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Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Victorian meal

In order to help himself get over his afflictions, Bob has his father's cook David to prepare a meal, having realized his appetite has been lacking since the disappearance of Matilda.

To tempt his attenuated appetite the unhappy mate made David cook an omelet and bake a seed-cake, the latter so richly compounded that it opened to the knife like a freckled buttercup. With the same object he stuck night-lines into the banks of the mill-pond, and drew up next morning a family of fat eels, some of which were skinned and prepared for his breakfast. They were his favourite fish, but such had been his condition that, until the moment of making this effort, he had quite forgotten their existence at his father’s back-door.

The above scene having taken place in August, the following is a typical Victorian meal in that month for six people according to Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management:

First Course:  Vegetable-Marrow Soup, Stewed Mullet, Fillets of Salmon and Ravigotte Sauce
Entrees:  Curried Lobster, Fricandeau de Veau a la Jardiniere
Second Course:  Roast Saddle of Mutton, Stewed Shoulder of Veal, garnished with Forcemeat Balls, Vegetables
Third Course:  Roast Gouse and Bread Sauce, Vol-au-Vent of Greengages, Fruit Jelly, Rasberry Cream, Custards, Fig Pudding

An omelet belonged to the third course and was called an entremet, or a side dish just before dessert.  The preparation of the omelet was typically the same as that used today, though Mrs. Beeton says that the addition of shrimps or oysters was permissible.  Six eggs was sufficient for serving four people.

Seed-cake was a popular Victorian dessert, known for its pungent taste.  The ingredients included:

1 lb. of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb. of sifted sugar, pounded mace and grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb. of flour, 3/4 oz. of caraway seeds, 1 wineglassful of brandy.

The caraway seeds give the cake its distinctive taste.  Mrs. Beeton says the dish can also be made with currants replacing the caraway seeds.

Eels were seasonable between August and March.  They were typically washed, skinned, and cut up into pieces.  Mrs. Beeton gives the following warning concerning eels:

There is no fish so tenacious of life as this. After it is skinned and cut in pieces, the parts will continue to move for a considerable time, and no fish will live so long out of water.

The painting above is Dinner Time by William Henry Knight (1823-1863).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Splendid Words

John Loveday's regiment receives word that they will march to Exonbury and his summer stay in Overcombe has come to an end.  Anne's reaction to the news is indifferent, as she feels John's motivation in sending Matilda away was his own personal liking for her.  Likewise, Bob is upset at John despite his actions, as he feels he is stil in love with Matilda.  Feeling some regret, Bob reads his marriage license

‘“Timothy Titus Philemon, by permission Bishop of Bristol: To our well-beloved Robert Loveday, of the parish of Overcombe, Bachelor; and Matilda Johnson, of the same parish, Spinster. Greeting.”’ (Chapter 22)

which Bob calls "beautiful language."  Bob continues reading,

“Whereas ye are, as it is alleged, determined to enter into the holy estate of matrimony—”

but cuts the reading short, saying the document is composed of "the splendid words [that] are all wasted upon air."

Hardy then makes a possible allusion the Arthurian Legend through Bob: 

"It seems as if I had been hailed by some venerable hoary prophet, and had turned away, put the helm hard up, and wouldn’t hear."

Hardy uses this illustration to make a point about the futility of words.  When Bob first reads the license, he reads in "feeling tones," adding a musical quality to the words, causing Mrs. Garland (now Mrs. Loveday, having married the miller) to agree with Bob about the beauty of the language.  But as he continues to read, he realizes that, in the end, it is just words.  Miller Loveday suggests that Bob can pay someone to read those words to him so that the license won't be a total waste, but Bob recogizes that words must have meaning behind them to be effective.  Words alone may be beautiful, but meaning adds texture to those words.  Without meaning, words are a lifeless soul.

The reference to the Arthurian legend is interesting because though the book takes place in the past, it is more of a book that includes a historical backdrop than it is a historical novel, much like Vanity Fair.  Nevertheless, Hardy conducted much historical research in order to depict accurately the English calvary, navy, and aspects of the English countryside in the early 19th century.  Nevertheless, his allusion to the Arthurian Legend reminds the reader that the story is fictional after all.

The above painting is Reading the Letter by Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bob Loveday

Bob decides to go search for Matilda again, having search for her before with Anne.  The further he gets from Overcombe Mill, the smaller the desire to continue gets until he decides to toss a coin to help him make a decision on whether to continue searching or to return home.  The coin lands on heads, meaning he should renew his search, but he heads home instead, stating, "I won't be steered by accidents any more."

