Trollope's Strengths; The de Courcy Ladies; Sex in The Small House and 19th Century Novels; Social Climbing in Trollope's novels and Adolphus Crosbie's ennui; Social Climbing in Trollope's novels and Adolphus Crosbie's ennui; Between White and Black: Adolphus Crosbie, one of Trollope's Most Interesting Characters; The Cloisters of Barsetshire and Lily Dale

To Trollope-l

April 17, 2000

Re: The Small House at Allington, Ch 19-24: Trollope's Strengths

As I read this week's two instalments, I thought to to myself, here we have Trollope at his best, doing what he is so good at: both instalments emerge from some deep-musing reverie in which Trollope enters into each of his characters' minds and projects scenes, dialogues, letters, pictorial dramas from these, into which he at the same time brings himself as narrator to shape our responses and distance us as we move. Thus we don't hate Crosbie; we see him clearly, as Lady Julia sums it up, albeit unsympathetically, 'a poor weak silly fool' (Everyman Small House, ed DSkilton, Ch 24, p. 228). I found myself loving Dr Crofts, and yet made to see how inadequate and small-minded, over fearful is his approach to Bell -- his behavior reminds me of Arthur Wilkinson in The Bertrams. I found myself understanding the Squire though he would pressure and pervert the natural needs of a girl over whom he has no authority because he himself has given nothing and will give nothing unless she is willing to sell herself for the fortune he will provide her and her mother. I am even brought to enter into Lady Alexandrina's point of view:

It must be acknowledged that the lady was fighting her battle with much courage, and also with some skill. In three or four days Crosbie would be gone; and this victory, if it were ever to be gained, must be gained in those three or four days. And if there were to be no victory, then it would be only fair that Crosbie should be punished for his duplicity (Ch 23, p. 209).

Dagny makes a good point that hers is not lady-like behavior. In point of what was acceptable, she and her mother should have thrown Crosbie out. Had he any brains, he should have been alerted to their desperation and probable lack of funds. Had they hard cash in the form of a dowry for these daughters, Mr Gazebee would not have been snatched up treacherously by the Lady Amelia; there would be someone who could be bought for Lady Alexandrina.

Lady Julia's outspoken condemnation is brave. She can exemplify the meaning of the line:

Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often caused by bad men as they are by good men who are silent when an opinion must be voiced

Yet note that even though she voices her opinion, she does not leave de Courcy castle. By staying she countenances the actions of the de Courcys. So her defiance does not go very far. That's why Lady de Courcy gets away with it. I thought particularly bitter was Trollope's ironic summation at Lady de Courcy's delight in getting Griselda, Lady Dumbello to her house. No matter how short the stay, how disdainful and uncooperative the woman, she has come. The hollow people.

This chapter also introduces us to Mr Plantagenet Palliser for the first time. I think we can see that even in this depiction of someone content to remain with the hollow people, who is attracted to the cynosure of it all (the supposedly fecund but frigid Goddess Griselda who mouths all the right opinions), Trollope has left himself room to maneuver and bring out his eventually unconventional hero of virtue. For Trollope redefines what is manly and good in both Mr Harding and Plantagenet Palliser, and he begins it in this first chapter: Plantagenet does not hunt, race, slaughter hecatombs of birds, does not network, does not idle about in the manner of Crosbie; he reads, studies, attends committee rooms, appears to care about the outcome of political battles not just to get himself on top but in terms of what laws are passed (p. 216). He is also shown to be something of an innocent: we can at least say of Crosbie, he would not be allured by such as Griselda, Lady Dumbello. There is also in the portrait the seeds of what make his marriage to Lady Glencora McCluskie so difficult for her:

He was a thin-minded, plodding respectable man, willing to deote all his youth to work, in order that in old age he might be alllowed to sit among the Councillors of the State (Ch 23, p. 217).

What we are not given any signs of yet are his sterling integrity and capacity for tender love. But the portrait as laid down does not preclude these later revelations.

