he diverse and often only partly successful experiments carried on during this period allow for the great control and assurance manifested in the Barsetshire chronicle. At least after the opening novel, the chronicle explores the possibilities of comedy within a range that is clearly defined. Ironic moments and ironic themes are present, but they never range out of control; nor is the comedy ever so easy and undisturbed as to approach the sleepiness of The Belton Estate. The Barsetshire series works without any ponderous epic machinery, but it deals with an epic theme: the establishment and preservation of a civilization. The civilization is first erected and defended from outsiders, flourishes, decays, and is then revived. Trollope duplicates the cycle Tennyson was to trace in Idylls of the King, with this difference: Tennyson's cycle moves from chaos back to chaos again, whereas Trollope's goes from victory back to victory.
It would, perhaps, be a mistake to claim for Trollope's chronicle a much tighter narrative organization than this. There are a few motifs that are repeated throughout, but they are not developed consistently or emphatically. The chronicle derives its unity not from a single narrative pattern or repeated themes1 but from the most obvious connections through geography and character. For the most part these novels hang together because they are set in the same general area and concern many of the same people. There is a sense that the novels are really just different perspectives on the same action, different lighting effects tried on the same subject. Correspondingly, the basic pattern and basic coherence are more clearly formal than thematic. More exactly, the novels conduct an exploration of the range of comedy.
But the explorations are, as I have said, conducted within safe grounds. The basic assumptions of that world and its values are established by tradition, the tradition of the pastoral. It is a very delicate and fragile world, certainly, subject to threats from within [92/93] and without, but it is pastoral all the same, with Mr. Harding as chief shepherd.2 The conservative bias we note in these chronicles, so strong that it led Ronald Knox to call the whole series 'an epic of reaction,'3 is not really different from the defensive quality exhibited by the traditional pastoral in its need to protect itself from the great force of cosmopolitan, sophisticated values. The extraordinary thing about Trollope's pastoral is that it moves away from this reactionary tone after the first two novels, giving us a feeling in Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage that the values have been won and are in little need of protection. This solidity can be misleading, as the last two novels show, but running through the series is an unchanged belief that, at bottom, people's characters are firmly rooted in well-tried values and solid virtues. The traditional pastoral emphasis on natural values, natural virtue, the good heart, is preserved throughout. Nature takes quite a beating, it is true; for no sooner are the values defined and expressed than they tend to go into hiding. But since trouble, no matter how serious, never invades the centre of natural goodness, the values can, at last, be rediscovered and reasserted.
Despite this natural current of right feeling and basic goodness coursing through it, the series also exhibits variations and dramatic change. The image of mock war is present in most of the novels, for instance, but the nature and seriousness of the conflict change greatly. At first the enemy appears to be the forward-looking excesses of rationality, the stupid demands for order and regularity in a disorderly and comfortable world. But by the end there is such a fear of general irrationality that it is necessary to construct an order, not to fend off the builders. Pleasant irregularity becomes chaos by The Last Chronicle, and the hearty faith in what naturally is changes to a much less secure hope that natural goodness can avert what might very well be.
'Clergymen are only men,' runs a dominant motif throughout. But what is in the first novels a comforting doctrine of unification becomes by the final novel a frightening one. 'All clergymen are men' in Barchester Towers means to the reader 'all men are clergymen,' possessing in their common humility the source of all [93/94] spirituality; in The Last Chronicle, 'all men are clergymen' seems to translate into 'all men are thieves.'
We notice a corresponding change in the position of women. Initially subject to a good deal of banter for not really understanding the full delicacies of moral behaviour, they are protected by the more refined sensitivities of men. By the end, the deep, if fairly murky, instincts of women hold together the society and give it a foundation from which to rebuild. As the genial surface falls apart, men tend to lose a sense of connection with the code, but women, though never grasping the intricacies of the code at its best moments of practice, are less likely to be led astray. The whole series moves inward, then, learning to distrust things as they are and formulating its comic base more and more on instincts that lie far below the surface.
The danger of this inward movement, as far as comedy is concerned, is that instincts tend to be incommunicable. A comedy established psychologically is less surely communal than one which collects its energies around the expulsion of an external threat, like Mr. Slope. In the early novels the tendency is to defend the sanctity of the private life against public invasion. There is such a confident sense of community that no need is felt to stress communal ties. One needs only to get away from the pesky nuisances of London, the Jupiter, and low-church liberals. But in the last two novels the emphasis shifts in the opposite direction, and it is necessary to attempt to bring back the private self into public life. The Warden ends with Mr. Harding withdrawing from society, The Last Chronicle with Mr. Crawley entering it. These actions paradoxically suggest the shift from a great confidence in social virtue to a distrust of it.
The shift is most apparent in the changing moral focus of these novels. Mr. Harding is established by the first two novels as the perfect man. In Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage the Doctor and Lady Lufton hold values almost identical to his. They are given greater power to act and they are less perfect, both facts reflecting the far greater serenity of the middle novels. There is no longer a need to separate virtue and action, nor is there a need to clarify the values by personifying them in a saint. But in The Small House at Allington the values are located only in characters like Lord De Guest, who try very hard to act but who are totally unable to arrange the comic resolution. In The Last Chronicle there simply is no longer a conventional moral centre. [94/95]
These broad changes suggest the outlines of a three-part pattern, consisting of the definition of pastoral values, their fulfilment, and their collapse and reconstruction. The Warden and Barchester Towers clear the way for the series by defining its central values. They ward off the threats from London and thus lay claim to the pastoral world. Both novels are concerned with telling us who Mr. Harding is and establishing his moral position as central, but they do this principally by indirection, by declaring with great clamour that all other moral systems are either invalid or incomplete. This loud indelicate quality sets The Warden and Barchester Towers apart from all of Trollope's other novels.4 Trollope would have called them 'satyric,' a term he used to express his dissatisfaction with The Warden, The Way We Live Now, much of Thackeray, all of Swift, and a great deal of other literature he did not like. These beginning novels in the chronicle are among Trollope's funniest novels, but it is an uncharacteristically simple (and for that reason highly successful) humour of expulsion that is employed. The villains are very clearly marked out, and Trollope only pretends to make them complex. Bertie Stanhope sending a couch rolling over Mrs. Proudie's dress, tearing it partly away, suggests the technique and vision of a Marx Brothers film. The scene works wonderfully within the novel, only because the novel's morality is very insistent indeed. It is not simple, but there is a sense, as in the Marx Brothers, that no one really understands and that ingenious excess is required. A lot of noise, therefore, is made to get us to side with the quiet Mr. Harding.
Doctor Thorne was welcomed by Harper's as a release 'from the audacious sarcasm of "Barchester Towers,"' and it is likely to seem to us in many ways the first genuine Trollope novel (rev. of Doctor Thorne, 17 [Sept. 1858], 693). With this novel and Framley Parsonage there is a contented atmosphere provided by settled values. These values are not unchallenged, of course, and not everyone in the novels can live by them, but the reader now is assumed to understand and can therefore be urged quietly to participate in the action. The action in both novels involves recruitment, bolstering the ranks of the good. In both there is a sense of an expanding moral centre, and the confidence is very great. Framley [95/96] Parsonage particularly carries an aura of luxuriance, fully deserving its characteristic tag, 'beautiful. Its action is desultory, so much so that it is difficult to locate a central plot. But this very quality adds to its serenity, a serenity that is never dull because it is made so convincingly happy.
But in The Small House at Allington and The Last Chronicle of Barset a new invasion is mounted against the pastoral world, an invasion that so lar succeeds that the full and easy confidence can never again be regained. Crosbie is different from Slope in that he fools everyone, not just women but even the Dales, staunch old conservative country gentry. As a result, virtue is twisted and turned inward. It is made perverse. In The Small House, the darkest novel in the series, confident and open love and the constancy of great honour are turned into a dangerous and rigid masochism. Natural values have little chance in an unnatural world, and Lily's rigidity ironically is made to appear the chief enemy of comedy. Everything yearns for her rebirth, but her virtue forbids her. Similarly, Mr. Crawley's great courage and heroism not only appear to be but are unnatural. Like Lily, he is forced into terrible psychological compensations, isolating himself and doing great damage. But Mr. Crawley is finally rescued—from poverty and from himself. As he comes back to life, so does society, and so does the code of the gentleman, of which he is the most extreme exemplification. The comic world is rebuilt with all its old values. The old supports are gone, of course, and the good heart has a much more difficult time of it. It is almost as if the pastoral itself is forced into the world of experience. By reforming the pastoral values in this new world, a new pastoral is, in effect, created, one less protected and permanent but more mature and more capable of dealing with the fallen world.
The cycles of a civilization based on the generous and complex code of gentlemanly instincts is thus established. The series moves from an ironic comedy of withdrawal to full-hearted romantic comedy, and then, in the final stages, to a dark comedy of experience whose principal model is Paradise Regained or, in the nineteenth century, Tennyson's In Memoriam. Clergymen are central to Trollope's chronicle because it is, like his model, a spiritual guide and a definition of the Church's proper religious mission. The essential doctrine is stated in Barchester Towers: 'Till we can become divine, we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for a change we sink to something lower' (43). The dangers of slipping are there, but [96/97] if we can put off the hurry for divinity, we can discover the grand contentment in being human. And that, Trollope's comedy insists, if not more wonderful than divinity, is great indeed—and a lot more certain.
These novels are about Mr. Harding and his enemies. They seek to tell us all about the two sides and the conduct of the battle, and they seek to convince us that Mr. Harding wins by losing. But really all that is finally necessary is to give us, as James said, 'simply the history of an old man's conscience' (113). Both novels are didactic portraits of Mr. Harding, complex in their means but quite single-minded in their ends. The ostensible issues matter very little in either novel, precisely because the morality advocated is aesthetic and intuitive rather than argumentative and rationalistic. The Athenaeum reviewer complained that The Warden showed 'too much indifference as to the rights of the case,' but 'the rights of the case' are never a serious issue (1422 [27 Jan. 1855]: 107). In both novels the resemblance to the novel of ideas is very slight; they are both much closer to being modern saints' lives. Neither relies much on action to define that saint but rather depicts him by way of contrast and comparison with a series of more or less static portraits. Very near to Mr. Harding at the centre is the old Bishop, but he is dead as Barchester Towers gets under way, and there is no one but the Thornes to take his place. In the next circle is his daughter Eleanor, whose closeness to him is limited by her moral dullness; next is his other daughter Mrs. Grantly and, separated further, her husband the archdeacon. The archdeacon clearly moves closer to the centre in the second novel, but he is never really very far away. Beyond this there is a great gulf to the 'new men,' the reformers: Slope, Mrs. Proudie, and John Bold. On the far edge is the voice of the Jupiter, most powerful and most destructive of all. Though it would appear from this that Mr. Harding is quite alone and though the novels do isolate him from other characters, the effect is less gloomy than it might be since, after all, he has the very close company of the reader.
In my view, it is a mistake, and a common one, to ignore the primary rhetorical purpose of these two novels and to read them in terms of some 'reconciliation-of-opposites' theme. I do not believe [97/98] that The Warden balances the views of Bold and the archdeacon or that Barchester Towers steers a course between past and future, conservative and liberal. Instead of the movement toward balance common to many other Trollope novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers describe patterns of disruption and consequent expulsion. Bold does not really have a 'case,' nor does Slope. It is not that their positions are bad but that they are irrelevant. Their assumptions about life and morality are so askew that they must be admitted only to be expelled. Both novels are subtle but quite unequivocal attempts to establish a positive and enduring moral centre. And they do so by running the reforming rascals out of town.
The Warden appears to have been begun with some spirit of reforming zeal. Trollope may well have initially thought of the novel in terms of the sort of satiric method he used in The New Zealander, written immediately after The Warden, and it may even be true that 'for a moment, when he sketched out the plot of The Warden, Trollope half believed that he was on the side of the reformers' (Knox xviii). Trollope did speak of the novel later as if the satiric intention had got in the way of the moral intention, thinking that he was 'altogether wrong' in supposing that he could attack the evil and also those who did the attacking (Autobiography 94-95).9 As far as the issues are involved, the novel does tend to do battle with both Bold and Grantly, but issues become trivial as the novel advances. It is almost as if Trollope discovered a new moral system on the way to writing a light topical satire. As this new intention takes over, the balance is upset completely, and the archdeacon is shifted as close to the centre as he well can be. The original intention makes the switch awkward, though, and the narrator is forced at the end to apologize for the picture of the archdeacon, saying that he is a much better man than he has been shown to be. [98/99]
He is that, of course, according to the terms in which the novel ends. In fact, the only thing holding him from the centre is a certain coarseness that blinds him to the futility and danger of fighting for mere issues. But in its inception the novel imagined itself also to be interested in issues, and thus there are touches of materialism and hypocrisy added to the character: the copy of Rabelais, the narrative commentary which insists that he is 'hard-hearted' (9), and a marital arrangement that anticipates the one later used with the Proudies. All this is a mistake, as the narrator is forced to admit. But it really does not matter a great deal in the end, since both Bold and Grantly are not so much opposing forces as flanking impotents who together teach Mr. Harding the proper moral position in respect to issues and conflict.
