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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January 27, 2015

The domestic manners of Mr. Trollope

Did you have a chance to watch the Masterpiece special on 'The Manners of Downton Abbey'?  {If not, you might be able to see it online here.} I finally watched it last night, and I especially like the parts about the dinners, and how the table was set {Carson, with his measuring stick} and how the footmen were trained to lean forward, synchronized, when they were passing the dishes {or not... remember Alfred and the Dowager Duchess?}

Anyway...reading more of my biography this morning, cosy and warm in the blizzard, I learned a little bit more about the origins of all this...

Like his Doctor Thorne, Anthony consumed huge and numerous cups of tea, and hated the dainty cups he was passed at tea-parties, and then having to balance the cup and sandwich-plate in his hand. Anthony also loathed the new system of dining 'a la Russe,' which had become smart by the time he and Rose came back to England [in 1860]. It meant that dishes were offered or handed individually to each guest by servants, instead of each course of several dishes being placed on the table for everyone to help himself, the host carving the joints. He hated 'that handing round, unless if be of a subsidiary thimbleful of the best cognac when the business of the social intercourse has been dinner' (Framley Parsonage},'Handing round' had become a 'vulgar and an intolerable nuisance' for people like himself, 'second-class gentry,' who did not have a standing army of servants. It meant that he didn't get his potatoes until his mutton was eaten, or had gone cold, and that the wine did not come around often enough. ...
      Readers of Anthony's novels may easily infer what he liked to eat and how he liked to eat it. ... When it came to the food, Anthony's priority as that there should be enough. 'Such a woman one can thoroughly despise, and even hate,' he wrote of wealthy, parsimonious Mrs. Mason of Groby Park in Orley Farm -- who served up for herself, her husband, their three daughters and the attorney Mr. Dockwrath a lunch consisting of three 'scraps' of chicken and three 'morsels' of boiled ham, 'black-looking and very suspicious to the eye.' His approval of Johnny Eames's uncle Mr. Toogood in The Last Chronicle of Barset is equally tangible:  'Mr. Toogood did not give dinner-parties, always begging those whom he asked to enjoy his hospitality, to take pot luck, and telling young men whom he could treat with familiarity, -- such as his nephew -- that if they wanted to be regaled a la Russe they must not come to number 73, Tavistock Square.'

from Anthony Trollope, by Victoria Glendinning



Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

Delicious indeed! I am definitely going to need to read this biography. It seems wonderful and I am loving the quotes you've shared.

JoAnn said...

I'm starting to think it might be fun to have a copy of the biography to dip in and out of all year long...

Haven't watched The Manners of Downton Abbey yet. I'll check the PBS website for a link. Thanks for the reminder!

PS - to "prove I'm not a robot", I had to select two photos of pizza. Word verification just became a lot more fun ;-)

Audrey said...

I hope you both will! It's out of print, but available for Kindles! :) I was reading a library (print) copy and bemoaning the fact that I hadn't bought it when I originally read it, and then for the first time in years I visited the used book cellar of my favorite bookstore and they had a pristine copy. That's not serendipity ... it's downright spooky. :) I think my reading and re-reading of the novels are going to be enhanced by knowing more about Anthony - he seems to have put so much of himself into his books, it will be almost like a treasure hunt to find the connections.

JoAnn said...

Think I'd do better with print over kindle in this case, so ordered a paperback copy through amazon. The gift card from Christmas was burning a hole in my pocket!

Agree about bios enhancing the novels. I loved learning about Richard Yates as I read his novels... such a tragic life. No wonder his books are so depressing.

... Back to letters for word verification now. I quite enjoyed the food photos ;-)

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