Columbia Library columns (v.26(1976Nov-1977May))

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  v.26,no.3(1977:May): Page 11  

"Ignorance Is Not Innocence"

Anthony Trollope as Novelist and Preacher


IN a "partial portrait" published in the Century Magazine for
July, 1883, seven months after Anthony TroUope's death,
Henry James remarked that "with Trollope we were always
safe; there were sure to be no new experiments." James held that
Trollope had a narrow conception of fictional propriety and that,
unlike more daring novelists who deny conventional expectations
for the sake of abstract form, "it is probably safe to affirm that he
had no 'views' whatever on the subject of novel-writing." But
Trollope's Autobiography, published posthumously in 1883, con¬
vincingly reveals that Trollope had firm ideas about novel-writing,
and that when his intention required him to do so he ■was most
willing to risk frustrating and even offending his readers, although
some of his remarks reinforce James's image of the novelist "with
his elbows on the table and his eye occasionally wandering to the

Trollope articulated his sense of high moral purpose and will¬
ingness to depart from conventionally safe subjects in an impor¬
tant letter now in the Jack Harris Samuels Collection at Columbia.
This letter, written on October 31, 1865, was a response to criti¬
cism of Can You Forgive Her?, the first of the Palliser novels,
serial publication of which had just concluded. The letter thus re¬
veals the state of TroUope's mind as he embarked on the series
which occupied him over the next fifteen years, and which, one
hundred years later, delighted British and American television
viewers of the BBC dramatization of The Pallisers, shown here
this spring.

TroUope's correspondent had apparently taken issue with the
novelist's introduction of the subject of adultery into the realm of
  v.26,no.3(1977:May): Page 11