The Duke’s Children: Chapters 16-20

The short chapter sixteen suffered little in the way of cuts for the original publication.  The longest single cut is in the opening paragraph where it is revealed that the Duke’s two old adversaries, Sir Timothy Beeswax and Sir Orlando Drought, take upon themselves the honour of acting as Lord Silverbridge’s two supporters as he takes the oath to be sworn in as an M.P. This revelling in the misfortune of the Duke at his son’s apostasy is, however, only tangential to the reader’s understanding of the significance of the son’s desertion of his father’s political cause.

A shorter but more telling restoration qualifies Silverbridge’s assertion in conversation with Lady Mabel Grex that, “my father is a very fine fellow”, which suggests almost hero-worship on the part of the son, with the addition, “though he is so hard and severe.” Clearly the admiration is not unalloyed and there is a feeling on the part of the younger man that his father is less than perfect.  This is a very Trollopian position to take and, by making the son notice this flaw in his father, hints also at the capability of Silverbridge to develop increasing maturity as the story unfolds.

Again in chapter seventeen, it is not the longer cuts that are the most significant. These lengthy but relatively unimportant cuts provide additional details only to round out the information on the clamp down by the Cambridge college authorities on undergraduates bunking off to go to the Epsom Derby race meeting and embellish with practical details the story of the failure of the Duke’s younger son Gerald to catch the intended train back to Cambridge so that his absence during the day is not compounded by the far greater sin of being absent overnight.

The most important cut, now restored, is once again an internal meditation which sheds greater light on a character’s feelings – in the case, Lord Silverbridge pondering on his conduct regarding betting. We are now reminded that, “He had told his father that he didn’t bet much.  He had assured her whom he regarded as the dearest of his friends, Lady Mab, that he did not and would not ‘plunge’.” Not only does this reflection show that Silverbridge is more thoughtful than the cut version might suggest but, by the inclusion of Lady Mab in his thoughts immediately after his father, Trollope implies to the reader that she has almost attained family-level status in Silverbridge’s mind. This makes the later romantic developments deeper and all the more poignant.

There are two sections in chapter eighteen which are subject to substantial cuts – both in terms of actual length and also in terms of their content. Again both these cuts occur at the conclusion of the chapter when Trollope is often trying to drive home crucial points and, therefore, this emphasis may now be lost – or at least diminished. Both the restorations add to the reader’s understanding of the suffering undergone by the Duke.

The first restoration reinstates the Duke’s hopes that becoming an M.P. might be the making of Silverbridge – although he does not expect this to happen overnight. The Duke reflects sadly that Silverbridge appears to treat membership of the House of Commons as being no more important to him than being a member of the Beargarden Club.  Indeed, this direct comparison plays on the popular perception of the House of Commons as being in the final assessment nothing more than a glorified gentlemen’s club.

This is immediately followed by the Duke’s meditation on the response of Lady Cantrip to his request for advice on the question of his daughter and how to respond to Mrs Finn’s letter. A lengthy passage of classical allusions, such as might appeal to the Duke and be instantly recognised by the similarly classically educated male readers in Trollope’s audience, which might be applied to the temerity of Tregear in aspiring to the hand of the Duke’s daughter who is so far above his station in life, is restored.  The strength of Lady Cantrip’s support for Mrs Finn is bolstered by the restorations in this paragraph.  But so too is an important insight into the Duke’s character for it is now stated that in his explanation of the background to Lady Cantrip he set out the position, “with perfect justice and truth” even though he is an interested party in the dispute.  A mere mortal would no doubt be partisan in such an explanation when seeking advice – one might even say arbitration in this case, given the Duke’s willingness to accept her guidance. Yet even though he is wholly of the view that he his side of the case is right nevertheless he cannot but present an unbiased outline even though that might result in a decision from Lady Cantrip which is counter to his own view.  A psychologist might go so far as to suggest that “He Knew He Was Wrong” and was seeking an excuse to change his mind. All this is much clearer in the restored version.

The other long cut is a paragraph which explains that the son, when seeking to excuse his attendance at the Derby mentions that Lord Cantrip and Sir Timothy Beeswax were there. The restoration shows more clearly that Silverbridge was wise to use politicians in his example but should have stopped at the mention of his father’s trusted political ally Lord Cantrip rather than going on to mention his bitter rival Sir Timothy Beeswax. In this we see that Silverbridge, being a younger and less died in the wool partisan politician than his father – regards both equally as senior political figures of equal standing – a view with which his politically Liberal father could not concur. This allows us to see the Duke being unreasonable and obdurate as he then focuses solely on the reference to his hated rival. This, of course, is a wholly realistic depiction of the way anyone would argue at such a time. He concentrates on the reference to Beeswax so as to support his argument and ignores the reference to his friend which would undermine it. How human the Duke suddenly appears in this extended passage.

There is another, shorter cut in the chapter which is also telling. In describing the same argument, Trollope states explicitly that though the Duke is severe as a father, “no father could be less willing to add to any sorrow that his son might feel.” This shows that the Duke is, contrary to opinions expressed elsewhere, almost morbidly sensitive to the feelings of those around him even though he cannot change his actions which give rise to those feelings.

As an aside at this point I will note that I spotted another typo in this chapter.  The word “congregation” is hyphenated as “congre-gation” – presumably as a result of having been at a line break in the source material. Still, that’s only the third such mistake so far which is a pretty good record by any standards.

Chapter nineteen suffers but little from the pruning process it underwent at publication with a single glaring exception. When Lady Mabel unwisely mentions to Silverbridge that “Frank and I are almost beggars”, Silverbridge responds shortly afterwards in the conversation that, “You tell me to my face that you and Tregear would have been lovers only that you are both so poor.” This intuitive leap on his part is a remarkably perceptive inference from such a brief aside. It would seem to indicate that Silverbridge is more insightful into the ways of the world and of women in particular than his conduct and levels of understanding of such things hitherto in the book would imply. It is arguable that this insight is that of a jealous lover but the restored cut sheds a wholly different light on the matter. In the complete text, Mabel goes on to say “…and therefore, though we may be dear cousins, – the same as brother and sister almost, – we could never have been anything else.” This restoration makes explicit what was apparently implicit yet intuited by Silverbridge. Thus SIlverbridge’s subsequent comment becomes a statement of the obvious and any suggestion of insightfulness on his part is lost. There is no evidence that he is  as yet anything more than a “silly boy”.

There are again only two significant cuts in chapter twenty whose restoration adds to the depth of the reader’s understanding of principal characters.

One is a casual aside in which Sir Timothy Beeswax remarks disparagingly of the Duke that, “He is certainly not a friendly man…He is as cold as ice, you know; – and then he thinks so much of his own dignity.”  Although this assessment is made by his political enemy, and therefore perhaps suspect, there is much truth in the remarks and they are germane to the difficulties he faces with his children.

The other comment is an aside from Trollope himself.  In true Trollopian fashion he reassures the reader that there is no truth in the gossip related by Dolly Longstaffe that Tregear has lost money betting on SIlverbridge’s horse. The restoration examines in more detail how painful this tale is to Lady Mabel and how she is taken in by the story.  This makes it clear that, in spite of her subsequent declaration that she will accept Silverbridge if he proposes to her formally, her heart still belongs very much to Tregear.

Which brings me to the quarter way point in the novel.  Still a long way to go but at least now, when I look at the bookmarks in both copies on my bedside table, there is a satisfying portion of the whole now under my belt.  The remainder, although substantial, is no longer quite so intimidating.


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