Friday, 31 July 2015

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope


One imagines an account of The Way We Live Now after the fashion of the instruction of Ernest Hemingway by Ford Madox Ford. Hem Lady Carbury, schemer; Sir Felix Carbury, young blackguard; Melmotte, bounder; Hetty Carbury, fair maid; Paul Montague, weak but essentially sound; Winifred Hurtle, American woman, slack moral and physical corsets; Ruby Ruggles, rustic ingenue loved by John Crumb loike she were loike; Roger Carbury, pucca Tory and gentleman. distant relative of Sir Roger de Coverly, Beargarden Company, chinless sprigs of the Aristocracy and usual cad and cardsharp (recommend glass of whisky and a pistol - not likely old chap), Assorted and Interchangable Jews of the merchant bank class; Alf & Broune journalists, lightly treated - don’t shoot yourself in the inkwell, what!

So it goes on and on. That’s the English episodic novel from 1874 to 1875. Good read though and if there are more cliches than you can subdue with a stout blackthorn it grows on you like ivy. Moreover on consideration types do exist and the ponzi scheme and Bernie ‘Madeoff’ continue to flourish on the basis of the motto - you can’t con an honest man. The writing is quite good and the narration pacey. The action seems to happen over a short period of a few months which flouts a classical unity; reading time ought to be less than narrative time. The diction is modern apart from the information that Paul Montague had 'daily intercourse’ with Mrs. Hurtle. He is a regular visitor though.

The Literary Types:
Mr. Alf had, moreover, discovered another fact. Abuse from those who occasionally praise is considered to be personally offensive, and they who give personal offence will sometimes make the world too hot to hold them. But censure from those who are always finding fault is regarded so much as a matter of course that it ceases to be objectionable. The caricaturist, who draws only caricatures, is held to be justifiable, let him take what liberties he may with a man's face and person. It is his trade, and his business calls upon him to vilify all that he touches. But were an artist to publish a series of portraits, in which two out of a dozen were made to be hideous, he would certainly make two enemies, if not more. Mr. Alf never made enemies, for he praised no one, and, as far as the expression of his newspaper went, was satisfied with nothing.

The Religious particularly the convert to Romanism (Newman type?)
A man more antagonistic to the bishop than Father John Barham, the lately appointed Roman Catholic priest at Beccles, it would be impossible to conceive;—and yet they were both eminently good men. Father John was not above five feet nine in height, but so thin, so meagre, so wasted in appearance, that, unless when he stooped, he was taken to be tall. He had thick dark brown hair, which was cut short in accordance with the usage of his Church; but which he so constantly ruffled by the action of his hands, that, though short, it seemed to be wild and uncombed. In his younger days, when long locks straggled over his forehead, he had acquired a habit, while talking energetically, of rubbing them back with his finger, which he had not since dropped. In discussions he would constantly push back his hair, and then sit with his hand fixed on the top of his head. He had a high, broad forehead, enormous blue eyes, a thin, long nose, cheeks very thin and hollow, a handsome large mouth, and a strong square chin. He was utterly without worldly means, except those which came to him from the ministry of his church, and which did not suffice to find him food and raiment; but no man ever lived more indifferent to such matters than Father John Barham. He had been the younger son of an English country gentleman of small fortune, had been sent to Oxford that he might hold a family living, and on the eve of his ordination had declared himself a Roman Catholic.

That English view of enthusiasm as bad form is a trait which has persisted. The characters in the novel wriggle under the burden of expectation just enough to be credible. It is panoptic but not a panopticon full of captive creatures. I found it a lively story.

The only other novel of Trollope’s that I have read is Can you forgive Her. How had she offended? I forget. Perhaps there was a gentleman caller who sat down without being asked. I have now moved to A Small House at Allington. I feel that its restricted compass may be more to my taste.





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