You can’t see how hard the rain is falling in this snapshot, but trust me: I need a rainsuit.
TROLLOPE AS COMFORT READ. After my cat Lulu, a feline gymnast who performed flawlessly on the “uneven bars” of our dining room chairs (Gold Medal!), died of cancer a few years back, autumn began to depress me. And so I read Trollope. A LOT of Trollope! He is my comfort read for all seasons.
What I love about Trollope is he’s so unseasonal: in Can You Forgive Her?, the first of his Palliser series (known as his political novels), there are workmanlike descriptions of gardens, walks, and picnics, but you don’t read him for lyricism. His strength lies in characterization, a deep understanding of psychology, and a brilliant analysis of politics, frighteningly like the politics of now.
On this rereading, I was absorbed by the parallel love quandaries of the two heroines, Alice Vavasour and Lady Glencora. Both are unwise in love: Alice breaks off her engagement to charming John Grey, mainly because she fears the boredom of country life, and because she is passionate about politics, and he doesn’t care. Her distant cousin, the wealthy Lady Glencora, was coerced to give up the scatterbrained but gorgeous man she loved, Burgo Fitzgerald, to marry Plantaganet Palliser, the dull heir presumptive to the Duke of Omnium and a successful, albeit colorless, member of Parliament.
Poor Alice! If politics are her life, why should she marry John Grey and leave London?
John Grey had, so to speak, no politics. He had decided views as to the treatment which the Roman Senate received from Augustus, and had even discussed with Alice the conduct of the Girondists at the time of Robespierre’s triumph; but for Manchester and its cares he had no apparent solicitude, and had declared to Alice that he would not accept a seat in the British House of Commons if it were offered to him free of expense. What political enthusiasm could she indulge with such a companion down in Cambridgeshire?
Everyone thinks she has made a mistake. But did she? And can you forgive her? as Trollope keeps asking. But the next move she makes IS a mistake. She decides to support the political ambitions of her cousin and ex-fiance, George Vavasour, who is running for parliament and wants her money. She promises him money for his political campaign and agrees to marry him off, though she puts off the marriage for a year. (Alice is obviously not keen on marriage.) Things begin to go very, very wrong.
Lady Glencora Palliser is by far my favorite character. She is whimsical and outspoken, charming and witty, and modestly refrains from reminding Mr. Paliser how much he benefits from her money. Glencora is always in trouble with Mr. Palliser, going out for walks in the ruins at night with Alice and catching cold, or dancing with Burgo at a party, egged on by her “duennas,” a busybody widow and Mr. Bott, a very rough-hewn politican, who are Mr. Palliser’s spies, though he denies it. Lady Glencora is as bored by Mr. Palliser’s politics as Alice feared she might be by John Grey’s lack of politics.
He was now listened to in the House, as the phrase goes; but he was listened to as a laborious man, who was in earnest in what he did, who got up his facts with accuracy, and who, dull though he be, was worthy of confidence. And he was very dull. He rather prided himself on being dull, and on conquering in spite of his dullness. He never allowed himself a joke in his speeches, nor attempted even the smallest flourish of rhetoric. He was very careful in his language, labouring night and day to learn to express himself with accuracy, with no needless repetition of words…
Poor Glencora! But the women learn to compromise. The women learn to knuckle under, though it doesn’t quite seem that way. Trollope knows marriage is a compromise. In an authorial aside, Trollope says,
People often say that marriage is an important thing, and should be much thought of in advance, and marrying people are cautioned that there are many who marry in haste and repent at leisure. I am not sure, however, that marriage may not be pondered over too much; nor do I feel certain that the leisurely repentance does not as often follow the leisurely marriages as it does the rapid ones
There was a disturbing incident on DANCING WITH THE STARS. Tonight on the premiere, Carrie Ann Inoba, the most eloquent of the judges, was critiquing 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte’s foxtrot when there was a flurry of movement, black shadows crossed the stage, she said, “Back off,” and the very smart host Tom Bergeron cut to commercial. We didn’t see what happened. Afterwards, he thanked the security guards.
So what happened? Everyone was shaken up. According to online sources, two men ran up on stage wearing t-shirts with the name “Lochte” crossed out. One of them fell against Lochte, his pro dance partner, Cheryl Burke, and host Tom Bergen. Security guards removed the attackers from the stage.
This is not what we like to see on our fluffy show. I’m not going to comment on Lochte, except: are we really surprised by celebrities behaving badly? We prefer it not to happen at the Olympics when they’re representing our country, but we see politicians flipping out daily on TV, Millennial bluestockings expressing “disappointment” with comedians’ memoirs in refined little articles online, and now we see protesters bashing Lochte On DWTS. Come on! DWTS is the place celebrities you’ve never heard of try to revive their careers. It is always thrilling when Olympic athletew perform on the show. Lochte’s dancing wasn’t bad; as far as I’m concerned he now has earned his safe space on DWTS. He is already suspended for 10 months from the U.S. national swim team. Isn’t that enough?
Am I too lenient?