The Duke’s Children (Chapters 11-15)

When a soldier on the parade ground hears the command “Halt!”, he does not simply cease his forward motion. He comes to a halt with a flourish. There is a flurry of superfluous motion, his arms are slapped to his side,his knee is raised high and his polished right boot is stamped down so that the sound reverberates around the parade ground leaving him positively quivering, standing to attention.

So it is with writers when they come to a halt at the end of a chapter. The ending invariably incorporate some flourish to mark the transition. It may be considered as almost a punctuation mark. Sentences are divide by commas, dashes and semi-colons into separate clauses.  The sentences are combined into paragraphs.  And the paragraphs are grouped into cohesive chapters.

In thrillers, of course, there is the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter, the ratchet to wind up the tension, the artificial break at the crucial moment leaving the reader in suspense and, therefore, teetering on the brink, poised to continue with the novel. Even Trollope, whose every instinct is to eschew such artifice and engage in a genial conversation with his readers, will normally end his chapters with a distinctive concluding paragraph.

This makes the original version of The Duke’s Children and the restored version very different reads because, in so many of the chapters – including chapter eleven – there is a significant cut made to the final paragraph – often it is cut altogether. Thus the pauses in the narrative are somehow a little rushed and premature.

In chapter eleven we lose nearly a page of the Duke’s meditation on whether or not his daughter is justified in calling his actions “cruel”. Given the title of the chapter is “Cruel”, this cut totally changes the tone of the chapter. The restoration shows the Duke arguing with himself that if his decision is right, soundly based and honestly arrived at, then it is justified. And if justified it cannot be cruel.  He is clearly trying to persuade himself of this logic to counter the emotional response he is suffering which makes him feel, against his better judgment as he would think, that he is indeed being cruel and knows it in his heart of hearts. This makes his obdurate approach all the more telling because he clearly suffers as much by the pain he knows he is inflicting as he recognises his daughter is suffering. How much more powerful does this make the story when the characters’ pain is exposed for the reader in this way?

There is also a psychologically more plausible approach to the decision that Lady Mary should go to Richmond and stay with Lady Cantrip. The cut version has this arise by an exchange of letters between the Duke and Lady Cantrip. The restored version has this arise out of conversations which the Duke has with Lord Cantrip who is visiting Matching on political business. How much more like the Duke is it for him to talk man to man with a trusted political colleague of long-standing than to engage in written correspondence on a painful subject with a woman whom he knows only through her husband.

This cut is the first significant example of a plot change, albeit a trivial one, that involves not simply a cut but an insertion of a briefer alternative that changes the story ever so slightly.

Another substantial cut of nearly a page in length in this chapter is a meeting between the Duke and Silverbridge while the Duke is up in London to arrange the details Lady Mary’s visit with Lady Cantrip – the initial discussion with her husband having decided the matter. This discussion covers the fact that the Duke will met Silverbridge’s campaign expenses even though he will stand as a Conservative.  Silverbridge is grateful but they argue because the Duke wishes that no-one should vote for his son simply because he is his son and Silverbridge cannot understand why this deference on the part of the voters so irritates his father. The Liberal father deplores the effect of his own patronage which he cannot avoid exercising simply by being the holder of the title he does; the Conservative son sees no problem with such patronage being exercised by a wealthy, land-owning peer of the realm. The depth of their mutual misunderstanding is brought into sharp relief in this restored cut.

And a little victory for my close reading of the text: I spotted a “humanly” in the new edition that should have been a “humanely” but slipped passed the numerous other people who have read the proofs prior to publication. A tiny typo for correction in the next edition. Picture me, if you will, performing the little air punch…

Chapter twelve also suffers, I choose my words deliberately here, the indignity of the unfortunate cut to the final paragraphs. This time we lose Lady Cantrip’s thoughts on the error of the Duke’s thinking.  Her actions during the chapter show that although the Duke has entrusted Lady Mary to her care as the wife of one of his closest political allies – one hesitates to call any relationship of the Duke’s anything so warm as friendship – she is, if anything, even more minded than Mrs Finn to support the daughter.

These concluding paragraphs in Trollope are almost like his summary and commentary on what has preceded them without the artifical device of the authorial intervention. He is ensuring the readers have got the point and their sympathies lie where he wishes them to as the author. Without them, the cut version begins to feel breathless and rushed when compared to the more expansive and leisurely full text. It is as if there is more room to breathe with the characters in the new edition and more fully experience their lives.

For me though, the most telling restoration in chapter twelve is a short insert which describes what the Duke does when he is up in London which is left unexplained in the cut version. Trollope makes it clear that the Duke feels that “If he could be of any service to the country he ought not, he thought, to allow himself to be hindered by his personal sorrow from performing that service.” He is obviously intent on working through his grief.  He has, in fact, returned to the House of Lords and is sitting once more “in his usual place on the opposition bench”. I am left with this infinitely sad image of this lonely man participating in the work of the House yet not being part of it – alone and untouchable in his unhappiness.