In terms of values, however, it is Bold's position, not the archdeacon's, that is dangerous. The archdeacon, however feeble his support, is on the side of the angels, and Bold, however well intentioned, serves the other side. Much of the apparent complexity of the novel comes from the narrator's charitable disengagement of Bold as a man from his position and the corresponding satiric disengagement of the archdeacon as a man from his office. As men, they are all good, if vain and fairly stupid. But this charity, which might be mistaken for equivocation, is certainly not applied to the moral issues. All men are to be treated gently but not all moral attitudes. Such an argument is, however, in itself a moral position. It is the position held by Mr. Harding but certainly not by John Bold and the Jupiter, who forget that there are individuals, who fail utterly to see interconnections between public and private life, and who treat morality as if it were a set of abstractions altogether divorced from human beings. There is no equivocation in the novel's point here; the humanistic and complex morality of Mr. Harding is attacked by an inhuman, simple, and abstract code. There is no question which side we are forced to join.
John Bold's decent position is decent only in the abstract, and when decency is thus abstracted it becomes nearly indecent. Failing to recognize for a long time the complex ties between men and morality, he becomes almost totally a public man, a terribly self-conscious reformer who teaches himself to live in the soft glow of clichés. He is able 'to comfort himself in the warmth of his own virtue' (6), and he believes in the idiotic public response to him as the 'upholder of the rights of the poor of Barchester' (2). The [99/100] narrator comments sarcastically, 'I fear that he is too much imbued with the idea that he has a special mission for reforming. It would be well if one so young had a little more diffidence himself, and more trust in the honest purposes of others—if he could be brought to believe that old customs need not necessarily be evil, and that changes may possibly be dangerous' (2). The comparison to a 'French Jacobin' (2) is pretty strong, as is Mr. Harding's 'disgust' (3) at his ungentlemanly conduct. When Bold tells Eleanor that he has nothing against her father 'personally,' she asks, 'Then why should he be persecuted?' Bold can only respond to this central question with 'platitudes about public duty, which it is by no means worth while to repeat' (11). Bold's inability to understand the difference between Eleanor's feelings for her father and the hollow rhetoric of his own clichés is basic to the position he adopts. It does occur to him that the old men at Hiram's Hospital will only be hurt by his reforms—'to them it can only be an unmixed evil' (4)—'but he quiets the suggestion within his breast with the high-sounding name of justice' (4). The great point made against his position is that it disrupts a happy situation and makes everyone unhappy. And for what? For the sake of platitudes. At the end, Bold does understand his error: 'What is any public question but a conglomeration of private interests?' (15). He sees that a morality that separates public and private virtue is mad.
John Bold is not a bad man. He has, in fact, had the proper instincts all along. But he has been taught to 'quiet them within his breast' by the great organ of the new insanity, the Jupiter. The Jupiter symbolizes this abstract morality with its frightening power: 'What the Czar is in Russia, or the mob in America, that the Jupiter is in England' (7), says the archdeacon. The archdeacon allows the paper to stand for the alternate species of anarchy and dictatorship here, representing on one level his not very intelligent rage. There is, however, a point in the jumble, in that the Jupiter advocates with the single-minded simplicity of a tyrant the furious amorality of the mob. For public morality, the morality ot abstractions and slogans, is no morality at all. It has no contact with people, just as Tom Towers, anonymous and out of reach, cannot be bothered to test his principles against human beings. His only morality, exactly like that of Slope, is a confident reliance on the virtue of his own elevation: 'How could a successful man be in the wrong!' (15).
In a world like this, the only positive moral act is the act of with-[100/101]drawal. Mr. Harding, 'not so anxious to prove himself right, as to be so' (3), turns his back entirely on the doctrine of success. He sees that the law will not serve him—quite the contrary. Sir Abraham, his legal adviser, 'conquered his enemies by their weakness rather than by his own strength' (8). Mr. Harding's resignation, therefore, is a radical affirmation, a refusal to live by a morality which crudely equates virtue with success and therefore disregards the private life altogether. He rejects proof of being in favour of being itself and thus affirms the primacy of conscience. The rejection of public morality does not imply a final isolation. It merely suggests that the abstract simplicities of public morality are threatening to overwhelm the intricate realities of personal conscience. Mr. Harding instinctively recognizes this and therefore declares war on the Jupiter by refusing to fight. His act is a moral one and asserts a connection between will and act, between the public and private life, that Tom Towers will never see. It is gloomy in the sense that it gives up external and obvious power altogether. It temporarily sacrifices appearances to the Jupiter in order to define and defend the integrity of the complete moral being. But then, appearances never counted for much anyhow.
In Barchester Towers appearances count for just as little. In fact, this novel really just fleshes out the shorthand sketch given in The Warden, largely by means of a much fuller description of the enemies and a wonderfully indirect defence of Mr. Harding. In a sense, it is The Warden turned into art. Having discovered a moral and aesthetic position, Trollope seeks in Barchester Towers to sanctify Mr. Harding by far more crafty means. The novel is surely a comedy, for instance, but it establishes itself as such while quietly subverting many of the major tenets of traditional comedy. It inverts the usual pattern of struggle between parents and children basic to all comedy and cheers very strongly for the parents, celebrating their escape from the young. Basic to the novel is its rejection of the values and assumptions of youth, as shown by the open sneers at babies and the often cynical impatience with the principal lovers. All this, of course, paves the way for us to travel to the moral crux of the novel, the sixty-four-year-old Mr. Harding.
Other comic principles are just as certainly and purposefully overturned. For example, comedy traditionally rests on an apprehension of man as a member of a social group and works to reestablish the harmony of society by eliminating or converting the [101/102] individualists. Barchester Towers, however, directly reverses this assumption, seeing men as decent individually but dangerous, silly, or contemptible in so far as they define themselves as parts of a social organization. Similarly, comedy normally—the tradition is so firm that one almost says 'naturally'—gives power to those who are approved: the good king is restored, the hero marries the girl, the money from the old will is accepted. In Barchester Towers, however, moral approval is directly proportionate to the decrease of power. More generally, comedy looks to the future and envisions a society cleansed and transformed by self-knowledge and joy. Most comedies deal principally with education and the resultant transcendence of the ordinary limitations of life; they are essentially progressive. Trollope's comedy, however, hates nothing so much as the callous notions of progress and sees forward movement as destruction. Barchester Towers looks to the past for its solidity and sees comic hope not in transformation but in preservation. Instead of seeking a transcendence of the ordinary, it revels in it. The most optimistic suggestion made by the novel is that the ordinary comforts of life are delicious, if only we perceive them fully and stop spoiling them by the continual anticipation of something better to come.
To establish this upside-down comedy, some extremely sly manoeuvring is necessary. I have already indicated (pp. 34-36) how the narrator's deceptive warmth urges us to adopt values which are gradually more and more specialized and which finally are contemptuous of the young. Many of Trollope's famous comments on novel-writing really have much the same thematic function. The narrator reflects at one point that if Eleanor had given way to her rising tears, Arabin would have declared his love, and the whole mystery would have been cleared up. 'But then,' he asks with mock ingenuousness, 'where would have been my novel?' (30). Behind the companionable and easy rhetoric established by such an invitingly artless statement is a more quiet but more important attack on these almost-young lovers. Their actions are treated as mechanical, manipulable, and therefore trivial. The narrator takes them about as seriously as he expects the reader to, and the rhetoric here contributes to the irony which attends Mrs. Bold and Arabin throughout and which helps direct our moral concern to the elderly.
Though these passages do open the form of the novel, of course, they have a more particular thematic function. By attacking the [102/103] very nature of form or pattern, particularly the whole notion of finality, they manifest a distrust for all neat patterns which point to the future. The narrator's position is that we must apprehend life as a continuous and organic movement, not as a fixed, forward-looking principle. His rhetoric brilliantly supports that very point and subtly directs our attention away from the conventional symbol of the time-bound Eleanor and Arabin, marrying, having children, and living happily ever after in power, and fixes it on the unconventional focus of the novel, the weak and retiring Mr. Harding.
Even more unconventional than the rhetoric, however, is the conservative comedy which is supported by the action and themes of the narrative itself. The organizing thematic principle in the novel is the notion of the fight.10 On all levels—clerical, academic, journalistic, and personal—the central issues involve a struggle for power. The book asks such questions as who shall be warden?—who shall be dean?—who will replace Mr. Bold with Eleanor? These and equivalent questions involving values are given one answer: he who does not try. The real winners are those who do not fight. At the heart of the book is a profound protest against the competitive mode of life, and Barchester Towers thus establishes its comedy in direct hostility to the major progressive movements of the period: democracy and capitalism. But the issue goes deeper than this; the whole notion of power is relentlessly attacked. It is power that unites the issues ot religion and love in the novel and establishes the most basic irony in the plot, when the arch-enemies Grantly and Slope end up on the same side in the war over the wardenship. All the values of the conservative comedy here arrange themselves around the belief in passivity and its accompanying antagonism to ambition.
The novel begins, in fact, with a bleak view of power and a repetition of the distinctions developed in The Warden between man as a human being, personally defined and decent, and man [103/104] as publicly defined, mad for power and dishonourable. Archdeacon Grantly's vigil at his father's death-bed brings into conflict the two sides of him, and though the question of 'whether he really longed for his father's death' is finally answered with a clear negative, the archdeacon is not able to keep his desire for power completely under control. When his father finally dies, he itches to send his father-in-law to telegraph the ministry and is, appropriately, too late. The narrator ends the chapter by discussing the archdeacon's disappointment and his desire for power and position. As usual, he removes all personal censure and attacks only the system itself. Clergymen, he says, are, like all of us, only men, and 'if we look to our clergymen to be more than men, we shall probably teach ourselves to think that they are less.' Thus the first chapter effectively begins to assert the need both for tolerance toward individuals and hostility toward corrupting systems of power.11 Though as a worldly high-churchman the archdeacon is more obviously in accord with the principles valued by this novel, Trollope has an enormous amount of fun with this sputtering organization man, so eager for power and, in the end, so impotent: all his lectures go astray, all his plots come to nothing.
The attack on the alternate camp of churchmen is, however, the one that counts; for Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope are not only as much caught up in the lust of the fight as is the archdeacon but, in addition, are fighting for all the wrong values. Though the narrator introduces Mr. Slope (4) with an elaborate list of his similarities to Dr. Grantly, the implied differences are far more important. Where Dr. Grantly and the worldly high-church group assuage guilt, the Slopes and Proudies capitalize on it; Grantly is expansive and tolerant, while his enemies are restrictive and mean; Grantly is masculine. Slope, the most basic joke runs, is far less manly even than his comrade-in-arms, Mrs. Proudie. But no comparative listing can get close to the functional use made of the Proudies and Slope as negative illustrations to establish by contrast the novel's key position.
The Proudies are a symbol of local warfare and perverted ambition, and Trollope uses our laughter to attack both of them. Dr. Proudie, the epitome of the hen-pecked male, is still ludicrously ambitious and, sure enough, successful, all of which tells us something about the nature of success. He is known as a 'useful' clergy-[104/105]man, a pawn of these who do indeed have power, particularly his wife. Mrs. Proudie is subject to some basic sexual humour and is a prototype of the big-bosomed, jewel-bedecked, pompous, and castrating females who are eternally attacked in literature. She reflects the novel's quiet but distinct anti-feminism.12 By turning her into a kind of sexual amazon who, if all else fails, can still win her battles in the bedroom, Trollope appeals to sources of humour he so often claimed to have avoided. Slope, he says, might have had some chance in his fight with Mrs. Proudie had he been able to occupy her place at night. Since he cannot do this, Mrs. Proudie has, as we say, the ultimate weapon. These sorts of jokes transform both our tittering inhibitions and our sense of the grotesque into hostile laughter. Mrs. Proudie is besieged by other means too; she is not only rude but narrow, and no image is so firmly associated with her as that of the 'Sabbath-day schools' and their suggestion of dreary, crushing repression. Mrs. Proudie is indeed the enemy of comedy as well as the perfect comic butt. The dominant joke against her is that she is simply a man; she is ranked with men rather than women, the narrator says with a nudge and a wink, because of 'her great strength of mind' (33). There is more than a touch of the desperate in this sort of humorous attack, but by exaggerating the threat of conflict, it can call up laughter to eliminate that conflict and thereby suggest the positive values more clearly.
