The Duke’s Children: Chapters 46-50

Chapter forty-six starts with the restoration of a substantial cut in which we learn something of the proprieties of bereavement in the Victorian era – widowers are supposed to get over the death of wives faster than widows do their husbands – and of the discomfiture of Lady Cantrip at having to put into practice the Popplecourt trap for Lady Mary even though it was her idea.

The guest list at Custins is also expanded in the restored version with Mr and Mrs Grey making an appearance that had previously been written out of the story (necessitating a further cut later in the chapter when Mrs Grey comments that Lord Popplecourt “is hardly the sort of man…that I should have thought that her mother’s daughter would have chosen.”) This revision will, I suggest, require an amendment to the entries for Mr and Mrs Grey (nee Vavasor) on the Trollope Society’s website which mentions their brief appearance in The Eustace Diamonds under similar circumstances guests at Matching Priory.

The Duke’s own discomfiture at the Popplecourt trap is made clearer by a further restoration in which it is said he would “infinitely” rather “had his conscience allowed it” to leave the setting and springing of the trap to Lady Cantrip. Furthermore, his expectations that the trap will fail are also clearly stated. “He knew, – in his heart he knew, that she would signify quite something else.” than Glencora had done when she was placed in the same position years before and acquiesced to be caught in the Palliser trap.

This makes him almost angry with Popplecourt, when the latter plays his part of the supposedly anointed suitor, whom Trollope describes with perfect economy and precision as “a thorn to him” now.

Lady Mary, of course, is blissfully unaware of the Popplecourt trap at this point. We learn in a restored cut that “Had she been told that she was to be locked up in a dungeon all her life it would have seemed to her a more probable exercise of parental authority than an attempt to make her marry Lord Popplecourt.” Trollope shows her repulsion in another brief cut restored, after Popplecourt implies that he finds her attractive, she “thought it possible he was endeavouring to attempt some unmeaning and vulgar compliment”.

There is also one subtle change for the shorter version which has been reversed. In an exchange of words between Dolly Longstaffe and Popplecourt, the latter now asks “What do you know about the Duke’s daughter?” whereas in the previously published, shorter version he is more elusive to avoid showing his hand asking “What do you know about the Duke’s children?” – the use of the novel’s title here being a reminder that there is also the Silverbridge/Boncasson relationship to consider – which Popplecourt unwittingly further annoys the Duke by mentioning in their conversation.

In the next chapter we see that relationship from the perspective of Isabel Boncasson but the first key restoration shows how Dolly Longstaffe manages to scupper his chances forever with her (as if he had any in the first place) by saying, when Isabel rejects him yet again, that Silverbridge is “a young swell who doesn’t mean what he’s about, any more than I mean to marry the cookmaid.” By this restored phrase “He had compared the lady to a cookmaid, – implying at any rate that  as was the distance between him, Adolphus Longstaffe, and a cookmaid, so was that the distance between the Duke’s heir and her”. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot – I scarcely think he could have done so with a larger calibre weapon.

Trollope could not help but make a lengthy authorial aside to the reader on the subject of Isabel’s view of Silverbridge.  He reminds the reader that she appears to see Silverbridge through rose-tinted glasses but she does not have the benefit of knowing the details of his silly excesses that got him thrown out of college and to lose so much money at Doncaster races to all of which priveleged information, the reader has been given access denied to her. He uses Isabel’s own example of the humble bank clerk in her home country to show that “he could not have spoken of his love with less self-assurance”. Thus it becomes clearer that it is his modesty about his own worth that she finds so attractive.

We also learn that Isabel views the friendly exchange of differing political views between her father and the Duke might allow her “to entertain some hope that the Duke’s natural objections to such a marriage [as her and Silverbridge] might be made to disappear.”

We also see two separate restorations in which Isabel refers to her grandfather being a porter on the quays and that this should be known by the Duke and all of Silverbridge’s friends and accepted by them all before she will marry Silverbridge. Trollope wishes to make it clear that she is not ashamed of her origins and will not apologise for them. This shows great courage on her part for she cannot by this stage have been unaware of how status conscious (in terms of lineage and breeding) the English upper classes were.

Half of the opening paragraph of chapter forty-eight is a restored cut in which Lady Mary’s thinking on what Isabel has just told her is revealed. Ironically, of course, she tends to the view that what is sauce for the goose should not be sauce for the gander, if the gander is the elder son. For Gerald it would be a different matter, but for Silverbridge, Mary, with absolute hypocrisy, sides with her father’s anticipated position that for the son of a Duke to marry the granddaughter of an American porter is impossible.

Lady Mary is then immediately confronted with the prospect of having to endure a proposal from Lord Popplecourt and is sufficiently rational in her response, with a restored cut indicating that though “the time for fighting did not yet seem to her to have come yet”, she argues down Lady Cantrip with startling maturity and effectiveness.

Afterwards, Lady Cantrip tells her husband that in her view, “the sooner the Duke gives way the quicker he’ll get over the annoyance.” This restoration shows that even the Duke’s staunchest allies are being won round by Lady Mary’s firmness to the view that she, rather than the Duke, will have her way. Their counsel to the Duke later will influence his eventual reconciliation to the idea.

