Tag Archives: The MacDermotts of Ballycloran

Claire Fuller Wins Debut Novel Prize

How Trollope would have wished to win the £10,000 for the Desmond Elliott Debut Novel Prize.

Would he have persisted in the Irish vein begun with The MacDermotts of Ballycloran had he done so? Indeed, would he have merited the prize had it been available in 1847. I cannot help but feel that Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which also made its debut in the October of that year, might well have been a more deserving winner. Though her sister Anne’s Agnes Grey or, particularly, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, both published the same year would be strong contenders.

So I fear that Trollope would have been overwhelmed in the deluge from Haworth.

Fast-farwarding to 2015, we have a worthy winner in Claire Fuller for her novel Our Endless Numbered Days. However, there is a parallel with Trollope which I am sure he would have appreciated, because, like Trollope, Fuller held down a day job for more than 20 years while writing in her spare time. So it is great to see her emerge as a new talent in the literary scene and my heartiest congratulations go to her.




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Trollope: An Irish Writer

It seems appropriate to reflect today, it being St Patrick’s Day, on Trollope as an Irish writer.

He went to Ireland as an unsuccessful clerk of the Post Office.  He was in the proverbial last chance saloon with his employer. Yet something about the place captivated him and he turned his life around. He met and married Rose Heseltine.  He took up fox-hunting (not a pass-time with which I sympathise but I can still enjoy the hunting passages in his books that were doubtless inspired by his experiences in the field). And he began to write novels which, with each one, showed growing skill and maturity.

He has left us several novels that are specifically Irish: The Macdermots of BallycloranThe Kellys and the O’KellysCastle RichmondAn Eye For An Eye and The Landleaguers. In addition there are two of the political novels, Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux which feature the eponymous Irish Member of Parliament and address Irish political questions (albeit somewhat obliquely).

On the strength of these I think he may unequivocally be included in the pantheon of Irish writers.

For a thorough understanding of how Trollope was influenced by Ireland in his writing, you can consult the fascinating study Writing The Frontier: Anthony Trollope Between Britain and Ireland by John McCourt, published by Oxford University Press.




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Trollope not Gothic shock!

Having discovered last week that Trollope’s world view was definitely of the rosy tinted spectacles variety (business ventures aside), we are now informed by The Guardian that he is not Gothic enough either. His novels fail to register on the scales used to measure the Gothic qualities of a novel which are (with potential reasons to believe that Trollope should in fact be included in the genre) as follows:

1 The villain has scary eyes
(but see Josiah Crawley who has “deep, angry remonstrant eyes [and] the shaggy eyebrows, telling tales of frequent anger”.)

2 The heroine is prone to fainting
(but note the tendency of Lily Dale to swoon in the arms of Adolphus Crosbie.)

3 It is set in a spooky castle
(Castle Richmond may not be that spooky but it’s still a castle)

4 There is a ghost
(OK, no actual ghosts as such in Trollope’s novels but the Sebright family do play a parlour game of ghosts in Orley Farm.)

5 It is set in the olden days
(La Vendee is Trollope’s only serious venture into the historic novel genre but nevertheless…)

6 It takes place in foreign parts
(Nina Balatka is set in the heart of Bohemia – how much more foreign do you want?)

7 The weather is always awful
(There must have been an awful lot of rain to enable The Landleaguers to burst the river banks and flood the field and ruin Philip Jones.)

8 Anyone who isn’t white, middle class and Protestant is frightening
(The most intimidating figure in Trollope’s fiction is Aaron Trow, an escaped convict who is definitely not middle class; or perhaps it is Pat Carroll, a Catholic leader of The Landleaguers, who exercises a sinister power over the community.)

9 The laws of the land are brazenly flouted
(What with the murder of Mr Bonteen in Phineas Redux, or the attempted murder of Daniel Thwaite by Lady Lovel in Lady Anna, or the blackmail of John Caldigate by Euphemia Smith and others, there is plenty of crime in Trollope’s novels.)

10 People talk funny
(Trollope faithfully reproduced phonetically the Irish brogue in his early novels The Macdermots of Ballycloran and The Kellys and the O’Kellys.)



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Trollope is better than Dickens


I am grateful to Jim Fretz who found this article by Elizabeth Mitchell on the Mancunion.com website. She argues a line with which, I am sure, many Trollopians would agree.  She suggests that it may be attributed to Trollope’s sympathetic treatment of the Irish question that was potentially unpalatable to a Victorian audience which might find it uncomfortably close to a truth they would prefer to ignore.

There is, I feel, a sense of injustice among Trollope fans that he should be perpetually compared unfavourably with Dickens.

Personally, I love both writers but for different things. Dickens is polemical.  He strikes out with conscious effort against wrongs he perceives.  In doing so, his style sometimes shouts. He charicatures. Trollope is more subtle. He persuades with gentler nudges.  But is nontheless, to my mind, equally powerful for all that. His targets are sometimes less obvious, but he invariably finds his mark, whether that be the Irish issues in The MacDermots of Ballycloran, as Mitchell contends, or political shenanigans in the later books of the Palliser series.



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Marking D-Day

As the thoughts of many turn back to D-Day, which was 70 years ago today, I wondered what were Trollope’s views about war. Although he was born in the year that Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo, he lived through a period of largely peaceful international relations.

The great exception to this was the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856, which has horrible modern parallels.

This war, between Britain, France and Turkey on the one (EU) side and Russia on the other, coincided with the start of Trollope’s literary success with the early Barchester Chronicles. Of course these were set at a slightly earlier period in the Victorian era rather than being contemporary novels of the time.  Nevertheless, there is no reference significant reference to this conflict in Trollope’s writings in spite of it being a national concern at a time of increasing literacy when more people were reading newspapers and magazines which talked of it.

I cannot believe that Trollope held no views on such an important matter and therefore conclude that he decided deliberately, as an author of fiction, not to address it. He clearly did not shy away from controversial topics – for example, the Irish question that vexed political life in Victorian times, to which he returned several times in has career (from The MacDermotts of Ballycloran all the way through to The Landleaguers).

Perhaps he felt that his type of fiction, essentially small scale and domestic, was not suited to addressing such a topic?

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