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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 13 May 2015 20:28:03 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     Robert Tracy of U.C. Berkeley, who has published on both Dickens 
and Trollope (and
much else besides), is a scholar always worth listening to:             
> Friends of the Forum: A few thoughts on Dickens and Trollope. Trollope has
> no interest in the deserving or undeserving poor as subjects; Dickens is
> eager to call attention to the deserving qualities of the Cratchits or the
> dwellers in Bleeding Heart Yard. Apart from the Eatanswill election, and
> the Muffin representatives in NICKLEBY, which are satirical, his chief
> contribution to contemporary political discourse is the election in BLEAK
> HOUSE, which the Tories lose; there his satire is more directed at paying
> for votes, and he favors the election of the ironmaster Rouncewell as a new
> kind of political representative. Liberal and Conservative are tricky words
> in 19th century England: it was Disraeli, after all, who "dished the Whigs"
> by considerably enlarging the franchise in the Second Reform Bill--thus
> "stealing the Liberals' clothes." Trollope imagines Daubney (Disraeli) as
> advocating the disestablishment of the Church of England in order to remain
> in power.
> Trollope makes Phineas Finn resign rather than vote against a Liberal bill
> assisting the Irish poor. Palliser, as PM, accepts that his tenure as head
> of a coalition, will be brief; his only responsibility is to "carry on the
> Queen's government" until a general election. Trollope's basic opinion
> seems to be small "c" conservative, with very gradual reform, no sudden
> surprises; he suspects the word "reform." He despised Disraeli, but also
> came to distrust Gladstone over Ireland, though I think he approved of the
> bombardment of Alexandria. Both Dickens and Trollope approved of Britain's
> colonizing mission as a solution to over population at home.
Robert Tracy

On Tue, May 12, 2015 at 9:51 AM, Patrick McCarthy 
<[log in to unmask]
>> wrote:
>> Friends of the Dickens Forum,
>>      Luther Nelson <[log in to unmask]> points us to a passage from his
>> book which
>> summarizes very well his view of Dickens's political creed:     (pjm)
>> -------
>>> Patrick,
>>> Thanks for that piece stemming from Gopnik's article on Trollope  (I just
>>> got that New Yorker today).  *Hard Times* belongs on that list of novels
>>> you close with:  "No grand program then, but what Sissy has to offer, is
>>> what the world needs; and there needs no system for that.  Perhaps this
>>> explains why Dickens was a radical but no revolutionary: why overturn an
>>> imperfect system to set up another? deflate a blustering manufacturer like
>>> Bounderby so that a windy labor leader like Slackbridge may swell into his
>>> place? . . . ." (p. 201, in my last chapter).
>>> I'd like to see a "companion piece on Dickens," too.
>>> Harland
>>> On Sat, May 9, 2015 at 12:24 PM, Patrick McCarthy <
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>>> wrote:
>>>   Friends of the Dickens Forum,
>>>>       We could not read Adam Gopnik's article "Trollope Trending" [New
>>>> Yorker, May 4, '15] without
>>>> thinking whether one could write a companion article on Dickens.
>>>>       Gopnik strikes a line through Trollope's enormous
>>>> output--forty-seven
>>>> novels and much else
>>>> besides--a line that is primarily political.  He focuses on two of the
>>>> "three distinct Trollopes": "The Trollope of
>>>> the Barsetshire (Barchester) novels, [and] the Trollope of the Palliser,
>>>> or political novels" while
>>>> passing over "the Trollope of the odder, one-off books."  Trollope
>>>> described himself, as Jack Hall
>>>> noted, as "an advanced, but still conservative, Liberal," and his novels
>>>> have as background "this
>>>> special crisis of modernization--...but a crisis of institutions,
>>>> produced
>>>> by reform and standarization."
>>>> What strikes us as especially Trollopian in both the Barchester and
>>>> Palliser novels is that the
>>>> those who benefit from the old, corrupt system are often kind and gentle
>>>> figures and  the
>>>> reformers hard, idea-driven figures.  Mr. Harding of *The Warden* is the
>>>> signal example of the former,
>>>> and John Bold who would oust Mr. Harding from his sinecure, the signal
>>>> figure of the latter.
>>>>       Thus in Trollope there is much to admire in the old order while the
>>>> system that supports their
>>>> gracious lives must give way to a more egalitarian order.   To cut to
>>>> Gopnik's salient insight--and
>>>> we pass over the delightful, knowledgeable detail of his article--, he
>>>> points to actions of two of the
>>>> principal figures of the parliamentary novels, Phineas Finn and
>>>> Plantagenet Palliser, actions which
>>>> they take "only because it is the right thing to do."   The humanity of
>>>> those who must perforce
>>>> give up the past is always to the fore while they cooperate with the
>>>> forces that eventually
>>>> annihilate the order that supports them.
>>>>       Now, what of Dickens?  Gopnik says briefly, "[Dickens's] view of the
>>>> world is a poet's, painted
>>>> in violent and unnatural colors," and the crisis he stresses is "the
>>>> crisis of industrialization
>>>> and mass immiseration."
>>>>       The generally received view of Dickens is that he is a Radical who
>>>> wishes institutional change
>>>> but abhors violence.  Edmund Wilson and George Orwell see him as "an
>>>> enigmatic mixture of Radicalism
>>>> and Conservatism in his novels."  Where does one turn for further
>>>> information?
>>>>         "The Politics of Dickens' Novels" by Monroe Engel [PMLA,71 (5),
>>>> Dec.56], despite its title,
>>>> concentrates on CD's periodical writing in *Household Words* and *All the
>>>> Year Round.*  Joint-
>>>> stock banks, misuse of money, ("false idolatry of the golden calf"), and
>>>> fear of industry are Dickensian
>>>> concerns, while belief in invention and change versus an imagined past
>>>> (say, "the noble savage")
>>>> are subjects touched upon.  He concludes: "He was a subversive who
>>>> undermined the accepted
>>>> principles of his time whether those principles related to representative
>>>> government, class structure,
>>>> the treatment of the poor, the making of money, or numbers of other
>>>> subjects."
>>>>       For more recent considerations, we found ourselves in large
>>>> agreement
>>>> with four articles in the
>>>> *Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens* (1999, ff): "Politics and
>>>> Politicians" (by Eric Evans), "Poor
>>>> Relief and the New Poor Law" ( Robert Newsom), "Government" (Eric Evans),
>>>> "Chartism" (Evans).
>>>> What then of the novels?  We think of course of *Oliver Twist,* *Little
>>>> Dorrit,* *Bleak House,* and
>>>> *Our Mutual Friend*  and wonder whether his positive attitude to Lord
>>>> Dedlock (not his relatives)
>>>> can be thought of as Trollopian.    Do we think of Trollope as more
>>>> balanced in political views?
>>>> Is Dickens too ready to condemn a perceived political evil?  Are his
>>>> characters, whether low or high on
>>>> the political spectrum, invariably corrupt?   Where does he see the
>>>> political future of England in
>>>> the safest hands?