Professor Steven Armanick describes in the Introduction to the Commentary companion volume to the new full-length edition of The Duke’s Children both the mechanism by which Trollope made the cuts to the original and the impact of those cuts.
Trollope was forever looking to the future, the next novel he was to write, the next journey he was to undertake. It was as if his energy could not be contained in the moment and had to find outlet in projecting himself into his own future. This made him a poor proof-reader of his own works once they had been transcribed from his own, by late middle-age, appalling handwriting and set for printing. He was too impatient to be on with the next project. It must, therefore, have been dreadful to him to go back over a long novel, already in his mind completed, and make the drastic revisions required of him by his publishers.
Nor was this work for a single publisher. The needs of serial publication in the weekly editions of All The Year Round were different from the needs of an audience reading the novel complete in volume form and in isolation from other surrounding articles and series. Thus there were differences between the cut version for serialisation and the cut version for three volume publication by Chapman and Hall.
Thus, Trollope was forced to contrive some means by which he could make the cuts which while decisive was not to be irrevocable. Armanick speculates that Trollope harboured hopes that there might come a time when the cuts he was making on grounds of expedience to please his current publishers might be restored. Inevitably this approach brought its own casualties with confusions sometimes arising at the typesetting stage of the 1880 volume edition arising out of those working on it having two, possibly conflicting sources, the manuscript from Trollope and the magazine edition already published in 1879.
Trollope, when correcting his manuscripts, invariably had crossed out using dense “wavy” lines. These all but obscured the words to be excised. This is fine when seeking to produce a definitive manuscript text but when called upon to make further cuts to reduce this novel from four volumes to three, a different method was called for which could distinguish for Trollope between those cuts he had made already for his own artistic reasons and these new cuts imposed upon him for what he might regard as purely commercial considerations. Not that Trollope considered himself above commercial considerations, no author was more aware than Trollope that his purpose in writing was to earn his living and so he could not be precious about his words on those grounds.
So it was that Trollope devised a second type of “cut”, indicated by a single strike-through of the words to be removed. This, for the most part, left the original more or less legible beneath the strike-through. For longer sections, it was possible to mark the beginning and end of the section to be cut and apply a single X shaped cross through the whole to indicate it was to go.
However, some of this cuts necessitated new additions to paraphrase more succinctly the words removed in order to preserve the sense of the material remaining. This presents the would be re-constructor with a serious challenge for these additions are difficult to distinguish from other additions and insertions made earlier for different reasons. In trying to recreate the original it is necessary to both restore the cuts and remove the additions that were replacements made for the cut sections but not remove other additions made for what might be termed “artistic” reasons.
Reading Armanick’s Introduction one begins to appreciate the enormity of the task he and his colleagues faced.