Compared with her chaplain, Mrs. Proudie is treated gently. It is the ambitious, progressive, and unctuous Slope who is the truly dangerous enemy and who is introduced so that the tendencies he represents may be expelled. In the process, he reveals a good deal about the moral premisses of this comedy. The very fact that his eloquence is 'not likely indeed to be persuasive with men, but [is] powerful with the softer sex' (4), for instance, suggests that he is as feminine as Mrs. Proudie is masculine and uses a similar sexual humour to assault him. But more important, his specialized success suggests the fatal lack of discrimination of women in general and Eleanor in particular.13 Women, it turns out, are unable to see that [105/106] he is 'no gentleman,' which, in terms of the code of Barchester Towers, means that they are morally cross-eyed. Slope's friends thus tell us nearly as much about him as his enemies. Eleanor is simply unable to understand her father when he gives the fundamental argument against Slope and, by implication, the central belief of the novel: 'It can hardly be the duty of a young man rudely to assail the religious convictions of his elders in the church. Courtesy should have kept him silent, even if neither charity nor modesty could do so' (8). When Eleanor objects that he may simply have been forced by his inner convictions to speak, Mr. Harding replies, 'Believe me, my child, that Christian ministers are never called on by God's word to insult the convictions, or even the prejudices of their brethren, and that religion is at any rate not less susceptible of urbane and courteous conduct among men than any other study which men may take up.' The fact that courtesy and urbanity, rather than truth or righteousness, are the supreme moral touchstones gets us right to the heart of this novel. Eleanor's inability to comprehend this doctrine immediately distances her a little from the novel's centre.
But Slope's contributions are not often so indirect. He is the most vocal apostle of the new world, the oily symbol of progress, and the 'new man' of the country: 'It is not only in Barchester,' he says, 'that a new man is carrying out new measures and casting away the useless rubbish of past centuries. The same thing is going on throughout the country' (12). The 'useless rubbish' in this case is Mr. Harding. The attack on Slope, then, is an attack on the Jupiter and all the rude voices of discourtesy. Once the chaplain leaves Barchester, the society can function comfortably enough with the Proudies, who, at any rate, have no such horrid convictions about useless rubbish. Slope has, all along, been the chief threat to comic equilibrium, and he has been granted no virtues. It is true, of course, that Trollope makes an elaborate show of treating Slope with a consistent and fair moderation, insisting on his great courage and self-sufficiency. But Slope's courage is of the brand more aptly described by the vulgar term, 'guts,' and is thus completely out of place in a world of English decency. He has, in fact, exactly the characteristics of the ruthless and cunning animals who inhabit the America of Martin Chuzzlewit, and in many ways Trollope echoes Dickens's vituperative rejection of the new doctrine of 'smartness' and the cult of success. Slope is a transplanted Colonel Scadder. The [106/107] last reference to him makes his uncouth American newness even more explicit: 'It is well known that the family of the Slopes never starve: they always fall on their feet, like cats' (51). What had been matter of congratulation for Emerson in his strong celebration of the character of American youth, the 'sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont,' who 'teams it, farms it, peddles,' and 'always like a cat falls on his feet' ('Self-Reliance') becomes a matter of repulsion for Trollope in his equally strong rejection of it.
One of the major instruments of this rejection is the Stanhope family, fresh, lively, and not very scrupulous negative comic agents. Essentially foreigners, they not only have the clear insight of outsiders but the proper rootlessness and can act without final consequences to themselves. They do a job which the morally approved and passive cannot really handle. In their cynical and good-natured power, then, they add both the necessary purgative force and the rebellious parody to the valued innocence. As in most comedies, once their job is done, these negative agents must be dismissed; for their real work involves disruption, not stability. They also suggest an amusing but also dangerous lack of commitment. In combating the self-deluded Proudies and Slopes, their flexibility and manoeuvrability are admirable, but, as Trollope insists, their very good nature hides an essential indifference, even heartlessness, and they must therefore be shipped back to Italy at the end. If we look at them too long, we might recognize their worldliness and laziness as parodies of the approved courtesy and passiveness. 'I don't see why clergymen's sons should pay their debts more than other young men,' says Charlotte (19). The cynicism is welcome and sounds very much like an echo of the narrator's insistence that we are all men, but the narrator really has a secret qualification, ignored by the Stanhopes. He suggests that we all are really gentlemen, pushing us upwards; the Stanhopes' cynicism levels downwards.
But Trollope handles these explosive agents with great tact. Their potential for danger is never realized, and their heartlessness is kept so well masked that they seem kindly, gentle, and, in the person of Bertie, essentially sweet. Bertie 'was above, or rather below, all prejudices' (9) and is always absolutely comfortable in his friendly indolence. He functions partly to attack work, prudence, and rigid convention and is, therefore, something of a reverse surrogate for the author and is given a kind of sneaky admiration and [107/108] approval. Absolutely without self-consciousness, Bertie is the natural man and, as such, a perfect comic leveller. He enters Mrs. Proudie's reception and immediately deflates the pompous bishop, attacking him just where he is most vulnerable—in his notion of the power bestowed by rank:
'I once had thoughts of being a bishop, myself.' 'Had thoughts of being a bishop!' said Dr. Proudie, much amazed. 'That is, a parson—a parson first, you know, and a bishop afterwards. If I had once begun, I'd have stuck to it. But, on the whole, I like the Church of Rome the best.' The bishop could not discuss the point, so he remained silent. 'Now, there's my father,' continued Bertie; 'he hasn't stuck to it. I fancy he didn't like saying the same thing over so often.' (11)
Bertie continually pursues the bishop with his conversation, and his very amiability and openness—'I was a Jew once myself'— expose the pompous churchman. Significantly, though most of the clergy stare at Bertie 'as though he were some unearthly apparition,' 'the archdeacon laughed.' And that laugh carries with it the signal of moral approval for this fine comic executor. His climactic proposal (or anti-proposal) scene, then, is carefully arranged to support the warm, uncommercial values. The narrator first makes it clear that Bertie is revolted by the 'cold, calculating, cautious cunning' (42) of the affair, not so much because it is iniquitous as because it is 'prudent.' He is the antithesis of the American-like Slope, instinctively repulsed by the game of power. In his gentle but firm rejection of the 'new profession called matrimony' (42) he is rejecting all scheming, forward-looking arrangements. He is, in this sense, a heightened but not distorted symbol of the conservative tendency of the novel.
His sister Madeline plays a more complex role and brings with her a touch of a much blacker world and a more embittered spirit. However, she utilizes a kind of Freudian humour to transform her pain into clever parody and continual witty victories. Her calling card—'La Signora Madeline/ Vesey Neroni./—Nata Stanhope'—is itself a fine parody of social forms, and she uses her daughter, 'the last of the Neros,' much as Becky Sharp uses little Rawdon, as an effective stage prop. Like her sister Charlotte, Madeline also sounds like the narrator: 'Parsons, I suppose, are much the same as other men, if you strip them of their black coats' (10). Madeline's distance from that narrator is, however, clearly indicated by the violence of [108/109] the verb 'strip.' Signora Neroni's function is potentially harsh, and she can, clearly, be vicious. She plays Sam Weller to Mr. Harding's Pickwick and supplies all the force and aggression he lacks.
She also provides a bitter realism, which adds force and depth to the final solution: 'Marriage means tyranny on one side and deceit on the other. I say that a man is a fool to sacrifice his interests for such a bargain. A woman, too generally, has no other way of living' (15). Her cynicism is not explicitly supported, but since she does so much to ensure the solidity of the final approved society, the weight of her considerable experience and courage is assimilated into it. It is this crippled woman who is the most powerful. She manages not only to expose the hypocrisy and unprincipled ambition of Mr. Slope and to force Arabin to recognize that the 'good things of the world' are consonant with his religion (38) but actually hands him over to Eleanor, thereby arranging almost single-handedly the final disposition of the novel. The Signora Neroni has an absolutely sure moral instinct.15 Though she traps the virtuous Mr. Thorne and exposes the gentle old man and his 'antediluvian grimaces and compliments which he had picked up from Sir Charles Grandison' (46) to some ridicule, she recognizes her error. And when Mr. Slope rudely laughs at him, she springs to the old man's defence, revealing the chaplain's failures with Mrs. Bold so ruthlessly that he dashes blindly from the room, while the avenged Mr. Thorne sits 'laughing silently.' She turns the tables on the powerful in this small scene as in the novel as a whole, adjusting the proper values and correcting our perspective. Because she is powerful, she cannot be made permanent in Barchester, but one suspects that she will be willing to come back from Italy should another Slope arrive. At any rate, she makes the cathedral town safe for the fragile values out of which the conservative comedy is built.
And all of the novel points toward the symbolic heart of this comic world and the structural centre of the novel in Miss Thorne's fête-champêtre at Ullathorne.16 The party, at first seen as a monstrous [109/110] ritual of dedication to illusion and the dead, becomes the scene for clarity and rejuvenation, and the Thornes, viewed initially as hilariously superannuated, move closer to the approved position. The technique of diminishing perspective that Trollope uses here brings us closer to the Thornes and their values. Mr. Thorne is introduced in a tone of facetious detachment as a silly bore and a snob, supported by 'an inward feeling of mystic superiority to those with whom he shared the common breath of outer life' (22). His sister, 'a pure Druidess,' simply exaggerates the fatuousness and obsolescence of her brother. The narrator's distance from these characters at first is so marked as sometimes to approach contempt: 'Miss Thorne was very anxious to revert to the dogs' (22). We are encouraged to laugh at these unreal and mechanistic anachronisms. The only tonal variation in this introductory chapter involves a kind of nostalgic tolerance which is blatantly patronizing: 'Who would deny her the luxury of her sighs, or the sweetness of her soft regrets!' The reader is led to view these people much as would Mr. Slope. But Trollope, even in this chapter, slyly exposes his method: 'All her follies have, we believe, been told. Her virtues were too numerous to describe and not sufficiently interesting to deserve description.' Her virtues are uninteresting only to the Slopes, and Trollope begins to reverse our position by forcing us much closer to the Thornes, quietly insisting in the next chapter on Miss Thorne's 'soft heart' and essential good nature and on Mr. Thorne's honesty and generous hospitality.
By the time of the party, some ten chapters later, the Thornes' dedication to the past is taken much more seriously. They are rather like the Tudor windows at Ullathorne, not pleasing to utilitarian and modern progressive minds but capable of giving immense 'happiness to mankind.' Instead of measurable candle-power, the Thornes give comfort and joy. Exactly unlike Bold who, with laudable motives, made everyone miserable, the Thornes proceed with murky ideas to make everyone happy. Our earlier laughter is directly rebuked, as the Thornes' mechanistic unself-consciousness is taken away and they are exposed as vulnerable and precious. In a fine scene just before the gathering, Miss Thorne tries to persuade her brother to ride at the quintain she has erected. Finally exasperated by the pressure she puts on him, he calls it a 'rattletrap' (35). Miss Thorne says nothing, but sips her tea and thinks of the past. As she does so, 'some dim faint idea of the impracticability of her [110/111] own views flitted across her brain,' and it occurs to her that 'perhaps, after all, her neighbours were wiser than herself.' The sadness of this moment of self-doubt brings a single tear to her eye, and Trollope uses that tear to establish the pervasive image of gentleness and kindness. 'When Mr. Thorne saw the tear in her eye, he repented himself of his contemptuous expression.' Miss Thorne, 'accepting the apology in her heart,' tells her steward to be very lenient in admitting guests: 'If they live anywhere near, let them in.' As it happens, they entertain nearly the entire district, and we see that the Thornes' deviation from the common standard, which had once seemed so funny, really amounts to their attempt to be truly kind and generous: 'Miss Thorne . . . boldly attempted to leave the modern, beaten track and made a positive effort to entertain her guests' (36). Though she has only 'moderate success,' this reflects sadly on the times—not on the hostess. After Trollope has cemented our attachment to the Thornes by this rhetoric of reversal, we are easily led, later in the novel, to accept what would ordinarily appear perverse—the functional shift of love (and sexual power) from those who are young to the old Mr. Thorne: 'But for real true love—love at first sight, love to devotion, love that robs a man of his sleep ... we believe the best age is from forty-five to seventy; up to that, men are generally given to mere flirting' (37).
