The Duke’s Children: Chapters 76-80

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Facsimile of the final pages of The Duke’s Children including the crossed out last paragraphs.

I have the feeling of entering the home straight, if I may borrow that racing analogy without offending the Duke.

Chapter seventy-six opens with a restored paragraph which makes clear that Lady Mary invited Tregear to London with her father’s permission for the meetings and dinner described in the earlier chapters. This is significant in that it is Mary who is the active agent in bringing to a successful conclusion her romance with Tregear, rather than the man. So we see an emancipated female in action.

There is also a clarification that the Duke’s proscription of further contact between the pair till after Easter is in fact for a period of only six weeks so it is less draconian than might otherwise appear. However, it is equally made clear that “no one had dared to ask the Duke a question on [the] subject” of their marriage and its possible timing.  He still inspires awe even though he has capitulated on the main point.

Later we learn that Isabel has invited Tregear “to call her by her Christian name”. This is a very familiar, almost intimate form of address to be used by a man to a woman in Victorian England. Isabel’s relaxed and emancipated American ways are clearly a little much for her more traditional and, one might suggest, jealous, husband-to-be but he “did not quite dare to say that it was intended for his own exclusive use and benefit.” She is evidently not going to be the meek submissive wife that Silverbridge’s upbringing would have led him to expect.

Isabel even has the restored final word when Silverbridge says he does not understand US politics, when she says, playfully but assertively, “If you behave yourself well you shall be taught before long.”

A restored second paragraph to chapter seventy-seven explains why Tregear felt unable on the grounds of his still frail health following his accident to travel to Brighton to tell Mabel of the Duke’s change of mind about his prospective marriage but I must question the inclusion of the sentence at the end of the paragraph “As soon as his good fortune was fixed he felt it to be imperative on him to announce it, at any rate to her.” The preceding sentence which ends “…he wrote to her announcing his own good fortune, – as follows.” would make a far better conclusion to the paragraph which is then succeeded by the text of the letter. I wonder if one at least of these deletions was made by Trollope before he began his epic cull to bring down the word-count.

The letter itself now includes a sentence “My conscience is not quite clear, – and yet when I argue the matter with myself I think that it ought to be clear.” This gives Mabel the very opening she needs to express to him that she feels betrayed by him when they eventually meet.  However, in a restoration shortly afterwards Trollope points out that when they declared their love  for one another although they had no money or prospects of money to live on, “she had been brought out to the world and should perhaps have known better…He was still a boy…and he too ought to have known better.”

We are given more details of how they had agreed their love could not continue with Mabel the instigator of the decision.  “Then she had, laughing, bade him to look for a rich wife, and had declared her purpose of finding for herself a rich husband.” The gist of her complaint to Tregear is that he took her at her word on these instructions and found someone else before she did even though she turned down several others before blowing her chances by mis-managing Silverbridge whom she would have taken in accordance with the statement we now know she made. This makes her position almost wholly unreasonable in the longer edition and easier for Tregear to stand his ground and justify his actions. Sour grapes, anyone? Wanting to have her cake and eat it? Indeed, Trollope goes on to make explicit that Tregear subsequently realised, “that he had been mistaken as to her” and that she had never let go of the feelings she had for him.

We also learn that Tregear wished, wisely, that if they “were less close it might be better for herself.” But she would not see it that was and clung to their old intimacy. So when they do eventually meet he is dismayed that she immediately begins to talk about “the one matter on which he had determined that he would say as little as possible.”

We also learn from restorations in their conversation that Mabel has declined offers to live in comparative material comfort with either of her aunts because she dislikes both for the fervour of their religious convictions. So things are not quite as desperate for Mabel financially as they need have been.

Mabel also jumps on Frank’s suggestion that Silverbridge should not have given her false hopes. In a short restoration she claims the right to call them that exclusively herself on the grounds that Tregear too raised false hopes in her. She conveniently forgets that she laughed at Silverbridge when he tried to propose to her and, as we now know from the earlier restoration, was the instigator of the break-up between herself and Tregear. She is not once but twice the author of her own misfortune but refuses to accept the fact in either case.

Frank acknowledges that at times when they were in love “I was almost drunk with the idea that Lady Mabel Grex was all my own.” This shows how much he must have been hurt by her decision to end the relationship on practical grounds of lack of money. He says that he felt then “as though all of my light had gone out.” Mabel, it seems, in this longer version, has a very selfish and one-sided perspective on life and lacks true insight into the hearts of the men she has come into contact with.

In chapter seventy-eight it is intriguing to read now that Mabel also gave Tregear “assurance…which he certainly did not believe, – that she had in truth never loved him.” This is exactly what she also told Silverbridge.  It seems that denial of her true feelings as a weapon to hurt former lovers is something she makes a habit of doing – though in Silverbridge’s case it may well be true that she did not love him at any time (in which case she has no real right to complain when he took himself off and found someone else).

Later there is an interesting passage between Tregear and Silverbridge on the fitness of the Duke to return to politics at the highest level.  Tregear having insightfully pointed out that he believed the Duke had been deeply wounded by his stint as The Prime Minister, Silverbridge suggests that the Duke should be expected to get over it and that “if he does I don’t think the country could have a better man whether he be Liberal or Conservative.” This is perhaps to be expected not only out of filial loyalty but also because Silverbridge has already indicated that he intends to switch sides. However Tregear, still resolutely of the Conservative side, says, “I quite agree with that.” Such is the esteem in which the young man holds his political opponent.

