An intro to Trollope

After living in England for over seven years, I have, at last, read Anthony Trollope. I started with THE WARDEN, the first in his seminal series the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

"Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows" (1831) by John Constable

Apparently the view of Salisbury Cathedral (well, at least walking round the Cathedral close) is what first inspired Trollope to write THE WARDEN. It is certainly a novel bound up in the life of a cathedral town:

… let us call it Barchester. Were we to name Wells or Salisbury, Exeter, Hereford, or Gloucester, it might be presumed that something personal was intended; and as this tale will refer mainly to the cathedral dignitaries of the town in question, we are anxious that no personality may be suspected.

Trollope does a fine job at painting a vivid picture of an insular cathedral community with all the power and pecuniary struggles, loves, hates and betrayals that abound. What he does less well is credibly fleshing out the characters. His descriptions were, I thought, rather stilted. Perhaps it can be put down to the overly ornate style of the time (mid-1800s), but there are other writers of that era who, arguably, capture the essence of a character, no, of a human being, more successfully. Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Bronte for three.

It’s the type of book that is very much meant for a certain mood or situation. When one is feeling in need of a bit of comfort, for instance, or is tucked up inside by a roaring log fire on a cold, rainy winter’s day or away on a countryside retreat, as it evokes a nostalgic, cosy world, despite the human treachery that goes on. For that reason, I shall go on with the series, not least because his most celebrated work BARCHESTER TOWERS is next; in fact, I mainly read THE WARDEN because I didn’t want to skip straight to BARCHESTER TOWERS.

On a whim this evening, on a rare night in, I picked up from my staggering bookcase an old Faber & Faber copy of  Walter de la Mare’s TIME PASSES & OTHER POEMS. I bought this edition in Oxfam; it was published in MCMXLIII – a prize for the first person to work out (without googling!) what year that is. Anyway, I thought I’d share this poem:

THE SONG OF THE MAD PRINCE

Who said, ‘Peacock Pie’?

The old King to the sparrow:

Who said, ‘Crops are ripe’?

Rust to the barrow:

Who said, ‘Where sleeps she now?

Where rests she now her head,

Bathed in eve’s loveliness’? —

That’s what I said.

 

Who said, ‘Ay, mum’s the word’;

Sexton to willow:

Who said, ‘Green dusk for dreams,

Moss for a pillow’?

Who said, ‘All Time’s delight

Hath she for narrow bed;

Life’s troubled bubble broken’? —

That’s what I said.

 

 

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4 Responses to “An intro to Trollope”

  1. Anna Says:

    I’ve started getting into Trollope on my trip, and definitely intending to read more. I like his books because it shows a time and people in England that are completely alien to me and yet also recognisable. I can recognise his landscapes but his character portraits are rather fleeting – there are always so many of them! I recently read one of the Palliser series, “Can You forgive her?”, which I enjoyed more than Framley Parsonage from the Chronicles of Barsetshire , although his views on women are very much of his time.

    “The Way We Live Now” is pretty interesting for its ideas on writing, the publishing world and the literary criticism. It’s also interesting for idea of the conflict on finances versus artistic genius that you mentioned in one of yor earlier blogs.

    At least if you decide you like Trollope there are plenty of his books to get stuck into – he must be one of Englnds most prolific writers!

  2. emily Says:

    Thanks, Anna – I agree: completely alien characters/place, yet also familiar. THE WAY WE LIVE NOW sounds good. I’ll have to look that up.

  3. Liana Thompson Says:

    MCMXLIII – 1943, right?

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