The Clothes in Books blog is featured in the Guardian books podcast this week, and is described by the books editor there as 'a delight'. The discussion covers fashion/lit issues, including Bret Easton Ellis, Waugh, Dickens and Mitford.
The blog entries discussed in the podcast include those for Don’t Look Now, David Copperfield, Brideshead Revisited, Romance & Love in a Cold Climate, Cold Comfort Farm, and Rules of Civility.
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
published 1864/5 chapter 27
On this special night the moon would be full, and Lady Glencora had declared that she and Alice would go out amidst the ruins. It was no secret engagement, having been canvassed in public, and having been met with considerable discouragement by some of the party…
"People do not generally walk out at night in December," Mr. Palliser observed.
"That's just the reason why we want to do it," said Lady Glencora. "But we shall wrap ourselves up, and nobody need be afraid. Jeffrey, we shall expect you to stand sentinel at the old gate, and guard us from the ghosts." Jeffrey Palliser, bargaining that he might be allowed a cigar, promised that he would do as he was bidden…
She and Alice were already muffled in cloaks and thick shawls, and Alice now followed her out of the room.
observations: Alice and Glencora are going to exchange confidences during their moonlit walk: the setting is just to add atmosphere, there’s no reason they couldn’t have had their talk in front of a cosy fire in the house.
Can You Forgive Her? tells the story of three women, each choosing between two men. From the clothes point of view, the older widow Aunt Greenow (who is slightly comic relief) is much more satisfactory – there are long descriptions of her in mourning, her military suitor in fake naval uniform, and her tradesman admirer in ‘knickerbockers, with tight, leathern, bright-coloured gaiters round his legs’. A touch of the Malvolios there, in more ways than one. Watch out for future entries.
But the two younger ladies have no words wasted on their clothes. Glencora attends a very grand ball and Trollope describes how the women can only go two to a carriage – for fear of crushing – but not a word about the dresses. Missed opportunity! There is then a heart-rending scene where she dances with the man she really loves, but didn’t marry, and is tempted by him. It’s an odd moment, because Trollope later claims they didn’t love each other that much, and the reader actually wants to argue with him, even though he created them and their situation… Their plight is very sympathetic and real, and their desperate waltzes (too many of them for the tutting observers) are extraordinarily touching and memorable.
When Glencora is possibly going to elope, her admirer’s conniving aunt says ‘Bid her come in a stout travelling-dress…She can wear some lace or something over it, so that the servants won't observe it.’ An image to make the mind boggle.
Meanwhile there’s Alice – she is so judgemental of others, so strict and unyielding, but she is not a woman of her word. An engagement was a serious commitment: she undertakes 3 in a short time - pretty bad form. Of course no-one should marry someone if they don’t want to, but she messes up a lot of other people along the way. She is annoying and convincing: it is she who needs to be forgiven.
Glencora’s husband has the dreadful nickname Planty Pall – he could link up with poor old Panty from Five Children and It.
Glencora herself is somewhat like Linda in The Pursuit of Love – she wishes she could pretend an interest in her husband’s political interests, but really can’t fake it.
The picture – Woman Sitting in the Moonlight by Charles Caryl Coleman – is from the Athenaeum website.