Group read: Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope
Únase a LibraryThing para publicar.
Este tema está marcado actualmente como "inactivo"—el último mensaje es de hace más de 90 días. Puedes reactivarlo escribiendo una respuesta.
Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope (1858)
Hello, all! Welcome to the group read of Anthony Trollope's Dr Thorne, the third novel in his "Chronicles of Barsetshire" series.
Published in 1858, Dr Thorne was Anthony Trollope's seventh novel, and was partially written in Egypt and in transit there, after Trollope was sent to the region in his position of Post Office surveyor. (This may account for the novel's idealised portrait of the English countryside.) Famously, for reasons that have never really been explained, Trollope had asked his brother Thomas to suggest a plot for him, something that he never did again. Make of that what you will. In any case, it was Thomas Trollope who came up with the legal points of birth and inheritance upon which the broader story of Dr Thorne is based.
This factoid is notable because Anthony Trollope is inarguably not a "plot person": his books are character-driven, with his plots often as haphazard as life itself. He disliked the kind of suspense novels being written by his contemporary, Wilkie Collins, which depended for their effects upon keeping information from the reader. Trollope, in fact, prided himself on not keeping such secrets - to the extent that he sometimes gives away his endings at the outset. To his way of thinking, a novel was about the journey, not the destination. Rather than withhold information, Trollope's frequent approach is rather to tell the reader something that his characters don't know, giving them a sound basis on which to assess those characters' choices and actions. Such is the case in Dr Thorne, in which the novel's eponymous hero (and the reader) ends up in possession of two secrets vital to the future of his niece, Mary.
The second significance of Anthony accepting Thomas's plot is that the back-story of Dr Thorne is dark and violent in a way unusual to novels of this kind.
This novel is the third in the "Chronicles of Barsetshire", but it has few overt connections to its predecessors, The Warden and Barchester Towers, which is a relief to some readers and a disappointment to others. This is Trollope's "world-building" novel, in which he expands upon his imagined realm of Barsetshire, describing the county as a whole and populating it with characters who would reappear again and again over the rest of the Barset novels and also Trollope's political "Palliser" series, including the Duke of Omnium, the de Courcy family, and the Greshams of Greshemsbury. Conversely, we see little of the residents of Barchester. Bishop and Mrs Proudie - or should I say, Mrs and Bishop Proudie - appear briefly, but the others are mentioned only in passing. Dr Thorne himself is related to the Thornes of Ullathorne, who were introduced in Barchester Towers, but the Squire and Miss Thorne, too, appear briefly in only one chapter.
In the opinion of many people, the triumph of Dr Thorne is the introduction of Martha Dunstable, who in the hands of any other author at this time would probably be either a caricature or a figure of ridicule. It is because of characters like Miss Dunstable that we are compelled to forgive (or at least overlook) Trollope's occasional outbreaks of sexism and snobbery.
I should perhaps say that there is more about politics in Dr Thorne than I remembered, but for the most part in terms of general observations about conditions in England at the time, rather than any reference to specific people or events.
The story of Dr Thorne, put simply, is about marriage for love versus marriage for money; though it deals also with a variety of other pressing social concerns. And I may say that I find it slightly exasperating that a man can write a novel like this and have it accepted into the pantheon of English classic novels and find a wide male readership, whereas female authors on the same topic tend to attract sniffy remarks about "women's issues". Is it because Dr Thorne keeps a strong male focus? Is it because it spends quite as much time talking about money as about love? Or is it because men by definition don't write about "women's issues"? :)
My idea for Dr Thorne, which has 47 chapters, is to set up 3 threads, for Chapters 1 - 16, 17 - 32, and 33 - 47. I will then move through the chapters providing background notes for anything that seems to need it, and people can ask questions or raise topics of discussion around those chapters as they read at their leisure. I would only ask of everyone that they indicate the chapter that they are referring to in bold, so that other readers have the opportunity to avoid spoilers.
Does that suit everyone? If anyone has other suggestions, please speak up! I would be very glad of any guidance.
Speaking of SPOILERS, I am not only going to say what I always say at this point, DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION of your copy of Dr Thorne, but I am going to go further and say DO NOT READ THE NOTES if you have an annotated copy. Seriously. Far too many editions in this series (including the one I have) casually reveal what happens in the later books in their notes. In fact, I'm going to suggest that you don't even read the introduction and notes after you finish, unless you've already read the rest of the Barsetshire novels. It's just not worth it.
I suggested a group read rather than a tutored read for Dr Thorne because I didn't remember it being as difficult, that is, as full of topical references, as The Warden or Barchester Towers; and while that's true, there are still some aspects of the novel that people might find obscure. If so, please ask questions! For that matter, ask questions if there's anything at all you're not sure about - whether it is to do with puzzling social conventions, unfamiliar words, a forgotten plot point or who a character is. Don't be shy: if we've learned anything from the tutored reads, it's that questions are invariably helpful to more people than the one brave enough to ask. :)
The characters of Dr Thorne:
Dr Thomas Thorne - who lives and practises in the village of Greshamsbury, in East Barsetshire; second cousin to the Thornes of Ullathorne
Mary Thorne - his niece who lives with him
Francis Newbold Gresham Sr - Squire of the property of Greshamsbury
Lady Arabella Gresham - his wife, the sister of the Earl de Courcy
Francis Newbold Gresham Jr (Frank) - their son and heir
Sophia Gresham (and her unnamed twin sister)
The Earl de Courcy - a leading nobleman of West Barshetshire; a Whig
The Countess (Rosina) de Courcy
Lord Porlock - their eldest son and heir
The Honourable George de Courcy
The Honourable John de Courcy
Lady Amelia de Courcy
Lady Rosina de Courcy
Lady Margaretta de Courcy
Lady Alexandrina de Courcy
The Reverend Caleb Oriel - the rector of Greshamsbury
Patience Oriel - his sister
Roger Scatcherd - a stone-mason of Barchester, Mary Thorne's uncle; later Sir Roger Scatcherd, railway contractor
Lady Scatcherd - his wife
Louis Philippe Scatcherd - their son
Mary Scatcherd - Roger's sister, Mary Thorne's mother
Mr Moffat - Augusta Gresham's fiance; the Whig member for Barchester, backed by the de courcys and the Duke of Omnium
Dr Fillgrave - a doctor of Barchester; a rival and enemy of Dr Thorne
Mr Yates Umbleby - an attorney, and Squire Gresham's agent
Mr Winterbones - Sir Roger's confidential clerk
Mrs Umbleby - wife of Mr Yates Umbleby
Miss Gushing - a lady of Greshamsbury
In which we are introduced to the Greshems, the de Courcys, and the politics of Barsetshire.
While most of the family stuff is self-explanatory, some of the political material might need some explanation. The Reform Bill referred to in this chapter is that of 1832, which was very much concerned with political reform, the redistribution of electoral boundaries, and increased representation for the rapidly-growing manufacturing areas in the north as well as lowering the property ownership requirements to give men the vote.
Barsetshire itself was then divided into East and West, with two members of the House of Commons representing each region. It so fell out that the rural, agricultural East was predominantly Tory (Conservative), and usually represented in Parliament by the Greshams; while the more urbanised West was predominantly Whig (Liberal) and usually represented by the de Courcys, or someone backed by the de Courcys.
As is very clear from the tone of much of the writing, Trollope himself was a Tory and generally (at least at this stage of his writing career) uses the other factions as a means of satirising politics.
Thanks for the introductory messages and the list of characters! It's good to be back in Barsetshire.
Laura, you're right - it is a long book (longer than I remembered; perhaps a little longer than it needs to be), but I must say I don't find it a difficult read. It has little of the specific situational stuff that tends to baulk people with The Warden and Barchester Towers, and while it does suffer in some areas from what I might call "Victorian sentence structure", on the whole it's a character study and generally quite accessible, I think. It does take a few chapters to get properly going, though - which the narrator admits. :)
At the moment I'm holding off on moving forward because I wasn't sure that any of our participants had actually started. I do plan to go on posting chapter headings and making notes and, hopefully, raising discussion points. I've finished myself so I can do that as quickly or slowly as necessary. If you or anyone else gets to Chapter 17 in a hurry, I will set up the second thread to allow for comments there.
And I have a question for chapter 2 (for Liz or anyone else who understood this better than I did).
Dr Thorne the younger, says he will look after his brother's illegitimate baby but he wants to keep her antecedents a secret so he tells the baby's uncle that she died and then moves to Greshamsbury. He puts the baby in a separate house of some kind (persumably some kind of wet-nurse is bringing her up) and only old Mr Gresham (I think John Newbold Gresham) knows who she is.
But isn't Dr Thorne going to introduce the girl as his niece once she's old enough? Will everyone in Greshamsbury really have forgotten that his brother never married by this point? Or is Greshamsbury so far removed from the life of Barchester that no one there will know the Thorne's background?
And also, phew, that chapter had a lot in it.
In which we learn the history of Mary Thorne
There are a few different things going on here with regards to the keeping of Mary's secret, including one big, overriding aspect of the situation.
The distance between Barchester and Greshamsbury isn't huge, but far enough for people in the latter not to necessarily be familiar with all the ugly details. It is likely (though it is not stated categorically) that Dr Thorne got Mary Scatcherd "out of town" during her pregnancy, somewhere she wasn't known. Then the official story is that the baby died: we know that Roger was told that; others may have been. Then the child was placed to nurse with a farming family, and when old enough sent to boarding school. So there's no hint of her existence for twelve years, and so no real reason for anyone to connect the niece who comes to stay with the scandal.
BUT---and this is the crucial point---Dr Thorne gives this illegitimate child his own name (to which she is not legally entitled); and that more than anything else throws people off (as is spelled out explicitly later in the book). It doesn't occur to anyone that a man with as much family pride as Dr Tjorne would allow a girl with Mary's background to use his name. By definition she could not be that baby.
A lot of this novel is concerned, via Mary's subplot, with the position - or non-position - of illegitimate children at the time. Dr Thorne swears to Mary Scatcherd that he will bring her baby up as his own daughter, and he does, but he also worries that he's done her - Mary Thorne - an injustice. It was the common practice at the time to give illegitimate children of an upper-class background to lower-class families to be brought up as their own, because it was felt there was no place for them in higher society - and particularly girls. An illegitimate boy could make his own way in the world, but an illegitimate girl, though brought up like a lady, was unlikely to find a gentleman willing to marry her.
I'm interested in hearing reaction to the way that the background tragedy is presented - particularly the novel's attitude to the killing of Henry Thorne. That's basically an "honour killing" and is treated as justifiable; the fact that Roger Scatcherd only gets six months indicates that the jury accepts that it was rape. But we know that Roger had every intention of killing his sister too, even though he did believe it was rape - he just didn't get to her first.
I ask too because it resonates across something that happens later in the novel, which picks up the theme of men defending their female relatives through physical violence.
I find myself uncomfortable not just with the ugly story itself (date rape drugs, in the 1830s!) but with the way it is presented - though it's not Trollope's fault. He was not allowed to use the word "rape" or even a euphemism like "assaulted", so he falls back on "seduced" - which makes it sound as if Mary was complicit.
On the other hand, Mary is "fallen" whether she was at fault or not.
I had thought that Mary had been seduced against her better judgement but not perhaps against her will from this chapter. The fact that Mary later claimed she had not accepted the tradesman's offer of marriage at this stage, her feelings for Henry after his death and her attachment to their child make me lean towards it not being rape. But perhaps I'm being influenced too much by Trollope's choice of words.
Mary's denial that she was engaged may have been her way of trying to protect the man, or her consciousness that she had not behaved well in allowing Henry's attentions; whereas her brother is trying to show that Henry was pursuing an engaged woman, to demonstrate the extent of the wrong.
Mary's supposed feelings towards Henry Thorne is one of the things that bothers me here. It may mean that she remembers all about his courtship but nothing about the rape, or it may be an example of something that is often found in writing of this time and earlier (men's writing, I need hardly say; women's is much different!), that whatever the circumstances a woman never loses a feeling of affection for her first lover. Apparently that covers rape, too. :(
I was impressed by the willingness of the tradesman to marry Mary despite what had happened to her - that seemed more unusual for the time.
Yes, it's admirable that the tradesman is still willing to marry Mary - though not to hold his ground and look his neighbours in the face afterwards. But I guess we can't blame him for that.
(For the record, what you tend to see in women's writing is that a woman can't honourably marry another man if her seducer or rapist is still alive - that she is technically "married" to him already.)
I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Even after reading it for the third time, I wasn't thoroughly convinced that it was rape. But when he said that the jury sentenced the man to only 6 months and that the reader probably thought that was too much, (or words to that effect) I have to say it must be rape.
But yes, the short jail term, Dr Thorne's reluctant acceptance of Scatcherd's accusation and the willingness of Tomlinson to marry Mary all say it was rape.
Heather, I hope you appreciate the introduction of the Reverend and Miss Oriel? :)
In which we get to know Dr Thorne, and Mary Thorne comes home to stay.
He did not talk of these things much; he offended no rank by boasts of his own equality; he did not absolutely tell the Earl de Courcy in words, that the privilege of dining at Courcy Castle was to him to greater than the privilege of dining at Courcy Parsonage; but there was that in his manner that told it.
Not an easy person to get along with, our hero. I'm amused to find him conducting a war with Dr Fillgrave in the press, like Mr Slope and Mr Arabin. :)
This kind of opening is unusual in Trollope, who usually prefers to drop the reader in medias res.
In which we learn that Frank Gresham must marry money.
"Frank has but one duty before him. He must marry money. The heir of fourteen thousand a year may indulge himself in looking for blood, as Mr Gresham did, my dear"—it must be understood that there was very little compliment in this, as the Lady Arabella had always conceived herself to be a beauty—"or for beauty, as some men do," continued the countess, thinking of the choice that the present Earl de Courcy had made; "but Frank must marry money. I hope he will understand this early; do make him understand this before he makes a fool of himself..."
But, alas! alas! Frank Gresham had already made a fool of himself.
This is where the story begins to move forward - and it is also, I think, where Trollope would have started the novel if he hadn't got himself entangled in promises to his brother. This kind of conversational gambit, in which the reader gets to know the various characters through their speech and to extract a version of the prevailing circumstances from the skewed perspectives on display, is much more in Trollope's usual style.
And just before it the very funny bits on how useful an excuse young ladies' teeth are for getting to spend ten weeks in London!
I'm also struggling to see the whole date-rape thing. Did I miss a specific reference to where that came from?
All that said, I think when Trollope sat down to write his truly political novels he was interested in examining the system as a whole and so was careful not to take sides - rather showing us the good and bad men on both sides of the political fence.
I'm also struggling to see the whole date-rape thing.
In Chapter 2 we get these passages:
The brother was at first furious for vengeance against his brother's murderer; but, as the facts came out, as he learnt what had been the provocation given, what had been the feelings of Scatcherd when he left the city, determined to punish him who had ruined his sister, his heart was changed...
Scatcherd accused him openly of having intoxicated her with drugs; and Thomas Thorne, who took up the case, ultimately believed the charge...
The family-proud Dr Thorne would not have believed that against his brother unless he was forced to, and the outcome of the trial shows that the jury believed it too. Dr Thorne also arranged and paid for Roger Scatcherd's legal defence, as well as looking after Mary, which indicates he didn't think either of them ultimately to blame.
A novel of this time couldn't dwell on these matters so it's handled obliquely but I think we're supposed to accept this version of events.
