THE BELTON ESTATE.* Mn. Teomaare accustoms us to so high
a standard of liveliness in his stories, that we are a little disappointed at the tameness of the Belton Estate. We do not remember any of his books in which the design was better, or the outlines of character more perfectly drawn, but there is not the usual amount of fixed air in the dialogue,—it does not bubble with humour and secondary points as Mr. Trollope's dialogue usually does. It keeps to the matter in hand, and discusses it very much as the people sketched would have discussed it in their ordinary moods. Now Mr. Trollope usually contrives to present us with his dramatis persons if not in their best moods, yet in moods rendered more entertaining than usual to the spectator by the pressure of events. Lady Alexan- drine de Courcy and Mr. Crosbie are not remarkable persons, but Lady Alexandrine cross-examining Mr. Crosbie about Lily, or discussing the new carpets with her abasr in the uphol- sterer's shop, and Mr. Crosbie treated by the Countess as quite one of the family, and therefore privileged to run errands for her, or " grunting again and escaping into another corner " when pursued by his brother-in-law, Mr. Mortimer Gazebee, the solicitor, at the Countess's party, are very entertaining persons indeed. The pressure of the social atmosphere under which they live and move makes them, if not amusing themselves, causes of amusement to others. Now this is not quite true of the Belton Estate. The characters are all admirably (though some of them incompletely) drawn, — but they are nearly as tame as the persons in English country life usually are. There are scarcely figures enough to bring out Mr. Trollope's special talent. The mutual influence of different social groups on each .other is a department of his work in which he always excels. In this tale there is no room for any such influence. There is no variety of drawing-room life to speak of, no social finesse to paint. The consequence is that while all the figures strike you as real and some as powerfully drawn, there is a certain disappointment in the result. There is a feeling that they ought to interest us more deeply than they do, that they have all been a little out of spirits, and that yet their having been thus out of spirits has not been turned quite to the account to which this author usually turns it. Usually the want of spirits in his puppets would have been made to contribute to the spirits of his puppets' audience. In this case it is not so.
Perhaps the best figure in the book,—and yet the incompleteet, —is Captain Aylmer, the cold, slow lover, who is half alarmed by being accepted, is inclined to think himself in a scrape, and never really wishes to marry the heroine again, till she has ceased to wish to marry him, and he knows it. His considerate but pallid regara, his half -and-halfness of all kinds, his faint obstinacy, his half disposition to take into account both his father's and his mother's advice, and his half disposition to reject it, his regard for the de- cencies of life, and his inability to get warm about anything, his
• The Briton Estate. By Anthony Ti elope. 8 Iola. Londoe: Chapman and ELM 1088.
dismay at finding a lady genuinely in love with him whom he had liked only just doubtfully enough to make her a hesitating pro- posal, all seem to us admirable. Bat what we want to see, and what we are only told, not made to see, is why a bright and clever woman like Clara Amedroz was first fascinated by Captain Aylmer. Mr. Trollope gives us the contrast between her two lovers well enough :--
" She could not love her cousin, Will Belton, because her heart belonged to Captain Aylmer. But she knew that she had received nothing in exchange for her heart. Ho had been kind to her on that journey to Taunton, when the agony arising from her brother's death had almost crushed her. He had often been kind to her on days before that,—so kind, so soft in his manners, approaching so nearly to the little tendernesses of incipient love-making, that the idea of regarding him as her lover had of necessity forced itself upon her. But in nothing had he gone beyond those tendernesses, which need not im- peratively be made to mean anything, though they do often mean so much. It was now two years since she had first thought that Captain Aylmer was the most perfect gentleman she knew, and nearly two years since Mrs. Winterfield had expressed to her a hope that Captain Aylmer might become her husband. She had replied that such a thing was impossible—as any girl would have replied, and had in consequence treated Captain Aylmer with all the coolness which she had been able .to assume whenever she was in company with him in her aunt's presence. Nor was it natural to her to bo specially gracious to a man under such trying circumstances, even when no Mrs. Winterfield was there to behold. And so things had gone on. Captain Aylmer had now and again made himself very pleasant to her,—at certain trying periods of joy or trouble almost more than pleasant. But nothing had come of it, and Clara had told herself that Captain Aylmer had no special feeling in her favour. She had told herself this, ever since that journey together from Perivale to Taunton ; but never till now had she also confessed to herself what was her own case. She made a comparison between the two men. Her cousin Will was, she thought, the more generous, the more energetic,—perhaps by nature the man of the higher gifts. In person he was undoubtedly the superior. He was full of noble qualities ;—forgetful of self, industrious, full of resources, a very man of men, able to command, eager in doing work for others' good and his own,— a man altogether uncontaminated by the coldness and selfishness of the outer world. Bat ho was rough, awkward. but indifferently educated, and with few of those tastes .which to Clara Amedroz were delightful. He could not read poetry to her, he could 'not tell her of what the world of literature was doing now, or of what it had done in times past. He knew nothing of the inner world of worlds which governs the world. She doubted whether he could have told her who composed the existing Cabinet, or have given the name of a single bishop beyond the see in which his own parish was situated. But Captain Aylmer knew everybody, and had read everything, and under- stood, as though by instinct, all the movements of the world in which he lived."
And subsequently he tells us Clara's early ideal of a husband
:- !'A member of Parliament, with a small house near Eaton Square, with a moderate income, and a liking for committees, who would write a pamphlet once every two years, and read Dante critically daring the recess, was, to her, the model for a husband. For such a one she would read his blue-books, copy his pamphlets, and learn his translations by heart. She would be safe in the hands of such a man, and would know nothing of the miseries which her brother had encountered. Her model may not appear, when thus described, to be a very noble one ; but I think it is the model most approved among ladies of her class in England."
But Mr. Trollope, though he was bound to make us see why Clara had liked her tame lover so much, never does let us see the literary, sentimental, and mildly intellectual qualities h3 attributes to him. He is never made even " soft in his manners, approaching nearly to the incipient tendernesses of love-making." There is nothing sentimental about him,—nothing like a love for reading Dante with young ladies, nothing in his demeanour to warrant Clara's feeling. Now whatever reaction his mind might have undergone under the chilling certainty that he had shut himself off from escape,—and we well appreciate the skill with which Mr. Trollope has drawn his disposition always to keep at the junction of two alternative courses, and not commit himself to either, —it is scarcely likely that the sentimental tenderness which he felt before his en- gagement should have deserted him so completely afterwards, as to leave no trace whatever of the man with whom Clara fell in love. Mr. Trollope scarcely does justice to his more energetic hero in de- lineating Will Belton's triumph over so very unengaging a rival as he has depicted here. While we think Captain Aylmer one of Mr. Trollope's most original, and, in part, best executed concep- tions, we think he has failed, more than is at all usual with him, in so entirely suppressing the (to young ladies) attractive side of his pallid character, and therefore suppressing all occasion for real mental struggle in the mind of his heroine. There should have been Dante readings, and slight, pale flirtations, broken in upon by the misunderstandings inevitable between so ill-matched a couple, after the engagement, in order to carry out the artistic conception of the author.
Will Belton is a conception needing less delicate touches than Captain Aylmer, and is admirably sustained throughout. Mr. Trollope, as usual, shows himself quite alive to the value of those
I little outlying traits of character which enhance so infinitely the effect of the main drawing. The rough eagerness, impatience,
and directness of all Mr. William Belton's impulses are the main features of his character, and almost any other novelist would have been content with ringing the changes on the effects which these characteristics suggest. But Mr. Trollope knows better. He draws
also the great want of self-consciousness, or rather of self-recollec- tion, which a man of this class is sure to display as to the former outbursts of passionate impulses once subsided,—the complete oblivion which is apt to descend upon him as to his former feel- ings towards obstacles since surmounted. There is an admirable scene between the rivals, in presence of the lady, while she is still engaged to Captain Aylmer, Mr. Belton's subsequent mode of reference to which will illustrate our point:'- "'Isuppose you'll leave Plaistow now and go into Somersetshire, suggested Captain Aylmer.—`Certainly not Why should I leave it ? = I thought, perhaps —as Belton Castle is now your own— '-- `Plaistow Hall is more my own than Belton Castle, if that signifies anything,—which it doesn't.' This he said in an angry tone, which, as he became conscious of it, he tried to rectify. 'I've a deal of stock and all that sort of thing at Plaistow, and couldn't very well leave it, even if I wished it,' he said.—' You've pretty good shooting too, I suppose,' said Aylmer.—' As far as partridges go I'll back it against most properties of the same extent in any county.'—' I'm too busy a man, myself,' said the
Captain, do much at partridges. We think more of pheasants down with us.'—'I dare say.'—'But a Norfolk man like you is of course keen about birds.'—' We are obliged to put up with what we've got, you know ; —not but what I believe there is a better general head of game in Nor- folk than in any other county in England.'—` That's what makes your hunting rather poor.'—' Our hunting poor ! Why do you say it's poor?' —' So many of you are against preserving foxes.'—` I'll tell you what, Captain Aylmer, I don't know what pack you hunt with, but I'll bet you a five-pound note that we killed more foxes last year than you did ; —that is, taking three days a week. Nine-and-twenty brace and a half in a short season I don't call poor at all.'—Captain Aylmer saw that the man was waxing angry, and made no further allusion either to the glories or deficiencies of Norfolk."
After Clara's engagement with Captain Aylmer has gone off, and before her engagement with Mr. William Belton, has come on, that gentleman and she are conversing on the subject of the Aylmers—in the first instance of Lady Aylmer—when the follow- ing little bit of dialogue occurs :—
" ' You never could be made to understand what a woman she is ; how disagreeable, how cruel, how imperious, how insolent.'—' Was she so bad as all that ?'—' Indeed she was, Will. I can't but tell the truth to you.'—` And he was nearly as bad as she ?'—'No, Will ; no ; do not
say that of He was such a quarrelsome fellow. He flew at me just because I said we had good hunting down in Norfolk.'—' We need not talk about all that, "
Now a less impetuous man would have remembered that he had made a fool of himself, and not again referred to this little out- break ;—a more thoughtful one would have had too clear a con- ception of Captain Aylmer's character to speak of his "flying
at any one" on any occasion ; but all Will Belton remembered was that he had been an obstacle in his path, and of course he attributed all the active acrimony of the situation to the obstacle itself, not to the rush of the forces which dashed themselves against it.
The people of Aylmer Park and the Askertons are all well sketched, but even more slightly than is usual with Mr. Trollope.
The heroine is good, but scarcely very interesting. She strikes us as a considerable improvement on the undecided young lady in Can You Forgive Her? the reasons and motives of her undecided- ness being clearer, and the inward struggle more distinctly drawn.
No doubt the type of character is different ; Clara Amedroz is meant to have less of softness, less of natural morbidness, more of decision and frankness than Alice Vavasour, and therefore perhaps she is better drawn. Her difficulties are not so much of her own making, more made for her by unfortunate circum- stances. She is in love with the wrong man before she sees the right man, and has to disentangle herself from a superficial and feeble sentiment in order to give herself to her natural master. And this she does with considerable energy and ability. Mr.
Trollope is much more successful in drawing the feminine com- plexities of feeling which arise out of circumstantial embarrass- ments, than those which rise like a mist from a nature too inward and brooding for perfect health.