Monthly Archives: August 2015

Trollope Pops Up on the SS Great Britain

  
Travelling first class of course. Some 145 years after he last was aboard for a voyage to Australia to visit his son Fred. During that voyage he wrote the novel Lady Anna which culminated in the eponymous heroine making the self same voyage to emigrate with her new husband, the tailor Daniel Thwaite. 

He enjoyed every comfort on board…

  
But he found time to inspect the conditions of those who were travelling steerage…

  
One view he would not have had on his original voyage – the bow seen from below the waterline in the massive dry dock purpose built for her construction. 

  
In truth he was glad to be back on dry land (although he did not let sea-sickness interfere with his writing schedule). 

  

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The Duke’s Children (Chapters 1-5)

The above image is of the opening page of the manuscript of The Duke’s Children. It shows that even the very first paragraph was not immune to the dramatic cuts called for by Trollope’s publishers.

It is an intimidating prospect to attempt a close reading of a 702 page novel. It is an even more intimidating prospect to do so in parallel with its 506 page original version for the purposes of comparison. Let it be clearly understood: I am intimidated.

For the record I am comparing the new Folio Society edition of The Duke’s Children with the Oxford World Classics paperback version of the original which comes with excellent explanatory notes into which I can delve as if I didn’t have enough material to tackle. By way of back up, I am also using the Delphi Complete Works of Anthony Trollope e-book edition, which of course includes The Duke’s Children, for cross-checking purposes.

So we come to my first quibble with the new edition. In Chapter 1 we are confronted with an American spelling of “somber” rather than the English “sombre” which Trollope would have conventionally used. If this is to be the definitive edition then I feel English spellings would be more appropriate.

The restoration of the final paragraph of Chapter 1 does demonstrate the power of this new edition. We discover that in spite of the still prickly relationship between Plantagenet Palliser and Mrs Finn, he defers to her to have a discussion with his daughter Mary on the possibility of her going to stay with Mrs Cantrip rather than doing so himself and does so after wryly admitting he would be poor company for the girl with self-deprecating humour cut from the previously available version.

The second chapter restores two cuts which shed significant extra light on the character of Lady Mary. The first of these, continuing a description of the physical and character similarities between Lady Glencora and her daughter, goes on to say that “the daughter was the image of the mother …[but] both in manner and appearance the copy excelled the original.” Praise indeed to exceed the glory of one who is arguably Trollope’s finest female creation.

The second significant restoration is again final paragraphs cut from the chapter. These reveal that Lady Mary did not even know Tregear’s address in London to which the note might be sent and so clearly was behaving in just the “delicate” manner that her father might have wished. So the note has to be sent to the only possible address known for him, at his club. (Which, of course, is not really the proper sort of address for a gentleman to use – a lost piece of evidence that might further lower him in the father’s eyes and, not incidentally, those of the respectable reader.)

Chapter 3, being slightly shorter, suffered less in the way of cuts but the restorations show more clearly that Trollope set up a second triangle of affections. Not only does Frank Tregear act as a lover to draw Lady Mary from her father and, of course, her “proper” place in life, he also forms with the Duke another contest for the political heart and soul of Lord Silverbridge.

The restorations make clear that Tregear and Silverbridge returned to England together, before the main family party indicating a stronger bond between them than would be imlied had they returned separately as might be inferred from the shorter version. And in a cut immediately before the final sentence, we lost a description by Silverbridge of how powerful an influence his father is over him when he describes how the Duke’s short ticking off of him for getting sent down from Oxford “took the very life out of me”.

Possibly the most significant restoration in this chapter though is the lengthy description of how deeply ingrained is the Duke’s Liberal creed when he learns that Silverbridge intends to stand on the Conservative side even as the future head of what has always been a Whig/Liberal voting family. This defection, which the Duke attributes to Tregear’s influence, is at the heart of this triangle.

In Chapter 4 we learn from the restored cuts that not only Tregear, but also Lady Glencora fear the Duke’s bark and it is at her express suggestion, as a result of this fear, that Tregear has not done the proper thing and approached the Duke when first he and Lady Mary fell in love. It seems even from the grave her well-meaning interventions will again fall foul of the Duke’s principles.

This chapter principally shows the skirmishing between Mrs Finn and Tregear over when he ought to tell the Duke and put his position in respect of Lady Mary on a proper footing. The restored cuts show that at the start of the interview both parties are reluctant to get down to brass tacks and each waits for the other to show their hand. A short cut, restored, makes clear that Tregear is very unsure of his position vis-a-vis the Duke by adding that his response to a question from Mrs Finn that they have never been enemies was made by “the young man laughing”. Coupled with another restored cut at the end in which Mrs Finn observes Tregear is a “Silly boy!”, the reader is drawn into Mrs Finn’s perspective on the young suitor, that he lacks the gravitas and stature that ought to be expected of a prospective husband for Lady Mary,however much he might love her.

