udging on the basis of the continuity observed within Trollope's two major chronicles and the controlled testing conducted in the early novels written outside these chronicles, one would never have expected the last part of his career to be spent on novels as widely diverse as Cousin Henry, The Fixed Period, and Ayala's Angel. Though many of Trollope's novels are experimental in the sense that they test formal or generic limits, these late novels seem at first glance to be the random experiments of some mad scientist. Actually, the new range suggests the freedom Trollope found in certainty. The tendency is not so much to expand as to exercise his mastery of craft in new and surprising ways. The novels beginning with The American Senator (1877) offer not only new combinations in narrative patterns of comedy, irony, and tragedy, but also a new generic range from anatomy to satire to romance. There are unexpected major effects derived from the grotesque and from the dramatic monologue. Trollope doesn't mind now and then borrowing a technique or a moral point even from Dickens.
Not only do these novels fail to betray an over-all pattern, they seem strongly to resist the imposition of one, springing apart from one another like opposite magnetic poles. The groupings proposed here are meant only to indicate this sense of freedom, the range of the accomplishment; they are neither rigorous nor inclusive, and other schemes would doubtless do as well. However, Trollope's anatomy, The American Senator, seems to me distinguishable from those deceptive novels, Is He Popenjoy?, John Caldigate, and An Eye for an Eye, which seek to establish comedy and then subvert it. Both of these groups are, in turn, distinguishable from those novels with a radically unconventional moral focus established by means borrowed from the dramatic monologue: Cousin Henry, Dr. Wortle's School, The Fixed Period, and Mr. Scarborough's Family. Standing alone is Trollope's unequivocal romance, Ayala's Angel. The American Senator opens with a description not of the Senator [234/235] or indeed of any character but of the village of Dillsborough, a place so important that the narrator suggests at the end that the novel 'might perhaps have been better called "The Chronicle of a Winter at Dillsborough"' (80). A 'chronicle' it is, much like Middlemarch an anatomy of a country town, a sort of rural The Way We Live Now. But the mode is even more generalized than in Middlemarch; it is more purely that of the intellectualized anatomy. The characters here, including the Senator, are more typical than in any other Trollope novel: they stand for ideas, outlooks, classes. The tendency throughout is to generalize in order to provide the kind of descriptive classification we associate with anatomy.
It does not take us long, however, to see that the Senator is not a reliable instructor in this classification system. About the time he begins asking why the hunters do not bring along a fox in a bag so that they will be certain to have something to chase (9), we begin searching for some other guide. But it is difficult to find one. The narrator all but disappears after the first few chapters, and certainly no other character seems to be really major. At the end it is suggested that a disappointed lover in one of the subplots, Larry Twentyman, 'has in truth been our hero' (80), but the role could as easily have been assigned to four or five others. In truth, there are no heroes, not for the usual reason that the novel is too ironic but for the reason that it is too impersonal. The impersonal anatomy here is developed by allowing us a variety of perspectives on the same subject.1 There is no dependable source to guide us in weighing and judging the relative value of these perspectives, and in that sense the novel is ambiguous.2 But there is no ambiguity concerning the common reality described by each of these views. All try in different ways to come to grips with the irrational. There is some slight convergence toward a cluster of approved values: traditional morality, a love of pleasure, a reliance on the class system. Traditional morality has no necessary or widespread support, however, and the class system, that great 'question of gentlemen and ladies, and of non-gentlemen and non-ladies' (27), seems, like pleasure, [235/236] appropriate to this world only because it is, like the world, essentially absurd.
The novel is arranged so that each of its plots offers one of three possible views of irrationality. The Gotobed plot is satiric, the Arabella Trefoil plot ironic, the Mary Masters plot comic. The first suggest[s] that the Senator's rationality is insane and that no correction is possible. Arabella's plot shows how the irrational can imprison; Mary's plot demonstrates how it can liberate. Throughout, the dominant symbol is fox-hunting: undemocratic, cruel, and absurd, yet also unifying and in a sense necessary, as it provides the pleasure men must have. The resolution of the comic plot is marked by the decision of the hero, Reginald Morton, to take up hunting; in the ironic plot the hero, Lord Rufford, withdraws from hunting; the Senator remains to the end baffled by the sport.
It is this story of the Senator's clarity and confusion which, though the least prominent of the three main strands, is the most interesting and also the most revealing.3 He defines the irrational from the elevated position of Pure Reason. He grandly refuses to accept the absurd or the unjust and points them out loudly whenever he sees them. He is nearly always accurate in spotting them, but very seldom right in the terms of his denunciations, though he would be if it were a rational world. 'Is it not the case', he demands, 'that livings in the Church of England can be bought and sold?' (42). And why, he asks, does Lord Rufford's 'model farm' lose money and still hold its unchallenged position as a model? 'If you want to teach a man any other business, you don't specially select an example in which the proprietors are spending all their capital without any return' (68). Here as elsewhere he makes staunch Englishmen mutter into their port, not only because his bluntness is irritating but because he is also, in his way, correct. The natives are propped up by a strong and mysterious inner certainty, but 'they didn't quite see how they were to confute the Senator's logic' (19). [236/237]
The Senator has the power of logic, which, although it has the same aberrant quality as the power Don Quixote builds up in his charge at the windmill, is given a kind of wistful respect. Though Gotobed is awkward and often crude, he is not unaffected by the civility and the richness of the established world he sees about him, admitting that the aristocratic life contains a moving 'reality' (29). Nor is he incapable of self-doubt. But he can exercise that doubt only when he is convinced that what he has said is untrue (51). He is tied finally to a respected but irrelevant code of rational and coherent truth. It is a code that is no less crazy than any other. If it stupidly denies pleasure to some, it can rescue others from injustice. If it can fail to see that Arabella Trefoil is not 'a good type of the English aristocracy' (68), it can see manifest cruelty. As David Stryker points out, the Senator's crude oratorical American mannerisms tend to disappear as we proceed in the novel (141-49). He appears less and less a caricature; even the abstract mode of the novel gives some implicit support to the Senator's abstractions.
