The Duke’s Children: Chapters 61-65

We learn in a restored opening sentence to the second paragraph of chapter sixty-one that “Silverbridge was certainly afraid of his father.”  Trollope goes on to explain that this fear was more a kind of awe of his father but it is an interesting choice of word. Yet the reasons can be seen in a second restoration a little later when “The Duke also hesitated for a few moments before he went on with his cross-examination.” The father, even though he loves his son deeply, cannot help but assume the tone more appropriate for the chamber of his beloved House of Commons when speaking with him on weighty matters.

In a longer restoration we learn that though the father and son think alike on so many things – Silverbridge “agreed with his father on these premises” with reference to the requirement that the letter of the law should not be his guide to acceptable conduct but his own conscience and sense of duty – they differ on the conclusions they draw from that common understanding.

We also learn, almost as an aside, that “Silverbridge was in the habit of announcing his goings and comings in this sudden way and, as it seemed to his father, without any adequate reason”. The gulf of misunderstanding between them is clearly large and to a great extent the typical failure of one generation to understand the motivations of the next and of the latter to feel a need to explain them to the former when they do not. It is typical of Trollope, now a scene or conversation has fulfilled its function for the purposes of the plot, to allow it to meander away at a tangent in the way so many conversations do in real life.  In this, like his unerring focus on money as the root of all plot development, he is perhaps demonstrating a claim to be the first great realist of the Victorian era.

Intriguingly, Trollope makes a large cut of nearly a page in length in this chapter to remove entirely a scene between Silverbridge and Lady Mary in which he tells her of his engagement to Isabel and she acknowledges that she knew of it already from Isabel herself. He also tells her about the difficulties Gerald has got into and says “I shall emigrate to the States and set up there as a politician.” This may not be an altogether practical idea but at least he has a plan of some kind. The restoration shows there is greater closeness between brother and sister than might have been understood to exist by readers of the shorter version.

We also see the Duke in a short restoration observe to himself that his children “had proposed to him, the one a daughter-in-law, and the other a son-in-law, altogether against his taste; but he was beginning to be aware that his taste must yield to theirs.” We are also given more insight into his reasoning.  He believed that the aristocracy of which they were a part was essential so “that the democratic progress [might] safely be made which it had been the pride and business of his life to expedite.” Here we see the intersection of the personal and the political in the Duke. His children are going against both his personal inclination and his political doctrine and instincts.  No wonder it is so hard for him to acquiesce.

Professor Amarnick, I am pleased to note, has corrected in this edition, the error which occurs in the previously published editions of The Duke’s Children which perpetuate Trollope’s memory lapse during the writing of the novel and incorrectly name the woods about which the Duke has been in correspondence with Lord Chiltern as Trumpington Woods, whereas in Phineas Redux, in which that correspondence took place, they were Trumpeton Woods. He also corrects the erroneous reference in chapter sixty-two to the A. R. U. hunt to the proper title U. R. U. – it being the Ufford and Rufford United, featured with the unfortunate Captain Glomax in The American Senator.

There are few cuts of significance to the key characters or plot developments in chapter sixty-two which is the first of two devoted to the obligatory Trollopian hunting episode. However, on his first arrival at Harrington, Silverbridge defends his father when Lord Chiltern raises the matter of the neglected Trumpeton Woods, saying “My governor knows as much about hunting as I do of financial arrangements.” This defence, at once robust in its support of his father’s lack of concern for the hunting matters that are Chiltern’s whole life and also self-deprecating, is another example of Silverbridge maturing through the course of the novel.

In an amusing authorial aside, restored in this edition and perhaps speaking from personal experience, Trollope comments after Silverbridge is unseated at a fence and has to chase after his runaway horse that “perhaps of the many troubles which occur to hunting men there is nothing worse than the necessity of running across a ploughed field in top boots.”

We learn at the start of chapter sixty-three in the restored opening paragraphs that Silverbridge is mightily impressed by Mrs Spooner but “didn’t quite like having my horse caught by a woman.  Just at that moment I wished she had left me in the ploughed field.” Well thank goodness Isabel has nothing to fear from this new woman who is safely married and only interested in hunting.

We also are given fair warning of impending disaster when Tregear joins Silverbridge at the inn to take part in the hunting and jokes about his riding ability saying, “Now that I am a member of Parliament I am bound to preserve my life for the sake of my constituents.” This is quickly followed by another restoration in which Silverbridge lends him his favourite hunter with the words, “he has never brought me down yet.” A clearer sign that Tregear will come to grief was surely never given.

Following the accident there is a restoration which details how a carriage was brought from Harrington to convey the injured Tregear from the field providing continuity over what is otherwise a rather sudden and clumsy jump in the story to later in the evening with the injured man already tucked up in bed.

Silverbridge blames himself for the accident – for having crowded Tregear at the crucial moment – and there is a touching, and very Victorian, moment when Tregear gives his friend’s hand a reassuring squeeze as he sits wracked with guilt by his bed. Such gestures are as close to open displays of emotion between these closest of friends as their upbringing permits and the restoration of this scene adds to the reader’s insight into the strength of their friendship.

