Barchester Towers, Introduction
A Chronology of the Barsetshire Novels and What Came Inbetween The Warden and Barchester Towers, Some New and Remarkable Characters: The Signora Neroni, Bertie Stanhope and Dr and Mrs Proudie; A Trimmer; Different Kinds of Feminism; Obadiah Slope, Class Snobbery, the Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement

To Trollope-l

July 16, 1999

Re: What Came Between The Warden and Barchester Towers

As we set forth on the second book of our journey through Barsetshire and since we have had some new people join our list recently, I thought the best way to introduce our second book would be to repost the chronological ordering of what publishers and Trollope's readers have come to call the Barsetshire novels.

The Warden with some illustrations by F. C. Tilney
Written 1852 29 July -1853 autumn;
Published as a book 1855 5 Jan Wm Longman.
Barchester Towers
Written 1856 12 May-9 Nov;
Published as a book 1857 May Wm Longman.
Dr Thornewith some illustrations by H. L. Schindler
Written 1857 20 Oct-1858 31 Mar;
Published as a book 1858 May Chapman and Hall.
Framley Parsonage Illustrated John Everett Millais
Written 1859 2 Nov- 1860-27;
Serialized in the Cornhill Jan 1860-Apr 1861;
Published as a book 1861 Apr George Smith.
The Small House at Allington Illustrated John Everett Millais
Written 1862 20 May- 1863 11 Feb;
Serialized CornhillSept 1862-Apr 1864;
 Published Apr 1864 George Smith.
The Last Chronicle of Barset Illustrated G. H. Thomas, 1867, FA Fraser 1878-8
Written 1866 20 Jan-15 Sept;
Serialized Weekly Sixpenny Parts, 1 Dec 1866-6 July 1867;
Published as a book in 2 vols 1867 Mar and July Smith and Elder.
Note the three year gap between the time Trollope wrote The Warden and the time he began Barchester Towers. What came inbetween? Magazine writing and The New Zealander.

After The Warden Trollope began his first essays into periodical journalism. Among other things, he worked towards a review of Charles Merivale's multi-volume History of the Romans under the Empire. Anyone who has written a review of a serious book know it takes work, and in academia it is still not work for which you get any kind of check. Trollope did an enormous amount of reading, including studying Caesar's Commentaries, and produced two articles, one on Julius and the other on Augustus Caesar.

He also wrote the full-length The New Zealander which has been called a Carlyle-like political tract which gives the reader the clearest insight you can get in Trollope's books of the moral stances behind Trollope's opinions on the way states and communities of all sorts work in human societies. N. John Hall says it was written between February and March 1855; it was first published in 1971-2 by Oxford University Press, as edited and introduced by Hall (and you can now buy it in a Trollope Society edition too).

Why the three-year gap? It wasn't just dithering about, for the above material meant something to Trollope. He remained interested in Caesar and the classics all his life, read them, studied them before adding to these studies, old English plays. Still the problem was that The Warden had not been the financial and social success that Trollope needed to be able to demand profitable pounds for the difficult effort it took to write novels while working for the post office.

Although The Warden was the first book by Trollope which he felt got some modicum of respect, in his An Autobiography, he writes that 'it failed altogether in the purport for which it was intended', by which he means to lead the public to think about the two opposing evils of

'the possession by the Church of certain funds and endowments which had been intended for charitable purposes, but which had been allowed to become incomes for idle Church dignitaries' and 'the undeserved severity of the newspapers towards the recipients of such incomes, who could hardly have been considered to be the chief sinners in the matter (An Autobiography, ed M Sadleir and F Page, Ch 5, p. 94).
And, he adds a bit later,
"as regards remuneration for the time [it took to write the book], stone-breaking would have done better. A thousand copies were printed, of which, after a lapse of five or six years, about 300 had to be converted into another form, and sold as belonging to a cheap edition. In its original form The Warden never reached the essential honour of a second edition' (Ch 5, p. 98).

There is something poignant in a man really believing that he will get a large number of people who read novels seriously to think about, let alone understand the points he was trying to make in his honest satire'. In point of fact most of his reviewers didn't know what to make of the book as it didn't clearly take sides. He was disappointed. It was a disillusioning even if salutary lesson.

Thus as we open Barchester Towers, when we see Trollope picking up the characters, their situation, and some of the less knotted threads of The Warden, and assuming the same tone of drollery with which he began The Warden, we should not be surprised to find him spinning out a comic (Fieldingesque) version of what had by the 1850s become the conventional format for the middle class English novel: 3 volumes, a multiplot design with love-and-marriage stories now to the fore.

Still neither the treatment of religious politics nor the love stories are all that conventional -- nor the setting of the book in a contemporary framework of time and space. The church politics and love stories include two of my favorite characters in all Trollope: Bertie Stanhope and the Signora Neroni. Trollope has also not dropped his ecclesiastical/political satire. No. No. It's just a new angle. It's at this point we should maybe reread our earlier threads on high versus low church. To this he has added a saturnine depiction of a domineering repressed woman. So Arabin's studies are now specified, and we have three new characters who are probably favorites with many people too: Dr, Mrs Proudie and the inimitable Slope -- with his salacious name. I hope everyone knows what was the speciality of that eminent physician in Tristram Shandy to whom our narrator alludes at the opening of Chapter 3 in lieu of the usual parentage. The Archdeacon is not lost from sight either. Oh no.

