Trollope Society Dinner at Great Hall, Middle Temple

It was a great pleasure to attend the Trollope Society Dinner in the splendid surroundings of the Great Hall, Middle Temple. The hall is regarded by many as the finest remaining example of an Elizabethan Hall in the UK. Built in 1562 with a magnificent double hammer beam roof with a 41 foot span, it is wood panelled with stained glass windows commemorating figures associated with the Inn including Edward VII, Sir Walter Raleigh and Edward Osborne, Lord Mayor in 1583.

Guests of the Society at the High Table, which was constructed out of four 29 foot long planks fcut rom a single oak tree gifted to the Inn by Elizabeth I, included: Sir John Major, Lord Dyson (former Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, and a Justice of the Supreme Court – not the glorified “Hoover” inventor), Susan Hampshire, Julian Fellowes and his wife Lady Emma, Joanna Trollope, Hugh and Barbara Trollope, and Professor Steven Amarnick.

After dinner, Chairman of the Trollope Society, Michael Williamson, formally announced that Susan Hampshire has kindly agreed to become a vice president of the Society and Professor Amarnick, whose work with his team to reconstruct the full version of The Duke’s Children is now available in a reasonably priced trade hardback through Everyman, proposed the toast.

The dinner was punctuated by musical interludes including a specially adapted song “Thirty Years On”, complete with song-along chorus, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Trollope Society.

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Illustrating Trollope: Orley Farm

The Trollope Society edition of Orley Farm is lavishly illustrated with forty scenes by Millais from the two volume first edition published by Chapman and Hall in 1861 (volume 1) and 1862 (volume 2). The frontispiece features the famous image of the farmhouse at Harrow on the Hill in which the young Trollope spent part of his childhood when his father, with no prior experience, tried his hand at farming following the failure of his legal practice. One has to wonder why Trollope, who invariably had input on the illustrations provided for his works, should chose to revisit an unhappy scene from his youth since the family were evicted from the farm by bailiffs when this father was declared bankrupt and were forced to flee to Belgium, where life on the continent offered a cheap respite from their struggles in England. Perhaps he was reclaiming the farm in his fictional world, and incorporating it into his public persona as the successful author.

Llewellyn Thomas chose not to include an equivalent image of the farm among the sixteen illustrations he provided for the Folio Society edition of the novel. He does, however, include a mirror of the famous Millais illustration from part way through the novel in which Lady Mason throws herself at the feet of her staunch supporter Sir Peregrine Orme and, clasping his knees, confesses her guilt.

This melodramatic, plot-revealing scene occurs early in the second volume causing Trollope to lament later, in his Autobiography, that, “The plot…is probably the best I have ever made; but it has the fault of declaring itself, and thus coming to an end too early in the book.”

This is one of five scenes (arguably six if one is to include the Christmas entertainment during the evening at Noningsby which Millais illustrates with the family playing Blind Man’s Bluff while Thomas depicts them playing Snap-dragon, which followed immediately afterwards) in which Thomas mirrors the earlier illustrations.

One of these scenes which appears in both editions is the courtroom during “The Great Orley Farm Case”. In both the Trollope Society and Folio Society editions, that eminent and pugnacious barrister Mr Chaffanbrass can be seen haranguing the witness Bridget Bolster. In each image, the barrister is seen in full face whereas the witness is seen from behind. We thus experience as readers the full blast of the lawyers browbeating of the witness – a scene which provoked much critical reaction from lawyers at the time of publication and in subsequent years for being an inaccurate portrayal of the profession in action, though US lawyer Todd Shields who in a recent seminar in London defended Trollope’s depiction of the lawyers’ grandstanding as being within the bounds of artistic licence.

I am struck by the effect of Thomas’s use of a looser, more fluid style of drawing when compared with Millais. This conveys some sense of the state of uproar in the court during the examination of the witness by Chaffanbrass whereas the Millais image creates a more static, set-piece feel.

Thomas creates a similar effect of capturing a moment of chaos in the Dockwrath family home during the comic scene when Mr Kenneby goes to visit his old flame Miriam, for the first time in the many years since she deserted him for the lawyer with the better career prospects. He is overcome with the realisation that though the years have been kind to him, they have removed the glamourous lustre of his former love who is now a middle-aged, harrassed housewife struggling to cope with her growing brood. In the equivalent scene, depicted by Millais, we see the pair only as she answers his knock on the door in a brief moment of decorum before the full effect of the change from winsome girl to homely matron struggling to maintain some semblance of order amidst the clutter and confusion of her children has taken effect on her visitor.

Both artists though capture the exuberance and joie de vivre of Mr Kantwise in another comic scene in which he endeavours to sell some furniture to the reluctant Mr Dockwrath, climbing on top of a table and dancing a jig with his hands aloft to demonstrate the quality of the workmanship that has gone into its production.

What Millais achieves through the expression on Mr Kantwise’s face, Thomas achieves with more crowding of his scene with a plethora of sketchily conveyed detail that overwhelms the eye though in fact both artists remain scrupulously accurate in the inclusion of the snoozing Mr Moulder, the detached Mr Dockwrath and the supporting bystanders, James, the waiter, and Joe, the boots.

The fifth scene depicted by both artists is another devoted to the main plotline – the courtcase – rather than the comic asides such as the two previously considered, with the young Peregrine Orme seeking to persuade Lady Mason to reject his grandfather’s courtship of her because she will be the ruin of a gentleman who has hitherto led an unblemished life and enjoys an unsullied reputation. Millais, as would be conventional, depicts the young heir standing, talking down to the seated Lady Mason, emphasising the inferiority of her position as both a woman and as a presumed perjurer whose reputation and status is at least questionable at this point in the novel. Thomas choses to go against these conventions and depicts the scene a few moments later when the young man has seated himself, having had his say, and Lady Mason has risen and is pacing the room in her distress and being confronted so bluntly with the potential consequences of her actions for someone whom she regards so highly.

When considering the forty illustrations by Millais and the sixteen by Thomas, Millais shows a marked tendency to focus on the main plot – the court case. Eighteen of the forty illustrations (some 45%) show scenes that are directly related to this plot-line or are very closely related to it (for example showing characters together who are closely involved in that plot-line at points in the story where they are not specifically advancing that plot). In contrast, only five of the sixteen illustrations by Thomas, some 30%, are concerned with the main plot. This gives Thomas scope to devote more to the type of comic side stories relating to minor characters, such as depicted above. Indeed, Thomas devotes more in absolute as well as relative terms to these other illustrations than to the court case – there are six of them compared to the five devoted to the case. Both artists, however,devote about the same space to the secondary plot – the romance between Felix Graham and Madeline Staveley reflecting, perhaps, Trollope’s belief that a love story was an essential component of any novel.

In addition to Orley Farm, and to the six Political/Palliser novels for which he was the provided the illustrations,Thomas was the artist for two other non-series novels in the Folio edition of Trollope’s complete works.  These were The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson and Miss Mackenzie. This makes him, after Alexy Pendle,who illustrated the six Barchester novels and four non-series novels, the second most used artist in the Folio edition.

Thomas clearly identifies the pivotal moment in Miss Mackenzie when the middle-aged spinster recognising, perhaps for the first time, that, now she has inherited wealth, she is a full-fledged woman, and potentially attractive as such. She leans forward and kisses her own reflection in the mirror in what is, in the novel, an erotically charged scene. However, I feel that sense of eroticism is absent from Thomas’s drawing. Miss Mackenzie appears older and more past it than I sense from reading the passage in the novel.

However, Thomas does convey something of the erotic charge that John Ball felt when visiting his cousin Margaret and, being a close relative, was admitted into her bedroom to see her, which would not have been possible for a typical male visitor. We get some sense through Thomas’s free-flowing style of the state of deshabille in which Margaret receives her visitor, with her hair down in a way that would be unthinkable for her to be seen by a man to whom she was not closely related. Indeed, his gaze seems irresistibly drawn to her barely , or perhaps loosely, covered breasts (not a detail mentioned by Trollope in the text).  Indeed, this perspective on the artist’s part might reflect perfectly the character’s unspoken thought “Was he now being surrounded by the meshes of a false woman’s web?”.

This use of a mass of ill-defined detail also conveys very well the confusion and noise of the Negro Soldiers’ Orphan Bazaar in which Trollope satirises the well-meaning but ineffectual attempts by the great and the good of society to provide charity for a worthy but obscure cause. I am tempted to identify the woman behind the counter with her hands to her face as the hapless Miss Mackenzie – “the Lamb” to Mr Ball’s “Lion” (so described by the Reverend Maguire in his articles when under the misapprehension that she had been fleeced, so to speak, by her cousin).

Sadly, in spite of my best endeavours, I have discovered no other work by Llewellyn Thomas beyond the illustrations he provided for the Folio Society edition of Trollope’s novels. I would welcome any information that might enable me to provide a more complete picture of his work.

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Trollope Society 30th Anniversary Dinner


The Trollope Society celebrates 30 years of promoting the writing of Anthony Trollope next Thursday 27th April with a dinner at Middle Temple attended  by special guests who are long-standing supporters of the aims of the Society.

Members of the Society who attend the dinner will be able to order a copy of the new Everyman edition of the full text version of the final Palliser novel The Duke’s Children at a specially discounted price for the occasion of £10.

To book your ticket go to:


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Illustrating Trollope: Kept In The Dark

Kept In The Dark was the last of Trollope’s novels to be published in his lifetime and the Trollope Society edition includes just a single illustration, the frontispiece by Millais which depicts the central female character, Cecilia Western, alone at her desk with correspondence – almost certainly with her absent husband – in an attitude of despair. Unfortunately it is not indicated whether or not this illustration is taken from the serialisation in the magazine Good Words, from the first two volume edition by Chatto and Windus or from another edition.

The novel is slim, some 176 pages, and so features not the customary sixteen illustrations in the Folio Society edition but only eight. These are drawn by Kate Aldous and none is an exact parallel of the scene depicted by Millais although Cecilia does feature in six of the eight illustrations. Evidently she is perceived as the pivotal character of the novel – in contrast to Trollope’s previous, lengthier novel, He Knew He Was Right, on a similar subject of a husband abandoning his wife because he is excessively jealous, without, it must be said, reasonable justification, of her relationship with another man, where the husband is the pivotal character – the “He” of the novel’s title.

Indeed, Mr Western appears in only three illustrations compared to the six in which his wife appears and, intriguingly, Aldous never depicts him facing the reader. In the critical scene where he confronts his wife with a letter revealing her past he is shown in profile only. In the other two his face is completely obscured. We are, therefore, both distanced from him and not given the privileged access to his inner feelings, as might be conveyed in his facial expressions, that we enjoy in illustrations of his wife, Cecilia. Our sympathies are, therefore, inevitably directed to her, whom we have seen being open with us, the reader, with her expressions giving us insight into her thoughts and feelings. Her internal conflict and anxiety about her husband’s anticipated jealousy are writ clear upon her face in the depiction of that fatal confrontation.
Indeed, Sir Francis Geraldine, Cecilia’s former fiance, appears in as many illustrations as does her husband and in each his face, with an arrogant or an angry expression, is visible to the reader, leaving us in no doubt as to his character.

In the small cast of characters in this novel, the two other significant women – Miss Altifiorla and Lady Grant, also feature in two illustrations apiece and Aldous captures the slightly vacuous character of the former (as seen in the above scene) and the sympathetic nature of the latter in both their respective appearances.
Aldous also provided sixteen illustrations for the Folio edition of Is He Popenjoy?  These include scenes which convey something of the vein of humour which runs through the book such as the incident where the high-spirited Mrs Houghton in search of excitement evades her husband in the hunting field and loses control of her mount at a brook causing an accident involving another rider ahead of her, Mr Price. (I believe the artist has incorrectly depicted Mrs Houghton riding side-saddle with her legs on the right hand side of the horse but this is only a quibble.)

There is also evident relish in Aldous’s depiction of the Dean seizing the dissipated Marquis by the cravat and shirt collar after the aristocrat has insulted his daughter’s name and character. Such scenes of violence are more common in Trollope than his conservative reputation might lead the reader to expect and it is invariably a good man whose patience has been tried beyond breaking who visits his wrath on the man whose ungentlemanly conduct has aroused his ire.

Aldous is perhaps best known for her work illustrating children’s books – both classics, such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and the works of modern authors such as Anne Fine.

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Trollope Society online discussion

On Saturday the Trollope Society will run its first online video discussion group.

The topic is: Ayala’s Angel in Ten Quotes.

The discussion will take place on Saturday April 8th at 9:00 AM London time (GMT + 1 hour) and will be hosted by Lucia Costanzo.

Lucia will kick off the seminar with an introduction to the book, themed around ten quotes from the novel and commentators. She will also show some visual material which you should be able to see on your screen.

There will then be opportunity for an online discussion where you can ask questions and/or make comments. If your device has a camera this will be active when you join the seminar so you will be able to see the other attendees of the seminar and they will be  able to see you as you take part in the discussion.

You can join the seminar on your PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android platforms by clicking on this link:


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Illustrating Trollope: The Claverings

Uniquely amongst the Trollope Society’s edition, The Claverings features illustrations by a woman artist. Mary Ellen Edwards, who produced the illustrations for the serialisation of the novel in the Cornhill magazine in 1866 to 1867, was suggested to Trollope by his publisher Smith. She had already begun to establish a reputation as an illustrator through her work with Mrs Henry Wood in the magazine The Argosy and her work on The Claverings further enhanced her standing amongst the illustrators of periodicals at that time.

Edwards, photographed above (on the left) with her sister Jessie, also on artist, was undoubtedly subject to prejudice; her work was frequently regarded as inferior to her male contemporaries. She was thought to excel at domestic scenes which were a less-highly regarded genre than those on which male artists might concentrate. Her illustration for The Graphic, published in 1869, The Children’s Hospital, both confirms and confounds this pigeon-holing. The subject matter is essentially feminine – children – but the treatment is clearly documentary rather than sentimental in its approach.

That said, following her second marriage, to children’s illustrator John Staples, she did begin to produce the type of mawkish (to 21st century eyes) images so favoured by the late-Victorians – witness Millais’s Bubbles, so the trait cannot be ascribed solely to her gender.

The Folio Society edition of the novel was illustrated by Alexy Pendle – one of four non-series books for which she provided the illustrations, in addition to the six Barchester novels, making her the Folio Society’s most used artist. The contrasting styles of the two women reveal how each is able to convey effectively the emotions or inner-turmoil of the characters.

Both illustrated the wedding of Julia Brabazon to the significantly older Lord Ongar shortly after she has jilted Harry Clavering at the start of the novel. Edwards depicts the new Lady Ongar looking down, as befits a demure bride, but her expression, caught half in shadow, is one of distaste and she is looking away from her debauched husband, who leers at her with an evident sense of ownership. Pendle also depicts the bride looking away from her husband, gazing into the sunlit distance pensively, perhaps wondering what she has done.

This pair of opening images in the two editions of the novel is one of five such instances where they illustrate the same scenes – a high proportion given each provided only 16 illustrations in total.

Both depict the other unhappy marriage in the novel between Sir Hugh Clavering and Julia’s elder sister Hermione. They each depict the scene where Sir Hugh browbeats his wife in an argument and determines to abandon her while he pursues his masculine pleasures in spite of her pleading for him not to do so. By positioning Sir Hugh casually perched on the arm of the chair while his wife is seated in another looking up at him, Pendle conveys the inequality of their respective positions – he able to assert his authority without fear of contradiction, she reduced to the role of supplicant. Her expression reflects her fearful subservience.

Edwards depicted the couple twice – not only in the identical scene to that illustrated by Pendle, but also at another moment, when Sir Hugh has just learned of the death of his son. Edwards shows the devastating impact this loss has on the man and how, in a moment of tenderness, his wife – who, it must be remembered, has just lost her child – offers him a tentative comforting touch. This remarkable handling of an emotional scene between the two parents, revealing a strength in the woman which the man lacks at this juncture, even while she recognises that this will be but an interlude before he returns to his bullying ways, is very subtle. It is perhaps for this very ability to reach the emotional inner-life of her subjects that Edwards was “typecast” by the critics’ biases.

The third scene depicted by both artists is the return of the now widowed Lady Ongar to the estates which she has inherited from her husband. Their approach to this subject is markedly different. Edwards shows Julia as she visits one of the poorer tenants at Ongar Park. She is in her widow’s weeds and, once again, looks downward with an apparently pensive expression. She is perhaps reflecting on all that she has undergone at her husband’s hands and this is borne out by the caption “Was not the price in her hand?” She has made her Mephistophelean bargain and knows it. In contrast, Pendle chooses to depict Julia on the terrace of the great house looking out over her domain. She is pictured from behind so we cannot see her face – our view is that of the servant, waiting on her deferentially as she surveys the estate from her vantage point. It is a position of power and her stance indicates a determination to exercise that power. Only the very dark tones and deep shadows Pendle uses give an indication of the sombre heart of Julia’s sudden accession to this vast wealth.

Pendle uses the devise of the character facing away from the reader/viewer in several other illustrations, including the depiction of the final scene where Julia and Florence meet at last, which is the last of the five scenes drawn by both artists. This technique, hiding the character’s face creates a sense of ambivalence – since we have none of the clues of facial expression to assist us in reading the character’s inner feelings. Pendle chooses to depict Florence in this way as she struggles with mixed emotions. She has won Harry in the end and Julia has lost him, but it must be hard for her to know in her heart of hearts that it was a close call. In depicting the same scene, Edwards, more conventionally, shows the two women close together, clasping each others’ hands in the emotion of the moment, rather than stiffly keeping their distance from one another as Pendle has them. Indeed, Edwards depiction of the pair has many similarities with the stagey pose of herself and her sister walking in the garden captured in the photograph above.

The relationship between Harry Clavering and Julia, Lady Ongar, is central to the plot of the novel. It is interesting, therefore that Edwards only shows them together once and Pendle twice. Edwards depicts Harry as an apparently immature and somewhat petulant-looking, young man. In this early scene, Julia leans in towards him while he is at repose. There is a greater sense of engagement in the relationship between them on the part of the woman in spite of the fact that she had earlier jilted him. She has more emotional investment in Harry than he, rather understandably, feels for her at this point.

In contrast, Pendle exploits the greater freedom of the modern artist to present the couple in a passionate embrace, from later in the plot,showing how their feelings for each other have returned with a vengeance. Harry is depicted as more mature and his expression is masterful while Julia is evidently giving way to the sensuous feelings of the moment. The close up view of their faces, inches apart, dominates the image in a way that would not have been acceptable in a Victorian periodical.

It is clear that both Edwards, providing illustrations for Victorian readers of the Cornhill magazine, and Pendle, for modern readers of the Folio edition, treat Julia as the key character in the novel.  She appears in eight of the sixteen drawings by Edwards and five of the sixteen drawings by Pendle – more than any other character. Harry Clavering is the next most popular character, appearing five times in Edwards’s illustrations and three times in Pendle’s. The third person in this love triangle, Florence Burton, appears three times in Edwards’s illustrations but four times in Pendle’s illustration.  That she should feature more than Harry Clavering in the modern edition suggests that the emphasis on the relative importance of her character – the long-suffering, nice girl – has increased for audiences in the current era.

Indeed, while Edwards,with only a single exception, always depicts one of the principal characters (the three mentioned above with the addition of Sir Hugh Clavering) in every one of her illustrations, Pendle feels free to focus attention elsewhere in six of the sixteen illustrations. Although the novel lacks the multiple sub-plots of many of Trollope’s large scale works, there are a number of secondary characters whose impact on the main storyline is emphasised by allowing them to feature more prominently in the illustrations rather than making background appearances as they do in Edwards’s illustrations. Pendle therefore has illustrations which focus on Captain Boodle, Cecilia Burton, Theodore Burton and Reverend Edward Fielding.

However, it is noticeable that the single example of Edwards depicting solely these secondary characters is the fifth of the scenes which appear in both editions. This is the moment when the poor curate, Mr Saul, makes his awkward proposal to Harry’s sister Fanny, while the couple are walking back together from a visit to aid the poor in the village. They are kept at a respectable distance from each other by their raised umbrellas in the middle of a symbolic downpour that emphasises the poor prospects of both the clergyman’s career and, in consequence therefore, his aspirations to the hand of a woman of higher social standing than himself.

In addition to the Barchester series, Alexy Pendle provided illustrations for four othe Trollope novels in the Folio Society edition. As well as The Claverings, she also drew the illustrations for The Kellys and the O’KellysThe Belton Estate and Mr Scarborough’s Family. I have no doubt that Trollope would have enjoyed the detailed hunting scenes she provided – the one in the Irish setting for Trollope’s second novel might have been of particular interest to the author as it was there that he first took up hunting, which became a lifelong passion for him and featured frequently in his novels, often as a plot device to move the romantic storylines along when the youngsters could evade the protective care of the chaperones who might otherwise interfere.

Pendle also excelled at creating a domestic atmosphere with her attention to details. The illustration in Mr Scarborough’s Family of the moment when Dolly Grey arrives with assistance for her poor relatives the Carroll family only to find Mr Carroll, whom she had expected would have left by the time she arrived, is still at home. With his relaxed pose, hands behind his head and legs akimbo, he is acutely observed by the artist and his casual, masculine air is convincingly portrayed. Dolly’s pained expression on seeing him there speaks volumes.

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Pivotal City and County Victorian Novels course

The Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at American University is running a ten week course, Pivotal City and County Victorian Novels, at its Spring Valley Building in Washington D.C.

Aimed primarily at retired adults, the course is covering Gaskell’s North and South, Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, and Dickens’s The Signalman as mid-Victorian texts. Dr Ellen Moody says of the study texts, that “Despite genre differences, they intersect and mirror the era and enable us to better see our own.”

The first session was March 6th, so unfortunately this information falls into the “better late than never” category.

For more information about the course and how to join go to:



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