Chapter 5 is crucial to the development of the plot and so suffers less in the way of substantive cuts. Nevertheless, the restorations shed greater light on subtle but important areas of insight, or lack of them, of the two lovers into the thinking of the Duke. Lady Mary, we discover, understands her father better than almost anyone else, in spite of her young age. She sees that he would not “allow him[self] to swerve a tittle either to the left or right, even where by doing so he could serve his own dearest interests.” This is later evidenced when even in his anger at Frank he recognises that there is dignity about him in facing up to a man such as the Duke knows himself to be which makes him more worthy of respect and as a potential suitor than he is as yet willing to concede.

Conversely we learn that Frank misinterprets the Duke’s anger when it is revealed that Mrs Finn is also aware of the relationship. Frank takes this to mean that the Duke has not liked Mrs Finn whereas it is the much more powerful feeling of having been betrayed by her after accepting her into his family which the Duke actually feels.  This crucial difference will have implications for just how far the Duke will be just to Mrs Finn as his daughter believes he would be.

Which brings me to the end of the first five chapters. Only seventy five to go… Still intimidated but clearly getting the feeling that the restored cuts are adding significantly to my understanding of the subtle nuances of the relationships – setting up an alternative eternal triangle for the political heart of Silverbridge and showing more deeply how the Duke’s political convictions are such a driving force in his actions.

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Last Terry Pratchett Novel Published

  
So that’s it. 41 Discworld novels. That’s arguably an even more sustained alternative reality than Barsetshire. 

Terry Pratchett died earlier this year and so there will be no more. 

Bookshops opened at midnight and fans queued for their copy. 

If pushed, my favourite is still Mort featuring Death on his horse Binky. 

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Anthony Trollope Society Facebook Group reaches 900 members

Actually it’s already 901 members but that’s because it’s growing too fast for the headlines to keep up.

The group is very active, discussing all things pertaining to Trollope though if the link is sometimes tenuous or tangential no-one cares if it is an interesting discussion.

Online shared readings are a big part of the activities of the group.  The latest was a reading of Miss Mackenzie which finished just this week. The participants take turns to “lead” the discussions providing a precis of two or three chapters and stimulating discussion with questions or views on what they have just read. Members are welcome to come along for the read or to join the conversation and air their views.

Members also share any Trollope sightings – references to Trollope that they encounter in everyday life – be it other books they are reading, magazines or online articles.

The group is very friendly – in fact, I would say it is one of the friendliest places on Facebook – not that this inhibits the discussions – disagreement and debate is encouraged, but everyone respects others’ views and opinions – shouting down just doesn’t happen. The latest discussion is on the pronunciation of the name “Proudie” (with a surprise suggestion that it might rhyme with “prude” and be one of those Victorian type names that give a clue to the character).

If you are even remotely interested in Trollope (and why would you be here if you weren’t at least a little bit) then why not give it a try:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204719953/

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The Duke’s Children: Introduction

Professor Steven Armanick describes in the Introduction to the Commentary companion volume to the new full-length edition of The Duke’s Children both the mechanism by which Trollope made the cuts to the original and the impact of those cuts.

Trollope was forever looking to the future, the next novel he was to write, the next journey he was to undertake.  It was as if his energy could not be contained in the moment and had to find outlet in projecting himself into his own future.  This made him a poor proof-reader of his own works once they had been transcribed from his own, by late middle-age, appalling handwriting and set for printing. He was too impatient to be on with the next project. It must, therefore, have been dreadful to him to go back over a long novel, already in his mind completed, and make the drastic revisions required of him by his publishers.

Nor was this work for a single publisher.  The needs of serial publication in the weekly editions of All The Year Round were different from the needs of an audience reading the novel complete in volume form and in isolation from other surrounding articles and series. Thus there were differences between the cut version for serialisation and the cut version for three volume publication by Chapman and Hall.

Thus, Trollope was forced to contrive some means by which he could make the cuts which while decisive was not to be irrevocable. Armanick speculates that Trollope harboured hopes that there might come a time when the cuts he was making on grounds of expedience to please his current publishers might be restored. Inevitably this approach brought its own casualties with confusions sometimes arising at the typesetting stage of the 1880 volume edition arising out of those working on it having two, possibly conflicting sources, the manuscript from Trollope and the magazine edition already published in 1879.

Trollope, when correcting his manuscripts, invariably had crossed out using dense “wavy” lines.  These all but obscured the words to be excised. This is fine when seeking to produce a definitive manuscript text but when called upon to make further cuts to reduce this novel from four volumes to three, a different method was called for which could distinguish for Trollope between those cuts he had made already for his own artistic reasons and these new cuts imposed upon him for what he might regard as purely commercial considerations. Not that Trollope considered himself above commercial considerations, no author was more aware than Trollope that his purpose in writing was to earn his living and so he could not be precious about his words on those grounds.

So it was that Trollope devised a second type of “cut”, indicated by a single strike-through of the words to be removed. This, for the most part, left the original more or less legible beneath the strike-through. For longer sections, it was possible to mark the beginning and end of the section to be cut and apply a single X shaped cross through the whole to indicate it was to go.