Bob is a man driven by impulse.  His impulsive nature encourages him to leave the navy to work at his father's mill; his impulsive nature causes him to agree to marry Matilda, though he has only known her two weeks and knows nothing of her history; his impulsive nature leads him to kiss Anne's hand while the two are out searching for Matilda; his impulsive nature causes him to cool in his pursuit of her when she runs away.  As someone who is indecisive and weak, he is too easily influenced by his emotional to be sincere, since those emotions are subject to change.  Also, as a gullible man, he is likely to be tricked in any business transactions he conducts in relation to the mill, so that he would not be a wise choice to succeed his father. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Queen Victoria!!

Queen Victoria was born on this day in 1819.  As namesake of the era of literature this blog highlights, she deserves special mention on this day that is designated Victoria Day in Canada.  Here are a few articles that highlight her significance on this day:

Ottawa important to Victoria

Some Canadians object to Victoria Day

Vancouver parade honors Queen

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Music Has Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast

Bob brings Matilda to his father's house to meet the Garlands, Anne a little hesitant, having developed a liking for Bob since her youth.  Matilda is unfamiliar with rural life and Anne sympathizes with her.  As the family sits down to high tea, John arrives to meet his future sister-in-law.  The two recognize each other and Matilda immediately retires to her room, though Bob attributes it to fatigue.  Though the details are vague, Matilda has had some involvement with the men in John's regiment.  Matilda sneaks away in the middle of the night, helped by John, who can't allow her to marry his brother with her sordid past.  Bob is distraught when he finds his fiancee has left him and wonders if his family was too common for her genteel tastes.  Bob decides he needs some time to contemplate matters:

Miller Loveday and David, feeling themselves to be rather a desecration in the presence of Bob’s sacred emotions, managed to edge off by degrees, the former burying himself in the most floury recesses of the mill, his invariable resource when perturbed, the rumbling having a soothing effect upon the nerves of those properly trained to its music. (Chapter 19)

Bob buries himself in the flour of the mill in order to collect himself.  He has sustained quite a blow and the soothing nature of the mill is his refuge.  The mill is soothing to him because of the familiar rumblings.  What would be noise to others is music to Bob.  The familiarity of the place helps to calm his nerves.  This may be another indication that Matilda is the wrong woman for him because she did seem a good fit for rural life and this is where Bob is at peace.

The above painting is Gentle Music of a Bygone Day (1890) by John M. Strudwick.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Church Music

Bob Loveday returns home from the navy to announce he's engaged to be married to one Matilda Johnson.  She is to follow him to Overcombe after going to Melchester to collect her possessions from her aunt's.  Bob has only known his wife a few weeks and only knows she is a "of genteel breeding" and thinks her mother is dead.  The miller soon realizes Bob chose her mostly for her looks.  He is to meet her the following Sunday at King's Arms Inn at Casterbridge, where she is due to arrive by Royal Mail.  When he goes to meet her, she is not on the mail coach, so he waits for a later, less expensive coach. 

While waiting, Bob passes a church and listens to the service:

The office was not far from All Saints’ Church, and the church-windows being open, he could hear the afternoon service from where he lingered as distinctly as if he had been one of the congregation. Thus he was mentally conducted through the Psalms, through the first and second lessons, through the burst of fiddles and clarionets which announced the evening-hymn, and well into the sermon, before any signs of the waggon could be seen upon the London road.
The afternoon sermons at this church being of a dry and metaphysical nature at that date, it was by a special providence that the waggon-office was placed near the ancient fabric, so that whenever the Sunday waggon was late, which it always was in hot weather, in cold weather, in wet weather, and in weather of almost every other sort, the rattle, dismounting, and swearing outside completely drowned the parson’s voice within, and sustained the flagging interest of the congregation at precisely the right moment. No sooner did the charity children begin to writhe on their benches, and adult snores grow audible, than the waggon arrived. (Chapter 16)

The above passage exhibits Hardy's love of church music.  He came from a family that surrounded itself with music.  His father played the violin and his mother sang while other danced.  Hardy himself played the concertina at age 4 and later played the violin as well.  His familiarity with church music came from his parent's active participation in the local church, leading to Hardy's early desire to be a parson.1  Nevertheless,though Hardy's love of church music remained with him the rest of his life, he did not ramain interested in organized religion, as the passage above illustrates.  Bob was thoroughly familiar with the order of service and had the liturgy memorized.  Nevertheless, when the time for the sermon came, the service was drowned out by the noise of the arrival of the wagon bearing Matilda.

1Millgate, Thomas Hardy (2004)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In the midst of history

Anne now felt herself close to and looking into the stream of recorded history, within whose banks the littlest things are great, and outside which she and the general bulk of the human race were content to live on as an unreckoned, unheeded superfluity. (Chapter 13)

The scene takes place in Budmouth and all the spectators are observing King George III on the Esplanade.  Among the crowd are the Garlands and the miller and his son John.  Only Mrs. Garland expresses appreciation at being able to see the monarch:  "Thank God, I have seen my King!"  Everyone else was somewhat disappointed, having "expected a more pompous procession than the bucolic tastes of the King cared to indulge in; one old man said grimly that that sight of dusty old leather coaches was not worth waiting for."

Hardly anyone is impressed by the appearance of the King.  In the midst of a historical moment, most of the characters igorne the immensity of the moment.  Unlike Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair who adopted a genteel persona and seemed to belong in the moment at Waterloo, these characters seem insignificant compared to the events going on around them, though they fail to appreciate the significance of the history going on around them.  Accordingly, they are content to live in unanimity, John likely more concerned about his failed overtures to Anne than the actions of the monarch.  After everyone heads home, the focus returns to the lives of the characters.  The historicity of the moment is only significant as far as it concerns one personally.

The above painting is Luncheon on the Grass (1862-3) by Edouard Manet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Festus character portrait

Hardy gives us a character portrait of Festus in chapter 8.  Festus is described as 23 years old and having a warm tone in skin and hair.  His personality is split between boastful and cantankerous though able to be quite shrewd when necessary.  In terms of his relationships with the opposite sex, he was regularly liked and abused by girls who took ample opportunity to ridicule him behind his back.  As a youth, he played the role of bully to boys smaller than him, though he later feared the wrath of those boys' mothers.  Described as "early in love," he had fallen in love 13 separate times already, though his love was "earnest, cross-tempered, and even savage." 

Having been given this description, the reader credits Anne for her good judgment in trying to avoid Festus' company, despite her mother's opinion that Festus would make a better husband than John.  Her mother's opinion is largely based on the issue of class and Festus being his uncle's heir to what is supposed to be a significant sum.  As the widow of a "genteel professional man," she does not want her daughter to marry into the lowly Lovedays.  Anne, however, is not as concerned about the class issue and prefers the company of John, who is more honorable in character and less aggressive in love.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Festus reappears

Anne travels to the ramshackle farm of Benjamin Derriman to retrieve the newspaper and spends time reading it to him, during which time she is interrupted by the appearance of a man in a soldier's uniform.  Mr. Derriman adopts a "phosphoric pallor" upon realizing the man to be his nephew Festus while Anne tries to continue reading until Festus once again interrupts the proceeding.  His uncle appears pained and fearful of Festus, though the former tries to conceal his true feelings by welcoming his nephew.  Festus greets Anne and tries to strike up a conversation once again with her, but she indirectly asks him to leave so that she may continue reading, which he does.

Despite Festus' desire to talk to Anne, the latter sees him as an interruption to her fulfillment of duties to Mr. Derriman.  Also, despite his Herculean frame, Festus shows concern about having to engage in battle and is particularly disturbed when his uncle points out that he may be out front during a battle as part of the yeoman cavalry.  Though Anne feels uncomfortable with Festus around, the reader gets the first clue that Festus has a romantic interest in Anne; when he leaves his uncle to follow her, he hums "Brighton Camp," a song about a man that goes to war and misses "the girl I left behind."  So far, Anne has not shown she feels the same about him.  It is through music that we find out Festus' feelings for Anne, though he has yet to verbalize those feelings.

The above painting is Interrupted (1880) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Music in the Air

The title character, John Loveday, son of Miller Loveday, arrives home and his father throws a party for him and his friends, a party to which the Garlands are invited.  The Garlands, particularly Anne, refuse to attend because of the presence of members of the lower class, though Miller Loveday compels them to come.  The men in attendance, mostly soldier friends of the trumpet-major, are captivated by Anne's beauty and compete for her attentions, though they are ultimately bestowed on John Loveday.  One person who is talked about though not present in the flesh is Robert Loveday, the brother of John who is in the navy.  At one point, a certain Sergeant Tanner begins to sing the following song:

When law’-yers strive’ to heal’ a breach’,
And par-sons prac’-tise what’ they preach’;
Then lit’-tle Bo-ney he’ll pounce down’,
And march’ his men’ on Lon’-don town’!

