Monthly Archives: January 2017

Illustrating Trollope: The Small House at Allington

Returning to Barsetshire, I’m now going to examine the fifth book of the series: The Small House at Allington. First published in book form by Smith and Elder in 1864 following serialisation in Cornhill magazine, it was illustrated by Millais. The Trollope Society edition uses the 18 illustrations from that first edition. In addition, it includes a number of small vignettes, often street scenes which lend atmosphere to the text but do not specifically depict incidents from it.  These appear at the end of various chapters. The Folio Society edition includes 16 illustrations by Alexy Pendle, who provided the illustrations for all the Folio Society’s edition of the six Barsetshire Chronicles.
Perhaps astonishingly, only one scene is chosen for depiction by both illustrators and that is taken from the tragi-comic sub-plot of Johnny Eames and his complicated love-life with the less than genteel Amelia Roper, daughter of his landlady Mrs Roper. That this affair should throughout the novel appear to be a potential stumbling block in his awkward courtship of Lily Dale is a comic reflection on Trollope’s own difficulties while, like Johnny Eames, a clerk in the civil service in London.

Millais chooses to depict the pair discussing his imminent departure for Allington and the vicinity of Amelia’s supposed rival Lily with Johnny seated and Amelia standing before him at a respectable distance as she demands of him “And you love me?” in a mood in which “she could occasionally ruffle her feathers like an angry kite”. Pendle depicts the scene a moment later when he has foolishly replied: “‘Of course I love you.’ And then, upon hearing these words, Amelia threw herself into his arms.” We thus move from the full length portrait of the pair by Millais to a much closer and more intimate perspective of the couple embracing in the foreground while the chaperone, Miss Spruce appears in the distant background of the room as Amelia has switched in an instant to a mood in which “she could assume the plumage of a dove”.

Millais, in fact, never does depict the two other members of the Adolphus Crosbie, Lily Dale, Johnny Eames love triangle together in spite of the fact that it is Lily’s persistent attachment to Crosbie which is the mainspring of the book’s plot. is this some subtle form of censorship to avoid depicting Lily in a compromising closeness to a man whom she will ultimately not marry. Would she be perceived as having overstepped the bounds of decency and so lose the sympathy of readers – particularly censorious female matriarchs – if she were depicted in an embrace with Crosbie. Certainly Victorians did not baulk at the depiction of a wife embracing her husband (albeit perhaps not in such close up detail as Pendle depicts Amelia and Johnny) but would they have been scandalised at the sight of an unmarried couple embracing?
In contrast, Pendle depicts Lily and Crosbie together twice – the first occasion is the frontispiece showing them both in a social setting early in the novel but the second, and more important occasion, is the night-time tryst in the garden between the Small House and the Great House at Allington. Some scholars speculate whether this embrace went further than the kiss on the lips which Trollope explicitly describes before she whispers to him in apparent ecstacy: “Oh, my love!…My love! my love!” Pendle chooses to show a romantic moonlit image.

Millais, in fact does depict Crosbie with the woman he actually marries, Lady Alexandrina De Courcy, not once but twice. In neither scene is the couple shown to be happy. Indeed, Crosbie is pointedly looking at his watch, patently bored of the shopping expedition on which he has been forced to accompany his bride to be as she shops for carpets and other needful things to decorate their intended marital home. There is something of the universal experience of men under such circumstances which is irresistibly comical.

Pendle chooses to depict a moment of more spiky antagonism when portraying Crosbie and Alexandrina. She is clearly no fool and is well aware that he is courting her while ostensibly engaged to Lily when she asks him: “‘How long is it, Mr Crosbie,’ she said, ‘since you put the same question to Miss Dale?'” She evidently understands him and determines to take him on that basis for her own ends. Pendle portrays her without a hint of softness in her expression and Crosbie, handsome and bearded, looks down at the floor abashed.