The chapter ends with a restoration in which it is revealed that after writing about Tregear’s accident to his sister, thereby tacitly acknowledging his acceptance of their relationship, and to Lady Mabel, Silverbridge writes to his father “chiefly with the purpose of letting the Duke know that he had sent tidings of the accident to his sister.” This serves two purposes.  Firstly it demonstrates the new-found maturity of Silverbridge in doing the correct thing from the perspective of his father; but secondly it is done after the fact and so sends a message to his father that he, as the eldest son, has felt it appropriate to acknowledge his sister’s relationship with Tregear by writing to her personally about the accident that has befallen him rather than having her hear about it second-hand. It is a subtle but telling gesture of support which would not be lost on the Duke.

There is a substantial restoration of nearly a full paragraph at the beginning of chapter sixty-four which explains why the Duke felt obliged to go to Gatherum Castle after failing to open it up over Christmas. This mentions that “he was now on more friendly terms than ever” with Mrs Finn. Trollope’s constant return to her across several novels as a secondary character who always behaves impeccably suggests to me that she may have been a personal favourite of his – he might even be a little in love with her.

There is also a brief additional sentence from Lady Mary when discussing her trust in her lover throughout their separation in which she says “I should despise myself if I doubted him for a moment.” This is a small indication from Trollope that she has the unrealistic expectations about relationships of an immature young woman when compared to the rather more world-weary acceptance of the way things turn out in real life of her more mature companion, Mrs Finn.

Mrs Finn’s cleverness is revealed when she persuades Lady Mary against immediately setting off to be with Tregear at Harrington.  How she does this is not made clear in the shorter version, but a restoration reveals that she does so by stating that “no one would so thoroughly disapprove of such a step as Frank Tregear himself”. There could be no more powerful argument with the young girl than this, as Mrs Finn well understands.

There are a number of short speeches by Lady Mary, admittedly made while in distress, which when restored show she is still lacking in maturity.  She comes over as petulant and perhaps Trollope felt that these could be cut so that she might not irritate his readers and would, therefore, retain their whole-hearted sympathy. Now, they serve to show that she is less than perfect under stress and that is a more realistic portrait. This makes it all the more powerful when, in a final restoration close to the end of the chapter, she takes her father’s hand and looks him full in the face – loving gestures from a daughter to her father – when he at last speaks well of Tregear. We see clearly the internal conflict between love she feels for both father and fiance that she is struggling to resolve.

I have to admire Gerald who, whether he learned from his brother’s example or not, did not prevaricate but, once he was under the same roof, immediately confessed his shortcomings to his father at the start of chapter sixty-five.  However, like him, I am somewhat confused by his father’s logic in a restored paragraph in which the Duke explains to his son that he believes “that a man who sits down to play cards with the distinct purpose of winning money, even though he plays fairly as the rules go, is to my thinking further removed from the condition of a true gentleman than is the man who cheats from his own.” Perhaps Trollope was wise to cut this for the original publication as the tortuous thought process by which the Duke arrives at this conclusion is obscure even on multiple readings. Better to be a thief and openly so than to masquerade as a gentleman while intending to use your skills as a card-sharp to take money from people who regard you as a friend.

The Duke then goes on to use a horse as an analogy for money. A tool to be used for a purpose. Again, the Duke’s thinking is obscure and, I think a little muddle-headed as a horse certainly does need “fostering” – caring for – if it is to serve its master.  Maybe this is best written off as the Duke not being a horseman. In which case, Trollope is being extraordinarily good at showing how one of the characters he has best-realised on the page can become incoherent in trying to express himself when he is caught up in a great emotional turmoil. If this was his intention, and re-reading it several times, this is certainly plausible, then Trollope is demonstrating true mastery of his craft, to the point perhaps, where it might even be lost on his readers.

Another restoration of a short paragraph has Gerald leave the room to obtain Lord Percival’s address because he is so overwhelmed by the power of his father’s emotional argument. “The poor lad was too crushed to write the words then, in his father’s presence. Whether he had understood all that had been said may be doubted; – but he felt the weight of it if he did not understand it.” This a small, but, I think, significant touch, indicative of Gerald’s deep bond with his father in spite of surface appearances. Indeed, Gerald strikes me thoughout this novel as being more mature, for his years, than Silverbridge and this little restoration is a case in point.

We also discover, in the longest restoration of more than half a page in this chapter, that on top of his personal travails, the Duke has political worries and is being asked by colleagues to lead the Liberal party’s attack in the House of Lords on the Tory administration. He could well do without the distraction of his children’s disobedience at this moment. And yet, in his mental turmoil, he is still able to think clearly enough about Tregear to recognise that “He was not an adventurer, as the Duke had at first thought.” It is as he gradually changes his mind by slow degrees such as this little step, now restored, that I believe the true greatness of the Duke’s character, and Trollope’s portrayal of it, comes out. It therefore pains me to read that the Duke feels “that the steel had been taken out of his heart by the troubles he had endured.”

The chapter concludes with a letter from Gerald to Silverbridge which, in a brief authorial comment, Trollope notes was written “in an unusually serious frame of mind”. As we enter the final phase of the book, we see at last that the boys are starting to grow up and to behave more as their father would wish them to do than perhaps the Duke, himself, realises at this point.

















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