However, some of this cuts necessitated new additions to paraphrase more succinctly the words removed in order to preserve the sense of the material remaining. This presents the would be re-constructor with a serious challenge for these additions are difficult to distinguish from other additions and insertions made earlier for different reasons.  In trying to recreate the original it is necessary to both restore the cuts and remove the additions that were replacements made for the cut sections but not remove other additions made for what might be termed “artistic” reasons.

Reading Armanick’s Introduction one begins to appreciate the enormity of the task he and his colleagues faced.

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Lady Anna: All At Sea – a review of the new play

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Lady Anna: All at Sea is a new play by Craig Baxter and directed by Colin Blumenau at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London. It is based on Trollope’s novel Lady Anna and juxtaposes scenes of Trollope with his wife and fellow travellers on a voyage to Australia aboard the SS Great Britain during which he is writing the novel with the novel’s story of love across class boundaries in the uptight Victorian world where love is often secondary to making a suitable match. In this case, the suitable match is between Lady Anna and the young Earl Lovel.

Their situation is complicated by the legal wrangling between their respective families over whether or not she is the legitimate daughter of the previous Earl (the new Earl’s uncle) – in which case she inherits the Lovel fortune – or not – in which case she is penniless and the new Earl inherits both title and money. The lawyers for his family determine that their case is weak and so their client’s best interests might be served by a marriage to the daughter on the other side – thereby bringing the fortune to the new Earl anyway.

In this context, the younger generation play second fiddle to the older generation. Caroline Langrishe playing the Countess Lovel – Lady Anna’s mother, whose marriage to the previous Earl is in question (was he or was he not already married to an Italian woman at the time of their wedding) – dominates the stage. She is by turns incandescent in fury at her daughter for refusing to renounce an engagement she has entered into with Daniel Thwaite, the son of a tailor (who has spent all of his own money in aiding the Countess and Lady Anna), and movingly touched with gratitude at the old tailor’s generosity for his support and friendship when she has been destitute and shunned by her husband’s peers. Hers is by far the strongest part and she is the inevitable focal point whenever she appears.

Langrishe also plays Mrs Trollope in the scenes on board the SS Great Britain and here too she enjoys a strongly written part – Mrs Trollope is jealous of her position as her husband’s amanuensis and is outraged at her maid Isabella for the affrontery of usurping her in this role for a chapter set by Trollope in Isabella’s native Yorkshire for which he asks Isabella’s advice.

Tim Frances, as Trollope, shines more in these scenes than in the main story. Trollope’s larger than life character gives scope for him to break out more than the role of legal counsel. Indeed, these scenes serve both as commentaries on and relief from the intensity of the main plot.

There is also opportunity for Will Rastall to display both his straight and comic skills in the roles of the earnest and radical young tailor to whom Lady Anna has promised her hand and in a cameo as her maid, hired by the still financially embarrassed Countess Lovel to accompany Lady Anna on a visit to her erstwhile enemies when a rapprochement is thought beneficial by both warring parties.

Baxter has succeeded in presenting Trollope’s ambiguity over the respective merits of the radical and conservative positions and throws an interesting light on the possible motivation for Trollope’s decision over which lover Lady Anna should choose in the end – her childhood sweetheart or the new Earl, who is played with appropriate and winning modesty about his personal merits by newcomer Adam Scott-Rowley.

Director Colin Blumenau makes good use of a cleverly sparse, pastel-coloured set design by Libby Watson which features large books that serve as seats, stepping stones or stairs as the play demands. This minimalist approach focuses attention on the players and they rise to the challenge. In a small, even intimate space, surrounded by the audience on three sides, their conviction carries the audience with the performance to its conclusion.

Trollope, notoriously, was cavalier with the traditional writer’s rules for creating and maintaining suspense and frequently gave away the endings of his novels on the basis that he thought it unfair to worry people that the outcome might not be the one for which they hoped.  In this play, where the very fabric of Victorian class society is called into question, Trollope, as presented here through the pen of the playwright, has perhaps wisely eschewed such an approach to screw up the tension to the last scene.

With a running time at a little under two hours, it is an engaging telling of an intriguing storyline. The conflicts are not only across class and generation divides but also within each. There is even room for a commentary on the role of women in a society where they were frequently the pawns of the machinations of those around them whose role, ostensibly, was to protect and look after their interests.

Overall rating: Four Stars

Outstanding performance: Caroline Langrishe as Countess Lovel/Rose Trollope

(Photograph copyright Simon Annand)

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Trollope at Lady Anna: All At Sea Press Night

  
Trollope popped up in the foyer of the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London yesterday evening to attend the press night of the new play Lady Anna: All at Sea

A full review of the play will appear next week but I can say that I enjoyed it and thought the cast made excellent dramatic use of the possibilities offered by the intimate space in this cozy but quirky little theatre. 

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