The Duke’s Children: Chapters 66-70

I would question the first short restoration which appears in the opening paragraph of chapter sixty-six. Here we find that Lady Mary “did at last succeed in inducing Gerald to send [Tregear] one word of a message through his brother.” This is explicitly described as following the communication we have already seen in the earlier chapter and there is no subsequent mention of this mysterious “message”, which I think is most unlike Trollope. My suspicion is that this deletion was not part of the whole-scale deletions made after completion by Trollope to conform with the request of his publisher for a shorter three volume novel but was, in fact, made earlier because Trollope decided not to pursue the idea of a second communication (about which I feel sure he would have gone on to give more details).

Next comes a lengthier restoration which gives information about the Duke’s reasons for going to London at this point in the political calendar.

There then follow two restorations which are, to my mind, more important. The first describes how, when Mrs Finn begins the first “attack” on the Duke’s entrenched position that “the Duke only smiled. It was an expression of countenance which was peculiar to him and which she had known him long enough to understand.” The second describes how this smile could become “harder” if he felt the speaker was in the wrong morally – as distinct from disagreeing with him on a debatable point. These restorations make sense of a later comment which is otherwise lacking in context in the shorter edition in which the Duke which describes how “there was more tenderness in the frown than in the hard smile which he had hitherto worn.” Indeed, the “hard smile” came onto the Duke’s face not when Mrs Finn was speaking but when the Duke spoke in response about Mary’s sufferings. This gives a wholly different interpretation on the vital conversation.  In the full version it becomes clear that the Duke is receptive to what Mrs Finn  has to say whereas in the shorter version he appears to be resistant. This is borne out by a further restoration in which we learn that “there was doubt in his voice, though his words were meant to be very firm.”

Trollope also makes it clear that the Duke regards Mrs Finn’s intervention as one of her “acts of friendship which no efforts on my part can repay.” This sense of indebtedness is one with which the Duke is almost totally unfamiliar – it is usually the other way round in all his dealings with others – and this must weigh heavily with him as he considers the arguments for and against the position he has taken on the matter of his daughter’s lover.

Another not so subtle Trollopian hint as to the change in the Duke appears in another restoration – on the subject of Tregear’s first letter to the Duke and the latter’s frosty reply. Here we learn that “When writing it the Duke had not been as yet at all shaken in his opposition.” The clear implication is that the Duke has now been shaken in that opposition.

Silverbridge, meanwhile, performs his own U-turn in another brief restoration, which has been hinted at in earlier cuts now restored but here is made explicit when he announces to Tregear that “I shall go back to the other side. It is the only thing I can do for him.” So it is clear that Silverbridge’s decision to abandon Conservative philosophy for the Liberal fold of his father is made not on political but personal grounds. This shows the young man in a softer light but also suggests that he does not yet have strong political principles such as those which buttress the thinking of his father, or, indeed, Tregear.

Tregear’s letter to the Duke is itself subject to small cuts, now restored, in which Tregear speaks not only for himself but, asserts to the Duke, that he believes he is also speaking on behalf of the daughter.  This is a very subtle, and carefully phrased, approach which implies that Tregear is assuming to himself the prerogative, hitherto vested in the Duke as her father, to speak for the woman, as men did in the patriarchal Victorian society.

Chapter sixty-seven opens with a restored page and a half of details of how Silverbridge amused himself with hunting before returning to London for a very important meeting with his father over the political conundrum in which he has been placed by the devious Sir Timothy Beeswax.

There is a much shorter, and more significant, from the perspective of the Silverbridge/Boncasson storyline restoration shortly after this in which Silverbridge assures Isabel that, “”though he could not say that his father had at once assented to his views, he did not anticipate any prolonged opposition.” This prescience is more, I think, down to wishful thinking and a desire to reassure Isabel on the part of Silverbridge rather than being based on any deep insight into his father, given the evidence of the conversation he is relating in his letter to Isabel.

