Monthly Archives: September 2017

Nicholas Shrimpton on Editing Trollope

Dr Nicholas Shrimpton, editor of two Trollope novels for the new Oxford World’s Classics edition, spoke at the Reading Trollope Study Day on Saturday 23rd September. He began by explaining what prompted Oxford University Press to bring out a new edition.

Back in 2009 the Oxford editions in print were getting rather dated. They were brought out in 1982 to mark the centenary of Trollope’s death and were based on the earlier edition published between 1948 and 1954 under the guidance of Michael Sadleir. They did include some new material such as forewords and introductions and in 1991 a chronology had been added but it was felt that a fresh start was needed.

It was decided to commence with the Palliser series. Seven editors were recruited including Nicholas who was to be responsible for The Prime Minister. The first decision was that the text used would be that from the Sadleir Oxford edition with new introductions and footnotes. Nicholas wrote a chronology which was included as an appendix to all the books.

This chronology is necessary to address the apparent anomaly that Plantagenat first appears in The Small House at Allington aged 25 and is 46 in The Prime Minister published only twelve years later. There needs to be some judicious spreading of dates in the fictional Barsetshire world to accommodate this aging of its leading character. The novels cannot be treated as describing exactly contemporary scenes.

Trollope is actually quite specific on the passage of time in his novels and the chronology of each is internally consistent. Shrimpton, by pushing the earlier novels into the past a little, created sufficient room for the passage of time across the series to be just about tenable from The Small House at Allington which he placed in 1857/8 to The Duke’s Children which he placed in 1878/9 when it was published.

There is also a need to place Barsetshire politics in the timeline of real Victorian politics so that, for example, the Barsetshire whigs’ Reform Bill occurs in about 1865 to correspond with the actual Tory Reform Bill of 1867.

All of this relationship with the real world, which would have been known to Trollope’s contemporary readers has to be explained to the modern reader – especially to the millennial students at whom the OUP targets its editions (for use asset books for schools for example). This results in lots of footnotes to explain not just the politics but simple practical matters mentioned. For example, “a half a crown” has to be explained as being worth two shillings and sixpence (a crown being worth a five shillings – there being four crowns to the twenty shilling pound). And that in those pre-decimalisation (oh how Planty Pall must have rejoiced in 1971) days there were twelve pennies to the shilling so the half crown was equivalent to 12 1/2p in absolute terms – and due to inflation this is worth about £6 in real terms now).

When looking at the politics, for Trollope to discuss in details some half a dozen members of the cabinet might appear to be ignoring the majority of the people in the cabinet to a modern reader accustomed to UK government cabinets comprising perhaps 23 ministers plus 6  non-ministerial posts within the cabinet. But back in Victorian times there might have been only 12 to 20 members in total. So Trollope was not ignoring nearly so many people as might appear to be the case.

This greater need for explanatory footnotes resulted in the new editions of the novels having 400 or more footnotes each in place of the 15 to 20 in the original Sadleir editions on which they are based. This is largely a reflection that there was a great deal of continuity between the 1850s and the 1950s but there has been so much change since then.

Shrimpton was also concerned in his introduction to address aesthetic issues – to consider Trollope as an artist. He draws parallels with Shakespeare’s Othello when looking at the chronology issue. Trollope didn’t set out to write a series (unlike, say Zola with his Rougon Macquart series) so as he wrote more he was not unaware that he was compressing time and so he “fudged” it. But he did so in a way that we accept as readers, just as we accept that Shakespeare does in his plays. Othello, for example, as written takes place over about 3 days, which is hardly time for Desdemona to meet Cassio for the first time, conduct a full blown affair with him, be discovered by Iago and murdered by her husband after Iago tells him about it. Such a sequence of events must require a minimum of weeks if not months to take place. But we never question that – or rather we hold both clocks in our minds without troubling that they are running at different speeds.

After the success of the Palliser series, the OUP then moved on to the Barsetshire series and Shrimpton was allocated The Warden. He successfully argued that given its small size, this novel could have The Two Heroines of Plumplington included as an extra to complete the series – since having sworn off writing any more Barsetshire novels, Trollope returned to his beloved county one last time with this late short story.

The Barsetshire series required a fresh approach since the Sadleir Oxford editions of 1948 included only The Warden and Barchester Towers. The decision was taken that the most suitable text for a complete series was to take the texts published as a complete series by Chaman and Hall in 1878. These texts were revised by Anthony Trollope from the first published versions to correct errors (some, not all were spotted) and to tweak them here and there as he thought appropriate.

