— But you will be ready to say, what was your hope in doing this? — What did you look forward to? — To any thing, every thing — to time, chance, circumstances, slow effects, sudden bursts, perserverance and weariness ... Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings secured ... — from Emma, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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March 29, 2015

For old Trollopians...




Since yesterday was my birthday, and since I spent a little bit of it joyfully back in Barsetshire, I happily embrace this description for myself. :)

When I was reading The Warden for the first time, I came across a centennial edition of the #6barsets, published by the Heritage Press in New York, with introductions by {I love it} Angela Thirkell. Our library systems owns the first two books, at least, and after reading what she said about The Warden I promised myself I'd look for this edition of Barchester Towers when the time came.

This is one of the things she said then...

For beginners in Trollope it might possibly be wiser to begin with Barchester Towers -- and here, not for the first nor the last time, we must divagate, to remark that if Barchester is Salisbury it cannot have towers, nor can it, standing alone and exquisite as it does, have the elms which are mentioned as an ornament of the close — for it flings one in media res with a vengeance. Nor is an acquaintance with The Warden absolutely necessary, for Trollope is careful to give a brief account of the earlier life of the characters whom we meet again — some of them peculiarly changed. But for old Trollopians there is a certain quiet and almost self-denying pleasure in reading, for the nth time, the early chapters of The Warden, which do little but set the scene for the action, so tuning oneself to the leisurely narrative that leads us to the great Barchester Towers.
Thirkell insists on insisting that 'The earlier book is frankly rather dull ... and when it comes to an end we feel that that is that, and now let us have something else.' {No! No!}

But something happened to Trollope as a writer between  1855 and 1857. Barchester Towers, which I still think the best of the Barchester series, suddenly reached heights for which had not at all prepared us. The provincial atmosphere, the little clerical squabbles and intrigues, are taken to a larger stage...

I think that's true. When I first read these two books, I remember thinking that Barchester Towers paled a little in comparison to The Warden.  I don't think I would say that now, but then again I definitely wouldn't dismiss the first book out of hand.

A few other extracts ...
There are few pleasures — and I say this with feeling — like killing off characters who do not come up to one's expectations.  It must have been with considerable pleasure that Mr. Trollope decided to kill off Mrs. Bold's dull husband before the birth of her baby.

Mr. Slope, the bishop's chaplain, is in his way a triumph. Trollope must have enjoyed inventing him immensely. ... Even Dickens could hardly have made a more repellent person, a combination of intriguer, bully, and hypocrite.  It is a tribute to Mr. Trollope's pen that though we dislike Mr. Slope intensely in his fawning on the powerful, his arrogance to the humble, his cunning and odious approach to the Widow Bold, ... yet when Mr. Slope has — perhaps the only fault in his palace tactics — rashly appealed to the bishop in the presence of Mrs. Proudie, stood up to her alone and received his congé from the henpecked bishop, he surveys the ruins of his present career with considerable skill, and we have to concede an unwilling admiration.
      ... One never knows, in my experience, what one's characters will do next, and from time to time they burst out entirely without consulting their so-called creator. One can never explain these things, and I see that Mr. Slope has already taken too much of the space allotted to me. He would.

While all this has been going on, Dr. Grantly has been growing in importance.  Readers of The Warden will remember him as a not altogether admirable character with a family who are slightly burlesqued. But whether Trollope was conscious of it or not — and we rather think not... — Dr, Grantly is now becoming a rather fine character...backed by his excellent wife. His five children, all of whom are briefly and not very kindly described in The Warden, have changed a good deal.  Whether Trollope did this deliberately, or in carelessness, or by the peculiar influence which sometimes makes us write things that we did not know we had in us, one cannot say. The boys may, of course, have been at school, but Florinda and Grisel (altered from Grizzel and later to be Griselda) are never mentioned.

      And here, once more, I sympathize with Mr. Trollope. People do fall out of one's books and that is that. ... Whether this is wishful thinking on the author's part, or that these characters retire of their own volition ... I cannot say. But my private feeling is that Trollope, finding his boat rather overloaded, quietly jettisoned Florinda. If any reader can find a trace of her in later years, I should be grateful to know.
Nothing is as lovely as reading Trollope with friends. But reading him with Angela Thirkell is also rather nice. :)

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Some links...

JoAnn liked The Warden much better this time than last time, but we're learning that she loved Barchester Towers.

JoAnn, Fleur, Lisa, O at Behold the Stars, and I are all reading, or would recommend, or plan to read Victoria Glendinning's wonderful biography of Mr. Trollope.

Karen was the first to invite us to a Bicentennial Celebration; many of us are looking forward to joining her in April.

8 comments:

Frances said...

Happy belated birthday! Mine was on Wednesday. Delighted to be in such close celebratory space with you.

Lisa said...

Happy belated birthday, and what a lovely way to spend it! I now must read Angela Thirkell's introductions! Thank you for these lovely excerpts.

Fleur Fisher said...

I wish you a happy day after your birthday. Trollope must have been lovely company, and thank you for sharing.

JoAnn said...

First, I hope you have a very Happy Birthday!

And second, thank you so much for sharing excerpts from this addition. What fun to get Angela Thirkell's perspective on Trollope! My inclination would be to recommend Barchester Towers over The Warden to new Trollope readers... it's so much more interesting and exciting. Mr. Slope, the Proudies, the signora... so memorable!

I'm planning a trip to the library tomorrow. Hope they have the BBC production available.

PS - Did Trollope every mention what happened to John Bold? I wanted details ;-)

Audrey said...

You know, I don't think he did...just that he died.I hope you can find the BBC production...I really enjoyed it. I'm enjoying my audio version of B.T. but Mr. Slope is not read by Mr. Rickman, and I feel the loss. :)

Thank you all for the birthday wishes!

Terra said...

I am so happy to have discovered your blog today, since I am reading Barchester Towers now and of course, I love it. I recommend The Warden too, because we begin to understand the kind Rev. when we start with that book. My blog post today is about Trollope.

lyn said...

Happy Birthday! I do love the Barsetshire novels although I haven't read them for a very long time. I plan to read some Trollope in April though & maybe some Thirkell as well. Thanks for the lovely quotes.

Sunday Taylor said...

I agree with you, after reading the passage, that reading Trollope with Angela Thirkell is quite lovely. I keep on meaning to reread Barchester Towers. I remember loving it many years ago. It is now time to for a revisit. And speaking of Angela Thirkell, I just began "Pomfret Towers" and am enjoying it so far. Happy Birthday!

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