I just went back to reread your introduction at the top Liz and it makes so much more sense to me now. What a great job you do!
Just as I thought, there's no way I can stop reading at this point and I just finished chapter 15. I think I know what the two secrets are that you talked about in the intro and I think Miss Dunstable to be another of those characters (like the Senora in Barchester Towers) who will be hard to forget. I've just met her so I will have to see how she develops but I can tell she will probably play an important role.
Perhaps I should reassure people that Mary's back-story isn't just there to be dramatic, but ties into the novel as a whole both from the point of plot (i.e. Mary has a dark secret) and, much more importantly, of theme: this novel is about love and money in marriage, but is also very much about contemporary concerns like "family" and "birth" and where the real worth of a human being was to be found, whether in their ancestors or in themselves.
I think we might also say that a major theme of this novel is the gap that tends to exist between theory and practice. :)
As for the politics, I suppose being a lover of the Pallisers, I see him as more supportive of the Whig position, especially as it pertains to the reform act. Altho he certainly excoriates the upper classes on both sides of the issue.
In which Frank Gresham takes sides, and shows off his carving skills.
The countess smiled grimly, and shook her head with a decidedly negative shake. Had she said out loud to the young man, "Your father is such an obstinate, pig-headed, ignorant fool, that it is no use speaking to him; it would be wasting fragrance on the desert air," she could not have spoken more plainly. The effect on Frank was this: that he said to himself, speaking quite as plainly as Lady de Courcy had spoken by her shake of the face, "My mother and aunt are always down on the governor, always; but the more they are down on him the more I'll stick to him..."
Of course the irony here is that the Squire actually agrees with the de Courcy faction; it's just that under the circumstances, he hasn't the nerve to say so.
Fun historical factoid:
The Honourable John was not, perhaps, as much accustomed to the ready use of his tongue as was his honourable brother, seeing that it was not his annual business to depict the glories of the farmers' daughters; at any rate, on this occasion he seemed to be at some loss for words; he shut up, as the slang phrase goes...
Well, well, well - 1858. How about that?
On to Chapter 4.
Heather, I've had a thoroughly horrible week myself so I can sympathise. Take care of yourself and hopefully things will sort themselves out for you over the weekend - almost the weekend - yay!, indeed.
His character studies are just so well done. The plotting may be kind of clunky and you can figure out what's probably going to happen way, way in advance but somehow it doesn't matter.
In which we learn exactly how Frank Gresham made a fool of himself.
And so the interview had ended. Frank, of course, went upstairs to see if his new pocket-pistols were all ready, properly cleaned, loaded, and capped, should he find, after a few days' experience, that prolonged existence was unendurable.
However, he managed to live through the subsequent period; doubtless with a view of preventing any disappointment to his father's guests.
I, too, love Tollope's tendency to chat to the reader. I don't think it works for all authors - it can come over as a bit coy - but Trollope always pitches it just right for me.
Liz, just one small query - in my edition it's Gresham and Greshamsbury. You use Greshem and Greshemsbury. I would regard the version with an 'a' as more English but I also know that England and English have plenty of variations.
I'm also enjoying Trollope's chats with his readers.
That's an interesting point, Kerry - I hadn't noticed, but I do have two different spellings in the two different editions I'm using (depending on where I am). On reflection I agree with you that 'a' is more suitable; I will do a little editing... :)
In which Mary Thorne begins to ask questions.
"I think that Miss Gresham should not marry Mr Moffat. I think so because her family is high and noble, and because he is low and ignoble. When one has an opinion on such matters, one cannot but apply it to things and people around one; and having applied my opinion to her, the next step naturally is to apply it to myself. Were I Miss Gresham, I would not marry Mr Moffat though he rolled in gold. I know where to rank Miss Gresham. What I want to know is, where I ought to rank myself?"
Modern readers sometimes struggle with the idea that Mary has gone so many years without asking questions about herself, and that Dr Thorne apparently intends never to tell her the truth if he can avoid it. This ties into one of the 19th century's insistence that it was part of a woman's duty never to question her menfolk, even about matters most urgently concerning herself.
It can be argued that Dr Thorne is trying to protect Mary, but even the idea of ignorance being any real protection is hard to swallow.
(I can't remember if any of you here took part in the group read of Wilkie Collins' The Law And the Lady a while back? - but there we have a woman finding out that her husband has married her under an assumed name, and when she asks him why and who he is, he gets offended at her "vulgar curiosity"!)
But we do get this:
"Mary, after what has passed I should be very unjust and very cruel to you not to tell you one thing more than you have now learned. Your mother was unfortunate in much, not in everything; but the world, which is very often stern in such matters, never judged her to have disgraced herself. I tell you this, my child, in order that you may respect her memory..."
...which confirms for us that it was rape.
Whatever we make of Dr Thorne's handling of Mary's situation, the relationship between the two is unusually deep and equitable. As I said earlier, one of the main themes of this novel is the gap between theory and practice: Dr Thorne is as family-proud as anyone could be; yet this girl who by the standards of the day is basically "untouchable" is the light of his life.
I love that he calls her "Minnie". :)
I've read through chapter 15 and I've noticed a couple of references to phrenology so far. I don't remember noticing this in Barchester Towers, or maybe it was there and I just don't remember it.
Somewhere A.T. said/wrote that he believed the author and reader should procede with "complete conifidence" in one another. I find that a delightful idea and it's one of the greatest charms of his work--for me. Makes everythiing seem so much more intimate, as though he were directly behind one, telling the story into one's ear.
"Beef, Harry?" shouted the young heir to his friend Baker. "Oh! but I see it isn't your turn yet. I beg your pardon, Miss Bateson," and he sent to that lady a pound and a half of excellent meat, cut out with great energy in one slice, about half an inch thick.
I hope the rest of Miss Bateson's meal was better!
#62 Thanks Liz. I did manage to get a bit further with Dr Throne and I'm hoping to have some good reading time this weekend.
#64 I was not very impressed to find Frank flirting with Miss Oriel only a few days later!
#69 I found the conversation you highlighted between Dr and Mary Throne did make what had happened to Mary's mother clearer to me. I really like the relationship the Dr and Mary have with each other.
Hoping to read Ch 8 and beyond over the weekend.
Dr Thorne's apparent assumption that Mary can (and should) go all her life without knowing the truth about herself shows what kind of a cocoon girls were kept in.
It is difficult to judge whether Mary grasps the full implication of that last comment about her mother. However, since she vaguely knows that her father was Dr Thorne's brother, and now that her mother was "unfortunate" but not "disgraced", it is likely that if she did understand she wouldn't let on, so as not to upset her uncle. We might disagree with this particular approach to the issue, but we certainly don't doubt the deep concern for one another of Mary and Dr Thorne.
It is disturbing, though, that in a perverse way rape is seen as preferable to seduction.
Heather, there is a constant suggestion through the novels of the distance in attitude towards love of men and women - that for men it's just one of their concerns, while for women it's "all-in-all"; which was possibly true in light of the narrowness of women's lives, but is also something that becomes increasingly exasperating over the novels as the men get less and less deserving of devotion. Frank at least we can excuse on the basis of his age and because he does eventually grow up. With most of Trollope's "heroes" (using the term very loosely), there is little excuse for the selfishness of their conduct.
In which Mary recognises the gap between theory and practice.
She said to herself, proudly, that God's handiwork was the inner man, the inner woman, the naked creature animated by a living soul; that all other adjuncts were but man's clothing for the creature; all others, whether stitched by tailors or contrived by kings. Was it not within her capacity to do as nobly, to love as truly, to worship her God in heaven with as perfect a faith, and her god on earth with as leal a troth, as though blood had descended to her purely through scores of purely born progenitors? So to herself she spoke; and yet, as she said it, she knew that were she a man, such a man as the heir of Greshamsbury should be, nothing would tempt her to sully her children's blood by mating herself with any one that was base born. She felt that were she an Augusta Gresham, no Mr Moffat, let his wealth be what it might, should win her hand unless he too could tell of family honours and a line of ancestors.
I think that paragraph spells out the novel's theme as well as anything; though we might be inclined to shift emphasis from its second half to its first half.
By the way, if anyone is put off by Dr Thorne's snobbish attitude towards Mr Moffat, I heartily recommend that you take a look at Trollope's stand-alone novel, Lady Anna, which...has a slightly different perspective. :)
Correct me if I'm wrong Liz, but isn't Trollope merely reflecting the attitudes of society in general at the time. Weren't these generally accepted opinions of the upper classes as they looked down their noses at the masses?
However, as Jean pointed out earlier, in Trollope's later novels we often find him attacking, or at least questioning, attitudes like this rather than tacitly agreeing with them. We might view his ambivalence about Mary's "standing" and the issue of worth vs birth as the beginning of this, even though on the whole (through its handling of Moffat and the Scatcherds) the novel insists that only trouble can come from low-born people trying to rise above their class.
I'm sailing along now and am fairly far ahead, but I've enjoyed the occasional reference to familiar characters and places--Dr. Fillgrave's visit to Plumstead, an appearance by Bishop and Mrs. Proudie, and news of Dr. Stanhope.
I had the same thought! Wilkie Collins' No Name also deals with a similar issue.
This was a situation that hurt girls much more than boys, because boys could make their own way in the world, while girls were stuck wherever fate (and their unacknowledged relatives) left them.
As I mentioned with respect to The Warden and Barchester Towers, Trollope basically invented the "series" in the modern sense; it seems that he also invented the call-back!
My reading pace is about on track with this thread; I read through Ch 9 yesterday. I'm happy to see some familiar characters and places will be making an appearance! Thorne's world feels very familiar and yet I haven't run into anyone I know yet.
My, haven't things changed? :)
I know you've done what I usually do in a group read situation, Bonnie, and dashed ahead to the finishing line. I hope you'll continue to drop in and chat, though!
Laura, it's more whether I can keep this thread on track with most people's reading - do let me know if I need to speed up or down, everyone!
In which we learn of a very strange friendship.
Scatcherd had but one friend in the world. And, indeed, this friend was no friend in the ordinary acceptance of the word. He neither ate with him nor drank with him, nor even frequently talked with him. Their pursuits in life were wide asunder. Their tastes were all different. The society in which each moved very seldom came together. Scatcherd had nothing in unison with this solitary friend; but he trusted him, and he trusted no other living creature on God's earth.
He trusted this man; but even him he did not trust thoroughly; not at least as one friend should trust another. He believed that this man would not rob him; would probably not lie to him; would not endeavour to make money of him; would not count him up or speculate on him, and make out a balance of profit and loss; and, therefore, he determined to use him. But he put no trust whatever in his friend's counsel, in his modes of thought; none in his theory, and none in his practice. He disliked his friend's counsel, and, in fact, disliked his society, for his friend was somewhat apt to speak to him in a manner approaching to severity...
I personally was giggling at the mention of Omnium.
By the way, I did mean to point this out:
Sir Roger having been declared contractor for cutting a canal from sea to sea, through the Isthmus of Panama, had been making a week of it; and the result was that Lady Scatcherd had written rather peremptorily to her husband's medical friend...
...which just goes to show how long that thing was mooted and talked about and tried and failed, before they figured out how to do it (work began in 1881, twenty-three years after the publication of Dr Thorne, and after a series of disasters and changes of management, wasn't completed until 1914). It's quite possible that Trollope was joking by using this as an example of Sir Roger's abilities, citing it as the most unlikely engineering project he could think of.
In which Dr Thorne begins to wish he spoke legalese.
"But the bulk of the property—this estate of Boxall Hill, and the Greshamsbury mortgage, and those other mortgages—I have tied up in this way: they shall be all his at twenty-five; and up to that age it shall be in your power to give him what he wants. If he shall die without children before he shall be twenty-five years of age, they are all to go to Mary's eldest child."
"Mary's eldest child!" said the doctor, feeling that the perspiration had nearly broken out on his forehead...
Trollope's examination of Dr Thorne's feelings about this situation is one of his classic dissections of mixed motives.
On the other hand, I find this disingenuous almost to the point of being dishonest:
Yes; he was christened Louis Philippe, after the King of the French. If one wishes to look out in the world for royal nomenclature, to find children who have been christened after kings and queens, or the uncles and aunts of kings and queens, the search should be made in the families of democrats. None have so servile a deference for the very nail-parings of royalty; none feel so wondering an awe at the exaltation of a crowned head; none are so anxious to secure themselves some shred or fragment that has been consecrated by the royal touch. It is the distance which they feel to exist between themselves and the throne which makes them covet the crumbs of majesty, the odds and ends and chance splinters of royalty.
What this particular sneer chooses to ignore is the implications of that opening phrase, "King of the French" - as opposed to "King of France" - Louis Philippe adopted that title as a declaration that he held the throne by the will of the people, not by right; he was often called "the Citizen King". Scatcherd naming his son for him is in recognition of this instance of "power to the people", not the kind of secret cringing royalism implied. Otherwise, why would he not have called his son William, after the then-King of England?
It may need to be clarified that the word "democrat" - small-d - means that Scatcherd is in favour of removal of class distinctions / barriers and in particular the abolition of aristocratic privilege.
However, the real evidence of Scatcherd's radicalism lies elsewhere:
"But do you mean a boy or a girl?"
"They may be all girls for what I know, or all boys; besides, I don't care which it is. A girl would probably do best with it."
Interesting to compare that with the widely expressed conviction that Eleanor was unfit to control her own income in Barchester Towers.
I always find with Trollope that it takes me a while to go from liking to loving one of his books but I think that was the point it happened with this book.
This was an uh-oh moment for me too. Poor Dr Throne.
Since I see that you are now well ahead of the thread, can I ask the general question, Where is everyone up to? Do I need to speed things up?
Duly noted. :)
I loved the description of dinner at Gatherum Castle, and Frank's reaction to it, which made me appreciate his qualities more.
I also love the descriptive names of many minor characters; sometimes I don't notice the meaning at first. It was only when the apothecary Bolus was introduced (an item which an apothecary might prescribe) that I then noticed Dr Fillgrave's name properly and realised that it gives a clue that he may not be the safest pair of medical hands! I did spot the names of the two parliamentary agents, sailing close to the wind or closer still in keeping their candidates on the right side of corruption and bribery.
That said, I'm really lagging behind and don't know exactly why --- well, I do. I'm flipping pages in a C.J. Cherryh scifi that I have to finish before I can devote myself to anything else, not that I can read anything exclusively. Anyway, speed up. I'll enjoy the thread as I get along and bother Liz if I need to. (Thank you, Liz.) (I'm just about to start Chapter VIII.)
Can I ask if people, particularly those speeding ahead, are finding this an easy read? I've always considered Trollope the most accessible of the Victorian novelists, but that might just be my familiarity with him.
In which Mary Thorne declines a French bonnet.
"I should be a happier man if you were provided for as is Miss Oriel. Suppose, now, I could give you up to a rich man who would be able to insure you against all wants?"
"Insure me against all wants! Oh, that would be a man. That would be selling me, wouldn't it, uncle? Yes, selling me; and the price you would receive would be freedom from future apprehensions as regards me. It would be a cowardly sale for you to make; and then, as to me—me the victim. No, uncle; you must bear the misery of having to provide for me—bonnets and all. We are in the same boat, and you shan't turn me overboard."
"But if I were to die, what would you do then?"
"And if I were to die, what would you do? People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. You and I are bound together, uncle; and though you say these things to tease me, I know you do not wish to get rid of me."
