Mark Anderson found this reference to Trollope in the diary of Irish poet William Allingham for 13th October 1885:
“I was now reading some Trollope’s, and felt my estimate of his powers to be higher than it used to be.”
It seems that Trollope’s reputation is destined to wax and wane.
It is great to see a Victorian creation winning awards and I am sure that the latest series of Sherlock thoroughly deserves them. However, I am interested in the way that the latest TV adaptation plays with the original material. Would Conan-Doyle recognise his central characters? I think the answer to that is yes. But what of the updating to the present day? I think this is one of the great strengths of this latest adaptation. We see mobile phones, the use of the internet and modern devices. These refresh the stories while the human element remains constant.
Would the same be possible with Trollope?
It is taken as a given by Trollopians that The Way We Live Now provides as valid a critique of contemporary society in the 21st Century as it did in the 19th Century. And I subscribe to this point of view. This is, I think, because it focuses on the people. Human greed, and desires and needs are unchanged whatever the surrounding technologies and how these wants might be fulfilled.
But where I think that Trollope’s works might suffer from a modernising adaptation is in the way that society, and its constraints have changed almost beyond recognition since the books were written. The UK is no longer a rural economy with an industrial engine. Ours is a largely service economy with financial services central in that equation. Certainly no-one understood the power of money as a motivating force better than Trollope (“beside whom even Balzac is a romantic”). Would Barsetshire be credible in the 21st Century? Would women be so powerless and be forced to pursue marriage as the only “career”? I think these plot-springs would be difficult to sustain.
However, I think that the financial problems of Mark Robarts in Framley Parsonage might be credible if transformed into debts run up on credit cards. The comic possibilities in the same vein for a treatment of The Three Clerks or The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson are also apparent.
So maybe I am coming round to the view that, in spite of my reservations about the adaptability of The Barchester Chronicles or the Political novels (who would give credit now to a politician of such unbending principle as Plantagenet Palliser?), Trollope’s novels, particularly perhaps the lesser known one-offs, might actually be well-served by a modernisation in the same way that the Sherlock series on TV has revitalised that brand. (And there is a controversial way to end – is Trollope a brand?)
The Trollope Society Facebook Group has organised a virtual event to share reading of The Small House at Allington, marking the 150th anniversary of its publication. The event starts on 14th September 2014.
To find out more and to join The Trollope Society Facebook Group, go to:
Gordon Burn was a fearless writer who tackled subjects where others feared to tread. His blend of fact and fiction was applied to lives such as Alma Cogan and George Best.
The Gordon Burn Trust, in conjunction with New Wrting North and the publisher Faber and Faber, has set up an annual prize for the best book which continues this tradition. Trollope might have been in the running with his blurring of real and imaginary figures of the Victorian political landscape. Who is Daubenay? Is he Disreali? Is Mr Gresham meant to be Gladstone? Maybe there is still time for a posthumous submission?
However, the current shortlisted writers for the prize include Gruff Rhys, of the rock group Super Furry Animals, for his book American Interior. We wish him success.
For more information see:
Spotted by Andy Todes:
Leo Tolstoy listed the books that were the greatest influences on him, his life and philosophy as he went through life. It turns out that he was greatly influenced by Trollope’s novels between the ages of 35 and 50 (roughly 1863 to 1878). During this period Tolstoy wrote both War and Peace and Anna Karenina. This coincided with Trollope’s most successful period both critically and commercially with the last two Barsetshire novels and the first five political/Palliser novels being published during these years as well as The Way We Live Now. Of course, Tolstoy may well have read Trollope’s earlier works too.
Apart from length (I’m thinking The Last Chronicle of Barset here in particular) can you see any other possible influences? Were traits from Lady Glencora or Lizzie Eustace found in Anna Karenina?
One wonders what Trollope would have made of Roald Dahl’s writings. Certainly Dahl reached darker parts of the human psyche than Trollope’s audience was ready to explore. But Trollope understood the tortuous workings of the human mind and the depths to which it could plunge. No reader of He Knew He Was Right could come away without being profoundly affected by the insights into the soul of Louis Trevelyan.
It is to this darker side of Dahl’s writing that Penguin Modern Classics refers in its defence of the new cover of its 50th anniversary edition of the children’s book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. The cover has been attacked by critics and other authors have weighed in. Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, said: “I’m not sure why adults need a different cover anyway, but who was it who decided that ‘adult’ meant ‘inappropriately sexualised’?”
I certainly find it a disturbing image. The doll-like glassiness of the girl’s stare and her mannequin-like adult make-up are unsettling. I am sure that Trollope would have found this so. But what do you think?
The 26th Annual Lecture of the Trollope Society will take place at The National Liberal Club Whitehall Place, London on 30th October 2014 (following the Annual General Meeting which is at 6:30pm).
The lecture will be given by Professor Steven Armanick of Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York. He will describe the work he has carried out to painstakingly recreate the full original text of The Duke’s Children, which was edited down from a four volume length to a three volume length at the request of Trollope’s publisher.
This restored version of the novel will be published next year to mark the bicentenary of Trollope’s birth.