Monthly Archives: September 2015

Fanny Trollope: London Seminar Group

If all you have ever read by Fanny Trollope, Anthony’s mother, is The Domestic Manners of the Americans then this is your chance to find iut more about this prolific Victorian novelist. 

The London Group is meeting to discuss her works today at 6:00pm. The meeting will be at St Columba’s Church of Scotland, Pont Street, London SW1X 0BD. 

For more information contact Martin Chown (email: )


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Is Moby Dick too long?

Perhaps not the question to ask Trollopians who are celebrating his bicentenary by the publication of the full-length restored edition of his final Palliser novel The Duke’s Children with 65,000 or so words added back in.

Could all the stuff about whales and ships’ construction be edited out to leave a pared down novel that focuses on the human element?

To find out go to:

And maybe then head down to the Southbank Centre and hear the whole thing (OK minus a bit of the general background stuff on whales) read out loud over four days, starting on Thursday 1 October.

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Trollope pops up on the Isle of Wight

Trollope popped up over the weekend at Carisbrook Castle on the Isle of Wight. The English Heritage site where Charles I was imprisoned after the English Civil War boasts Italian style defensive construction of high earthen banks topped by low stonewalls to present minimal targets for the more sophisticated and accurate cannon that had been developed by the 17th century. 

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The Duke’s Children: Chapters 21-25

Chapter twenty-one is a discursive piece on politics generally and the shortcomings of career politician Sir Timothy Beeswax in particular. He is the antithesis of the principled politician Plantagenet Palliser and so any disparagement of Sir Timothy needs to be viewed as tacit praise for Palliser. The cuts here are, therefore, quite lengthy and the first couple of these – the opening paragraph which talks about Lord Drummond, rather than Beeswax, and another on the same page which contrasts Roman Catholic consensus with Protestant diversity – are of all the restorations in the novel thus far, possibly the least needful.

There is a third long cut towards the end of the chapter which relates the dubious political manoeuvring by which Beeswax remained in government through successive changes, mostly described in the earlier novel The Prime Minister, and again this restoration is significant only by way of providing contrast with the unwavering principled position taken by the Duke of Omnium.

The final, and longest cut, almost a full page in length, again describes the broader political picture and focuses on Lord Drummond. It is only important in so far as it specifically states, in this broader perspective, that the Duke of Omnium not only did not interfere with the election at Silverbridge by which his son became an MP, but also did not throw money around, as was the way in politics then, to secure a Liberal MP for the other seat in West Barset. This is mentioned elsewhere but it is re-emphasised in the restoration here where it may be seen as being a very different approach than might have been expected from one in the Duke’s position.

Chapter twenty-two, focussing on the Duke, falls neatly into two parts: a political part and a personal part. In the shortened version the balance of these is 65% political and 35% personal. In the full version the balance is 62% political and 38% personal. From this I conclude that Trollope was pretty much even handed in applying the cuts here, though Robert Wiseman in the chapter Cuts  in the Commentary which accompanies the new edition observes that the great bulk of the cuts across the book as a whole fall on the political sections.

I found the restoration in the Duke’s ponderings on whether he was suited to public office of the sentence, “Was it his fault that he was so thin-skinned that all things hurt him, and that he shrank from being hurt?” the most telling. Here we see Trollope exposing to the reader the excessive vulnerability of the Duke, for a man of his station, and doing so in terms which make clear that the Duke regards it himself as a flaw in his own character. How debilitating must it be for such a man to know that of himself? This is made yet clearer by the short cut, now restored, “And yet, though he thus argued his own cause, he would not give himself a verdict of not guilty.” Here is a man who is truly a tormented soul.

Within the part of the chapter focussing on the Duke’s final conclusion that he must back down and apologise to Mrs Finn there is a restoration of several lines in which the Duke acknowledges that there are unwritten rules of behaviour which Mrs Finn had followed, and that Lady Cantrip acknowledges she was correct in so doing, that the Duke wishes were not so recognised by everyone but himself. This is perhaps the beginning of his recognition that in this area of life he is out of touch with the ways of the world and, however reluctantly, begins the long journey to recognising that his daughter should be allowed to marry the man she wants.

He also punishes himself for his delay in responding to Mrs Finn’s letter and in a restored cut, “he could not protect himself by pleading to himself that he had neither done or said anything.” He is clearly his own most severe critic and judges himself harshly against standards that he applies more leniently to others, or as here in the case of Mrs Finn, repents his harshness when he does apply his own inexorable standards to anyone else.

The final cut restored is the end of the final paragraph of the chapter and refers again to the discomfort the Duke feels at his continuing to hold jewels that he knows are rightfully the property of Mrs Finn. This sense of being beholden to anyone else is clearly very difficult for him to live with and this reminder shows further how the Duke tortures himself over matters which others would carry so much more lightly.

Chapter twenty-three’s restorations show that Frank Tregear is by no means the confident young man that he appears. He selects Mrs Finn to visit to discuss his love for Lady Mary because, we now discover, “there had been no moment so hopeful to him as that in which she had assured him that the affair should not be kept as a secret from the lady’s father…but she had not made him understand that she thought the marriage to be impossible.” There is also a long cut in which it is made clear that he does not have many friends and “was considered more than ordinarily self-confident” but this was because “He had taught himself to assert himself, thinking that men would rate him at his own value. And he was right.” The restoration shows that much of his self assurance is no more than a facade he put on.

However the restoration of the final sentence of the chapter shows him once again in the light of the upright individual when, by contrast, all the men of his generation (be it Silverbridge, Gerald Palliser, Dolly Longstaffe or Major Tifto) are found wanting.  He wrote a plain heartfelt love-letter to Lady Mary “without any attempted secrecy, and entrusted [it] to the post”.

The most touching restoration, however, is the examination of Mrs Finn’s reaction to the letter she receives from the Duke while Tregear is present. Trollope emphasises the quotation from the letter by repeating it and between the two quotations makes explicit that “That was all that she had wanted, – that he should fell her conduct to him had been at least honest, and that he should be honest enough to acknowledge his mistake in misjudging her.” This shows the extent of the hurt she felt and that the source of that was in no small part because she felt that it made the Duke a lesser man in her eyes if he did not acknowledge his mistake. How clearly Trollope sees into the workings of people’s minds and hearts and reflects this understanding in his characters.

The longest cut in chapter twenty-four is a tedious paragraph describing in almost numbing detail the nuances of a debate in the House of Lords attended by the Duke of Omnium. Throughout the debate, he is distracted by thoughts of his problems with Lady Mary. That he should be so distracted is, of course, hugely significant. Family matters interfering with his public duties is an unheard of state of affairs. Ordinarily these pernickity little details would be food and drink to the Duke and that they are not requires us to see them in full. It is also possible to reflect on this paragraph that it is precisely such tedium which puts Silverbridge off his parliamentary responsibilities. Perhaps Trollope, when making the cut, decided his readers were closer to the son than the father in character and persistence.

Other shorter cuts are restored which add to our understanding of how firm Lady Mary is. Importantly this is seen through the eyes of the influential Lady Cantrip, who notes, “The more I see her the more I feel how determined she is.” Her views will eventually begin to sway the Duke so to see her persuaded of this so early is crucial to subsequent developments. She soon observes in a restored cut that, “I feel sure that we shall have to give way.”

The Duke’s thinking on the matter is revealed more deeply in a restoration in which he finds distasteful the tactic of deliberately putting his daughter in the company of a more suitable potential husband when applied to his daughter even though the tactic had been so successfully applied to his own wife when she was young, in which events he now realises he was but a pawn.

There are no long cuts in chapter twenty-five, in which the two sons manage to get down in time to have breakfast with their father – albeit they ensure that a more substantial breakfast is served – which gives rise to a good-natured debate that gradually turns into a lecture from the father. Here the cuts show that the Duke can be “light and almost jocose when he spoke of the blunderings of Sir Timothy Beeswax” when talking politics (his favourite subject!) with his elder son now that he is a member of parliament. This gentle insight into their relationship, coupled with another restoration in which Silverbridge “sat back in his chair prepared to listen [to the lecture] with filial patience”, shows that the two men are starting to find a way to rub along together. This will provide the ground later for them to recover their relationship from a series of major blows.

The only other cut of note,  now restored, is a brief paragraph towards the end of the Duke’s lecture when Gerald is facetious – though very much on point with his remark, and  the Duke replies “almost angrily”, showing that there is still significant tension and inequality in the relationship which will need to be resolved by the end of the novel.

I also note that the spelling of “Sinbad” now follows that in the manuscript in Trollope’s hand rather than taking the spelling “Sindbad” as it has in many intervening editions. A small but pleasing change.





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Go eat at McDonalds

I never thought I would write those words. 

But if you have kids, or grandkids, and you live in the UK, go eat at McDonalds. 

Why? Because the fast-food chain has tied up with the Roald Dahl estate and the National Literacy Trust to give away millions of copies of books by Roald Dahl with Happy Meals ordered at their restaurants over the coming six weeks. 

So forget the diet and feed the youngsters’ minds. 

Make mine a Big Mac and Fries to go!

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Dickensian? Trollopian surely?

The BBC 1 Controller Charlotte Moore has described the new flagship drama commissioned by the BBC for its Autumn and Winter schedule as “breaking the mould”. The 20 part drama series takes characters from various novels by Dickens including Martin ChuzzlewitBleak HouseThe Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist and presents them together in a new story.

Of course, Trollopians will find nothing ground-breaking in this. Trollope was doing precisely the same thing – think of Lady Glencora’s cameos in the non-series novels The American Senator and Miss Mackenzie, or indeed the appearance of Elias Gotobed, the eponymous American Senator, in the series novel The Duke’s Children. Trollope preceded the BBC in the creation of a larger world in which his fictional stories played out by some 150 years.

Nevertheless, the return to BBC1 of a lavishly funded costume drama is very welcome. This was always one of the great strengths of the BBC and has been sadly neglected in recent years. One cannot help but feel that it is a response to the success of ITV’s Downton Abbey. Let’s hope it lives up to the pre-publicity.

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Elmore Leonard on Writing

You might think it would be hard to find an author more dissimilar to Trollope than the American hard-boiled thriller writer Elmore Leonard, but in an interview in 2006, he revealed some uncanny parallels with Trollope. 

Going right back to how he got started he describes how he used to get up at 5am and write fiction before going off to work at his day job. For the record he, like Dorothy L Sayers, worked writing advertising. 

Then there is his focus on character rather than plot. He describes how he uses the first 100 pages of his novels simply to allow the characters to introduce themselves. 

And he says that dialogue is key. Readers skip through novels but they always read the dialogue. This mirrors Trollope’s own thinking. When he was cutting nearly a quarter of the wordcount to reduce The Duke’s Children from a four volume to a three volume length to suit the demands of his publisher, he preserved the dialogue very nearly intact even at the expense of making drastic cuts elsewhere. 

Finally, there is the parallel of the huge output. Leonard, like Trollope, had published more than forty novels at the time he was interviewed and reached 49 in total by the time of his death in 2013. 

To hear the interview go to:

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