There is indeed a greater variety of perspective in Pendle’s illustrations for the Folio Society editions than is used by Millais, whose viewpoint is generally static and at a middle distance – neither too close nor too distant. Pendle, as we have seen is willing to shift from the close up of the frontispiece to the longer perspective of the couple in the garden – both ostensibly embracing couples in love. This allows her to create light and shade in her depictions of the scenes allowing her to highlight contrasts – the self-serving physicality of the lower class couple, neither of whom are truly in love with each other but must go through the apparent ecstasies of being so, which can be exposed in close up, while the middle class couple have an apparently idyllic romantic interlude, best observed from a distance, even though only one of them is true  to the other.

Thus we see in close up the very physical assault by Johnny Eames on Crosbie in Pendle’s illustration whereas Millais opts for a more sedate portrayal of the subsequent discussion of the incident. Pendle even includes minor details of the scuffle such as the disturbance of the yellow shilling novels arrayed on display outside Mr Smith’s bookstall (yes, that Mr W. H. Smith). This is one of only four scenes, in addition to the single scene depicted by both, where both Millais and Pendle depict either the aftermath of, or run up to, a scene depicted by the other. For the remainder, they chose unrelated scenes.
For example, the artists chose two different moments from the Plantagenet Palliser – Lady Dumbello affair for their illustrations. This early indiscretion on the part of the young Palliser precedes the events described in Can You Forgive Her? which was published the following year (and whose plot in so far as it relates to the Palliser, Glencora, Burgo Fitzgerald love triangle is given away within a few paragraphs in this novel). It is interesting to speculate to what extent Millais was called upon to provide an illustration of Plantagenet Palliser as a teaser for the forthcoming novel. Did Trollope already have in mind at least the kernel of the idea for a new series of novels built around the fortunes of this young and, it must be said, almost foolishly self-willed aristocrat to take over from the Barsetshire series? If so then Millais depiction of this early incarnation flirting almost bashfully with Lady Dumbello reveals little of the sober, long-sighted man he will become. Though perhaps that uncertainty with women will be a constant trait.

Pendle choses to depict the private talking-to which Palliser receives from his Uncle the Duke of Omnium. She has Palliser looking rather more self-assured than Trollope suggests he might have been, casually leaning against the wall as the Duke sits admonishing him. It is as if Palliser is wishing the Duke to just get on with it. He has, perhaps, a lot of growing up to do before he will, in the fullness of time, assume the parliamentary responsibilities he will take so seriously and, ultimately, inherit the title.

It is also interesting to observe how Millais looks not only forward but backward in his illustrations, depicting Mr Harding, the hero of The Warden, the first book in the series. His appearance in this fifth Barchester novel is fleeting, mentioned as he passes Crosbie who in conversation with the verger at the door of the cathedral. Millais reflects Trollope’s description of “a little, spare old man”. Much of the plot of that earlier novel is recited and the illustration may have the effect of emphasising its appearance with a possible view to boosting sales of the earlier novel. Or is this retrospectively ascribing 21st Century marketing techniques to a nineteenth century publisher, author and illustrator?

Pendle does not depict Mr Harding in The Small House at Allington but as she provided the illustrations for the Folio edition of The Warden, it is interesting to compare her depiction of him in a closing scene with Bunce, one of the bedesmen under his care, with that drawn by Millais. Pendle’s Mr Harding is a less Dickensian portrait. She captures an expression of benevolence which speaks of the man’s character.

Pendle’s illustrations for the Barchester series are consistently in this style with emotional expressions clear on the characters’ faces. This is true of her other work for the Folio Society such as The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell.

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She has also provided illustrations for Oxford University Press, Macmillan and other publishers as well as providing illustrations for children’s books published by Puffin and others. She also wrote and illustrated a children’s novel The Cat Who Could Fly published by Muller. Having grown up in England and trained at the Central School of Art in London she now lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.