I also enjoyed Johnny Eames's battle with the bull. I suppose we can stretch an analogy and say there is a kind of parallel with Crosbie. Crosbie fights with a cagey bull (Lady de Courcy) and loses all -- though he thinks he is winning until the moment he is declared the girl's bethrothed. He reminds me of someone who cannot help himself; this is very real. Shakespeare and Chaucer said people drink down their own poison; they chase after it, knowing it to be poison, drinking it for what they are said to gain. Johnny's is a cleaner fight. I found Trollope's fond depiction of the Earl touching -- it recalled the depiction of the Ullathornes in Barchester Towers. Johnny come home, stiff, uncomfortable, fearing laughter, but finally 'thawed by the kindness' of his mother and sister is also a good scene.

And the spirit of Lily hovers over all. How skilfully Trollope interweaves her presence, brings us back to her mind, interweaves bits of her letters into the narrative, and bits of Crosbie's second disappointing one from the point of view of her mind reading it (Chs 21, pp 188-91, 23, pp. 212-13), viz.,

His second was written much in the same tone, though Lily as she read it, had unconsciously felt somewhat less satisfied than she had been with his first. Expressions of love were not wanting, but they were vague and without heartiness. They savoured of insincerity ... (p. 212).

There is comic undercutting through the use of the cranky underpaid postmistress, but the plangent note is struck more than once. Crosbie has thrown her away, and for what? I suggest another parallel we are to make is between the home of the Earl and Lady Julia de Guest and the de Courcys. The Earl stands for the old virtues, truth, dignity, self-respect, no showing off of prizes, he doesn't care who visits him, in fact likes Dr Crofts as competent. So we cannot say that Trollope rejects the aristocracy as such, but rather a kind of inner falseness and perversion.

I know I have not done justice to these chapters, have not shown all the perspectives one can take here. I have only sketched out a few angles people can think about in terms of the fiction itself. There is also its place in Trollope's oeuvre and life and against other novels of the period. I have cross-posted parts of a thread that is going on on Victoria into which this novel and Adolphus Crosbie and Johnny Eames's stories may be fitted.

Ellen Moody

Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 11:08:20 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dagny
Subject: [trollope-l] The de Courcy Ladies

I have to admit that as far as I am concerned some of the de Courcy ladies, while having the title of ladies do not exhibit ladylike behaviour.

This not caring about the fact that Crosbie is currently engaged to Lily Dale. Lady Alexandrina does not care--it's alright with her whatever he did in the past, if he is engaged to someone else at the present moment, as long as she can steal him away from Lily and "win" in the end. And her mother the Countess doesn't care either. I guess that after all, all is fair in love and war, even if you are a lady, and probably especially if you are a Countess.

And this reminded me of the wicked trick that Amelia played on one of the Gresham girls over Mr. Gazebee. Putting him down in letters to throw her off the scent, leaving the field clear for herself.

Poor Crosbie, lamenting that while he can see himself breaking the engagement with Lily he has no hope of being able to jilt a lady.


From: "Angela Richardson"
Re: [trollope-l] Sex in The Small House and 19th century novels
Date: Wed, Apr 19, 2000, 9:39 pm

I was reminded by the reference to Lady Dumbello as the Woman in White of Wilkie Collins and his difficulties with the magazine the Graphic when Law and the Lady was published. He had described a scene where a married woman is embraced by a man who admires her. This is an unencouraged advance and she is upset by it. His arm encircles her waist, we are told. The editor changed this section in the magazine saying it was unsuitable for family reading.

When the book was published Collins put the scene back, not in any way accepting the editor's view that this action by the male character could be seen as a rape.

It seems in this instance, the author did not want us to be reading the scene in a coded way.

I've found the sections on Crosbie and his downfall very powerful reading. I think his character is extremely well drawn.

I do have to say though, I wish Trollope would not keep on telling us how stubborn the Dales are. He shows us their family trait when Bell responds to Bernard and I would rather he refrained from telling, when he can show so well.


I responded to Dagny and Angela:

Re: Sex in The Small House and English 19th century novels

Dagny and Angela have brought up a common ploy of middle class English (and American) novels of the period: scenes about sex are written in such a way that the sophisticated reader can get it, and the unsophisticated not. If you don't want to think people have sex outside what public discourse allows, the novels of this period which were sold to middle class readers were written so as not to disturb you. I don't know that this is any different in the French and Russian novel in the sense that although the sexually active couples are explicitly said to have liaisions and get into all sorts of visible trouble because of their behavior, the actual sex scenes are kept suggestive. The chapter closes on the kiss. This may be different in the stories written for the 'penny dreadfuls' and in fiction intended for the less self-improving, but both Flaubert and Balzac were trying to appeal to the respectable. This so their work would be respected. So my memories of Madame Bovary (which I read in French when I was an undergraduate) cohere with Angela's.