Thinking about Bonnie's excellent review of Dr Thorne and Trollope's habit of giving away his secrets, it seems to me that this works because it shifts the emphasis of his story from usual to less-trodden paths
Instead of producing a rabbit out of a hat at the end as many novelists would do, Trollope shows us the rabbit early on and then makes his story as much about Dr Thorne's responsibilities and temptations as it is about the more traditional concerns of novelists.
In particular we get these introspective scenes in which Dr Thorne suddenly begins to wonder whether his generosity hasn't actually been selfishness all along; if he hasn't done the most harm where he meant to do the most good.
Actually I find myself chuckling quite a lot while reading this-between hilarious scenes and sly asides Trollope is really very funny.
In answer to your question Liz I'm not finding this a difficult read. Clearly I am speeding along and I only have a question or two that ill bring up later.
I also noticed when I posted my review that one of the other reviewers mentioned that this book is somewhat of an outlier to the others in the Chronicles of Barsetshire. Would you characterize it that way?
No, Trollope does not always have happy endings; we're in his comedy phase at the moment so you tend to get an aspect of "happy ever after" but some of his novels are very bleak indeed. Even some of the later Barsetshire novels contain darker material than we are now dealing with, particularly The Last Chronicle Of Barset.
I think it's more the abrupt break between Barchester Towers and Dr Thorne that makes it seem so, perhaps in conjunction with the scarcity of "old faces". Both Framley Parsonage and The Small House At Allington have a lot of new material, too, but they also overlap a bit more with the pre-established world.
Just a thought: with 49 chapters it might be helpful to break the book up into chunks, and have one thread for each chunk, so that those who are moving faster can discuss the later chapters.
...until it turned out they were all way ahead of me. :)
In which Dr Fillgrave declines a five pound fee.
Then Lady Scatcherd bethought her of her great panacea. "It isn't about the money, you know, doctor," said she; "of course Sir Roger don't expect you to come here with post-horses for nothing." In this, by the by, Lady Scatcherd did not stick quite close to veracity, for Sir Roger, had he known it, would by no means have assented to any payment; and the note which her ladyship held in her hand was taken from her own private purse. "It ain't at all about the money, doctor;" and then she tendered the bank-note, which she thought would immediately make all things smooth.
Now Dr Fillgrave dearly loved a five-pound fee. What physician is so unnatural as not to love it? He dearly loved a five-pound fee; but he loved his dignity better. He was angry also; and like all angry men, he loved his grievance. He felt that he had been badly treated; but if he took the money he would throw away his right to indulge in any such feeling. At that moment his outraged dignity and his cherished anger were worth more than a five-pound note. He looked at it with wishful but still averted eyes, and then sternly refused the tender.
That's one upset individual... :)
I think I'm finding this a fairly easy read, certainly easy compared to the first two books!
That was my memory of it, Heather, which is why I suggested a group read rather than a tutored read. Glad I got that right!
In which Dr Thorne is forced to reveal a secret.
"What do you call her, doctor?"
"Her name is Mary."
"The prettiest women's name going; there's no name like it," said the contractor, with an unusual tenderness in his voice. "Mary—yes; but Mary what? What other name does she go by?"
Here the doctor hesitated.
"No. Not Mary Scatcherd."
"Not Mary Scatcherd! Mary what, then? You, with your d–––– pride, wouldn't let her be called Mary Thorne, I know."
Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
I'm interested in how Trollope uses Roger Scatcherd in this chapter. It's an instance of his fairness that having shown us Scatcherd at his worst in the preceding chapters, he now shows that he does have a better nature; that in some respects his ideas are superior to those expressed by the "nice" people of the novel.
He had twitted the doctor with his pride; had said that it was impossible that the girl should be called Mary Thorne. What if she were so called? What if she were now warming herself at the doctor's hearth?
"Well, come, Thorne, what is it you call her? Tell it out, man. And, look you, if it's your name she bears, I shall think more of you, a deal more than ever I did yet. Come, Thorne, I'm her uncle too. I have a right to know. She is Mary Thorne, isn't she?"
Of course it's also about how far Dr Thorne has strayed from the path of convention in his adoption of Mary.
"She lives with me, and belongs to me, and is as my daughter."
And then we find Trollope basically putting the theme of the novel into Scatcherd's mouth; probably because he's uncouth enough to say it outright, instead of dancing around the point as our friends at Greshamsbury might do:
"I never knew any one yet who was ashamed of a rich connexion. How do you mean to get a husband for her, eh?"
The fact that Scatcherd thought of this immediately and Dr Thorne hadn't thought of it at all (apparently) is interesting.
The convention that no gentleman would raise a child like that as part of his own household was so established that it hardly occurred to anyone that the family-proud Dr Thorne, of all people, would be the one to break it. It just wasn't done, to coin a phrase. :)
But it is mentioned that some people did have their suspicions. Of course, it's also mentioned that the dominant rumour is that Mary is the doctor's own illegitimate daughter; that seems to be what the de Courcys believe.
But as the text says, there certainly were people with suspicions.
I think it's likely that class and gender barriers come into play here: the nature of the trial was such that "ladies" probably would have been protected from the details. It's only the women of Greshamsbury who take note when Dr Thorne brings Mary home; the question is whether they knew enough of the original circumstances to guess the truth.
But yes, certainly, as you say - It seems reasonable that those with long memories would put two and two together but keep their suspicions quiet.
In which Lady Arabella bites off more than she can chew, and Dr Thorne draws a line in the sand.
"We have done what little we could to be pleasant neighbours, and I think you'll believe me when I say that I am a true friend to you and dear Mary—"
The doctor knew that something very unpleasant was coming...
"Yes, doctor; he must marry money."
"And worth, Lady Arabella; and a pure feminine heart; and youth and beauty. I hope he will marry them all."
Could it be possible, that in speaking of a pure feminine heart, and youth and beauty, and such like gewgaws, the doctor was thinking of his niece?
This, the doctor could not stand. No, not for Greshamsbury and its heir; not for the squire and all his misfortunes; not for Lady Arabella and the blood of all the de Courcys could he stand quiet and hear Mary thus accused. He sprang up another foot in height, and expanded equally in width as he flung back the insinuation...
"Allurements!" almost shouted the doctor, and, as he did so, Lady Arabella stepped back a pace or two, retreating from the fire which shot out of his eyes...
"Very well!" thundered out the doctor. "Her visits to Greshamsbury shall be discontinued."
"Of course, doctor, this won't change the intercourse between us; between you and the family."
"Not change it!" said he. "Do you think that I will break bread in a house from whence she has been ignominiously banished? Do you think that I can sit down in friendship with those who have spoken of her as you have now spoken?"
"My darling!" he said, almost convulsively. "My best own, truest darling!" and Mary, looking up into his face, saw that big tears were running down his cheeks.
But still he told her nothing that night...
In which we meet some old friends.
The next arrival was that of the Bishop of Barchester; a meek, good, worthy man, much attached to his wife, and somewhat addicted to his ease. She, apparently, was made in a different mould, and by her energy and diligence atoned for any want in those qualities which might be observed in the bishop himself. When asked his opinion, his lordship would generally reply by saying—"Mrs Proudie and I think so and so." But before that opinion was given, Mrs Proudie would take up the tale, and she, in her more concise manner, was not wont to quote the bishop as having at all assisted in the consideration of the subject. It was well known in Barsetshire that no married pair consorted more closely or more tenderly together; and the example of such conjugal affection among persons in the upper classes is worth mentioning, as it is believed by those below them, and too often with truth, that the sweet bliss of connubial reciprocity is not so common as it should be among the magnates of the earth.
Yay for an appearance by the Proudies and I guess Trollope has his tongue firmly in cheek with that description of the connubial bliss. LOL
Tongue in cheek, yes, but perhaps also pointing out that no-one can really know what goes on in a marriage but the parties to it.
In which we are introduced to Miss Martha Dunstable.
"All the way from Rome to Paris!" said Mrs Proudie—in a tone of astonishment, meant to flatter the heiress—"and what made you in such a hurry?"
"Something about money matters," said Miss Dunstable, speaking rather louder than usual. "Something to do with the ointment. I was selling the business just then."
Mrs Proudie bowed, and immediately changed the conversation. "Idolatry is, I believe, more rampant than ever in Rome," said she; "and I fear there is no such thing at all as Sabbath observance."
"Oh, not in the least," said Miss Dunstable, with rather a joyous air; "Sundays and week-days are all the same there."
"How very frightful!" said Mrs Proudie.
"But it's a delicious place. I do like Rome, I must say. And as for the Pope, if he wasn't quite so fat he would be the nicest old fellow in the world. Have you been in Rome, Mrs Proudie?"
Mrs Proudie sighed as she replied in the negative, and declared her belief that danger was to be apprehended from such visits.
"Oh!—ah!—the malaria—of course—yes; if you go at the wrong time; but nobody is such a fool as that now."
Since Miss Dunstable is one of only three people to get the better of Mrs Proudie over the entire course of her life, I think we should all stop and pay due homage to her. :)
I'm with Carrie in thinking that even in Victorian England, people would have a pretty good idea whose daughter Mary might be.....or at least, the truth would be right up there with her being Dr. Thorne's own illegitimate daughter. I truly doubt that a Victorian husband would have "protected" his wife from the knowledge of the trial in their own private discussions. Could be wrong, but human nature loves a good gossip - the juicier the better.
The critical ignorance, if I can call it that, is Lady Arabella's, and since at the time she was pregnant with Frank, it's easy enough to believe that she was shielded from all "unpleasantness". These days she's clearly getting her (mis)information from the de Courcys. :)
#137 I think Miss Dunstable is now one of my favourite characters. Her response to Mrs Proudie about Rome was hilarious :-)
Have I read this too spottily to remember, or is Trollope alluding to some current event when he writes that Miss Dunstable's boxes are "...some of them nearly as rich as that wonderful box which was stolen a short time since from the top of a cab"?
No, Peggy, I think that must be a reference to a recent real-life incident.
Thanks everyone for your postings here, especially Liz. I've read up to where I think you start talking about Ch 7 onwards and will be back here lots. I totally missed that Henry raped her - I think the "seduced" fooled me.
#141 Heather, the Proudies are going to appear?! Excellent!
So glad you're enjoying it!! It would be great if you could join us for Framley Parsonage in June, but will school be back in session then?
We're about to drive home from our holiday (8 hours today and tomorrow) and I am hoping to get a bit more read along the way. Miss Dunstable has been mentioned but not yet appeared...