Meanwhile, we learn in a restoration that  Mary decides against confiding her troubles to her new friend Isabel for to do so would mean “she must of course sympathise with Miss Boncasson in return , and she was hardly prepared to do this at present.”  She thinks to herself that “a future Duke ought not to marry the granddaughter of a street porter.  It would be as bad as some of those unnatural love affairs which take place in the Arabian Nights.” These restorations, in particular the use of “unnatural”, show Mary in a less flattering light than she appears in the original shorter version.  This inconsistency in her views about her own and her brother’s positions which are, of course, very much the same, show her to be subject to the precise same snobbery as her father without the prop of suiting her actions to words.

As we soon discover however, her father is equally inconsistent. His political doctrine for public life is Liberal and egalitarian but in his private life he maintains strict segregation on lines of rank and title which Isabel fails to appreciate “at all” after their subsequent conversation.

In contrast to both father and daughter, Isabel is straightforward and open – believing in plain-speaking. When describing her feelings to Lady Mary, Isabel says that “I love him as a girl ought to love the man she means to marry.” Nevertheless, we learn in a restoration that it is she who engineered the walk through the woods in which she hoped to begin the process of winning over “her possible future father-in-law”. This seems to have worked (so far as possible in the light of the Duke’s private prejudices) as a final paragraph is restored in which “the Duke expressed great admiration for the American girl’s manners and intellect.”

Chapter forty-nine is rendered almost incoherent in the shortened version, if the reader wishes to understand how Major Tifto is left to carry the can for the nobbling of the horse before the St Leger. The groom, a vital witness or else protagonist in the nobbling, who might confirm or deny the truth of the Major’s version of events, simply disappears without a mention – other than a passing mention of Major Tifto’s chagrin on discovering that the groom was paid more than he was for his part in the affair. The restored version has an explanatory paragraph in which the groom decamps to Australia with £5,000 for his trouble and does so with such haste that he is gone before those who wish to investigate the matter can lay their hands on him or possibly pay him a sum of money to bribe him to stay and explain the full facts. All now becomes clear.

We also learn of Major Tifto that prior to his involvement in the plot “Even when Silverbridge had been most offensive to him he had been careful of his partner’s interests”. So we find Trollope engaged, in the full version, in painting Tifto a paler shade of grey than the reader would expect of a villain in a Victorian novel. This continues through to a restored final paragraph in which Trollope declares that “through it all there were some who declared that poor Tifto had been more sinned against than sinning.” And I think Trollope would, in this final analysis of his villain, wish the reader also to hold that opinion when compared with the odious Captain Green and his compatriot Gilbert Villiers who leave the country with the bulk of the £70,000 of the Duke’s money defrayed to meet Silverbridge’s gambling debts.

I found myself in sympathy with Tifto when he had the guts to face his accusers not once but twice, at the meeting of the Runnymede Hunt and at the meeting of members of the Beargarden club where,”In these two matters the Major, wretched as he was, exhibited more pluck than his friends or enemies had expected.” If not whitewashed, Trollope does indeed paint him a very pale shade of grey.

It is amazing what a difference a single letter can make. That the Duke “who in his ill-humour could be aggravating even to his friends” is a much more powerful statement at the start of chapter fifty of the revised edition than that he should be aggravating just to his “friend”, Lady Cantrip while discussing Lady Mary. Indeed he could be, I am sure, almost maddeningly so, as we have seen earlier in the novel in the context of political discussions and his unwillingness to take up political harness again after his (own) perceived failure as The Prime Minister.

A crucial line is also restored in this discussion in which the Duke “smiled as he heard it, so that Lady Cantrip almost thought she had prevailed.” Note the “almost” meaning but not quite. In the shorter version of the novel, its absence makes the Duke’s position seem more entrenched. This allows more scope for the possibility of future bending.

We find in another restoration that the Duke sees himself as a role model for others and this gives him less scope for doing what is expedient for his daughter’s happiness if he believes it to be fundamentally wrong.

There is also, however, the correction of what must be regarded as a careless cut by Trollope. The reinstatement of the sentence, “The young man [Popplecourt] might be very well in his way, but there were no qualities in him by which the obstinacy of such a girl as his daughter could be overcome.” Introduces Lady Mary into the paragraph as the subject to which the pronoun “her” in the following sentence refers. Without this sentence there is no female to whom the pronoun might refer. Bravo to Steven Armanick and his team for this essential reinstatement.

The Duke’s pre-occupation with politics is revealed quite excquisitely in his comment on Phineas Finn that “When a man has taken up politics as the occupation of his life, the subject should always be present to his mind.” He could with as much accuracy, of course, be talking about himself.

A further quite lengthy cut details other correspondence which the Duke received at the same time as Tregear’s letter and prioritised above it. These are a letter on politics from Mr Monk, a letter from Mr Moreton on Silverbridge’s expenses and a letter from Lord Chiltern about hunting matters.  This last one is surely a private joke between Trollope and his readers who would be aware of earlier correspondence on similar lines in previous novels about a subject in which the Duke has no interest. We are thus shown the Duke in both a serious and non-serious light before getting to the meat of the next step of the plot.

And at the close of the chapter we are now allowed to know that Mary “was determined to tell her brother that both Lady Mabel and Miss Boncasson had been invited.  He must then do as he pleased about coming to meet them.” Did she know her brother so well that she thought he might indeed have been “running two hares”, as the French say, and might take the cowards way out by ducking the invitation to Matching so as to avoid being confronted by them simultaneously (for a second time as it happens though Lady Mary might not have been aware of the Killancodlem episode).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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