Group read: Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope - Thread 2 (Chapters 17 - 32)

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Group read: Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope - Thread 2 (Chapters 17 - 32)

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Jun 3, 2013, 6:31pm

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (1861)

" I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage forever. I don't see any reason why it should ever come to an end, and every one I know is dreading the last number."---Elizabeth Gaskell

Jun 3, 2013, 6:32pm

Jun 3, 2013, 6:32pm

The characters of Framley Parsonage:

Mark Robarts - a young clergyman
Fanny Robarts - his wife
Lucy Robarts - Mark's sister

Lady Lufton - Mark's patron
Lord Lufton - her son, Mark's friend

The Duke of Omnium - a Whig nobleman, a man of bad reputation but great power
Mr Fothergill - the duke's agent

Nathaniel Sowerby - owner of Chaldicotes, MP for West Barsetshire under the duke's patronage, and a man deeply in debt
Mrs Harold (Harriet) Smith - his sister
Harold Smith - her husband, an MP

Miss Martha Dunstable - "the richest woman in England"

Archdeacon Grantly
Mrs Grantly
Griselda Grantly

Bishop Proudie
Mrs Proudie
Olivia Proudie

Jun 5, 2013, 9:59pm

I've now read thru Chapter 19. I wish Mark would stop doing stupid things! He's getting himself into quite a middle.

Editado: Jun 5, 2013, 10:08pm

Coincidentally, I'm watching the BBC production of "The Pallisers" at the moment, and have just been shaking my head sadly over Phineas Finn signing his name to somebody else's bill...

Of course, this is a subject Trollope had quite a lot of personal experience with. :)

ETA: Though it is fascinating to watch the ways that a gentleman being a gentleman can be exploited: for instance, how it's ungentlemanly to ask questions or to seem to doubt someone's word, even if you obviously should.

Jun 6, 2013, 1:01am

I finished chapter 21 tonight and my head is spinning about the whole money problem that Mark has gotten himself involved in. I cant say that i really understand it but I loved how Trollope set it up. In true Trollope fashion you just knew Mark was going to get sucked into the scheme.

Jun 6, 2013, 1:42am

I can try to explain that a little more if people would find it helpful? Though goodness knows I'm no expert! :)

Jun 6, 2013, 8:08am

>7 lyzard:: actually Liz, that would be helpful. I admit I don't fully understand bills, and renewing bills, and such but I can tell Mark is deep in it.

Jun 6, 2013, 6:06pm

Okay - I'll try. :)

I guess the first thing to make clear is that a "bill" is a loan. To an extent the loan practices at the time were what still go on today. People with collateral could borrow from the bank or from wealthy people, usually at a reasonable interest rate of around 3% - 6%, and paid off over an agreed period, usually several years. But if something went wrong the lender could foreclose - this is what Squire Gresham was threatened with by Sir Roger Scatcherd in Dr Thorne.

However, the men in whom Trollope is usually interested are those without collateral, who need money in a hurry - either to pay off gambling debts ("debts of honour") or for immediate expenses involved in keeping up with their richer friends. In these cases they could go to professional money-lenders, who lent, usually in the short term, at outrageous interest. It is likely, for example, that with respect to the 400 pound bill, Sowerby only received around 200 pounds in the first place.

When these short-term loans were issued, the lenders would insist that the recipient find someone "respectable" to go guarantor; this is what Mark does for Sowerby. By countersigning the bill, the guarantor becomes financially liable should the first person default. This is a situation that crops up repeatedly in Trollope, with unscrupulous men taking advantage of less experienced acquaintances.

Once such a bill was in existence, there were various ways the game could be played out. Bills such as Sowerby's often got bought and sold, which (it is hard to tell exactly what did happen from Sowerby's account of it) seems to be the case with Mark's bill. Sometimes if a lender felt he wasn't going to get his money easily - or at all - he would sell the bill to someone else and then let them pursue it. There were many people who made a whole business out of these sorts of manoeuvres.

Here, for instance, say that the original person gave Sowerby 200 pounds for his 400 pound bill; possibly he then sold the bill for 300 pounds to the Tozers, making a profit of 100 pounds. The Tozers then pursue Sowerby and Mark and (assuming they get paid) make a profit of 100 pounds plus interest plus "expenses" on their purchase.

Of course in this situation there is the complication of the second bill. Renegotiating a loan at still higher interest was common, but again required a counter-signature. What SHOULD have happened is that when Sowerby's bill for 500 pounds was negotiated and signed, the bill for 400 pounds was destroyed - but this doesn't happen (it's too late before it occurs to Mark that this is a possibility). Therefore there are now two bills totalling 900 pounds in existence, for which Mark is liable.

Under the laws at the time, people could have property to the value of the debt seized and auctioned off, or they could be arrested and imprisoned if they didn't have property of sufficient value. (It should be noticed that sitting MPs could not be arrested for debt, which is one reason Trollope's characters are always so desperate to get into Parliament.)

Lord Lufton's situation is a bit more obscure, but it seems that he has been trapped in some sort of compound interest scam - he ends up paying 12,000 pounds on a 4,000 pound debt. It is likely that Sowerby set out to trap him in exchange for time concessions on his own debts from the Tozers.

Jun 6, 2013, 7:44pm

Thanks Liz. I'm glad lending laws have evolved since those days!
Sowerby's no friend, is he?

Jun 6, 2013, 8:07pm

Not at all - yet typically, Trollope turns around towards the end of the novel and dissects him for us in a not entirely unsympathetic manner.

Editado: Jun 6, 2013, 9:54pm

Wonderful Liz. Very helpful.

Chapter 24 is an absolutely wonderful example of why we all love Miss Dunstable. Poor Mrs. Harold Smith. She never saw the steam roller coming.

"I do feel grateful to him; and perhaps nothing will be necessary than to give him a schedule of the property, and name an early day for putting him in possession."


Jun 6, 2013, 9:32pm

But I have to say that I am entirely in sympathy with Mrs Harold Smith's tart retort in Chapter 23:

    "My dear," said Mrs. Harold, when she first met Miss Dunstable after the catastrophe was known, "how am I possibly to endure this degradation?" And she put her deeply-laced handkerchief up to her eyes.
    "Christian resignation," suggested Miss Dunstable.
    "Fiddlestick!" said Mrs. Harold Smith. "You millionnaires always talk of Christian resignation, because you never are called on to resign anything."

Jun 6, 2013, 9:33pm

By the way, if anyone has any questions about the political stuff in these middle chapters, please do ask.

Jun 7, 2013, 8:08am

>14 lyzard:: um, YEAH. I just read Chapters 20-23 last night so your question was well timed. It appears Harold Smith lost his seat due to a governmental shakeup but that's about all I got out of it.

Editado: Jun 7, 2013, 8:45am


(I must stop beginning like that!)

This is a sketch of some of the real ins and outs of politics at this time - though with Trollope it's rarely a simple case of just transposing facts. Here "Lord Brock" is the Whig Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and "Lord De Terrier" the leader of the Tory opposition, Lord Derby. (It was Derby who lost office at the beginning of the events in Barchester Towers, resulting in a switch from Tory to Whig government and hence the appointment of a Low Church bishop; Derby had three different stints as PM.) "Brock" is the Celtic term for "badger"; the names allude to the sport of badger-baiting, with a "terrier" attacking a "brock". "Sidonia" is a reference to Benjamin Disraeli, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Derby; Sidonia was a character in one of Disraeli's own novels.

At this time Palmerston was unpopular on account of events during the Crimean War and because of his governance of India and some of his appointments; after some of his bills were defeated he was forced to resign. Lord Derby was asked to form a government, which he did, but the Tories didn't have a majority and Parliament ended up being dissolved and a general election called, after which the Whigs got back in and Palmerston, after some to-ing and fro-ing, resumed the office of PM.

The events in Framley Parsonage refer to Palmerston's resignation and the fall of the Whig government, which is positioned as happening only three weeks after Harold Smith gets his post in the Cabinet. In Trollope's allegorical rendering, the "gods" are the Whigs and the "giants" are the Tories.

There was much of this back-and-forth government at the time with neither side having a clear majority, which is one of the main threads of Trollope's political novels.

Jun 7, 2013, 4:52pm

That's helpful, Liz. I was especially confused by the gods & giants thing and would never have caught the badger/terrier metaphor.

Jun 10, 2013, 6:56pm

I finished and REVIEWED the book. Loved it.

Jun 11, 2013, 7:48am

>18 brenzi:: I'm right behind you Bonnie! I zipped through the last 1/3 and finished it last night. Review forthcoming, but the short answer is, I really enjoyed it.

