Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


I've turned Ailz onto Trollope- and she's racing me through the Barchester Chronicles. I had a head start but now we're running neck and neck- part way through Dr Thorne- and she'll pass me soon. And then I won't have any hope of catching her. Trollope- as someone (Alan Bennett?) said of heroin- is very moreish.

I see Julian Fellowes is going to be adapting Dr Thorne for TV. An excellent idea. If he were around now Trollope would probably be writing for TV himself. His books have the strong characters and multiple plot lines required of a mini-series or soap.  Dr Thorne is a big book, a survey of life among the land-owning classes at a time of social change. The Thornes are proud of their Saxon blood but they've been eclipsed by the wealthier Greshams who look up to the even wealthier (and unspeakable) de Courcys- and everyone is in thrall to the remote- in fact almost unapproachable- Duke of Omnium. However these established families (apart from the Olympian Duke) are running short of cash- and that makes them compelled- against their tastes- to defer and even suck up to the new aristocracy of money- as represented- among others- by the delightfully forthright Miss Dunstable and the Scratcherds- father and son. Old Sir Roger Scratcherd is a Victorian colossus- self-made man, engineer, railway king and heroic drinker- and his son (as these things go) a morally and physically feeble debauchee. Tolstoy admired Trollope's command of the large canvas but deplored the littleness of his subject matter. I don't think it's little at all. Trollope's people may not go round defeating Napoleon or throwing themselves under trains but they deal with very real issues of power, class, sex and money.

I think of Trollope as combining the breadth of Tolstoy with the delicacy of Jane Austen. Alternatively he's the English Balzac- with something of the same ambition to comprehend and make sense of an entire society from top to bottom.
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