At the centre is his testimony on fox-hunting. He can see nothing in it beyond a relic of medieval barbarism or, at best, an exercise in futility. The fact that so many people love it means nothing to him since he firmly believes that effects must follow causes. There is surely no possible cause for pleasure, he thinks, in chasing after dogs or, more likely, only hoping to chase after dogs. The sole evidence he admits is that from the rational world, which in this novel has the same sort of existence as Ruskin's cat. Even so, the Senator's championship of Goarly makes some startling, almost ruthless points about aristocratic pleasure and the system of justice currently depended upon. Why should a poor man's field be invaded? Why should the invader value the damages? Why should the poor man have no redress? Why should the poor man's 'rascality,' even if granted, be an issue? The last point is really the crucial one. The Senator himself, though touched by Goarly's poverty, senses that he has climbed into a boat with a bunch of scoundrels. Still, the popular argument across the county to the effect that 'if Goarly could be detected in some offence, that would confute the Senator' (19) seems to him vicious and repugnant. Another American, Louis Auchincloss, has sarcastically commented on village justice from the Senator's perspective: 'What, basically, is the use of principle in crime detection when the good old nostrils of [237/238] prejudice can pick out the guilty man nine times out of ten?' (117). To the Senator, Goarly and his kind are not, as they are to many, 'vermin which ought to be hunted down' but 'men,' innocent under the law (69). He wonders if Goarly is not really a general social case, a man whose 'evil condition . . . was due to the evil institutions among which he had been reared' (68). Though the Senator's position—'Who Valued the Geese'? (19)—is still too literalistic and quantitative, he suggests that the grand old instincts create their victims and have their not so pleasant anomalies. He offers no solution to this, only a point of view that has its own sort of limited validity.
There are victims even more serious than Goarly. Arabella Trefoil and her mother, Lady Augustus, are badly battered, and they see things with a cynical bitterness, the validity of which, though partial, is undeniable. Such ladies as these 'can never afford to tell the truth' (31), and who is to say but that they are closer to things as they are than the truth-telling Senator? Trollope said, 'I have been, and still am very much afraid of Arabella Trefoil,' but claimed that she has her own virtues and will be rewarded with a 'third class heaven in which she will always be getting third class husbands' (Letters 363-64). Like the Senator, she is given a sort of fascinated respect without approval. She has throughout a haunting and admirable self-consciousness. Though wading through filth with her mother, trying either to pull herself out or to drag someone else in with her, she none the less never fools herself about where she is. She shifts warily from John Morton to Lord Rufford, smelling richer game, but she does so with no pleasure and with very little confidence. And amazingly she finds in Rufford an empty neutrality far more vicious than her own craftiness. She is really out of her depth. Rufford glides along blandly in an aristocratic current that conceals dangers so terrible as to far outdistance any criticisms of the Senator's. Rufford shows the aristocracy without their vaunted substantial instincts; now there is only the genial surface. Major Caneback's fatal injury while hunting at Rufford's poses a dilemma that threatens to ruffle the surface: how can they proceed with the ball while he is dying? 'Nobody in that house really cared much for Caneback . . . nevertheless, it is a bore when a gentleman dies in your house' (23). Such trying times it is the duty of the aristocracy to master, how-[238/239]ever, and Rufford's sound feelings and good training are equal to the challenge. Caneback is placed at the end of the hall where he 'won't hear a sound of the music.' After all, 'though the man were to die, why shouldn't the people dance?' (23).
Arabella's nerve in facing this world is greatly admired, and she is given a good deal of unexpected support in her battle with the established aristocracy—or with this faded section of it. Lord Rufford is well padded; 'he had everything to protect him, and she had nothing, absolutely nothing, to help her!' (25). Arabella is even forced to break with her one grimy ally, her mother: 'There are so many people won't have you' (25). This mother, like her daughter, has suffered a life of continual battle, all 'struggle and misery, contumely and contempt' (55), and all for nothing: 'I can see wherever she goes everybody hates her' (60). But though Arabella can afford no pity for Lady Augustus, she is not without heart. The death of Caneback shakes her deeply; 'the sound of that horse's foot as it struck the skull of the unfortunate fallen rider' (55) haunts her imagination. As a result she is 'for a time brought. . . back to humanity' and is 'honest just for once' with poor dying John Morton (55). The narrator makes it clear that her nature 'was not altered' (55) by this shock, nor does her final marriage to a Patagonia-bound clerk promise a great deal (76). In irony there are no violent changes, except of the sort felt by Lady Augustus after the wedding: 'As soon as the carriage was gone, she went to her own room and wept bitterly. It was all done now. Everything was over. Though she had quarrelled daily with her daughter for the last twelve years . . . her life had had its occupation . . . Now it was all over. The link by which she had been bound to the world was broken' (76).
The comic plot suggests to the contrary that this same irrational life and this irrational class system are the source not only of pleasure but of freedom. Though certainly not one of Trollope's best romantic comedies, the story of Mary Masters's love for Reginald Morton makes its point. And that point is the confirmation of the instinctual gentlemanly life and a refutation of all democratic and merely sensible tendencies. Mary's stepmother is sensible, and she is wrong. She bitterly resents the influence of Mary's friend Lady Ushant and the highfalutin doctrines with which she fills the girl. Larry Twentyman, slightly vulgar but sweet, loving, and prosperous, is her candidate for Mary. But Mary is in love with the somewhat crusty recluse, Reginald Morton, and holds out firmly against [239/240] her stepmother's rationality. The narrator never leaves us in doubt as to who is right in this contest between aristocratic romance and bourgeois actuality: 'It never occurred to Mrs. Masters that perhaps the very qualities that had made poor Larry so vehemently in love with Mary had come from her intercourse with Lady Ushant' (18). The aristocratic system that is pilloried in Arabella's story is in this plot given almost magical powers. Larry is 'our old friend,' but we recognize that he hasn't a chance, and we sense also the reasons for his exclusion. This is a gentle, established world in this plot, and Larry, though kind-hearted . . . well, after all! The values are never explained because they are inexplicable, resting on deep and irrational assumptions. These are the very assumptions which are vulnerable to the Senator's attacks and which appear so hollow and dangerous in Arabella's story. But here the same irrationality is a source of strength. The values cannot be explained because they are too fully consonant with the currents of life to yield themselves up to the superficiality of language. Reginald is recognized through all his disguises by us and by Mary, and this somewhat mysterious affirmation of his virtues brings him back to life. His original absorption in studies, particularly to the exclusion of the principal activity of the gentry, hunting, causes widespread comic lamentation: 'When I hear of a country gentleman sticking to books and all that, I feel that the glory is departing from the land. Where are the sinews of war to come from? That's what I want to know' (64). But England and her war sinews are not really in danger. Reginald becomes a vigorous defender of the sport against the weak-headed philanimalists. The real climax of this story is not his declaration of love but 'I think I shall take to hunting' (73).
In the end we recognize The American Senator as the chronicle of Anywhere, England. 'The town,' says the narrator, 'has no attractions, and never had any' (1). The word 'attractions' is carefully chosen. There is little to delight the eye of such a one as the Senator, but the delights are there for those who know how to look and are lucky enough to find them. So are the perils. The only certainty is that all is beyond reason, beyond certainty. Whether one can or should learn to live comfortably with that fact is an open question.