Trollope, who was a major share holder in Chapman and Hall (some suggest to give his son Henry a job at the publishers), wrote to Smith Elder, who held the copyright of Framley Parsonage and The Small House at Allington to ask for the rights to publish them in a complete series after the idea was first mooted in a review of The Last Chronicle of Barset published in 1867. It took the better part of a decade to reach all the necessary agreements and produce the series. On advice from Millais, whose opinion Trollope sought but who did not want to do the work himself, having moved on to bigger and better things than book illustrations, Francis Arthur Fraser was engaged to provide new frontispieces for the new edition to give it a consistent look and feel.

Most modern editors have the view that the first published texts are to be regarded as the most definitive. Sadleir himself used a composite of different editions depending on his personal view of what should be included. The Trollope Society edition has tended to use the original partworks or first book form but has on occasions used later editions.

Some editors have been critical of Trollope’s revisions for the 1878 edition but even if Trollope’s standards of updating and correcting were not so complete or so accurate as modern teams might achieve, the 1878 texts do stand as important in their own right as the last texts which Trollope personally signed off.

Once again, when working on The Warden there was much need for explanatory footnotes. The precise roles of all those church officials had to be explained. But there were also some intriguing little touches which give the modern reader the experience which would have been felt by Victorian readers. For example, when Mr Harding ends his recital on his cello for the beadsmen, it is with a “final little bit of Bishop’s”. This is more than likely to be a reference, which would be lost on a modern reader, to a piece by Henry Bishop and his most famous “hit”, which was published in 1852 and so was very much in the air at the time, “Home Sweet Home”, which seems absolutely appropriate.

Another footnote explains a topical reference in the choice of the name of the public house which is part of John Bold’s business interests. The name – The Dragon of Wantly – refers back to the Ballad of the Dragon of Wantly – a seventeenth century poem which was used to describe a then ongoing debate about the abuse by the landowner of financial privileges in respect of a hospital for women in Walkley, a part of my old home town Sheffield – just down the road from Rotherham, where Trollope’s wife Rose was brought up.

A third footnote reveals that Bold’s home – Pakenham  Villas – takes its name from General Packenham who was killed at the Battle of New Orleans on 8 January 1815. The irony of this being that the battle was fought after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December 1814 which ended hostilities between Britain and the United States but before news reached the two sides. Trollope is no doubt slyly commenting on the futility at the heart of Bold’s actions in the novel.

Shrimpton’s latest work for the OUP has been on the new edition of Trollope’s An Autobiography.  Shrimpton felt it was important that a new edition be published as supplies of the old edition dwindled and a reprint was a cop out. He felt it had important content not just about Trollope’s life but also his views on literature generally, and literary criticism. He thought that it might be further enhanced by inclusion in the same volume selected other literary criticism by Trollope in particular on Jane Austen in whose tradition he was writing.

With any autobiography, and Trollope, no less than others, it is necessary to try to sift fact from fiction. Any writer of an autobiography is necessarily writing a subjective piece. They weill be selective in the material they include and will be personally biased in how it is presented. So, while autobiographies are not works of fiction (I shall only cast a passing mention that this comment need not be taken to refer to Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike) they are still products of artistic endeavour and should be treated as such.

There is perhaps even greater need for footnotes in an autobiography when the characters mentioned are real and their backgounds may need explanation for a full understanding by a modern reader. Shrimpton cited Trollope’s apparent division of his life into before I went to Ireland all was dreadful, after I went to Ireland all went swimmingly as an artistic balancing of the story which may not stand very close scrutiny. Was his life really so bad before? Was it really all plain sailing afterwards? Was his father really such a dreadful failure or was he just one of many who struggled financially in the difficult economic climate of the 1820s and 30s?

Shrimpton specifically cited the familiar tale of how Trollope overheard criticism of overusing Mrs Proudie in novel after novel and melodramatically announcing he would go away and kill her off. Great to read but did it really happen as Trollope describes it.

And was Trollope really woken every morning at 5:30am to write for three hours before breakfast? How, Shrimpton asked, was his groom able to do this from Waltham when Trollope, as he frequently did, stayed overnight at his London club? And was this really so extra-ordinary? Henry Millman, author and historian, made similar claims to have written an hour every day before breakfast. Tom Taylor a playwright and editor of Punch also claimed to rise daily at 5am to write for 3 hours.

After the talk, a question from the floor, asked whether foreign editions, particularly early foreign editions, might have also included footnotes to explain details of life in Victorian England for their readers, giving a contemporary perspective. Dr Shrimpton thought that few foreign editions offered more than straight translations. However, he added that Trollope himself appended some footnotes to the 1878 collected series republication to explain changes that had taken place since the 1850s.

To see the whole of Dr Shrimpton’s talk, click below:








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Talking about writing about reading

So here I am writing about talking about writing about reading.

Tomorrow I shall be one of the speakers at the Reading Trollope Study Day organised by the Trollope Society. It is taking place at St Columba’s Church of Scotland on Pont Street in London, starting at 10am.

The keynote speaker will be Dr Nicholas Shrimpton of the University of Oxford, who has recently edited three of Trollope’s works, published by Oxford University Press.

Things go downhill rapidly thereafter as I follow him to talk about blogging about Trollope. But they begin to look up again thereafter with lunch before we go on to the afternoon session.

I intend to cover in my session:

Why blogging is a real light-weight’s approach to writing as I have to write less in a week than Trollope used to write before breakfast every day.

How blogging in accordance with the BBC’s stated aim of informing, educating and entertaining has to be stood on its head if you want to keep your audience.

Why writing for a literate audience – fans of Trollope, who are the target readership, are, by definition, literate – means I can use long words in long sentences with multiple clauses without fear of losing my audience.

How writing about Trollope and, therefore, reading Trollope in a thematic way – e.g. the current series of articles on Trollope’s Women – helps me to re-read Trollope and somehow always find something fresh and new in his works.

If you are interested in attending the Study Day then you can still book tickets through the Trollope Society website.

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Trollope Society USA: 2017 Fall Lecture

Trollope’s Kindness is the title of the 2017 Fall lecture of the Trollope Society USA, to be delivered by Professor James R. Kincaid. This year’s Fall Lecture of the Society will be held on Monday, October 9, 2017, at St. Bartholomew’s Church, 109 East 50th Street, New York, NY. The reception will begin at 6:00 p.m., with the talk to start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 per members and guests ($10 for students or faculty members).

JamesKincaidJames R. Kincaid is currently Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Professor Emeritus of English and Aerol Arnold Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Southern California. His publications include Dickens and the Rhetoric of LaughterTennyson’s Major Poems, The Novels of Anthony Trollope, and Annoying the Victorians. He has also written four novels, including Lost.

Kincaid has been a Guggenheim Fellow, won teaching awards, and run two prestigious seminars for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published in many major scholarly journals and popular periodicals and newspapers, including Critical InquiryPMLANineteenth-Century LiteratureJEGPADE BulletinYale ReviewNew York Times Book Review, and the New Yorker. He has also served on the editorial boards of PMLAVictorian PoetryNineteenth Century StudiesDickens Studies Annual,Nineteenth-Century Literature, and the Journal of Narrative and Life History. He has been a consultant to the Guggenheim foundation and received USC’s Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award for Teaching and Scholarship.

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Trollope’s Women: Lily Dale


“They were standing in the narrow pathway of the gate leading from the bridge into the gardens of the Great House, and the shadow of the thick-spreading laurels was around them. But the moonlight still pierced brightly through the little avenue, and she, as she looked up at him, could see the form of his face and the loving softness of his eye.” Illustration by Alexy Pendle from the Folio Society edition of The Small House at Allington

Lily Dale is like Marmite. She polarises opinions. Trollopians either love her or loathe her. Sir John Major, President of the Trollope Society and former UK Prime Minister is in the former camp. His Desert Island Discs book choice when he appeared on the show in 1994 was The Small House at Allington because “In Lily Dale there is my favourite heroine in all fiction.” Others find her irritating beyond measure and, it must be said, that Trollope himself seems to have ended up in the latter camp. “In the love with which she has been greeted, I have hardly joined with much enthusiasm, feeling that she is somewhat of a female prig. She became first engaged to a snob who jilted her, and then, though in truth she loved another man who was hardly good enough, she could not extricate herself from the collapse of her first great misfortune to be able to make up her mind to be the wife of one whom, though she loved him, she did not altogether reverence.”(7)

We first meet Lily aged nineteen in The Small House at Allington, set in the late 1850s, and she disappears from our view at the conclusion of The Last Chronicle of Barset in the the mid-1860s when she is still in her early twenties. There is, therefore, precious little time to see the longer lasting effects on her character which the emotional trials she has to undergo might have had on her character. She progresses rapidly from virgin to, in her own words, “widowed” (5) with very little time for us to observe the development.

Born about 1840, Lily is the younger daughter of Philip Dale and his wife Mary. Philip was the younger brother of Squire Christopher Dale who now lived in the Great House at Allington. Philip had quarrelled with his older brother over his choice of wife and had died relatively young, some fifteen years before the commencement of the story in The Small House at Allington leaving a widow and two young daughters, Bell and Lily. The family were poor, living largely upon the income derived from Mrs Dale’s wealth, but the Squire allowed them to move into the Small House after the death of his mother who had lived there previously. They had little income but there was speculation that the Squire would be generous to both girls on their marriages when the time came. In fact his intentions in that respect were confined to Bell, whom he wished his nephew Bernard, the son of a second of the his brothers Orlando, to marry. For Lily he intended to make no provision. This may in part be attributable to Lily’s habit of speaking her mind a little too freely on the subject of her uncle’s failure to treat her mother – his sister-in-law – as Lily felt she ought to be treated. The quieter Bell was therefore the Squire’s preferred niece.

Trollope has, through this back-story, set up one of his classic pairings of contrasting sisters. Lily is the headstrong, impulsive, outspoken younger sister to Bell’s more demure, considered, conforming to expectations of a nice young lady, elder sister. As Margaret Markwick points out in her book, Trollope and Women, Trollope frequently employs this device to illustrate the potential risks and rewards of each approach. Emily Trevelyan in He Knew He Was Right is more forthright and unconventional than her more passive sister Nora Rowley and suffers in consequence the tribulations of her unhappy marriage to Louis Trevelyan whereas Nora enjoys the prospects of a blissful union with Hugh Stanbury. Similarly Ayala Dormer is much more lively and impulsive than her elder sister Lucy in Ayala’s Angel and must undergo a rather painful growing up process before she attains happiness with Colonel Stubbs.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the path of Lily’s story does not run smooth.

The absence of a dowry rankled with Adolphus, who proposed to Lily after a brief courtship on successive visits to Allington to stay with his friend Bernard. Having been at first in favour of setting an early date, he then prevaricates and seeks to put off the wedding before finally jilting Lily in favour of a more auspicious marriage to Lady Alexandrina de Courcy in the expectation that her family will be more generous in the money they will make forthcoming to their daughter and her new husband.

This clears the way for Johnny Eames, a more lowly government clerk than Crosbie, who has loved Lily from the first but Lily cannot get over her first romance and persistently refuses him through the remainder of The Small House at Allington  and on into The Last Chronicle of Barset.

As Lily’s story progresses through these two novels, the reader is faced with three questions:

  1. Will she or won’t she marry Johnny Eames?
  2. Did she or didn’t she with Adolphus Crosbie? (The slightly prurient “How far did she go?” question of burning interest to teenagers in the 1950s and beyond.)
  3. What is the psychology of her behaviour?

The three are of course inextricably linked with one another but for the purposes of untangling Lily’s character and development across the 1400 or so pages of the two novels I will address them in turn, starting with the second of them as it occurs very early in proceedings and all else follows from it as a consequence.

Given this is a nineteenth century novel, written for a family audience, Trollope is never going to be explicit. The reader is, therefore, left to fall back on their own judgment as to what might be inferred from the text.

The key scene, depicted in the illustration by Alexy Pendle, occurs at a small party given by Mrs Dale and her daughters. After some attempts at dancing on the lawn, Lily disappears into the garden followed by her fiancé Adolphus and there is a romantic scene in which Lily expounds on the delights of moonlight, poetry and romance and which Adolphus joins in, reluctantly at first, as he has recently learned that his must take Lily without any accompanying money from her uncle, but he is seduced by her mood and responds passionately. “He stooped over her and pressed her closely,  while she put up her lips to his, standing on tiptoe that she might reach his face. ‘Oh my love!’ she said. ‘My love! My love!'”(5)

How are we to interpret this? Are her words those of a young girl following romantic conventions in addressing her lover? Are they whispered as she finds expression to her state of dawning sexual arousal at the close physical presence of her “Apollo”(5).