Ellen Moody

To this Sigmund Eisner added:

Subject: [trollope-l] Barchester Towers

From: Sigmund Eisner So we are moving from Tom Towers to Barchester Towers, a sequel to The Warden but as unlike The Warden as any book we might choose. Some of our old friends from The Warden are still with us. We already know Mr. Harding, his two daughters, and Archdeacon Grantly. Now we are introduced to new characters, some of whom will be with us right through The Last Chronicle. Mainly, we are meeting Dr. and Mrs. Proudie and the Reverend Obediah Slope. In his introduction to these interesting people, Trollope does not pillory them. He lets us find out about them on our own. And very quickly do we do so. Dr. Proudie is a fairly young man to be appointed as a bishop. His wife, we must assume, is a bit younger. So, we may assume is Mr. Slope. Archdeacon Grantly now has grey hair, and his father-in-law is well advanced in years. Three years, as Ellen pointed out, can do a lot for our characters. Eleanor Harding Bold is now a widow and a mother. John Bold is no longer with us, much as Mary Flood Jones Finn does not survive long after marriage. Widows and widowers must be created so that the may have new liaisons. But Mr. Harding is still Mr. Harding, and the Archdeacon may prove to be more likeable than the Archdeacon we used to know. The big difference, and this distinction is paramount all through this novel, is the battle between High and Low Church. Trollope is High Church, and were we to put his back to the wall, he would have to admit that Low Church people are often clods, as we learned when we read The Vicar of Bullhampton. At the very beginning we learn that Mr. Slope is ambitious, Dr. Proudie is weak, and Mrs. Proudie, is, well, Mrs. Proudie. There is no one in British literature quite like her. She has her chair in the Bishop's receiving room, and she has her say: "The Bishop thinks," she begins. And she never ends. The Archdeacon and Mr. Harding have never met anyone quite like her.


Subject: [trollope-l] The author appears in his own novel

July 17, 1999

From: "Robert J Wright"

One of the aspects of Trollope's novels I enjoy is when the author suddenly appears in the narrative using his own voice. There are even whole chapters when AT steps forward and takes centre stage. These are not I think the most successful parts of his books as he tends to adopt a soapbox style.

I read somewhere that Henry James was severely critical of this "weakness" in AT but this morning, whilst listening to the Cover to Cover "Portrait of a Lady", I caught James in the same act, when the author injected the words "I confess..." in his own voice into the narrative, and then did the same a few lines later. So even James could not resist it. This sort of thing is rather like Hitchcock making cameo appearances in his own films.

Robert J Wright

Re: Barchester Towers: The Author Appears in his Own Novel

In response to Robert, I recently read a commentary on Flaubert in which the writer pointed out passage after passage in which Flaubert appeared in his novels as the narrator and directed the reader how to feel or think about what was going on, either indirectly and ironically, or downright didactically. I'll bet one could do the same with James.

James was, of course, objecting to Trollope's open description of himself as narrator or storyteller, and of his novels as narratives, stories, and novels. Trollope was somehow to pretend this was not a book -- as if the reader actually really forgets he is reading a book and imagines him or herself in Barsetshire for real. This reminds me of Samuel Johnson's mockery of the rule for unity in drama which demanded a play take place in one place, within 2 hours: as if the audience really thought itself in the place the play is imagined taking place in. Trollope should have at a minimum called himself a historian, says James.

I'm with Robert in thinking the active narrator one of the pleasures of Trollope's fictions. We are all the more surprised by our emotions because they come upon us unexpectedly as we have been reminded this is after all a book and some characters. So why are we laughing or near tears? I find Trollope's fiction is made more intense by the device -- as he uses it -- not less.

Still, just to start the ball rolling tonight, I'll throw out this: in The Warden and Barchester Towers Trollope goes further than admitting he is storyteller and this is a narrative he is continuing. In Chapter 2 he retells Mr Harding's history as if the story were a biography, but in Chapter 3 he gives Slope a heritage in Tristram Shady; and in Chapter 6 he discusses with us his aims as a novelist: he won't talk of sacred inner things in the 'pages of a novel'; he may 'question the fallibility of the teachers' but not be 'accused' of 'doubting the thing taught' (Penguin Barchester Towers, 1987 ed RGilmour, p 44). Later in the book Trollope's narrator discusses the coming ending, tells us what is not going to happen, because he's supposedly worries lest we get too anxious.

He also puts himself in the story as if he were a person in it: we can imagine him a character or the characters as real people he has met. In The Warden the narrator tells us he met the Archdeacon's three allegorical children, actually met them and didn't like the smallest at all. In Barchester Towers, Trollope writes of Mr Slope:

'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 Ch 4, p. 25).

And of the cathedral:

'Ah! how often sitting there, in happy early days, on those lowly benches in front of the altar, have I whiled away the tedium of a sermon in considering how best I might thread my way up amidst those wooden towers, and climb safety to the topmost pinnacle! (p. 42).

Does this sort of thing turn Trollope's narrator into a character in the book? Or does it rather make the fiction realer because the places are assumed to be as real as the author? (Thackeray does this in Vanity Fair towards the end of the book.)