In this week's instalment we have another scene in which frustrated sex is suggested to those who are alert. Remember I never said the amount of sex was unimportant; the fact that Lady Alexandrina is a cold fish and Crosbie compares her to Lily is one of the causes he can never begin to make his marriage work. Yes the overarching moral about ambition and heartlessness, about ruthlessness and the way society works is the more important pattern to notice, but the sex -- or lack of it -- counts. Here is where Lady Alexandrina fell down on the job:

Then the countess went away, and Alexandrina was left with her lover for half an hour. When the half hour was over, he felt he would have given all that he had in the world to have back the last four and twenty hours of his existence. But he had no hope ... (Everyman The Small House, ed DSkilton, Ch 24, p. 227).

So the clincher of failure and despair for Crosbie is when he attempts to make love to Lady Alexandrina for a half hour. There was no "my love, my love!" You can still get the moral if your eyes graze over these words without registering their full meaning, but you miss a lot. People are strongly creatures of their biology in Trollope.

As we can see in Johnny Eames's success over the bull and the whole of the Earl's unpretending existence.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 18:19:46 -0400
From: "R J Keefe"
Subject: [trollope-l] Social Climbing in Trollope's novels and Adolphus Crosbie's ennui

Note to Ellen Moody: the following comes from your posting of last Friday, replying to mine of the same heading 'The Dales and the Ropers and the De Courcys - Morals vs Manners'

"If we move simply to getting through our days, it is probably much easier to sit in room with Lady Alexandrina de Courcy than Amelia Roper. Yes indeed. Very dull of course. But then again was not 'ennui' a great problem for the bourgeois with an imagination and heart."

I have very little to say about 'ennui,' except that I think it is largely a reactive state. The ennui that, as I quite agree with Ellen, haunts the characters of The Dance to the Music of Time struck me when I last re-read it as a response (so to speak) to the collapse of ideals that followed the Great War - a collapse also of Nineteenth-Century pretension. I haven't read Mme du Deffand's letters, but I believe that her world of philosophes was also marked - strained - by a sense of the absurdity and purposelessness of a system of government (or rather a 'pratique') that made very little sense and worked in spite of itself (when it worked at all).

While, as I've already said, Adolphus Crosbie is beset by a fear of being bored, I can't imagine Trollope putting the matter this way. For Trollope, boredom (beyond the annoyance of a dull party or a long sermon) would probably be too unmanly a state of mind even for a failed hero. Lizzie Eustace's restlessness has much in common with boredom, but only by way of bringing to mind the old saying that 'boring is not where you are but who you are.' As regards the difference between Mrs. Roper's house and Courcy Castle, the latter might contain objects or sights that a 'bourgeois with an imagination and heart' might find inspiring, perhaps even 'uplifting'; Mrs. Roper's house would be almost guaranteed to lack these amenities. Trollope would say, I think, that if one has to put up with dull or unattractive people one might as well do it in comfort.

I also agree with Ellen that Trollope's novels are prudential - the modifier is as juste as mots ever get - but while in his novels the safety that's sought always manifests itself circumstantially as well, with couples marrying not only happily but well, this business of happy endings should not cloud the larger understanding that June Siegel touched on with a passage from Castle Richmond. Safety may not be material but moral. It is the safety of La Princesse de Cleves, and both Roger Carbury and - well, another character whom I won't spoil anyone's fun by mentioning just now - both achieve it. It entails a combination of confrontation and resignation rather foreign to today's meliorizing predispositions.

Thanks to Ellen for providing background on the Victoria thread that got me started on this topic. I see with regret that my previous posting on this subject were headed 'Sex and the 19th century novel,' and will try in future to align my responses with my computer's.

RJ Keefe

To Trollope-l

April 19, 2000

Re: Social Climbing in Trollope's novels and Adolphus Crosbie's ennui

I found a number of points in RJ's postings which I would like to see him expatiate on some more. Did I refer to ennui in one of my postings? I forget and can't find it this morning. However, if I did, the reference is the result of a thread I got involved on on another list, one on 18th century French literature. I don't know if any people on our list have read the letters of Madame du Deffand but she repeatedly uses this word to cover linked complex states of mind which include depression, self-anger, frustration, near-madness, self-flagellation, and the results of these in brilliant subversive meditations. The word itself may be found in central spots in other texts by later 18th century French -- and English women. Translated into English literature it emerges as melancholy, boredome, and an alienation from all that surrounds one, frustration, disorientation which produces funny black comedy. The state is much more interesting among the French partly because those who write are stuck in a rigid order; the word doesn't die in the 19th century. We find it in the poetry of Baudelaire and Nerval against the stifling bourgeois worlds they once belonged to and seem not to be able to escape.

Do talk more about ennui, RJ. Yes, Adolphus's problem is he can't take boredom, wants something beyond what's on offer, whether that be the ethically good and beautiful and intelligent passionate Lily or the world of luxury goods and plums and its drawing-room societies that Adolphus imagines the cold and dull Alexandrina will bring in her train. Actually I would say that the characters in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time are continually troubled by ennui. It is there a modern frame of mind. How to get through life which is seen as a burden. If we think about the last we see of Burgo Fitzgerald in Can You Forgive Her? and Lady Glen's boredom with the tedium of Plantagenet we can see where these books link up.

As an afterthought RJ also writes, 'assuming, as I gather not everyone is willing to do, that social climbing can be benign.' I don't know if RJ is on Victoria but the conversation there assumed just the opposite. What was assumed was social climbing and ambition were good, and what the poster wanted was to find women doing it. This I fear is what feminism is often all about; nothing deeper than just such a cataloguing based on unexamined cant and using anachronistic thinking and categories to examine earlier literature.

Social climbing can certainly be benign. It can lead to much individual happiness. We need only think in modern terms to see this: the opening of the doors of colleges to everyone allows individuals to develop capacities and meet people well beyond the position and possibilities in life they were born to. Turn back to the 19th century, many women and men were able to escape the stifling family, the narrow individuals chance threw them among, live interesting lives by climbing out of the niche into which they were born. The new industrial worlds, the artistic worlds, the new kinds of jobs (journalism), whole new networks of individuals coming together to make money and get position in ways not conceivable in the 18th century had the same effect on individuals.

However, I don't think Trollope's books are interested in this insight. If we look around at Trollope's women who climbed up before or just as a book opens (Lady Mason, Orley Farm; Lizzie Eustace; Josephine Murray, perhaps Lady Lovel), we find they are mostly punished. Martha Dunstable did not herself climb; her father did. She is, however, a good example of a character who benefits from social climbing -- though it was done in the generation before her. And is not this realistic? It is very hard for the people who climb up in the first generation to fit in; it is the second generation which fits in; it is the third which is comfortable; perhaps the fourth begins to climb down as not worth it. The people who suffer from the climb are the Roger Scatcherds; in his case Trollope doesn't permit himself to imagine a son or daughter who benefits. Rather he focuses in on the anguish and loneliness and frustration of Sir Roger which promotes his alcoholism. In general in Trollope's fiction the women who climb up end up in ways that show profound loss and important failure, bad results from the risk.

Trollope's is prudential fiction. He is always showing the readers ways to achieve safety. Perhaps there is a serious flaw: is there any safety in life of the sort imagined in the books?

I agree too that Trollope often shows us characters working hard to stand still or not fall further. Now this aspect comes clearly from his own autobiography, the lives of his father, mother, brother and himself.

Yet if we switch to men -- whose safety Trollope seems not to worry so much about -- we find another trajectory. The inferences are the same, but Trollope does show us a whole host of men trying to climb up. Perhaps here we see the sexual taboo at work: men can climb and not endanger their sexual chastity -- as Trollope doesn't care about that. It could be argued the most interesting character in The Small House at Alllington is Adolphus Crosbie.

