The Duke’s Children: Chapters 26-30

Chapter twenty-six is quite an intimate portrayal of the growing closeness of the Duke of Omnium and his son Lord Silverbridge. It starts in the Peers’ Gallery of the House of Commons as father and son converse to the backdrop of an oration by Sir Timothy Beeswax during a debate. There are significant cuts to the descriptions of Sir Timothy’s approach to parliamentary procedures and his mastery of those arts by which he made his career as a politician. The reader, of course, may infer that the Duke’s character is the antithesis of this politician he is overhearing and so this commentary on the Duke is enhanced by the restorations.

However, the most telling restoration is a paragraph which precedes the invitation from Silverbridge to his father to dine with him at his club, the Beargarden. This explains that the Duke never took much interest in his dinner and afterwards would invariably spend his time in his library cum study, looking at political papers. He hardly ever took the opportunity to spend the whole or even part of the evening with his wife and her friends who might be visiting them but, now that she had died, he realised how he much he missed having that option. This ongoing sense of loss that the Duke suffers is a repeated motif which is frequently cut as if Trollope felt unable to expose to public gaze the pain endured by one of his dearest creations. Perhaps he felt that it showed him in a more unmanly light to a Victorian readership and he wished to reserve such insights for crucial moments. Here, however, in a very personal scene, the restoration lends greater pathos and therefore greater meaning to the Duke’s obvious love for his son.

And so we reach the end, as my Oxford World’s Classics edition tells me, of the first volume of the shortened three volume version.

Chapter twenty-seven features the excruciating interview between Major Tifto and the Duke of Omnium following the dinner at the Beargarden. There are cuts both in the middle of the chapter and in the closing paragraph, which again serves as a summary to emphasise crucial points from the chapter in which it is made clear how Silverbridge has come to regard Tifto as a social embarrassment and how Tifto, recognising this in the younger man’s altered behaviour determines “that Silverbridge might be made to pay for his mistake” in snubbing him before his father. This ominous passage forewarns the reader that Tifto may not play fair and square with the young man in his future dealings. Trollope, yet again, showing his hand!

To my mind, however, two brief cuts, are restored which begin to reveal to the son that his father, the Duke, is not the forbidding character he believes him to be at this point. When they discuss the possibility of Silverbridge marrying Lady Mabel Grex, and Silverbridge confesses that she has not accepted his proposal so they have not got around to discussing where they might live, the Duke responds “almost chuckling”.  He then goes on to suggest that they might take over the Duke’s current London residence,Carlton Terrace,  saying that it might serve not only as a place where the son could “hang up your hat when in London. She would find room there for her bonnets also.” Such levity is rarely seen in the Duke and shows how he is beginning to unbend towards his son and treat him more as an equal as he sees him begin to mature into the man he would like him to become. These deft little touches show Trollope at his most insightful in portraying the rather buttoned up, even by Victorian standards of the pater familias role, Duke.

In chapter twenty-eight we finally meet Isabel Boncasson who will supplant Mabel Grex in the affections of Lord Silverbridge. However, the restorations reveal a somewhat different emphasis in the evolution of that love-triangle from the very outset. The lengthiest cut, as so often, comes close to the end of the chapter, and the restored version reveals a teasing Isabel, flirting outrageously with Silverbridge by playing hard-to-get.  She lists a whole sequence of prior engagements which will make it practically impossible for her to meet Silverbridge again in the foreseeable future, even though she has just extracted a promise from him to pay her a visit. She does all this in the hearing of Mabel Grex,whom she has spotted before Silverbridge, who realises when he finally notices her that “there was more of sarcasm than good humour in her smile” on hearing this bantering conversation.

This deletion might have been made by Trollope to avoid the risk that Isabel might be seen by the reader, like Mabel, to be intellectually and emotionally more mature than Silverbridge.  Trollope has already observed that Silverbridge perceives Mabel to be slightly looking down on him as a mere boy and that he does not like this about her. To have a second potential lover display the same trait might be too much of a coincidence – and he needs to distinguish them.

However, this cut is followed quickly by another in which Silverbridge thinks, “Of course he was still fully prepared to ask Lady Mabel to be his wife.” This apparent continued determination, in the restored version, is lost in the cut version.  Thus the insightful reader of the shorter version would already be anticipating that this new female character will quickly replace Lady Mabel whereas the ongoing ambiguity of Silverbridge’s position is maintained more by the mention of this continued intention even after meeting a potential rival.

In contrast, some of the other cuts in the chapter soften the often cutting remarks which Mabel makes to Silverbridge during an ill-natured walk through the gardens when Silverbridge’s attempt to propose is frustrated by Mabel who has been irritated by his paying attention to the American beauty rather than immediately seeking her out. In this, the cuts may preserve the ambiguity and so balance the loss of the explicit statement that he leaves the party still holding to his original intention to propose to Lady Mabel. This effect is, though, achieved at the cost of a loss of a certain verisimilitude.  Mabel’s comments are acutely observed and ring true under the circumstances where she has just seen her hoped for “catch” being apparently “hooked” by another after she has foregone the earlier opportunity to “land” him.

The short but pivotal chapter twenty-nine sees Tregear and Lady Mary meet for the first time in the presence of the reader. Thus any cuts here may have unduly significant impact on the reader’s understanding of the critical development of the inter-linked plot-lines/love-stories.

The reduction of Frank Tregear’s thrice spoken “very fond of her” when speaking to Mary of his former lover Mabel to voice that feeling only twice changes the emphasis from an internal musing given voice with almost wonder when Tregear has reason to stop and consider his feelings so that he may explain them to an emphatic statement whose past tense is stressed.

Similarly the revelation that Silverbridge, when teased by Lady Cantrip about having fallen for the charms of Isabel Boncasson and trying to explain away his behaviour, was “not very good at explanation [and] he blundered over it a little”, is a clear signpost from Trollope that the young man has indeed been unwittingly smitten by this new beauty.

Indeed, the removal of two references in quick succession to Silverbridge wishing to be almost brusque with Mabel “till she had shown willingness to come round” (the second of which is highlighted by enclosure in quotation marks) removes a strong indicator that Silverbridge has been piqued by Mabel’s treatment of him at the garden party in the previous chapter.  No doubt that was her intention but here we see with the restoration that her strategy is high risk. Trollope is upping the stakes in the full length version which effect is lost in the shorter.

The restorations also reveal that Mary “could be as hard as a rock to anything her father or brother might say to her” on the subject of her relationship with Tregear.

Interestingly there are only two brief cuts in the section of the chapter during which Lady Mary and Tregear are in each other’s presence. Both relate to the certainty or otherwise of those present at the meeting firstly of the fact of their relationship and secondly of whether or not the meeting has been engineered by one or more of those present.  The second restoration makes clear that only Tregear could be certain that his arrival was genuinely a coincidence. The cuts therefore reduce the ambiguity of the situation in a way that Trollope may not have wished to do.

And in a point of detail, I was comfortable with the change in the spelling of “connexion” to “connection” to describe there being a relationship between Tregear and Lady Mary. The use of the spelling used more commonly in the current age ensures that there is a contemporary feel to the sentence rather than a potentially jarring sense of the story being a historical novel – thus preserving for the twenty-first century reader the experience which would have been enjoyed by Trollope’s original audience of reading a modern love story.

The clumsiest cut by far that Trollope has made to this point occurs in chapter thirty. A vital sentence is cut from a paragraph which gives rise to a continuity error in the way the shortened paragraph reads.

The short version of the paragraph refers to “the previous evening” early on in the paragraph and “on that evening” later in the paragraph. Read in this way the paragraph talks of Silverbridge making reckless bets “the previous evening” and subsequently resolving “on that evening” to break with Tifto. The implication of this line of thought is that it is Silverbridge recognising that he has “plunged” and that this is what he had previously resolved to avoid which gives rise to his decision to sever the relationship with Tifto.

However, between these two references to what appears to be the same evening, there is a reference to “This resolution was not yet a week old.”  How can the resolution have been formed the previous evening and be talked of as “not yet a week old”.  Certainly a resolution made less than 24 hours previously is less than a week old – but it would be odd to refer to it in those terms.

All becomes clear when the full version is read. A vital sentence is restored in which “It was only on the last Tuesday that the Major had intruded himself upon them when he was talking with his father at the Beargarden, and had so thoroughly disgusted him.” The second reference to “that evening” refers back not to the Saturday evening during which Silverbridge, while drunk, made reckless bets at the instigation of Tifto, but to the earlier incident on the preceding Tuesday evening, when the drunken Tifto had forced his company on the Duke and his son while they were in a private room at the club.

This makes the motivation for the decision different.  In the full version, Silverbridge is not (yet) worried by the prospect of incurring massive gambling debts through his association with Tifto but by the fact that Tifto is not, and never can be, a proper gentleman and so is unfit to be his chosen companion. This latter line of reasoning – so snobbish to the twenty-first century reader – would have been perfectly acceptable to the middle class Victorian reader; whereas the former argument, which might now seem to be not unreasonable, would have been regarded by the Victorians as being overly concerned with money matters, which should be beneath consideration.

I cannot help but think therefore that this cut by Trollope was a mistake, made in haste, as he tried to get the word-count down to the required limit.





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