By this point the reader is also prepared to give full authority to Mr. Harding as the moral norm. The novel does include a pair of lovers, it is true, and does give them some prominence, but it seems to me an important critical error and a distortion of the crucial themes not to recognize the ironies which attend Eleanor and Mr. Arabin and the rhetorical instructions which move the reader away from them. It is particularly difficult to see how Eleanor can be accepted as a heroine. Not only is there a general distrust of women in the novel and a subtle but distinct anti-feminine tone, but there are explicit attacks on the young widow. Eleanor, very simply, is morally stupid,17 and the dominant image connected with her is that of the parasite—clinging but deadly: 'Hers was one of those feminine hearts which cling to a husband . . . with the perfect tenacity of ivy. As the parasite plant will follow even the defects of the trunk which it embraces, so did Eleanor cling to and love the very faults of her husband' (2). Again, when Arabin finally proposes, the [111/112] narrator insists on Eleanor's prospective happiness in the same terms: 'When the ivy has found its tower, when the delicate creeper has found its strong wall, we know how the parasite plants grow and prosper' (49). Even more subversive is the attack on Eleanor's selfish and sentimental use of her child: 'It was so sweet to press the living toy to her breast and feel that a human being existed who did owe, and was to owe, everything to her' (2). Her essential lack of self-knowledge is exactly like that of Thackeray's Amelia Sedley and is mirrored in the same image of child-worship as a form of self-worship. Because of this ignorance Eleanor eagerly enters into the fighting, defending Slope often not from a sense of fairness but simply from instincts of 'sheer opposition and determination not to succumb' (29). In the hilarious proposal scene with Mr. Slope, while we are expected fully to support the comic slap she gives him, we are also expected to delight in her embarrassment, the fruits of her ignorance. Both Eleanor's selfish reflections and Slope's champagne-induced 'tender-pious' (40) looks are finally ridiculed; the scene really makes fun of the triviality of the young. After this buffeting at Ullathorne Trollope makes the criticism of Eleanor explicit. She rushes home to cuddle her boy and assert that she would die without 'her own Johnny Bold to give her comfort' (44). The narrator cannot resist the appropriate sneer: 'This kind of consolation from the world's deceit is very common. Mothers obtain it from their children, and men from their dogs. Some men even do so from their walking-sticks, which is just as rational.'
While her eventual partner, Mr. Arabin, is not treated roughly, he is treated as more or less insignificant. Although not young, at forty he is not yet old enough to qualify for a favoured position in this novel. As a high-churchman most of his values can be approved, but he has dangerous ascetic tendencies and defends conflict for its own sake in terms which run exactly counter to the belief of the novel: 'But are we not here to fight? Is not ours a church militant?' (21). Further, his adolescent stammerings and gapings in the presence of women are subject to a good many jokes (30). He is not a bad man, just an unimportant one. The narrator even laughs about having to mention the details of his engagement at all (48). In the end Mr. Arabin becomes a kind of Mr. Harding-in-training, committed to the old-fashioned and accepting from his father-in-law the deanship. Even at the last, however, Trollope throws out one final barb at this nearly irrelevant couple. Instead of promising [112/113] eternal love and a proliferation of young Arabins, the narrator lets them repeat the marriage vows and cynically adds, 'We have no doubt that they will keep their promises, the more especially as the Signora Neroni had left Barchester before the ceremony was performed' (53). This Dobbin and Amelia are certainly not allowed to dominate the novel.
But Barchester Towers is assuredly not 'A Novel Without a Hero'; after virtually eliminating the standard interest in young love, the final focus rests on the true hero, Mr. Harding. While Mr. Harding's values are largely defined by negation, he does display, here as in The Warden, an immense strength of resistance, the true power of the pacifist. He demonstrates exactly those beatitudes which the narrator blames Mr. Slope's religion for slighting: 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth—Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (4). Mr. Harding 'had nothing to seek and nothing to fear' (5), the narrator says, implying clearly that he can be unafraid because he has renounced the ludicrous power struggle. His withdrawing from conflict allows him a unique clarity and an important capacity lor self-doubt ('not. . . the usual fault of his order' (7), the narrator sarcastically adds). His particular strength lies in his 'nice appreciation of the feelings of others' (52). He alone has such clarity and generosity. While tolerant enough to allow 'the Pope the loan of his pulpit' (7), as Dr. Grantly says in exasperation, Mr. Harding is neither soft nor naïve. He immediately dislikes Slope for all the right reasons, and he firmly resists all the pressures put on him by his friends. His final triumph, then, reverses the general terms of comedy: his satisfaction, more complete than anyone else's (52), comes from declining power. In the world of fighting, Trollope argues, the man in the wrong is the one who is defensive, carefully storing up weapons, while the man in the right is confident and unarmed. 'The one is never prepared for combat, the other is always ready. Therefore it is that in this world the man that is in the wrong almost invariably conquers the man that is in the right' (37). Hence, one does not fight. But in not fighting one preserves the moral life, a life which can be expanded again—once Slope leaves and the Jupiter quiets down.
In Doctor Thorne Mr. Harding's values are brought out of retirement. Here one must fight very hard, and in that sense the novel [113/114] is much darker than Barchester Towers. Delicacy of conscience is no longer enough; even women must do battle: 'Honour, honesty, and truth, out-spoken truth . . . are worth more than maiden delicacy' (36). Many of the old comedy-of-manners premisses are here overturned. Truth is hidden and no longer organic; it must therefore be sought and vigorously cultivated. Those who withdraw into conscience are simply swept aside by a world which has become nearly chaotic. The definitive social occasion is the Duke of Omnium's dinner, at which there is no civility, no politeness, only the loud feeding of 'hogs' (19). The only man of solid virtue, the Doctor, is outcast, and the Gresham estate and the whole world of settled value seem fast dissolving.
But out of this Trollope constructs one of his warmest comedies. The opening of the novel marks the apparent beginning of the end, but in the end we see the true beginning. The secret time sequence of the novel circles backward to before the time of the opening, remaking a past world and its values. The form of the novel thus attacks linear time and progressive logic. It formulates that attack and its deeply conservative consequences around an examination of a class fluidity that threatens to make the whole world into hogs. Behind all this is the railway, the new world of money, and thus an invasion of the pastoral far more serious than that posed by Mr. Slope with his low-church reforms. The essential problem is how to preserve Greshamsbury and its values from this invasion.
As the solution is worked out, however, a strong and moving complication is admitted. Unlike Slope, this invader, Sir Roger Scatcherd, is treated very largely as a victim, a man who is pulled into a vacuum of power created by the withdrawal of an effete and exhausted aristocracy. Once he begins to create, however, he is swallowed whole by that aristocracy. Inside the enemy territory, he has no chance. The whole problem begins, in fact, with an invasion from the upper class, Henry Thorne's rape of Scatcherd's sister. Incited by this act to revenge, Scatcherd finds the energy the aristocracy lacks, an energy that, in the end, feeds that same aristocracy and revitalizes it.18 The informing myth is one of blood restoration, almost blood-sucking. The pagans with clubs who symbolically guard Greshamsbury, then, should be noted carefully, as [114/115] should the family motto, 'Gardez Gresham.' The narrator has great fun with the apparent ambiguity of this phrase, commenting that some believe it addresses the savages, asking them to guard and preserve the Greshams; others, with whom the narrator hesitantly sides, think it calls to those who seek to arrogate aristocratic power to 'beware the Gresham' (1). The ambiguity is mostly only apparent, not real. The Greshams are preserved by the energy (and money) they absorb from the lower class. The message is finally clear—and grim—enough.
Still, the aristocracy not only takes; it has much to give: a morality and a stability. Despite the Duke's party, the De Courcys, despite even Augusta and Mr. Moffat, the basic values have not been lost. Poorly represented they are, but that can be corrected. And corrected it is, by Doctor Thorne, who directs the action and creates a new world. The moral centre is not yet quite with the young, who are either silly or romantically weak, but Doctor Thorne is arranging things for them. Though presenting a far darker world than that of Barchester Towers, then, Doctor Thorne moves toward a beginning in an ending that is far more optimistic. It is a protected world still, but it is now protected not by withdrawal but by strong action. Doctor Thorne admits as much gloom as it can, as many anti-comic arguments, in order to move finally toward the conventional comic nucleus: the power of young love.
That the novel seems far warmer and less disturbed than all this suggests is due to the wonderful rhetorical control Trollopc establishes over us and never loses for more than a moment throughout. He disguises the violence of the primitive myth of blood transfusion and reintegration and the very dark implications of class conflict by a variety of means, among which are a style more than ordinarily relaxed and a narrator of supreme serenity. Even the tedious opening with the extended and tedious apology for tediousness gives the impression of mere narrative. Throughout the book we often have the feeling that nothing is happening, that surely no novel so long has ever had so little going on. For great stretches of time the only apparent complication is provided by Sir Louis Phillipe, and the only thing holding up the resolution is his death, which we know will come before long. By thus suspending action and making the comic resolution so certain and so clear in all its details very early on, Trollope provides a cover that allows the comic form to contain much real darkness. The sense of confidence in the narrator is so [115/166] strong and so generally unbroken that we are able to accept even the myth of sacrifice as if it were comic. The only real lapse in this control comes in the scene where Frank whips Mr. Moffat. Sending a scourge from the pastoral world to punish London seems a fine idea, but the tone both the narrator and other characters adopt toward the incident is unpleasantly vindictive, betraying a good deal of desperation and secret fear. But such revelations are never otherwise made in the main plot.
By keeping that plot apparently free of all substance, including action, Trollope can go to work with his narrator and subplots to make plain to us the terrible seriousness of the issues involved. It is almost as if the main plot were an ordinary bag into which very unusual materials were stuffed. That, at any rate, is part of the effect. The narrator, protected by the warmth of the main plot, can attack most of the standard comic conventions—the nature ot the young hero, the beauty of the heroine, the nature of endings—not exactly with impunity but without destroying the comic form. He can urge on us a startling reality, as in the long description of Lady Arabella's hypochondria, which winds through some very leisurely jokes only to end with, 'Now the complaint of which Lady Arabella was afraid, was cancer' (14). The world so idealized and protected at the core is at the same time unsentimentalized and attacked around the edges. Even the ordinary practice of inserting a 'we' where we expect 'they' is used here with an unusual intent to shock. At one point, for instance, a lame old ostler laments the decay of the town of Courcy. The narrator points out how meaningless the new, bustling commerce is to those made desolate, and then rapidly removes the sentimentalized melancholy: 'There is nothing left for thee but to be carted away as rubbish—for thee and for many of us in these now prosperous days' (15). The threat made ludicrous in Barchester Towers is momentarily upon us with great immediacy. All this works against the undisturbed centre, forcing us to acknowledge both the depth of the problems and the capacity of the great old system to handle them calmly.
So it is with the minor actions surrounding the idyllic love-story of Mary and Frank. As we look away from that story we find almost unrelieved pain and barbarism: the destruction of the proud and courageous Scatcherd and the demolition of his wife and son, the horrible mercantile conscience of Mr. Moffat in love, Augusta's desperate quest for Mr. Gazebee and her betrayal, the Parliamentary [116/117] election that comes to nothing, the reaction of society to Miss Dunstable and her Oil of Lebanon fortune, and Lady Arabella's fear of cancer. Only at the end, as the moment of resolution nears, does Trollope allow a minor action to echo the main plot. The story of the engagement of Beatrice and Mr. Oriel is a tactful reinforcement of comedy. He is a man who holds all the right values, 'thoroughly a gentleman' (32), and thus a shadow to Doctor Thorne or Frank, but he has developed a fanaticism about celibacy for the clergy. Such a belief parodies the real dissociation of Doctor Thorne and, before him, of Mr. Harding. The curing of Mr. Oriel's doctrinal lunacy quietly suggests the healing of the world and the expansion of its power. Good people can come out of hiding now.
But it is only at the end that the romantic comedy is allowed to dominate. Up until then it is really powerless and must wait upon the completion of another, more serious action. The real battle is not that of romance: lovers against the world, the true heart against prudence, that sort of thing. Such battles are waged, but they amount to nothing in comparison to the all-out class war, the fight between the worlds of Scatcherd and Gresham. The young lovers are not here, as they were in Barchester Towers, treated superciliously, but they must wait in reserve until the real war is over. Frank is made of the 'stuff. . . nature generally uses' (47) and so is Mary, but 'nature' cannot advance until the way has been made safe. The warm passivity valued in Barchester Towers can be regained only by some contact with the threatening world. The paradox is that the outside world must in a limited way be incorporated in order to avoid contamination. The principle is that of vaccination, and Mary is the perfect vaccine.