During what is possibly the most important political discussion of the novel between the father and son we see in two brief restorations how the Duke, in contrast to the lack of true insight Silverbridge frequently displays with reference to his father, has keen insight into the workings of his son’s mind on political matters at least, quickly recognising the ambiguity of his son about Beeswax and, therefore Conservative policies generally.  He almost cannot help himself using the rhetorical tricks he has learned from years debating in the House to lead his son through to what is, for both of them, a satisfactory conclusion.  Thus, when his son begins to express his doubts, he reminds the younger man that “You should at any rate hold the opinions which you are to recommend to others as just and proper.” Then at a crucial point in the discussion he puts his son on the spot about agreeing with Sir Timothy. “This was put in the form of a question and certainly required an answer; but Silverbridge had no answer ready.” This restoration is inserted between two sentences spoken by the Duke and creates the sense of a pause between them – which Silverbridge cannot fill and so is forced to reflect on why he is unable to do so – whereas in the shorter version there is no sense of the pause in the flow of words from the Duke, losing the true way in which the conversation turned.

The longer version goes on to conclude the chapter with nearly a page of further description of how the Duke, having won over his son, albeit that he almost consciously set out to avoid doing so, then refuses to help him write to Beeswax politely declining the honour of addressing the House as requested and a final humorous touch where Beeswax, in error, “can trace the Duke’s hand in every word of it”.

I love the little comment which Mrs Boncasson makes  to Silverbridge about her daughter in chapter sixty-eight that,”Mr Boncasson says she’ll turn out a literary spinster after all.” This is a close as Trollope gets to the sort of Dickensian caricature humour with which we are all so familiar.

There follows a restoration in which Trollope describes the physical sensations that Silverbridge experiences when looking at Isabel again after the period of enforced absence. He is “all in a quiver. The blood was tingling in his fingers’ ends…concsious of a certain longing, but unconscious of how he might best gratify it.” This lends an urgent, erotic charge to the meeting in the extended version which is significantly muted in the shorter, might one even suggest, censored version. As Trollope observes of Isabel’s failure to duck his embrace. “Had it been any other man she might, probably, have been quicker.”

As Isabel explains her position to Silverbridge, she emphasises, in a restoration, that for her “There can be no other marriage for me now, but yet I will not have that.” – meaning the prospect of a marriage in which she is not accepted by his family and friends. She is, as ever, more clear sighted then Silverbridge who blindly goes where his emotions lead him. Even when she asks him to leave at the end of what she has to say, he is in thrall to the physical attraction he feels “And he stretched out his arms to her.” She, of course, is able to resist this urge, indeed must resist as a good Victorian girl!

Even afterwards, “As he walked he hardly knew what he was doing in the fury of his love…Then as he thought of the ecstacy of that first embrace he plunged down Constitution Hill.” This is indeed a young man in the throes of a physical passion which is described with more vigour than might be expected in a novel for the family audience to which Trollope addressed himself. In fact, it is possible that he felt he had overstepped the mark in these phrases and excised them as a form of self-censorship.

We also learn in a final restoration as Silverbridge compares Isabel with Mabel that “He knew nothing of that early passion which had made his friend Tregear so dear to her”. Frank and Mabel must have been very discreet indeed for nothing of their romance to have come out given the way gossip of Tregear’s love for Lady Mary has reached the ears of Lady Chiltern (as we learn in passing in the restoration of the original beginning pages to the previous chapter) with whom he is only acquainted after his riding accident.

Chapter sixty-nine provides comic relief in the form of Dolly Longstaffe (the spelling of whose name is corrected – with the “e” throughout after having been mis-spelled in the shorter versions published previously). Dolly mentions in a short restoration that he has “been horribly cheated.” It is unclear to what this refers. It would be an unusual way to begin to express himself about what he takes to be Silverbridge’s cavalier dalliance with Isabel and so I cannot help but think that there is some explanation which needs to be restored or else this cut was deliberately made by Trollope because he changed his mind about some other instance which might be described as cheating. The other possibility is that Dolly is referring to the losses he sustained at cards at the same time as Gerald lost money.  However, this is the first suggestion that Percival actually cheated to win the money. The understanding we have had so far is that he was simply a more experienced and therefore better card player than Gerald and took advantage of his naive opponent.

