Saturday, July 23, 2011

Marriage in He Knew He Was Right & The Year of H. G. Wells

When Trollope's characters marry, they want the whole package:  love, sex, and money.  But there is confusion in Trollope's He Knew He Was Right; some of the female characters want to sacrifice themselves for their lovers.  Before or during their engagements, Dorothy Stanhope and Caroline Spalding decide to abnegate their claims to marriage.  Dorothy doesn't believe she should marry Brooke Burgess because her aunt threatens to cut him out of her wil.  Caroline Spalding, an American, fears rumors that say her nationality will ruin Mr. Glascock's social standing. 

As you can imagine, love prevails for many of Trollope's couples.

When women won't make sacrifices, however, look at what happens.  Emily and her husband, Louis Trevelyan, are in love.  They have money, a baby, and are very happy.  But they separate after Louis becomes pathologically jealous of Colonel Osborne, Emily's father's best friend, a flirtatious man in his fifties who visits too often and who has allegedly brought discord to other married couples.  Louis says Emily has disgraced him, and Emily refuses to apologize for innocent behavior. 

So Louis banishes Emily, her sister Nora, who lives with them, and their child to a house in a village far from London; he will take them back only if Emily admits her fault.

Nora is distressed by the break-up of her sister's marriage.  Nora is in love with Hugh Stanhope, an impoverished political journalist for a penny paper, but she desperately wants money.  She hopes to marry Mr. Glascock, Lord Peterborough's heir, a man with whom she has been thrown together at parties, but she cannot love him.  Morally, she decides she cannot marry a man she does not love, though she very much regrets this. 

There is plenty of comedy.  Arabella and Camilla French, two spinsters who are almost mythic monsters, set their caps for the same man, Mr. Gibson, a clergyman.  What happens I will not say, but the sisters are horrifying, and at the same time very funny. In a way I feel sorry for them:  they are portrayed as foolish women who throw themselves at men, but it is their only chance of escaping life with Mother.  The other women are not mocked, of course, because they are lovely and men want them.

100 pages to go.

This is THE YEAR OF H. G. WELLS.  Earlier this year, I binged on Kipps and Tono-Bungay, two of Wells's realistic novels about the rise and fall and rise of lower-middle-class heroes.
I also read David Lodge's A Man of Parts, an excellent historical novel about Wells. I'd love to see this nominated for a Booker.

I just picked up Spanish writer Felix J. Palma's The Map of Time, a novel set in Victorian London in which H. G. Wells is a character.  I bought it at Borders--probably the last time I will visit a Borders since all the stores are going out of business.

Since The Map of Time is partly about time travel, will I have to reread The Time Machine?

No comments: