The Trollope Bicentenary celebrations came to Dublin on 15 October when the Irish Trollope Society’s annual dinner took place at the Kildare Street and University Club (the original Kildare Street club is mentioned in The Kellys and the O’Kellys). The club’s main dining room was packed with a strong cohort of Trollope devotees including a sizeable gathering of legal eagles led by retired Chief Justice, Ronan Keane and the High Court’s Justice Peter Kelly. Dinner was preceded by a lecture by Professor John McCourt who flew in from Rome for the occasion and was introduced by the Society’s chairman, David Casey.
McCourt, having illustrated some public speaking failures amusingly described in Trollope’s novels, talked of the importance of Anthony’s time in Ireland and said it was foundational for the success of his professional career in the Post Office and for his long writing career. Michael Gleeson proposed a vote of thanks to John, praising him for the “warmth and erudition” he brought to his often humorous discussion of Trollope’s Irish novels. In his talk, which drew on his recent book – Writing the Frontier: Anthony Trollope between Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press) – McCourt pointed out that Trollope’s Irish writings continue to be undervalued today and in particular illustrated the brilliantly pointed humour of the portrayal of Irish priests, parsons, and practitioners in The Kellys and the O’Kellys and Castle Richmond. Describing Trollope as an almost lone voice from Ireland in the middle of the nineteenth century, McCourt praised his writings for convincingly treating Irish issues such as land ownership, landlordism, Absenteeism, tenant rights, rural agitation and Ribbonism, even if he was shown to have been less successful in dealing with the Famine and broader Irish nationalist politics.
In wider remarks, McCourt talked of the challenge of explaining the value of Trollope’s huge output, of his very long novels which work through accumulation and demand time in order to “decant”. Trollope’s works revel in the grey areas of private and public experience, and continue to ask questions of how we live today. They almost uniquely illustrate the workings of politics, religion, and the law, that is of the structures upon which society is based while also providing nuanced and insightful investigations of the individuals working within these worlds. Side by side with this focus on public worlds, another of Trollope’s great strengths is his ability to write studies of love and marriage, as seen, most brilliantly, in the decades-long portrayal of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora. Professor McCourt also gave an account of some of the major events in the Trollope year paying tribute the Trollope Society in London for organizing a highly successful series of celebrations there. He also commented positively on the publication of the new unexpurgated Folio version of The Duke’s Children and on the Bicentenary Trollope conference that was held at the University of Leuven in September.
Reproduced with thanks to John McCourt for passing me this summary.