Saturday, May 19, 2012

trollope caves

In trollope galop, I wrote that Anthony Trollope's autobiography was "stashed on my Kindle,"* and not long afterward I started dipping into it. I'll admit that there are some long tedious sections, but along the way I have been moved to read two more of Trollope's novels: Orley Farm and The Way We Live Now. I just started on The Vicar of Bullhampton and am relishing the pace.

Trollope's definition of the novel is something like: "development of character over time."** Though he claims not to plan his plots, each character's story emerges and will be told as long as the author maintains his self-imposed writing schedule.

Much of Trollope's autobiography is taken up with detailing his literary standards and commenting on his contemporaries (he loves Thackeray, hates Disraeli, respects George Eliot, etc.). So far (and I think I am about two-thirds of the way through), one anecdote of Trollope's life has made me laugh out loud, and I must retell it.

After taking an early retirement from the Post Office Department in 1864, Trollope increased the rate of his literary output. Whenever he was in London for more than a day, he would write at his club, The Athenaeum. One afternoon when he was working on The Last Chronicles of Barset, two clergymen came into the room, sat down by the fire, and proceeded to discuss Trollope's novels. The author, of course, perked up his ears and listened very carefully while the two reverend gentlemen complained that he re-used the same old characters too often. In particular, they found Mrs. Proudie (the Bishop's wife introduced in Barsetshire Towers) to be most objectionable. Trollope was incensed. He stood up, introduced himself, and said something like: "Very well. If you don't like Mrs. Proudie I shall kill her off within the week!"

Accordingly, Mrs. Proudie's death scene is horrific. After orchestrating her sudden massive heart attack, and allowing several other characters to feel relieved by her passing, Trollope felt quite guilty, and was haunted regularly by Mrs. Proudie's restless ghost.

Personally, I love the way characters and places recur in Trollope's novels. I am happy to learn that Bullhampton is near the Chiltern estate, which I recognize from the six-volume Pallisers series. I could have handled more of Mrs. Proudie, and in fact was disappointed when Obadiah Slope, her evil minion, left Barsetshire.

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* Now all of Trollope's 47 novels are stashed on my Kindle in a single volume.

** Not a verbatim quote, but this is not a term paper and I'm not going to look these things up.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License