Trollope Trending by Adam Gopnik
The New Yorker, May 4, 2015
Did you enjoy Andrew Greeley’s Cardinal Sins? Or, perhaps, you follow(ed) West Wing or presently House of Cards and Madam Secretary on TV? Then, Anthony Trollope is likely a writer you should read. Trollope faithfully chronicled and satirized the everyday life of the clergy, as well as bureaucrats and politicians in England.
Trollope, claims Adam Gopnik, understands how power divided and diffused among various office holders’ voices and bodies, “is not just an aspect of politics – it is a precondition of politics…with the hum of gossip and backbiting.” More than many of us, Trollope is interested in how ambivalent and confusing the forces of change can be, and how compromise and painful growth form much of that change. Trollope tackles this theme through entirely invented worlds, characters, and institutions grappling with modernization of a particular kind and the impositions of efficiency and accountability. As Gopnik writes:
In Trollope’s fiction, even the most small-scale and homely stories have as a background this special crisis of modernization—not the crisis of industrialization and mass immiseration, seen by Dickens, but a crisis of institutions, produced by reform and standardization…[T]he agents of reform are often ugly, that the beneficiaries of corruption are often graceful, that the effects of reform are often dubious, but that reform in a liberal society is nonetheless as inevitable as the standardization of measurement.
The characters of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels — including the characters of parish newcomer Mr. Harding (The Warden), Bishop Proudie and his wife, Dr. Stanhope or Mr. Quiverful – could all exist on a modern university campus in various roles, according to Gopnik — ranging from university president to lowly adjunct instructor. In the Palliser novels, outsider Irish lawyer Phineas Finn rises through the British political system to become a British MP and later Cabinet member, through relations formed with others, as well as with ambition, charm, favors, and luck.
Trollope could very well help Americans understand their current political landscape, populated as it is by die-hard radicals on either side of the spectrum, reactionaries, moderates, as well as middling careerists and interest groups. If he were still alive today, claims Gopnik, he’d no doubt be comically depicting the European Parliament in Brussels – or other powerful institutions.
Lantana Public Library, by the way, has many of Trollope’s works, including these:
|Palliser Novels The Duke’s Children Phineas Finn Phineas Redux The Eustace Diamonds The Prime Minister Can You Forgive Her?||Barset Novels The Warden Doctor Thorpe Framley parsonage Barchester Towers The Last Chronicle of Barset|
|Dramatic/Comic Novels The Claverings Dr. Wortle’s School Lady Anna Orley Farm Ralph the Heir Rachel Ray Miss Mackenzie The Way We Live Now||Irish & overseas novels The Bertrams An Eye For an Eye Short stories Kept in the Dark|