Tanya’s mention of Anthony Trollope in her blog of 8 April is so timely as a birthday present to the great man – he was 200 last Friday (DOB 24 April 1815). There was an impressive tribute to him by Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, in the ‘Church Times’ of 17 April. Unfortunately I can’t give you the link to it on the CT website as it’s behind a paywall (boo hiss).
Two Barchester-linked items from it relating to characters caught my eye:
From time to time I visit Harrow-on-the-Hill and a walk near the School takes you past a lane down the hill called Obadiah Slope. Each time I’ve seen it I’ve asked myself whether it was so named because of the Trollope character, or did Trollope name his character after the existing road name?
I now know the answer – at least, I do so long as the Bishop is correct. He says that the school named the road after the character. He writes that when Trollope went to the school “his dishevelled appearance and penury excited the derision of the other boys.” But in later years the School “made amends by christening the path down to the dining hall Obadiah Slope.”
It’s wonderful that someone at the school had the sense of humour to do that.
The second concerns Mrs Proudie. Trollope, we read, was at his club the Athenaeum one day when he overheard two clerics talking about his novels. (What must that feel like‽‽) They were complaining that he used the same characters time and again in his novels, and “the detestable Mrs Proudie” was the example they cited. Trollope admitted to them that he was the author, and pledged that “As to Mrs Proudie, I will go home and kill her before the week is over.” This he did, “though I have sometimes regretted the deed, so great was my delight in writing about [her], so thorough was my knowledge of all the little shades of her character.”
I think those clergymen did a disservice to literature, though they did lead to our getting the wonderful scene where the hen-pecked Bishop Proudie wrestles with his conflicting emotions when he learns of his wife’s death – misery, relief, pain, satisfaction. It’s in Chapter LXVII if you have your copy of The Last Chronicle of Barset handy.
Why did Trollope pay such attention to the views of just two of his many readers? Maybe because they were friends. or clergy, or members of his club, or maybe he was just so humble. Those of us who enjoy crime fiction must be glad that the creators of Poirot or Wimsey or Rebus weren’t members of the Athenaeum in 1867.