The maker and healer of the new pastoral is, of course, Doctor Thorne. The narrator introduces him by saying that Frank 'would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been pre-occupied by the village doctor' (1). The doctor must, like Prospero, create a world the young may inhabit, in which they may even pretend to be heroic. He alone believes that the symbolic union of love and money, self and society, may still be possible. Trollope's most extraordinary hero, Thorne achieves social power and the ability to act freely precisely because his own class and station are so ambiguous as to remove him from the class war. He can thus mediate between Scatcherd and Gresham and actually control both of them. Out of these two self-destructive and hostile classes he can form a new [117/118] stability with the energy of the new world and the values of the old. Because he is removed from class anxieties, he can escape the terrors of aggressive social mobility and the collapse of values and stable personality such disintegration has brought about. In another sense, the doctor is not so much outside class as he is divided between two classes. He lives vigorously in one world but holds by the values of another. He protects himself in the midst of an unformed environment by an intense 'inner, stubborn, self-admiring pride' (2). Unlike Mr. Harding, he is essentially a fighter. He loves the values of aristocracy and is 'at heart. . . a thorough Conservative' (3), but 'he naturally hated a lord' (3). There is no contradiction here; the doctor simply forms an inner society in the absence of external ones; loving aristocratic values, he is bound to despise those who have betrayed them. Magically, this nearly schizophrenic man is also an artist, and he brings his inner world into being for others. He imposes what we would call his neurosis on to the world. Stubbornly refusing to let go of values that are dying, he saves them. There is a cost, of course, and the whole process of healing is a rough and damaging one. In this world, unlike that of most comedies, death is always present. The doctor, in fact, derives a great deal of his power because of this fact; even Lady Arabella must finally submit to him because she fears death. Doctor Thorne is a Mr. Harding, then, more elemental, more radically dissociated, but finally able to make bright a world even darker than Mr. Harding's.
He saves the world for Frank and Mary, for the nit-witty but lovely assumptions Frank makes—'I don't care a straw for the world' (39); 'I hate money' (29). Mary is much tougher, but it is the doctor who makes the world simple and conventional again. He does this by preserving Greshamsbury, appropriating Sir Roger's money—as loans while Sir Roger lives, absolutely when he dies—to keep the estate intact. The estate here stands, as it does in Jane Austen,19 for the continuity of family and thus the continuity of values. Though the squire, his wife, and his connections may hardly seem worth saving, the estate itself has an importance that goes far beyond the present occupants. The narrator comments on this [118/119] point with quiet understatement, saying that such estates as Greshamsbury are valuable because they remind us of what we once were and, now that he thinks of it, what we still more or less are: 'England is not yet a commercial country in the sense in which that epithet is used for her; and let us hope that she will not soon become so. She might surely as well be called feudal England, or chivalrous England' (1). As he thinks of it some more, the world of 'buying and selling' seems more repugnant, this chivalrous world more attractive.
But it is everywhere in decay. The ceremony of Frank's coming of age which opens the novel seems the beginning of the end. The aristocracy has almost entirely lost its sense of what it is, choosing like the De Courcys to withdraw or to pretend withdrawal in mock indignation from those who were 'diluting the best blood of the country, and paving the way for revolutions' (6). The squire does not even have the resources of this shabby pose; he has lost touch with himself and with his class: 'long as he had known him, the squire did not understand the doctor' (4). His failure to understand the doctor is his failure to understand the principles he presumably represents. He stupidly resists the energy of the new commercial class but fails to ward off their values, thus making the absolute worst of the situation. His daughter even takes her one commercial attribute, 'blood,' and makes it into property, thus essentially materializing it: 'That which she had of her own was blood; having that, she would in all ways do what in her lay to enhance its value. Had she not possessed it, it would to her mind have been the vainest of pretences' (4). Poor Augusta is one of the sacrifices made on the way to preserving Greshamsbury.
The other great sacrifice is Scatcherd. Though like Slope 'a newspaper hero,' 'the man for the time' (9), he wants to do no harm, has even a confused, hesitant respect for the values he is unconsciously threatening. Victimized by the failure of communal values, he is the individualist against his will. It is not that, like Slope, he loves the resources of his own being but that he has nothing else: 'For him there was no sympathy; no tenderness of love; no retreat, save into himself, from the loud brass band of the outer world' (22). He understands perfectly by the end that he has been lured by his great abilities into a terrifying emptiness: 'I'll tell you what, Thorne, when a man has made three hundred thousand pounds, there's nothing left for him but to die. It's all he's good for then' (10). [119/120]
His son, Louis Phillipe, is, as his name indicates, his father's pathetic attempt to make contact with social values. But Louis Phillipe is a pure contrast to Frank. He grasps nothing but the surface rules and cannot follow even them. He is a decadent, living off cherry bounce and curaçao. He is also frightening. At the squire's dinner party we see that, though he is humiliated in one way, in another way he wins; as he sprays his rudeness about, the room gradually empties until only the doctor remains. Against the new barbarism the old values can only retreat in silence. Louis Phillipe is like Linton Heathcliff in that he is a freak biological accident, and much of the peculiar and uncomfortable delight we receive is in the accomplishment of our desire for these characters' deaths. Sir Louis and Linton drain off the bad blood. But neither is unaware of his function; Sir Louis senses his helplessness, the fact that he has been cast into a world that he can neither understand nor endure: 'I do wish to do what's right—I do, indeed; only, you see, I'm so lonely. As to those fellows up in London, I don't think that one of them cares a straw about me' (37). Like his father, he is left alone to be sacrificed.
But this potentially tragic ritual of sacrifice and renewal is handled so tactfully that, while deeply aware of it, we are satisfied that it is incorporated into the rhythms of comedy. Trollope uses all his art to be certain that we will recognize at the same time the perilous state of affairs generally, the great price paid by the innocent for a class victory, and also the wonderful joy of that victory. The pastoral is established now and nearly everyone can be included—even the Oil of Lebanon heiress, even Lady Arabella and the Duke of Omnium. The Scatcherds do not die for nothing.
There are no sacrificial deaths in Framley Parsonage, no deaths of any kind. Mrs. Crawley becomes ill, but she is ministered to by Lucy, and Lady Lufton sends marmalade. Together, they are more efficacious even than Doctor Thorne. That is because the pastoral world is not very seriously threatened; it even has the power now to go out and make war itself—and win. There are a few rebellious murmurs from Lord Lufton, and attempts are made on Mark Robarts by the degenerate liberals of West Barsetshire and on Miss Dunstable by the London world. But in the end all the stray particles snap back to the magnetic Lady Lufton and the powerful values she represents. She is forgiving and charitable, finally flexible, submitting to being educated herself, but never for a moment changing [120/121] her values. The Duke is still there, but he has no chance against her. In their climactic meeting he has only the feeble weapon of sarcasm, but she has the enormous power of confident, silent dignity. She so stabilizes the pastoral world that not only are the Lufton estates secured, but the crumbling estate of Chaldicotes can be snatched away from the Duke and the London bureaucracy and added to the pastoral government. The pastoral almost seems to be undertaking colonization, with Lady Lufton as Empress.
The same patterns that dominated Doctor Thorne, the rebellion and consequent restoration symbolized in rebuilding the estate, are present here too. But now the problems are so greatly softened that there never seems to be any danger at all. Framley Parsonage represents the high point of the chronicle's celebration of the natural world. People are educated here, but their education causes them to return home, not to leave it. They grow into innocence, not experience. Even Lady Lufton is educated only to become more herself, the omnipotent and tolerant mother to all. In such a world all change seems trivial, even illusory; the threats to established power amount to so little, and the confirmation of that power seems so certain. Correspondingly, there is very little need for any action. Events, such as they are, follow no inexorable logic, but curl lazily back to where they began. Mrs. Gaskell exclaimed, 'I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don't see any reason why it should ever come to an end' (The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell 602). Just as there is no real cause for alarm over any threats to Lady Lufton from rebellious sons or Dukes or time itself, so there is no reason for anticipating a particular course of action, certainly not an ending. Unlike the picaresque,21 which the novel resembles slightly, the events themselves scarcely matter. Trollope himself spoke happily and with some sense of wonder at the enormous success of this 'hodge-podge' of a novel (Autobiography, p. 142). But in fact he had created a perfect English idyl, of the sort Tennyson tried for so very often and with less success.22 Framley Parsonage is Trollope's improvement on 'The Miller's Daughter.' [121/122]
Even more than in Doctor Thorne, Mr. Harding's values are given power, so much so that Lady Lufton completely dominates the novel, not only its conscience, as did Mr. Harding in the first part of the series, but its action as well. In fact, she is allowed to play here the parts of both Doctor Thorne and Lady Arabella. In a remarkable and successful experiment, Trollope makes her both the pivot of the value system and the major blocking figure. There is now no need for a detached intermediary like Doctor Thorne. The aristocracy itself—or at least a part of it—is in very good shape. Lady Lufton stretches herself and then relaxes into her normal attitude, and others break free of her only to return. It is a novel of charity and grace, not of protection but of expansion. There are no Scatcherds now, no really ominous forces, only a little corruption within.
Though there is perhaps no single major action, all the competing plots seem to have the same effect of releasing tension. Lady Lufton's values are themselves not at all demanding: 'She liked cheerful, quiet, well-to-do people, who loved their Church, their country, and their Queen, and who were not too anxious to make a noise in the world' (2). The only qualification that seems restrictive is the 'well-to-do' part, and, even here, Lady Lufton is not severe: she is quite willing to aid in repairing that defect if one qualifies on other grounds. Almost no one opposes her, and she is so confident in her power that she has free use of the great corollary of confidence, grace: 'Fanny . . . I have come to beg your pardon,' she says with characteristic simplicity in a crucial and moving scene (5). The only comic tension is provided by Lady Lufton's stubborn resistance to Lucy, who really holds all her own values, and her equally stubborn campaign for Griselda Grantly, who holds none. This preference is explicable on many grounds. Lady Lufton is partly taken in by appearances, not fully realizing the degeneracy of the West Barsetshire which Griselda represents. But in fact she does see that Griselda is some sort of freak production of the Jupiter; her beauty is entirely public, a pure matter of reputation. Secretly, Lady Lufton is repulsed all along by Griselda's frozen quality. Her ladyship's aberration in taste here is caused most clearly by a lack of confidence that makes her rigid, unwilling to take chances. Shaken a little by her son's radical mutterings, Lady Lufton is momentarily attracted to one like Griselda who 'wanted the ease and abandon of youth' (11) and therefore seemed safe. In fact, Lady Lufton need not fear; she can absorb all of Lucy's naturalness and [122/123] abandon. Lucy's appeal, unlike Griselda's, is private, idiosyncratic, but the absence of a loud public reputation is an asset. She enters the Lufton world without damaging it. She even brings new life to it—and to Lady Lufton—without at all disturbing the balance of power.
Lord Lufton's preferences have been right all along, primarily because he has never really left his mother. He is at first called a 'backslider' from old Tory principles, one who 'jeers and sneers at the old county doings' (2), and he makes some noises about how good a thing it is 'to have land in the market sometimes, so that the millionaires may know what to do with their money' (13). Still, we recognize that he is no threat, either to the estate or to what it symbolizes, his mother's values: 'The more we can get out of old-fashioned grooves the better I am pleased. I should be a Radical tomorrow—a regular man of the people—only I should break my mother's heart' (16). Lucy, who sees their future even more clearly, says that 'my grandmother's old tramway will be the safest and best after all. I have not left it very far, and I certainly mean to go back to it' (16). In the end, Lady Lufton decides to give way to the new generation, but the renunciation of power is nominal indeed. The last words of the novel assure us that she 'still reigns paramount in the parish.'
So much for rebellion. The story of Mark Robarts traces the same pattern but here with somewhat more earnestness. Robarts's pinched finances and dusty moral problems are to him so terriblethat, as Ford Madox Ford says, they 'give you such pure agony of interest and engrossment as you can get out of the financial troubles over a few pounds. . . . I shiver every time that I think of that book' (The English Novel 120). The tension comes about not so much because Robarts's financial problems are so tremendous, for they are in fact trivial, but because his decisions do seem to pose a real threat to Lady Lufton's world. Trollope deliberately makes Robarts's initiation story that of everyman. He gives him good reason to rebel against Lady Lufton, who has been genuinely tyrannical, choosing Robarts's career, manner of education, and wife for him, and clearly running parochial affairs in his place. As the novel opens, Mark is accepting Lady Lufton's choice for a parish schoolmaster, though he knows that the teacher chosen may be incompetent. 'I know I had only to explain' (1), Lady Lufton purrs. Indeed this is too much, and Mark must undergo [123/124] what the narrator calls his slow growth to manhood (42) in rebellion against Lady Lufton so that he may return to her, seasoned and submissive.24
When he wanders away he falls at once into the clutches of West Barsetshire, the lair of the Duke of Omnium and his dangerous allies. The motif of seduction here is very strong: the 'young flattered tool of a parson' (4) is lured by the promise of wealth, station, and preferment into a world which, under the surface, is brutal and cannibalistic. The Duke is omnivorous, and his empire is built purely on deceit, on the new power of money. He gathers about him, as Lady Lufton says, 'the sort of men who are successful nowadays' (18), that is to say, intelligent frauds. The connections among these people are like those that hold together Mr. and Mrs. Harold Smith: 'it had never occurred to her to love him' (24). The enemies are no longer the enthusiasts but the cynics. West Barsetshire can take care of its own bores, and as long as Harold Smith is lecturing on Borneo, there is no apparent danger. The danger lies in becoming 'accustomed' to such a world; Mark is in peril of having his instincts and imagination corrupted. Since Lady Lufton's world is built on delicacy of instinct and the expansion of the imagination, the threat is very grave. When Mark reflects that Sowerby is 'a pleasant fellow, and [gives] a man something in return for his money' (12), he shows just how far gone he is toward corruption.
