Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Victorian #6

I read this book for the A Victorian Celebration 2015 hosted over at A Literary Odyssey in June and July, 2015.

Framley Parsonage - Anthony Trollope

The strict definition of a roman-fleuve is a sequence of related but self-contained novels that can be read independently or out of sequence. Having finished the fourth novel of six of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, I think, however, the novels of this particular roman-fleuve, anyway, should be read in order.

One reason is that I think Trollope wanted his readers to feel the rush upon meeting again familiar friends like Dr. Thorne, Rev. Harding, and Archdeacon and Mrs. Grantley and old pains in the neck like Mrs. Proudie. For another, it’s interesting to see how Trollope develops into a better writer. Though the plots hinge on commonplace concerns such as love, marriage, money and success, his characters become more interesting in their efforts to maintain their integrity and self-respect while pursuing their goals.

Framley Parsonage first published serially the Cornhill Magazine in 1860, then bundled in between covers in 1861. There plots involve a money problem and different love stories. Mark Robarts is a young up and coming clergyman for whom success has come very easily because of solid connections. Ambitious to cultivate people that can advance his career, he falls in among bigwigs and hustlers. In moments of overweening ambition and weakness, he is pressured into co-signing loans for a black sheep politician in constant money trouble.

As for the love stories, we have three. Will the delightful character from Dr. Thorne, Miss Dunstable, the ointment heiress, find middle-aged love and avoid fortune hunters? Will Griselda Grantly, likeable enough in Barchester Towers, but cold, remote, and calculating in this outing, find success in the marriage market? Finally, will the mother of Lord Lufton see her way to consenting to her son’s romantic affinity toward Lucy Robarts, the sister of Mark. Lady Lufton concisely lists her objections: “But her father was a doctor of medicine, she is the sister of the parish clergyman, she is only five feet two in height, and is so uncommonly brown!” The lady is worried that Lucy will never cut an impressive figure as the wife of a lord.

For me, Trollope’s strong points are his sense of irony and humor and clear-headed common sense. When I read this passage, I realized I must have forgotten that I read this novel a long time ago because this passage struck me as something I’ve often thought, don’t ever work in a job that calls for you to apologize for carrying it out, like being a repossession agent:

The bailiffs on that day had their meals regular,—and their beer, which state of things, together with an absence of all duty in the way of making inventories and the like, I take to be the earthly paradise of bailiffs; and on the next morning they walked off with civil speeches and many apologies as to their intrusion. "They was very sorry," they said, "to have troubled a gen'leman as were a gen'leman, but in their way of business what could they do?" To which one of them added a remark that, "business is business." This statement I am not prepared to contradict, but I would recommend all men in choosing a profession to avoid any that may require an apology at every turn;—either an apology or else a somewhat violent assertion of right. Each younger male reader may perhaps reply that he has no thought of becoming a sheriff's officer; but then are there not other cognate lines of life to which perhaps the attention of some such may be attracted?

During its serialization this story was extremely popular. Fellow writer Elizabeth Gaskell even said “I wish Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don’t see any reason why it should come to an end.”

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