Now are Balzac's characters bored? If not, why not? I am listening to Graham Robb's brilliant biography of Balzac as read aloud by the inimitable David Case, and it would seem boredom was not a problem for Balzac himself.

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000 15:19:34 +0100
Subject: [trollope-l] Between White and Black

I always think that Adolphus Crosbie is one of the most telling of Trollope's weak characters. Perhaps not so much of a villain as George Vavasor, not so much of a cad as George Hotspur, but what his superiors at the time would have called a bit of a shit. In mentioning these three alone one is calling attention to Anthony Trollope's extensive range of colours between white and black - he was an absolute master at depicting every shade of grey.

Those on the list not resident near Chichester in the UK may like to hear of an extremely successful production of Barchester Towers at The Chichester Festival Theatre. Unhappily it is only running for one more week. The Theatre holds 1,200, and every night has been a virtual sell-out. The cast are all local and amateurs. The play was written by Judith Cook. The whole thing was rather brilliantly directed by Roger Redfern. I am not really a fan of amateur theatricals as such. But this calls itself (rightly) community theatre: and somehow the deployment of the large (and unpaid) cast was exciting and convincing.

I was asked to do a pre-production talk to the audience last Tuesday, which I duly did, and the text follows, which may be of mild interest even though it does not directly concern The Small House. I think most of the merit in it has been borrowed from a lecture which Professor Sir Owen Chadwick gave to The Trollope Society some years ago, which I freely and publicly acknowledge.

John Letts

The Cloisters of Barchester

As you drive to Chichester from the north, as you know, you have to cross the Downs. (If the Downs were mountains rather than rolling hills, the passage through would be known as a pass.) As you emerge from the pass, one of the first things you see is the spire of Chichester Cathedral, a minute needle on the horizon, which you see long before you see the town itself. I saw it, exactly so, fifty minutes ago.

This, of course, is the view which Turner saw, and it would also have been the view which Trollope would have seen at the time he was thinking of The Warden. I'm not saying that Trollope had Chichester in mind, of course, or indeed ever went there: his actual model was some amalgam of St Cross Hospital, Winchester Cathedral and Salisbury Close. But since it looks the same today as it did then, it's worth pointing out first the ways in which it now differs. I should try to tell you what part the cathedrals played in city life in the mid 1840s, in religious life, and in the popular press of the day.

Thirty years or so before Trollope lifted his pen to begin The Warden, the cathedrals of this country had begun to decline into a general mild disfavour, if not actual disrespect. Two more or less public scandals had put them under a cloud. One concerned the cathedral school at Rochester. Another centred on St Cross Hospital, as I mentioned before. Both scandals gave rise to hostile articles in the gutter press, to hostile questions in Parliament, and a general tide in favour of radical changes (and please don't think the gutter press was invented by Rupert Murdoch ? it was flourishing in the first quarter of the 19th century). Remember we are talking of the years leading to the first great Reform Act. Conservatives were at bay. The bishops were chief among them. Many of them voted against reform, and became partly discredited for having done so.

Let me quote William Cobbett, writing in 1830:

Yesterday morning I went into the cathedral at Salisbury about seven o'clock. When I got in to the nave of the church and was looking up and admiring the columns and the roof, I heard a sort of humming in some place which appeared to be the transept of the building. . . I at last turned into a doorway to my left, where I found a priest and his congregation assembled. It was a parson of some sort, with a white covering on him, and five women and four men. When I arrived, there were five couple of us. I joined this congregation until they came to the Litany: and then, being monstrously hungry, I did not think myself bound to stay any longer.

Well, that is typical of the radical tone of voice, if not entirely of the radical received opinion of the day. In the play you are about to see, one of the most famous of the Barchester canons is the absentee dean, Canon Stanhope. Brother of a peer, rector of no less than three parishes in the diocese, prebendary of the Cathedral, and a noted bon viveur, the Canon prefers to spend most of his time abroad in Italy. I hope you won't think it far-fetched. Remember the famous Earl Bishop of Bristol, after whom so many hotels in Europe are named, not least because, although for thirty five years he was Bishop of one of the richest sees, he lived many of them in Italy, it was said, for his health. Actually he died in 1803, twelve years before Trollope was born, but I imagine that in the 1840s and 50s his excesses were still reasonably well known to many people.

