Oxford Reader's Companion to Trollope

By R. C. Terry | Go to book overview

PREFACE

FIRST-TIME readers often get their introduction to Trollope, as Barrie suggests, wandering about Barsetshire, but there is much to attract them to venture beyond that pleasant territory among his vast output of novels, short stories, and travel books. And it comes as a surprise to encounter such a feast of reading. Trollope was the most prolific of the great Victorian novelists and has been described as the busiest man of letters. For a writer of such prodigious output, a volume such as this must be an invaluable resource. The Companion therefore addresses as fully as possible the range and diversity of Trollope's life as a man of letters, in the literal sense as well as the metaphorical. Information about him as a civil servant, who served with distinction in the General Post Office, has its place with articles about his twin career as novelist. And since his novels are so thorough an expression of the mid-Victorian times in which he lived, the social context is also addressed. Trollope's milieu is not, however, confined to the shires and cities of England: his work has a unique geographical reach. Thus the seismograph of Victorian life, as he was once called, is shown in relation to a wide range of individuals, locations, and historical events, international as well as national.

Trollope craved friendship, acknowledgement, a position in society. Accordingly, the volume gives brief accounts of many individuals associated with the writer's private, professional, and social life: his love of London and its clubs, the hunting fraternities and house parties up and down the country, his contacts on both sides of the Atlantic and in Australia, and his connections with the arts and public affairs. Because of the colossal œuvre, it has been a guiding principle to cover characters and locations in the fiction, so as to help readers find or recall vital landmarks and details. Interconnections of characters, threads from one novel to another, from one journey to the next, a cardinal element in the author's writing, are reflected by the linkage of biographical, historical, and literary commentary in the Companion. In this respect the volume strives to be the most extensive reference book devoted to Trollope.

Comprehensiveness has been one criterion for this Companion, but this has been achieved without compromising literary judgements and materials required by the serious reader and scholar. Essays on each of the forty-seven novels, which are the focus of the book, draw attention to their thematic concerns and artistry, supplemented by details of publishing, criticism, contemporary reception, and general bibliography. The volume also explores ways in which the novelist, now acknowledged among the greatest Victorian writers, is being read in the light of new interpretation and theory. The chronicler of a pleasantly old-fashioned world of leisured gentry, acquiescing in the values of a bygone age, is now also appreciated for original and often subversive ideas about the fabric of private and public life of the Victorian period. His presentation of controversial ideas about marriage, sexuality, parenting, feminism, racism, and colonialism is covered in this volume.

Trollope concluded An Autobiography by saying, 'That I can read and be happy while I am reading, is a great blessing. Could I have remembered, as some men do, what I read,

-vii-

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