He is saved, of course, but this same Sowerby is not. The novel's one victim, Sowerby is sacrificed to make a point. From a very old family, he is not himself a vicious man, the narrator insists, but he is so caught by the new world where money has replaced all real values that he loses his grip on the family estate at Chaldicotes. The narrator explains precisely just what such a loss means: 'to be the member of one's family that has ruined that family; to have swallowed up in one's own maw all that should have graced one's children, and one's grandchildren! It seems to me that the misfortunes of this world can hardly go beyond that!' (27). Sowerby wants to try again—'If only he could get another chance!' (24)—but for him there is no grace, no forgiveness, and no new chances. His story is an ironic counter-image to the general comedy, illustrating that the danger is potentially quite real. [124/125]
But though Sowerby is lost, his estate is not, and the defection of a part of the aristocracy finally goes to support the genuine aristocratic values. For Miss Dunstable brings the money from the Oil of Lebanon fortune, marries Doctor Thorne, buys Chaldicotes, and thwarts both the voracious Duke and 'a ruthless Chancellor of the Exchequer, [who disregards] old associations and rural beauty' (3). Miss Dunstable plays the part Mary Thorne had played earlier, bringing new life and power to the aristocracy. She also echoes the temptation motif of the Mark Robarts plot. Her background and her fortune draw her so deeply into the world of the Duke and of London that she is threatened with the hollow and cynical sophistication of Mrs. Harold Smith. But she recognizes the problem: 'she knew that she was hardly living as she should live—that the wealth which she affected to despise was eating into the soundness of her character' (17). Through this recognition, through the use of protective sarcasm, she manages to hold on to enough integrity to be 'two persons' (38), one sophisticated and one natural. It is, then, up to the doctor to step forward once again for his most important work of healing.
By marrying Miss Dunstable he recruits into the pastoral society new power where there was already very much. The enemy is not only beaten back but forced to yield territory and rights. At the ending there is such a hilarious riot of weddings that the narrator has to introduce every artificial and subversive device he can dream up to keep the form of the novel from snapping shut. The assurances are very nearly absolute.
But in The Small House at Allington they are altogether gone. At a point that looks like a comic climax, the hero, John Eames, saves the powerful Lord De Guest from a bull and wins the Lord's support and friendship. The Lord is a great believer in pastoral values and in his own shepherding powers: 'Guided by faith in his own teaching the earl had taught himself to look upon his bull as a large, horned, innocent lamb of the flock' (21). The wonderful ability to deny empirical fact is not shaken by this experience at all: 'The gentlest creature alive; he's a lamb generally—just like a lamb. Perhaps he saw my red pocket-handkerchief' (21). Johnny thus seems to be protecting the latest descendant of Mr. Harding, who [125/126] will now confer pastoral blessings on him. Indeed, that is Lord De Guest's firm intention, and he goes to work with an open hand and a very warm heart to arrange the proper marriages and secure the proper alignments to support the old values. But none of it comes off. Suddenly the magic power is gone, and the major values are unrealized.
As a result, this novel is far and away the darkest of the series, so dark that it has sometimes been dismissed by lovers of Trollope who expected an uninterrupted idyllic series.25 Adolphus Crosbie is the first really powerful invader from London, and the pastoral world seems to collapse before him. The degeneration of the aristocracy, that is to say, the growth in the power of liberal aristocrats, which had seemed to be checked in Framley Parsonage, is now out of control. The De Courcy people here operate like a nineteenth-century version of the Mafia, with equal power and equal terror. They tease Crosbie, whom they snatch hold of very quickly, about 'going about with a crook' at Allington (18), and soon teach him to distrust the comic and pastoral values. And he proceeds nearly to smash that world. It is scarcely redeeming that he is to some extent smashed himself.
Now as never before the pastoral seems a small island of virtue surrounded by conditions which are, in their essence, incapable of resolution. The paradigmatic activity in this new ironic world is Mrs. Roper's. She runs a 'genteel' boarding house for miscellaneous sorts in London: 'Poor woman! Few positions in life could be harder to bear than hers! To be ever tugging at others for money that they could not pay; to desire respectability for its own sake, but to be driven to confess that it was a luxury beyond her means; to put up with disreputable belongings for the sake of lucre, and then not to get the lucre' (51). Her daughter Amelia expresses even more succinctly the dominant and pointless immorality: she says she has been a knave and a fool, and 'both for nothing' (59).
In such a world nothing seems stable or connected. True virtue, therefore, is unsupported and can depend only upon itself. It is thus very likely to appear or to become perverse. It has none of the communal reliance which could make that virtue lie easily, unconsciously with the virtuous man. When, therefore, it is clutched firmly, as it must be, it becomes abstracted and unnaturally firm, [126/127] removed from the rhythms of change and delicate modification that control comedy. Those, then, who would in a better world be chief actors in a natural comedy are now seen specifically as unnatural. Thus the problem of the novel is finally the problem of Lily Dale and the peculiar, twisted psychological position she finds herself in. At one point the narrator comments that 'it is the view which the mind takes of a thing which creates the sorrow that arises from it' (50). Lily's own view seems so outrageously arbitrary that we often want to shake her. The temptation to attack her is almost irresistible. Trollope himself found it more than he could resist.26 But he also saw that her brilliantly portrayed suspension from the natural currents of comedy was at the heart of the book and its appeal. There is no easy explanation for Lily's state in psychological terms. That she is attracted to pain is certain, but, as in Squire Dale's case, that attraction is partly based on a certain and generally accurate expectation of pain in any case. Neither Lily nor Trollope is purely masochistic or perverse, or, if we choose to think that they are, a perception of the condition is less important than an understanding of its causes.27
Lily is not the only character who is firm unto perversity. Firmness is a characteristic of all those whom we are asked to respect in this novel. 'When did you ever know Christopher Dale change his mind?' asks Mrs. Hearn (9). Or any other Dale, for that matter. The theme of constancy is kept alive by frequent reiteration and by parodies in such people as the Hon. John De Courcy, who declares, 'they'll find no change in me' (17), and in his sister, Amelia Gazebee, who has 'done her duty in her new sphere of life with some constancy and a fixed purpose' (25). The fixed purpose is something close to legal gangsterism, but she is constant to it. In its serious reflections, such constancy represents the last grim stand of pastoral [127/128] values. It is the necessary reaction to the fluidity of all bonds. The insistence on a constancy at all costs, then, is the inevitable and very dangerous last assertion of permanence in an unstable world. The Dales and those about them have resisted the movements of the world, but their very resistance creates their vulnerability. The attempt to retain innocence in a fallen world leads finally to a mad fixity that displaces them from the world they sought to inhabit. It renders them unable to join the supple currents of a flexible nature: 'Was she not a Dale? And when did a Dale change his mind?' (8).
Ironically, this is said of Lily's sister Bell, who is one Dale who does, in fact, change, and change radically. She is rewarded for her change by being allowed to participate in the novel's only fully comic action. Other plots move toward comedy, but none is allowed to reach its destination, and Lily's plot is derailed entirely. The basic rhetorical strategy here is to play off the lack of fulfilment and resolution in Lily's life and others' against very powerful currents of natural comedy. The novel makes us see as clearly as we did in Framley Parsonage that a comic resolution is demanded, but here one is never presented. Everything in the novel moves toward comedy except the action. The major tension is thus established and the appropriate rhetoric of frustration produced. The formal conflict is arranged mostly through the intricate structural parallels in the four main actions: Bell's rejection of Bernard Dale and final marriage to Dr. Crofts, the movement of Mrs. Dale and the Squire toward greater understanding, the growth of John Eames into manhood, and the story of Lily and Crosbie.
The first plot is by far the least noticeable. Bell rejects the arranged love set up for her with the wooden Bernard, who 'had his feelings well under control' (7), so well that his tenacity in clinging to her seems entirely impersonal, a light parody of the twisted constancy elsewhere. Bell has plenty of firmness of her own: 'If there was anything in the world as to which Isabella Dale was quite certain, it was this—that she was not in love with Dr Crofts' (20). But of course that is what she is—in love with Dr. Crofts. Nature is allowed this one victory over unnatural, self-punishing rigidity. Such a triumph shows us what should, but does not, happen elsewhere. '
One level more prominent but also one level more complex is the comic rejuvenation of Squire Christopher Dale. The Squire is one of those Trollope characters who is introduced with a long list [128/129] of faults and a very short list of virtues, often even made up of spillovers from the vices: an idle man does not, at any rate, commit violent acts; a wrathful man is not idle. But there is always a quiet climax to such lists that renders the other traits superficial: 'And, moreover, our Mr Christopher Dale was a gentleman' (1). We recognize immediately the signal intended here. Mr. Christopher Dale is the moral touchstone of the novel; he is a gentleman, and, moreover, his house, like Ullathorne, has Tudor windows. The symbolism is quite unmistakable. Dale is concerned with the future of his estate, the continuity of family, and he therefore becomes deeply involved in the affairs of young people. All this sounds just like Squire Gresham or a score of Trollope's other secret heroes, representatives of the conscience of the county. Here, however, the Squire lives in constant expectation of being thwarted. No one even pays attention to what he says. He is misunderstood and alone, cut off both from his fellow squires and from his tenants, really from the entire world: 'It makes me feel that the world is changed, and that it is no longer worth a man's while to live in it' (27). He could stand this feeling—it might even grow into the sort of happy grievance Trollope's Tories love—but he is not able to live easily with the hostility of his own family, his sister-in-law and nieces at the Small House: 'You and the girls have been living here, close to me, for—how many years is it now ?—and during all those years there has grown up for me no kindly feeling. Do you suppose that I am a fool and do not know?' (37).
Mrs. Dale understands the full force of his complaint and begins to understand the full warmth of his heart. In doing so, she begins to come to life herself. She had vowed to 'bury herself in order that her daughters might live well above ground' (3), another unnatural resolution virtue is forced to make, one the narrator flatly says is 'wrong.' Mrs. Dale secretly thinks that it is wrong too, finds no masochistic pleasure in self-denial, and frets about getting back into life. The pressure of this romantic comedy is so great that we are bound to pass over the Squire's protestations: 'What, begin again at near seventy! No, Mary, there is no more beginning again for me' (37). But, though he does manage to come more to the surface, offering Lily money and working actively in the conspiracy to help her, his rebirth is never complete. He never entails the estate or arranges a marriage for Bernard and is troubled by his failure to provide for the property. Correspondingly, his psychological growth [129/130] is also suspended and the narrator can only say at the end, 'he was a man for whom we may predicate some gentle sadness and continued despondency to the end of his life's chapter' (58).
But the Squire has a much more hopeful counterpart, the Earl De Guest, who refuses to give up on the pastoral world. When Dale tells him that the time for renewal 'has never come to you and me,' his friend vigorously denies it: '"Yes, it has," said the earl, with no slight touch of feeling and even of romance in what he said. "We have retricked our beams in our own ways, and our lives have not been desolate"' (33). The similarity of the earl's life to that of Dale is stressed (33), but the earl lives in a different world altogether. He is purely of the country, living with a cosy disdain for London. He has never abandoned the comic premisses his life has, on the whole, affirmed. He was poor, but now he is rich. He has, unlike Dale, solidified the estate and become a part of it: 'He knew every acre of his own estate, and every tree upon it' (12). Because he believes so firmly in innocent and beneficent change, he can himself practise a healthy constancy, not the one that is steadfast to pain but one that is loyal to happy alterations, satisfactory endings. He is, potentially, another Prospero, like Doctor Thorne and Lady Lufton, and when Johnny Eames saves him from the bull—more precisely, saves him from having to readjust his principles—the earl vows to support his young friend with all his comic constancy: 'Now, good-night, my dear fellow, and remember this—when I say a thing I mean it. I think I may boast that I never yet went back from my word' (32).
