Anthony Trollope's "The Panjandrum"

?Written 1865 (tales of inner circle of promoters for Pall Mall Gazette or earlier, 1841-42?, narrator a Mr Green
Published 1870 (January - February), St Paul's
Published in a book 1870 (June), An Editor's Tales, Strahan

Subject: Short Stories: "The Panjandrum"

The paucity of posts about this story leads me to surmise that either people are very busy, or they did not like this story, but do not care enough to comment. I did like it, and empathized with the narrator's efforts to compel the magazine into existence. I suspect many of us have had the experience of serving on some committee composed of people supposedly with the same end, but in actuality each having his/her own agenda. If one person disagrees with another's ideas, that person regards it as a personal attack. Even our narrator wishes to have all others to defer to him, and is sure the magazine will be a success if only they would have sense enough to acknowledge his superior gifts. I also disliked Churchill Smith, but I found Mrs. St Quinten harder to stomach. Her calf-like deference to this tyrant was distasteful to me. In a way I could see allowing her two votes to even up the disparity of prestige a woman would naturally have at that time, but by giving her this advantage, they essentially gave Churchill Smith three votes. This made the whole atmosphere toxic to any creative endeavor. I wonder if she realized that the failure of the magazine was her fault?

Jill Spriggs

To Trollope-l

March 28, 1998

Re: "An Editor's Tales" and "The Panjandrum"

Someone said these editor's tales are not that interesting. They are fascinating to me and could be to anyone who has ever desired ot be a writer and tried to find an audience.. When I taught these stories to an Advanced Writing in the Humanities class, those students who were interested in writing or writing as a career, were very interested by these stories. They felt for all the characters, saw themselves in this writer or that. Those students who couldn't care less about books or writing did not find much interest in these stories. In writing about a writer's life and writing Trollope is peculiarly 20th century. This is just what many modern writers and poets are on about: themselves.

The Panjandrum is a story rich in character types, a dramatization of how people's egos and vanities and posturing get in the way of all committee work (as Jill says) and in particular of magazine work where there is no profit motive to control people. It is also an explanation of how Trollope's dramatic and pictorial imagination took off from the smallest of "seeds," a pair of women glimpsed walking in the rain. For that alone it should be read by everyone interested in Trollope and the workings of a storyteller's imagination.

We see that Trollope's way was to identify intensely with his protagonists, in this particular case, as the brother to the young girl. He kept a still picture in his mind which he "explained" by elaborating on possible psychological grounds for what he say and then by further imagining other dramatic scenes. It's interesting how he invents a room and place for the girl. As I have argued on this list, I think Trollope is a novelist whose imagination is often set off by a landscape picture. It's interesting how emotional he gets. The whole long piece on the intensity of the days--and the intense satisfaction and glory he felt as he worked--are also things that are close to my heart.

The story is also funny as a rueful and analytic depiction of the egos, the vanities, the foolish goals (like a refusal to pay attention to the taste of the average reader), the the refusals to be practical on the part of literary people. Each of the people who belongs to the magazine is a type who is also fully individualized. As with other of Trollope's funny stories, he obtains pathos by telling of us what each man became--mostly how he died, was buried, was last heard of in prison. There is also his depiction of each man's most characteristic work. The send-up of Lewes was hilarious. Today to me there is really nothing which has such "bitter mirth" as the story of someone who is so proud of his ability to write "unintelligible speculation." The dialogue is kept to the usual short naturalism, and each of the scenes is perfectly realized.

The bipartite structure was effective.

For those interested in Trollope's early days in London and the beginnings of his career, there are tantalizing references to the narrator's writings which are dismissed and not described. Did Trollope write in the magazines before he embarked on his The Macdermots? This story suggests so. It is also part of a series he longed to put together under the "aegis" of Archibald Green, a gauche verison of himself. And what do we find here: two Irish stories, one of the man who attempts the writing life, and one of a man in love with a younger woman, stories all touching Trollope himself very closely.

