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Thread: Trollope's odd narrator interve ntions

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Trollope's odd narrator interve ntions

    There's an odd bit in chapter 15. We are getting a little bit concerned about the fate of one of the more likeable characters. The author says to save the reader skipping ahead to the end of volume 3, what they're worried about does not happen. There was a fairly lengthy justification by him, telling the readers why he is not going to keep them in suspense about the horrible thing that is not going to happen. Isn't this breaking the rules a bit? Nevertheless, I was glad to hear it wasn't going to happen.

    I guess the reference to the third volume means that the Barchester series were not serialized in a magazine, like Dickens, Hardy and others liked to do. The triple decker was the standard Victorian novel format. Lending libraries such as Mudies liked the format, because they could lend three times as many books. So did Trollope assume his readers bought all three volumes or took them all out of the library at the same time? Books were very expensive back then.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Wikipedia makes no reference to a serialized magazine edition, so the novel probably gained first publication in book format. As to the comment of the narrator, we know that 19C narrators sometimes enjoy interfering with the narrative, addressing themselves directly to the reader. I take that as a break of the illusion the reader is lulled into, as if the author was saying though his narrator: "Look here, this is just fiction after all, and I am in perfect command of it". Looks to me more like a break of convention than of rules, as the author is entitled to conduct his plot as he likes.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I love Trollope's "aside" digressions. In his autobiography, Trollope claims that he was inept at inventing plots, and often made things up as he went along. He cared about the characters, not the plots.

    In chapter 15 of "Barchester Towers", Trollope is saying, "Hello, readers. I'm on your side, even if not everyone in Barchester is." I think it's charming. Trollope trusts his readers' good sense and proper intentions.

    Perhaps my favorite passage in all of Trollope is the end of "The Last Chronicle of Barset". I'll quote it here (and, since it happens at the end of the series, I've edited the spoiler):

    Before I take my leave of the diocese of Barchester for ever, which I purpose to do in the succeeding paragraph, I desire to be allowed to say one word of apology for myself, in answer to those who have accused me--always without bitterness, and generally with tenderness--of having forgotten, in writing of clergymen, the first and most prominent characteristic of the ordinary English clergyman's life. I have described many clergymen, they say, but have spoken of them all as though their professional duties, their high calling, their daily workings for the good of those around them, were matters of no moment, either to me, or in my opinion, to themselves. I would plead, in answer to this, that my object has been to paint the social and not the professional lives of clergymen; and that I have been led to do so, firstly, by a feeling that as no men affect more strongly, by their own character, the society of those around than do country clergymen, so, therefore, their social habits have been worth the labour necessary for painting them; and secondly, by a feeling that though I, as a novelist, may feel myself entitled to write of clergymen out of their pulpits, as I may also write of lawyers and doctors, I have no such liberty to write of them in their pulpits. When I have done so, if I have done so, I have so far transgressed. There are those who have told me that I have made all my clergymen bad, and none good. I must venture to hint to such judges that they have taught their eyes to love a colouring higher than nature justifies. We are, most of us, apt to love Raphael's madonnas better than Rembrandt's matrons. But, though we do so, we know that Rembrandt's matrons existed; but we have a strong belief that no such woman as Raphael painted ever did exist. In that he painted, as he may be surmised to have done, for pious purposes--at least for Church purposes--Raphael was justified; but had he painted so for family portraiture he would have been false. Had I written an epic about clergymen, I would have taken St Paul for my model; but describing, as I have endeavoured to do, such clergymen as I see around me, I could not venture to be transcendental. For myself I can only say that I shall always be happy to sit, when allowed to do so, at the table of Archdeacon Grantly, to walk through the High Street of Barchester arm in arm with Mr Robarts of Framley, and to stand alone and shed a tear beneath the modest black stone in the north transept of the cathedral on which is inscribed the name of .......

    And now, if the reader will allow me to seize him affectionately by the arm, we will together take our last farewell of Barset and of the towers of Barchester. I may not venture to say to him that, in this country, he and I together have wandered often through the country lanes, and have ridden together over the too well-wooded fields, or have stood together in the cathedral nave listening to the peals of the organ, or have together sat at good men's tables, or have confronted together the angry pride of men who were not good. I may not boast that any beside myself have so realised the place, and the people, and the facts, as to make such reminiscences possible as those which I should attempt to evoke by an appeal to perfect fellowship. But to me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavement of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell. That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love for old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with solemnity of assurance, that promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.
    The last sentence sums up Trollope's talents for me. My love of old friendships makes the Barset series among my best-loved novels, and I can assure Trollope that my wandering in Barset is flawed ONLY by being too short-lived.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Nice post, Ecurb, showing how Trollope managed to create more proximity between the reader and the fictional world of Barset. One feels oneself leaving the scenario arm in arm with him, with an acute longing for a time and a place one has never known.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    There was another amusing aside where Trollope says you (the reader) and I hate Obidiah Slope, but not everyone (particularly the ladies) does.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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