Thursday, January 14, 2010
I am keeping my New Year's resolution to read more Trollope, and I am starting with Phineas Redux. Just nineteen pages in I am plunged into a familiar world -- one in which the Liberals and the Conservatives take turns dividing the spoils of Fortune, one naturally expects to lose one's entire fortune in an attempt for a seat in Parliament, and characters receive letters from Barrington Erle and Violet Chiltern. Trollope explains nothing, expects his reader to recall the past exploits, romantic and political, of his main character -- and sure enough you do. You remember that Phineas had flirtations with Lady Laura, Violet Effingham, and Madame Max Goesler, even though he was pledged to the virtuous but unworldly Mary Flood Jones. Trollope gives us female characters who are vivid and unforgettable. Among my favorites are Alice Vavasor of Can You Forgive Her?, Lady Glencora Palliser, of the same novel, and Lizzie Greystock of The Eustace Diamonds. And if you do find yourself unable to recall the lineage of some minor character, I highly recommend Oxford Reader's Companion to Trollope, edited by R.C. Terry. If, like me, you have succumbed to Trollopemania, then by all means add The Penguin Companion to Trollope, by Richard Mullen, and Trollope: His Life and Art, by C.P. Snow to your library. Finally, The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct, by Shirley Robin Letwin examines the idea of the gentleman in the novels of Trollope -- and the author asserts that gender has nothing to do with it.