HenryJames found this sort of thing disconcerting, but then he was a 19th century person. Many modern novelists break the illusions of induced reverie reading (which is what reading novels is) all the time. What do others think? Does it make the book more pleasurable? or does it jolt some readers?

Next term when I read Washington Square and Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaitewith my students I mean to pay close attention to the narrator to see if James intervenes any less than Trollope, or how he makes such intervention unobstrusive. Trollope means to obtrude.

Ellen Moody

In response to Sig on Mrs Proudie, John Mize wrote on July 20, 1999:

What I find interesting about Mrs. Proudie is that she represents one strain of feminism in a very pure form. Feminism is essentially the movement to give women power, but there is a question as to how that power should be used. Some feminists believe that women should use their power to free themselves and live as they please. Others want to reform society and make everyone act morally. A lot of women who supported suffrage in the 19th century didn't base their claim on women having the same natural rights as men. Instead they argued that allowing women to participate in politics would purify the political process. The question of freedom versus morality is one of the most important arguments in American politics, an argument which has existed since the beginning of the country between Enlightenment skeptics who wanted to be left alone and reformers, religious and secular, who wanted to make the New World into a shining city on the hill to redeem the fallen Old World. Most people were and are in the middle-of-the-road on this issue. Sometimes we want to be left alone, and sometimes we want to meddle.

For me the extremes of 19th century American feminism are exemplified by Victoria Woodhull and Carrie Nation. Woodhull dabbled in spiritualism and was a strong proponent of free love. She insisted that no one had any right to tell her what to do, but she wasn't especially interested in telling anyone else what to do. Carrie Nation may or may not have considered herself a feminist, but many feminists strongly supported the temperance movement. Nation's first husband was an alcoholic who physically abused her. She left him and became an uncompromising temperance advocate, going so far as to smash up saloons. Nation didn't think all the problems in the country were caused by alcohol. She also wanted to do away with tobacco, fornication and the Masons. I think she only wanted to abolish Masonism and not the Masons themselves, but I'm not completely sure. 20th century American feminism has the same sort of split, with Andrea Dworkin filling in for Nation and Susie Bright, for Woodhull. Most people are in the middle, just as they always have been. Mrs. Proudie is firmly in the Dworkin/Nation camp and wants to force everyone to do the right thing.

John Mize

Then Gene Stratton wrote:

From: "Ginger Watts"

I feel badly about having to disagree, but I don't see Mrs. Proudie as a feminist at all. I see her more as an eminence grise, in the sense of the power behind the throne. A puppet master or mistress, if you will. This type of person can be male or female.

Like her sovereign of the time, Mrs. Proudie seems orthodox in almost all ways. She is religious in a way that might be called fundamentalist today, and fundamentalist women are usually not thought of as strong feminists. I don't think anyone would impute to her a belief in sexual freedom for women. She seems to be the type of person who believes ardently in marriage, monogamy, and a well-defined division of duties between the husband and the wife. Mrs. Proudie appears to be a champion of the status quo,

If anyone in Barchester Towers might be considered a feminist, I think it would be free-spirited Madeleine Neroni, and possibly even her sister Charlotte. Mrs. Proudie is a strong-minded person determined to get her way. The world is full of strong-minded men and strong-minded women, and also full of weak-willed men and weak-willed women. These are personalities that go back to Adam and Eve. I don't think Mrs. Proudie would want liberation if it were offered her.

Gene Stratton

From: John Mize He quoted Gene first:

"I feel badly about having to disagree, but I don't see Mrs. Proudie as a feminist at all. I see her more as an eminence grise, in the sense of the power behind the throne. A puppet master or mistress, if you will. This type of person can be male or female."
Then he said:

You're probably right. Mrs. Proudie reminds me a little of Carrie Nation, who probably wasn't a feminist either. Nation reminds me of the controlling, moralistic element in American feminism as opposed to the natural rights element. Some of the women who supported female suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used arguments designed to appeal to the American Mrs. Proudies. Such arguments were probably not persuasive with those women.

John Mize

From: Catherine Crean

Gene Stratton wrote:

"She seems to be the type of person who believes ardently in marriage, monogamy, and a well-defined division of duties between the husband and the wife. Mrs. Proudie appears to be a champion of the status quo ..."

If this is so, why does Mrs. Proudie always "try to wear the pants in the family"? One of the reasons the archdeacon and Mr. Harding find Mrs. Proudie tough to take is her butting into church affairs. This is unseemly and "unwomanly". I don't have a copy of BT handy right now, but I recollect that when the archdeacon and Mr. Hardy first meet the Mr. and Mrs. Proudie a reference is made to the archdeacon's being unaccustomed to having the distaff side PRESENT at, not to mention participating in a meeting about church business. I agree that Mrs. Proudie is not a feminist as we think of a feminist. She domineers those around her, men and women. If we could apply the word "feminist" at all to Mrs. Proudie, I would call her a situational feminist. When it suits Mrs. Proudie, she acts in a fashion that is "unwomanly" to the Victorian eye. This is one of the reasons she causes such a stir. I'm also thinking of the passage where the archdeacon (or Mr. Harding) talks about the church women in the Barsetshire circle who wash the children's hands, hear their catechism, and give the each child a bun. That is the extent of female involvement in "Sabbath Schools." Gene's post also brings to mind the comments on the women in BH. Did the Victorian writers satirize evangelical women because of their religious activities or because the women were "acting outside their sphere."

