use of the subjunctive, its use has become relatively rare in modern English. I find when I use it, it has a slightly formal quality in tone; it can tighten a sentence beautifully. Why this is, is anyone's guess. In French and Italian the subjunctive is an important way of indicating a mood and of inflecting sentences with a different tone of meaning.

Sure the hours the characters in Barchester Towers observe is a form of conspicuous consumption, especially in an age where increasing numbers of people were working very long hours six and one-half days a week.

There is another kind of question I have about customs: it seems that over a couple of centuries, say from the beginning of the 18th through the later 19th century, the dinner time hour kept getting later and later -- as the time for seeing plays kept getting later and later. The word 'morning' is used in the later 18th century to mean that time before dinner; when dinner was eaten shortly after 1, the word doesn't seem as absurd as when dinner is eaten at 3. A common sense hunch suggests to me maybe the setting back of the dinner time hour has to do with more people working long hours away from home and not being able to get back in the middle of the day for a several-course hot meal. Yet was it not the fashionable people who ate late? In Austen's The Watsons, the sisters are embarrassed to be founding eating dinner at 3 in the afternoon. It is a meagre dinner, one course on a tray (of cold beef). Much worse though is their eating it so early; there is a line in this unfinished novella which suggests one reason they eat early is they are hungry (breakfast not having been the gargantuan kind of feast the Archdeacon enjoys at Plumstead Episcopy in The Warden), and will eat less if they don't wait. Unless I am misremembering there is also some commentary on the knife used, which is again a matter the sisters fear will be 'read' as revealing their desperate straits. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything we do in our lives which is not marked and perceived as indicative of status.

Ellen Moody

I seem to have lost a slew of postings on names of houses and rooms in England and the US today as well as some guesses about how wealthy, middling and poorer people lived in southern England in the 19th century. I can but find one of my response to Dagny Wilson:

To Trollope-l

August 5, 1999

Re: OT: Bathrooms

I am no expert on 'bathrooms'. However, it is true that before the advent of water-closets in the 1920s or so, wealthy people did have rooms with toilets in them in their houses. I still remember a very funny piece I read about Sir Joshua Reynolds wherein it was claimed that he was so devoted to his craft that unlike other people of his station and with his income he had his 'closet' built close to where he painted so he wouldn't lose time going back and forth. Again from vague memories I remember reading of closets in the back part of a tower-like affair in wealthier houses in the Renaissance and earlier. The point was to keep the room far away from the main ones.

Archdeacon Grantly is a very wealthy man -- or at least has access to positions which provide him with a very comfortable income. We are told more than once that his father provided for him very well, and that his wife is diplomatic in hiding from the other parishioners what she pays her cook, her governess, the kinds of splendid feasts that appear on the Grantly table regularly. In this week's chapter, we had a reference to the excellent qualities of the wine at Plumstead Episcopi. I assume, therefore, there was a room in the house with a toilet. Perhaps more than one. So too in the Bishop's palace. Poorer people would of course have what I was taught to call an outhouse in the 1950s on Long Island, New York. (The house my father bought on Long Island first had only an outhouse and you pumped water from a pump just outside the kitchen.)

When I lived in England with my in-laws, it was in a house where all three bedrooms were on the second floor. None of them had heat of any kind. The house itself was unheated. Under each of the beds was a chamberpot. At the back of the kitchen until my husband was around 13 there was a small room with one toilet in it. Period. If anyone in the family wanted to take a bath, they used a large basin in the kitchen, poured heated water in it and went ahead. When he was around 13, his grandmother died, and left my mother-in-law enough money to be eligible for a program set up by some branch of Government in which this branch of Government would provide 50% of the money it would cost to build a bathroom (with sink, bathtub and toilet) if the individual could put up the other half.

So my guess is Dagny is partly right. A vast majority of the population in England -- and other countries in Europe -- did not have bathrooms in their houses. Only those who lived in the Big House as masters and mistresses and children or servants had access to these. However, most novels focus on the wealthier groups of people in society or the big houses in which they and the lower orders congregated and so 'earth-closets' are there, just not spoken of.

Ellen Moody

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