Trollopian Christmas holidays

Trollope was an acknowledged fan of fox-hunting and I have little doubt on which side of the pro- and anti-hunting debate he would have fallen. Doubtless he also spent many a happy Boxing Day out with whichever hunt was close to where he was spending Christmas. He did not, however, feature hunting in his Christmas short stories. In fact he also eschewed presenting Christmas in the rosy glowing light with which Dickens showed it. This may account for the relative lack of appreciation for Trollope’s Christmas stories.

Personally I can’t help but have a sneaking regard for Trollope’s iconoclastic take on Christmas festivities seen through the eyes of Maurice Archer in Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage. The hero scorns conventional observances and rituals but, it turns out, adheres closely to the spirit of Christmas, giving support to the poor at this time (thereby, not incidentally, winning round the opinion of the heroine of the story Isabel Lownd, allowing Trollope his conventional happy romantic ending).

In the later Christmas at Thompson Hall, Trollope permits the central female character, Mrs Brown, to enter the bedroom of an unaccompanied male in Paris in the small hours of the night. Fear not, her ministrations to his needs were confined to the application of a mustard poultice which she had thought to use on her husband to relieve his sore throat but she inadvertantly entered the wrong bedroom having lost her way in the dark. The comic results are “milked” by Trollope who has the unfortunate victim of her midnight visitation accompany the Browns all the way to her sister’s home and join them for Christmas festivities there, revealed finally as the sister’s fiance.

Not quite Scrooge and A Christmas Carol.



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