[identity profile] jackmerlin.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] trennels
I know this has been brilliantly covered in fanfic, but I have been searching back through old threads and can't see that it has ever been discussed in a thread here. In Peter's Room we are told as a casual aside, that Trennels was built by a Joshua Marlow, who made his pile in the slave trade.
Presumably this is historically likely. No-one got to build a house like Trennels without doing something dubious at some point; if not the slave trade, then employing children in the mines / being a slum landlord / driving small farmers off their land etc. Maybe AF was inspired by a real life stately home that she'd visited that had been built using money from the slave trade.
My question is this really: why did AF toss this fact into the story at all? Would an original child reader have queried how Trennels existed? There seems no need to mention it at all.
Peter is romanticising Malise at the point where he thinks about Joshua. Is the mention of one dodgy ancestor meant to alert the reader to the possibility that Malise might not be all he seems?
Is it a sneaky dig at the Marlow's Protestant forebears? Patrick's ancestors were busy being martyrs for their faith and suffering discrimination for being Catholics - but look what the Protestants (with their Protestant work ethic and all) did?
Is it too much of a stretch to wonder if AF had Mansfield Park on her mind, given MP and PR's themes of play-acting and love triangles, and indirectly answered the question of whether the Bertrams were slave-owners?
What do the younger Marlows think about living in a house built with slave money? Peter seems to think of it as accepted and unremarked family history. The entail means of course that they can never wash their hands of it, but do they ever have any sort of conversation about it? (And yes, this will be my prompt for the summer fic fest if we have one again!)

Date: 2017-02-18 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorrelforbes.livejournal.com
Mansfield Park definitely feels likely as an influence, doesn't it? Though Nicola is otherwise no Fanny Price...

Re whether they feel guilty about living in it - I'd guess most of them don't, especially the ones who are navy mad. Their identity's much more tied to that naval service than the more distant past, and they feel they're on the side of right as a result. Also, all the way up to Run Away Home, Trennels is still a novelty that they've been unexpectedly dropped in and are still coming to grips with, rather than something that's part of them. Rowan's the exception but it's a slog for her, not a privilege. I bet Ann would come to be very disturbed about it though. Maybe AF was laying a bit more ground for her future doing good works in Africa?

Date: 2017-02-18 04:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] legionseaglelj.livejournal.com
I've always thought that it was very much tying the Marlows of Peter's Room into Mansfield Park (surely the Bertrams have to be slave-owners; they have plantations in the West Indies and the Act of 1807 only prevented the trade in slaves; the slaves on British-owned plantations became emancipated in 1833, at which point the likes of the Bertrams received compensation.) It's very much a Mansfield Park plot in many ways, including as you say the love triangle (and left out family members; Julia, as well as Fanny) as well as peer pressure into acting. But also the plot about influence in the Navy and William's ambitions ties in to other Marlow preoccupations, not necessarily in Peter's Room but certainly in Falconer's Lure and The Marlows and the Traitor.


On the topic of fanfic, I presume you've read [livejournal.com profile] ankaret's fabulous Sugar (http://archiveofourown.org/works/28533) which deals with this bit of Marlow history, as well as [livejournal.com profile] lilliburlero's Unedited Transcript Fragment (http://archiveofourown.org/works/3423431) about how the Marlows' unconsciousness of it might strike someone with West Indian roots.

Date: 2017-02-23 08:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
Been pondering this, and enjoying the linked fics, one of which i hadnt read.

I think it's there to make clear that the Marlows arent the traditional lords of the manor or gentry - which presumably the Merricks were, until remaining Catholic despite the 1600s changed them from being the respectable landowners to less so. I need to re-read Players now i have both halves, but recall the Marlows then are yeoman farmer types. So the sentence makes sense of the change in wealth from one book to the later ones.

It was probably the easiest way to explain a huge change in fortunes, and to an assumed all-white middle-class audience it would be the kind of throwaway comment made all the time. I wouldnt expect the Marlows to fret about it at all except for Nicola feeling less-righteous than Patrick with his long-inherited Catholcism.

For comparison at my primary school in late 70s we spent a term studying the slave trade in gruesome detail. It was never explicitly said i dont think, but the undertone was that what did you expect traders to do with what seemed like savages, and only once Africa became more 'civilised' (thanks to European contact, natch) did the slave trade itself become wrong (as opposed to the cruel conditions) . See also any mentions of Empire - only ever mentioned in passing, but during my entire childhood always framed as a good thing for the recieving countries.

Date: 2017-02-27 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
A lot of country houses were built in the past through money making activities that are similar to capitalism today. The Spencer earls were
originally sheep farmers. Anne Boleyn's family were able to buy country houses through successful merchant activity in the City of London. The Weld family of Dorset were originally major grocers in the City, and married into the Roman Catholic aristocracy. Some of this might have involved some child labour, as apprenticeships were a major form of training and child labour laws were different, but still it is not that different from modern capitalism. It does say in Peter's Room that the eighteenth century Trennels was built on the slave trade, but many country houses were not. Still, although I can see no evidence that the Merricks had plantations or slave investments( the source of their wealth could be similar to the Welds) obviously some Catholics did, particularly in the US, and presumably AF knew this. The Carroll family of Maryland were major slave owners for example. This didn't stop other Roman Catholics from being opposed on moral grounds, but I would say, with reference to Mansfield Park, that the majority of active abolitionists were Protestants, particularly evangelical Protestants. I imagine that the Marlows, if they think at all about the source of the money to build a country house, think that it was obtained immorally,
but a longtime ago, with the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, and they are not going to pull it down.
Lizzzar

Date: 2017-06-30 10:19 am (UTC)
chatringer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chatringer
I suppose it was a fairly easy way of making a lot of money quite quickly so as to be able to afford to build a new house from scratch, from an author's point of few.

Date: 2017-03-09 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antfan.livejournal.com
Fascinating thread. I wonder if Forest might have visited a stately home which was funded by slave money? She was inspired by particular locations, I think, and as these were typically in the West country, maybe more likely to be owned by families connected to the slave trade (Bristol being a big centre).

I also totally buy into the connection with Mansfield Park, although only because this is Forest – I think for most casual readers (speaking as a casual reader myself) you'd have to be pretty astute to pick up on the Bertrams as probable slave trade beneficiaries (I was only aware of it because it is helpfully pointed out in the intro to my Penguin edition). But with Forest, and seeing all the other references to Austen in her work – yes.

I'm not so convinced she's tying the slavery reference into the earlier, Players history, because by her own account, the idea for the Players books came to her very suddenly when she was writing Ready Made Family, so after Peter's Room. However, I do think it is part of a general interest in the past and family history specifically, and how this intertwines with the attitudes of contemporary characters, which runs through the series. Foley's attitude to his smuggler ancestors is discussed in MATT, and maybe seen as predisposing him to acting treacherously. Nicola is proud of family history (Falconer's Lure) but in End of Term is feeling slightly ashamed that her ancestors might not have had the same heroism/integrity as Patrick's. By Peter's Room, though, she takes a much more robust attitude to Malise's treachery (“what a heel”) while Peter has over-romanticised Malise and therefore set himself up for disappointment. The repercussions are still being felt in Ready Made Family, where Nicola says she thinks family skeletons (ie Malise) are “rather fab” but Peter is still smarting. Peter has surely over-idealised Malise (just as he once over-idealised Foley) and I wonder if Patrick also isn't falling into a related trap, in that the heroism and solid values of his ancestors (though genuine) has given him a perverse fascination with exploring the opposite, whether through Rupert in Gondal, or in his encounter with Jukie, or even in the way he is drawn to the potentially untrustworthy Ginty over Nicola.

The integrity of family traditions and obligations is also very much present in Ready Made Family in the way that certain characters (Rowan, Nicola) feel much more obligated to the farm and the people who work on it (notably the Tranters) while others (Karen, Mrs Marlow) see it much more instrumentally. So this does seem to tie in with a rather nuanced history, beginning with the thrusting Yeoman farmer, Geofrey (who improves the farm's fortunes but also is prepared to recklessly risk the whole property on a bet) to treacherous Malise, to the slave trading Joshua, down to the modern Marlows, who are somewhat ambivalent overall about their inheritance and what it means and entitles or obliges them to be or do. Yes, definite contrast with the Merricks who seem to have a very straight-down-the-line attitude to both their religion and their role of as Lords of the Manor.

I agree that the slavery wouldn't weigh too heavily on the modern Marlows. They would lack the direct connection with anyone who might have been affected – Catholic persecution, or antisemitism, has an immediacy, for Nicola anyhow, because she knows Patrick and Miranda, but the history of the slave trade would probably feel quite distant, and mediated through more nostalgic treatments like Gone With The Wind. They might have felt very differently now.

You mention Harewood – there was a fascinating exhibition about the family's involvement with slavery, which was extensive – not only did they make their money that way, but they also campaigned against abolition in opposition to Wilberforce (spoke against him as MP or a peer, can't remember exactly) and then got compensated handsomely upon abolition. I don't think this history was ever held against them when, for example, they later married into the Royal Family (George V's daughter Princess Mary in the 1920s), but the origin of most big fortunes probably don't stand a lot of scrutiny...

Date: 2017-03-09 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antfan.livejournal.com
By the way, I think the fact that Forest mentions the slave-trading Joshua, but for no apparent plot reason, is one of the things I love about her writing. Of course it doesn't have to be there, and might make some readers uncomfortable, but makes her writing feel so true somehow.

Date: 2017-03-10 11:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antfan.livejournal.com
the younger sons who joined the Navy when the Navy was trying to catch and stop slave ships

Is there anything in Hornblower? That - or another naval novel - might have put this in AF's mind. I do like the idea of a family feud on the issue!

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