Chorus.—Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lo’-rum,
Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lay.

When jus’-ti-ces’ hold e’qual scales’,
And rogues’ are on’-ly found’ in jails’;
Then lit’tle Bo’-ney he’ll pounce down’,
And march’ his men’ on Lon’-don town’!

Chorus.—Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lo’-rum,
Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lay.

When rich’ men find’ their wealth’ a curse’,
And fill’ there-with’ the poor’ man’s purse’;
Then lit’-tle Bo’-ney he’ll pounce down’,
And march’ his men’ on Lon’-don town’!

Chorus.—Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lo’-rum,
Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lay.

Music plays an important role through the novel.  At this point, the music gets the attention of all the company and everyone enjoys his satirical song, though it is interrupted by another who was not invited to the party and who hears from outside the house and sings a verse the sergeant purposely left out out of respect for the ladies present:

When hus’-bands with’ their wives’ agree’.
And maids’ won’t wed’ from mod’-es-ty’,
Then lit’-tle Bo’-ney he’ll pounce down’,
And march’ his men’ on Lon’-don town’!

Chorus.—Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lo’-rum,
Rol’-li-cum ro’-rum, tol’-lol-lay.

The newcomer, Festus Derriman, has caused an interruption and created a dissonant sound among the party-goers.  Everything is brought to a halt and focused on him.  The miller points out Festus does not look natural in soldier gear, despite his resemblance to the Farnese Hercules.  He even disturbs Anne, who finally asks him to be quiet.  He is unwelcome noise and the liveliness of the party is only restored after agrees to her request. 

The above painting is The Music Lesson (1877) by Frederic Lord Leighton.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Overcombe Mill

The novel begins within the confines of Overcombe Mill with our heroine Anne Garland, who occupies a small, narrow wing of the mill with her mother.  Miller Loveday occupies the main house and allowed the Garlands to inhabit the other wing after the death of Mr. Garland.  Hardy highlights the difference between the two wings:

Overcombe Mill presented at one end the appearance of a hard-worked house slipping into the river, and at the other of an idle, genteel place, half-cloaked with creepers at this time of the year, and having no visible connexion with flour.

On the Loveday side, Hardy presents a dilapidated image of the edifice, while the Garland side is described as "genteel."  The issue of class will continue to come up as the narrative develops.  The house is indicative of the decaying of the Loveday name over the years and the pugnacious hold the Garland maintain on their gentility, despite their dwelling.

The above painting is The Mill House by Frederick Waters Watts (1800-62).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plagiarism Controversy

A Charles Jacobs of Indianapolis, having read Hardy's novel The Trumpet-Major shortly after publication, sent a letter to the New York periodical The Critic accusing Hardy of plagiarizing a section of chapter 23 from an American book Georgia Scenes by A.B. Longstreet, a former Emory University President who died in 1870.  The accusation was reprinted in The Academy, a London periodical, a month later in February 1882.  Two other similar charges caused Hardy to assert he was "doomed to squabbles this year." though he did not issue a formal condemnation of the charge.  The resmblance of the two passages is undeniable, with exact phrases being used, such as "'Tention the whole" and "you are all a crooking in."

In the 1895 edition of The Trumpet-Major Hardy included the following in his preface:

The drilling scene of the local militia received some additions from an account given in so grave a work as Gifford’s ‘History of the Wars of the French Revolution’ (London, 1817). But on reference to the History I find I was mistaken in supposing the account to be advanced as authentic, or to refer to rural England. However, it does in a large degree accord with the local traditions of such scenes that I have heard recounted, times without number, and the system of drill was tested by reference to the Army Regulations of 1801, and other military handbooks.

However, The Critic was not satisfied with this explanation and Hardy was forced to respond to that periodical directly:

My publishers have just sent me a cutting from The Critic of May 9, which contains a paragraph on a resemblance between the drilling scene in The Trumopet-Major and a scene in an American book published in 1840.  I know nothing of the latter work....Some of the details of this particular militia drill...were suggested by a similar description in Gifford's History of the War with Napoleon, published in London in 1817--a description which I understood to refer to the English peasantry.  This book and the Army Regulations...were the only printed matter I used.