Jun 11, 2013, 6:29pm

Well done, you two! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Jun 13, 2013, 3:44pm

I finished Framley Parsonage a few days ago now and loved it but have been very remiss at coming over to the group read threads.

#9 Liz, that's a really helpful explanation of the bills and loans. Thank you.

#12 I think Ch 24 was my favourite!

"Perhaps I am, and very unreasonable into the bargain. I ought to ask no questions of the kind when your brother proposes to do me so much honour. As for my expecting the love of a man who condescends to wish to be my husband, that, of course, would be monstrous. What right can I have to think that any man should love me? It ought to be enough for me to know that as I am rich, I can get a husband. What business can such as I have to inquire whether the gentleman who would so honour me really would like my company, or would only deign to put up with my presence in his household?"

#16 And again, thank you!

#18 & 19 Hooray! Should we start a thread for Ch 33 onwards?

Jun 13, 2013, 6:54pm

I think we'll just keep using this thread, unless a sudden rush of questions suggests we need another. :)

Editado: Jun 16, 2013, 7:49am

Chapter 20, the use of Amalikes. He's saying that Sowerby and company are attempting to 'convert' Mark from the influence of the heathen Tory Luftonites into the influence of the Whigs as represented by Omnium et al?

Also, I'm not sure I understand the whole prebendary thing. Does this include the requirement of acting as priest at the cathedral for a specified amount of time or something?

Editado: Jun 16, 2013, 6:36pm

Chapter 19? Less that they are actually trying to convert him than that they will be demonstrating that the Whig / Omnium influence extends even into the heart of Tory / Grantly / Lufton territory.

The "spoiling" of Amalikes was a shameful thing. I think that Trollope is suggesting that this is (in a much smaller way) shameful also, but that the Omnium faction sees it rather as a "praiseworthy" advancement of their own interests.

A prebendary position is an administrative role with, as I understand it, few actual duties - except that the incumbent is attached to the Cathedral and is supposed to show himself as such, hence Mark's difficulties over having to be in two places at once (and neglecting his real duties for just putting in an appearance). Since the position is usually a sinecure, it is generally reserved for elderly clergymen who have served the church for many years, as a reward and a sort of pension. Giving it to someone as young as Mark, who hasn't earned it, is asking for trouble.

(That said, we know Dr Stanhope held the position back before his bolt to Italy - for debt; Mark should be paying closer attention - so perhaps this particular prebendary-ship has a rocky history anyway.)

Jun 16, 2013, 6:38pm

Speaking of Chapter 20, though: this---

    And then Lord Lufton, not being a pretender himself, put his arm round her waist, and away they went up and down the room, and across and about, with an energy which showed that what Griselda lacked in her tongue she made up with her feet. Lord Dumbello, in the meantime, stood by, observant, thinking to himself that Lord Lufton was a glib-tongued, empty-headed ass, and reflecting that if his rival were to break the tendons of his leg in one of those rapid evolutions, or suddenly come by any other dreadful misfortune, such as the loss of all his property, absolute blindness, or chronic lumbago, it would only serve him right. And in that frame of mind he went to bed, in spite of the prayer which no doubt he said as to his forgiveness of other people's trespasses.
    And then, when they were again standing, Lord Lufton, in the little intervals between his violent gasps for fresh breath, asked Griselda if she liked London. "Pretty well," said Griselda, gasping also a little herself.
    "I am afraid—you were very dull—down at Framley."
    "Oh, no;—I liked it—particularly."
    "It was a great bore when you went—away, I know. There wasn't a soul—about the house worth speaking to." And they remained silent for a minute till their lungs had become quiescent.

---is the only passage in a 19th century novel I know of to acknowledge that dancing is hard work.

Jun 18, 2013, 7:49am

Aha! The infamous Chiltern Hundreds comment. Gives me fond memories of the Palliser series. :)

Jun 18, 2013, 6:20pm


There's a British film from - 1949? - called The Chiltern Hundreds, all about political manoeuvring and selling out; very funny.

Jun 23, 2013, 8:22pm

Can I ask those who have finished to add a brief post here, if they haven't already? - just to see where we're all up to.

Just to see if I can get away with starting to think about The Small House At Allington... :)

Jun 23, 2013, 9:06pm

i've finished and enjoyed it very much! Onward to Allington.

Jun 23, 2013, 9:48pm

I just finished about an hour ago. I liked it better than Doctor Thorne but not quite as well as Barchester Towers. I was just wondering about going on the The Small House at Allington.

Jun 23, 2013, 10:03pm

Liz, I finished yesterday. I liked the book very much and thank you once again for providing leadership and guidance here. This is what I posted on my thread:

"She felt that she had received a severe blow in having been thus made the subject of remark with reference to Lord Lufton. She knew that her pleasant evenings at Framley Court were now over, and that she could not again talk to him in an unrestrained tone and without embarrassment. She had felt the air of the whole place to be very cold before her intimacy with him, and now it must be cold again."

Book No. 55. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. 4.2 stars.

Another interesting episode in the Barsetshire Chronicles. I really enjoyed running into many of the characters from previous books and meeting new characters including Mark Robarts and his sister Lucy. Mark is a clergyman in a plum position who longs for more and gets caught up in debt that he can not repay. His sister Lucy falls in love with Lord Lufton, the son of her brother's benefactress. Young Lufton very much wants to marry Lucy but she is reluctant because his mother thinks she is "insufficient". Knowing Trollope and his tender heart, one knows all will be well in the end, although both Mark and Lucy suffer through a series of circumstances that seem insurmountable. Once again, Trollope's eternal optimism shines through at the end of this quietly entertaining book.

Jun 23, 2013, 10:12pm

Bring on The Small House at Allingham Liz! I'm ready whenever you say:)

Jun 24, 2013, 1:06am

Thank you all for that!

Ah, Bonnie, it's not for me to say: the rest of you need to put your heads together and let me know. :)

Jun 24, 2013, 2:47am

#28 "Just to see if I can get away with starting to think about The Small House At Allington... :)" Most definitely!

Do we want to keep to our quarterly time frame or is that too long to wait for us ardent Trollope fans?

Jun 24, 2013, 7:27pm

Well that could mean August. Leaving plenty of time to finish off the Chronicles during the last quarter. (Although I hate to think of finishing them off.)

Jun 24, 2013, 7:38pm

Well, actually...we might have to take a detour before we finish them. (I wasn't planning on getting into that issue just now, but...)

Jun 25, 2013, 2:00pm

#35 I was thinking September but August would probably work for me. We will (hopefully) be moving house that month but I will keep my kindle with me at all times and can read along there.

#36 ???? Don't keep me in suspense!

I was also thinking of reading some of Trollope's non-Barsetshire novels from the 1850s in between (not sure if I want to go without a Trollope in my month) - The Three Clerks was mentioned as one of Trollope's personal favourites.

Jun 25, 2013, 7:15pm

>36 lyzard:. ?????????????????!!

Jun 25, 2013, 7:23pm I say, I wasn't going to get into this now, but... advice would be, after The Small House At Allington, to step to the side and begin the Palliser novels: there's quite a lot of overlap between the characters and events of Can You Forgive Her? and The Last Chronicle Of Barset, and I think reading the latter before the former would be jolting for those who haven't read these novels before.

Of course, all this is assuming everyone intends to go on to the Palliser novels... :)

Jun 25, 2013, 8:08pm

Can You Forgive Her? was the first Trollope novel I read, but it's been so long ago that I'm due for a re-read.

Jun 25, 2013, 8:10pm

i do love the Pallisers so I'm definitely up for that.

Jun 25, 2013, 9:21pm

Of course, all this is assuming everyone intends to go on to the Palliser novels... :

Mrrrrawwwahaha, you're hysterical, Liz.

I am ready whenever everyone else is.

Jun 25, 2013, 9:28pm

If cruel reality has taught me anything, it's that my head is rarely in the same space as other people's. So I never assume. :)

Personally I'm ready to go with TSHAA tomorrow, but I think the best thing is for the rest of you to decide amongst yourselves on a suitable starting date and let me know.

Jun 26, 2013, 11:44am

Liz, I trust your judgement on what we should read next. Now that I'm caught up to the group I plan to stay with whatever time schedule is set up. I don't mind stretching out these books so the joy will last longer. ;-)

Jun 26, 2013, 1:46pm

I'm definitely up for reading Can you Forgive Her? before The Last Chronicle of Barset.

Re timing for TSHAA, I think Peggy was going to read FP but didn't get to it in June. I'll drop her a pm to see if she's still planning to read it and would like us to wait before starting TSHAA to give her a chance to catch-up. (Personally, I'm with Liz, and would be happy to start reading it tomorrow...)

Editado: Jun 26, 2013, 2:06pm

I've read the six Barchester books and I found The Last Chronicle of Barset quite hard work. It may have been that the book itself wasn't comfortable to read as I finished it quite quickly when I changed to a kindle version. I do feel I should have another go but I'd be happy to put it off a bit by reading Can you forgive her? after The small house at Allington!

Jun 26, 2013, 6:23pm

My July reading is already planned and I don't think I'd be able to squeeze in TSHAA. I could do it as soon as August.

Jun 26, 2013, 7:28pm

August still sounds good to me.

Jun 27, 2013, 6:18am

Just finished Framley Parsonage last night and loved it. I have highlighted so many bits but haven't had time to post. I am up for The Small House at Allingham straight away because Trollope is exactly what my fried first year teacher brain needs at the end of every day. And the Palliser plan sounds good too (not that I am contributing much but I am out here!!).

Since I will take forever I will download TSHAA now and read the first half page or so before I fall asleep... it'll be August before I finish it.

Jun 27, 2013, 3:05pm

Peggy would like to carry on with the Trollope reads but says don't wait for her.

Either July or August would be good for me. It sounds like more people can do August than July so shall we say August?

Jul 2, 2013, 7:19pm

To those planning on moving on to The Small House At Allington, I am still trying to get a feel for the best time to start, so as to suit the majority. Please vote below:

Votar: Should we start reading The Small House At Allington at the beginning of August?

Recuento actual: 7, No 0

Jul 2, 2013, 7:19pm

Votar: Should we start reading The Small House At Allington in the middle of August?

Recuento actual: 2, No 1

Jul 2, 2013, 7:20pm

Votar: Should we start reading The Small House At Allington at the beginning of September?

Recuento actual: 3, No 1

Jul 2, 2013, 7:24pm

I didn't vote because I honestly don't care. Any of those will work for me.

Editado: Jul 2, 2013, 7:25pm

Fair enough, Bonnie! :)

Jul 3, 2013, 3:15pm

I'd prefer a later start for Allington, just because I'll be in the throes of packing and moving in August. But I've read them all before _ and I read Can you forgive her? earlier this year so I can catch up wtih Allington while the rest of you are reading that...

Still only about 30% through Framley at present but enjoying it as much as ever - though I feel with Mark as one does with those characters in crime dramas who plunge into darkened buildings or alleys without backup - you know that they are getting into dangerous situations and want to shout at them to stop and reconsider, but they don't listen!

Jul 6, 2013, 5:44am

I will hopefully know by the end of this week whether we will be moving at the beginning of August or not, but I will download a copy to my kindle so I should have it to hand anyway. I guess I may not have as much time to come online and comment if we move? Anyway, I voted yes to all three options.

Jul 7, 2013, 1:27pm

I loved Framley and will be eagerly awaiting The Small House At Allington in August--whenever we start. Trollope has rapidly become a "comfort read" for me.

Jul 14, 2013, 6:37pm

Thank you for the votes and thoughts. I think we might compromise slightly and start The Small House At Allington on the second weekend in August (10th / 11th) so we're still more or less at the beginning of the month but those who can't make a start until a bit later won't be too far behind.

Editado: Ago 9, 2013, 6:51am

I'm still slowly (re)-reading my way through Framley, when taking a break from sorting and packing. Reading on my Kindle app on my phone, as all the physical books are getting packed away out of sight. I'm over 3/4 through.

In Chapter 37 I came across a Latin phrase antecedentem scelestum which I could not translate (my Latin is not very accomplished, and more medieval than classical) but was able to use the search facility from the Kindle app to look it up online. Thus I discovered what looks like a very useful site for Trollope readers: Trollope's Apollo - which seeks to provide a commentary on all Trollope's classical references. Here's what it said about that particular phrase:

antecedentem scelestum

Mr. Sowerby is shown at home, wandering the empty rooms of his estate and pondering his life. Trollope says that we might imagine men like Mr. Sowerby to spend most of their days happy. However, Mr. Sowerby is frequently unhappy. Trollope says, “The feeling that one is an antecedentem scelestum after whom a sure, though lame, Nemesis is hobbling, must sometimes disturb one’s slumbers.” This is a reference to some lines from one of Horace’s odes: raro antecedentem scelestum / deseruit pede Poena claudo. The literal translation reads “Nemesis (or Punishment) with lame foot has rarely left the guilty man going on ahead.” Mr. Sowerby is a guilty man (antecedentem scelestum) who has become eminent. Nemesis (Roman Poena) is the goddess of retribution and punishment. The hobbling Nemesis has finally caught up with Sowerby who is besieged by men trying to collect his debts. {TH 2005}

Sources: Horace, Ode 3.2.31-32.

Chapter 37 is particularly full of classical references, some of which I understood but some I had wondered about - the "Boeotian fatuity" of the political giants being one of the latter - so I was glad to find an explanation of this reference also.

Sometimes when I don't fully understand the reference I feel I have enough of the sense of it not to worry and just carry on reading, but on other occasions I feel I am missing some of the subtlety and humour by not knowing the story or characters being alluded to. So it's good to have a ready place to go for answers when I feel the need to look something up. I've mentioned it here because I'm sure I'm not the only one who has not shared Trollope's classical education and therefore misses some of his references!

Ago 9, 2013, 7:42am

Thank you very much for that, Genny! I'm okay with classical references but my Latin is poor-to-non-existent, so any assistance in that respect is gratefully received!

You're right about there being lots of subtle humour in Trollope around these sorts of comments, so any clarification will always be helpful.

Editado: Sep 19, 2013, 12:39pm

I have just finished Framley Parsonage and I have a question that I hope Liz or someone else can answer. What was the point of Miss Dunstable's party and getting Tom Tower to show and and make the comment that evidently threw the Parliment into an election? I feel like I missed something there. Why was Miss Dunstable so committed to getting Mr. Sowerby re-elected and really to defeating the Duke's candidate? Did something happen between her and the Duke to put them at odds?

I was also taken by surprise with the joining of Miss Dunstable and Dr. Thorne. I definitely did not see that one coming!

Editado: Sep 19, 2013, 7:22pm

Okay. Both of these questions speak to the political system in England at the time, which can be difficult to grasp these days - and particularly for Americans, perhaps? :) I know that the way governments come and go in Trollope's novels is often very puzzling for readers these days.

Briefly, under the Westminster system, a party is elected rather than an individual representing a party. That party will have a leader who is elected by the members of the party, and who can be changed at any time. The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch, and while it is customary for that to be the elected leader of the majority party, it does not have to be. This also can be changed.

At the time Trollope is writing neither party had a clear majority and there were frequent changes of government, of Prime Ministers, of leaders of parties. Sometimes there would be a coalition government with a cabinet made up of people from both parties. The cabinet was appointed by the leaders of the party in government and every time the government changed, so did the cabinet. Thus someone could be appointed to a cabinet post and lost it again after only a short time - which is what happens to Harold Smith.

To answer your first question, Tom Towers is the editor-in-chief of The Jupiter, Trollope's stand-in for The Times. As we saw in The Warden in particular, Trollope thought the newspapers were too influential and too intent upon making news rather than reporting it. As the person effectively in charge of The Jupiter, Tom Towers is presented satirically as someone with enormous power and who can make or break governments just by writing an editorial. He is also assumed to know more about what is going on in the political world than the politicians themselves.

So Tom Towers is a celebrity, and one who hardly ever socialises, so it it a great coup for Miss Dunstable to get him to show up at her party for a few minutes. The party itself is actually meant as a rather sad illustration of how Miss Dunstable is wasting her life and her money (hence those later events that took you by surprise), but also as a mocking look at how people fight for the chance to go to social events just to be seen there---as they still do today. However, we are reassured that Miss Dunstable at least isn't really taking it seriously:

"Angels and ministers of grace, assist me!" said Miss Dunstable. "How on earth am I to behave myself? Mr. Sowerby, do you think that I ought to kneel down?"

And then Tom Towers speaks the fateful words:

"By-the-by, Sowerby, what do you think of this threatened dissolution?" said Tom Towers.

The suggestion here is that the dissolution of the government happens chiefly because Towers starts a rumour that it will. A dissolution means a general election. It is a catastrophe for both Mr Sowerby, who knows the Duke won't back him any more, and for Harold Smith who loses his cabinet position and has little hope of getting it back.