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Trollope on Tour

Words are important.
I am just at the end of a short speaking tour of Germany where I have been giving lectures about Trollope’s life and works to local groups of the Deutsch-Englischen Gesellschaft in the Nord Rhein Westfalen region  – the great industrial heartland of the Ruhr which has produced the nations coal and steel.

In the talks I sought to demonstrate how Trollope’s traumatic childhood experiences of the poverty brought on by his father’s bankruptcy affected him profoundly and how the tireless example of his mother, writing novel after novel to keep the family finances afloat, provided the model for his own industrious production line approach to writing. I have attempted to show how this acknowledgment in his posthumously published Autobiography by Trollope of his commercialism – that he was writing primarily to make money – ran counter to romantic ideals of the artist inspired to create his art and so led to the decline in his critical standing in the years following his death.

So far so conventional.

I have, however, gone further and argued that once his financial security was assured, Trollope, in his later style, became much more adventurous and experimental in his subject matter. While not turning his back on the need to provide happy romantic plots he was also tackling controversial topics such as prostitution in The Vicar of Bullhampton, marital breakdown in He Knew He Was Right, and bigamy in Dr Wortle’s School and John Caldigate. He was also venturing into new genres. The last two mentioned novels include elements of clue based detective fiction more than a decade before Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes appearance with, for example, the innocence of a character being proven when the investigator discovers vital evidence has been forged because the purported date of a letter being posted is prior to the date on which the stamp affixed to the envelope was first produced.

I conclude my talks with reference to Trollope’s venture into dystopian science fiction The Fixed Period which includes euthanasia and provides the blueprint for Hollywood movies such as Blade Runner and Logan’s Run.

I seek to demonstrate that in his quiet approach to the human consequences of these and other social ills on his very real, sympathetically drawn characters Trollope is as sigificant a commentator and social critic as Dickens without resorting to standing on a soapbox and haranguing his audience on the matter as Dickens was prone to do.

I hope, from the responses that I have received from the audiences, that my words have had the desired effect and will influence them to investigate Trollope who is little read in Germany where translations of all but his most popular novels are hard to come by.

When I mentioned, before embarking on the speaking tour, that I was coming to Germany for this purpose, a friend asked me whether I spoke German. I replied that the talks would be delivered in English to members of an Anglo-German cultural exchange group who were effectively bi-lingual and used to hearing speakers in English and that my comnand of German was only adequate for polite small talk – good enough to get me into trouble but not good enough to get me out again.

As if to demonstrate this, on my arrival in Dusseldorf, I was met at the airport by the president of the Essen group, with whom I had exchanged a couple of emails only to arrange how we should recognise each other at the arrivals hall. He drove me into Essen and let me out of the car at the hotel entrance with my hand luggage for me to check in while he parked the car and brought in my suitcase from the boot of the car.

“Guten Abend, Herr Doktor Green.” Said the receptioist in the very correct, formal way that is polite between Germans when meeting strangers. In my schoolboy German I then negotiated the signing of the hotel register, getting my key and being told that my room was on the first floor.

I then stood waiting in the hotel lobby. The receptionist looked at me.

“Was ist dann los? Kann ich Sie hilfen?” She enquired.

“Ich muss fur mein Freund Bernhard warten.” I replied. “Er kommt mit dem Gepack.”

I saw a look of panic cross the receptionist’s face.

“Aber Herr Doktor Green, das Zimmer ist nur fur ein Person!”

And it was at that point I realised the full implications of what I had said. To talk of a person by his first name only was very relaxed and implied a long and close relationship. I would have been more correct in this German context, but most unfriendly in an English social context, to have referred to him as “Herr Doktor So and So” (you always give people their academic title if they have earned it as an indication of the proper respect for learning in Germany). And the word “Freund” is sufficiently ambiguous to encompass the concept of boyfriend especially when used in conjunction with a first name only with reference to him bringing in the single suitcase.

I was, I recognised, in deep and embarrassing trouble from which it was certainly beyond the power of my schoolboy German to extricate myself and from which I was only rescued by Bernhard’s arrival with the case and a clarifying explanation of what had happened. Such is the power of words. Especially words in translation. Even more so where the translation is inexpert.

The speaking tour has coincided with Theresa May’s speech in which she finally confirmed that Britain was expecting to negotiate a hard Brexit from the European Union. Needless to say this approach has met with dismay amongst my audiences on the tour, comprising as they do members of a group devoted to the promotion of Anglo-German cultural exchange. My ice-breaker opening line that I am pleased to be able to come and address them now before I have to get a visa to visit has invariably raised a laugh but there have been earnest discussions over dinners and drinks about the implications. 

I have found myself explaining how a British Prime Minister, in the face of the evidence that a hard Brexit will have potentially significant adverse economic consequences for Britain, would for reasons of short term political expediency decide to cut off Britain’s nose to spite its economic face, with the apparent consent of the majority of Brits who voted on the matter. I pointed out that she was simply accepting the Realpolitik: that the UK population’s desire to restrict immigration and breach the principle of freedom of movement meant that the 27 other EU countries would never allow the UK, under those conditions, to have unfettered access to the single market. It is better for her to take that as read from the outset than attempt to overcome it and reveal any weakness by then failing to do so.

The other external event this week which overshadowed the tour was the impending inauguration of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States. On the day of my arrival he tweeted that NATO was obsolete. This was translated by the German press in the lunchtime news broadcasts using the almost identical German word “obsolet”. However, this word in German has strong connotations of being superfluous to requirements rather losing the English sense of being out of date and needing to be overhauled and updated which is implied in its use by a native English speaker. 

Bernhard (remember him!) contacted the newsdesk and explained this misconstruction in their translation and suggested an alternative German word “veraltet” (approximating to the English word “aged”) should be used which better captured the correct nuances of the English term. He was cock-a-hoop when the evening news bulletin indeed went out using his proposed alternative word. 

Rightly, he argued that it was even more imperative when dealing with a new and important figure on the international srtage, one of whom there is a great deal of apprehension and suspicion in Germany and other allies of the USA, that there should be the greatest care taken in ensuring the true interpretation of his words (however casually they may appear to be tossed out) in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and divisions between allies.

Words, in this context of international relations, are more than just important. They are matters of life and death.

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Illustrating Trollope: Rachel Ray

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Rachel Ray was commissioned by the Reverend Norman MacLeod, editor of Good Words, the magazine of the Evangelical Society in 1862. Millais was commissioned to illustrate the serial as it appeared in the magazine.

For reasons which will become apparent, MacLeod chickened out of publishing the novel after it had been written but before Millais had completed the illustrations. In consequence Trollope sold the rights for the publication of the novel to Chapman and Hall and it was published with the above illustration by Millais as its sole illustration and frontispiece. The Trollope Society’s edition of the novel follows this approach, using that illustration alone.

The naturalism and realism of the illustration is typical of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of which Millais was a prominent member. Their stated aim was to get away from the contrived, painterly style which was in vogue in the early Victorian period and get back to what they perceived to be the more honest depictions of painters before art took a wrong turn, as they saw it, through  Raphael and the mechanistic imitations of his successors. They reserved particular scorn for the influence of the Royal Academy and its leading light Sir Joshua Reynolds whom they nicknamed “Sir Sloshua” an unsubtle dig at what they regarded as the excesses of his style.

They sought to return to the attention to detail and accuracy in the depictions which they felt had been lost in this focus on form and style over content. There was frequently a religious or quasi-religious tone to their work reflecting the outlook of the leading critic John Ruskin who championed their work as well as a desire to accurately depict nature.

Millais’s work such as Christ in the House of His Parents (below) was shocking to the mid-Victorians of 1850.

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Dickens deplored the ugliness and squalor of the people and the scene. How could such a depiction be appropriately uplifting of the religious spirit in the viewer.

