I want to be careful not to overgeneralize about Anthony Trollope. Trollope did this; Trollope is that. I’ve read nothing but the six Barchester novels, plus, for no literary reason, his travel book about the United States. I am currently re-reading the second Barchester book, Barchester Towers (1857).
So, faced with the monumental bulk of Trollope, I feel decidedly un-authoritative, although I have written before about the absurdity of this, to have read seven books by a writer and not find that entirely sufficient. I have read seven books by so few writers. In 1993, Penguin published an attractive edition of Trollope, little orange paperbacks with no introduction or notes, modestly priced ($4.95!), each one enclosing a bookmark inviting me to Join the Trollope Society for just £15, which I never did. The chronological ordering of the books is printed on the spine. Barchester Towers – this is a bit discouraging – is number 5 in the series. Five of fifty-three!
The Victorian Geek has read half of the 47 novels, and plans to read the rest this year. So far, she has read five of them. "So far" means "in eleven days," a pretty slick pace, yes? She has discovered, just as an example, that Trollope’s last novel, An Old Man’s Love (1884) is “one of his finest.” If that is one of his finest, then I grossly underestimated when, in that post I linked above, I thought there were sixteen Trollopes worth a reader’s attention.
Trollope may be like Vladimir Nabokov in this way – novels are not good or bad, but major or minor. He is very much not like Nabokov in a host of other ways, but the key Trollopian pleasures - his small insights into character, his thick description of little societies, his gentle wit that usually stops just short of sarcasm - may very well be available in most or all of his books. Perhaps the Victorian Geek, upon completing her trek through Trollope, will kindly provide a Trollope Roundup for us.
Having said all this, is there a clearer single-sentence Trollopian statement of purpose than the quotation I put in the title of the post? Let’s have the context:
Thus, while the outer world was accusing Mr. Quiverful of rapacity for promotion and of disregard to his honour, the inner world of his own household was falling foul of him, with equal vehemence, for his willingness to sacrifice their interests to a false feeling of sentimental pride. It is astonishing how much difference the point of view makes in the aspect of all that we look at! (Ch. 24)
A lot of true Trollope is packed into this passage: the Pythonesque love of silly names, the misunderstood fellow with a conscience who can’t simply explain himself, the very fact that the Quiverfuls are minor characters who could easily have been trimmed down to nothing for length, if Trollope were the sort of writer who trimmed his books for length. And then there's the final line, from Trollope himself, the author, I mean, who I suspect is feigning astonishment, or perhaps he really is continually astonished, since looking at a problem from as many points of view as he can imagine is exactly what he does in all of the paltry six novels of his I have read.
The rest of the week, more Barchester Towers, and many grandiose generalizations about Anthony Trollope. Kindly, knowledgeable readers will, I hope, let me know when I have gone too far.