Editions, Contexts and Politics, Reviews and Reader Response, Trollope's Other American Books, Abridgements

To Trollope-l

March 1, 2002

RE: Trollope's North America: Contexts & Politics, Reviews, Trollope's Other American Books, Abridgements

While reading Bradford Booth and Donald Smalley's "Introduction" to the 1951 Knopf edition of Trollope's North America, I thought to myself, "it's really fitting we should be reading this book before we have an Anglo-, and Euro-philic American literature" summer -- for what unites Edith Wharton with William Dean Howells (as well as Henry James) is their real sympathy with a cosmopolitan attitude towards different societies. All three were willing and able to enter into English and European society; indeed, of Wharton it may be claimed she preferred what she saw and knew of France and Italy to what she saw and lived in England and America. Booth and Smalley open their introduction by stressing Trollope's determination to write far more fairly and deeply -- meaning disinterestedly and knowledgeably -- than his mother had done. I began the first chapter of the book tonight and Trollope's own opening words of his first two paragraphs bear this out:

It has been the ambition of my literary life to write a book about the United States ... My wish is to describe as well as I can the present social and political state of the country ...

Of his mother's book he goes on to say:

Thirty years ago my mother wrote a book about the Americans, to which I beliee I amy allude as a well-known and successful work without being guilty of any undue family conceit. That was essentially a woman's book. She saw with a woman's keen eye, and described with a woman's light but graphic pen, the social defects and absurdities which our near relatives had adopted into their domestic life. All that she told was worth the telling, if done successfully, was sure to produce a good result. I am satisfied that it did so. But she did not regard it as part of her work to dilate on the nature and operation of those political arrangements in their newness, the defectswould certainly pass away, while the political arrangements, if good, would remain. Such a work is fitter for a man than for a woman.

I don't know if general penetrating analysis is fitter for a man than a woman, but according to Booth and Smalley and a host of contemporary American reviewers whom they quote Trollope did succeed in presenting a cogent general picture of American life in the 1860s during a time of crisis -- the American civil war. Booth and Smalley commend Trollope for two things that contrast to his mother's book. First, when Trollope encounters an adventure or people whom he dislikes or is treated badly by he does not confuse an individual subjective experience with an objective assessment of the particular aspect of US life the incident or encounter embodied. Second, Anthony finds as central to US life the independence, self-respect, and dignity, the pride of the "lower orders" of the US (the lack of a culture of deference) which so disgusted and alienated Fanny. A crowd of US porters gave him a hard time, jeered at his desire to protect his writing desk, and he can write "thought I was badly off on that railway platform, -- worse off than I should have been in England, -- all that crowd of porters round me were better off than our English porters".

According to Booth and Smalley, and also Richard Mullen in his biography of Trollope (where he praises North America and what he calls Trollope's identification with Americans far more strongly than he does in his Penguin Companion). Trollope presents a generally pro-North, anti-slavery and consciously empathetic view of America as he travelled through it. He really made every effort to depict the average feel of life in the US at the time and across the terrain he managed to travel to. He is no more tribal or narrow or conservative in his outlook than Howells or Wharton.

The contemporary results of his cosmopolitanism showed up in a reverse response on the two sides of the Atlantic to his book to what his mother's encountered. Where among reviewers and those who got into print Fanny's book was castigated in the US and found mightily amusing in the UK, by the same groups Anthony's book was praised in the US and did not find much favor in the UK. Booth and Smalley say

"the powerful North American Review pronounced [Anthony's] account 'one of the most readable books of travel we have ever met with'. Trollope, it stated, had achieved 'an appreciatiojn of the fundamental idea of American society ... the influential American Theological Review trusted that Americans, even the most thin- skinned among them, woudl not resent his 'good-natured satire at our faults and follies ... for the critic has a generous and manly soul'

According to Booth and Smalley,

"one reason for Trollope's receiving such kind treatment was that in the summer and fall of 1862 the North was grateful for friends, and especially English friends. Trollope had a good deal to say in faovr othe Northern cause in the Civil War. He held that the South possessed no constitutional or ethical right to secede, that slavery was an abominable practice, and that the Northern armeies would ultimately win the war".

He was not a "glowing propagandist" for the North, and viewed the South with sympathy, even thought the Union would never be restored as it had been; nonetheless, what really emerges (somewhat surprizingly for those who identify Trollope as a conservative) as an anti-hierarchical attitude all around angered the reviewers in England where upper class people felt a kinship with the landowning gentry of the South, and of course in the north of England were losing money because of the dependence of English mills upon cotton. (Trollope deals with this issue in "A Widow's Mite", a short story set in Lancashire and written in 1862).

Booth and Smalley contextualize Trollope's book beautifully: not only do we have it set against his mother's book and placed politically and socially and in the literary marketplace; they pick quotations from it that embody the main trends that evoked these reader responses and give us a feel for man when he need no longer keep to the conventional courtship plot and, as he suggests in his own introductory chapter, free himself from having to seek a popular success from readers who expect no serious history, cultural analysis and so on. In his biography Mullen goes so far as to argue that Trollope's best work is found in his travel books and Trollope identified far more with Americans than he did with either the Irish he professed to like to or English people. Probably this is going too far.

An interesting aspect of Trollope's endeavour which Booth and Smalley point out connects up to some of what Judy has been writing about Mark Twain's book. They claim that Trollope read very few of the American "classics of travel", among which they number Basil Hall's Travels in North America (1829), Harriet Martineau's A Retrospect of Western Travel (1838) and Society in America (1839), Dickens's American Notes (1842) and Andrew Mackay's The Western World (1850). He did read de Toqueville's Democracy in America (1835-40); that's interesting considering how praiseworthy Trollope finds the lack of a deferent culture. He also read Frederick Law Olmsted's accounts of his travels in the south. I am fond of Olmsted because he was the architect of Central Park in NYC. Trollope felt the best kind of travel book was the one which was built upon what was evoked by what the "eye of the writer saw and his ear has heard".

Booth and Smalley also bring in other interesting context too. The pirate publication of Trollope's North America by Harper and Bros led to his publishing some forthright arguments on behalf of effective copyright laws in a couple of influential American journals. Trollope met and made picturesque impressions on all sorts of American writers. He used his experiences of American women (particularly his love for Kate Fields) in He Knew He Was Right and The Duke's Children and his sense of an American might strongly critique how communities formed in England in The American Senator.

I looked at the introductions to North America in the Oxford Companion and Mullen's Penguin and neither are any where near as helpful (or vividly written) as Booth and Smalley. The couple of columns in the Oxford Companion does take Trollope to task for his failure really to acknowledge the necessity of working outside their home for women in "The Rights of Women," if for no other reason than they may not marry or stay married (husbands can and did leave their wives).

Tonight for the first time I looked to see exactly what editions of North America are available. According to Lance Tingay after its early first success, it has not been much reprinted. Tingay lists no less than 5 editions of the book in 1862, one of which was a translation into German. The next publication comes 99 years later: the 1951 Knopf with an introduction by Booth and Smalley which I own. This 1951 does have illustrations from contemporary sources, but it is somewhat abridged: it omits 5 chapters & 3 appendices which Knopf probably considered would be uninteresting to people who might buy this book, filled with matter they would do better to look elsewhere for: Trollope's explanations of the workings of the state and Federal gov't in the US. However, it does have appendices which offer a chart of Trollope's itinerary and descriptions of his first (earlier) trip to the US and a later trip to California. I would be interested to know who else is reading this text. It matters what text people read. I would also be interested to know who is reading the Trollope Society text, what introduction it has, and if it is at all abridged and in what way.

Tingay lists 4 other reasonably full and the one savagely abridged edition by Penguin (1968). The 4 are a 2 volume by Dawson (1968), a New York Da Capo Press edition (1986). a 1986 edition by a firm apparently content to call itself Publications, and Alan Sutton's 1987 2 volume edition. Again I would be interested to know if any or all of these are abridged, in what way and what the introduction is like.

It would be significant if Trollope's book were only available in abridgements and how much or what has been abridged. It is also significant how it is treated. It's clear that neither Booth, Smalley, Mullen or the reviewer in the Oxford Companion apply to Trollope the kind of artistic criteria travel-writing sometimes is expected to have. And yet its success depends upon its style. Every book's does.

Cheers to all,

Dear all

Many thanks to Ellen for the information about the context of 'North America' and its various editions. The one I have is the two-volume 1986 edition she mentioned, which was published by what looks to be a small press, Granville Publishing, based at a bookshop in Islington. The text in this edition is based on that of the third edition in 1862 and is complete except that, like Ellen's edition, it omits the three appendices which contained the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. Can anybody say if the Trollope Society edition includes this material? Sadly, there are no introductions, footnotes etc in this edition apart from Trollope's own introduction.

Cheers
Judy Geater

Re: Different Editions

What a shame about the lack of introduction and notes. The beautiful contextualized edition by Knopf cost $6.00 in 1951 -- of course at that time $6.00 was not a small amount of money.

Ellen

Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2002

Ellen wrote:

He was not a "glowing propagandist" for the North, and viewed the South with sympathy, even thought the Union would never be restored as it had been; nonetheless, what really emerges (somewhat surprizingly for those who identify Trollope as a conservative) as an anti-hierarchical attitude all around angered the reviewers in England where upper class people felt a kinship with the landowning gentry of the South, and of course in the north of England were losing money because of the dependence of English mills upon cotton. (Trollope deals with this issue in "A Widow's Mite", a short story set in Lancashire and written in 1862).

One quite different picture of this comes from the memoir of Frances Hodgson Burnett, The One I Knew The Best of All, which was reissued in the early 80s I think. She was a small child when their family business was disastrously affected by the war. But she writes of how this caused her widowed mother to relocate near an Uncle who lived in the Great Smokey Mountains in the US. She writes of living in Manchester as a little girl and only seeing one flower that she remembered, and that was a weak thing behind an iron fence on a gloomy street. And then her home was moved to a paradise of flowers and eartly beauty which had a real effect on her life. (I remember, in the 60s, making an airline reservation for an old man who wanted to fly to the area near where she lived so that he could go home and see "the blossoming of the wildwood.")

This is quite distantly related to what Ellen was posting (which was wonderful, BTW) but it came to my mind very strongly when I thought about the effect of the American Civil War on England, and how like the ripples in a stone-struck pond those effects could be.

Kristi

Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2002

I shall be reading North America from the Trollope Society edition. It has a brief Introduction by John Letts, which is mainly concerned with the publication details, from which we learn that Trollope received 1,250 for the book, and reckoned that he was left with 625 profit after he had paid all his travel expenses. He does say (of Trollope) :-

"He got many opinions wrong. The South did not succeed in parting from the Union. The Washington Monument was completed. Lincoln did not turn out to be the mediocrity he predicted . . . to name only a few."

I hope that this will not be regarded as a spoiler for any list member who has not yet read the book.

The usual Trollope Society Notes on the Text are not given, but Volume I has 20 chapters, including Trollope's Introduction, and Volume II has 26 chapters as well as the three appendices, giving the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. In all there are 915 fairly generously laid out pages, so I shall be surprised to hear that anything significant has been omitted. I am sure that John Letts will confirm that it has always been the policy of the Society to publish complete editions.

I see that Judy's schedule requires us to read about 65 pages a week, which in view of the relatively well spread-out text, should be achievable. I am glad, however, that I know TWWLN fairly well, so that I can concentrate on NA over the next 15/16 weeks.

Regards, Howard

Re: North America: The Trollope Society Edition

I just read Howard's description of the Trollope Society Edition. In our house we have one ancient ragged green copy of the US constitution which we used during the time the present Bush took the presidency. We followed what was going on by referring ourselves to this little book. So from my view the Trollope Society does people a real service by reprinting this document. I'll bet there are a lot of USians who don't have a copy of the constitution in their house, nor the Declaration of Independence (though that is more likely since it's short). The Articles of Confederation is an important document for anyone who wants to understand some of the issues swirling around the secession of the southern states. The original constitution of the US was a much more loosely united group of states. Probably most USians would not have a copy of this document.

The slender abridgement of North America that I read previously included Trollope's walking trip through Washington DC which was at that time mostly bare. The plan was laid out but there were no sidewalks, avenues or buildings, just an imagined maze. Trollope (as I recall, but I may find out that my memory here is wrong) like many others at the time predicted that Washington would stay a tiny city and was amused at the grandiose sense of future predicted by its planned maze. Well he was wrong here too: it is all filled out and burgeons into two states on either sides (Virginia and Maryland). It seems to have amused many Europeans to come to see cities whose grid was carefully planned out before the city began to grow. This is what happened in NYC. European cities grew without plans, all higgledy-piggledy. But when you have a plan, if you know the reasoning behind it, you don't get lost.

Cheers to all,
Ellen


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