Skip to content

Anthony Trollope’s ‘English tale, on English life, with clerical flavour’.

The Intensive and Extensive Worlds of Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage

By Lucy Sheehan.

IN AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Trollope describes the fascination with place and space that characterizes Framley Parsonage:

“Of Framley Parsonage I need only further say, that as I wrote it I became more closely acquainted than ever with the new shire which I had added to the English counties. I had it all in my mind,—its roads and railroads, its towns and parishes, its members of Parliament, and the different hunts which road over it. I knew all the great lords and their castles, the squires and their parks, the rectors and their churches….Throughout these stories there has been no name given to a fictitious site which does not represent to me a spot of which I know all the accessories, as though I had lived and wandered there.”1

The world that Trollope describes seems, at first, familiar in its finitude, each travelable road or railway inscribed in memory and readily located within the map of Barchester County. At the same time, however, Trollope’s remarks suggest not only enclosure but also infinite expanse, as he draws into the Barsetshire series’ purview an ever-increasing array of pathways and personalities, leading a reader like Elizabeth Gaskell to muse “I don’t see any reason why it should ever come to an end.”2 We might term these two forms of novelistic space intensive and extensive, the former deepening an ever-smaller circle of space, the latter drawing an ever-widening number of locales within reach of the plot. Taken together, they seem to pose two very different models for how space works in the realist novel and within Trollope’s fiction in particular. As we will see, however, Trollope’s novel favors neither circumscribed intension nor infinite extension so much as the dialectical relation between the two.

The negotiation between intensive and extensive spatialities that we find in Trollope’s novels opens up questions not only about the local and the foreign, but also, and more importantly, about the multiple ways in which characters inhabit the world in which they live, and the effect that these modes of inhabitation have on their ethical life. While temporal features like historicity, metalepsis, and duration have long preoccupied narrative theorists, theoretical accounts of the spatiality of the novel are relatively rare. In recent years, however, studies of Victorian cosmopolitanism have offered new paradigms for thinking about the “spatial ethics” of the nineteenth-century novel. Amanda Anderson’s recent work on the nineteenth-century cosmopolitan ethos, for example, suggests that Victorian ethics oriented itself around spatial categories of distance and proximity as much as temporal ethical coordinates, such as memory (oriented towards the past) and progress (oriented towards the future).3 For Anderson, “cosmopolitanism” refers not only to the literal, spatial “worldliness” of deracinated figures who travel through urban metropolises and foreign places, but also to the more abstract attitudes of self and social critique these figures develop through a deliberate cultivation of objective distance. The tension between local and the cosmopolitan spaces is transformed, in other words, into competing ethical models.

In her essay “Trollope’s Modernity,” Anderson locates the emergence of this cosmopolitan ethos within Trollope’s work, which often explicitly dramatizes the rift between what she describes as “embedded” or situated and “impersonal” or distanced ethical perspectives. Focusing on sincerity as the point at which these two competing ethical perspectives collide, Anderson writes that:

[Honesty] hovers uneasily between traditional individual virtue (it quintessentially defines the “gentleman”) and a kind of impersonal truth-telling or critique that is aligned both with the evaluative diagnoses of the narrative and with specific challenges by characters within the story to the doxa that defines the embedded communities that Trollope seems often to affirm.4

THUS VALUES ROOTED IN  the individual stand in contrast to “impersonal critique” (which Anderson later characterizes as a transpersonal value—one which can travel across distant spaces and between distinct individuals), though, perplexingly for Victorian reader and character alike, both qualify as acceptable forms of “truth.” In The Powers of Distance, Anderson begins to link this ethical difference to the literal transversal of space that characterizes cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitan or deracinated figures pursue an “ideal of critical distance,” not as a form of detachment or “pure” objectivity, but rather as “a dialectic between detachment and engagement, between a cultivated distance and a newly informed partiality” that was above all not an institutional system but, on the contrary, a practice of the self, a form of self-cultivation.5 Thus the model of contrasting embedded and transpersonal values, the psychological versus the moral, is complicated by the overarching ambition of the Victorian critical project to achieve a personal ethos of detachment—to house detachment in the self, and thereby unsettle the distinction between embodied and detached perspectives.6

Trollope’s novels, and Framley Parsonage in particular, provide fertile ground on which to speculate about the complicated relation between situatedness and detachment that characterizes the “spatial ethics” of the Victorian novel. This is the case not least because of Trollope’s virtuosic powers of mapping, which are central not only to the novels’ plots, but also to the moral and ethical distinctions contained therein.7 This study will offer a framework for thinking about the interaction between intensive and extensive spatialities and their relation to the ethical questions at the heart of Framley Parsonage. Juxtaposing Gaston Bachelard’s intensive “poetics of space” to Franco Moretti and Amanda Anderson’s contrasting extensive spatial ethics, I examine the ways in which Trollope translates various modes of space into significant characterological differences. Trollope’s characters inhabit the world in varying ways, both psychologically and in the extent to which they are free to move through, across, and inside of spaces. Trollope, therefore, presents a world in which the intensive and the extensive cohabitate, giving that world a multi-dimensionality that troubles any reading that would too rapidly dismiss his work as totalizing in its perception of local, national and foreign spaces.8

The first section of this essay undertakes a close study of Lucy Robarts, who forms a locus for the interplay between spatial and psychological intension in the novel—a fact of which she is only too aware. While Lucy at first seems to personify the deeply rooted inhabitation of space and of the body that characterize an “intensive” ethics, she in fact seeks to mitigate this rootedness through a practice of ironic self-critique more typically associated with the deracinated cosmopolitan, suggesting that for Trollope, the kind of “rootedness” that Lucy embodies is both vital and troublingly confining. In the second section, then, I turn towards the various forms of extension that Trollope presents in the novel, from narratorial descriptions of interrelated institutional and cartographic networks in England to the local and international travels of individual characters. More specifically, I argue that Trollope grounds competing modes of expansiveness in two characters, Mark Robarts and Lord Lufton, who demonstrate very different capacities to move through and extend across the novel’s various settings. While Mark Robarts exemplifies the “rootless,” and therefore wavering morality against which English identity and local rootedness is meant to provide ballast, Lord Lufton presents an alternative mode of ethical self-extension. As an Englishman who can travel extensively without losing his moral compass, Lufton presents a model for extension that results not in detachment, but rather in an attachment strengthened by the values of distance and critique that his international travels help cultivate. Thus while Lucy and Lufton inhabit very different spatialities, they represent not so much contrasting as complimentary ethical perspectives, which, taken together, suggest that what Trollope’s novels demand is neither a disinterest in nor an unreflective allegiance to local spaces and “embedded” values, but rather the more challenging cultivation of a “critical attachment” that can only come about through a skeptical progress of social and self-critique.

I. Lucy Robarts’ Intensive Inhabitation

GASTON BACHELARD’S THEORIZATION of space epitomizes the relationship between place, body, and psyche that characterizes characterological and spatial intension. In The Poetics of Space, Bachelard claims that the attachment we hold to spaces “is native in some way to the primary function of inhabiting.”9 He continues: “For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty…all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home.”10 “Space,” in its poetic form, is unalterable, and for Bachelard, “home” precedes “world” in man’s conception of himself: “Without it, man would be a dispersed being. It maintains him through the storm of the heavens and through those of life. It is body and soul. It is the human being’s first world.”11 House and body are isomorphic; man dwells in the world just as he dwells in his body, both of which are mediated by the intimacy of “home.” For Bachelard, then, “home” is not merely a spatial category but a characterological one. The house, like the psychological character Bachelard imagines inhabiting that house, has depth and it has a center; it inhabits a space but it is also inhabited by the individual’s soul. For Bachelard, then, a poetics of space delineates not only an attachment to intimately familiar locales but also a hyper-awareness of the soul’s inhabitation of a physical body.

As the character in Framley Parsonage who best exemplifies the stubborn embeddedness both in the body and in specific spaces that Bachelard describes, Lucy Robarts is also the character who experiences most fully the vexing problem of embodied desire. Lucy’s desire is not only a source of personal ire, but also the crux of an ethical dilemma, as she deliberates whether she can accept Lord Lufton’s marriage proposal despite her lower social status and his mother’s disapproval. As in much of Trollope’s fiction, the ethical crisis at the center of Lucy’s narrative arises when a shift in space or place disturbs the usual order of things. Lucy’s ethical dilemma in fact parallels her brother Mark’s ethical crisis, which begins when he agrees to sign a bill for the dissipated Parliament member Sowerby, incurring debts he is unable to pay and which threaten to expose his family to shame and impoverishment. Both Mark and Lucy’s ethical situations arise as the result of a change in location: the novel opens with Mark’s trip to Chaldicotes (a move which is met with the disapprobation of the inhabitants of Framley Court), while Lucy moves to Framley Parsonage from her father’s house in Exeter. There, Lucy is compelled to spend time at the Lufton home, where she meets and immediately falls for Lord Lufton, much to her surprise and discomfort. While Mark moves indecisively back and forth between the spaces of Framley and Chaldicotes, however, Lucy’s movements are unidirectional, sending her ever further into the “interior” of Framley, concluding with her instantiation at Framley Court, the innermost center of the novel’s social world.

The differences in Lucy and Mark’s movements reflect, moreover, significant character differences. In the most schematic sense, Mark is a striver while Lucy resists the chance to rise in the world out of fear that she will be judged as being “out of place” should she accept Lufton’s offer. As the novel’s representative of wavering moral judgment, Mark is especially prone to outside influence, and therefore essentially unrooted: “He had large capabilities for good—and aptitudes also for evil, quite enough. Quite enough to make it needful that he should repel temptation as temptation only can be repelled…. Self-conceit was not, perhaps, his greatest danger. Had he possessed more of it, he might have been a less agreeable man, but his course before him might on that account have been the safer.”12 Mark’s moral compass is so directionless that even the negative values of conceit, in other words, would have provided necessary ballast against the effects of proximate temptation. Lucy, by contrast, embodies virtue—though her firmly embedded moral sense comes across at times as stubbornness and perhaps even the “self-conceit” Mark lacks. Indeed, when Trollope first introduces Lucy, he stresses the inner brilliance firmly situated within her body:

Lucy had no neck at all worth speaking of,—no neck, I mean, that ever produced eloquence; she was brown, too … But then what eyes she had! Mrs. Pole was right there. They flashed upon you—not always softly; indeed not often softly, if you were a stranger to her; but whether softly or savagely, with a brilliancy that dazzled you as you looked at them. (139)

Lucy, whose very name signifies luminosity, is characterized above all by an intense “inner light” that shines outward from within. Her preternatural intelligence and moral sense firmly house themselves in her body—a body “inhabited” in this way by qualities which transform her dullness into beauty.

Fig. 1. ‘Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts’. (Click to enlarge.)

HOWEVER, TROLLOPE CONTINUALLY  juxtaposes the strength of Lucy’s embedded virtue to her diminutive social and bodily stature—a smallness that nonetheless suits her. When Lufton finally demands that Lady Lufton accept Lucy as his wife, her only objection is that “She is—insignificant” (506). As “the little girl from the Parsonage” (507), Lucy’s insignificance at first seems to be a matter of social propriety—Lucy simply falls too far down the social scale to marry Lufton. However, the repeated adjective “insignificant” also suggests a more literal usage: significantly small. Lucy is abnormally small amongst the Robarts women (139) and though Trollope has made us privy to her innate brilliance, that brilliance is also easily lost amidst engulfing scenery or dress. When she arrives at the Parsonage dressed in mourning, for example, her black clothes “seemed to have swallowed her up in their blackness, and to have made her almost an emblem of death” (142). In the illustrations that Millais provided for Framley Parsonage in the 1860-1 serialization in Cornhill Magazine, Lucy is pictured twice. In the first illustration (Figure 1), “Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts,” Millais highlights Lucy’s clothes, which seem to shroud her to the point of near-invisibility. In addition to a black bonnet that covers most of her face, Millais has added a dark shadow across her eyes under the brim, a large fur muff and black gloves, so that all but a sliver of her body shrinks into darkness. Comparing the image of her suffering to Fanny’s in a later illustration (Figure 2), it is clear that Lucy is not only relatively small in stature, but that her form is swallowed up by her dress while Fanny’s face and form stand out sharply against her more restrained attire.