We learn in a one of several short restorations on the political manoeuvrings of Timothy Beeswax and the consequent return of the Duke to the political fray at ministerial level that the Duke was aware, as Trollope observes in an aside, as must be any man, “if he has been asked to take the lead in some affair…will know when the duty has been performed , without a word of criticism from without, whether he will again be called on for similar service.” The Duke is indeed his own sternest critic and it is perhaps this certainty of judgment on matters close to his heart (be it political or family matters) which is the mainspring of the events described in the novel. The novel is almost a lesson in how to change even the most dyed in the wool convictions when faced with events which turn out to be beyond even his control.

The chapter concludes with a short extra coda to the conversation between the Duke and Silverbridge in which the son asks when Mary might allowed to set a date for her wedding. Mary, it turns out, has asked Silverbridge to broach the subject, rightly guessing that the father will take the request for a decision better from his elder son than from the daughter herself.  Yet another example of Trollope recognising the dynamics of family relationships and showing that the young woman concerned has mastered them for herself.

In chapter seventy-nine a sentence is restored which tells us that Tregear, on being requested by the Duke not to contact Mary again till after Easter ,”had felt so strongly that during the six weeks after that, while he remained in town, he hardly even spoke to the Duke.” I can’t help but think that the Duke was being almost spiteful in imposing this last condition, as it must have appeared to the young lovers, after conceding to their wish to get married. Was it for this reason that Tregear would not speak to him? I suspect Trollope would rather we thought it was due to the respect, akin to awe, that the Duke inspired in Tregear, as he did in everyone. That would be consistent with his response to the prospect of meeting the Duke on his his eventual arrival at Matching because he recognised that “It was impossible that the Duke should as yet be genial with him.  And everyone about the place, with the exception of the one person, would be more or less hostile to him.” We also learn that even the Glencora had told him how the Duke could inspire awe in those he met – which is so indiscreet of her and so very true to form in that respect – a delightful little reminder from Trollope of this wonderful character after killing her off in the opening sentence of the novel. In this respect I am also pleased to note the new edition uses the correct spelling of Glencora’s maiden name, M’Cluskie rather than perpetuate the erroneous spelling of previous editions.

We also have Mary, in an aside to Frank, say that she might “almost wish that [Mabel] and Silverbridge could have come together.” This shows Mary in a particularly sympathetic light since she has, perhaps for the first time, just realised that there has been a serious relationship between Mabel and Frank prior to him becoming her own lover. Is Trollope gilding the Lily a little here? Could Mary not be allowed a little twinge of jealousy to spoil here apparent perfection?

A restoration makes sense of what is otherwise left as a hanging, unanswered question about the timing of Mary’s wedding towards the end of the chapter. The Duke continues immediately to say that “Mary has been told by me that she may fix it.” Once again, Mary is shown as an unusually active rather than a passive female character in her drama.

And once again, Isabel has the final word in a chapter – telling her mother that “It is but ten days across the Atlantic.  The year in which you won’t come to us we will go to you.” Which is a might big promise to be making when speaking on behalf of not just herself but her aristocratic Victorian husband of a matter of hours only.  She must be very certain of herself. But then perhaps Trollope had in mind a role model from his own life – the young American woman, Kate Field with whom he was very close in his later years.

The final chapter – number eighty – begins with a restoration in the first paragraph in which Trollope notes in one of his typical asides to the reader that he is going to continue to refer to Isabel by her Christian name even though that isn’t the done thing for newly married Victorian women. This is a highly telegraphed reference back to the earlier decision by Isabel to allow Frank Tregear to call her by her Christian name much to the chagrin of Silverbridge, in a paragraph also restored in the full text in chapter seventy-six. Isabel, we are forcefully reminded, is to be her own woman still.

We also see Mary facing down her father “”only by a look” when he tentatively suggests inviting Lady Cantrip to Mary’s wedding. How the mighty are fallen. And in a short restoration it is actually stated that “Lady Mary became the wife of Frank Tregear” in spite of the “very un-ducal” circumstances. Later, the Duke with “at any rate,…good humour” is found “reflecting how seldom it had happened that he to whom so many good things had been given had been allowed to have his own way in the affairs of life.” How the mighty are fallen, indeed.

Mrs Finn, brought back for the concluding scene, now confesses to her husband that when she had first met Tregear, “After he had been with me I felt sure he would succeed.  I could not tell him that I thought so, but there was that in his manner which convinced me.” Yet still she played a straight bat and acted in the interests of the Duke (as he would eventually come to agree she had). Trollope, it seems, cannot resist reminding us of how one of his favourite female characters suffered so unjustly in the early part of the novel.

And the novel ends with a restored paragraph which points to the possibility of a further sequel featuring the younger generation. By striking out this out (see above illustration), was Trollope tacitly admitting that he was in fact saying goodbye to the Pallisers as he earlier said goodbye to Barset but in an altogether lower key and un-trumpeted way commensurate with his now waning status as an author in the evening of his writing career?















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2 responses to “The Duke’s Children: Chapters 76-80

  1. Glenn Shipway

    Mark, you have done a terrific job. I have now copied, pasted and saved your sixteen episodes of 5 chapters each and will read the expanded book with your notes beside me!

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