A video talk
Did you know that we can thank the profession of architecture for some of the great love poems of English literature? Thomas Hardy trained as an architect, it was as an architect that he went to Cornwall to restore a church, and there he met his first wife Emma. Sadly, most of the fabulous love poems he wrote for her were penned after her death – just one of the many ironies of Hardy’s life.
Anthony Trollope worked for the Post Office, and we can thank him for the introduction of the pillar post box into Britain. But we can also thank him for authorial perseverance. He published three novels which failed to bring him either money or fame. Then, one evening, he was visiting the lovely cathedral city of Salisbury and, looking at the cathedral, he was hit with an idea. Why not write a novel about clergymen, showing them not as professional men of the cloth but as ordinary men who fall in love, get into debt, lust after power, and jostle for position? He went away and began The Warden which was soon followed by Barchester Towers.
These two books form the start of his great Barsetshire series, six novels which firmly place the fictional county of Barsetshire on the map of England.
“I never travel without a Trollope novel.”
― Sir Alec Guinness
Trollope’s life was not always an easy one. In many ways, his childhood trauma was worse than that suffered by his great contemporary, Charles Dickens. As a schoolboy he was so miserable that he contemplated suicide. His mother became a best-selling writer – discover how her books influenced her son’s. He rose high in the Post Office, adored hunting, was a great club man, and he loved his food. Get to know this loud, untidy and yet wonderfully humane man in this virtual talk.
Henry James once commented that Trollope’s “great, his inestimable merit was a complete appreciation of the usual”. Through details of food, houses and dress, Trollope reveals his characters to us as they go about their daily lives – he does so with perception, a vast understanding of human weaknesses and motivations, and with sympathy. I would love to persuade you to share my deep love of an author whose works have given me untold pleasure.
Barchester Towers has always been the best-known of Trollope’s books. And yet it disgusted some early readers – why? Trollope was ordered to remove his reference to Mr Slope’s bad breath as this was seen as simply too vulgar. It’s a very funny novel, as Eleanor and the Signora contend with too many suitors, Mrs Proudie struggles for dominance against all who come near her, and the men of God are revealed to have all too human failings.
But did you know that Trollope also wrote a political series, the brilliant six novel set known as ‘The Pallisers’? Trollope never took a holiday from writing, even when he travelled, and in his lifetime he produced 47 novels, a play, volumes of short stories, and some biographies and travel books.
Come and explore the irony and the comedy of this classic novel and learn more about its themes, setting and characters.
Did you, like millions of others, watch The Barchester Chronicles on TV in the 1980s? Did seeing the series make you want to read the novels? Barchester Towers is today a classic novel, but the publisher originally turned it down – why? From such a rich cast of characters, it’s hard to select a favourite, but I think mine has to be that kindly and rather naïve middle-aged man, Mr Harding. Which character would you choose?
I’d love to hear what you think of this novel and whether you too have found Trollope to be an addiction. Let’s discuss it here.
This Virtual Talk is a real video treat! In it, I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. This talk is illustrated with photographs, paintings, scenes from different film versions and book covers – you’ll have plenty to look at while you listen.
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