Millais subsequently came to focus on the realism rather than the pseudo-Medievalism and religiosity of the Brotherhood. His later work was hugely successful commercially and appealed, perhaps, to the maudlin sentimentality of the late-Victorian public. This is typified by the painting Bubbles (below), which was later adapted for commercial use by Pears soap makers.

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Millais was, therefore, a commercially attractive partner for Chapman and Hall to use to produce the frontispiece for the first edition of Rachel Ray in 1863. The scene which Millais chose to illustrate is when Rachel at a low point in her courtship by the brewer, Luke Rowan. She has walked alone to a spot by a stile where she and Rowan had talked previously and sits in a pensive mood, captured by Millais in his illustration. This scene is also depicted in the Folio Society edition, drawn by David Eccles. He, however, has chosen to illustrate the landscape in which she is only a small feature, rather than the portrait approach of Millais. This might be a reflection that at that point Rachel is seeking, without success, to recapture the wonders of nature conjured up for her by Rowan in his description of the countryside around them in that earlier scene on which she is pondering.

This image is unique in the 16 drawn by Eccles in that all the others feature close ups of the human actors of the story. Indeed, he captures the intimacy of the waltz from the Tappit’s ballroom scene to which MacLeod strongly objected. Not only does the man hold the woman particularly close in this style of dance – Rowan’s arm is around Rachel and his hand can be seen clearly holding Rachel’s waist – which is shocking to the puritanical morals of the evangelicals but they are so close that their faces are almost touching and the expression of unashamed enjoyment on his part and more muted but nevertheless most willing submission to the man’s embrace on her part is very evident.

Eccles also depicts the evangelical Reverend Prong as he proposes to Rachel’s widowed elder sister Mrs Prime and captures the hypocrisy of his character in declaring that  “as regards money,… my motives are pure and disinterested” when they are anything but. Trollope’s unflattering portrayal of the evangelical clergyman no doubt also contributed to MacLeod’s decision not to publish the novel in Good Words magazine.

Eccles has chosen to depict the characters with an exaggerated style which, though it stops well-short of caricature, is significantly less natural than that used by Millais. In this respect it is almost Victorian – harking back towards the caricatured approach of Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). The sly nature of the sanctimonious clergyman’s wooing the wealthy widow is very evident in his expression.

Eccles provided illustrations for no other Trollope novel in the Folio Society editions so we must look outside for other examples of his work to give his illustrations for Rachel Ray context. He has illustrated Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, also for the Folio Society, and here he adopted an explicitly cartoon strip style. This approach, which strips away extraneous detail, focuses the reader on the key points – often with particular emphasis on facial expressions to give very direct clues to the internal emotions or workings of the characters’ minds.

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This approach may be seen as highly suitable for Trollope in the satirical vein in which he approached Rachel Ray. Trollope observed that he could never depict the world of work through the medium of the “operatives” – the new urban working class who manned the factories in the way that Dickens was able to do so effectively in Hard Times, slaving in entrepreneur Thomas Gradgrind’s Coketown factories. Yet, in Luke Rowan, Trollope created perhaps his only example of a true businessman who was capable of getting his hands dirty in the furtherance of his (beer) manufacturing enterprise and did so with deftness and a genuine feel for his character. Eccles in depicting Rowan and others in the novel with their thinking and feelings writ plain on their faces provides support for the author’s broader intentions in this novel in a way that succeeds here but which might jar where Trollope paints more nuanced portraits of his characters in his more subtle explorations of the middle classes in certain other novels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trollope in Germany 2017

Under the auspices of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft Münsterland e.V., I will be conducting a short speaking tour of Germany, talking about the life and works of Anthony Trollope. The lectures will be:

17th January – Rükuntor , Konferenzraum, Ruttenscheider Str. 144, Essen at 7pm

18th January – Englisches Seminar, Johannis Str. 12-20, Münster at 8pm

19th January – University of Bonn at 6pm

For more information contact the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft Münsterland e.V. through Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/DBGMuensterMuensterland/

Naturally tour T-shirts will be available…

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