The Duke’s Children (Chapters 6-10)

The above image is of the frontpage of the magazine All The Year Round in which The Duke’s Children was serialised in weekly parts from October 1879 to July 1880 – by which time the three volume edition by Chapman and Hall was also published. You will note the prominence of Charles Dickens’ name on the magazine cover. Though he had been dead ten years by the time his son, and namesake, commissioned Trollope to write The Duke’s Children, it was the elder Dickens rather than the younger (who replaced him as editor), whose reputation largely still supported sales of the magazine.

The original opening paragraph of chapter six was cut and its restoration reveals that Silverbridge preferred to meet Major Tifto for dinner at the Beargarden rather than dine with his father.  This ducking of the expected confrontation with the Duke shows Silverbridge is in awe of his father and not yet ready to face him at the first opportunity. The reader therefore loses an important benchmark against which the younger man’s growth and increasing maturity may be measured over the course of the novel.

The cut also misses the opportunity for a direct comparison of the relative strength of mind at this point of Silverbridge and his political mentor, and Lady Mary’s would be fiance, Frank Tregear. The latter’s greater maturity shown by his willingness to tackle the Duke head on at the earliest opportunity, even though he fully expects his proposal to be rejected, would have been clearly marked had the two scenes been left juxtaposed to one another in successive chapters.

This restoration also reveals that Silverbridge sponsored Tifto’s application to join the club, indicating a closer relationship between the two than was apparent in the cut version at this stage.

The new edition also restores two cuts which are telling in their description of Tifto’s insinuating character. One describes how he would frequently adjust what he said and how he said it – to the point of backing down even when he knew he was right (pun intended!) – when talking to ingratiate himself with the rich young men upon whom he preyed.  He would practise his arts to inveigle his way into their company and lead them wittingly or unwittingly to spend their money in ways that were to his benefit, even if only indirectly. The second restoration explicitly states that Tifto is often successful with women.  This makes his shameless name-dropping boasts of his intimacy with many women, I choose my words carefully, more of a case of exaggeration than mere empty or idle bragging that it might otherwise appear in the cut version.

Chapter seven sees the restoration of one of the biggest cuts so far with a paragraph more than half a page in length being reinstated. This paragraph states that Silverbridge “was not afraid of his father, – who had in truth always been indulgent to him; but he had taught himself to think that fixed conversations with his father were disagreeable and should if possible be avoided.” This reveals much about both the father and son and their relationship. The Duke is shown to be an absent father – absent emotionally that is (at least as much as physically) during the crucial years of his son’s adolescent development. This adds to the reader’s understanding of why both men repress, or at least fail to express, their feelings for each other.

Two short cuts in the closing paragraphs are also telling when restored. The Duke is described as pausing, both for effect and to enable him to choose his words carefully before he “very solemnly” gives his instructions to Silverbridge on how he must distance himself from Tregear going forward. This emphasises the very painstaking nature of the Duke in all his dealings with his children – or indeed anyone who is his social inferior – which is just about anybody apart from the immediate royal family. Only then is Silverbridge “allowed to take his departure”, demonstrating how great is the power exercised by the Duke with such care and caution.

The restored cuts in chapter eight are all short but in this unhappiest of episodes, reveal more the deep hurt  both father and daughter endure during their conversation. Mary is described as “beaten down” in spite of her strength of purpose by the depth of her father’s opposition to her chosen suitor while her father is seen to have undergone the pangs that every father must feel when his precious daughter  tells him she loves a man and, thereby announces her sexual maturity.  Each father feels in his heart of hearts that no man can ever be truly fit to marry his daughter and take him away from him in this way.

The restored chapter concludes with the final image not of the daughter banished to her room, as it does in the cut version, but of her father “left alone in his unhappiness” – surely a more insightful perspective on the sorry position they have reached.

Chapter nine starts with nearly a page of authorial intervention, commenting on the writing process and giving the pros and cons of leaping straight into the middle of the story – the chapter’s title is Latin for “in the middle of things”. Trollope uses the analogy of putting the cart before the horse and this is carried through into subsequent comments in successive paragraphs which demonstrate his point that such an approach necessitate back-filling of detail – which he refers to as describing parts of the horse’s anatomy a piece at a time. Arguably all of this and the subsequent references are padding which could easily be excised without loss to the story’s development.  Yet Trollope cut a mere three lines of it and kept all the subsequent equine allusions in which he speaks in his conversational narrator’s voice directly to his readers. This seems almost perverse, in retrospect, if the objective when making the cuts was simply to reduce the word-count with minimum damage to plot and character.

The chapter ends with another substantial restoration which describes the conversation that takes place between Silverbridge and Tregear as they make their way home after dinner at the home of the Grex family. During this apparently casual chat Tregear makes a concerted effort to pair off Silverbridge with Mabel Grex.  Such patent match-making may indicate a genuine desire on Tregear’s part to bring together two friends who he believes would be ideally suited to one another but, given the Grex family is as staunchly Conservative as the Palliser family is historically staunchly Liberal, it is not without political implications, tying as it would, Silverbridge more firmly to the Conservative cause. This cannot but be to Tregear’s political advantage bearing in mind the political “triangle” with Tregear and the Duke vying for Silverbridge’s political soul.

Having just attributed a possible underhand motive for Tregear’s matchmaking efforts, the restored cut ends with Tregear confessing to Silverbridge that he would rather not go on to the club as he is “a little out of sorts about [his] own affairs”, displaying a vulnerability which the otherwise apparently strong-minded Tregear rarely shows.

There are no large cuts in chapter ten but two of the small cuts now restored shed further light on the character of Mabel Grex.

The first is an assertion by Miss Cassewary, disdainfully contradicted by Mabel, that she is afraid of her father and what he thinks. It is the disdain with which she rejects the idea that is so telling in a novel about inter-generational conflict.

The second is a short authorial intervention which now forms the restored penultimate paragraph. Trollope speaks to his readers directly, challenging them that they, and in particular the women readers, would disapprove of Mabel’s suppression of her true feelings for sordid financial reasons.  Trollope recognises that this was an unrealistic expectation for his readers to have and one which they would not hold to for application in their own everyday lives if they were honest with themselves. He pointedly supports her acting as she believes she must in recognising the real-life constraints that apply to her hopes and expectations even in the face of such audience disapproval.

So we have reached the end of the first ten chapters and the story is beginning to move along after the characters have all been properly introduced in turn.  Once again the restored cuts have added significant nuances to round out the characters of the key players – including some secondary characters such as Major Tifto who will have important roles in the later plot developments without ever being the key protagonists in whom the readers are most interested.

Most bizarre though, to my mind, has been Trollope’s retention in the shortened version of nearly a page of authorial intervention – a meta-commentary that anticipates modernist and post-modernist writers who acknowledge the make believe nature of their creation even within it.  This technique is one of which Trollope is clearly very fond so that he chooses to leave in such a large aside comment that neither adds to the plot development or to the readers’ understanding of his characters and their own development even at the expense of making cuts elsewhere which do impinge on one or other of these areas.



1 Comment

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One response to “The Duke’s Children (Chapters 6-10)

  1. Glenn Shipway

    Well said, Mark!

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