Johnny is the perfect natural hero: generous, open, and imaginative. He is Lord De Guest in an earlier stage of development, as the earl clearly recognizes. Johnny's faults are purely those which easy, natural education will remedy. He comes straight out of an irresistible tradition that rewards the gentle, the meek, the pure in heart. But here the tradition is resisted, just at the last. Johnny's education is, of course, conducted along the standard lines. He learns the first lesson of a Trollope gentleman, his comparative insignificance: 'I made a fool of myself, and have been a fool all along. I am foolish now to tell you this, but I cannot help it' (21). His insight and his impulsiveness are, according to the tradition, sure signs that in the very process of acknowledging himself to be a fool, saying so because he 'cannot help it,' he is actively demonstrating his great wisdom and his very good heart. He can, therefore, survive a rough training period in London. He plunges directly into a hellish world. [130/131] There everyone struggles to hold on to connections, to bind people by force to vows that are always being broken. Every motive seems perverse, truly as masochistic as poor Cradell's 'moth-like weakness' for Mrs. Lupex's candle (11). Trollope specifically refers to this period as John's initiation and makes it seem all the more real by making it so very unsentimental. John escapes without cost to himself, but others are made to pay, especially the pathetic Amelia Roper: 'But the world had been hard to her; knocking her about hither and thither unmercifully; threatening, as it now threatened, to take from her what few good things she enjoyed' (51). John tries to slither out of this fluid world of the boarding-house with a few platitudes to Amelia about how it is all for the best, how 'we should never be happy.' But Amelia's startling response brings into focus for a moment the ironic world from which for so many there is no escape: 'I should be happy—very happy indeed' (51). But 'John Eames becomes a man' (59) and manages to 'come out of the fire comparatively unharmed' (59). He has so much on his side: 'You have everybody in your favour—the squire, her mother, and all' (52). The 'all' includes here not only the earl, who is speaking, but the whole tradition of romantic comedy. But though he can thrash the villain and win the heart of Lady Julia De Guest, Johnny cannot win the heart of Lily. The energies of the tradition are thus allowed full rein and are suddenly blocked, to our great dissatisfaction.
Trollope's narrator calls attention to this countering of tradition at the very end of the novel with a mock apology: 'I feel that I have been in fault in giving such prominence to a hobbledehoy, and that I should have told my story better had I brought Mr Crosbie more conspicuously forward on my canvas. He at any rate has gotten to himself a wife—as a hero always should do' (59). Crosbie, who is, the narrator insists, 'not altogether a villain' (18), gets what he perhaps deserves—nothing at all. He is punished somewhat by his marriage, but his wife soon flees, and he is liberated from definite punishment into a more appropriate emptiness. The form properly resists either punishing or rewarding him. Here, as elsewhere, resolution is denied. The novel makes it difficult to respond to Crosbie in any simple way. Though a genuine scoundrel, he really never meant harm. And he is a victim of Courcy Castle, which 'had tended to destroy all that was good and true within him' (23). Ironically, he finds it much easier to break the oath he has made to the constant Lily than that he has made to the slippery Courcy clan. There is [131/132] a much subtler sense too in which we recognize that he is running to the Courcy people to escape another kind of victimization from Lily. After the engagement, Lily puts a sort of pressure on him that makes him feel caged and on display: 'And then she exacted from him the repetition of the promise which he had so often given her' (12). Surely this is merely Amelia Roper on a more advanced or just less self-conscious level. She throws herself, as it were, into Crosbie's arms and then looks up beaming, 'Yes, your own, to take when you please, and leave untaken while you please; and as much your own in one way as in the other' (15). He is understandably a bit uncomfortable with the burden and the sly trap it creates for him. Lily says she desires to 'do everything for you. I sometimes think that a very poor man's wife is the happiest, because she does do everything' (15). There is a desire for power here that exposes how much of her excessive self-effacement, her exaggerated submission to Crosbie, is really a cry of triumph. Crosbie hears the bray and retreats. There is, then, a cutting sarcasm at work when Lily's sentimental and deliberately cute resolutions to punish herself for forgetting how much Crosbie is giving up by marrying her are echoed seriously a page or two later by Crosbie, who comes to believe her. Perhaps he is giving up too much.
But Lily's sentimental, mock desire for punishment becomes, in her humiliation, genuine perversity. She recognizes that she can discover no reason for her tenacity. At first she declares, 'I believe, in my heart, that he still loves me' (30), but her firmness is not shaken by clear evidence that he does not. Like a parody of Lord De Guest, she turns away from all evidence and embraces a world of absolutisms: 'I have made up my mind about it clearly and with an absolute certainty' (42). Lily is not, then, just a masochist but a sentimental idealist, one who, unlike her sister, prefers novels whose capacity to minister to wish-fulfilment is greatest. Her pride contributes to her firmness, too, but Lily represents the attempt of the pressured pastoral world to reach out desperately for some stability. The great comic Earl De Guest says at the end that time will cure all, that Lily, like 'other girls,' will change in accord with the gentle pressures of love, sex, growth. But the earl is wrong, and his hope for an innocent comic world where all bulls are really lambs is never realized.
There is as little hope for an innocent comic world in The Last Chronicle of Barset, but out of the wreck of innocence this novel does [132/133] fashion another sort of comic society,28 that, if less perfect than a pastoral and idyllic one, is also more open and less in need of protection. The optimistic levelling of Barchester Towers, the argument that 'we are all of us men,' clergymen, authors, readers alike, is subjected here to searching re-examination. The novel begins by suggesting that the absence of a distinction between the clergy and society means not comic communion but mere anarchy:
'Why should not a clergyman turn thief as well as anybody else? You girls always seem to forget that clergymen are only men after all.' 'Their conduct is likely to be better than that of other men, I think.' 'I deny it utterly,' said John Walker.
From these very dark premisses, a new system must be constituted that will find a new source of spiritual authority.
Trollope felt that The Last Chronicle was 'the best novel I have written'; he especially admired the 'true savour of English country life all through the book' (Autobiography 274-75). The idyl of England is here concluded and the confirmation of the pastoral values finally effected. The novel is enormously crowded, bringing together all the other novels in the series, sometimes solving their problems—Bernard Dale now does marry and rescue the estate—sometimes admitting that they cannot be solved: Eleanor Bold is still as stupid, Lily Dale as obstinate. The effect of including so much is to suggest, of course, a finale, but all this variety also leads to what appear to be widely scattered, more or less isolated groups. The novel begins in the state of dissolution described in The Small House at Allington and rebuilds in the world of experience the values of innocence. It confronts the same unnatural perversity of virtue and makes it natural: 'The cross-grainedness of men is so great that things will often be forced to go wrong, even when they have the strongest possible natural tendency of their own to go right' (63). The novel explores new means of conquering that 'cross-grainedness' and establishing once again a coalition between human life and 'the strongest possible natural tendency' of comedy.
It does so by removing the boundaries that Trollope had so carefully erected in the previous novels. Slope, in effect, is allowed back in; the major enemy now is not the outsider but the fear [133/134] of outsiders, protective isolation. London, therefore, even the world of artifice, is enlisted to bolster the pastoral, and a union is thus created of the city and the country, the simple and sophisticated, nature and art. Trollope takes as the moral centre for this new comedy a new hero: an outsider who surely does not meet Lady Lufton's old tests for membership in the pastoral society. Mr. Crawley is neither 'comfortable,' nor 'well-to-do,' nor 'quiet.' He is uncomfortable, impoverished, rebellious, and in one way or another makes a good deal of noise, testing the society rigorously and finding, to his astonishment, that society passes the test. He threatens a tragic action but is absorbed by the comic society. It is true that his life is a demonstration of the impossibility of ever again erecting the placid society of pastoral, and he has some fine rebukes to the platitudes of comedy: when Mr. Toogood tells him he should take things easier, that he is 'too touchy,' Crawley responds, 'Do you try it, and see whether you will be touchy' (32). Still, his harsh experience, which he imagines will disprove comedy, is simply a valuable stretching of it. It is as if Chaucer's Parson joined hands with the Franklin and agreed to learn from him. Crawley's heroism helps rehabilitate the world about him, but in the end that heroism must be put away: 'It's not natural; and the world wouldn't go on if there were many like that' (74). Only when he is reintegrated with the natural can he take over Mr. Harding's old living and inherit also his role as the spiritual centre of the community. He is a very different man indeed, grumbling and fighting, ill-reconciled and suspicious. But underneath it all he is generous and loving, trustful and pure in heart—in short, a gentleman. In the end, the natural wins, as always.
The natural is defined very differently now, it is true. The natural world is principally that of the irrational, and the irrational now is not simply to be equated with comic disorder. It includes severe emotional pain, madness, perversity, even death. But it also allows for love. The point of the rational action of the novel, the detective plot filled with clues and suspects and motives, is that all ratiocination is without point. Crawley's great opponent in all this is not, as he imagines, society, not even Mrs. Proudie, but his own 'wool-gathering,' that is, his abstraction, his dislocation from community. And the solution to that problem has nothing to do with reason. As Mr. Toogood says, 'One wants sympathy in such a case as that—not evidence' (42). Crawley's dissociation is caused by the world's [134/135] irrationality, but his integration comes about through the same means, through the irrational exercise of sympathy.
Because of the importance of 'sympathy,' women are now at the very heart of the novel. Their response to Mr. Crawley's presumed theft is the wonderful inversion of the threatening insanity, mad generosity. Miss Prettyman's reaction is most expressive: 'It may do for men of business to think [that he is guilty], lawyers and such like, who are obliged to think in accordance with the evidence, as they call it; but to my mind the idea is monstrous' (7). The world of evidence, as they call it, and of such men as lawyers is more absurd, more 'monstrous' than the simple world of the irrational. Miss Prettyman speaks with the sane madness of the creatures in Wonderland, to whom Alice's calm acceptance of predation and death also seems 'monstrous.' Miss Prettyman assumes that the world is more benign even than Wonderland, which is perhaps not so benign, and the novel, on the whole, is on her side. Mrs. Dale and Lily both understand Crawley's innocence fully, but Mrs. Dale expresses doubts about whether a jury will understand the grounds for such belief. Lily answers, 'A jury of men will not' (31). Lady Lufton, similarly, says, 'It's no use talking of evidence. No evidence would make me believe it' (5). Though the gentlemen of Silverbridge 'believed the man to be guilty, clergyman and gentleman though he was,' the ladies, knowing much better, 'were sure of his innocence' (5). The ladies will not give up so easily on the whole range of values and behaviour implied by 'clergyman and gentleman.' Nor will the essentially feminine Mr. Harding, who, as his son-in-law says, is never wrong: 'I cannot for a moment suppose that a clergyman and a gentleman such as Mr. Crawley should have stolen money' (42). Mr. Harding can leave the world, secure that his values are finally confirmed, not in the quiet, cloistered way he would have preferred, but confirmed all the same. Clergymen are not thieves; gentlemen still thrive.
The plots in the novel are all co-ordinated to illustrate this growth toward reintegration in a more inclusive and dangerous world. The ironic plot involving Lily Dale is now relegated to a cautionary role, not disrupting but limiting the primary impulse, showing that the expansion of the comic world destroys its absolute perfection. The central action, then, is the final story of the county, of what happens to Barsetshire, as traced through Mr. Crawley, the new moral focus, and his daughter. The other flanking action, [135/136] the London plot, is most remarkable for establishing through very careful parallels the extension of the old pastoral values and the attempt to carry them into full maturity.
Lily is still as she was, will clearly always be that way. But now she is seen at once as both unfortunate and tiresome. Her original attraction to Crosbie is explained as a more or less stupid failing: he 'had come before her eyes for the first time with all the glories of Pall Mall heroism about him' (70). To lose one's life for any delusory heroism is bad enough in Trollope's unheroic world, but to throw it away for the tawdry Pall Mall imitation! Lily is now simply an enemy of fertility. She is stamped with the absurd tag, O. M., and appears thus almost like one of Fielding's comic pedants or an American teacher who insists on being called 'Doctor.' Old-maidism is her humour. There is still pathos in her alienation, and that alienation still suggests the limits of comic power, but she is now far less important and her condition, therefore, seems almost accidental, an unfortunate example of the risks one takes in being alive. Her psychological position now seems far more arbitrary and inexplicable than in The Small House at Allington; Mrs. Thorne, in exasperation, calls it simply 'morbid' (59), which it is. Lily seems bent on protecting the comforts of suffering in silence, resolutely spending her time locking any doors that might conceivably open out of her neurosis. She claims, for example, that she still loves Crosbie but that, even if he were to love her, she would not marry him since then 'he would condemn me because I had forgiven him' (23). When it becomes clear that he would like to begin over, she retreats quickly enough. Johnny Eames might then seem to have a chance, but Lily grasps at the absurd letter from Madalina Demolines and uses it 'to harden her heart' against her lover. She has become wedded to whatever pleasures are available in the special tensions she feels and will take no chances on breaking these tensions. Her response to a bleak world is understandable, but disastrous: 'But don't you feel,' she says, 'that there are people whom one knows very intimately, who are really friends . . . but with whom for all that one can have no sympathy?' (16). A character who can excite sympathy but feel little or none is finally not very useful in a comic society.
The climactic scene dramatizing Lily's dilemma takes place in a private gallery. Here, in a peculiarly stylized atmosphere, Crosbie presents himself, she bows, he retreats, and she executes a 'queen-like' exit (59). The entire scene carries with it a sense of very [136/137] self-conscious art, as if we were watching a minuet performed by a row of clock-work dancers—all set against a background of greater artifice, not only paintings but paintings arranged and exhibited. Such artifice heightens the association of Lily with the unnatural and establishes the connection between the world of London and the world of art.
Oddly, this bustling world distances itself radically from its own nature. 'I fancy that I should best like a world in which there was no eating' (80), says Madalina Demolines. Madalina is described more accurately by her friends, who see in her not so much a dainty aesthete as a filthy 'bird of prey' (75). John Eames turns instinctively from Lily to what he hopes is life, but he finds only grotesque art. 'It's as good as a play' (25), he says, but underneath the fun is a desperate and vicious world of swindlers like Musselboro and of suicide, ruin, and absolute heartlessness. Art in London is seen largely as varnish used to cover a very unattractive article and thus deceive buyers. Madalina, John is convinced, 'rehearsed' (75) scenes ahead of time with her talented mother, who, he feels sure, 'must have passed the early years of her life upon the stage' (80); even their servants are 'wonderful actors' (64). All this acting is repulsive, finally, but not particularly threatening, since it doesn't fool John for a moment. He knows already what is art and what is nature. And art, in one sense, seems entirely immoral. Even Mrs. Dobbs Broughton is infected. Her wild playing at romantic roles—she thinks at one point that 'it would be very nice to break her heart' (51)—seems quite harmless. Her art criticism is certainly functional: neither industry nor genius is required in art, she says; 'the heart of the artist must be thrust with all its gushing tides into the performance' (51). But the narrator's suggestions that she is only out for 'a good time' are misleading. She is, in fact, nothing more than her repertoire of shabby romantic roles. She is innocent, of course, 'no more in love with Conway Dalrymple than she was in love with King Charles on horseback at Charing Cross' (38). She is not in love with anything else either, it turns out; she can only attach herself to such grandiose images. When reality comes crashing in on her with her husband's suicide, she has no response at all beyond a vague search for new roles, new costumes. All of London at one point seems like Sir Raffle Buffle: 'There is something imposing about such a man till you're used to it, and can see through it. Of course it's all padding' (35). [137/138]
But London is finally not this empty, and the novel reaches out to embrace even its art. The world of defensive artifice is torn down by reality so that, in the end, reality may be made into art. Conway Dalrymple's mythological idealizations of rich city merchants and their wives seem surely the most wildly artificial acts in all of artificial London. His blithe choice of the subject of Jael and Sisera for his great painting seems at first wholly ironic. The unspeakable violence of the subject suggests the underside of the London world, just as Conway's bland acceptance of the violence suggests the way art is being used. Johnny Eames significantly turns away from the Jael and Sisera image with a shudder: 'I never could quite believe that story' (25). John is of the natural world, however, and, in any event, has already been initiated into reality by the gentle hands of Amelia Roper. But Dalrymple needs something stronger and finds it in the redemptive reality granted by this painting. Through it he meets Mrs. Van Siever and her daughter Clara, whom he thinks perfect as Jael, impassively about to drive a nail through Sisera's skull. These women both appear very 'savage'; that is, they are nature tormented and turned vicious. Mrs. Van Siever senses the dominant role of art in society and expresses a decided preference for the 'ugly'; if she had the power, Clara says, there would be no art and no artists (24). Clara herself is a person whose beauty is apparent only by daylight, not candlelight (26), and who therefore is scarcely seen at all in the London world. The artist begins to see through his own art, however, and tries to propose to her. She is unimpressed by his exalted language and is discomposed by a proposal from a man in painter's costume. He finally becomes perplexed by the dizzying mixture he is involved in, looking 'upon the young lady before him both as Jael and as the future Mrs. Conway Dalrymple, knowing as he did that she was at present simply Clara Van Siever' (60). So he removes his costume and speaks in 'the plainest possible language' (60). Such language and especially, the narrator says, 'the very taking off of his apron' win the complete, almost fierce love of Clara. At the end, the villain Musselboro is expelled and Mrs. Van Siever finally gives 'full approval' (84) to the wedding. Even London is alive and can prosper.
These scenes of London art have not always been appreciated, I know, but they seem to me to represent Trollope's finest use of a parallel subplot to explain and reinforce the major action. For there is plenty of art in Barsetshire too. Much of it is of the order of [138/139] Lily's romantic neurosis or John Eames's equally romantic compensation: 'He thought that he could look forward with some satisfaction towards the close of his own career, in having been the hero of such a love-story' (35). But the principal artist is Mr. Crawley, who constructs for himself a grand tragic drama in which he takes the leading part.29 Circumstances and society conspire, of course, to set up the potential tragedy, but circumstances and society are eager to pull down the stage and get on with living long before Mr. Crawley will relinquish the pleasures of grandeur. At first, Mr. Crawley tries to find release from the cruel world about him in a separate, more orderly world: 'He could be logical with a vengeance,—so logical as to cause infinite trouble to his wife, who, with all her good sense, was not logical' (4). Throughout the novel his wife is his link with society and comedy. Right from the start references to her are used to subvert the purity of Mr. Crawley's tragedy and to create a comic alternative. In the first chapter the narrator says that the terrible pressure on Mr. Crawley made him 'morose, sometimes almost to insanity'; as a result, he spends his life 'very much in the dark, as Mrs. Crawley was in the habit of leaving him' (1). This delicate touch connects this grim plot to the comic theme of female dominance and also quietly suggests alternatives to irrational chaos which are held firmly by the women: irrational trust and irrational love. Mrs. Crawley can sometimes even lose patience with her husband: 'Be a man and bear it. Ask God for strength, instead of seeking it in an over-indulgence of your own sorrow' (12). But the suggestion of hen-peckery is extremely light, used only to qualify the absolutism of Mr. Crawley's pride, not his dignity. He is brought back to life by Mrs. Proudie. She awakens in him the wonderfully comforting feeling of having a real and substantial enemy. He can attack and silence Mrs. Proudie, which is more than he can do with poverty. We begin to see, too, that the Proudies have never been real enemies, that they have brought a mild and good opposition that has, in the end, made everyone's life more pleasant. It gives everyone something to attack. The saddest moment in Trollope is when the Bishop refuses any longer to allow his wife her own fun in attacking. She has nothing to do but die, and [139/140] the genuine pathos of this death30 exhibits to us how unrealistic Mr. Crawley is in casting her as the antagonist in his tragedy.
It gives him pleasure to reflect on the ways in which his sufferings are more exquisite than those of St. Simeon Stylites (41) and to imagine, not unlike Mrs. Dobbs Broughton, what a 'grand thing' it would be 'if the judge would condemn him to be imprisoned for life' (62). He revolves the tragic formulas in his head: 'Great power reduced to impotence, great glory to misery, by the hand of Fate,—Necessity, as the Greeks called her' (62), and he runs stubbornly and contentedly into a perverse absolutism much like Lily's: he wants justice and right to prevail, and he says, 'in the adjustment of so momentous a matter there should be a consideration of right and wrong, and no consideration of aught beside' (68). Giles Hoggett's famous advice, 'It's dogged as does it,' is therefore by no means the moral of the tale but a poison to Crawley's system, causing an unnatural growth in his determination to be King Lear. He cannot finally resist the role and incorporates tragic elevation into his everyday language, which is so oratorical, so directly transplanted from the Old Testament, that his wife has a sensation of his acting as strong as Johnny's wonder at the talents of Madalina and her mother. As a result, 'she could not quite believe that her husband's humility was true humility' (32).
The toughest problem in this comedy is to rescue the tragic hero. In the end nearly everybody volunteers for the job, but the leader is Mr. Toogood, who begins the campaign for his cause at his first meeting with Crawley. Speaking of his family, Toogood says they are 'pretty toll-loll for that. With twelve of 'em, Mr. Crawley, I needn't tell you they are not all going to have castles and parks of their own, unless they can get 'em off their own bats' (32). Crawley is 'disgusted by the attorney's bad taste, shocked by his low morality, and almost insulted by his easy familiarity' (32), but still 'he liked the attorney.' Toogood expresses an impulsive and generous love for Mr. Crawley, an absolute belief in his innocence, that begin to lure the clergyman back from art. Toogood's own work, however, he compares to that of 'theatrical managers' (42), and it is partly a new art that wins Mr. Crawley back to nature, a comic art of sympathy. The resolution unites nature and art just as it unites reason again [140/141] with natural impulses. Mr. Crawley was not, as it happens, mad or even wrong. Both his mind and the best feelings of the community are preserved. But he must be changed still. He is, as Toogood says, a great subject for pure art—'somebody ought to write a book about it,—indeed they ought' (77)—but not 'natural' enough for life. Mr. Crawley arrives, though, very quickly; he even drops the language borrowed from the Book of Isaiah and begins to speak as ordinary men, astonishing the Dean with his jocularity: 'It was a narrow squeak—a very narrow squeak' (79). He is almost punished with kindness, forced into a lovely old house, a larger income, and the warm protection of the Thornes of Ullathorne, our old Barchester Towers friends. He quickly finds some 'intimacy with the haunts of men' (83) and even is reconciled to the archdeacon, who 'is of the earth, earthy,' he thinks (83). And so he is, but then so, in a sense, is Mr. Crawley. And they are both 'gentlemen,' as the archdeacon insists, thus reconnecting the world and suggesting a renewal of spiritual leadership, an infusion of vigour, even tragic energy, into the relaxed comfort and certain values that had seemed to pass away with Mr. Harding.
The other half of the alliance, the archdeacon, is tested himself, but it is a comic testing, and we know the outcome from the start. So does he. He vows to block his son's marriage to Grace Crawley and never to see his errant boy again, 'and yet as he said it, he knew that he would not have the strength of character to carry him through a prolonged quarrel with his son' (2). The weak, romantic son wins the loyal and poor girl despite the opposition of the father who, all along, is on the son's side in his heart. Such is the formula for many of Trollope's sweetest and least disturbed comedies. It is as if Rachel Ray were running through this dark novel. And so it does, asserting very simply the continued life of pastoral values. Grace Crawley tries to argue with Henry that the circumstances around her are so strong they must repress any love. But Henry, backed by a host of encouraging old ladies, especially the Misses Prettyman and Mrs. Thorne, by a spirit of opposition to his father, by an innate stubbornness of his own, and by a flabby but warm heart, argues that love conquers all. He wins, of course, not because his threats to emigrate or to break up the estate are powerful but because his father's heart is so soft, so essentially young. Mr. Harding says of the proposed marriage that 'if the young people love each other, I think it would be the best thing in the world' (49). Not only is he [141/141] never wrong, but he is not so different from his son-in-law. In the end, all the archdeacon wants is for his son not to 'treat me as though I were nobody' (73). He loses as little power, finally, as Lady Lufton, because, like her, he is not really removed from the tenderness and the enthusiasm of the young. When he comes face to face with Grace Crawley, he recognizes how cultivated her beauty is. He had been expecting 'the miller's daughter' (57) but finds instead a woman whose instincts and values are his own. He nearly falls in love with her himself: 'His soft heart, which was never very well under his own control, gave way so far that he was nearly moved to tell her that, on his son's behalf, he acquitted her of the promise' (57). Because of this pervasive softness of heart, the principal force in the novel is the force of romantic comedy, of a special artifice:
'If he loves you, Grace, the service he will require will be your love in return.' 'That is all very well, mama,—in books; but I do not believe it in reality. Being in love is very nice, and in poetry they make it out to be everything. But. . .' (41)
As it happens, and as Grace discovers, life is poetry and, as poetry makes out, love is everything. [142/143]
Last modified 26 September 2013