Catherine Crean

I tried to adjudicate:

July 20, 1999

RE: Barchester Towers: Reading Against the Grain & Feminism (I)

Mrs Proudie might provide the 'hot spot' for many readers today in a way she would not have for Trollope's readers: by which I mean a battleground and litmus test.

I thought I might contribute to the debate by suggesting that first we need to make it clear when we are reading against the grain (meaning ignoring Trollope's values and placing our own on the text) and what we mean by feminism -- for there are schools of feminism and some schools (groups of people) loathe the other schools, though strong feelings are the mark of them all. Why? Our society has for the last half century been undergoing a vast social rearrangement whereby women are playing roles in society they didn't play before -- and men are playing different roles in the home. The attitude towards marriage itself has changed: although many people still marry to obtain position, and measure a prospective date in the first place by his or her 'presentability' to some idea of what's acceptable to the respectable establishment, and most people are conflicted from within if they should marry someone whose position is lower than theirs (through education, money, job); people expect a kind of full partnership in all responsibilities and they look to their prospective mate for companionship, real affection, congeniality of tastes and interests. These latter expectations had only come to the fore in Trollope's time; he is certainly for marrying for these things and against marrying sheerly for position or money, but the weight put on these things in his mind is different from the weight at least some of us would give them.

When I called Mrs Proudie an anti-feminist figure, I was alluding in a too brief way to the way many feminist critics read Trollope e.g,. Jane Nardin, Kate Flint, Patricia Walton. They see in such a figure an example of Trollope's anti-feminism. Catherine Crean is right to point out that in the scene in Chapter 5 where Harding and Grantly are introduced to Mrs Proudie along with the Bishop and Slope implicitly as one of three who are all powerful (a triumvirate), the objection is sheerly to her very presence. She has no right to be there as a woman because ecclesiastical positions and power was to be held by men. In her Three Guineas Virginia Woolf has a good analysis of the attitudes behind this prohibition: says she, men see women as primarily sexual creatures; there is a tradition going back before Christianity grounded in fear of giving women any access to 'magic' (they then became sorceresses, witches); there are a load of passages in the Bible which can rationalise all these as obedience to Paul and the way things ought to be (men in charge). Such prohibitions of women having power in the church have only been swept away recently, only in some churches, and even in these is still controversial. (I have a sister-in-law who is a sort of Vicar or Curate-in-Charge and she has tell saturnine stories of responses she gets now and again to her functioning as a relatively powerful church person.) Nardin, Flint, and Walton take this prohibition, generalise it out and talk of how women have the right to have powerful positions, control of money in our society. They deplore Trollope's attitude here.

One should mention some feminists go further and argue that her nasty grasping personality, one which seeks to repress and control others, prevent them from enjoying themselves, comes from frustration. The line runs, were she to have had access to power from the very beginning, she would not be this way. This strikes me as counterfactual arguing. My view would be such a personality would be this way however she was educated: there are people who love to have power and will impose themselves on others. If Mrs Proudie -- or Lady Arabella Gresham -- had been given more spheres within which to dominate others, they would just have made more people's lives difficult or maimed them if they had the power to. One part of the seachange that has occurred since Trollope's time is the way middle class women got power and respect and money was by dominating a family network, by marrying for rank; the way they get it now is through a job network. But the impulses behind such behavior are much the same, and the women who become dominant do so as a result of personality types and luck (born to money, access to good education) just in the way luck and personality type operated in the 19th century.

Perhaps we ought to attempt to talk about different feminisms, for the above comments would not please some schools of feminists, while they would at least be understood by others. Although a hostile account, Christina Hoff Sommers' Who Stole Feminism identifies the different groups in a remarkably similar way to Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem's categorising. I was simplifying when I spoke of different schools, for women just have all sorts of attitudes all over the place and one cannot split and lump with any easy pigeonholing. In brief, I will try to identify just a few general attitudes which can form faultlines in attitudes towards characters in books. First, there seems to be 1) a group of feminists who we might call politically conservative or rightist: they don't want to reform society for the better of all, but rather look for power for individuals, for money. They dislike portraits of submissive women; they detest stories of women's victimisation. This is a growing group of the 1990s. There are feminists who we might call 2) politically liberal or leftist: they want to reform society, all marginalised groups must be given equal opportunity through government action and laws. Women would benefit. Laws must be passed to free children of the tendency to regard them as property of the their parents. Women must be protected against male physical strength. This group splits itself into 2a) those who look to the Supreme Court and law to change the world and they would sweep away earlier legislation which distinguishes women from men as agents in society, and 2b) those who seek to change mores slowly, and want laws to protect women left in place. There are other groups: 3) some women want radical change in attitudes towards sex. This group splits into 3a) women who say marriage is a form of prostitution and look upon the sexual encounter as always a form a rape and game of power; and 3b) women who merely want to change some attitudes towards dating, rape, and sex inside marriage. Most women are probably 4) for equal pay for the same job, but even there you might find different emphases. I have nowhere covered the ground, merely tried to sketch the umbrella by describing a few panels in it.

I don't know which group I belong to, probably 2b, though I also share the attitudes I suggested belong to 3b) and 4). I think to avoid arguments when we discuss Mrs Proudie we should identify ourselves carefully so we recognise wherein we share presumptions and where we don't. This will spare misunderstanding. So I'll go further and say of my own that I think enormous strides in helping women as a group to be happier, healthier, live longer more fulfilled lives have been made in the 20th century. I have a hunch a great deal of this progress is due to the spread of safe, effective, contraception and safe childbirth . But it's true women can now be independent of men -- as well as of their family group (of which men can free themselves too). It's true men have always left women (Dickens threw his wife out), and now at least some women can protect themselves and be safe due to access to decent jobs. Many women have access to and do get good educations in school -- far better than ever before. Women who don't want to marry are infinitely better off. Here I will offend but never mind: I think some women fundamentally don't like men, are not interested in love (and many people are incapable of it); and some men don't like women and don't want to marry either. All can climb outside the family and finds connections through the large institutions of our society as they could not before the workings of industry, capitalist, and technology provides so many niches for so many.

But in all social rearrangements there are winners and losers. And there have been losers. And things have been lost in human relationships which seem increasing to be conducted as if we were negotiating contracts and not entering into friendships whose values and criteria are quite different. Some young children have lost badly, perhaps many. Divorce devastates children -- miserably unhappy married couples do too, but at least a man's salary provides a minimum of money. Many sorts of women feel they have lost badly, feel less safe. I don't think the sexual revolution has liberated anybody. Yes you can do what you like, but no act is without its consequences and given human nature ... I'll go farther and suggest teenage girls are at a real disadvantage nowadays, very bad. Maybe I should put it that one person can win on one front and loses on another of this vast social rearrangement. other. Here's a witty bitter cynicism which I more than half mean: the real winner has been the boss in the company who has an enormous pool of compliant workers.

I see I have gone on at length so will turn to Mrs Proudie in a second post tomorrow under the same heading.

Ellen Moody

Re: Barchester Towers: Reading Against the Grain & Feminism (II)

Where does Trollope fit in when we consider a spectrum of feminism? The movement had begun by his own day and he gave speeches on women and education and discussed what he considered to be the aims of feminists in these. He had feminists friends: he loved one dearly and her name was Kate Field. By what Trollope said explicitly in these lectures, neither Mrs Proudie nor the Signora Neroni qualify as feminists. Trollope's feminists are mostly caricatures: Wallachia Petrie (He Knew He Was Right) and Baroness Banmann (Is He Popenjoy?) These are notoriously harsh depictions of women who go about lecturing to other women to tell them marriage is a trap; they must have professions and careers of their own; a woman should seek to fulfill herself as an individual, her gifts and values first. Men are people who prey on women, who use and exploit them. Now much of the rhetoric given the above women reveals them as women who don't like sex -- that eliminates the Signora Neroni. Wally and the Baroness don't like men, but then men aren't keen on them either. In fact Trollope seems to centre feminism as he understands it as anti-sex and anti-marriage. He has some highly unsympathetic unfavorable portraits of women who call themselves feminists though they don't run about the world lecturing: e.g, Francesca Altifiorla who argues strenuously she will never marry, she will never be under a man's thumb. Trouble is when a rich man suddenly asks her to marry him, she is willing (for the money and position); when he dumps her, she returns to her 'feminism'.

In short Trollope regards feminists as women who think like my group 1) and 3, with some admixture in all of them of 3a). I'll reprint my descriptions of these groups: to Trollope feminists are women who look for power for individuals, for money, and women who want radical change in attitudes towards sex; Trollope sees feminists as women who look upon marriage as a disaster for women and who want power in the arrangement, equal power. Implied in some of what Wally and Miss Altifiorla say is the idea that marriage is a form of prostitution and the sexual encounter as a form a rape.

Now this is an idea that comes to many of Trollope's women: Lady Glencora says she has been sold like a beast to Plantagenet; Alice Vavasour wants equal rights to say what her life shall be like in her relationship with John Grey. Feminists have written books about Trollope's women which argue Trollope was an unconscious feminist -- because he has so many women who kick against the pricks of marriage and so many men who are sympathetic and decent and regard marriage as a friendship in which both must be fulfilled. But Trollope's implicit feminists are not women who seek power outside marriage, not women who bully their husbands and dominate their children, seeking to sell them for position and money. They are characters like Lady Glen and Alice, Clara Amedroz (The Belton Estate); Caroline Waddington (The Bertrams), Miss Forrest in 'A Journey to Panama' is perhaps one of Trollope's most beautiful portraits of this type who cries out she is not to be sold by her family, not to be erased, not to be used. Jane Nardin's book identifies and discusses a host of these types very well. He has very sympathetic portraits of old maids: Priscilla Stanbury says she doesn't marry because she doesn't want to obey a man. She is liked by Trollope.

So in a way Mrs Proudie can qualify as a feminist as understood in modern terms and as presented by Trollope since she bucks her husband's power; seeks to dominate people outside her family; seeks to create a network of power over many. She is an anti-sex figure, against pleasure; later we will see that after she and the poor Bishop come down from the bedroom he is often particularly cowed. But in Trollope's terms she is not explicitly feminist since she is adamently for the status quo. I would add her adherence to the status quo is for her another weapon for controlling others, but that does not make her any the less for her having authority over her children and anyone else in her household who comes her way. This is a stretch for it makes a character type a feminist and Lady Aylmer then becomes a feminist as understood in modern terms and Trollope's presentation of her domineering and grasping ambition.

Perhaps the Signora Neroni cannot qualify for she uses her sex to entrance. She has no ambitions, no desire for power over others. She is willing to be a sex object in male fantasies. She doesn't network. She doesn't want to educate herself to better herself (which Trollope identifies as feminist and some of his females read). She doesn't have political opinions (which Mrs Proudie does and Trollope identifes as feminist) The Signora is subversive of most of the upbeat aims of feminists. In fact she and her delightful brother are the radicals of the book -- different kinds of radicals from our Mr Harding. We can however bring the Signora into our umbrella of modern attitudes by emphasising her crippled & poverty-striken state: I am one of those who read Trollope's somewhat ambiguous words about her crippling as indicating her husband beat her and it was he who destroyed her legs. She lives upon her father and her family. She needs Charlotte desperately. She is really a victim of patriarchy. She cannot get off her couch. Bertie must move it for her. But of course to use the word 'victim' of the Signora brings home to us how Trollope can show us how some personalities can exploit a weakness and turn it into a kind of strength. No one thinks of the Signora as a victim in this book -- her strength is one of her inward character which is where it finally counts for Trollope.

I apologize for going on for so long. I hope this laying out of terms and suggestions for ways of discussing and clarification of all our attitudes will help us as we move not only through this novel but the other Barsetshire books. We don't want again to struggle with the Signora as we did over Dr Grantly.

Ellen Moody

There was some debate on Bishop Proudie which seemed simlarly about to go on too strongly.

To Trollope-l

July 22, 1999

RE: Barchester Towers: Bishop Proudie

I'd like to suggest that Dr Proudie is presented to us in terms of a past history of continual trimming. This is in contradistinction to Trollope's own life in politics and his essays: in his political essays and behavior at Beverly, Trollope took sides, and he did so firmly and emphatically. In the Palliser novels his intense dislike of Daubeny (=Disraeli) is again and again connected to Daubeny not caring about the issues, not taking sides except when taking a side means staying in power.

The key or idea which informs Trollope's characters is often to be found in their initial introduction when that introduction is a set portrait -- as it often is in the earlier books. We get a set-portrait of Mr Harding, Bold, Grantly, and Towers as each is introduced to us in The Warden. We get set portraits of the Proudies and Slope in these first six chapters. Dr Proudie is placed before us in Chapter 3. There we are told through a variety of particulars that the whole of Dr Proudie's public life has been that of a man who doesn't take sides, except as in each particular case it becomes clear whose side is going to win or is finally in charge by which is meant the side able to give out plums and control the direction a debate is going in. The first thing we are told about him upon our introduction is he is a man who cares about forms; he cares about his and the dignity of others; he lives his life in such a way as to keep the ceremonies by which those on top maintain their apparent specialness from the rest of us intact, untouched (Penguin Barchester Towers ed RGilmour, pp 15-16). He is himself distantly related to an Irish baron (on the mother's side); his wife is the niece of a Scotch earl (the attitude we are to take to pride in such a lineage may be found in Virginia Woolf's acute piece in The Common Reader 'The Niece of an Earl'). Such people know ceremonies matter; it's their weapon in the game of intimidation. They have no big income and no title of their own.

We then get six paragraphs in which we are shown that in controversy after controversy, political action and committee after political action and committee, no matter what these are, Dr Proudie makes himself 'useful' to those in power and who put him on their committees and becomes a 'rising' man therefor. He is an exemplar of worldly accommodation (pp. 16-17). To jump ahead, what is in fact wrong by which in the real world we don't mean morally wrong but undiplomatic, not prudent, running against his own interests with Slope's speech is that he offends all the powerful people in church that day. The narrator tells us that for the day Slope rivets everyone into listening to him, they fear him, but that he may have made a serious mistake in the long run. In fact the last paragraph of Ch 6 (War) depicts the Bishop with his hair almost standing on end in terror; this is not how the Bishop has risen at all.

After regaling us with the quietly ironic tale of the Bishop's trimming, Trollope tells us the Bishop thinks now at least he will get his reward. His time has come, but what in fact he envisages is more toleration. He will within what the establishment allows tolerate. There is no principle here but the same as the above: don't rock the boat, anything for a quiet life, and very importantly this is the way up -- for the narrator now tells us the Bishop doesn't envisage spending much time in Barchester. 'No! London should still be his ground' (p. 18). His longing to be in the Big Pond and determination to keep to his trimming may make us wonder how he intends to enjoy his power. Certainly his idea of enjoyment is not in feeling his control over others; it seems rather in presenting himself to the world as an honorable and rich man. He envisages parties to which he will invite 'fashionable people'; he will be an exemplar of hospitality (p. 18).

This is a very realistic picture of the kind of people who still get into powerful positions. It explains how they get there or why they chose to bother with the work of politics: they are people who are not Top Dogs, but their supporters and hangers-on (Slope is a man hanging on by his fingers to a raft attached to the Bishop). They care far more about rising, pleasing, the ceremonies of lies (as Halperin puts it in his book on Trollope's politics) than any reform or good that might happen to any groups of people their actions might affect. It explains to us why governments often do nothing but what is to the advantage of the people in positions of power and relative power.

The difference between the portrait of Daubeny and Dr Proudie comes first from their appearing in different books: Dr Proudie belongs to a series of books which dwell on how religious beliefs affect our inward lives. I won't go on to the Pallisers, just say very generally these books center on the social lives of English aristocrats and their connections and hangers-on who are all professional politicans based in London. The mood of the two series is different: Barsetshire is much more genial; Trollope is not in this book skewering the amoral behavior which he depicts, but rather holding it up for our amusement. The tone is one of delectation. The leading types of the series are also not that realistic: Grantly, the Proudies, Harding too, Slope, the Ullathornes all remain types. As Trollope proceeds he gets into in-depth psychology, but that's to come in Dr Thorne. Thus we laugh with serious undertones at Proudie because we are not persuaded -- as yet -- of the full burden of humanity he carries. Of that we will be persuaded in The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire. Still the pattern of the character and moral point of view which guides the shaping is that which lies behind Daubeny.

How does this relate to Mrs Proudie? Coleridge said genius brought together things people don't usually bring together (that's a paraphrase in easy language but it's accurate). Trollope has had the genius to see that the trimmer in life is often the man who submits to people at home because one source of amorality and desire for personal comfort and the flattery and security offered to individuals by adhering to ceremony is anxiety over how others will respond to us, fear of others, need for their validation of ourselves. The man who submits in politics will often be the man who is henpecked by women, who will in all relationships of life not be the master but the servant. Again and again great novels show us that in any given pair of people no matter what social roles they are given and named -- husband and wife, master and man, lady and maid -- the one who has a drive to dominate will be the master. The so-called servant in many relationships ends up the master; the two people are always engaged in a fascinating game of political give-and-take. That's why we like master-and-man, lady-and-maid couples.

I would not turn to the large generalities Sig does because I'm not sure that in the 19th century people thought this way except when asked in church or in grand terms about relationships between people. In Trollope's novels he does not come at us through these generalities. I agree he blames the Bishop, but at the same time feels for him, compassionates him in ways he does not feel for Slope or Mrs Proudie. I suggest Trollope's censure of the Bishop is rooted in the Bishop's indifference to anything but his own comfort. He is avoiding his responsibility not just as a man but as a human being who luck has placed in power to others. He is a 'compliant tool' (a phrase used in the Pallisers of men like him, and by other characters in other books who are dominating types). I suggest also Trollope's ironic sympathy for the Bishop is rooted in the psychological reasons for the Bishop's indifference. Trollope repeated shows human relationships in terms of a struggle for dominance, and repeated shows intense pity for the diffident, vulnerable, for those who want love and would give it were they given the chance. The Bishop is not presented to us much in his private capacity except as we see him emerge from his bedroom cowed, but he is shown to be someone similar to all those many characters of Trollope's who are unwilling to impose themselves on others because they are not sure they are right and because they are fearful of the consequences of such imposition as it will reverberate on themselves.

Not a hero, no. The Bishop is not a hero. But he is given great sympathy and understanding -- especially as we see him in the last book, The Last Chronicle -- as Mrs Proudie is only in her last moments given a modicum of sympathy. Trollope will enter into Slope's case at the close of this novel sympathetically, but it's interesting how we have gotten excited at his unsympathetic portrait of an aggressive woman but have not gotten excited at the class-prejudice which is part of the basis for his portrait of Slope. Slope is greasy; he has crude manners; he comes from low-class people. Oh Yuk (joke alert). There were people on our list who objected to the class prejudice of Trollope's portrait of fundamentalist evangelicals in Rachel Ray. Would anyone like to class Trollope unfair, injust, a snob now? Or at least say a word about poor Slope as Trollope's version of a Uriah Heep type?

Ellen Moody

To Trollope-l

July 22, 1999

Re: Barchester Towers and 'The Character of a Trimmer'

Someone asked me off-list if I would explain the words 'trimmer' and trimming' as I used them of Dr, now Bishop Proudie. I think this is a good question because the word 'trimmer' became current around the time people in England started to differentiate the political as well as religious outlook of political groups as high and low church, with their attendant respective associations of high and low class.

The word nowadays has come to mean (I cite the Concise Oxford): 'hold a middle course in politics or opinion; attach oneself to temporarily prevailing views, or neither of contending parties; be a time-server'. My guess is the metaphor derives from sailing terminology: one adjusts the balance of one's ship by distribution of the ballast and arrangement of the sails to suit the prevailing winds. A secondary related modern usage is a state of fitness or readiness: you are trim, adjusted and suitable for use.

