My beloved Latin teacher thought I would enjoy reading Anthony Trollope. Since he and his wife have a 100% record for recommending good books, I perked up and began looking. My rural library had one offering (on tape) of Anthony Trollope and a huge selection of Joanna Trollope (a descendant of AT’s). I listened to An Old Man’s Love with great enjoyment. Next, I logged on to Librivox and listened to The Warden, the first of his six Barset Chronicles.
Barchester Towers is the second book in the Barset Chronicles. Happily, I purchased this book and could make it my own by marking it up. I like Trollope better than Dickens, and I like Dickens very much. Trollope, like Dickens, employs descriptive names: Mr. Slope for an oily clergyman, Dr. Fillgrave, Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful, Dr. and Mrs. Proudie. Trollope doesn’t surpass Jane Austen, but then who does?
Trollope inserts authorial comments, breaking the rule I pounded into my students: “Don’t write about your writing.” Some critics (Henry James and W. H. Auden) found this very off-putting; it made me chuckle. Trollope writes about everyday, ordinary life with grace and perception. What I particularly appreciate is that his bad characters are not entirely evil; his protagonists have failures. And the humor! Wry observations are crammed with humor. The best thing is to give you some samples:
Considering how much we are all given to discuss the characters of others, and discuss them often not in the strictest spirit of charity, it is singular how little we are inclinded to think that others can speak ill-naturedly of us, and how angry and hurt we are when proof reaches us that they have done so. It is hardly too much to say that we all of us occasionally speak of our dearest friends in a manner in which those dearest friends would very little like to hear themselves mentioned; and that we nevertheless expect that our dearest freinds shall invariably speak of us as though they were blind to all our faults, but keenly alive to every shade of our virtues. p. 185
Mr. Arabin declared that the morning light at any rate was perfect, and deprecated any interference with the lime trees. And then they took a stroll out among the trim parterres, and Mr. Arabin explained to Mrs. Bold the difference between a naiad and a dryad, and dilated on vases and the shapes of urns. Miss Thorne busied herself among her pansies; and her brother, finding it quite impracticable to give anything of a peculiarly Sunday tone to the conversation, abandoned the attempt, and had it out with the archdeacon about the Bristol guano. p. 220
Mrs. Quiverful did not mention the purpose of her business, nor did the farmer alloy his kindness by any unseemly questions. p. 237
He wished to be what he called “safe” with all those whom he had admitted to the penetralia of his house and heart […] His feelings towards his friends were, that while they stuck to him he would stick to them; that he would work with them shoulder to shoulder; that he would be faithful to the faithful. He knew nothing of that beautiful love which can be true to a false friend. p. 269
By seven [a.m.] she was dressed and down. Miss Thorne knew nothing of the modern luxury of déshabilles. She would as soon have thought of appearing before her brother without her stockings as without her stays; and Miss Thorne’s stays were no trifle. p. 346
He [Mr Slope] longed in his heart to be preaching at her. ‘Twas thus that he was ordinarily avenged of sinning mortal men and women. Could he at once have ascended his Sunday rostrum and fulminated at her such denunciations as his spirit delighted in, his bosom would have been greatly eased. p. 399