Places: Orley Farm

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: serial, 1861-1862; book, 1862

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: Mid-nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedOrley Farm

Orley Orley FarmFarm. Country residence not far from London. The title site is actually two plots of land: the Old Farm, three hundred acres that have been let to an area farmer, and the eponymous farmhouse itself, with its adjoining two hundred acres. The house is where Sir Joseph Mason lived with his second wife, Lady Mason; the entire property was supposedly bequeathed to his youngest child, Lucius Mason.

At the time of the novel, Orley Farm consists of three buildings, “commodious, irregular, picturesque, and straggling.” This picturesqueness does not imply an unmodified landscape. All the buildings pertaining to farm work, for example, are hidden from view from the house. The immediate surroundings are nonetheless pleasant, including nearby apple trees that produce delicious fruit, even though their size is not up to those produced by modern scientific methods. All in all, the farm seems to be the perfect habitation for one of Trollope’s gentlemen, and thus perhaps worth Lady Mason’s machinations to secure it for her son; however, it is certainly not worth the splenetic greed that Mr. Joseph Mason displays in trying to retrieve it. Trollope gently pokes fun at Lucius Mason’s scientific future plans for farming, including the guano he is at pains to secure for fertilizer. As is the case for many locations in the novel, its features are rarely referred to again after their initial description.

Trollope modeled the farmhouse on Julian Hill, a real farmhouse near Harrow that Trollope’s parents built during his youth.

The Cleeve

The Cleeve. Ancestral home of Sir Peregrine Orme, which is the ideal gentleman’s estate, in Trollope’s estimation. The house itself is Elizabethan, last remodeled during the seventeenth century reign of Charles II. This structure, with its imposing lineage, is set amid a landscape that the narrator praises for its “beauty and wildness.” The path that the River Cleeve takes through the estate is described in almost Romantic terms, a seemingly distant cousin to the Alph, the “sacred river” of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” (1816). Its “glorious . . . picturesque beauty” is not entirely untamed: sightseers can view deer drinking from it from one of the wooden bridges that have been built over it. The estate’s size is such that the owner himself can be its own land steward, and Sir Peregrine is an ecologically sound steward, being careful not to cut down more trees than he has planted.

Groby Park

Groby Park. Mr. Joseph Mason’s estate in Yorkshire. Although the equal of the Cleeve in area and value, Groby Park is not equal to it in fundamental worth, according to Sir Peregrine–a judgment with which the narrator would agree. Possession of the estate does not by itself make Mason a gentleman, and its description–from its “flat and uninteresting” landscape with its new trees to its “pediment and seven Ionic columns” that give it a spurious classical facade–shows that Mason is not to be considered a gentleman merely because of his possessions, a fact that his actions as a character thoroughly bear out. The house’s interior is “handsome” but “heavy,” a description that is likewise quickly undercut by Mrs. Mason’s parsimony in providing food for both guests and family.

Noningsby

Noningsby. Estate of Judge Staveley and his family, a place that is delightful but new, a fault for which the only cure is time. Nonetheless, it seems to harbor the happiest household described in the novel, particularly during the four Christmas scenes that make up the centerpiece of the first volume.

*London

*London. Great Britain’s capital city is the scene of several briefly described locations. It is the base for its most powerful lawyers. The two words used to describe the chambers of Mr. Furvinal, Lady Mason’s chief advocate, are “brown” and “dingy”–evocations, some biographers insist, of the chambers of Trollope’s own father. Furvinal’s home is now on fashionable Harley Street, but as Trollope makes clear, he enjoyed better domestic relations when he was a struggling lawyer and made his lodgings on the more mundane Keppel Street. In contrast to Furvinal’s chambers, the chambers of the win-at-any-cost lawyer, Mr. Aram, are “smart and attractive,” an appearance that, like that of Aram himself, is spurious.

BibliographyAdams, Robert Martin. “Orley Farm and Real Fiction.” Nineteenth Century Fiction 8, no. 1 (June, 1953): 27-41. Argues that, in Orley Farm, Trollope strives for the kind of realism expounded by Victorian critic G. H. Lewes.Booth, Bradford A. “Trollope’s Orley Farm: Artistry Manqué.” In Victorian Literature: Modern Essays in Criticism, edited by Austin Wright. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961. Pages 358-371 discuss Orley Farm in terms of its adherence to literary standards.King, Margaret F. “Trollope’s Orley Farm: Chivalry Versus Commercialism.” Essays in Literature 3, no. 2 (Fall, 1976): 181-193. Explores the novel’s conflict between characters who act out of a sense of honor and integrity, and those who are motivated by their pocketbooks.Polhemus, Robert. The Changing World of Anthony Trollope. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968. Examines Trollope’s novels as the author’s expression of the need for reform.Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961. A helpful biography, focusing on Trollope’s life and commercial and political career as reflected in his novels.
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