So when Trollope began to write about Hirams Hospital it was probably taken by most readers to be modelled on St Cross, another genuine and only too truthful case. Just as Dean Stanhope was, St Cross was a hospital of an allegedly charitable nature. It housed thirteen old men, much like Hirams Hospital. It was also used as a parish church; and one of its congregation was a clergyman called Henry Holloway, who became obsessed with the idea that the charitable foundationís income was being misapplied. He finally got the case before the Master of the Rolls, after a lot of agitation in 1853. Trollope had started writing the novel a year before. But he certainly had St Cross in mind.

And he certainly had the Bishop of Winchester in mind too. He was one Brownlow North, half brother of Lord North ? that Prime Minister who is doomed to be famous mainly for having lost the United States. Because of the influence of The Prime Minsterís office, no doubt, Brownlow North became a bishop when he was only 30. He appointed his son to the comparatively well paid sinecure of being Master of St Cross Hospital, and his grandson by another son to be registrar of the Winchester diocese when he was only seven. As you can see, Trollope had no shortage of models.

We shouldn't forget, though, that Trollope did something quite original in making a successful best-seller out of a thinly disguised rehearsal of a case currently much in the public eye. By 1852, Dickens had several novels behind him ? half a dozen or more. But the novels which were based however loosely and generally on public abuses or scandals were still to be written and published (I am thinking of Bleak House, about Chancery, Hard Times, about the losers in the Industrial Revolution, Little Dorrit, about the debtorís prisons, and so on). Trollope, on picking up the St Cross case, and turning it into a simple moral tale, was taking the novel into uncharted regions. It was far from being his only contribution to expanding the canvas on which novelists could base their stories, a point I mean to come to later on.

Here are more models for this writer who had at his back thus far only two rather good Irish novels, based on his own experiences in Ireland, both of which had failed, and a historical pot-boiler, La VendÈe, which has little to commend it, and probably only made money for those lucky enough to find a first edition. Take his journalists for instance.

The Times, in a third leader, thundered away in December 1853:

No sane and honest man could imagine that the revenues of The Hospital of St Cross and the Almshouses of noble poverty were intended to aggrandise and to enrich the son of a bishop, the canon of a cathedral, the incumbent of two rich livings, and a peer of the realm. . . What will the Attorney General do next?

This is the language of Tom Towers and John Bold to the life.

Now, let us look quickly at the religious side of Trollopeís novels. Someone once said the Church of England is the perfect church for those who donít like religion. Someone else, later, said that Trollope was the perfect writer for people who don't like reading books. Both epigrams really mean that people prefer their religion or their novels ? it doesn't matter which ? to be made rather easy for them. They do not want to put a lot of hard work into things. They want them to slip down. It's certainly true that itís hard to find a great deal of real interest in religion in Trollopeís novels. Perhaps we should all be relieved there isn't. What Trollope was interested in was people, and characters: the people who practised religion. Nor was he interested in politics, much: only in the people who were immersed in politics.

One of the great movements in those times was the Evangelical movement. This is where Mr Slope comes in, as you will shortly see. Obadiah Slope was a pushy young intellectual, not long out of Cambridge. He was totally against the modern ritual innovations of the Anglo Catholics. He worked hard to ensure Sunday should be a real day of rest and to encourage Sunday Schools. He believed very sincerely that the devil made work for idle hands. Trollope makes fun of him consistently. Later in his life he was commissioned to write a novel by an evangelical magazine owner. He quickly wrote Rachel Ray? quite a good book, which I recommend, but not for its Evangelical pastor, who is even slimier, if that is possible, that Mr Slope. Not unnaturally, the editor of Good Works turned it down. Trollope must have done this with a wholly mischievous intent.

I have said Trollop wasn't greatly interested in Christianity. But he did give us here something which is very rare: a portrait in literature of a really good man, which isn't boring. The Warden, The Reverend Septimus Harding, may not be a very good clergyman; but he is rather a good saint, a true Christian, and absolutely convincing. He loves the cathedral, and the music in the cathedral. He loves his daughters and his little flock in the Hospital, the bedesmen of the almshouse. He has an absolutely instinctive understanding that God is love, and I am tempted to say that that is almost all the religion he knows.

