Illustrating Trollope: The Last Chronicle of Barset

We come to the final article in this series looking at the illustrations used by the Trollope Society and the Folio Society for their complete editions of Trollope’s novels. The Trollope Society took original illustrations, frequently from the first editions, or indeed the magazine serialisations, of the novels to illustrate thirteen of the forty seven novels while the Folio Society commissioned new illustrations by contemporary artists. It seems fitting therefore that we end with what Trollope regarded as one of his finest works: The Last Chronicle of Barset. This was illustrated in the original 32 part serialisation by George Housman Thomas. These illustrations were reproduced in the two volume first edition published by Smith, Elder and Co. Twelve of these 32 illustrations appear in the Trollope Society edition, including the frontispiece above, depicting Reverend Crawley facing the magistrate’s bench. The Folio Society edition features sixteen illustrations which, like the illustrations for the rest of the Barsetshire novels, are drawn by Alexy Pendle.

Perhaps surprisingly, only one scene in the entire novel is illustrated in both the Trollope Society and Folio Society editions but even then the artists chose to depict different moments from that scene, which takes place near the very end of the book, when Johnny Eames faces a final confrontation with Madalina Demolines with whom he has pursued a dalliance as a distraction from his ill-fated love for Lily Dale. While the Trollope Society edition takes Thomas’s depiction of the moment when Madalina collapses in his arms as her mother conveniently enters the room to witness them in a clinch (a honeytrap if ever there was one, if I may borrow the term, anachronistically, from the spy-thriller genre) that may be depicted within the conventions of the day, the Folio Society edition features the comic climax of the same scene when Johnny throws open the sash window and calls down to a passing policeman to wait for him to make his ignominious exit in safety from the clutches of the two women.

In a separate sub-plot of the novel, we also find that confrontations between Clara Van Siever and her mother are depicted in both editions and again that these portrayals are very different. Notwithstanding that the quarrels depicted occur in different chapters the gist of the argument in each case is the same – the mother is haranguing her daughter about her relationship with the penniless artist Conway Dalrymple. Both Thomas and Pendle capture the domineering character of the mother although Thomas does so while showing both women standing and draws both full-length whereas Pendle choses to have Clara seated and gives the reader/viewer the daughter’s perspective, looking up at her mother looming over her which reinforces the impression of this attempt by the older woman to browbeat her daughter into submission.

There are in fact four key plot-lines in the novel which are only loosely related. Trollope has not so much sought to tie up the loose ends with this sixth and final Barsetshire novel, as tease out further skeins from which he has woven a complex and altogether epic conclusion to the series which would be perfectly capable of standing alone as one of the peaks of his achievement. The first and most obvious plotline is that of the criminal case against Reverend Crawley over the alleged misappropriation of funds from a cheque, which he cannot adequately give account for having in his possession. The second sub-plot is the romance between Grace Crawley and Major Henry Grantly which is carried on, at least on the part of the Major, in the face of the displeasure of his father, the archdeacon. The third sub-plot is the continuation of the doomed romance between Lily Dale and Johnny Eames which has been carried over from the preceding novel, The Small House at Allington. The fourth sub-plot is the romance of Clara Van Siever and Conway Dalrymple. So Trollope, true to form, mixes in a love story (or three in this case) to leaven the serious business of the criminal case.

The relative weight given to each of these strands highlights a difference in approach between the Trollope Society and Folio Society editions.

Of the twelve illustrations in the Trollope Society edition, three (25%) are taken from the “main” theft storyline while four (25% again) of the sixteen illustrations in the Folio edition are from this thread. Both feature an illustration of the investigator, Mr Toogood, with servants who are “helping him with his enquiries” albeit these are again from completely different occasions in the course of his investigation. However, only the Trollope Society edition directly includes illustrations of the actual court case while the Folio Society edition depicts characters in scenes peripheral to the actual court scenes. Nevertheless, this main plot of the novel receives equal prominence in both editions.

However, the second storyline, the romance between Grace Crawley and Major Grantly, is featured in four (33%) of the illustrations in the Trollope Society edition and five – in one guise or another (but therefore only 30%) of the Folio Society edition – downplaying its importance for Folio readers. Though neither edition depicts the couple alone together, the Trollope Society edition in fact does show them in a scene together but they are in the company of Mrs Robarts and so there is no risk of overtly romantic imagery. Otherwise both editions show them individually as their romance progresses – such as the scene above where Grace Crawley leaves the position she has at the school run by Miss Prettyman and her sister when the older women display their affection for her. This scene is drawn by Alexy Pendle and again may be taken as the parallel of a different scene from another chapter in which the same characters are depicted by George H. Thomas. As with the depiction of the Van Siever mother and daughter, Thomas depicts the characters full length in the centre of a room while Pendle chooses to bring one character very much into the foreground and place the others in the background to create a much greater feeling for the reader/viewer of inhabiting the same space as the characters depicted.