Is He Popenjoy? has few resemblances to The American Senator beyond the curious disappearance after a few chapters of the chatty narrator. Here he withdraws not to bolster ambiguity but to deceive, [240/241] leaving us at the mercy of a duplicitous shift away from the comedy of manners we had thought we were reading. The plot of the novel is the primary weapon used in deceiving us. There are apparent climaxes that merely collapse, and the energies of the major characters are involved in a detection plot that reveals nothing. The title itself is a fake. Trollope habitually made fun of legalisms and often allowed complex questions of this sort to remain unanswered, but he usually did so in order to demonstrate the triviality of such drivelling rationalism in the face of a kind nature. Nature, not the law, should be allowed to take its course. In this novel, nature takes its course, all right, but problems are solved not by comic miracles but by death. The title is ironic, but not in the gentle way we would like. 'What a rumpus there has been about a rickety brat who was bound to die!' (53) says the little boy's father. That tone and that attitude condemn all the relaxed comic assumptions we have been encouraged to embrace.
Critics often have complained about the novel's cynical tone,7 but such complaints only reflect the uneasiness we feel at having been so artfully tricked. We suddenly realize that there are two levels to the action, two generic patterns, and that the one to which we have been attending is superficial. Nothing here, we find, is quite what it seems. At the centre of the novel is the display of the new dance, the Kappa Kappa, but is it an innocent expression of joy or the occasion for dark sexual intrigue? Whatever it is, it gives no one any joy. We are certain only that everyone misunderstands it and reacts to it blindly or hysterically. Innocence, like one of the pretty ladies mentioned, seems always about to become one 'mass of whipped cream turned sour' (35). The only answer seems to be to pretend not to notice the taste or smell. Decent life must somehow go on, we are told, even if people are not decent. The dominant motif, then, is reticence: countless virtuous characters solve moral dilemmas, or evade them, by vowing to keep their mouths shut. Those who go about insisting on comic openness and trust are not only stupid but destructive: 'When grown people play at being children, it is apt to be dangerous' (38). [241/242]
Comedy is not just subverted, it is attacked—after we have become attached to it. No wonder the tone seems bitter. The story at first appears to be very simple; the only real problem, we think, is in overcoming unnatural resistance to pleasure. Dean Lovelace has urged his daughter to marry 'gaunt' and 'sombre' Lord George Germain, but he has no intention of seeing her sacrificed to repressive stuffiness. Like some god of the festivity, he sets out to protect his daughter from her husband's reading lists. He insists as part of the marriage bargain that Mary be provided with a house in London so that she might have fun. The wordly cleric thus pushes his daughter toward a bright, gay life, urging her to resist her husband and her dour sisters-in-law. The introduction of the Baroness Banmann, Dr. Olivia Q. Fleabody, and the rest of the menagerie at the Female Disabilities only adds to the hilarity. The marital strife that results from Mary attending a Disabilities meeting is surely, we feel, a mock battle carried on only for the pleasure of celebrating its cessation. Meanwhile, the Dean is carrying on his own battle with the Bishop's comic chaplain, Mr. Groschut. Groschut, an even more obvious outsider than Mr. Slope, is otherwise like him, carrying his predecessor's low-church nonsense to the point of actually inciting public clamour over the Dean's hunting. Is He Popenjoy? looks at first very much like another Barsetshire chronicle.
But the mock enemies, the repressed and the stupid, are replaced by genuine viciousness. The conflict between pleasure and restrictive prudence starts to melt away about midpoint, and even Lord George's sisters are seen as sympathetic and compassionate (31). With the entrance of the Marquis everything changes. The Marquis observes no rules of conduct, recognizes the necessity of no civility, freely lying and freely calling honest men liars. But were they so honest after all? Lord George's flirtation with Mrs. Houghton, for instance, seems at first comic. Mrs. Houghton even seems a little like Miss Dunstable; despite her raciness and her vulgarity, she offers to Mary some 'relief to the endless gloom' (9). There are, however, worse things than gloom. The Marquis brings with him something much more frightening; he casts a cynical light on all actions and forces everyone, reader included, to see all past events in a new and far less agreeable way. Lord George's flirtation is not innocent, nor is Mrs. Houghton anything like Miss Dunstable. Mary's own attachment to Jack De Baron, though innocent in its way, is almost criminally thoughtless. And the Dean's hustling pur-[242/243]suit of pleasure begins to look like stupidity or, worse, gross and selfish vulgarity. He blithely pushes his daughter along into the city and hurries in after her, never thinking that there are any dangers at the fair.
It is through the Dean that one can perhaps best understand Trollope's technique here. Lovelace is introduced as 'urbanity itself (1), a man much like Archdeacon Grantly but without his snobbery or intellectual limitations. He seems more generous, anxious not only to provide joy to his daughter but to everyone around. He does not wish to counteract Lord George; he wants to convert him to the life of pleasure. 'It is,' he tells his daughter, 'your duty to assist in freeing him' (11). The Dean is warm and manly, a lover of an open fight. Though there is a touch of coarseness about his pugnacity—'progress,' he claims, can come only if men and women 'look after their own interests' (16)—he sounds sufficiently like Dr. Thorne to pass as one of Trollope's perfect-imperfect clergymen. Even his defects of delicacy and sensitivity are at first disguised by the deceptive comic theme and by the fact that it is the stiff Lord George who notes these faults. Lord George's haughty objections—'the Dean had laughed loud, more like the son of a stable-keeper than a dean' (19)—are at first given very little weight indeed. They really act to make us ignore such things as the Dean's curious absence of dignity in London, his adoption of the role of 'some schoolboy out on a holiday' (19).
But children in an adult world cause harm, the novel insists, and it is the Dean's daughter who first sees the problem. By forcing her into London society, he is forcing her also into contact with Captain De Baron, thus exacerbating her husband's jealousy. 'But of such dangers and of such fears her father saw nothing' (28). He simply tells her not to give in, to 'have her own way' (28). Even here it is possible for us to see the Dean's ignorance as innocence, but his moral stupidity is finally exposed clearly. When the Marquis arrives with the sick, dark child he claims is the heir, the Dean's vigour soon begins to look like callousness or something worse. Anxious to prove the child's illegitimacy and thus secure the title and wealth for Lord George and his daughter, the Dean launches an inquiry with so much energy and so little taste that Lord George, who stands most to benefit, is sickened. The Dean does not scruple to hope that if the legal inquiries fail a kind Providence will help them by slaughtering the little boy. He does not hesitate to say so [243/244] openly, even though it shocks his daughter. 'Everybody,' he claims loudly, 'must feel that it would be better for the family that he should be out of the way' (40). When he hears the news of the child's death, 'he could not control the triumph of his voice as he told the news.' 'Yes, he's out of the way,' he brays, repeating the ugly euphemism. 'There was,' the narrator says, 'an air about him as though he had already won the great stake for which he had been playing' (54). The game metaphor catches exactly the Dean's dangerous childishness. Even Mary is repulsed by his behaviour: 'I don't think that people should long for things like this [the boy's death]. If they can't keep from wishing them, they should keep their wishes to themselves' (55). If there is no degree of difference between amiable deans and vicious old marquises, they should at least be still and not expose their kinship. But the Dean is never still and licks his chops greedily when the Marquis also dies: 'All that I have wished has come about.' Mary 'shuddered as she heard these words, remembering that two deaths had been necessary for this fruition of his desires' (61).
From this 'pagan exaltation' (61) it is a long way to the comic clerical battles that had occupied the Dean earlier. But at its close the novel sarcastically returns us to Mr. Groschut, reminding us of how we were drawn into a comedy of manners world and then suddenly shown our mistake. The very last words are, 'Of Mr. Groschut it is only necessary to say that he is still at Pugsty, vexing the souls of his parishioners by Sabbatical denunciations' (64). Even this reminder brings up another instance of the Dean's horrible gloating. When Groschut is sent to Pugsty, the Dean expresses his jubilation; Pugsty 'isn't very nice,' being too close to the potteries and the poor, where 'the population is heavy.' An innocent old lady then asks what it has never occurred to the Dean to ponder, 'What is to become of the poor people?' (57). The Dean has been far too occupied with fun in a world where no pleasures are any longer innocent or harmless.
John Caldigate, one of Trollope's finest but least-known novels, pushes this generic flip-flopping one step further. The comedy dissolves into bleak irony which at last is made to yield again to comedy. As in the last novel, however, we are made to see each of these stages as final and are purposefully shocked by the changes. The novel appears to reach its first conclusion about one-third of the way through. Young John Caldigate, quarrelling with his un-[244/245] sociable, 'hard, unsympathetic' father (1) over some trivial college debts, actually sells his inheritance, thus, as the tenants see it, undermining 'the stability of this world' and 'bringing misfortune, not only on himself, but on the whole parishes of Utterden and Netherden' (3). The comic problems come flocking round, some serious and some amusing. He is hopelessly in love with one girl but pursued relentlessly by two others, one a cousin who looks upon a kiss in a closet as a binding promise, and another who banks on the mysterious bond created when she slips a copy of Thomson's 'The Seasons' (a mistaken choice, as it turns out) into the luggage Caldigate is taking to Australia. Running to the gold mines down under, he becomes entangled with yet another woman and with some very unsavoury characters besides. But his letters back home are warm and gentlemanly, and they begin to melt his father, who is, in truth, soft-hearted. Before we know it, then, the problems seem to have disappeared. Caldigate is home with lots of money and a new confidence. He escapes from the two pursuing girls and goes to work with a will on the third: 'After that Caldigate did not allow the grass to grow under his feet, and before the end of November the two young people were engaged' (20). A rather perfunctory account of his success, but good things are coming to him so fast that we hardly notice. With almost breathtaking speed he is married. His father, fully reconciled, reinherits him, an heir is born in decent time, and the prospect of a perfect line of descent fills the whole county 'with almost superstitious satisfaction' (23).
But all this solidity crumbles just as quickly as it was established, making for an effect very unusual in Trollope: the grotesque. All the soft sentiment of the first section is juxtaposed against the unrelieved harshness of the central part. Caldigate's Australian past catches up with him, and his success story is inverted. He is put on trial and his wife is imprisoned for a time by her own mother. The grotesquerie of their night-long vigil, where both Hester and Mrs. Bolton refuse to yield and go to bed, is emphasized by the narrative comment: 'Macbeth and Sancho have been equally eloquent in the praise of sleep' (36). Deliberately minimizing the solemnity of the occasion, such remarks make us see the essential absurdity of the fate which has caught Caldigate and his wife. Macbeth and Sancho are as incompatible a mixture as the seriousness and triviality that mark these situations. 'The thing was so full of real tragedy' (30), but nothing like tragic dignity is ever allowed. [245/246]
Or, thankfully, tragic consequences. For into all this misery is introduced the most un-Trollopean of characters, Samuel Bagwax. Bagwax is discussed often in the novel around and through the narrator's complaints about the unfairness of the attacks on the Civil Service in Little Dorrit. It is almost as if Trollope were using these indirect means to alert us to the Dickensian origins of Bagwax, a character he admitted he drew with 'a touch of downright love . . . Was I not a Bagwax myself?' (Letters 412). Although Caldigate is in jail, Bagwax, with true romantic zeal, goes to work on the evidence hidden in some cancelled postage stamps: 'Every moment that I pass with that envelope before my eyes I see the innocent husband in jail, and the poor afflicted wife weeping in her solitude' (52). Bagwax's grumpy partner in post office affairs, Mr. Curlydown, complains, 'You'll be going on to the stage, Bagwax, before this is done' (52), but Bagwax is no actor. He is the real thing, like Toddles, or Sloppy, or Tom Pinch, or Mr. Pickwick 'all heart.' He manages even to stir the affection of lawyers. Sir John Joram fully realizes Bagwax's ridiculousness, but he still is 'half disposed to rise from his seat to embrace the man, and hail him as his brother' (48). Trollope is not Dickens, and Sir John keeps his seat, but the impulse is still remarkable, as is the extent of Bagwax's success. By one means and another, Caldigate is released and things rearrange themselves after all. Bagwax, as the narrator finally admits, must be reckoned the hero (64). He has arranged the comedy, after all. He is perhaps Trollope's one traditional hero: simple, noble, and with true romantic energy. He manages the final generic switch, which is, like the first, most unexpected, but, unlike the first, most welcome.
Finally, we can observe a switch less artful but more extreme in An Eye for an Eye, where Trollope takes one more of his weak, well-meaning young men and this time unexpectedly sacrifices him. Young Fred Neville is willing to accept his duty as heir to the Earl of Scroope but asks for just a little time to exercise his romantic sense of freedom. But such a harmless oats-sowing turns out to be a disaster. Not only is freedom an illusion, so even are small holidays. Fred takes off for Ireland; he is certain 'that there was much more of real life to be found on the cliffs of Moher than in the gloomy chambers of Scroope Manor' (i. 9). Escaping his aunt's dull sermons, he finds at first at least a fair release from tedium, as does his sweetheart, Kate. One of the many harrowing points suggested [246/247] here is that Kate and Fred seize on one another simply as an alternative to boredom. They are willing to settle even for some cheap, conventionalized romance; the wild and rocky cliffs come to seem to Fred like stage machinery from a melodrama. He is fighting against sterility, she against a repressive mother who wants to protect her from a world of 'wolves.' But in the end boredom or a cloister are preferable to what happens.
When Kate becomes pregnant, Ireland, 'the land of freedom and potatoes' (ii. 1), takes on a new aspect, appearing to contain a lot more grubby potatoes than freedom. The original comedy is suddenly blown apart. Fred, however, can adjust to no other world. True to his training in romantic novels, he imagines that he can continue true to freedom and duty, that some sort of grand sacrifice or other should carry them through nobly. He even imagines that all these difficulties are secret benefits, insuring a more glorious final triumph: 'There were,' he tells himself, 'always difficulties in the way of any man who chose to leave the common grooves of life and to make a separate way for himself. There were always difficulties in the way of adventures' (i. 10). He thinks about tropical islands or a floating yacht, some life of pure love outside such things as marriage and other conventions. He will simply hand over the title to his brother and let him manage that end of things. Impossible as his wild plans are, no one can give him advice that is much more practical: 'It is very hard to say yes, or no' (ii. 6). He must betray the title or the girl, chooses neither, exactly, and is murdered for his wavering by a mother who goes mad as a result. Even worse, the daughter chooses to cling to her illusions, hating not Fred but the mother who has tried so hard to protect her. This turn of events is a fine illustration of what George Eliot called 'ordinary tragedy.' No point is made, no higher causality is served. Catastrophes come about inexorably but with consequences far too severe to be covered bv any possible causes. Moralistic explanations—Fred is punished for his looseness, Kate's mother for being either too wary or too unwary—seem absurdly reductive.
In fact, Fred's adventures and his adventurous spirit have throughout been made to seem not grand but timid, even piddling. He has stepped barely an inch out of the common rut, but he has been crushed all the same. Such slight adventures as he has are made conventional so as to forge a very unwelcome link with the reader: 'When young men are anxious to indulge the spirit of adventure, [247/248] they generally do so by falling in love with young women of whom their fathers and mothers would not approve. In these days a spirit of adventure hardly goes further than this, unless it take a young man to a German gambling table' (i. 2). Noble tragedy isolates and magnifies the hero, but this low-mimetic, 'ordinary' tragedy trivializes him and makes him common. We are connected to Fred much as we are connected to Paul Montague or Johnny Eames, who similarly become 'entangled,' as Lady Mary Quin puts it here. But in this novel the paltry, common entanglement is fatal, and our initial involvement with romantic comedy is twisted into an unwilling participation in a stark drama of pointless waste. Trollope's inversions seem to me far more effective when, as in the two previous novels, they are more intricately developed, but An Eye for an Eye has an undeniable, if raw, power.
This sort of absorbing power seems to have fascinated Trollope in his later writing. The various experiments with techniques borrowed from the dramatic monologue bear this out. Using morally unconventional subjects and then placing them with a very intense focus, a less and less adequate context for judgement, Trollope produces some of the same effects Browning and Tennyson achieved from their murderous Dukes and mad saints. Judgements become less easy to fix and are more and more held in tension with the demanding force of the speaker's presence, what Robert Langbaum calls his 'song.'9 Something of this tendency is apparent in Dr. Wortle's School, where the community and its values seem shadowy and unsubstantial. The novel gives us no means of placing the Doctor and the issue of bigamy and then judging them. In Cousin Henry a despicable hero is given great play against a particularly vicious and self-righteous society. But it is in The Fixed Period that Trollope conducts his most bizarre experiment with this form.
This novel, like many dramatic monologues, sets out to 'prove' the impossible case. It is written in the first person with, we are ingenuously told, a clear didactic purpose. The author means to convince, to spread the gospel of The Fixed Period. This fixed period is a euphemism for euthanasia, a plan for 'depositing' all old men [248/249] of a certain age for a year, then killing and cremating them. Trollope is reported to have exclaimed, 'It's all true—I mean every word of it,' apparently suggesting that he supported the scheme (see Collins 594). Not everyone has given much weight to that report, however,11 and Trollope's actual belief is in any case less important than the fact that our initial repulsion toward President Neverbend and his monstrous idea is gradually replaced by a fascination with his character, a growing sympathy for him and even for his plan. Trollope arranges things so that Neverbend's wife is given all the best humane arguments against the President and his scheme and then demonstrates her own inhumanity by deserting him in a crisis. Even more important than this ad hominem argument is the fact that Neverbend has not only anticipated all the arguments against the system but actually holds these contrary views himself. He feels all the 'natural' objections to the fixed period very strongly, yet he still believes in the system. The degradation and pain of old age are horrible to him, and he is deeply sensitive to the grim parody of natural life cycles men now create with war, poverty, and murder. As a result he envisions a state where death can be made more fully legitimate. There is no capital punishment, no war, no use of death as a weapon. Death, he says, is not naturally a punishment and can be, if we are strong and rational enough, a controlled and understandable finish to life. Terror, thus, is at least diminished and dignity is allowed.
It is true, of course, that the scheme is also satirized, but all the satire comes early in the novel, as if to drain it out of our system. We are allowed to exercise ridicule, but only so that we will expose and in a way understand the inadequacy of such a response. Neverbend at first mixes in with some good points arguments for the fixed period that are absurdly utilitarian, talking about how costly it is to feed old people, for instance. The cost is great with young people too, for that matter, but 'children. . . are clearly necessary' (1). Lucky for them, we feel, or they might be down in this Benthamite slaughterer's books. He likewise is a defender of euphemism, remembering with fury the time his opponents brought up the annoying word 'murder' (1). He seems a rational monster, irritated that people should object to the depositing of the first subject, Mr. [249/250] Crasweller, all such objections being illogical and therefore invalid: 'it angered me to think that men should be so little reasonable as to draw deductions as to an entire system from a single instance' (2). The novel does seem to be conducting an attack on some half-blind monster, an attack made accidentally more ominous for modern readers by such touches as the huge crematorium ovens. Neverbend's wife seems to have the final word: 'It's all very well for the Assembly; but when you come to killing poor Mr. Crasweller in real life, it is quite out of the question' (4).
But then the change begins. The dark eloquence of the system begins gradually to emerge, and we sense that it is the scheme of a man who is intensely sensitive, not brutal. Neverbend is gradually humanized, by his love for his son, his humour, and his self-doubt. And when the English gunboats arrive to capture the President and enforce humanitarian values with some terrible doomsday weapon, the switch is completed. The President is captured and told he is to be shipped off, an act which makes his family 'not very unhappy' (10). But, alone as he is, he refuses to quit fighting. He has one more chance, and this a brilliant one, to make his case against the English idiots. His captors stupidly allow a kind of public debate, which gives Neverbend a chance to demolish his opponent's views and assert his own higher humanism. He easily blocks every argument. The Englishman speaks about leaving death to the Almighty, but Neverbend replies with great power on how the English have in fact followed that doctrine, with their armies and executioners. His point throughout is that the Almighty, left to his own devices, does not do very well with death. One might as well make no attempt to control fire as abandon death to God.