Trollope now quite deliberately draws a veil over the following moments. The length of this gap is never made clear. It is certainly many minutes – since there was no social concern at two betrothed lovers being alone together for even quite long periods. Certainly time enough, in the privacy of the secluded part of the garden, for them to indulge in what might be coyly described as “heavy petting” but equally sufficient, should they have wished, for them to have full intercourse, if her words are taken by the reader to be an indication of arousal on her part.

The very next paragraph begins with Crosbie’s reaction afterwards: “As Crosbie walked back to the Great House that night, he made a firm resolution that no consideration of worldly welfare should ever induce him to break his engagement with Lily Dale. He went somewhat further also, and determined that he would not put off the marriage for more than six or eight months, or, at the most, ten, if he could possibly get his affairs arranged in that time.” Evidently he is now very much taken with Lily and whatever happened between them when they were alone together in the garden. Was his response due to wanting to have unrestricted love-making opportunities to repeat what he had just experienced, or to fulfil the tantalising promise to which he had enjoyed a foretaste only?

It becomes important at this point to consider how sensual Lily might be. Here we must refer to Trollope’s description of her for clues.

Trollope tells us that Lily and her sister “were fair-haired girls, very like each other…something below the usual height, being slight and slender in all tgeir proportions. Lily was the shorter of the two…[a]nd when I said that Bell was the prettier, I should, perhaps, have spoken more justly had I simply declared that her features were more regular than her sister’s. The two girls were very fair, so that the soft tint of colour which relieved the whiteness of their complexion was rather acknowledged than distinctly seen…The hair of the two girls…was not flaxen hair, yet it was very light. Nor did it approach to auburn; and yet there ran through it a golden tint that gave it a distinct brightness of its own. But with Bell it was more plentiful than with Lily, and therefore Lily would always talk of her own scanty locks…[n]evertheless Lily’s head was quite as lovely as her sister’s; for its form was perfect, and the simple braids in which they both wore their hair did not require any great exuberance in quantity. Their eyes were brightly blue; but Bell’s were long, and soft, and tender, often hardly daring to raise themselves to your face; while those of Lily were rounder, but brighter, and seldom kept by any want of courage from fixing themselves where they pleased. And Lily’s face was perhaps less oval in its form – less perfectly oval – than her sister’s. The shape of the forehead was, I think, the same, but with Bell the chin was something more slender and delicate. But Bell’s chin was unmarked, whereas on her sister’s there was a dimple which amply compensated for any other deficiency in its beauty. Bell’s teeth were more even than her sister’s; but then she showed her teeth more frequently. Her lips were thinner, and, as I cannot but think, less expressive. Her nose was decidedly more regular in its beauty, for Lily’s nose was somewhat broader than it should have been. It may, therefore, be understood that Bell would be considered the beauty by the family.”(5) But, as Trollope also points out, Lily “perhaps was more attractive”.(5)

Even though they are physically very similar, Trollope shows how on all points of detail Lily is more earthy and robust while her sister is refined and elegantly symmetrical. Bell has something of the distant reserve and glacially perfect beauty of Griselda Grantly (Lady Dumbello). Lily’s courage, in contrast to Bell’s passive timidity, implies she will be an active, uninhibited sexual partner. The key feature, though, is the dimple. This is Trollope’s code for a sensuous nature. Many of Trollope’s young heroines who go on to enjoy fulfilling physical sides to their marriages have this feature. On this evidence, Trollope may be implying that Lily would be ready to explore the physical side of their relationship with her husband-to-be when this opportunity presents itself.

We can also consider what Lily herself says later to her mother after Crosbie has broken off the relationship.

“I gave myself to him, and loved him, and rejoiced in his love. When he kissed me I kissed him again, and I longed for his kisses. I seemed to live only that he might caress me.”(5) This is a frank description of the physical desire she felt for him. Of ourse there is ambiguity in the words Trollope chooses to have her say. In what sense are we to understand she has given herself to him? It may be taken to mean an emotional commitment but might imply she has surrendered her virginity to him. And we are given no indication of precisely how intimate those caresses were so must infer what we will.

Lily goes on to say, “All that time I never felt myself to be wrong – because he was all in all to me. I was his own. That has been changed – to my great misfortune; but it cannot be undone or forgotten. I cannot be the girl I was before he came here…I am as you are, Mamma – widowed.”

Markwick asserts that this language is tantamount to a confession that she is no longer a virgin and that Lily does not feel ashamed of this even though she was not married and so was placing herself well outside acceptable conventions for a respectable young woman of the time. She suggests that Trollope here is equating girlhood with a state of virginity which, once lost, cannot be recovered so that now the daughter is a sexually experienced woman just as her mother is.

It is interesting that Lily chooses to call herself “widowed” in this discussion with her mother. She has by this stage passed through the phase of being ill – taking to her bed, prostrated with grief at the wreck of her marriage hopes. She has indeed “lost” a husband, but not to death but to another more glittering prospective partner. So her grief is in fact for her shattered dreams and the fall from grace of her “Apollo”.

To be confined to her bed when faced with an emotional upheaval was an accepted convention, if not of the actual lives but at least of the imagined lives as projected in works of fiction, of  a disappointed middle class woman of the period. But Lily had never seriously believed she might fade away and die, as convention might have permitted in the fairy tale world she had built for herself and Crosbie in her mind. So she duly recovered and went on with life. But her life choices indicate that she has not moved on, as we might now call it, from her first love.

She refuses the offer of marriage which Johnny Eames makes, arguing to herself, and to her mother when questioned on the point, “‘Why should you set yourself against him in so fixed a manner?’ ‘Because I love another man.’ Those words she spoke out loud in a steady, almost dogged tone”(5).

There seems to be a self-contradictory inconsistency here. She feels “widowed” but will not allow herself the privilege granted to widows to love again. Trollope’s choice of the word “dogged” here is interesting. Lily seems to be persevering in holding to a feeling that she could let go without it appearing to show a lack of constancy on her part. Yet it is this argument that she should not be inconstant that she uses in her internal debate, asking herself, “What can a heart be worth if it can be transferred hither and thither as circumstances and convenience and comfort may require?”(5)

Lily seems to have an almost pathological determination to adhere to the convention of romantic fiction, as written by Trollope and others at that time, that a woman, a romantic heroine, should give her heart but once in her lifetime if she be a true woman.

She intends to follow through with this single-minded course to the extent that she confesses to her mother that in this respect “I shall have my own way…That is all I want; to be a tyrant over you”(5). She says this as her mother “is weeping over her – whereas Lily’s eyes were dry.”(5)

This stern visage gives outward appearance of having overcome the emotional inner turmoil but this is not the case. “She had declared that she had conquered her unhappiness; but there were moments in which she was almost wild with misery. ‘Tell me to forget him!’ she said. ‘It is the one thing which will never be forgotten.'”(5) In fact Lily is determined to the point of monomania that she shall not let go of this brief period when she was engaged and it shall be the one great romance of her life. “She walked on eagerly, hardly remembering where she was, thinking over it all, as she did daily; remembering every little thought and word of those few eventful months in which she had learned to regard Crosbie as her husband and master.”(5)

However, perverse this might seem to the modern reader, who might regard it as wallowing in self-pity, it has the ring of psychological truth about it. It may be easier for the girl of scarcely twenty at this point to declare to herself that her life is over, at least so far as romance is concerned, than to accept that she is fallible and has made a dreadful mistake about what is arguably the most significant decision she was likely to make in her life at that time.

This certainly accounts for her refusal of Johnny Eames, even when his prospects have been improved by the sponsorship of the Lord de Guest following his brave rescue of the older man from the perils of the rampaging bull which had trapped the landowner in a field. Indeed, it is wholly consistent for Lily to regard such a change in Johnny’s prospects as irrelevant to the question of whether or not she should marry him. She has already mentally consigned herself to a life of genteel poverty with her mother. A change in Johnny’s financial circumstances is no more likely to make her love him than his own dogged devotion to her which has singularly failed to move her thus far. She cannot love him because she loves another – or at least her illusion of the other which she knows to be a false illusion but nevertheless one to which she can cling to avoid the cognitive dissonance of recognising that her own behaviour with Crosbie might give grounds for reproach (however far or not she allowed things to go physically).

This is more than simple embarrassment at being seen publicly to have been played for a fool – even if she did make what with hindsight might appear to be embarrassingly public displays of affection (such as that extravagant courtesy to him as he arrived for the party at the Small House). She is aware that all the people whom she meets around Allington will regard her as the innocent victim of a heartless jilt but even this may be hard to bear. To be pitied is difficult.

Her mother “was driven to acknowledge to herself that she must be silent. Years as they rolled on might make a change, but no reasoning could be of avail.”(5) But time heals only those who are determined to heal. Lily’s sense of self is so bound up in this being the wife of her supposed “Apollo” that she cannot allow this wound to heal for that would undermine her sense of who she is.

