Illustrating Trollope: Framley Parsonage

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In 1987 the Trollope Society in conjunction with the Folio Society undertook the extraordinarily ambitious, self-imposed task of publishing a complete set of the novels of Anthony Trollope. However, the two organisations decided that rather than publish a single joint edition, they would produce and publish parallel editions. Although there were no doubt some synergies to be obtained from this approach,there was also significant duplication of cost.  The Trollope Society editions were uniformly bound in brown covers with gold lettering on black panels for the titles and author’s name on the spine; the Folio Society editions were bound in a wide variety of colours with the same lettering.

It was not just the colour of the covers which differed, however. A key difference between the two organisations was their approach to illustrating the books.

The policy of the Trollope Society was that original illustrations, whether from the first editions or from the serial publication in magazines, should be used. However, only thirteen of the 47 novels were illustrated in the Trollope Society edition.  Moreover, there was inconsistency in whether there should be all the original illustrations – 40 illustrations by Millais in the case of Orley Farm, for example; or a selection of the original illustrations – 12 of the original 32 illustrations in The Last Chronicle of Barset, for example; or merely the frontispiece – as in The Way We Live Now.

In contrast, the policy of the Folio Society was to commission complete sets of new original illustrations by contemporary artists – usually 16 illustrations per book though somewhat fewer for shorter novels and 20 for the longer The Way We Live Now.

The use of these two differing approaches gives opportunity to examine both the illustrations themselves, comparing and contrasting the form, styles and techniques used in the two editions, and also the editorial selection decisions of which scenes to illustrate. Would there be differences? Would there be duplication?

The earliest Barsetshire novel of the thirteen Trollope Society editions which features a set of illustrations is Framley Parsonage. I therefore propose to start my comparison with this novel.  It also has the virtue of being illustrated by John Everett Millais, thought to be Trollope’s favourite illustrator, and certainly the one whose artistic reputation, as a member of the pre-Raphealite Brotherhood, has survived to be the greatest in our own era. It also has the merit of including what is arguably one of the most famous illustrations of any Trollope novel – the image at the start of this article “Was it not a lie?” – famous primarily because it is understood that Trollope at first complained to his publisher of the excessive decoration of the skirt of Lucy’s dress. He only came round later after seeing a woman actually wearing a very similar dress with such a full crinoline.

Inevitably, the Folio Society edition elects to show the same scene but, interestingly, the skirt, although still very full, is less excessively decorated and has a smaller crinoline in Alexy Pendle’s illustration than in the Millais original. Both also, it may be noted, feature a dressing table and mirror in the young woman’s bedroom. Not an unusual item of furniture, to be sure, but interesting that it should appear in both illustrations. Is there some symbolism at work here? Questions of vanity, perhaps? Or the lack thereof in Lucy’s case since her face is turned decisively away from the mirror in both illustrations?

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The Trollope Society edition uses six of the Millais illustrations from the original serialisation in the Cornhill Magazine. These are:

“Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts” – page 110

“Was it not a lie?” – page 168

“The Crawley Family” – page 222

“Lady Lufton and the Duke of Omnium” – page 296

“Mrs Gresham and Miss Dunstable” – page 390

“Mark”, she said, “the men are here” – page 450

Only the illustration of the Crawley Family is also duplicated in the 16 illustrations of the Folio Society edition.

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Both the Millais illustration (above) and the illustration by Alexy Pendle (below) depict with meticulous accuracy the scene described by Trollope when Lucy and Mrs Robarts visit the Crawley family at Hogglestock vicarage. “Mrs Crawley…was sitting with one baby in her lap while she was rocking another who lay in a cradle at her feet. Mr Crawley …had risen from his seat with his finger between the leaves of an old grammar out of which he had been teaching his two elder children.”

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 A subtle, but, I think, important difference is that Millais includes Lucy entering the room at the edge of the picture – thus placing the reader in the role of detached spectator viewing the tableau through the distancing effect of the fourth wall – whereas Pendle gives what might be perceived as Lucy’s view of the scene as the family talk with Mrs Robarts who is also “out of shot”. This approach draws the viewer into the room and makes the poverty of Crawley family, Mr Crawley’s guarded reserve – note the arm holding the book, raised protectively across his chest – and Mrs Crawley’s humility – note her downcast face, with eyes looking upward at Mrs Robarts – more real.

The remaining illustrations by Millais, featured in the Trollope Society edition all picture key meetings or confrontations between two principal characters – either love scenes or moments of heightened drama or comedy in the plot. 

The Folio Society edition also features illustrations of key meetings but, interestingly, unlike the Trollope Society edition which includes an illustration of an early meeting of Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts, the love-story plot of the novel (Trollope held that love stories were essential to all novels), it includes no illustration featuring the lovers together. 

Indeed, although both editions feature emotional confrontations between Mark Robarts and his wife Fanny on the subject of the debts he has incurred, they choose different scenes. The Trollope Society edition elects to use the illustration (above) of the humiliating arrival of the bailiffs, “Mark”, she said, “the men are here”, whereas the Folio Society selects the earlier scene (below) when he actually tells her of their financial woes, “Do not turn from me. Tell me, Mark.”

The contrast in the approaches used is marked. Millais presents the couple full-length from a distance which creates again the sense that the reader is emotionally distanced – a dispassionate observer. There is a formal, stylised structure, as occurs in all of the Millais illustrations used. The reader must also “read” the illustration in accordance with conventions. Fanny’s arm through her husband’s arm indicates the love and support she is offering him at this moment in the plot. Conversely, Pendle presents a close up from a viewpoint below that of the wife who is on her knees before her husband. The reader therefore shares, is almost invited to participate in, her intense emotions. It is a more naturalistic, informal approach than used by Millais, and is therefore more immediately accessible without decoding.

Pendle is also given opportunity, over the course of the 16 illustrations, to use greater variety of approach. In addition to the intimate portraits already discussed, she is able to experiment with comic cameos – the appearance of the money-lender Tom Tozer perching on one of the griffins outside Chaldicotes determined to out-wait his quarry Sowerby – and to picture minor characters in sub-plots, such as Harold Smith commenting on parliamentary business in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament (below). 

Indeed, here she uses full length illustrations from a slightly distanced perspective which are reminiscent of the approach of Millais. This reflects, perhaps, that those pictured require less empathy or emotional engagement on the part of the reader. These differences in style are also, no doubt, a reflection of the different expectations brought to each by their respective contemporary audiences. It is intriguing therefore to find the modern artist most closely mimicking the earlier artist’s style to achieve an almost diametrically opposite effect.
 

 

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