Neverbend, however, is taken aboard the gunboat and shipped back to England, a place where he knows that he will have little chance against their hardened acceptance of death in every grotesque form. England's culture is built on death, and Neverbend knows he will make no converts there. He exclaims at the end that his position is the most piteous and hopeless in the world and then turns and, in the last words of the novel, 'went down to complete my manuscript.' He understands finally that no one will on any account be taught, but he proceeds with the textbook anyhow. It is a fine irrational ending for the dramatic monologue. Like Childe Roland, he realizes he is going nowhere but tramps along with great determination all the same. [250/251]
The finest of all these novels held open by thematic ambiguity is Mr. Scarborough's Family. The action is carefully structured, with two constrasting plots and a connecting link. Both plots concern money, wills, threatened disinheritance. The link is provided by the lawyer charged with managing all these complex matters. He is also charged with representing the old gentlemanly code of truth and honour in a world that has passed by such trifles as morality. The only other real alternative presented is the radical morality of old Mr. Scarborough. Liar and law-breaker that he is, Mr. Scarborough is a moral man by his lights—and perhaps by ours. It is a question of giving to him not so much moral as imaginative approval. We must participate in his witty and creative search for a new and adequate set of principles. That the search is a futile one is fitting to this ironic fable, as are the terrible conditions under which Mr. Scarborough works: through 'surgical tortures and operations, and, in fact, slowly dying during the whole period that he had been thus busy' (58).
But there is a comic plot too, as the narrator says: 'While some men die others are marrying' (59). This sounds very much like the line in The Winter's Tale that announces the transition to comedy: 'Thou mettest with things dying, I with things newborn' (III. iii). But here comedy never really surfaces. It develops only in a shadow plot, which is used to highlight the major action by the curious parodying device used so often in the early drama Trollope so admired. Mr. Scarborough's genuine anguish is mocked by the fake anguish of Peter Prosper: '"It's the last drawing-room carpet I shall ever buy," he said to himself, with true melancholy, as he walked back home across the park' (64). The happy marriage at the end of this minor plot comes about, the heroine says simply, because she has realized that 'one has to risk dangers in the world, but one makes the risk as little as possible' (64). In the real world one risks everything whether one likes it or not; there are no guarantees and no easy acceptances. The Peter Prosper plot, however, gives those mocking reminders of certainties, the comic protections against any mistakes. Like Scarborough, Prosper is mistreated by his heir and withdraws with his hurt feelings and his foolishness into a kind of sulking isolation, communicating freely only to his contemptuous butler. Continuing the parody of the Scarborough plot, he then threatens his heir, appropriately with the comic weapon of marriage. He will get himself a new heir on his own, he says. But he meets in [251/252] Miss Thoroughbung, whom he at first believes suitable for the honour of giving him a son, a good deal more than his match. He cannot even use his celebrated letters effectively and is completely humiliated. He feels for a time genuinely alone, believing that everyone wants him dead (51). For just a moment he seems to be demanding the sort of attention and sympathy we give to Mr. Scarborough. Even his illness appears to be real enough. Only when Peter hops from his bed to be reconciled with the heir, blesses everyone, and tells them all to come and live with him for six months each year do we recognize his low spirits as a parody of Mr. Scarborough's slow battle with death. Everything in this minor plot is, as the heroine says, 'in the common way' (14).
But the main plot emphasizes 'singularity' as its dominant motif. Mr. Scarborough is able to accommodate himself to nothing and has therefore to exercise his craft as quietly and shrewdly as he can. He has married his wife in two separate ceremonies, keeping the first one a secret in order to have some control over the just distribution of his estate. By such devices he seeks to subvert the law, which he sees as unjust, inequitable, positively illegal. Trollope sets this person before us with a myriad of small distinctions: Mr. Scarborough is, for instance, 'anxious above all things for [his children's] welfare, or rather happiness' (1). Such distinctions do not so much explain the major character as present him from a hundred different perspectives so that by the end of the novel we can feel him as a presence and therefore 'know' him. We necessarily feel his distrust of social stability and his sense that genuine life must be sought outside convention. His fight to provide such a life for his children may be mistaken, but there is never any question that it is generous and courageous. It is, simply, heroic, and this subtle establishment of Mr. Scarborough at the centre of the novel is one of the best examples of Trollope's mature art.12
Now and then there are direct statements of support for this character: he is called 'upright and honourable' even though he is certainly not 'respectable' (1). But generally the means for enlisting our sympathy are more indirect: his enemies are quietly discredited, and the damage he does is trivialized. He cheats the money-lenders, but we are encouraged to think that they deserve it. They seem to [252/253] think so themselves, entering good-naturedly into the fun and becoming extremely jocose over the chance to play the ironic role of 'the honest, injured party': 'Thief! scoundrel! 'orrid old man! It ain't for myself that I'm speaking now. . . . It's for humanity at large. This kind of thing wiolates one's best feelings' (36). Mr. Scarborough is justified finally, however, not by his victims so much as by the world in which he lives. It is a world in which all conventional pleasure has gone sour, where even fox-hunting turns into undignified rows. People presumably amusing themselves 'fight on the road for the maintenance of a trifling right of sport' (29). The image of Monte Carlo is evoked throughout as particularly explanatory. There pleasure is made possible by death; the free concerts and lush surroundings are very nice, 'but by whom—out of whose pocket are all these good things provided ? . . . He has given his all for the purpose, and has then—blown his brains out. It is one of the disagreeable incidents to which the otherwise extremely pleasant money-making operations of the establishment are liable.' The narrator says sarcastically that he feels 'somewhat shabby' for having taken advantage of the pleasantness without putting himself 'in the way of having to cut my throat' (11). Commerce, exploitation, murder are inextricably mixed and together now replace the old pleasures. It is significant that Monte Carlo is so popular with the English, who look upon it as a kind of Eden (11).
In such a world Mr. Scarborough's efforts 'to do justice to my own child' can be effective only if he proceeds by 'rectifying the gross injustice of the world' (8). A kind of moral-philosophical Robin Hood, then, he has a special sort of duty quite distinct from the old aristocratic notions of responsibility: 'I do not care two straws about doing my duty, young man . . . Or rather, in seeking my duty, I look beyond the conventionalities of the world' (56). He is eager to explain that he has broken the law in order to obey a higher law (21). Using such arguments, he aligns himself with a form of justice we customarily associate with radical reformers, martyrs, and saints. It would seem to be a kind of vigilante justice, of course, but for the fact that Mr. Scarborough is so heroically isolated. He wants no mob to support him.
Despite his isolation, his secretiveness, and his unconventional ethics, he brings nearly everyone who comes to know him into his sphere. Trollope makes a very effective use of moral reflectors here to influence us toward Mr. Scarborough. Especially prominent is [253/254] Mr. Merton, a conventionally honourable man serving as Mr. Scarborough's physician-secretary. Precisely because Scarborough's honour exists outside standard forms, Merton is at first puzzled by his patient's life and finds himself unable 'to make up his mind whether he most admired his patron's philosophy or condemned his general lack of principle' (38). Finally, however, he cannot resist: 'I think that he has within him a capacity for love, and an unselfishness, which almost atones for his dishonesty' (53). He sees that a defence of Mr. Scarborough is a corresponding attack on the morality he has lived by, but he is drawn against his will toward that position: 'One cannot make an apology for him without being ready to throw all truth and all morality to the dogs. But if you can imagine for yourself a state of things in which neither truth nor morality shall be thought essential, then old Mr. Scarborough would be your hero' (58). Conventional truth and conventional morality are indeed both inessential and irrelevant, and Mr. Scarborough is therefore certainly our hero, one of the very few absolute heroes in Trollope. The long narrative analysis of this character in Chapter 58 depends upon a range of diction Trollope usually avoided. It is both emotional and abstract, supporting this genuinely larger-than-life hero.