Finally, I must say a little about this extraordinary man Trollope. It would be fun to try to write a very short encyclopaedia entry about him. Here goes. Anthony Trollope was a younger son in an unsuccessful upper middle class family. A brother and a sister died of consumption: his father of debt and failure, pursued by creditors. His mother, in desperation, tried a crazy expedition to middle America, where she spent most of the last money the family had. She returned to England, and wrote a book about her experiences called Domestic Manners of the Americans which made her famous and became a best-seller. She spent the rest of her life as a professional writer, turning out well over fifty books. Through influence she got her not apparently very bright younger son, who was sinking into debt and lethargy in London, into the Post Office as a junior clerk. Still a failure, he opted to go to Ireland, where he quickly became transformed character and a success as Surveyor of the Irish posts. He married the mysterious daughter of a bank manager form Yorkshire (who after his death turned out to be a crook) and on his first holiday in England after marriage took the manuscript of his first novel with him to show his mother. She refused to read it, but sent it on to her publisher. From that point onwards, he wrote upwards of a novel every year, while for twenty years continuing to work for The Post Office, in ever more senior positions.

Well, I think that is pretty accurate, and has the advantage of being nice and short. Now comes the commercial. I think Anthony Trollopeís achievement is one of the greatest of all English novelists. Of the forty seven novels he wrote over forty are of a high standard, and someone can always be found to speak well even of the ones which arenít. For me there are only about six duds, and, if anyone cares to leave their name and address, I am happy to say which I think they are.

As other reputations have waned ? Thackeray, Hardy, even Dickens in a small way ? Trollopeís has waxed. A few years ago his memorial was given the last place on the floor in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey, well over a hundred years after he canvassed to get entry for his friend Thackeray.

He should be admired for many things. For me, first and foremost because nearly all who read and love his books think of the characters as real people. (Trollope's appeal, incidentally, stretches well across the Atlantic, and he has a strong following in America). I'm not sure how many Internet sites are devoted to his novels. I think more than half a dozen; and an American academic has written a book called Trollope on the Internet.

One of Trollopeís most admired novels is The Small House at Allington. Its heroine is called Lily Dale, as I imagine some of you will know. I myself have always thought she was rather wet, and not only in the Thatcherite sense. A few years ago John Major, then, as now, a Vice President of The Trollop Society, admitted on Desert Island Discs that his favourite book was The Small House, and that Lily Dale was his favourite character in all fiction.

Of course, this revelation was manna to those of rather different political views, and particularly to hostile journalists. The Evening Standard promptly resurrected Trollope's own opinions, from his posthumous Autobiography, which was that he felt Lily Dale was somewhat a female prig. One of their writers, Maureen Cleave, went further. She said:

To me that was the most shocking thing he has said so far in his premiership. I hate Lily Dale. Lily Dale is a self-righteous prig, and I always want to smack her. What does this choice of heroine say about John Major? I think it tells us why there are no women in his cabinet.

More significant was that when Joanna Trollope mentioned the startling theory at a Trollope Society Dinner that Lily Dale was not a virgin, The Evening Standard sent along to discuss it not a feature writer, or a gossip columnist, but a reporter from the news desk. They, too, thought she was real. Remember the anecdote from Lady Park!

Victoria Glendinning is one of four recent biographers of Anthony Trollope. Before starting on her version of his life, she reviewed Richard Mullen's book in The Spectator. In the review, she referred to him as this would-be playwright who loved his characters, irrespective of their age or gender, this son of a failed barrister who is both counsel for the defence and counsel for the prosecution but rarely a judgeí; and then finished thus, as I will.

He is like the Bible or Shakespeare in that his fiction can be hijacked to prove whatever you want to have proved about life or Society.

His greatest character, in my view, was Lady Glencora Palliser, whose life and whose marriage we follow through several books ? and through whose vivid emotions Anthony Trollope showed how the intimate realities of the relations between men and women were a proper, indeed the most proper, subject for a novel about our lives in the modern world. That, too, was a pioneering move in the history of the novel, for which we shall all, I imagine, be grateful.

John Letts

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