Jonathan Keates, Kwasi Kwarteng, Michael Symmons Roberts and Joanna Trollope discuss their favourite Trollope novels and what makes him such a great writer at the Courtauld Institute last night.
A full report will follow next week (when I have had time to turn my frantically scribbled notes into something that can do justice to the interesting and thought provoking views of the panel).
By way of a teaser: the favourite novels were (in order of publication) The Warden, Miss Mackenzie, The Claverings and The Eustace Diamonds but which panelist chose to advocate which book? You’ll have to wait and see (how un-Trollopian is that?).
The first surprise of the evening though, which I can reveal straight away, is that in his introduction to the evening’s panel, Tim Robertson, the new Director of the Royal Society of Literature, let slip that his own interest in Trollope can be traced all the way back to his PhD thesis in which he argued that American 19th century literature, exemplified by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, is the art of stating everything in great detail whereas English 19th century literature is the art of leaving out all the detail (because everybody knows it already), exemplified by the novels of Anthony Trollope.
The annual Roy Jenkins Memorial Meeting of the Royal Society of Literature at the Courtauld Institute at 7pm on Wednesday 7th October will consider this question.
Should we take Anthony Trollope seriously? Are Barchester Towers, Phineas Finn and The Way We Live Now comfort reading for addicts of the heritage industry and TV costume drama, or is Trollope up there with Dickens, Hardy and the Brontës: exponents of the Victorian novel at its most incisively original? Was Trollope the victim of his own indefatigable industry and dedication to his craft? And what does he have to say to 21st-century readers?
In an event marking the bicentenary of his birth, and chaired by the biographer and novelist Jonathan Keates, MP and historian Kwasi Kwarteng, poet Michael Symmons Roberts and novelist Joanna Trollope examine his reputation, his surprising narrative range and his often audacious and strikingly humane treatment of controversial themes and characters. Choosing their own favourites from the Trollopean canon, the panel considers whether Leo Tolstoy was right when he exclaimed, ‘Trollope kills me, kills me with his genius.’
To book your seat at this event, go to:
For those who were unable to get to the British Library on 23 April for the Celebration of Anthony Trollope event – a panel discussion with Victoria Glendinning, Joanna Trollope and Edward Fox, chaired by Geordie Greig – or, indeed, for those who did attend and wish to re-live the experience, the British Library has made available a podcast which provides an audio recording of the event.
To listen, click on the attached link: