The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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December 7, 2015

Requiescat in pace

... Of her own struggles after personal dominion she was herself unconscious, and no doubt they gave her, when recognized and acknowledged by herself, many stabs to her inner self in which no single being in the world knew anything.

I'm reading The Last Chronicle of Barset, with JoAnn! and Lisa! and Fay!. and a little heart-complaint of my own, now that these six books are coming to an end.  But I'm also reading with spoilers, having heard long before we started what would happen with three major characters. So when I finished Chapter 64 last night, and turned the page to put my bookmark in Chapter 65, and saw the title, I had a feeling that one of these things was about to take place.

I was fascinated by what our Mr. Trollope did with horrible Mrs. Proudie and the mousy Bishop. They're wonderful, but till now very predictable characters {and more enjoyable for being that way}, but Trollope wasn't content to let them go out the way they had come in.

We love it when Mrs. P. is stood up to {'Peace, woman,' Mr. Crawley said, addressing her at last. The bishop jumped out of his chair at hearing the wife of his bosom called a woman.  But he jumped rather in admiration than in anger.'} and the edition I'm reading even has a footnote reminding us that the Bishop tried to, once, in the days of Mr. Slope.  But on her last afternoon, she is a different version of her old self, a little desperate, a little bewildered, calling her husband 'Tom' for the first time, even willing to 'coax him by little softnesses of which she herself has been ashamed as she practised them,' even though 'they had served her nothing.'  {Loved that, too.}

And the bishop!

      'Why do you not turn round and speak to me properly?' she said.
      'I do not want to speak to you at all,' the bishop answered.
      'This was very bad; -- almost anything would be better than this. He was sitting now over the fire, with his elbows on his knees, and his face buried in h is hands. ... 'This will not do at all,' she said. 'My dear, do you know that you are forgetting yourself altogether?'
      'I wish I could forget myself.'
      ... And now he got up and looked at her. For a moment he stood upon his legs, and then again he sat down with his face turned towards her. 'It is the truth. You have brought on me such disgrace that I cannot hold up my head. You have ruined me. I wish I were dead; and it is all through you that I am driven to wish it.'
      Of all that she had suffered in her life this was the worst. She clasped both her hands to her side as she listened to him, and for a minute or two she made no reply. When he ceased from speaking he again put his elbows on his knees and again buried his face in his hands. What had she better do, or how was it expedient that she should treat him? At this crisis the whole thing was so important to her that she would have postponed her own ambition and would have curbed her temper had she thought that by doing so she might in any degree have benefited him.

He comes into his own, in a way that leaves him diminished {for now?} but also seems truer and more human.


JoAnn said...

Loved the section you quoted above... think I was tweeting furiously as I read it! And probably cheering for Mr. Crawly as well. Did not realize you were privy to those major spoilers. I literally gasped in amazement.

Mary Ronan Drew said...

How well Trollope manipulates the reader here to make us, some of us for the first time since we've known them, truly sympathize with the bishop and at the same time with Mrs Proudie in her bewilderment. I've been reading this novel since the 1960s and last night when I left my bookmark on the first page of the chapter where Mr Crawley speaks his two words to the "woman" I again thought ahead to this scene you've given us and that looking ahead makes the scene with Mr Crawley a bit poignant. Like me, you will re-read the Barset novels, especially the first two and this one, and they will grow richer with time.

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