It is no surprise therefore, when we meet her four years later, offering shelter to her friend Grace Crawley when the latter’s father is accused of theft, she jokingly refers to herself and her mother, with whom she now lives alone following Bell’s marriage to Dr Crofts (rewarded for her compliance just as Lily has been punished for overstepping the boundaries), as “not mother and daughter, but two loving old ladies”(6). In spite of the amusing tone, this reveals an underlying truth. Lily has mentally transposed herself to the older generation and is prematurely middle-aged so that love and romance are no longer part of her expectations in life. This is a denial of the vitality and life force which she exhibited so strongly when we first met her. It is hard to reconcile this persistent change of state with one who is at this stage scarcely more than twenty-three.

If we listen to Lily’s exchanges with Mrs Boyce over the church Christmas decorations, they are the banter of equals – like two middle-aged members of the W.I. (Women’s Institute – an august institution whose membership comprises mainly women of a certain age, famed for their cakes and jam-making skills) rather than the cheekiness of a young girl even though Mrs Boyce initially addresses Lily and Grace as “Girls”(6). Indeed, Lily retains the spark of her wicked sense of humour in her amusing description to Grace of the shortcomings of the fat, lazy local vicar. This irreverent approach – so like her choice of the slang expression “a swell”(5) by which term she dismisses Crosbie from serious consideration in the opening conversation about him with Bell at the start of the events described in The Small House at Allington –  indicates that she has not given up on life as a whole but rather has chosen to close down that part of it to do with love and romance.

Thus, when Grace urges Lily to reconsider the possibility of marrying her cousin Johnny Eames, Lily says this is impossible because “when one thinks of going beyond friendship, even if one tries to do so, there are so many barriers!” One of these by this time is that Crosbie is now himself a widower, the wife he took in Lily’s stead, Alexandrina having (conveniently for the sake of the story) died prematurely in the intervening period (another example of Trollope’s absolute ruthlessness with characters both minor – Mary Flood Jones – and major – Glencora Palliser – who are removed to suit the needs of the plot of the next novel before its tale is even commenced). Johnny when he hears this phrase thinks Lily may be contemplating marrying Crosbie but in this, as in other aspects of Lily, he misjudges her. Lily is not in love with Crosbie as he is now but with her idealised Crosbie of the past – the “Apollo” who proposed to her.

Crosbie does, of course, write with a view to the possibility of resuming their relationship and Lily seriously entertains the possibility. she tells her mother “I would go to him as a gambler goes to the gaming-table, knowing that if I lost everything I could hardly be poorer than I was before. But I should have better hope than a gambler is justified in having.”(6) Once again, Trollope puts words in Lily’s mouth which reflect, perhaps Lily’s own sub-conscious understanding of her situation. She is addicted to him and feels pulled to him as a gambling addict is drawn to the table. Victorian understanding of the psychology of addiction was but little advanced compared to modern understanding but I do not believe Trollope’s choice of metaphor was accidental in this respect.

Lily after much reflection (a change from her impetuous teenage self) decides that if she were to allow him back into her life that he would eventually come to view this is weakness on her part and despise her for failing to rebuff him as he knew he really deserved. She cannot bear to live with the prospect of losing his respect – and with it what is left of her own self-respect. She therefore tells him, through her mother, that she does not wish to see him again. She acknowledges though to her mother that she still loves the man.

When they do eventually meet, it is by chance as Lily is out riding on Rotten Row in London as Crosbie happened to be walking in the park.  Then we see Lily through Crosbie’s eyes rather than the reverse. We are not privileged to see how she now views her “Apollo”. He, however, notices that “she was as pretty as ever, that she was but very little altered. She was, in truth, somewhat stouter than in the old days, but of that he took no special notice.” How much of that is the natural transition from a “slender”(5) teenager to young woman and how much might be attributable to comfort eating in her depression is impossible to determine but that he, with his eye for an attractive woman, should perceive the change suggests there is at least some element of the latter.

In presenting this complex psychology of Lily, so much more than the victim of a teenager’s broken heart but a woman deeply traumatised by the whole experience, Trollope shows insights which were ahead of the state of psychological thinking at the time. Such obsessive behaviour was not begun to be properly understood until the twentieth century study pf psychology. Trollope nevertheless portrays it. To do so, he shows an ability to depict behaviours, which he will have seen without perhaps fully comprehending the roots, and reproduce it accurately in his prose. As such, this portrayal should be considered alongside that of Louis Trevelyan in He Knew He Was Right or Countess Lovel in Lady Anna as a significant achievement in the depiction of psychologically damaged  characters. 

There is also, no doubt, a commercial as well as an artistic motive. Not only does he achieve a level  psychological verisimilitude that surpassed almost all of his peers, but used it in a way which undoubtedly reaped for him financial benefits. He was clearly aware that his readers were wrapped up in the story of Lily Dale and the repeatedly unsuccessful wooing of Johnny Eames – a popular character, a hobbledehoy who was making something of himself in the end (and not therefore unlike Trollope). He was even able to spin this story out into a second volume as a secondary-plot in The Last Chronicle of Barset. In his Autobigraphy, Trollope observed of his heroine and, with remarkable acumen, his audience, “Prig as she was, she made her way into the hearts of many readers – both young and old- so that, from that time to this, I have been continually honoured with letters the purport of which has always been to beg me to marry Lily Dale to Johnny Eames. Had I done so, however, Lily would never have so endeared herself to these people as to induce them to write letters to the author concerning her fate. It was because she could not get over her troubles that they loved her.”(7)

Numbered references in the text indicate the source of the quotation among the novels of the Barsetshire series.

(5) The Small House at Allington, published in 1862-64 in Cornhill Magazine
(6) The Last Chronicle of Barset, published in 1867 by Smith Elder.

Also cited is the non-series book which I have also numbered for ease of reference:

(7) An Autobiography, published posthumously in 1883 by William Blackwood and Sons.

Lily doesn’t appear in the earlier Barsetshire books and there are therefore no references to the first four books in the series.


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Zola Readers tackle Fortune of the Rougons


I am a great fan of book groups. I love to discuss books I am reading with others who have read them (or are in the process of reading them – though this can lead to some cryptic conversations as each person tries to ascertain whether the other has reached a pivotal moment without giving anything away – the classic spoilers issue). Subject to that concern, I find I get so much more out of a collective read and discussion of a book than I do from reading the book alone. Other perspectives on a novel shed wholly new and different lights on the events described. They may spot things that I have missed; attribute different motives to characters; reveal my prejudices when approaching the text and how these impact on my understanding or insights into the book.

So it is with huge anticipation that I am embarking today with a group of intrepid souls on a group read of the entire twenty novel Rougon-Macquart cycle by Emile Zola. Our intention is to read the novels in the order suggested by Zola himself (not the order in which they were written) in his introduction to Le Docteur Pascal with which he closed the sequence. It has been pointed out by certain members of the group that this task may take us until 2035 unless we maintain a disciplined pace. However, every journey begins with a first step and it falls to me to take that first step on behalf of the group by summarising the first chapter of the first book, The Fortune of the Rougons.

You will note that I have already started to mix up the French and English titles. It seems to me that reading books in translation is of itself a fraught business. You are at the mercy of the translator when it comes to not only the choice of words but also the tone and feel of the text. I read Proust’s A la Recherch du Temps Perdu in a modern translation which calls it In Search of Lost Time  whereas I was brought up knowing it as Remembrance of Things Past. I wonder if I can connect more easily with a modern translation than an earlier translation. Reading a 19th century author is a very different experience from reading a 21st century author. They use different words, different punctuation, make different assumptions of the life experiences of the reader. In short, it would be remarkable if they were to describe the precise same scene in anything even remotely close to a similar fashion. And the same must apply to a translator. Would a modern translator into  English, such as Brian Nelson (who is responsible for the new OUP edition) use the same words to describe a scene as the Victorian E. A. Vizetelly (of Merton, Surrey! whose translation I am reading) chose in 1898 when he translated La Fortune des Rougon? I am therefore not one but two steps removed from Zola’s writing.

Indeed, Zola, writing for a 19th century French audience assumed an understanding of the events of the end of the second republic and the era of the second empire which was coming to its climactic disintegration in the Franco-Prussian War with the siege of Paris as he commenced his series. They had lived through these times. It was recent history that he was describing not a remote (in temporal terms) and foreign land.

So I am therefore doubly pleased to be embarking on this voyage in company. Together we may share and deepen our understanding of the works. We may also be able to compare notes on our different editions in translation and clarify the interpretations.

If you would care to join in the group read then you can find us on Facebook, for we are a virtual group. Our members are spread literally around the globe – we have members in Australia, USA, China, South Africa and UK. Hopefully these different perspectives will add to our collective enjoyment and understanding:




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