In the short chapter thirteen, Trollope managed to fully a quarter of the chapter by eliminating the back-story of Mrs Finn who is described in the restored cut as “the mysterious widow of an unheard-of husband”. This backstory – condensing all of the parts of Phineas Finn, The Eustace Diamonds, Phineas Redux and The Prime Minister pertaining to Mrs Finn’s history into a single page (who says Trollope is invariably prolix) – written from the Duke’s perspective shows how she came to win his trust and reluctant admiration by always behaving with even more propriety than might be expected from a lady of his class and thus makes clear how great is the fall from grace she experiences in his eyes by returning once again to the status of “mysterious widow of an unheard-of husband” from whom nothing else could ever reasonably have been expected. That she feels this too is revealed in the restoration of further short cuts which focus on her view of the Duke as being the most honest and just of men and so to suffer this injustice at his hands is doubly galling to her.

Poor Mr Du Boung is the principal victim of the cuts in chapter fourteen, though the restorations reveal him to be an even greater pompous ass than he appears the shorter version. His story is no doubt more coherent with the restorations – a restored paragraph explains that he had attempted to stand against Lord Silverbridge in the Silverbridge town’s constituency election and endeavoured to explain to the townsfolk that he, as a Liberal, rather than the Conservative Lord Silverbridge, enjoyed the political support of Lord Silverbridge’s father the Duke of Omnium, who was the landlord of all the constituents.  That this was true failed to convince them.  They were sure in their own minds that the Duke would prefer them to vote for his son. This, readers may recall, was the line which Lord Silverbridge told his father he expected the voters to take, much to his father’s annoyance, in a scene cut from chapter eleven. It appears that for all his political naivety, Lord Silverbridge has greater insight into the characters of men than his more experienced father.

Perhaps the most eloquent restoration in this chapter though, albeit still referring to Mr Du Boung, is a final line in Silverbridge’s letter to his father in which he says “I do not care very much for that Mr Du Boung.” That the son should include that personal comment in a letter to his father on a political matter – his return unopposed as MP for the Silverbridge constituency – reveals how the son can still be almost a little boy when speaking to his father and neither father nor son sees anything untoward in this.  It is really quite touching.

As a point of detail, I  noticed in one of the restored cuts in this chapter, the use of the word “trowser”.  This spelling is one frequently used by Trollope, particularly in his earlier novels. It has since gone out of fashion.

How it must have pained Trollope to make the largest cut that he did in chapter fifteen. It is well known that Trollope thought Lily Dale, some readers’ favourite heroine, something of a prig. I suspect that secretly he was in more than a little in love with his creation Madame Max Goesler who in so many ways is the opposite of Lily Dale. She is “old” – i.e. not in the first bloom of youth, experienced (we suspect in more ways than a Victorian novelist might be able to say in so many words), wise when others around her not (like eventual husband after two long volumes, Phineas Finn, Glencora, her “BFF” – as Glencora herself in this day and age might say – and even the lecherous old Duke who goes so far as to offer marriage to her) and spirited – acting when others vacillate (see again her behaviour in rooting out evidence to prove the innocence of Phineas Finn when he stands accused of murder). So when called upon to make cuts, it would have been the hardest cut of all for him to excise the paragraph early in this chapter which describes how Marie Finn, as she now is, suffers alone the indignity of the Duke’s response to her letter and must unaided contrive a means to respond so as to bring the Duke to understand her actions and and reverse his condemnation of her. That he did so, indicates the strength of mind that Trollope brought to his work. Here was a favourite character yet he could still see that a cut here would serve his larger purpose.

He also makes a short but telling cut in the letter she writes to the Duke, removing a sentence in which Mrs Finn describes how Lady Mary, like all girls, would hope that the course of her love should run – she telling her mother followed by her suitor speaking with her father. Its removal subtly alters the tone of a very important letter (in terms of how this particular dilemma is developed and subsequently resolved). She is no longer shown to be trying to lead the Duke to see his daughter’s romance through his daughter’s eyes – a clever and, in keeping with her insightful character, potentially fruitful approach given her understanding of the Duke’s innate honesty and fair-mindedness. We, and the Duke, lose the message that: yes, to you she is the most precious and unique of daughters, but to her she is a girl in love who wants her romance to come to fruition just like every other girl.

Which brings me in the new Folio Society edition to page 134 of 702 – that is 19% of my way through it – and in my Oxford World’s Classics edition to page 104 of 506 – that is 20.5% of the way through. Which arithmetic tells me I have slightly more substantial cuts to be restored in the middle and end of the book than I have so far seen in the beginning part. We shall see the impact of these as we proceed.

 

 

 

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