1 June 2023 Susannah

The Duke’s Children

Folio Society edition of The Dukes Children by Anthony Trollope

I recently had the enormous pleasure of reading a new, first edition of Anthony Trollope. It was a book called The Duke’s Children and was the last volume in his political, or Palliser, series of six novels. The book has an intriguing history.

The BBC 1974 TV series of The Pallisers came on TV when I was in my early teens. I watched the first of 26 episodes and was immediately hooked. So, I rushed out to buy the set of novels from the local bookshop and made my way through them, staying just ahead of each Sunday’s episode. I managed that until the terrible day when the science teacher confiscated my book because I was reading instead of attending to his chemistry lesson, and for many agonising days I had to wait to find out what happened to poor Phineas Finn who was in prison, in danger of being handed, when my book was taken from me. I can’t remember a single thing from any of his lessons, but I have never forgiven that teacher for taking away a Trollope novel when I was so utterly engrossed. The series remains one of my favourite TV serials of all time and I just adore the six novels.

When Trollope published The Duke’s Children he was past the peak of popularity that he had enjoyed. As his book was being serialised, the editor (son of Charles Dickens) felt that readers had had enough of Trollope and asked him to cut this new novel by 65,000 words. Reluctantly Trollope picked up a pencil and began to score through his own words on the manuscript, removing some of the repetitions that make his style so soothing and delightful, and cutting much of the political content of the novel. When the book was published as a novel in 1880, it was the cut version that was made available.

The manuscript of the book has rested for many decades in the Beinecke Library at Yale in the USA. Then Stephen Armanick and a few dedicated scholars decided it was time to revisit the original manuscript and see what had been removed. A decision was made to publish the full text and so the Folio Society brought out the true first edition of The Duke’s Children, well over 100 years after it had been written. I purchased a copy and, for some inexplicable reason, let it sit on the shelf for some years.

A few weeks ago, I opened the vast and heavy volume and fell with joy into Trollope’s fictional world once again. I have listened to the book (the cut version) read by Timothy West (one of the world’s best audio book readers) and adored it, but reading this uncut version made me realise that what I had experienced before was a poor substitute for the real thing. I so loved this new edition, felt it brought the whole series to a fitting and triumphant close, and lamented that Trollope had ever been asked to cut his own writings. The whole experience made me think about shortening books – horrid for any author who has laboured hard over every word, but perhaps even harder for an author to do to his own work – a bit like severing part of one’s own anatomy perhaps?

I am so pleased that Trollopians can now turn to the original text and read what Trollope originally wanted us to read. If you have never read a Trollope novel, let me recommend them. Tolstoy praised him and remarked ‘Trollope kills me with his greatness”, the economist J.K. Galbraith was convinced he could never enjoy a holiday without a Trollope novel, and then there’s the famous story of the Bishop who declared he could never go to bed without a good Trollope to enjoy! He’s an author who has greatly enriched my life, and it was a truly wonderful experience to return to his fictional world with this most fascinating first edition.

Are you a lover of Trollope’s books? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- Folio Society edition of The Dukes Children, https://twitter.com/foliosociety/status/1246807820416299008/photo/1; & Anthony Trollope by Napoleon Sarony – The New York Public Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28515653
Body images- “The Duke’s Children,” autograph manuscript, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. https://collections.library.yale.edu/catalog/2032407?child_oid=11809240

Comments (8)

  1. Karen

    What is a good Trollope to start with if you’ve never read him before and would prefer not to start w/ one that was “heavy”?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      If you wish to read the books of the Barchester series in the right order, then you should start with The Warden, preferably on audio with Timothy West reading it to you. However, my favourite of all his books is Dr Thorne, the 3rd book in that series, but it doesn’t matter if you read them out of order, as that novel stands alone superbly. Trollope is an addiction!

  2. Carolyn Wolfe

    I, too, adored The Pallisers!! I have watched it several times (on PBS and then on VHS tapes that I bought). So naturally, I also read the novels. I’ve tried to reread them recently, but the editions have such tiny typescript that I lose interest quickly. I did not know about The Duke’s Children’s being edited extensively and now I’d like to reread it but need a larger ( not large print) typeface.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it the most gorgeous TV series! You could always try listening to the novels, read by Timothy West. Then you don’t need to worry about the size of type and it is a wonderful and memorable experience – definitely my favourite way of experiencing them. I am just sad that he has not recorded this new unabridged edition of The Duke’s Children.

    • Jan Clemson

      Everyman’s Library produced a hard cover, with good quality paper and clear print, of the ‘complete’ edition of
      ‘The Duke’s Children’, but it lacks the notes one finds in Oxford World’s Classics editions. I am fairly certain that there is complete edition by OWC as I have it on my kindle. The cover illustrates a man and a woman playing what appears to be badminton in a treed grassy area. There is an earlier , short edition by OWC with what seems to be an urn on the cover – of course you do not want that edition.

      Susannah, Dr Thorne is mum favourite of hte KBarchester novels too. And like you, i was drawn in by watching the DVDs of the Palliser series with friends and immediately bought the books so I could read along.

      • Susannah Fullerton

        I am not sure if your kindle edition is the complete one. It would not say ‘abridged’ because every edition including the very first one, has been abridged until this recent Folio Society one.
        Dr Thorne is my favourite and I’m so glad you shared my love of The Palliser series.

  3. Helen Gentle

    I’m currently ploughing through a 2nd hand copy of Tom Keneally’s The Great Shame. It is heavy, in all senses, and I keep thinking he could have been more concise, but where would you start?
    Detailed descriptions paint great images, even if they sometimes take forever to read.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      A worthy book that one ought to read, but not light in any sense of the word.

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