Is He Popenjoy?

Charles Green, "Thinking and Wishing," The Churchman's Family Magazine, 1864: Mary after Marriage; see also, Kate Aldous's Is He Popenjoy?

In October of the year 2000 a group of us on Trollope-l embarked on another journey through a series of Trollope novels. We had just finished the Barsetshire series and decided we would try a group of later lesser-known novels. At first we decided we would read two which were thought to be diametrically opposed in mood: the first, Is He Popenjoy? said to be bitter, dark, arid (first published 1877) and the second, Ayala's Angel (first published 1880), said to be bright and cheerful, a "proof" that Trollope was not disillusioned and a writer of unrelievedly "dark" books later in life. However, as we went on, we decided to add a third lesser known book because several of us who had read it thought it a powerful masterpiece about bigamy, John Caldigate (first published 1879). A slow reading through these books discovered much about the psychological and autobiographical underpinnings of Trollope's work.

Many people did have trouble getting the books -- or failed to get a copy altogether. So this read had less participants than our journey through Barsetshire. As had become my custom by this time, each week I wrote an essay or essays in the form of postings to Trollope-l on the chapters we were to have read for that week. Most of mine remained close readings of the text; as I had been reading theoretical criticism, for the first time I began to write psychoanalytically and from a feminist and political point of view on Trollope's fiction. I also produced readings "against the grain". Some of the members of Trollope-l joined in with me; some objected to this new way of reading the books. The conversation took very different turns at times, but, as they had in the past, members still remarked on whether they liked or didn't like Trollope's characters, and scenes and responded to his themes out of their own perspectives, and it seems to me that the new deconstructionist readings provoked more and more interesting postings on the book than the more traditional close readings I had produced in the past. I also kept up the habit of describing the illustrations: this time in all three cases I described the modern illustrations which accompany the Folio Society editions of Trollope's novels.

Participants included Clarissa Ackroyd, Gwyn Bailey, Catherine Crean, Sigmund Eisner, Thilde Fox, Judy Geater, Wayne Gisslen, Lisa Guardini, Kristi Jalics, Beth J., Kishor Kale, RJKeefe, John Letts, Pat Mahoney, Howard Merkin, Richard Mintz, Rory O'Farrell, Teresa Ransom, Gene Stratton, Tyler Tichelaar, Judy Warner, Dagny Wilson, Todd Yelrom.

As in some previous conversations, I was not able to divide up the text by volume partly because modern editions do not follow the original divisions. Trollope had a hard time placing this novel. He wrote it between 12 October 1874 and 3 May 1875, and it was first serialized in All the Year Round, between 13 October 1877 and 1 July 1878. The editor of this journal was Dickens's son who proceeded to bowdlerize it; it was not accompanied by illustrations. It appeared each week at the rate of one or two chapter each week in forty instalments. I have followed this instalment arrangement although it makes havoc with the volume divisions when the book was published in 1878 by Chapman and Hall; I indicate these divisions below for those who are interested.




About the Illustrations by

Ernest Arthur Rowe (d. 1922), The Gardens at Campsea Ashe, Watercolour

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Page Last Updated 11 January 2003