Fig. 2. Fanny and Mark Robarts. (Click to enlarge.)

Trollope further parallels Lucy’s perceived “smallness” to her limited movements in space. While other characters move through the novel’s local and distant spaces with ease, Lucy feels acutely constricted not just to Barsetshire, but indeed to the relatively small confines of the Robarts’ home. When Lady Lufton invites Lucy over to dinner for the first time, a short dialogue between Lady Lufton, Fanny and Lucy commences:

‘Fanny here will tell you that stepping over to Framley Court is no more going out, than when you go from one room to another in the parsonage.’

Fanny laughed and said that that stepping over to Framley Court certainly was done so often that perhaps they did not think so much about it as they ought to do. …

It was plain, however, that [Lucy] could not bring herself even to go as far as Framley Court for her dinner just at present. ‘It was very kind of Lady Lufton,’ she said to Fanny; ‘but it was so very soon-and-and-and if they would only go without her, she would be so happy.’ (145-6)

Though Fanny and Lady Lufton make light of the Parsonage’s unbounded proximity to the Court, Lucy’s introduction to the story serves to suggest that the invisible spatial and social boundaries that Fanny and Lady Lufton daily transgress are capable of resurrecting themselves at any moment. Lucy, who has a natural sense not of the capaciousness of her world but of its infinite ability to constrict, senses this instinctively. Her instincts are confirmed, moreover, when she first learns that her conversations with Lord Lufton have raised suspicions about her motives:

She knew that her pleasant evenings at Framley Court were now over, and that she could not again talk to him in an unrestrained tone and without embarrassment. She had felt the air of the whole place to be very cold before her intimacy with him, and now it must be cold again. Two homes had been open to her, Framley Court and the parsonage; and now, as far as comfort was concerned, she must confine herself to the latter. (179)

Fig. 3. ‘Was it not a Lie?’ (Click to enlarge.)

Lucy’s “embedded” moral sense is thus inflected in her corporeal sensitivity, which renders her acutely attuned to the subtle “coldness” that threatens to pervade the warm familiarity between Framley Parsonage and Framley Court, despite Fanny and Lady Lufton’s assurances to the contrary. Indeed, Lucy persistently registers affective experiences as overwhelmingly physical and material. In the illustration “Was it not a Lie?” (Figure 3), Millais represents the inescapable materiality that the world takes on for Lucy in her emotional distress, as her dress quite literally overwhelms and subsumes her. In this way, Lucy’s sensitivity is posed not in contrast to but rather in alignment with her “insignificance.” Both serve to suggest that she is more firmly embodied than the characters around her, which in turn proves to be the sign of a finely attuned moral instinct as much as of a stubborn intractability. Indeed, when Lady Lufton finally decides that the girl is fit to marry her son, she does not retract her judgment of Lucy’s “insignificance” or of her acutely bounded existence, but rather offers a re-valuation of it: “There was a spirit within that body, insignificant though the body might be, Lady Lufton was prepared to admit” (508).

Indeed, despite her dramatic circumscription both in space and in her own body, Lucy Robarts is also the only character in the novel gifted with a self-reflexive irony that undercuts her timid stature. Trollope often contrasts her fervent desire for Lufton to the cool detachment she displays in her interactions, so that after witnessing an exchange between Lucy and Lufton “that which astonished Mrs. Robarts the most in all this was the perfectly collected manner in which Lucy spoke and conducted herself” (176). More importantly, when, a few pages later, Lucy finally admits to her desire for Lufton, she couches her admission in a physiological vocabulary that self-mockingly highlights the acute physicality of that desire: “‘Poison’ should be the word with any one so fatal as Lord Lufton; and he ought to be made up of some particular colour, for fear he should be swallowed by mistake” (178). Throughout the novel, Lucy’s speeches ironize the excessive embodiment of the female romantic heroine, whose “sensitivity” betrays not only psychological and corporeal fragility but also, as David Kurnick has suggested and as Lucy conflictedly acknowledges, a “bodily knowledge” accessible to the desiring subject alone.13 In one such scene, Lucy performs the role of the romantic heroine, telling Fanny, “And then I’ll starve myself, and flog myself, and in that way I’ll get back my own mind and my own soul.” She continues:

Well, my own heart, if you like it better; but I hate to hear myself talking about hearts. I don’t care of my heart. I’d let it go—with this young popinjay lord or any one else, so that I could read, and talk, and walk, and sleep, and eat, without always feeling that I was wrong here – here – here,” and she pressed her hand vehemently against her side. “What is it that I feel, Fanny? Why am I so weak in body that I cannot take exercise?…Why should every mouthful that I eat stick in my throat? Oh, Fanny, is it his legs, think you, or is it his title? (319).

Lucy, who “acted the irony so well with which she strove to throw ridicule on herself” (319) uses that irony to affirm her attachment to Lord Lufton, while at the same time attempting to distance herself from the bodily affect that this longing necessarily raises in its defense. While she ironically exaggerates the crippling effects of her physical desire, as she points to specific locations along her body (gestured to with the repeated “here—here—here”), her physiological map-making highlights the fact that her desire is strongly situated within her body and thus intractable. Though her irony allows her, however fleetingly, to escape the constraints of her limited social and physical confines, then, it finally serves to underscore the incontrovertibility of the very condition she critiques.14 Trollope, who writes in the Autobiography, “I doubt whether such a character could be made more lifelike than Lucy Robarts,” gives Lucy a fuller physiological vitality than the characters that surround her, if we take her embodiment and, more importantly, its critique, as the sign of a particularly deep affective life.15 In the end, however, Lucy’s relationship to spatial and bodily “intension” is a fundamentally conflicted one, as her embedded instincts and desires at once illuminate and constrain her worldview.

THUS LUCY’S SELF-CRITICAL inhabitation of her own body comes to inflect her inhabitation of the world itself. Her spatial imagination is eccentric, and can be read as a critique of the body’s confinement in the world, even as it betrays her deep investment in that inhabitation. In the same scene, Lucy describes her desire for Lufton not only as a bodily self-betrayal, but as an eradication of proprietary space itself: “what idiots we girls are! That a dozen soft words should have bowled me over like a ninepin, and left me without an inch of ground to call my own” (316). At first, Lucy’s remarks seem purely figurative, but as her ironic performance continues, her defensive fascination with and fetishization of increasingly smaller spaces becomes the crux of her conflicted, but very real desire. As Lucy grows increasingly insistent on the very physicality that she ironized just a moment before, she pronounces “it was not a dream. Here, standing here, on this very spot, on that flower of the carpet, he begged me a dozen times to be his wife. I wonder whether you and Mark would let me cut it out and keep it” (321), a sentiment she repeats just moments later: “And yet it is as true as heaven. Standing exactly here, on this spot, he said that he would persevere till I accepted his love. I wonder what made me specially observe that both his feet were within the lines of that division” (323). She concludes: “Ought I to have told him the truth, and to have let him know that I could almost kiss the ground on which he stood?” (323). Lucy’s careful mapping of infinitesimal spaces serves once again as both an ironic gesture and a betrayal of the fact that she inhabits spaces in much the same way she inhabits her own body: with deep intimacy, affective vividness, and a constant sense of her own entrapment within this inhabitation.

Little surprise, then, that Lucy feels so acutely the difference when Lufton escapes to London and Norway while she remains confined to the limited sphere of Framley Court: “If I were a man I should go to Switzerland, of course; or, as the case is a bad one, perhaps as far as Hungary. What is it that girls do?” (323). The difference between their experiences is, as Lucy is quick to point out, a function of their different genders, but it also points to a more complex distinction between intensive and extensive characterological schemes—a distinction that is both marked off by gender and at the same time not easily reducible as such. Trollope’s novels abound with examples that trouble any straightforward alignment of intension with female characters: Griselda Grantly, for example, proves a model of female extension, moving from Lufton to Dumbello, from her childhood home to her married estate, without quavering or regret. Conversely, we might diagnose The Warden’s Harding as an intensive character living in an extensive world that simply does not have the depth to accommodate him. Thus, Trollope preserves the possibility that intension and extension are themselves distinctive markers of psychological and moral character, however tempting Lucy’s argument for gender difference might be. Indeed, in Framley Parsonage, the novel’s two main male characters represent divergent models for characterological and spatial extension. In the following section, I turn to the binary extension of Mark Robarts and the burgeoning cosmopolitanism of Lufton. Though Robarts’ crisis at first seems to provide a cautionary warning against self-extension, I contend that by presenting a contrast between Mark’s limited extension and Lufton’s broader capaciousness, Trollope argues for an extension that results neither in innate “rootedness” nor in deracinated “detachment,” but rather in a “critical attachment” that comes only from a negotiation of the two.

II. The Contrasting Extensions of Mark Robarts and Lord Lufton

THOUGH TROLLOPE’S NOVELS ARE often associated with richly detailed local spaces, the novels are also remarkable for their narrative extensiveness, exemplified by Trollope’s incredible ability to represent vast social networks through cartographic descriptions. Throughout the Barsetshire series, Trollope’s spatial imagination continually expands the various routes, roads, railways, and hunting paths that his narratives traverse. In one particularly distinctive illustration of the complexity and variability of Trollope’s maps, the narrator of Framley Parsonage highlights the ability of spaces to widen and contract under different narrative perspectives. Trollope, himself a postmaster in Ireland, describes the movement of a letter from Chaldicotes to Framley:

And now, with my reader’s consent, I will follow the postman with that letter to Framley; not by its own circuitous route indeed, or by the same mode of conveyance; for that letter went into Barchester by Courcy night mail-cart, which, on its road, passes through the villages of Uffley and Chaldicotes, reaching Barchester in time for the up mail-train to London.…We, however, will travel by a much shorter route. (75-6)

The passage underscores the distinct ability of the realist novel to depict not just the inhabitation of specific places but also movement through an expanse that is larger than the narrative itself. Like the letter, the novel moves through paths both systematic and contingent. Trollope’s own formal and technical mastery of expansive description suggests, moreover, that familiarity and detached observation are not, in fact, opposed but rather mutually inform one another, straining the strict insider/outsider dichotomy that so much of the critical reception of the Barsetshire novels takes for granted. Under this model, familiarity becomes not so much a private intimacy as an absorbed knowledge of the rules that govern large-scale, public systems (here, the postal system, a public institution that travels through the private byways of homes). The result is that even as Trollope’s maps produce a comforting image of self-contained local communities, they also expertly trace lines of power, grafting social networks onto spatial locations to provide a cartography of social and political influence.  

In this way, Trollope’s geographic imaginary at first seems to conform to Franco Moretti’s description of novelistic maps in Graphs Maps Trees, in which what is significant is not locations in themselves but the relation between them: “Locations as such,” for Moretti, “did not seem that significant, if compared to the relations the map had revealed among them.”16 The result is not geography so much as geometry, because “for geography, locations as such are significant; geography is not just ‘extension’ but ‘intension’ too: ‘the quality of a given space…the stratification of intrinsically different qualities and heterogeneous phenomena.’”17 For Moretti, in sharp contrast to Bachelard, the novel’s representation of space is limited to graphic and not cartographic spatial relations, extension rather than intension. “[G]eometry signifies more than geography,” because geometric relations represent the Foucauldian networks of power that operate through the novel itself.18 Thus extension itself, for Moretti, implies a kind of negative ethical thrust.

By contrast, Anderson’s notion of the cosmopolitan defines a form of extension that was attractive to Victorian novelists precisely for its positive ethical force:

Many of those who espouse the new cosmopolitanism define it as the capacious inclusion of multiple forms of affiliation, disaffiliation, and reaffiliation, simultaneously insisting on the need for informing principles of self-reflexivity, critique, and common humanity… Like the nineteenth-century tendency to fuse method and ethos, cosmopolitanism is the expression of the need above all to enact or embody universalism, to transform it into a characterological achievement.19

Cosmopolitanism seeks to re-imagine the networks and channels of global power that Moretti gestures towards here in order to re-invest them with new ethical possibility. Global interconnectedness is an incontrovertible fact of modernity, but in the turn away from structures of power towards ever-expanding networks of mutual influence, responsibility, and understanding, the Victorian cosmopolitan takes what is for Moretti the ideology of extension and transforms it into an ethics of expansion.

Given Trollope’s trips around the world, widely-read travel writing, and the home he made abroad in Ireland early in his career, his own relationship to the sociology of spatial interaction has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention. In an early study of Trollope’s relationship to colonial and imperial spaces, J. H. Davidson writes, “the Barsetshire series of novels are themselves products of travel and observation, their distilled Englishness owing much to the fact that Trollope had returned home after fifteen years in Ireland,” inaugurating the critical consensus that Trollope provides the eminent instance of Buzard’s “participant-observer,” whose autoethnographic impulses are magnified by his travels abroad.20 Framley Parsonage, moreover, published in the incipient issues of Cornhill Magazine, was solicited precisely on Thackeray’s insistence that the novel be “an English tale, on English life, with clerical flavour” and Trollope concedes, “The story was thoroughly English.”21

However, any substantive reading of Trollope’s complex relationship to nationalism and cosmopolitanism must take into account his unusual relationship to life at home and abroad. In his Autobiography, Trollope describes the surprising logic behind his return to England shortly after he began composing Framley Parsonage:

I had long sighed to return to England,—with a silly longing. My life in England for twenty-six years from the time of my birth to the day on which I left it, had been wretched. I had been poor, friendless, and joyless. In Ireland, I had constantly been happy. I had achieved the respect of all with whom I was concerned, I had made for myself a comfortable home, and I had enjoyed many pleasures. … Nevertheless I thought that a man who could write books ought not to live in Ireland,—ought to live within the reach of the publishers, the clubs, and the dinner parties of the metropolis.22

Reversing the image of the colonial adventurer whose ambition is the driving force behind his expansion out into the world, Trollope returns to England out of professional ambition, leaving behind the only home he has ever known, and a life of respectable, if largely anonymous work in Ireland. Miserable at home, at home abroad, Trollope’s autobiographical stance troubles any ethics that presumes that some kind of intellectual and moral work is required to re-orient the self towards more capacious and universalizing attitudes. We might want to consider, on the contrary, whether critical detachment did not come naturally rather than with cultivation for Trollope, more observer than participant, and whether the ethos of familiarity and inhabitation, then, might themselves be the product of personal labor and skepticism for the “thoroughly English” author. Indeed, his characterization of Lucy Robarts’ simultaneous moral embeddedness and perceived entrapment suggests that for Trollope, the intensive inhabitation of a “home space” is never as simple as the ideologies of “rootedness” would imply.

BEARING IN MIND TROLLOPE’S relationship to exile and cosmopolitanism, we turn now to two of the novel’s central characters: Mark Robarts and Lord Lufton. Both characters are defined by their transversal of space in the novel. Likewise, both characters noticeably lack the embodied moral sense that Lucy Robarts represents. Taken together, however, Mark and Lufton represent fundamentally different prototypes for the “extensive” character, who is defined by his inhabitation of a variety of spaces and by his detached perspective. For while Mark’s attempts to extend beyond the confines of Framley Court result in a moral susceptibility produced, we are led to believe, by his rootlessness, Lufton’s self-extensions serve to strengthen, rather than weaken, his critical judgment and his ultimate re-attachment to the home from which he spends much of the novel distancing himself.

While Lufton moves with ease through the social world of London society, Mark’s wavering morals render him all too prone to the “temptation” of the significantly smaller Chaldicotes set, a contagion that is most effective in proximity. Thus when Mark has presentiments of his impending ethical crisis, they are oriented not towards any innate moral sense, but rather towards the pull of “home,” a place that, once he is outside of it, makes demands on him that he is no longer able to comprehend outside of the framework of spatial familiarity. When Sowerby intimates that Lufton owes him money which his mother will repay, “Mark found it impossible at the moment to make any remark upon what had been told him, but he felt a sudden qualm of conscience and a wish that he was at Framley instead of at Gatherum Castle at the present moment” (113). Significantly, Framley can exert an imaginary or intrinsic pull on Robarts’ conscience, but situated in the context of the Chaldicote’s set and the Duke of Omnium’s home, Mark cannot fully articulate this pull even to himself, much less articulately defend the friends to whom he knows he owes his home and his livelihood.

Moreover, Trollope explicitly frames Mark’s decision to sign a bill for Sowerby as the result of his visit to Chaldicotes. Mark, in other words, can only make such an egregious decision when he is away from home. At first, it seems that Trollope is making an argument for the treachery of “outer” or “other” places whose intrusion upon the sanctity of the novel’s interior spaces erodes characters’ ethical judgments. Throughout his visit to Chaldicotes, Mark feels constantly at odds with (and perhaps even outside of) his conscience, simply by virtue of being away from Framley and proximate to the Chaldicotes set. As Mark leaves Sowerby’s room, Trollope walks us through his pangs of conscience, which increase as he gains even this slight distance from the site of his fateful decision: “He had not well left Mr Sowerby’s room before he felt certain that at the end of three months he would again be troubled about that 400l. As he went along the passage, all the man’s known antecedents crowded upon him much quicker than he could remember them when seated in that arm-chair with the bill stamp before him, and the pen and ink ready to his hand. …Why had he come to this horrid place? Had he not everything at home at Framley which the heart of man could desire?” (126). As Mark walks from Sowerby’s room down the hallway, it seems that his physical distance from Sowerby’s room provides a space for conscious reflection. Conscience, in other words, comes to seem a factor of distance, confirming our sense that it is Mark’s distance from Framley and nearness to Chaldicotes that has tipped his moral values away from the uprightness of home toward the dissoluteness of the Chaldicotes party. When he leaves Chaldicotes the next morning however, Mark does not scrutinize his decision or Sowerby’s, but rather chalks up the experience, above all, to the contingency of being in the wrong place: “above all, he would keep out of the bedrooms of impoverished members of Parliament at the witching hour of midnight” (127). Because temptation grows stronger with increased proximity, Trollope suggests, the moment of Robarts’ ethical decision came not in Sowerby’s room that night, but in his decision to leave Framley and visit Chaldicotes—to move, in other words, from a familiar space to a foreign one. Lady Lufton consistently upholds this binary view, pronouncing at the novel’s outset “A man must choose for himself, but he can’t live with two different sets of people; at least, not if I belong to one and the Duke of Omnium to the other” (80).

However, in his presentation of Mark Robarts’ relation to space and his susceptibility to “temptation,” Trollope suggests that binary thinking is so limiting that it confounds ethical judgment.23 The problem with Mark Robarts’ spatio-ethical situatedness is not that he attempts to rise through self-expansion into different channels of Barsetshire, traversing the East/West Barset boundary. Rather, his attempts to do so, by operating within a binary system, always leave him fully implicated in the “inside,” where the only ethical act is self-containment, conformity, and the re-stabilization of the binaries that animate the totality of Barsetshire, a synecdoche for England itself. Indeed, Robarts’ most insistent problem is that his very self-expansiveness is always contained within the unified world of Barsetshire, which itself operates on a principle of self-division and dualistic thinking. Mark feels divided, in other words, because he limits himself to the (falsely) divisive spatiality that the Barsetshire world creates. But the novel also provides the occasion to imagine a world that does not operate on binary schism at all. If Mark’s problem is that his constant attempts at self-expansion are framed only in binary terms, Lord Lufton provides a possible version of ethical self-plurality. Lufton’s expansion in space allows him to inhabit many places at once, investing him with a critical perspective that renders him, perhaps surprisingly, the perfect match for Lucy, the novel’s most intensively circumscribed character.

In contrast to the vacillating movements that characterize Mark Robarts’ expansion in space, in which he moves back and forth between Chaldicotes and Framley and accepts a prebendary stall at Barchester that he later rescinds, Lord Lufton’s travels take him not only to Chaldicotes, but also out of the enclosed spaces of Barsetshire. We learn early in the novel that Lufton has apartments in London, a shooting-lodge in Scotland, horses in Leicestershire, and, later in the novel, that he enjoys salmon-fishing in Norway. Lufton’s interactions with the world outside of Framley are motivated not by careerism or ambition, but by leisure and self-enjoyment. Through his world travels, he develops an aura of cultivation that provides him with a critical perspective on the changing world that he brings with him back to Barsetshire. Upon his return, he fully divests himself of the constraining worldview of Framley Court, coolly remarking that “A man in these days is not to marry as his mother bids him” (382). Later, when Lufton asks his mother to forgive Mark Robarts and help him out of his financial troubles, Lufton proves perhaps the only character in the novel who can vocalize self-criticism that is detached from the crippling guilt and regret that paralyzes Robarts, reporting to his mother “It was I who introduced him to Mr. Sowerby; and to tell the truth, I do not think he would ever have been intimate with Sowerby if I had not given him some sort of a commission with reference to money matters then pending between Mr. Sowerby and me. They are all over now—thanks to you, indeed” (521).

More importantly, whereas Lucy’s stubborn embodiment underwrites her intractable desire for Lufton, Lufton’s attachment to Lucy seems characterized by a surprising distance that we are led to believe is the product of his international roamings. It is precisely because of this distanced attachment that Lufton can, in Trollope’s view, at once flirt with Griselda in town and yet remain faithful to Lucy at Framley Court:

‘It was a great bore when you went—away, I know. There wasn’t a soul—about the house worth speaking to.’ And they remained silent for a minute until their lungs had become quiescent. ‘Not a soul,’ he continued—not of falsehood prepense, for he was not in fact thinking of what he was saying. It did not occur to him at the moment that he had truly found Griselda’s going a great relief, and that he had been able to do more in the way of conversation with Lucy Robarts on one hour than with Miss Grantly during a month of intercourse in the same house” (254-5).

WHILE LUFTON’S UNTHINKING DUPLICITY at first seems to indicate a careless indifference, I want to suggest, on the contrary, that Trollope encourages us to forgive Lufton precisely because of his lack of malicious “prepense.” Unlike Mark Robarts, Lord Lufton moves fluidly through different spaces without qualms of conscience. He can at once participate in the London social scene and remain attached to Lucy Robarts, a fact that seems contradictory and yet presents little trouble to either Trollope or Lufton himself. The full import of the ethics of space for Trollope, then, seems to be not the effect that space has on a character’s actions, but rather the shape their conscience takes in relation to those spaces. Strangely, as he moves expansively through different spaces, freed of ties to any one space in particular, Lufton can maintain his attachment to Lucy without doing any harm by flirting with other girls or moving in other circles. By contrast, Mark may go to other places, but his conscience will always be tied to the place from which he comes, and thus transgressed all the more strongly by the violations he commits elsewhere. By making himself thoroughly detachable from Framley Court and any kind of emotional bonds he might have there, Lufton becomes more capable of maintaining his attachments, which are strengthened in the end by his critical distance from them. When Lucy reflects at the end of the novel that “He had chosen her—her, out of all the world” (561), the sincerity of Lord Lufton’s attachment is heightened, not diminished, by the expansive perspective out of which it arose. Thus, when Lufton returns from London and pronounces his love a second time, Lucy acknowledges that “When first he came there—when she had meditated over his first visit—she had hardly given him credit for deep love; but now,—there could be no doubt that he loved her now. After his season in London, his days and nights passed with all that was beautiful, he had returned there, to that little country parsonage, that he might again throw himself at her feet” (384). It seems that for Lufton, it is because space can significantly expand that it can therefore selectively contract. His trips to London and Norway have made him more certain of his attachment to Lucy, not less, because he is able to choose this life from among the many other spaces and circles that he inhabits. Lufton’s pluralism, which at first seems an ethical ennui, is ultimately revealed as a useful ability to distance himself from, and therefore critically assess, his own attachments and thereby prove their strength.

Though Lucy and Lufton appear, at first, to represent the contrasting intension and extension that characterizes the ethical and narrative dimensions of space in Trollope’s novel, their cultivation of a critical but nonetheless attached stance renders them a particularly well-suited match. While Lucy’s stubborn circumscription both in her body and in an increasingly small circle of space becomes the ground for ironic critique, Lufton’s easy expansion into the world outside of Barsetshire, and the critical perspective it provides, becomes the ground for his self-willed return to Framley Court, where he roots himself in marriage to Lucy. Through the pairing of these two figures, then, Trollope seems to suggest that self-extension is necessary not because it destroys the “inner” spaces of local and national community, but rather because it changes the individual’s relationship to those spaces. Self-extension transforms the basis of attachment itself, turning the individual away from a blinkered allegiance to a homogenous community and towards a self-reflective and often skeptical critique that in turn strengthens attachments by making them more capacious. Thus, at the conclusion of the novel, Lufton reveals that he, too, is “attached” to the small spaces in which Lucy feels at home, reminding her that “I asked you here, in this room, on this very spot, whether it was possible that you should love me,” (559), while Lucy discovers that despite her trepidations, going out into London society is in fact “easy enough” and even enjoyable (560). Though the novel concludes with both characters firmly re-inscribed within the familiar bounds of Framley Court, their decision to remain comes only as a result of their mutual interrogation of the dynamics of intension and extension that mark their movements through spaces within and beyond the world of Barsetshire.

Lucy Sheehan is a graduate student in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She specializes in Victorian literature and culture, particularly the development of the Victorian novel.

Also in The Fortnightly Review:

An unsigned review of Framley Parsonage from The Literary Gazette: 20 April 1861:

…we must admit that Mr. Trollope has written a very excellent novel, and one which merits all the popularity it has gained: that is, if we measure it by its own standard. How far that standard, both of its composition by the writer, and its reception by the public, is a correct one, may be a matter of doubt.’

The “Cornhill Magazine” and “Framley Parsonage”‘ by Anthony Trollope. From An Autobiography.

Anthony Trollope: Not so exceedingly benighted after all (Anthony Trollope and his work), by Wilfred L. Randell.

Elsewhere: An etext version of Framley Parsonage is available at Project Gutenberg. A map of Framley is provided at The Trollope Society website.

Details of The Trollope Prize, awarded annually by the Department of English at the University of Kansas, are available here.

The 2012 Trollope Prize was awarded to Rebecca Richardson, a graduate student at Stanford University. Her essay, “A Competitive World: Ambition and Self-Help in Trollope’s An Autobiography and The Three Clerks” appears here.


“The Intensive and Extensive Worlds of Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage” by Lucy Sheehan was the winning essay selected by the judges of the Graduate Trollope Prize at the University of Kansas, 2011. The Fortnightly Review is a partner in this prize. The winning graduate essay is first published here and a modest additional honorarium is awarded the author by The Fortnightly Review.

Author’s acknowledgment

Thanks to Nicholas Dames for his comments on an earlier version of this essay.



Anderson, Amanda. The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

–. “Trollope’s Modernity.” ELH 74, no. 3 (2007): 509-534.

–. “Victorian Studies and the Two Modernities.” Victorian Studies 47, no. 2 (Winter, 2005): 195-203.

apRoberts, Ruth. The Moral Trollope. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1971.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Translated by Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.

Buzard, James. Disorienting Fiction: The Autoethnographic Work of Nineteenth Century British Novels. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Carbury, William. “The Uses of the Village: Form and Theme in Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton Nineteenth-Century Fiction 18, no. 2 (September 1963): 151-163.

Cornhill Magazine (1860-1). Edited by William Makepeace Thackeray. British Periodicals. Online.

Davidson, J. H. “Anthony Trollope and the Colonies.” Victorian Studies 12, no. 3 (March 1969): 305-330.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Letters of Elizabeth Gaskell. Edited by J. A. V. Chapple and A. Pollard. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1966.

Goodlad, Lauren M. E. “Trollopian ‘Foreign Policy’: Rootedness and Cosmopolitanism in the Mid-

Victorian Global Imaginary.” PMLA 124 no. 2 (2009): 437-454.

Kurnick, David. “An Erotics of Detachment: Middlemarch and Novel-Reading as Critical Practice.”

ELH 74, no. 3 (2007): 583-608.

Maunder, Andrew. “‘Monitoring the Middle-Classes’: Intertextuality and Ideology in Trollope’s Framley Parsonage and the Cornhill Magazine,” Victorian Periodicals Review 22, no. 1 (2000) 44-64.

Miller, D. A. “The Novel as Usual: Trollope’s Barchester Towers.” The Novel and the Police. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. 107-145.

Moody, Ellen. “On the Original Illustrations of Trollope’s Fiction: Framley Parsonage.” Online. 17 February 2004. Accessed on 30 May 2011.

Moretti, Franco. Graphs Maps Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. New York: Verso, 2005.

Tingay, Lance O. “Mapmaking in Barsetshire.” Trollopian 3, no. 1 (1948): 19-32.

Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography. Edited by Michael Sadleir and Frederick Page. New York:

Oxford University Press, 2008.

–. Framley Parsonage. Edited by David Skilton and Peter Miles. New York: Penguin Books, 2004.


Illustrations obtained with permission from Ellen Moody, “On the Original Illustrations of Trollope’s Fiction: Framley Parsonage.” The editors extend thanks to Dr. Moody.




  1. Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, edited by Michael Sadleir and Frederick Page (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) 154.
  2. Elizabeth Gaskell, The Letters of Elizabeth Gaskell, edited by J. A. V. Chapple and A. Pollard (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1966) 602.
  3. See: Amanda Anderson, The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001) and “Trollope’s Modernity,” ELH 74, no. 3 (2007): 509-534, as well as “Victorian Studies and the Two Modernities,” Victorian Studies 47, no. 2 (Winter, 2005): 195-203.
  4. Anderson, “Trollope’s Modernity” 512.
  5. Anderson, The Powers of Distance 6.
  6. William Carbury’s 1963 article “The Uses of the Village: Form and Theme in Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton (Nineteenth-Century Fiction 18, no. 2 (September 1963): 151-163) interestingly, provides a related discussion of perspective in Trollope, which applies some of the same concepts that Anderson outlines to the context of Trollope’s narrative form in his contrast of the intensive, the panoramic, and the limited novel: the intensive form is the “narrative of the soul,” the panoramic form the “narrative of the world,” and the limited form a compromise between the two.
  7. For a discussion of the precision and inconsistencies of Trollope’s map-making, see Lance O. Tingay, “Mapmaking in Barsetshire,” Trollopian 3, no. 1 (1948): 19-32.
  8. The assumption that Trollope’s cosmopolitanism always recapitulates to English nationalism has been difficult for contemporary scholars to escape. Lauren Goodlad’s recent analysis of cosmopolitanism in Trollope’s work exemplifies the difficulties inherent in this kind of project. Comparing Victorian cosmopolitanism to the “cosmopolitan ethico-political project” of the twenty-first century, Goodlad notes the tensions between “Victorian literature’s ethically and artistically compelling engagements with multiplicity and its comparatively inert challenges to—and often embrace of—hierarchies of nationality, race, class and gender” (438). The result is that Victorianist scholarship, approaching the novel within the framework of ideology critique, is “bound to predict the flummoxing of the ethical aspirations they describe” (438). See: Lauren M. E. Goodlad, “Trollopian ‘Foreign Policy’: Rootedness and Cosmopolitanism in the Mid-Victorian Global Imaginary,” PMLA 124 no. 2 (2009): 437-454.
  9. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, translated by Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994) 4.
  10. Bachelard 4-5.
  11. Bachelard 7.
  12. Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage, edited by David Skilton and Peter Miles (New York: Penguin Books, 2004) 37. Page numbers will hereafter be included in-text.
  13. In “An Erotics of Detachment: Middlemarch and Novel-Reading as Critical Practice” (ELH 74, no. 3 (2007): 583-608), Kurnick argues that in Middlemarch, Dorothea’s eroticism grants her possession over a “carnal or bodily knowledge—an eroticism that proceeds from Dorothea’s seemingly opposed tendencies to formulate abstractions from lived bodily experience…and to lend abstractions bodily force” (592-3). This is precisely the kind of experience from which Lucy attempts to distance herself through her ironic performance—though that performance ultimately recapitulates the reality of an embodied desire that she cannot reason her way out of.
  14. Anderson makes a similar point in her discussion of Wildean irony, explaining that: “It is not the form of irony itself that is good or bad: detachment, whatever form it takes or predominately allies itself with, is always situated—it is always a detachment from a particular mode of experience, a social situation, or a form of identity.” The Powers of Distance, 175.
  15. Trollope, An Autobiography 143.
  16. Franco Moretti, Graphs Maps Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (New York: Verso, 2005), 55.
  17. Moretti 55.
  18. Moretti 56.
  19. Anderson, The Powers of Distance 30.
  20. J. H. Davidson, “Anthony Trollope and the Colonies,” Victorian Studies 12, no. 3 (March 1969): 306. See also James Buzard’s Disorienting Fiction: The Autoethnographic Work of Nineteenth Century British Novels (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 2005).
  21. Trollope, An Autobiography 142-3.
  22. Trollope, An Autobiography 132.
  23. D. A. Miller famously describes Trollope’s plots as a paradigm of “moderate schism,” which forces the reader to simultaneously map these binaries and the character differences they constitute throughout the reading of the novel and, at the same time, question their efficacy as true demarcations of internal and external difference. Ultimately, Miller contends, these binaries serve not to divide Barsetshire society, but “to bind the combatants to the capacious institutions that sponsor their disputes,” re-incorporating binary differences into a systematic framework of unified national and regional identity. By contrast, I argue that Trollope demonstrates here that binary thinking is flawed in that it discounts external difference as a valuable facet of moral formation. D. A. Miller, “The Novel as Usual: Trollope’s Barchester Towers,” The Novel and the Police (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) 115.

One Comment

  1. wrote:

    Great job, Fortnightly Review, in publishing the winning Trollope essay. However, proofreading needs to be improved. “Chalidcotes” (para commencing “Moreover, Trollope …” and “Barsteshire” where it occurs the fourth time in the para commencing “However, in his presentation…”.Small things, I know, but they stick out to a Trollopian. Keep up the good work.

    These corrections have been made today. —Ed.

    Saturday, 28 September 2013 at 03:04 | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *