Group read: The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope
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The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope (1880)
"I think that my children between them will bring me to the grave."
---Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium
This last work in the series is a book that has been in the news over the last couple of years, thanks to the astonishing restoration project that has seen Trollope's original intentions in print for the first time.
Trollope conceived and wrote The Duke's Children as a four-volume novel. However, the preceding volume in the Palliser series, The Prime Minister, had not been well-received by the critics. It, too, was a four-volume novel, and its length was one of the things highlighted as a failing. It seems that, consequently, Trollope's publishers declined to accept The Duke's Children as a four-volume work, insisting that it be shortened by a volume---something like 65, 000 words.
(There is a weird sort of irony in the fact that Charles Dickens Jr, who had taken over his father's magazine, All The Year Round, may have been responsible for the shortening of the novel.)
Trollope was heart-broken over this rejection of his work, but undertook the distasteful task with meticulous care, working through his own hand-written manuscript and striking out pages and paragraphs and altering sentences, yet keeping the flow of his story.
The shortened work was serialised in All The Year Round between October 1879 and July 1880, appearing in novel form later in 1880.
Until very recently, this version of the novel was the only version. However, Trollope's manuscript of The Duke's Children was in the archives of Yale University, and with the bicentennary of Trollope's birth approaching, a team of researchers undertook the mindboggling task of restoring the original narrative, which required them not only to decipher Trollope's not-always legible handwriting, but to do so through his strike-outs and other editing. Not surprisingly, the job took more than a decade to complete; nevertheless, the restored text was ready in time to mark the bicentenary of Trollope's birth. In 2015, the Folio Society released a limited edition of the restored version of The Duke's Children; a general edition is now being released by Penguin.
However---in this group read we shall be addressing the three-volume version of The Duke's Children, which for nearly 150 years has been the standard text of the novel, and is the version most readily available, including in online editions.
It is out intention to re-examine the restored version at a later date, perhaps towards the end of this year.
In its three-volume form, The Duke's Children consists of 53 chapters. I am therefore going to suggest that our participants aim to complete a minimum of 14 chapters per week, or 2 chapters per day.
Does that seem reasonable?
Probably by now everyone knows "the rules" of these reads, but just to reiterate---please mark any comments that you make in bold, and include the chapter number. If you are reading ahead, or have read the novel before, please be mindful of spoilers; use spoiler tags where appropriate.
As always, do not read any introduction to the novel before you read the novel itself!---unless you want it ruined, in which case go right ahead! :)
Finally, reads like this are always much more successful and enjoyable the more comments and questions we get, so please do not hesitate to add your two cents to the mix.
I am going to suggest (for reasons that will become obvious, if you don't know them already) that we actually hold off discussion of the text for a day or two, until everyone has had a chance to check in and announce their participation.
I'd like to give everyone an opportunity to start the novel before we begin talking about it. We can start the discussion proper on Monday.
>11 souloftherose: thinner, yes, but still Trollope's standard 80 chapters!
And you're quite right, I had a little brain melt and looked at the wrong spot!
SO---I will now propose a schedule of *three* chapters per day, if that's okay? Sorry about that!
3 chapters per day are okay by me Liz!
In my edition the chapter list runs over a few pages and I looked at the bottom of the second last page---oops!
Trollope deals his characters and his readers alike a devastating blow at the outset of The Duke's Children:
No one, probably, ever felt himself to be more alone in the world than our old friend, the Duke of Omnium, when the Duchess died...
Although the overarching narrative of the 'Palliser' novels has wandered in various directions, at the heart of it was always Trollope's psychologically acute depiction of Plantagenet Palliser, and his dissection of the various forces at work within the Plantagenet-Glencora marriage, with all its discomforts and cross-purposes.
That he has, necessarily, dwelt upon what did not work in the marriage places the reader in the same emotional position as Plantagenet at this critical moment, now that all the difficulties and contentions have been swept away in one awful moment:
...the utter prostration of the bereft husband could not have been more complete. It was not only that his heart was torn to pieces, but that he did not know how to look out into the world. It was as though a man should be suddenly called upon to live without hands or even arms. He was helpless, and knew himself to be helpless.
I'm up to Chapter 12. The story is taking shape and I don't have any questions yet. But I'm still distraught at the blow Trollope dealt his readers.
You would appreciate why I've been so touchy about possible spoilers: I was afraid someone might drop in just to say they were joining in and find out that way.
I'm sure you're not the only one to feel like that.
An astonishing move on Trollope's part, really; though one that underlines that his own focus was always Plantagenet.
I'm also noticing how the theme of who is a "gentleman", or at least who is an appropriate suitor, seems to be carried over from The Prime Minister. It's not exactly the same, but here in the early going we're already confronted with a match that appears socially and financially unequal.
That's a very good point! I feel a little bit better now. :)
>24 kac522:, >25 lauralkeet: ' it's occurring to me that it would be difficult to develop the characters of the Duke's children with Glencora around ... the easiest way they can "grow up" is with Lady Glen out of the picture. '
That's a really interesting point - I think you're right.
I'm not very far in (chapter 6) but amused at how much trouble Lady Glencora is able to bring to poor Plantagenet from beyond the grave, as it were.
In a peculiar way, this book is actually about Glencora, particularly with respect to the unfolding of Mary's story.
The infuriating thing is that despite everything she has done---including her refusal of the late Duke's legacy to her, a detail which raises its head again here---those initial suspicions of her have never entirely died away. Her birth and her past continue to carry more weight than her actions.
In Chapter 2, Lady Mary places Marie in an impossible situation by confiding in her, and thus leaving her torn between betraying the girl's confidence, or keeping a secret from Plantagene. It only makes her situation worse that she has, as it were, inherited Mary's secret from Glencora:
What ought she to do---at once? The girl, in telling her, had exacted no promise of secrecy, nor would she have given any such promise; but yet she did not like the idea of telling the tale behind the girl's back. It was evident that Lady Mary had considered herself to be safe in confiding her story to her mother's old friend. Lady Mary no doubt had had her confidences with her mother,---confidences from which it had been intended by both that the father should be excluded; and now she seemed naturally to expect that this new ally should look at this great question as her mother had looked at it. The father had been regarded as a great outside power, which could hardly be overcome, but which might be evaded, or made inoperative by stratagem. It was not that the daughter did not love him. She loved him and venerated him highly,---the veneration perhaps being stronger than the love. The Duchess, too, had loved him dearly,---more dearly in late years than in her early life. But her husband to her had always been an outside power which had in many cases to be evaded. Lady Mary, though she did not express all this, evidently thought that in this new friend she had found a woman whose wishes and aspirations for her would be those which her mother had entertained.
But Mrs Finn was much troubled in her mind, thinking that it was her duty to tell the story to the Duke. It was not only the daughter who had trusted her, but the father also; and the father's confidence had been not only the first but by far the holier of the two. And the question was one so important to the girl's future happiness! There could be no doubt that the peril of her present position was very great...
I'm up to Chapter 21 now and oh dear, we are dealing with young men with money troubles again.
We touched during The Prime Minister on the fact that Glencora's swift adoption of Ferdinand Lopez was probably at least partially because he was the same physical type as her long-lost love, Burgo Fitzgerald; and we see the same pattern operating in the relationship between Mary and Frank Tregear, and Glencora's reaction.
In a sense, Burgo has been the ghost at the banquet throughout the Plantagenet-Glencora marriage: though the two of them managed to make their marriage work (mostly), the fact that Glencora never forgot or entirely got over her first love, and that Plantagenet in turn is aware that there was someone else she loved first, and loved better - enough to stand on the brink of ruining herself for him - has been an unspoken tension over the years. And no matter how often Plantagenet tells himself that Glencora was better off with him - and he may be right about that - he still knows that she had to be forced to marry him, and never loved him as he wished her to.
Plantagenet is fully aware of the implications of Glencora's encouragement of Mary and Frank, and the fact that she kept the relationship secret from him: her obvious determination to let Mary have her way, though Frank isn't really an appropriate match for a duke's daughter, speaks to the way she views her own experiences; not just that she wasn't about to let Mary be sacrificed, but that she did indeed view herself as having been sacrificed.
The realisation that after more than twenty years of marriage, Glencora's enforced relinquishing of Burgo is still in her thoughts and influencing her behaviour is deeply hurtful to Plantagenet---and enraging, too.
He does indeed overreact, first to Marie's knowledge of Mary's situation, then to the idea of Mary marrying someone like Frank, not because of the situation per se, but because of all the history and emotional upheaval behind it, the secret disappointments of his own relationship with Glencora.
It has been said that in trimming his novel, Trollope cut a lot of the more psychological material in it. If so, it is particularly unfortunate, because clearly Plantagenet's mental state through his bereavement and then his efforts to deal with Mary was always meant to be a crucial aspect of this narrative.
Lord Silverbridge is talking about his father, the Duke, with Tregear:
"I suppose he hopes to be able to talk me into obedience. He wants me to stand for the county--as a Liberal, of course. I intend to stand for the borough as a Conservative, and I have told them so down at Silverbridge. I am very sorry to annoy him, and all that kind of thing. But what the deuce is a fellow to do? If a man has got political convictions of his own, of course, he must stick to them."
So what's the difference between standing for the county as opposed to standing for the borough? Is one more prestigious than the other? I'm assuming the county is larger, but I'm not sure. Why does Silverbridge prefer the borough, and why does the Duke prefer the county? Why can't Silverbridge stand for the county as a Conservative, and at least make his father half-way happy? And I'm a little confused about the place names: is Silverbridge the name of the borough and West Barsetshire the county? Or do I have these confused?
From the Barchester novels onwards, Trollope has described the political evolution of the district as various reforms were put in place. Barsetshire was originally a single constituency; it was later divided into two, East Barsetshire and West Barsetshire, as a result of the First Reform Act. Gatherum and Silverbridge are both in West Barsetshire.
West Barsetshire is the name of the county. Silverbridge is a town, but it is also the name of a borough which, over the course of the Barchester and Palliser novels, has been represented by Plantagenet Palliser (Liberal), John Grey (Liberal), and Arthur Fletcher (Conservative).
Because of the dependence upon trade in boroughs, they were traditionally much more vulnerable to political interest: the local landowners could bring pressure to bear upon the voters by threatening to withhold their custom. Hence landowners could "own" a borough and send a member of their choosing to Parliament. This was so common that it came to be viewed as a privilege naturally to be exercised. In The Prime Minister, Plantagenet has awful trouble convincing people that he *doesn't* want to exercise his privilege. When he finally does, Silverbridge elects a Conservative member for the first time in many decades.
Plantagenet wants his son to stand as a Liberal for the county for a number of reasons, of which family tradition (political as well as personal) is the main one.
(Also, after the Ferdinand Lopez business of The Prime Minister, Plantagenet may not want a member of his family having anything to do with the borough of Silverbridge.)
"Of course he ought to go into Parliament."
"I think he wishes it himself."
"Yes, but how? By a piece of extreme good fortune, West Barsetshire is open to him. The two seats are vacant together. There is hardly another agricultural county in England that will return a Liberal, and I fear I am not asserting too much in saying that no other Liberal could carry the seat but one of our family."
"You used to sit for Silverbridge, papa."
"Yes, I did. In those days the county returned four Conservatives. I cannot explain it all to you, but it is his duty to contest the county on the Liberal side."
"But if he is a Conservative himself, papa?" asked Lady Mary, who had had some political ideas suggested to her own mind by her lover.
"It is all rubbish. It has come from that young man Tregear, with whom he has been associating."
"But, papa," said Lady Mary, who felt that even in this matter she was bound to be firm on what was now her side of the question, "I suppose it is as - as - as respectable to be a Conservative as a Liberal."
"I don't know that at all," said the Duke angrily.
So now I understand why Plantagenet wants his son to stand for the county. But what is drawing Lord Silverbridge to stand for the borough? Is it because it's *not* the family tradition? Or is it because the borough is more likely to vote in a Conservative candidate (since it represents businessmen and trades), whereas the county has historically (until most recently) been Liberal?
And perhaps Silverbridge is not just more confident of getting elected for the borough, he doesn't want to go against his father in two ways, by being the person elected if/when the county *does* go Conservative.
(This is assuming that Silverbridge has thought things through to this extent, which at this stage we might be inclined to doubt.)
>35 lyzard: this overview was helpful for me, too.
The other thing to note is the way that Plantagenet transfers his emotions. He can't admit to himself how upset he is about the implications of the situation, more than the situation itself. He won't lash out at Mary because that would be the same as lashing out at Glencora---which in turn would force him to admit things he doesn't want to face. So Marie bears the brunt of it; he needs to vent, so he escalates her brief keeping of silence, while she tried to do right by his daughter and his wife as well as himself, into a major failure of honour and conduct.
The fact that after all these years he still feels entitled to treat Marie like this is shocking.
Not that Marie is going to stand for it...
He struggled gallantly to acquit the memory of his wife. He could best do that by leaning with the full weight of his mind on the presumed iniquity of Mrs Finn. Had he not known from the first that the woman was an adventuress? And had he not declared to himself over and over again that between such a one and himself there should be no intercourse, no common feeling? He had allowed himself to be talked into an intimacy, to be talked almost into an affection. And this was the result!
But at the same time, Plantagenet begins to recognise within himself where his hostility against Frank tregear is really coming from, even as he continues to accuse him of arrogance and fortune-hunting:
And though his Cora had been so much to him, had he not often felt, had he not been feeling all his days, that Fate had robbed him of the sweetest joy that is given to man, in that she had not come to him loving him with her early spring of love, as she had loved that poor ne'er-do-well? How infinite had been his regrets. How often had he told himself that, with all that Fortune had given him, still Fortune had been unjust to him because he had been robbed of that. Not to save his life could he have whispered a word of this to any one, but he had felt it. He had felt it for years. Dear as she had been, she had not been quite what she should have been but for that. And now this girl of his, who was so much dearer to him than anything else left to him, was doing exactly as her mother had done. The young man might be stamped out. He might be made to vanish as that other young man had vanished. But the fact that he had been there, cherished in the girl's heart,---that could not be stamped out.
Trust me, Laura, we haven't yet begun to hear about young men and their money problems! :D
I agree with you all that it was a real blow to be hit with Lady Glencora's death in the opening chapter. But I appreciate the way that this allows Trollope to devote a whole novel to exploring the effects of that bereavement as the Duke and his children not only deal with their grief but also work out how to relate to each other in her absence. Generalising here, but it seems to me that many novels and series of novels end in marriages or in deaths, but i can't think of so many that start with a death of a character we have come to know from previous novels, and therefore give much more space to exploring the aftermath.
I find this passage in Chapter 8 fascinating:
Then she sat silent. "Do you not know that he is not fit to be your husband?"
"Then you cannot have thought much either of your position or of mine."
"He is a gentleman, papa."
"So is my private secretary. There is not a clerk in one of our public offices who does not consider himself to be a gentleman. The curate of the parish is a gentleman, and the medical man who comes here from Bradstock. The word is too vague to carry with it any meaning that ought to be serviceable to you in thinking of such a matter."
"I do not know any other way of dividing people," said she, showing thereby that she had altogether made up her mind as to what ought to be serviceable to her.
It wasn't so long ago that to be a gentleman was everything; now the definition is so broad as to be meaningless.
Part of this is due to the seismic shift in the attitude to work which occurred over the 19th century: in the early decades, with a few exceptions, if you worked you were by definition not a gentleman. Ministers (including curates) might be gentlemen, as at that time most of them came from 'county' families; likewise private secretaries. But clerks were absolutely not gentlemen, and nor (again with a few exceptions) were doctors. Certainly "the medical man who comes here from Bradstock" was not a gentleman!
But now there are dozens more professions than were dreamed of early in the century; a man is expected to work; and not only may you work and still be a gentleman, but being one seems a consequence of working.
And it is one of Frank's shortcomings that he does not work. If he had an earning profession and was in a position to support a wife, Plantagenet might not look so askance at him*. But because he holds to the old-fashioned notion of "being a gentleman", he is ineligible. What would have been a recommendation fifty years before is now a black mark against his name.
(*He still would, of course, but for other reasons.)
Fathers and sons often did work together in these situations to do what they considered best for the estate (for example, selling off a piece of it in order to raise money for urgent repairs or to acquire a different and more potentially valuable piece of property), however both Lord Grex and his son seem more interested in present gain that future stability.
>31 lyzard:, >39 lauralkeet: I agree with Laura - a very helpful emotional analysis of PP. And >40 lyzard:, >42 lyzard: and >43 lyzard: are very apposite.
And also thank you for the explanation of borough and county in >35 lyzard: and >36 lyzard: - I sort of got this when I was reading but wasn't 100% certain I had understood correctly.
>49 lyzard: Fascinating, I hadn't really picked up on how the definition of gentleman had evolved.
Thanks for checking in, Heather.
Well, it's about a week since I removed the "gag order"---how is everyone going?
From chapter 24:
Then he had to acknowledge to himself that he had never found out anything in reference to his daughter's character. She had been properly educated;—at least he hoped so. He had seen her grow up, pretty, sweet, affectionate, always obedient to him;—the most charming plaything in the world on the few occasions in which he had allowed himself to play. But as to her actual disposition, he had never taken any trouble to inform himself. She had been left to her mother,—as other girls are left. And his sons had been left to their tutors. And now he had no control over any of them. "She must be made to obey like others," he said at last, speaking through his teeth.
Maybe not particularly uncommon for upper class fathers of the time but I felt quite sad for the Duke and his children reading this.
And on a lighter note from chapter 25
"But it is the grind that makes the happiness. To feel that your hours are filled to overflowing, that you can barely steal minutes enough for sleep, that the welfare of many is entrusted to you, that the world looks on and approves, that some good is always being done to others,—above all things some good to your country;—that is happiness. For myself I can conceive none other."
"Books," suggested Gerald, as he put the last morsel of the last kidney into his mouth.
(although Gerald hadn't struck me as particularly bookish so far...)
It is dogma that Victorian fathers were to be feared rather than loved, and there is plenty of evidence that this was so. But I guess we can't know how many of them wished it was otherwise.
I think in this case, Plantagenet's alienation from his children is the result of the combination of his focus elsewhere and his own shyness, rather than any deliberate attempt to maintain a distance. But the outcome is the same, they don't know each other.
The passage that you quote in Chapter 24 is bookended by this one in Chapter 26:
"I suppose I shall marry some day."
"I should be glad to see you marry early," said the Duke, speaking in a low voice, almost solemnly, but in his quietest, sweetest tone of voice. "You are peculiarly situated. Though as yet you are only the heir to the property and honours of our family, still, were you married, almost everything would be at your disposal. There is so much which I should only be too ready to give up to you!"
"I can't bear to hear you talking of giving up anything," said Silverbridge energetically.
Then the father looked round the room furtively, and seeing that the door was shut, and that they were assuredly alone, he put out his hand and gently stroked the young man's hair. It was almost a caress,---as though he would have said to himself, "Were he my daughter, I would kiss him."
That little look around breaks my heart.
However, this unusual moment of closeness between father and son is almost immediately undercut, as Silverbridge responds by (as he is rather too wont to do, at this stage) saying a lot more than he should; perhaps more than he really means---and so buying himself a great deal of trouble in the long run, and his father more distress.
No, we certainly gotten that impression of Gerald---although it's the kind of thing that a young man would probably hide rather than flaunt. He does seem to knuckle down to his studies later. (Though not until he's been in a lot more trouble.)
I've been at home with a cold and reading a lot so am now up to chapter 39. I'm feeling rather cross with Lord Silverbridge and Treager at this point (although greatly enjoying my reading). Spoilers because I need to vent and I don't think many other people are at this point yet.
I am feeling some admiration for Lady Mabel in that she's at least being honest with herself about what she's doing and agonising over it even if again, I don't think it will turn out well whichever option she chooses. But as she's pointed out in an earlier chapter - her options are far more limited than either Silverbridge's or Treager's
Heather has now whizzed ahead of me and I haven't read her spoiler (>58 souloftherose:), as I suspect it pertains to chapters I haven't reached yet.
"Mr Longstaff! If you sigh like that you'll burst yourself."
There's a lot to discuss around the points you make but there's even more by the end of the novel---I think it's one of those plot aspects best discussed in totality. But yes, I agree with you!
I loved Chapter 41, in which it was made even clearer how much Plantagenet views Mary's relationship with Frank as that of Glencora with Burgo. I was happy to see Plantagenet and Mrs Finn on better terms.
And now having read Chapters 43 & 44, all I can say is Silverbridge, you idiot.
And I agree with your response to chapters 43 & 44 -
I thought the Duke's response in chapter 45 was actually quite reasonable. And Silverbridge's response to the Duke
I'm up to chapter 59 now but the book aside for a few days as I felt I was getting too far ahead.
I've dropped off general commenting because I think there is a point in this book where it becomes difficult to discuss individual aspects of the story without looking at the big picture---so it would help to know how far along everyone is!
I believe Wodehouse discovered Trollope quite late in life, and while he then became an admirer, there couldn't have been any direct influence. I think those club types really were "types", and both Trollope and Wodehouse were describing them as they occurred in their own generation.
That's one of the subjects I think is best discussed in totality---please hang onto your thoughts!
I'm very interested in hearing reactions to how the Palliser series is wrapped up. A few things stand out for me in The Duke's Children, so I will post a few thoughts for us to (hopefully!) chat about.
Anthony Trollope was a pretty standard Victorian male in his views on marriage as the only destiny of woman---even to the point of a certain failure of imagination (as anyone who has read his Miss Mackenzie would know), and I think one of his weaknesses is his tendency to support his view by 'cheating', that is, by conjuring up a suitable male whenever he needed to wrap up his plot.
But if his views never really changed, at least by The Duke's Children he was willing to acknowledge that it wasn't as simple as all that.
In Mabel we have a case of a young woman caught by circumstances and her own character. She must marry - because she is a woman, and because of her financial situation - yet she is trapped by the fact that she is neither 'good' enough nor 'bad' enough to get the job done.
We've seen again and again in Trollope the situation of a young woman offering to give up the man she loves, not because other people think she should, but for the man's own good. What's different here (and, perhaps, more mature in its vision), is that the man takes the woman at her word. And she then has to live with that.
Mabel's story is one of character misreadings and misjudgements. She does not see (probably because she does love him) the ruthless streak in Frank Tregear that allows him to move on from her, while apparently expecting them still to be 'friends'. And still more fatally, while she is quite right in her initial judgement of Silverbridge as 'just a boy', she does not see - as Isabel does see - that he is on the verge of emerging from his cocoon into manhood.
And because she cannot bring herself either to cold-bloodedly grab Silverbridge when he is available, or to take him seriously enough to care for him in a way that will allow her to marry him honestly, he slips away from her. Though he is hardly analytical at that point, Silverbridge senses the underlying lack of sincerity in their dealings, which throws Isabel's forthrightness into relief, and makes it even more attractive.
There's a cruel reality about the depiction of Mabel as 'old' and 'worn', though not in years. That is the nature of her world. She has been shopping herself around for five or six years, all the while secretly loving a man she can no longer have, and it has taken its toll on her.
>82 lyzard: I had a lot of sympathy for Mabel's predicament at first but found my sympathy for her declined as the novel progressed. I'm not sure that makes sense because her situation didn't change but I didn't like the way Mabel confronted Silverbridge after his engagement in chapter 73. This might say more about my British dislike of 'scenes' (after all, why shouldn't she make sure Silverbridge knows how unhappy she is?).
Your cultural observation made me smile, because -- perhaps also influenced by culture -- I felt the opposite. Early on, I just couldn't understand why she "allowed" all of this to happen and when she caused a "scene" with Silverbridge my reaction was, "finally!".
On another note, I just loved the way Plantagenet eventually realized he needed to set aside the norms he held dear for the long-term happiness of his children. That could not have been easy ...
And I agree that the development and changes in Plantagenet's character were the most moving of this book. I enjoyed this book almost as much as Can You Forgive Her?, which would be my favorite of the series.
As an aside, I loved the reference to Deportment and Mr. Turveydrop (since I'm in the middle of listening to Bleak House). It's amazing to think how popular Dickens' minor characters were that they can be casual references in other authors' novels.
But that's exactly the point: she's in love with Frank, she's always been in love with Frank, yet she's compelled to try and find some other man who can "keep" her, because her father can't afford to. But she can't make herself take the final step.
We have seen these sorts of situations before in Trollope (I'm thinking particularly of Lucinda Roanoke in The Eustace Diamonds, who basically loses her mind trying to force herself to make a hateful marriage), but it's interesting that he brings it front and centre here---when we are constantly being reminded that the entire Palliser series is built upon Glencora being forced to give up the man she loves and make a marriage she doesn't want. Throughout that series there is, I think, a tendency to retroactively excuse it on the grounds of "See how it worked out"---but here we, and Plantagenet - and Trollope too - must face the fact that she never forgot and never got over what was done to her.
There's no-one to force Mabel, as there was to force Glencora, to marry a man she doesn't love. If it's to happen, she has to force herself---and she can't quite manage it.
The presentation of Frank in this book is interesting. We're hardly encouraged to sympathise with him, and it's questionable whether he cares for Mary as he did for Mabel - though we see he detaches himself from her quickly enough - but throughout, I kept asking myself what the difference was between Frank and Phineas Finn, who spends an entire book outdoing Frank by "falling in love" with
Frank is a lot less guilty in this respect that Phineas---yet he is presented with a much stronger sense of authorial disapproval. And I wonder if his "crime" isn't his capacity to order his emotions, but the fact that he is upsetting Plantagenet by doing so. Trollope's identification with the latter may be so strong, it leads him to view exactly the same behaviour in a completely different light.
But this girl, this American girl, was to be the mother and grandmother of future Dukes of Omnium,---the ancestress, it was to be hoped, of all future Dukes of Omnium! By what she might be, by what she might have in her of mental fibre, of high or low quality, of true or untrue womanliness, were to be fashioned those who in days to come might be amongst the strongest and most faithful bulwarks of the constitution.
Yet despite Isabel's nationality, her lack of birth, in fact her total lack of all the usual qualifications for a Duchess of Omnium---despite the way that Plantagenet's mind is running determinedly upon Mabel---within a relatively few pages we get this:
"Then hear it from me. You shall be my child. And if you will love me you shall be very dear to me. You shall be my own child,---as dear as my own. I must either love his wife very dearly, or else I must be an unhappy man. And she must love me dearly, or I must be unhappy."
Actually, to put it in page terms is fascinating and revealing: in my edition (633 pages), Plantagenet finds out about Isabel on page 484 and gives in on page 562; he finds out about Frank Tregear on page 39 but doesn't give in until page 583.
We see from this exactly how powerful Plantagenet's lingering resentment and jealousy over Glencora's history is. With Silverbridge his objections to Isabel are up-front and forthright, but with Mary there is a poisonous subterranean anger controlling his behaviour and reactions.
Frank, on the other hand, is out there on his own, and a Conservative, to boot. Plantagenet also blames Frank for his influence over Silverbridge. So I think Frank has more against him to begin with. Mary has never countered her father, so it's more of a shock and I think he expects more from her than from Silverbridge, who has already shown his errant ways many times over. Isabel is a piece of cake compared to Silverbridge's other disasters. I just viewed it as Plantagenet liking Isabel more than he liked Frank, and that made it easier to concede.
I feel the Duke is struggling to resolve his Liberal/reform/10-shilling self with his conventional, aristocratic, do-what's-right-for-the-Palliser-name self. The kids are getting past that. It's nearly the 20th century, and I think Trollope is attempting to acknowledge this.
I thought that another problem was that there were so many characters developed over the first five books and then in the very last book we get this new crop of characters that we don't know. Certainly Plantagenet was the focus, and Madame Max is important, but I didn't love ending a six volume set dwelling on new characters. I read these a long time ago, but I feel like the Barchester series was wrapped up in a more satisfying manner.
I'm curious if anyone else felt this of if for others it just felt like a natural extension of the series?
This is what lends such poignancy to his relations with his children: he wants desperately to be friends with them now, but barriers keep cropping up between them, some of it his fault, some of it theirs.
So the ending is not about "what happened to all the characters", it's about on one hand Plantagenet becoming closer to his children and so regaining his emotional life, and also returning to politics and regaining his professional life. It might not wrap the series up satisfactorily, but it wraps up satisfactorily for him.
I also appreciated the parent/adult child struggles, which I think Trollope handled better (more complex? or subtle? I'm not sure I can define it) than in previous books. Think of even Abel Wharton and Emily in the The Prime Minister. Loggerheads, really, until Lopez dies. But Plantagenet for the most part thinks through how he's handling each child's issues.
>100 lyzard: It might not wrap the series up satisfactorily, but it wraps up satisfactorily for him.
Yes, Liz, that's exactly how I felt about Plantagenet and the series. I was satisfied because things seemed resolved in his life.
>101 lyzard: ...and speaking of that uncut version, just got a notice today from
>102 kac522: I also really enjoyed the "parenting adult children" struggles in this book. Also, as Liz said, thought it was interesting to see Plantagenet try to connect emotionally with his children with various degrees of success.
Individually I was planning on reading it towards the end of the year, but I am more than happy to turn that into another group project if there is sufficient interest.
I am also keen to know how much general interest there is in more Trollope? Individually I'm already considering a lengthy read / re-read project and as always, it would be great to have company.
>94 kac522: Also good points on the changing views across the generations.
>99 japaul22: I felt I had less emotional investment with the characters across the Palliser series as a whole compared to the Barsetshire series. In terms of the final books in each series I thought it was interesting how both could be seen as a character study of a sensitive man who was perhaps misunderstood by those around him or unable to connect with those around him (thinking of Rev Crawley and Plantagenet). Leaves me feeling a bit sad about how Trollope perhaps felt himself at times (although perhaps I'm reading too much into that). I did enjoy the more detailed character study of Plantaganet in this book but didn't really connect with Mary or Mabel particularly.
>107 lyzard: Also in for more Trollope and uncut Duke's Children.
>112 LindyCrichtonBez5605: Welcome to the site! There are lots of different groups which operate group reads in different ways. For this particular group there's a thread where people post details of group reads that I've added below. Not sure if anything's planned for April.
I think you're right about an aspect of self-portraiture in these difficult, isolated characters.
Since I just don't have enough hideously lengthy and overcomplicated reading challenges, I've been toying with the idea of Trollope from the beginning---but I can appreciate that not everyone might be up for that sort of undertaking! But it could operate like the Virago chronological read, with others popping in and out as they like.
Alternatively, does anyone here have a particular Trollope work that they would like to tackle?
Welcome to LT! As Heather says, there are many group reads on the site which you will be welcome to join, and if you're interested in Anthony Trollope in particular, you've come to the right place!
I read He Knew He Was Right after I finished the Barsetshire novels and before I tackled the Pallisers, but I'm quite willing to re-read--it was a very powerful novel.
I'd also be interested in popping in and out of a Trollope chronological read if they were spaced out enough (I think if there were a monthly Trollope read that would leave me feeling unable to read other long books). Definitely also interested in The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right.
I read The American Senator last year so probably wouldn't reread it but would be very interested in following along with any discussion - I really enjoyed it.
Certainly not every month; more like every two to three months, I was thinking. From here, for instance, we could do something in July then The Duke's Children in October.
I'm happy to go with a majority vote, though mentally I've been enjoying the ironies of bouncing back to The Macdermots Of Ballycloran since that is the other book Trollope had to cut to pieces, and which requires hunting out the 'right' edition...