Trollope’s reputation is built largely upon his 47 novels some of which are epic in length – I’m thinking The Last Chronicle of Barset and The Way We Live Now. It is easy, therefore, to overlook his mastery of the short story, which is a very different art-form, placing quite different requirements on the writer. It must be concise yet complete. Say everything necessary but leave scope for the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. It cannot flag, nor can it digress. It is the laser guided missile in contrast to the novel’s battleship.
Yet Trollope wrote 44 short stories, to say nothing of his Hunting Sketches, Travelling Sketches, and the two collected “observations” Clergymen of The Church of England and London Tradesmen. In these he manages to “nail” some of his characters so effectively that they live on in the memory like his great creations from the broader canvas of the novels. Is Arabella Talboys not every bit as superbly drawn, albeit in miniature, as Lady Glencora?
So this is a call to arms for readers of Trollope, if you have so far overlooked his short stories. Give them a try, you may find that they have been unjustly neglected.
For further thoughts on the short story form, try this article by Stella Duffy.