Hero that he is, he is able to accomplish nothing. He has gleefully seen his situation as 'a complication of romances' (7) entirely of his own making and under his power, and he has boasted that in such arrangements 'I have allowed no outward circumstances to control me' (21). Proud of his defiance of great physical suffering as a sign of his control over all of life, he repeats at the moment of his death a belief in his superiority to 'actual circumstances' (56). But he finally has as little control over circumstances as he has over the inevitable course of his illness. He can only retard but not alter their grim workings. Life goes on pretty much as if he had not lived. One of his sons, Augustus, inherits his father's thirst for the unconventional without his morality and vanishes ominously into the City at the end. The other son, Captain Mountjoy, has great promise, but it comes to nothing. His father learns to love him and to recognize the virtues that are implicit within his elder boy. Mountjoy grows in everyone else's estimation too. When he is granted the estate, the action teases us into hoping for a comic resolution. But 'though it seemed to his father and to the people around him at Tretton that he had everything a man could want, he had in fact nothing,—nothing that could satisfy him' (41). He is [254/255] denied the only thing he wants: the love of Florence, the heroine of the other plot. The artistic satisfactions available to his father in fabricating a new morality do not interest him, and he is, therefore, caught in the immoral world. In a crucial scene, he passes through London, with all problems apparently ready to melt before him. But he cannot resist a ruinous gambling expedition. When the kindly lawyer Mr. Grey tells him that he has been victimized by scoundrels, Mountjoy honestly denies it: 'I am one of them' (49). Mr. Scarborough's alternate morality, for all its apparent force, is finally dissipated miserably.
But the conventional morality is equally impotent. Such traditional distinctions as Grey tries to make between the scoundrels and the innocent victims are now absurdly out of date. A man who insists on maintaining them has no place in this world. Mr. Grey tells old Scarborough that he has himself always 'encouraged an obedience to the laws of my country' (19), but Scarborough sees that the law-abiding man can no longer be the truly moral man. Grey tries to hold law and morality in balance and thus appears to Scarborough to be 'an ass' (21). Grey, correspondingly, thinks Scarborough 'the wickedest man the world ever produced' (17). Still, they love one another (see chs. 21 and 39) with a warmth particularly inexplicable to Grey. Each cannot but recognize instinctively the basic decency in the other, even though they are driven so far apart by the incoherence of things as they are.
Grey clings to legality and cannot tolerate Mr. Scarborough's trespasses against that law. 'It is,' he says, 'impossible that I should forgive him,' not only because he has through his tricks 'destroyed my character as a lawyer' (55) but because his eccentric morality attacks the very foundations of Grey's life and beliefs. Ironically, Grey finds it necessary to declare his separation from Scarborough at precisely the point at which the world, understanding nothing, begins to admire the old man's rascality. The best men around are thus divided by the absurd stupidity now rampant: 'Everyone concerned in the matter seemed to admire Mr. Scarborough; except Mr. Grey, whose anger either with himself or with his client, became the stronger, the louder grew the admiration of the world' (58). Grey's anger is strong partly because it is so confused. He blames both Scarborough and himself, since there is no other real villain except 'the world.' Failing to understand either Scarborough's radical morality or Grey's traditional morality, the world none the [255/256] less sweeps past them, leaving them both in meaningless isolation. Grey's partner, Mr. Barry, understands the world much better and sees that the law can adapt itself very well to the new condition of things if only one recognizes the 'folly' of principle and truth-telling (58). Barry makes Grey realize how anachronistic he has become: '"Old times are changed," he said to himself; "old manners gone"' (58). He sees that more really than manners has gone, and he becomes very bitter. 'As things go now,' he says, 'a man has to be accounted a fool if he attempts to run straight.' He sees that by this new and alien 'system' he is one of those fools. 'It may be that I am a fool, and that my idea of honesty is a mistake,' he thinks, but he will not ever abandon that folly: 'When I find that clever rascals are respectable, I think it is time that I should give up work altogether' (62). We say good-bye to the honest lawyer in a chapter entitled 'The Last of Mr. Grey.' He and his values are extinguished even before he dies.
The fight is carried on only by his daughter. Her continuing attachment to the old ways is now so bizarre that she appears freakish. There is no visible support for these values except in her father, so she clings to him with a tenacity and fierceness that are deliberately made to appear perverse. She is called the 'conscience' of the law and thus can hardly have a place in the firm ruled by Mr. Barry. When that partner proposes marriage, hoping no doubt to incorporate even the old 'conscience' of the law into his new system, she says, 'Solitude I could bear,—and death; but not such a marriage' (52). The terms seem excessive and melodramatic, but she has, in fact, outlined accurately her alternatives. When her father asks her whom she would choose as a husband, she can only answer helplessly, 'You' (33). Trollope's most open excursion into twisted sexuality marks an appropriate symbol for a world that so distorts all the values which count.
The values which count are all there in a rush in Ayala's Angel. The novel is Trollope's one true romance, a pattern which forces mundane experience to elevate itself to the ideal, not the reverse. Ayala need not compromise her dream; she simply must realize it. For much of its length, the novel looks a little as if it might depend upon mild and happy disillusionment, but the illusions instead are made substantial. It is above all a novel about art, an art of free pleasure and delicate beauty. Though submerged for a time, art is [256/257] kept alive in the minds of all the characters and is, in the end, given strong, even gross concrete support. The reintegration of art and life, the ethereal with the material, is the purpose and dynamic of the novel. Art is rigorously conventionalized. All eccentric posings are dismissed as immature and really unnecessary since there is finally no conflict between the artist and the world. Art is realized in life, not in opposition to it, not even in opposition to commercial life.
Even the villains are not very threatening. They are mostly the mild and funny enemies of art, the vulgarians. Septimus Traffick is the major offender, never quite realizing Sir Thomas's desperate desire to get rid of this leeching son-in-law who will not leave his house. Traffick absorbs Sir Thomas's most ingenious rudeness like a jellyfish: 'He does become very rough sometimes, but I know that at bottom he has a thorough respect for me. It is only that induces me to bear it' (30). His major crime is that he is a bore; it is he who 'writes all those letters in the Times about supply and demand' (5). But when Ayala dismisses him as a man of business rather than a man of art, the narrator even here jokingly corrects her and denies the distinction: 'Mr. Traffick no doubt would have enjoyed [waterfalls and sylvan forests] very well if he could have spared the time' (5). The harmony is so pervasive that no one is excluded.
The values are, however, truly extraordinary. We are repeatedly encouraged by a gentle sarcasm to side with the pretty, not the virtuous: 'There was much pity felt for Ayala among the folk at Stalham. The sympathies of them all should have been with Mrs. Dosett. They ought to have felt that the poor aunt was simply performing an unpleasant duty, and that the girl was impracticable if not disobedient. But Ayala was known to be very pretty, and Mrs. Dosett was supposed to be plain. Ayala was interesting, while Mrs. Dosett, from the nature of her circumstances, was most uninteresting' (22). Poor Mrs. Dosett says, 'If there is anything I do hate it is romance, while bread and meat, and coals, and washing, are so dear' (39). But even her husband has some aesthetic sense hidden away, and Mrs. Dosett's anti-romanticism, even her poor, mean, struggling life are granted no respect and as little sympathy. Our sympathies are all with Ayala, who is corrected but in the pleasantest and most happily surprising way imaginable.
She feels that she has been cast among the Philistines: 'Sir Thomas had a way,—a merit shall we call it or a fault?—of pouring [257/258] out his wealth upon the family as though it were water running in perpetuity from a mountain tarn. Ayala the romantic, Ayala the poetic, found very soon that she did not like it' (5). The phrasing is wonderfully satiric, but it attacks not so much Ayala's romanticism as her mistaken notion that others are not as romantic as she. When young Tom proposes to her, 'it was the outrage to her taste rather than to her conduct which afflicted her' (8). She does not see how similar to her he is, despite his hobbledehoy mooniness and all those gorgeous rings. She creates for herself a false isolation, believing her father's self-aggrandizing nonsense about the necessary embattled alienation of the artist. As a result, she fails for a time to see the art all around her.
More specifically, she fails to recognize the angelic in the hideously ugly Colonel Stubbs. He is, for one thing, entirely without the gloomy sublimity of tragedy, and the Angel of Light she carries around in her mind as an ideal 'must have something tragic in his composition,—must verge, at any rate, on tragedy' (16). So she refuses him. Lady Albury says her refusal 'is what I call romance. . . . Romance can never make you happy' (26). Wrong on both counts. The true romance comes in accepting him; what's more, romance will always make you happy. Stubbs sees all this, vowing 'to soar till I can approach your dreams' (25). Ayala clings for a long time to the insubstantiality of her ideal, the notion that her angel must be 'altogether unalloyed by the grossness of the earth . . . of the heaven, celestial' (45). Such tenacity suggests neither an asinine fantasy nor a neurosis, as we would expect. Ayala for a time almost believes herself that her dream has been immature nonsense, but the narrator explains it all to us clearly: 'That the dreams had been all idle she declared to herself,—not aware that the Ayala whom her lover had loved would not have been an Ayala to be loved by him, but for the dreams' (51). She never does have to give up her dreams, finding that Stubbs 'was in truth the very "Angel of Light"' (55). In a sense, we recognize the inevitability of this romantic outcome right from the start. Anyone with a name like Ayala walking by a man with such an unpromising name as Jonathan Stubbs in, of all places, Gobblegoose wood is sure to find the bear to be really a handsome prince, the wood his palace.
Ayala's sister Lucy finds an equally successful but somewhat more prosaic romance with her artist lover, Isadore Hamel. Lucy is cast into a world 'altogether without adornment,' with nothing but 'the [258/259] harsh voice and the odious common sense of her Aunt Dosett' (2). It is the harshness of the unpleasing voice that is hardest to bear. Nor does Sir Thomas's well-meaning munificence at first make matters easier. He suggests to the somewhat Wildean Hamel that he have a public auction of his mythological sculptures to see if he could not unload some of them into merchants' gardens. Hamel blinks in disbelief and then sniffs loudly. The narrator, anxious to hold back nothing in this surprisingly undeceptive story, sets it all straight for us: Hamel believes that 'to create something beautiful was almost divine. To manipulate millions till they should breed other millions was the meanest occupation for a life's energy. It was thus, I fear, that Mr. Hamel looked at the business carried on in Lombard Street, being as yet very young in the world and seeing many things with distorted eyes' (33). Hamel is patiently educated, finally coming to see that 'Sir Thomas was right' (63), that art must be incorporated into the basic fabric of life—even the life of Mr. Jones the wool-merchant. Sir Thomas effectively presides over both plots, granting his commercial, and thus artistic, blessings everywhere.
Many on the outskirts are lured into the blessed world. The originally cynical Frank Houston experiences as much of a reformation as Trollope will ever allow and, encouraged by a wildly romantic old aunt, casts his lot in with his painting and a penniless sweetheart. 'I, speaking for myself, have hopes of Frank Houston' (64), says the romantic narrator, and he is not alone. The romance spreads out like a magic spell. One Lord John Battledore, a by-word for crass worldliness, maintains that he is 'horrified,—nay, disgusted' by Houston's mad imprudence; 'nevertheless, before the end of the year, he was engaged to marry a very pretty girl as devoid of fortune as our Ayala' (63).
Even poor Tom Tringle, wildly in love with Ayala, is not left long in disappointment. He acts his part in the romance very well, as his mother points out: 'He is just for all the world like those young men we read of who do all manner of horrible things for love,—smothering themselves and their young women with charcoal, or throwing them into the Regent's Canal' (40). He is saved from charcoal and the canal, however, so it is certainly no more than we would expect when he is granted new life. He is sent on a recuperative tour, a therapy which, for once, works wonderfully, taking effect perhaps even before the boat docks: 'I have no doubt that [259/260] Tom was cured, if not before he reached New York, at any rate before he left that interesting city' (61). He is 'our hero,' and the narrator urges, 'Let us, who have soft hearts, now throw our old shoes after him' (61). Trollope does not quite become Mr. Popular Sentiment, but the appeal to us soft-hearts can, just the same, hardly fail to work.
With all this behind us, it is perhaps safest and wisest to mumble a few words about diversity and then rush off to an appendix or a bibliography. I plan to do little more. But one point should be stressed. Throughout Trollope's career, from the simplest short stories to the great achievement of the two chronicles, he strove to diversify and thus rescue the world of instinctive, sensitive morality. Even in the very toughest novels, the agonies come from the apparent absence of those values that would affirm a solid basis on which honourable men could act. Trollope never quite believed, as Orwell says Dickens did, that if only men would behave decently the world would be decent. He saw that decent behaviour required a substantial support from language itself and from a sense of coherent order reflected in language. Decent men, then, like the Duke of Omnium or Mr. Scarborough, cannot depend on their own behaviour as a reflex of other men's belief. Behaviour, as they discover, may be a reflex of nothing. Still, in the end the only values that seem sane or worthy of support are those which can no longer be maintained, the simple and beautiful values basic to the comedy of manners: men are as they act. Despite the exercise of as much ingenuity and as much subtlety as nineteenth-century English literature has to offer, Trollope was unable to bring these assumptions back into being for very long. But he never gave up trying. [260/261]
Last modified 10 October 2014