There follow restorations in the conversation from which it is clear that Silverbridge shows growing maturity in biting his tongue – being “careful not to make a fool of himself…as [Isabel’s] name was in question he must be very careful.” Interestingly, like his father at the crisis of the last conversation with Mrs Finn, he too goes “and poked the fire, and altered the position of half-a-dozen things on the chimney-piece”. Clearly he has inherited certain mannerisms or behaviours from his father and is coming to resemble him more as he matures.

However, when he does finally lose his self-control, Silverbridge is very cutting. He says Dolly is talking “in this absurd way” and that Isabel “is most absolutely out of your reach.” In his passion, again like his father, he forgets how his words may wound the listener. His father has learned to rein in this tendency but still underestimates it on occasion. Silverbridge being less self aware than his father was “drawing himself into some unintended assumption of dignity.” In doing this, he so over-awes Dolly, even though the latter is by some years his senior, that Trollope ironically describes Silverbridge as “the object of all this worship” when Dolly immediately backs down and withdraws his suit on realising that Silverbridge’s intentions towards Isabel are serious.

After Dolly has gone, Silverbridge’s mind goes back to Isabel and, in a short restoration, the embrace with her described in the previous chapter – reminding readers of the physical attraction which is so strong between them.

Almost as an aside, Trollope notes that in spite of Silverbridge’s fears to the contrary, Dolly will be as good as his word and remain silent on the subject of the relationship with Isabel.  This is so typical of Trollope – to allow even an essentially comic character to have their moment of dignity in which to shine.

In the following chapter it is Silverbridge’s turn to be the butt of Trollope’s humour – a fine example of his ability to prick even the most dignified balloon. In a comic episode at the Boncasson lunch, he is in conversation with Lady Beeswax and, in his disgust at everyone apparently conspiring against his wish for a romantic moment alone with Isabel, proclaims he intends never to set foot in the Houses of Parliament.  Trollope then puns extravagantly with Lady Beeswax asking “You are not going to accept the Chilterns?” – the peculiar expression by which a Member of Parliament may resign (by accepting the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, the holder of which post is barred from sitting in the House – don’t ask, the origins are too obscure for words). To which Silverbridge responds “I have been staying with them and think I shall go back tomorrow.” (I cannot believe that Trollope set up this joke when creating the character of Lord Chiltern in Phineas Finn, five Palliser novels and eleven years earlier.)

There is a whole page restored of an authorial aside in which Trollope sends up the social nightmare of the lunchtime gathering during which he discloses a positively Dickensian capacity for drink required  at a typical Victorian gathering: “three or four glasses of champagne, and perhaps as many more of claret afterwards. Added to this there may be a little drop of cognac together with an opening and concluding modicum of sherry. And who is the worse for it? Who after it is conscious that either he himself or anyone else has drunk any wine?” Perhaps that should have simply ended: “Who after it is conscious?”

At the end of this lunch, it is clear that a trap is sprung and Silverbridge is left to face Isabel’s father. His discomfiture is self-evident in his confused body-language – perceptively observed by Trollope. “Silverbridge stood bolt upright, and then sat down again.” When Mr Boncasson repeats his daughter’s stipulation that she will only accept the assurance from the Duke of Omnium that she is an acceptable daughter-in-law, “Silverbridge put up his hand and passed it uneasily backwards and forwards across his head.  He did not feel so certain as to that absence of all prejudice on the part of his father.” The physical manifestation of his uncertainty is so cleverly introduced.

The chapter closes with Silverbridge concealing from Mr Boncasson that the reasons his father may think Silverbridge should not marry Isabel include the young man’s prior stated intention to propose to Lady Mabel. The poor boy, after apparently showing signs of impending greater maturity, is once again reduced to a “piteous” state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Duke’s Children: Chapters 66-70

  1. Glenn Shipway

    Mark, you are doing a terrific job. I will be reading the new Duke’s Children side by side with your notes.

    Glenn

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