Conversely the third plot, the Johnny Eames/Lily Dale romance (with its attendant feature of Johnny’s “bit on the side” – to use another anachronism but one that captures the careless sense with which Johnny describes this relationship to his friend Dalrymple as an amusing distraction from his woes with Lily) features in only two pictures (17%) in the Trollope Society edition whereas, in its various forms, it commands five (approaching 30%) in the Folio edition. However, only the Trollope Society edition includes a picture of Johnny and Lily together (see below – at the moment she attempts to kill all his hopes with a wish that they should be as brother and sister to one another) whereas the Folio Society edition never depicts the two together. Lily is only depicted with Grace Crawley and with a “safe pair of hands” Siph Dunn with whom she goes out riding without any risk of suspected impropriety. Johnny is depicted twice in the context of his relationship with Madalina and she appears herself in a distinctly come hither pose, seen from Johnny’s perspective.

It is interesting also to consider the selection process undergone by the Trollope Society to whittle down the 32 original illustrations to the 12 used in its edition. This reveals a distinct bias in the relative weighting given to the different storylines. The table below shows the effect of this selection.

Edition
Plotline Smith Elder Trollope Society Folio Society
Mr Crawley, theft of cheque 10 (32%) 3 (25%) 4 (25%)
Grace Crawley/Henry Grantly romance 11 (35%) 4 (33%) 5 (30%)
Lily Dale/Johnny Eames romance 5 (16%) 2 (17%) 4/5 (25-30%)
Clara Van Siever/ Conway Dalrymple romance 3 (10%) 1 (8%) 2 (13%)
Mr Harding 2 (7%) 2 (17%) 1 (7%)

All editions, when considered from the perspective of the illustrations, give marginally more weight to the Grace Crawley/Henry Grantly romance than to the other plotlines with the theft storyline, ostensibly the main plot, marginally lower weight.

However, while the Folio Society gives second billing to the Lily Dale/Johnny Eames romance, the Trollope Society follows the original Smith Elder weighting and gives it less prominence than the two principal storylines.

The most significant difference in the choice of illustrations is, however, actually tangential to the various storylines that run through the novel. The novel marks the final appearance of the much loved character Mr Harding, the eponymous protagonist of Trollope’s first Barchester novel, The Warden. Here the old man is depicted not once but twice in the Trollope Society edition which keeps both illustrations from the Smith Elder edition that focus on Mr Harding – fully one sixth of the total illustrations – and on each occasion he is shown seated with a favoured grandchild (below with Posy, his favourite daughter Eleanor’s child by her second husband) or great-grandchild on his knee. He appears not at all in the Folio edition but the frontispiece of that edition depicts an elderly bedesman, Bunce, who will be remembered by readers from his appearance in The Warden, commiserating with Eleanor after her father’s death. Is the Trollope Society reflecting the sentimentality of the Victorian readers with its chocolate box images of the old man and children? Is the Folio Society attempting to address upfront the personal grief that readers may be experiencing at the loss of such a beloved character?

Michael Sadleir has argued that Trollope was so uncomfortable with the portrayal of his characters by George Thomas that he thereafter took little interest in the illustrations of his works.  Certainly, Trollope is thought to have favoured Millais as his illustrator though Thomas was preferred over Millais for the illustration of The Last Chronicle of Barset.

Thomas had already achieved prominence for his illustrations of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, having lived for a number of years in America, and for Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield before working on The Last Chronicle of Barset.

Untitled

He had also exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy and been commissioned by Queen Victoria to paint a number of official occasions including the presentation of the first Victoria Cross medals in 1857, visits she made to Aldershot with Prince Albert in 1859 and various royal marriages including that of the Prince of Wales. 

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Thomas died in 1868 not long after working on the illustrations for Trollope’s novel.

I will end this series with views expressed by Ellen Moody with which I agree:

“when done right [I] find book illustrations can add so much to a reader’s experience. Unfortunately since the turn of the 19th century (Henry James one of the culprits who talked against illustrators), illustrations have been castigated or mocked, and often the illustrators are not paid enough and their work not taken seriously or they themselves create half-trivializing cartoons, with the result only “collector’s items” of books (expensive, where the illustrator is well paid and can be a good artist) have well done work.”

Ellen has also written on illustrating Trollope and her articles can be found at:

http://www.jimandellen.org/trollope/trollope.section.lead.html#Pictorial

I should also add a small note of personal thanks to Sarah Feather who kindly provided me with information on the illustrations for the Smith Elder first edition which helped in the writing of this article.

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Illustrating Trollope: The Last Chronicle of Barset

  1. Glenn Shipway

    Well written Mark. I can’t wait for the book!!

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