The Duke’s Children: Chapters 36-40

Chapter thirty-six finds us in the company of Major Tifto and his sidekick Captain Green. In the short version originally published, this chapter describes how they hatch the germ of the idea for a betting sting in which Silverbridge will be the victim and Tifto appears as a willing plotter in this. The full-length version shows a more nuanced situation and Tifto emerges as a much more sympathetic character who is drawn into the plot by his more unscrupulous accomplice.

There are small but important restorations which show yet more how Silverbridge has snubbed even the most modest attempts by Tifto to enjoy the benefits of his company.  The meeting at Tally-ho Lodge takes place only because Tifto “had failed in a little attempt he had made to be taken down to a Scotch shooting.” Such casual slights on the part of Silverbridge are so hurtful to the sensitive Tifto.

Just how sensitive Tifto is, and how easily he might be kept loyal to Silverbridge is made clear in the chapter’s lengthiest cut which shows how Tifto has boasted to his friend Green “of his position at the Beargarden and of his intimacy with all the young lords, members of Parliament, and opulent ‘swells'”. He is aware that he is a marginal figure in that society and when Green indicates that he too would like to join that company “Tifto knew well how impossible that would be”. He would have been satisfied with this if he had been treated with consideration. But Silverbridge is too insensitive to such slights as he delivers to realise this and so plants the seeds of his own financial suffering to come.

Indeed, it is Green’s realisation that “his aspirations in regard to the club were vain” in the conversation with Tifto that appears to provoke him to goading Tifto that he ought to get financial as well as social benefits from his relationship with Tifto and that if he is not getting adequate social benefits then all the more reason to seek financial rewards. Yet even this dyed in the wool sponger off others pauses crucially, in a very short restoration, before suggesting to Tifto that he should not be so particular about staying “square” (that is scrupulously honest) with Silverbridge when encouraging him to bet on the horses. It also becomes clear in another restoration that Green makes this suggestion accompanied by a reminder that Tifto owes him money and pressures him to pay sooner than had been previously agreed.

Yet even after this Tifto in another cut asks himself “What was it that old Green had meant?” Poor Tifto, it seems in this fully restored version, is not only a reluctant entrant into the scheme rather than a willing participant but also still hardly understands quite what it is that he is agreeing to do. All of which makes him a far more sympathetic and rounded character, which is so much more in keeping with Trollope’s general approach to all of his apparent villains, than he appears in the truncated version of this crucial chapter and, therefore, the novel as a whole.

Chapter thirty-seven in its uncut version also sheds more light on a secondary character, in this case Lady Mabel. Before doing so it does, however, include two lengthy restorations laden with irony, in which Trollope reveals the cost of the upkeep of country seats to families on reduced incomes could be ruinous but that the financial ruin of the Grex family is not so great as to prevent Earl Grex from going off to gamble in Monaco when the fancy takes him.

The cuts now restored make greater sense of the conversation between Lady Mabel and Frank Tregear. One cut, for example, removes two uses of the epithet “unmanly” whose restoration makes his Frank’s subsequent complaint that she has called him that “a dozen times” more intelligible. Another cut restores the full sentence refering to the possible damage meeting Frank alone at such an out of the way spot could do to Lady Mabel’s chances of securing Silverbridge as a husband by stressing “Would it help me in my prospects if your friend Lord Silverbridge knew you were here with me, – as he probably will know?” and later “and to do me all the harm in your power by being here…”  The shorter version is less explicit in pointing this out.

The hurt Mabel feels is also made clearer by the restorations.  We now hear her say of his desire to marry Lady Mary so soon after abandoning Lady Mabel that “you ought not to want it.” And when he responds that she has done the same by transferring her attentions to Silverbridge she points out that she has no option, being a woman she  must “have something to cling to” and cannot rely on making her own way in the world as he might. She has been the one who had foreseen that they would have had to elope to get married thereby bringing down ruin on both of them though she would have been the one blamed by society. She therefore seems to me quite justified in accusing him, in another restoration, of being, or pretending to be, “thick-headed” and therefore blind to these considerations when it suits him.

The shortened version also skips over Lady Mabel showing Tregear the ring which Silverbridge has sent her, explaining that it is a resetting of the Palliser family heirloom which she had teased him about previously. That he should have done this indicates a depth of feeling for her which Silverbridge has by now, in the shorter version, already left behind.  Its restoration, along with that of a sentence that “Nothing but a little encouragement from her would be wanting” for him to propose again in future, suggests that Trollope was keeping his options open longer in the original full version of the novel than he did in the shorter version published.

Chapter thirty-eight begins with a near full page restoration of a cut which fills in the background to events occuring off-stage. The Duke of Omnium has gone to the continent, taking Lady Mary as planned, though not for the year originally intended as she is to be brought back in time to meet Lord Popplecourt at Custins in October. Lord Gerald has found himself another college place at Lazarus which takes a more relaxed view of going to the races than his former college.

Nothing of great import to the main plotlines takes place in this interlude shooting in Scotland but there are two brief restorations which show that Silverbridge, although naive does recognise the dangers in his wish to flirt with Isabel Boncasson while intending to marry Lady Mabel. When he learns that they are both to be at nearby Killancodlem, “There were moments as he travelled down in which he almost made up his mind that he would not go over to Killancodlem at all.” This would have been a wise, if somewhat cowardly, course of action.  This is particularly true since his romantic double-dealing is not going unnoticed.  When he does abandon his friends shooting lodge and Dobbes suggests it is over a woman, the response comes quickly: “‘Two or three I should think,’ said Nidderdale.”

In the pivotal chapter thirty-nine, the first sighting in the restored version is of Lady Mabel in the company of “a man in knickerbockers who had been endeavouring the make himself agreeable to [her]”, rather than of Isabel Boncasson as it is in the shorter version.

The restored cuts show with greater clarity how ambivalent Mabel is about her attempts to snare Silverbridge. We see that, “…if he escaped her. She now felt almost sure that there would be disappointment”. But she is sufficiently jealous to observe to Silverbridge that, “I say you play better than she does…at the game you were playing at.” But still “She persisted in refusing to dance with him.”

Trollope also states explicitly, so that the reader is in no doubt about it at this stage, that “Isabel was certainly free from any purpose to make him her husband.”

The cumulative effect of Mabel’s ambivalence which causes her to keep him at arm’s length when this is contrary to her stated aim is to almost push him into Isabel’s arms. Silverbridge is sufficiently shallow that he is influenced by the general opinion of society about Isabel’s beauty “which taught him to think unconsciously that to possess her would be to possess the best thing that was to be had.” So when Mabel engineers the return of the ring he gave her, we learn from the restored final words of the chapter that “as he put it away all regrets as to its return to him seemed to have vanished.” This conclusion shows a much more definitive shift in his affections from Mabel to Isabel than is the case in the shorter version.

I am not sure that the restoration of Mabel’s musing “Had he not come over from the shooting on purpose to see her? For she was aware that he had not known of Miss Boncassen’s presence.” at the start of chapter forty is wholly correct. The restoration of a cut in chapter thirty-eight makes it clear that Silverbridge was aware of the presence of both Mabel and Isabel at Killancodlem. It would be unusual for Trollope to show a character under a misapprehension about such a matter, as Mabel appears to be here, without making it clear to the reader that it was indeed an error on her part. It therefore appears to me that the second sentence here was restored in error and was a genuine cut by Trollope to remove a mistake in his original draft rather than a cut to reduce word-count.

Trollope did, however, cut a sentence which shows that  in Mabel’s self-serving decision to put Silverbridge off Isabel, “though she did not herself know it, there was a germ of spite against the girl.” On balance he may have felt this was too strong a condemnation of her motives but its restoration makes Mabel a more rounded, human character. As does her playful mention in conversation with Silverbridge that her view of many of her would be suitors was that if she married any of them then she might be guilty “almost of murdering them.”

In turn we see that Silverbridge, on hearing Isabel is not up to another game of tennis hopes that “There was a game better than lawn-tennis, at which perhaps she might be willing to play.” This leaves the reader wondering whether Silverbridge is in earnest in his declarations to Isabel or is in fact playing at it – having his six months flirtation. Or perhaps is still lacking the maturity and seriousness of purpose which both women clearly have.

His indecision, or lack of clarity compared to them, is perhaps best demonstrated in a tiny restoration in the middle of an exchange with Mabel in which “remembering himself” he states he is not going to marry Isabel after having, in the heat of the debate, tacitly accepted the premise of the discussion that he is going to do so. The poor boy is clearly out of his depth and this is made more evident in the longer version than the shorter. Even he feels it when Isabel takes him by the arm to engage him in a private conversation. “He felt his own awkwardness, his own inability to speak at ease, as he did as he was desired.”

And so we reach the halfway point in the novel. Silverbridge has been seen in this longer version as a more callow youth but with finer qualities that may yet emerge than is perhaps the case in the shorter version. Lady Mabel has been shown to be far more ambivalent about her decision to snare Silverbridge and make herself eventually the Duchess of Omnium than in the truncated version. She has been seen more clearly to be sabotaging her own interests by her behaviour and the reasons for this have been more clearly outlined. And the Duke of Omnium himself has been shown to entertain far more insecurities and self-doubt than perhaps even the most perceptive reader might have been able to infer from the shortened version of the text. Perhaps our understanding of Lady Mary and Frank Tregear has benefited least from the restorations so far but then these two characters were arguably the most strongly drawn in the text as originally published.  They have the strength of consistency and maturity of outlook which, perhaps, the others of their generation lack.




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