It seems to first have become popular, even a cliché, when George Savile, first Marquis of Halifax wrote a long sketch called 'The Character of a Trimmer' (1688). The story goes that an extremist Tory, Sir Roger L'Estrange hurled the epithet 'trimmer' at Halifax when he attempted consistently, stubbornly to moderate the extremist positions of the time (the Catholic Duke of York, later James II, versus the 'radical' or anti-monarchical but Anglican Whigs). At the time 'characters' were popular: these were sketches of types of people meant to amuse as well define people in terms of the social roles and moral types they fit into. Halifax rose to the occasion turning this derogatory word into a word of praise by writing an exquisitely turned piece of prose in praise of trimming, i.e., toleration, moderation, reasonableness, and, in Halifax's version at least, independence. Halifax's prose is graceful, supple, light, witty, yet weighty.

Alas, although Halifax is remembered for this piece (and also A Lady's New-Year's Gift, or Advice to a Daughter) and credited with helping to save the British throne (if you like the word credited) by his resolute opposition to the Exclusion Bill when Parliament was attempting to exclude the man who became James II, the word 'trimmer' kept its negative associations.

It was also in this period that the terms high v low church first appeared, and the earliest ribald and sneering class-based mockery of low-church practices emerged. Before the decade leading into the Civil War, the Anglican Church was actually in tendency and doctrine leaning heavily towards Protestant beliefs as these were understood by Renaissance theologians. The more radical groups within the church were 'high' and more egalitarian practices were practiced by powerful, rich, well-educated, influential people. It was really in the 1620s that the association of working-class and fundamentalist emerged as the reality of low-church practices was democratic, anti-monarchical, and its emotionalism and simplicity appealed to those artisans and other semi-educated people who had begun to read the Bible on their own. John Bunyan is the result of this transformation. The poem which mocked such people in terms Trollope would understand and includes Slope as a type is a parodic Don Quixote story in doggerel verse called Hudibras by Samuel Butler (1678). It opens thus:

When civil fury first grew high,
And men fell out, they knew not why;
When hard words, jealousies, and fears
Set folks together by the ears
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
For Dame Religion as for a punk ...

Shakespeare's Malvolio who thinks because he is virtuous there should be no cakes and ales becomes an absurd, half-educated crude knight who we are told is

... of that stubborn crew
Of errants saints whom all men grant
To be the truth church militant:
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun ...
A godly, thorough reformation,
Which always must be carried on
And still be doing, never done,
As if religion were intended
For nothing else, but to be mended.

Arabin uses the phrase 'church militant' in defense of himself when Eleanor says, "I never saw anything like you clergymen ... you are always thinking of fighting one another'. Arabin only admits to the doctrinal struggle; it is also a class-, rank- and property-based one. It is also struggle between those who sympathise with a secular outlook and its pleasures and those who have come to be called work-ethic puritans (as in Weber and Tawney's books). In Barchester Towers we do have representatives of the secular outlook and its pleasures: Bertie and our Signora. And Slope is drawn to our Signora like a fly to a honeypot.

There is an excellent book by Christopher Herbert, Trollope and Comic Pleasure in which Herbert explains the Trollope's intense hostilty to the Slopes and Mrs Proudies of his novels in terms of a deeply hedonistic and charitable impulse in Trollope himself, one which Herbert sees as at the heart of Trollope's use of comic structure and the character types he invents. I was reading an interesting book tonight, Hugh Hennedy's Unity in Barsetshire and he mentions how often Trollope cites Milton's 'Lycidas' a poem about how a man has to choose between a sincere adherence to a passionately true and useful vocation and the necessity of holding a position in the world to work it out.

So we can come at this apparently light comic novel in many ways. No wonder Barchester Towers became, as Trollope says in An Autobiography a novel which serious and novel readers felt called upon to and still do read (An Autobiography, ed M Sadleir and F Page, Ch 6, p. 104)

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

John Dwyer publicly complimented me:

john dwyer

"From: Ellen Moody
"Someone asked me off-list if I would explain the words 'trimmer' and trimming' as I used them of Dr, now Bishop Proudie."

Dear Ellen:

This is a very fine post that I have stored for future reference. One might add an allusion to Sterne's Corporal Trim. After the great tragedy of Dr. Slop's obstetrical diminution of the infant's nose, the further tragic misnaming of Tristram:

No!-'tis not my fault, said Susannah-I told him it was Tristram-gistus (instead of Hermes Trismegistus).

-Make tea for yourself, brother Toby, said my father, taking down his hat-but how different from the sallies and agitations of voice and members which a common reader would imagine!

-For he spake in the sweetest modulation--and took down his hat with the gentlest movement of limbs, that ever affliction harmonized and attuned together.

-Go to the bowling-green for corporal Trim, said my uncle Toby, speaking to Obadiah, as soon as my father left the room. (Tristram Shandy, Odyssey Press, 1940. 4.14.288)

I cannot help but think [Locke's Association of Ideas at work] of Dr/Bishop Proudie's sharpness of nose giving an air of insignificance to his features. His mouth and chin greatly redeemed it; but compared to a nose. . . . And by whom is he trimmed? "The truth is that in matters domestic [Mrs. Proudie] rules supreme over her titular lord, and rules with a rod of iron. . . . Not satisfied with such home dominion [she]stretches her power over all his movements, and will not even abstain from things spiritual" (Macy, 1958. 3.24).

John Dwyer

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