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The Wit and Wisdom of Anthony Trollope
Selected and Edited by Bob Blaisdell
Pickering: Blackthorn Press, 2003.
£6.99/$10, iv + 114 pages, 13 ill., ISBN .

Laurent Bury
Université de Paris IV – Sorbonne


After an extremely short preface (two paragraphs), the book edited by Bob Blaisdell offers a selection of Anthony Trollope’s (supposedly) wittiest sayings, distributed within thirteen chapters :

Family and Friends
Sorrow and Death
Virtues and Vices
Work and Money

The sources of these 534 quotations are remarkably varied, since they not only include Trollope’s forty-seven novels, but also his less famous short stories, and his still less well-known articles, published in St-Paul’s Magazine or The Fortnightly Review.

Read out of their context, some of these excerpts seem unsufferably trite, e.g. “How seldom is it that theories stand the wear and tear of practice!” (from Trollope’s biography of Thackeray, 77).

The book was probably compiled to satisfy the general reader to whom the Barchester Novels offer an escapist form of entertainement. In fact, the only chapters which might attract the academic reader’s attention are precisely those about Reading and Writing, because they summarize the novelist’s “poetic art” in the space of a few pages.

Who among writers has not to acknowledge that he is often unable to tell all that he has to tell? Words refuse to do it for him. He struggles and stumbles and alters and adds, but finds at last that he has gone either too far or not quite far enough. Then there comes upon him the necessity of choosing between two evils. He must either give up the fullness of the thought, and content himself with presenting some fragment of it in that lucid arrangement of words which he affects; or he must bring out his thought with ambages; he must mass his sentences inconsequentially; he must struggle up hill almost hopelessly with his phrases,—so that at the end the reader will have to labour as he himself has laboured, or else to leave behind much of the fruit which it has been intended that he should garner.

Unfortunately, it may not appear very helpful to know that this or that quotation comes from a thousand-page-long novel like The Way We Live Now, without any indication of volume, chapter or page…


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