Laurie Penny is a journalist writing on issues in modern society. Her positions are sometimes confrontational and her writing is often provocative. Following publication of her latest book, Unspeakable Things, which addresses amongst other issues, feminism, misogyny and the internet, she has been subjected to a sustained “stream of vile sexist and anti-Semitic abuse”.
While Trollope, as a middle class, middle-aged Victorian gentleman would no doubt have struggled with many of her views, indeed, he may well have disagreed with them quite vehemently, but any reading of The Warden, with the movingly sympathetic portrayal of the anguish endured by Septimus Harding at the public flaying he received in the press, without hope of reply being heard, will leave you in no doubt that Trollope’s position would be one of whole-hearted support for Penny as the victim of such a trolling campaign. Think too of how Trollope portrayed Quintus Slide and The People’s Banner with its insidious sniping attacks on Phineas Finn, Mr Kennedy and Plantagent Palliser in Phineas Finn, Phineas Redux and The Prime Minister, to imagine how Trollope might have viewed the sinister, anonymous power of users of the internet to insinuate and distort facts to mislead public opinion.