I looked up the meaning of the word and found in my OED that "panjandrum" is a nonsence word and was used by 18th century actors on the stage in comic scenes in one characters tries to get another to repeat the word. It became used as a title for imaginary or mysterious personages who thought they have much power but really have rather great pretenses.

I enjoyed this piquant perceptive story about the imagination as it has to contend in a narrow literary marketplace remarkable.

Ellen Moody

From: Sigmund Eisner
To: Trollope-L
Subject: "The Panjandrum" in Breyer edition of the short stories

I've been reading Betty Jane Slemp Breyer 5-volume edition of Trollope's short stories, published by Texas Christian University Press at Fort Worth, and so far I have found this edition satisfactory as to convenience, print size, although it is a more than a tad short on its (poor) introductions. Now I have come across a misprint which may be unique to the TCU Press edition or may have, as far as I know, been filtered down from previous editions. In "The Panjandrum" the narrator at the conclusion of the eighth paragraph (the description of Patrick Regan) says, "... I was brought into disgrace, as having introduced him to the company."

The ninth paragraph in this edition begins in this manner: "Bar: but, I think, never was called." I happen to have a copy of a first edition of An Editor's Tales (London: Strahan & Co., 1870). In that edition the ninth paragraph begins in this manner: "Jack Hallam, the next I will name, was also intended for the Bar; but, I think, never was called."

Somebody goofed. If the goof was unique to the TCU Press, no harm was done other than to mystify readers of the TCU edition. But if TCU Press inherited the goof, then I think all of you readers of "The Panjandrum" should look again at your ninth paragraph.


From John Mize

I liked the story a lot also. The narrator's youthful enthusiasm and belief that he could change the world through literature was touching and funny at the same time. I was reminded of Joyce's belief that Ireland could be transformed if only the Irish would look at themselves in the "highly polished glass" of Dubliners.

According to Sutherland believes that Churchill Smith is partly based on George Lewes. I tend to dislike Lewes based on his correspondence with Charlotte Bronte. He comes across as arrogant, self-serving and self-infatuated. What was Lewes' relationship like with George Eliot? Did he try to dominate her the way Churchill Smith dominates Mrs. St. Quinten? Maybe he tried and failed, and that was the basis of their relationship.

If Churchill Smith is indeed based on Lewes, Trollope seems to have detested Lewes. He not only doesn't allow Smith to make any money as an author, but he also has Smith die in a Russian prison. I also enjoyed how Trollope has the narrator develop the idea for his short story, The New Inmate. The process is almost an extension of the childhood invention of an imaginary friend.

John Mize

Subject: Short Story: "The Panjandrum" Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 08:38:33 -0500

I agree with the responses (Oldbuks & John Mize) to this story. Smith comes off as a conceited, self-centered ass. And if Smith is intended to be George Lewes, one can only wonder indeed how a strong woman like George Eliot could have been attracted to such a man. (Shall have to research a good biography of Eliot.) I, as Sutherland does, see a good deal of autobiographical detail in this story: the eager, young protagonist speaks of the agony of composition in a topic which is, shall we say, not from the heart as well as the joy and elation of writing about that which does come from genuine emotion and interest. "Those wondrous castles in the air never get themselves well built when the mind, with premeditated skill and labour, sets itself to work to build them. It is when they come uncalled for that they stand erect and strong before the mind's eye..." I also found myself smiling as the story's narrator speaking of his Irish friend says, "Pat...was at last persuaded to adopt the quiter name of 'Tipperary,' in which county his family had been established since Ireland was, -- settled I think he said." The Irish question was then-and remains--an unanswered one.

Art Middleton

I have to admit that I didn't care much for this story. The facetious tone of the older-but-wiser narrator interfered, for me, with concern, positive or negative, for any of the characters, and it was too easy to see where the magazine project was headed, which made everyone, in retrospect, look not merely young but stupid. I was much more engaged by "Josephine de Montmorenci," in which the editor's advantage in experience played fairly against Polly Puffle's advantage in imaginativeness, with a mixed decision resulting as to who was in the right--and about what.

Judith Moore

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