The Critic accepted Hardy's letter and made the assumption that both works used the same reference.  However, further literary investigation has revealed that Gifford and Longstreet both copied accounts in works of their own from an American work by Oliver Prince, so that Longstreet and Hardy ultimately did not use the same source.

"A Connecticut Yankee in King Alfred's Country" by Carl J. Weber in Colophon 1.4 (Spring 1936), 525-535.
Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisted (2004) by Michael Millgate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Setting of The Trumpet-Major

The novel take place in England around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  The book begins on a hot summer day in the English countryside of Overcombe, which is on the Wessex coast.  The main characters are the widowed Mrs. Martha Garland and her daughter Anne.  They live in the apartments of a miller in Overcombe Mill.  The house was once a manor-house, though the current inhabitants, including the miller, were certainly not members of the wealthier class.

The novel, like Vanity Fair, deals with Napoleonic England, though taking place a decade earlier.  Whereas Waterloo was a land battle in Belgium, Trafalgar is a naval battle off the coast of Spain.  Nevertheless, much of the action happens in the rural setting.  Hardy uses the background of war to show the effect of the conflict on the lower classes.

The above painting is Battle of Trafalgar (1823-24) by J.M.W Turner.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in a village of seven or eight cottages near Dorchester, located in the southern English countryside, to a father that was a mason with a strong interest in church music and a mother who loved the classics, particularly Dante's Commedia.  The oldest of four children, Hardy inherited his father love of music and at age 16 became an apprentice to an architect.  While engaging in architecture, he began to write poetry, though he was more successful as a novelist.  Encouraged by George Meredith to be less of a social critic after the publication of The Poor Man and the Lady, Hardy had success with rural works like Desperate Remedies, before the fame that came with Far From the Madding Crowd, which allowed him to focus on literature exclusively.

Hardy went on to produce highly successful novels such as The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D'urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure.  Following harsh reviews of the latter two novels, Hardy gave up writing novels to focus entirely on poetry.  He produced a number of poetry collections, though his poetry is not as popular as his novels.

In 1880, Hardy published The Trumpet-Major, a novel that describes Anne Garland and her three suitors and takes place in Hardy's Wessex county.  Against the background of war, Hardy describes early 19th century rural life in Napoleonic England.

Info on Thomas Hardy obtained from Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisted (2004) by Michael Millgate.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Maid of Artois-Finale

According to Heyward John St. Leger in his Reminiscences of Balfe Malibran was not satisfied with Balfe's original finale, so she had him rewrite it and gave such a rousing performance of that aria opening night that she received a double encore.  The song is "The Rapture Swelling Through My Breast."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Michael Balfe-The Maid of Artois

Michael Balfe (1808-1870) was a Victorian Irish composer who studied under Rossini in Italy, where he met the soprano Maria Malibran.  She would later play the lead role of Isoline in his 1836 opera The Maid of Artois, which describes two lovers that nearly die trying to be together.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To the Queen

Tennyson wrote this epilogue at the urging of his wife.  In it he address many social and political issues of the day.  Recalling the near death experience of the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) with typhoid, Tennyson opens by describing how the people of England celebrated the future king when he recovered.  These are the voices the Queen should remember, not those calling for an end to empire.  Referencing the "roar of Hougoumont," Tennyson alludes to the battle of Waterloo, which enhanced Great Britain as the most powerful nation in the world.  Those truly loyal to the throne will support British imperialism: 

                      The loyal to their crown
Are loyal to their own far sons, who love
Our ocean-empire with her boundless homes
For ever-broadening England, and her throne
In our vast Orient, and one isle, one isle,
That knows not her own greatness: if she knows
And dreads it we are fallen.

Tennyson asks the Queen to accept his "old imperfect tale," which deals with "Sense at war with Soul."  He claims his tale is different from those written before his time in that his characterizes

Ideal manhood closed in real man,
Rather than that gray king, whose name, a ghost,
Streams like a cloud, man-shaped, from mountain peak,
And cleaves and cromlech still; or him 40
Of Geoffrey's book, or him of Malleor's one
Touch'd by the adulterous finger of a time
That hover'd between war and wantonness,
And crownings and dethronements.

Tennyson blesses the Queen and expresses hope that despite religious disputes, greed, laziness, and the corruption of art by the French, Britain will be saved by its "crowning common sense."


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