Your second question also speaks to the political system of the time. A lot of reform went on throughout the 19th century to try and get better representation and to stop wealthy landowners effectively appointing the government by putting up their own candidates and forcing all their tenants to vote how they wanted. This was successful to an extent, but with someone like the Duke who is so vastly rich and powerful, and who punishes anyone who opposes him, it still goes on. Effectively, whoever stands as his candidate is automatically elected.

The placard said much more than this, and hinted at sundry and various questions, all of great interest to the county; but it did not say one word of the Duke of Omnium, though every one knew what the duke was supposed to be doing in the matter. He was, as it were, a great Llama, shut up in a holy of holies, inscrutable, invisible, inexorable,—not to be seen by men's eyes or heard by their ears, hardly to be mentioned by ordinary men at such periods as these without an inward quaking. But nevertheless, it was he who was supposed to rule them. Euphemism required that his name should be mentioned at no public meetings in connection with the coming election; but, nevertheless, most men in the county believed that he could send his dog up to the House of Commons as member for West Barsetshire if it so pleased him.

So while he has the Duke's backing, Mr Sowerby is safe. But as soon as he loses it, he's out on his ear.

Now as far as Miss Dunstable goes, she does what she does not because she really cares anything about Sowerby but because she despises the Duke and his methods and is one of the few people rich enough to oppose him and who has no reason to fear him. As an additional spur, Frank Gresham is trying to save and preserve the woodlands around Chaldicotes which the Duke wants for himself (to cut down for the money). She loses to him in the election but she stops him from taking Chaldicotes and she buys the Chace herself, so this is one of the very few times in his life the Duke hasn't gotten his own way.

Sep 19, 2013, 8:35pm

That is a fantastic explanation Liz! So, Miss Dunstable opposes the Duke basically on principle. But at the end of the book she still socializes with him so I guess she is not going to take the route that Lady Lufton does and refuse to be anywhere near him, if possible? On a side note, I did love how Lady Lufton got the best of the Duke at Miss Dunstable's party!

Editado: Sep 19, 2013, 9:28pm

Thanks, Heidi. By the end of the book the two of them are neighbours and both decide just to put a good face on things and pretend to get along. The Duke may even admire the new Mrs Thorne for her fighting qualities; we see that he is capable of appreciating Lady Lufton's moral victory over himself at the party.

Jul 28, 2017, 12:36am


Sep 2, 2019, 8:00pm

Thank you, Liz, for returning from the future to point me toward this second thread. The posts about the political shenanigans and the classical/Latin references were especially helpful as I finished off the book tonight.

I might have missed it in my skimming of this and the previous thread, but I was a bit disappointed that no one highlighted some of the acidic conversation between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Grantly on the occasion of Griselda's engagement. I know who I was rooting for but I would not want to cross either of them!

Sep 3, 2019, 12:04am

Feel free to post your favourite quotes!

Editado: Sep 4, 2019, 5:42pm

>68 lyzard: Well, since you asked .. This is a little long but absolutely delicious in its genteel viciousness:

'I suppose Mr Tickler will come to the diocese soon,' said Mrs Grantly. 'I remember hearing him very favourably spoken of by Mr Slope, who was a friend of his.' Nothing short of a fixed resolve on the part of Mrs Grantly that the time had now come in which she must throw away her shield and stand behind her sword, declare war to the knife, and neither give nor take quarter, could have justified such a speech as this. Any allusion to Mr Slope acted on Mrs Proudie as a red cloth is supposed to act on a bull; but when that allusion connected the name of Mr Slope in a friendly bracket with that of Mrs Proudie's future son-in-law it might be certain that the effect would be terrific. And there was more than this; for that very Mr Slope had once entertained audacious hopes—hopes not thought of to be audacious by the young lady herself—with reference to Miss Olivia Proudie. All this Mrs Grantly knew, and, knowing it, still dared to mention his name.

The countenance of Mrs Proudie became darkened with black anger, and the polished smile of her company manners gave place before the outraged feelings of her nature. 'The man you speak of Mrs Grantly,' said she, 'was never known as a friend by Mr Tickler.'

'Oh, indeed,' said Mrs Grantly. 'Perhaps I have made a mistake. I am sure I have heard Mr Slope mention him.'

'When Mr Slope was running after your sister, Mrs Grantly, and was encouraged by her as he was, you perhaps saw more of him than I did.'

Nurse, burn cream all around, please! :-D