Victorians! discussion

61 views
Archived Group Reads 2015 > "Christmas at Thompson Hall"

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Please use this thread for a discussion of the story, "Christmas at Thompson Hall" by Anthony Trollope. All sections of the story may be discussed here. To avoid spoilers, you may want to refrain from reading the commentary until you have finished the story.


message 2: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
The titular story is the only one I've read so far. But I found it to be delightfully hilarious. Mostly, I think, because of Trollope's use of language and description.
I've been mulling over the way he used foreshadowing to maximum effect, as well.


message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane Greensmith (janegs) | 149 comments I've just finished the first story in the collection and thought it very entertaining. It was a light, funny, situation comedy and not at all sappy. I like holiday stories, but sometimes they can drip with either treacle or pathos.

I also enjoyed the sisters' relationship--warm, real, and practical.

I kept on wondering what would happen is a mustard plaster was left on for hours--a rash, I assume, but I haven't bother to search the internet for the answer...yet.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "The titular story is the only one I've read so far. But I found it to be delightfully hilarious. Mostly, I think, because of Trollope's use of language and description.
I've been mulling over the ..."


I agree that it was very funny. Though not really very convincing.

At what point did people realize that the inhabitant of room 353 was also going to Thompson hall? I got an inkling when they left the hotel in the same omnibus, though it was just an inkling and not a real suspicion. How about others?

I also enjoyed the pretense that it was a real incident by his making a point of not giving the year and giving fake names to everybody.


message 5: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Yes! The names were changed to protect the innocent!

I think I started to suspect when Mrs. Brown kept thinking about how they just had to get home to meet her sister's new man. One mention = interesting detail. More than that = plot point. Still I delighted in the anticipation of when the characters would realize that the incident wasn't just going to go away.

And I'm never going to think of mustard the same way! I've heard the term "mustard plaster" before, but never really thought about what that was.


message 6: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I loved the little relationship details, too. How she wasn't quite sure that Mr. Brown's symptoms were entirely real. After all, he'd enjoyed that cigar... So realistic!


message 7: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 922 comments I, too, enjoyed the story. While set at Christmas, it was t sappy at all. Yes, I figured out who Jones was, and where he was headed. It didn't take away the fun of it. I imagine the chagrin at consistently being thrown together might cloud the judgement of those involved. They'd be so busy being uncomfortable, their minds wouldn't be putting the pieces together. Loved the details of the story.


message 8: by Jane (new)

Jane Greensmith (janegs) | 149 comments BTW, according to Wikipedia, if mustard plasters are left too long on the skin, they can result in first-degree burns.


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "I loved the little relationship details, too. How she wasn't quite sure that Mr. Brown's symptoms were entirely real. After all, he'd enjoyed that cigar... So realistic!"

And how so much of her life was devoted to his comfort, but when she wanted one thing out of him ...


message 10: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Jane wrote: "BTW, according to Wikipedia, if mustard plasters are left too long on the skin, they can result in first-degree burns."

You've got to wonder, then, what mustard is doing to your innards when you eat it.


message 11: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 312 comments I also enjoyed this story-the dilemma of poor Mrs Brown trapped in a strange man's room and her desperation to flee the scene and the hotel was convincingly written. I also figured out he was probably the fiance as soon as I realized he was also leaving early in the morning, but it didn't detract from the enjoyment of the story.


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments The descriptions of the interactions between Mrs. Brown and Jones as they were forced to travel together were delicious.


message 13: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Those are situations in which you're glad for the proprieties! ;-)


message 14: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tracyrittmueller) | 54 comments Everyman wrote: "The descriptions of the interactions between Mrs. Brown and Jones as they were forced to travel together were delicious."

I agree! I also loved how the incident, which seemed unbearably, unforgivably shameful to the young, was seen in the light of rollicking good h
I or when shared with the older family members. “'And you mustard-plastered the wrong man!' said the old gentleman, almost rolling off his chair with delight."

Excerpt From: Trollope, Anthony. “Christmas at Thompson Hall.”


message 15: by Ginny (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 215 comments Trollope often declared that he hated a mystery. It is quite plain to the reader early on who Mrs. Brown has mistakenly "mustard-plastered" and that the whole story will come out. The suspense is created (and for me, the whole story was full of suspense) by wondering what the characters will do and say in their encounters with each other. The suspense of uncomfortable social situations.

"Christmas at Thompson Hall" is not about Christmas at Thompson Hall at all, but about trying to travel to Thompson Hall for Christmas, and they barely make it. Everyone has a story about getting (or failing to get) home for Christmas. Stressful travel, missed connections, break-downs on the road, etc. Anyone have a story to share?


message 16: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tracyrittmueller) | 54 comments 2009-- our first Christmas back in the Midwest in nearly 15'years didn't happen, because everyone was snowed in. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_...


message 17: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Mine was many years ago and it was getting home that was the difficulty. Flights delayed. Passengers bumped. I contacted my ride to let them know I wouldn't be back til the following day... Then, suddenly I'm back on the flight.. The attendant literally announced "you know who you are" as if their mix-up was our fault... And I'm flying into Philly after midnight... where the entire airport appeared to be shut down... And then first locating, then paying for a taxi to Jersey with my last dime, because I was a 20-something and scared out of my wits. Certainly not as harrowing as it felt at the time. Now I love to travel and can take the hiccups more in stride.


message 18: by Lily (last edited Dec 10, 2015 02:45PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments I finally received the book this week -- a pretty little thing. Hoping at least one of the stories will work for family holiday. This first one is a little too long for young people who would rather a new game, even dominoes or stack-the-sticks or similar.

I found the pace slow -- I jumped to the end, then read backwards in pieces to pick up the story -- yes, I do that sometimes, easier with a short story than novels to cement back together. I found it hilarious and could imagine something like this really happening; although a personal example doesn't immediately jump to mind, I feel as if I've been in some awkward situation like this along the way. Do something dumb and embarrassing and have to own up to it, rather than slink away. Like Tracy, I liked that the old gentleman sensed something fishy had been happening and then could laugh heartily when when he got the full story.

Aspects of Trollope's characterizations were fun. The stiff propriety of and sense of offense by young Mr. Jones reminded me of Aaron Dunn in Trollope's "The Courtship of Susan Bell." (Recently discussed on another board.) In both cases, a fairly sophisticated young lover has his feathers ruffled and attempts to smooth them, perhaps both for his own pride and for a concurrent bit of youthful self-doubt.


message 19: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I think I'm going to tiptoe over to the discussion of more Trollope shorts when I've finished with the last of these. I've thoroughly enjoyed them.


message 20: by Lily (last edited Dec 10, 2015 06:06PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Ginny wrote: "Everyone has a story about getting (or failing to get) home for Christmas. ..."

One of mine is traveling back to the Midwest from Vermont one year. The trip across northern New York State was literally through a blizzard (I wasn't driving). My mind can still recreate looking out through the car windows into a hazy yellow light coloring the snow-filled sky and seeing tall towers and the power lines connecting them in the distance. That night we stayed at Niagara Falls and when we drove out to look at the Falls, before continuing our journey in bright, dazzling sunlight, they were covered, between streams of falling water, with heavy snow and were like a scene out of "Doctor Zhivago."


message 21: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
That is an amazing image!


message 22: by Diane (new)

Diane | 152 comments Renee wrote: "Mine was many years ago and it was getting home that was the difficulty. Flights delayed. Passengers bumped. I contacted my ride to let them know I wouldn't be back til the following day... Then, s..."

I love your travel story. I'm from that area also and one Christmas had my share of problems driving a rental car from the Philly airport to Jersey and, because of many years absence, accidently getting on the wrong bridge and then a wrong exit. I had to navigate a very changed landscaped at night. This was prior to GPS and it was several hours and with many stops for directions before I got home.


message 23: by Diane (new)

Diane | 152 comments I thought this a delightful tale and laughed out loud When she discovered she had plastered the wrong fellow. I knew who Mr. Jones was after he mentioned needing to get to his fiancee on Christmas and the Brown's discussing the similarities between his name and her sister's fiancee. It was a fun story.


message 24: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments Just want to say that I enjoyed reading your comments!

I was disappointed with Mr. Jones - he did not have a sense of humour!

And Mr. Brown: was he ill after all?


message 25: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Lol. I think he did have a sore throat... But I also think he was playing it up because he didn't want to go.


message 26: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I love the way Trollope heightens the whole situation to take it from an amusing anecdote to hilarity. For example, when he describes Mrs. Brown listening like Lady Macbeth outside Duncan's chamber. But my favorite is the passage...

"Not Priam wakened in the dead of night, not Dido when first she learned that Aeneas had fled, not Othello when he learned that Desdemona had been chaste, not Medea when she became conscious of her slaughtered children, could have been more struck with horror than was this British matron as she stood for a moment gazing with awe on that stranger’s bed."

Still cracks me up to read it. Probably because we've all likely experienced that moment of realization when we've done something completely stupid, embarrassing and likely irreparable. The one that feels like the end of the world, at least for a few moments.


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "But my favorite is the passage...."

Yes, truly wonderful!

But there's a frisson of sadness also that a large number of students in US schools today will never get most or even any of the allusions.


message 28: by Ginny (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 215 comments Everyman wrote: "Renee wrote: "But my favorite is the passage...."

Yes, truly wonderful!

But there's a frisson of sadness also that a large number of students in US schools today will never get most or even any of the allusions.
..."


But now we have google! And those searches do lead me to worlds I have not explored before. I would like to think that today students of all ages research and explore allusions as they go along.


message 29: by Ginny (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 215 comments And thanks to google, I came across these illustrations done for an edition published in Boston in 1894. http://www.amysacker.net/documents/ch...


message 30: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Those are great! Thanks, Ginny!


back to top