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.