Framley Parsonage in Cornhill Magazine

Was there ever a novelist more suited temperamentally or in his working methods to the writing of novels for serialisation in periodicals than Trollope?

His regime of writing a set number pf words each morning would enable him to produce with machine-like regularity the prescrived number of words required from him by the Cornhill’s publisher Smith each month.   Indeed Trollope blamed Smith for sending hom an unrepresentative sample page when called upon to cut the length of the first episode by a full page to fill the required 24 pages of the magazine when typeset. Trollope insisted his wordcount was correct based on the example Smith had sent him. 

Trollope also managed to fall out with both Smith and the illustrator Millais over one of the plates which Millais provided to illustrate the text (see above) Trollope expressed the view that the extravagant crinoline depucted was unrealistic (realism being a key aspect of Cornhill magazine’s positioning as representing the views of a man of the world for its subscribers). Trollope only backed down when he saw a woman wearing such a dress. 

An intriguing feature of serial publication, which again suited Trollope’s writing style, is the way other articles within Cornhill magazine might refer to the novel(s) currently being serialised. This predates the modernist and post-modernist approach of allowing the author to step back and acknowledge they are writing a piece of fiction. Trollope did so frequently and this “meta-narrative” approach was one of the aspects of his style criticised by Henry James (along with his cobbler of shoes analogy to describe the work of an author) which contributed to Trollope falling out of favour with literary critics. However, in the context of the magazine this authorial interventionist style was complemented by separate articles such as James Reddie’s article entitled “Falling in Love” which uses the example of Lucy Robarts and Lord Lufton to illustrate lovers’ behaviour in issue 3 of the magazine (that is during the serialisation of the novel in the magazine). This, if anything further were needed, served to blur the distinction between the real world and Trollope’s invented other reality of Barsetshire. In fact, the continuity of the Barsetshire Chronicles, of which Framley Parsonage is the fourth instalment provides even more support for this view, particularly when the next story The Small House at Allington subsequently appeared in the Cornhill magazine 18 months later. 

For more thoughts in this vein try Catherine Delafield’s Serialization and the Novel in Mid-Victorian Magazines


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One response to “Framley Parsonage in Cornhill Magazine

  1. Glenn Shipway

    Mary Hamer’s book, “Writing by Numbers; Trollope’s serial fiction”, is an excellent book to start with if this topic interests you.

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