The Classics Circuit: Reading Trollope

When it was announced, a little while ago, that Anthony Trollope would be touring the Classics Circuit the timing seemed perfect.

I was thirteen when I read my first Victorian novel – Far From The Madding Crowd – and I was smitten. It would be the first of many – Bronte, Eliot, Collins, Braddon – so many authors, so many books to fall in love with.

Dickens I struggled with, but a couple of years back he finally clicked.

And this year, I decided, was the year I would finally make a start on the works of Anthony Trollope. I even bought a copy of The Warden, planning to read it during the winter months.

And then that tour was announced.

I put The Warden to one side, thinking that it was a book that many would choose, and picked up a lesser know Trollope that I had spotted in the library. Cousin Henry.

It wasn’t too long, and the concept seemed interesting: Henry Jones, a London clerk is the apparent heir to his wealthy uncle’s estate. But Henry knows that his uncle made a new will before his death, leaving his estate to Henry’s cousin Isabel.  Henry conceals the will and inherits the estate, but his conscience troubles him …

I started to read. The prose was a little plain for my tastes, but very readable. I struggled though with the characters. I wasn’t engaged.

Cousin Henry started to feel like homework. The book sat on the table for a few days, glaring at me. I glared back, and on Monday I took Cousin Henry back to the library.

Maybe it was the wrong moment. I’m busy at work and at home, and right now more straightforward books are calling me. It wasn’t the time for the subtle details of this particular work.

Maybe it was the wrong book. I suspect that there’s a reason why Cousin Henry is a lesser known work.

I suspect that I may still come to love Trollope. I just need another time and another book.

Advice would be welcome!

17 responses

    • It sounds like I should have gone which my first instinct and read The Warden. I’ll definitely give it a try sometime soon.

  1. I just bought a volume of Trollope which includes Cousin Henry! (Also Barchester Towers, my pick, and Miss Mackenzie — but it was very cheap so if I hate it I won’t be too annoyed).

    I ended up starting three different Trollopes before I settled on Barchester Towers — maybe it was just the wrong Trollope at the wrong time. But I was very amused at your description of the you and the book glaring at each other. My books just sit on the shelf looking forlorn and making me feel guilty. My remedy is to buy more books to keep them company!

    • It occurs to me now that I may have uncovered the reason for the spate of headless women on book covers recently! I haven’t wriiten off Trollope, It really is a case of picking a different book when Victorain writing calls rather than to a deadline.

  2. I just posted my encounter with Cousin Henry for the circuit-it was my first Trollope-I think I liked it a bit more than you did -I really enjoyed reading your reaction to Trollope and your history with the Victorian novel

    • Mel, your response to cousin Henry makes me think that it’s a book I will try again one day. It was just the wrong book to start with and the wrong book for now.

  3. I’ve read my first two Trollope novels this year, The Eustace Diamonds, a stand alone book in the Palliser series about a strong anti-heroine and the diamonds she’s not really supposed to be keeping, I found that to be a good introduction to Trollope (it was slow paced at first but by the second half of the book I forgot to think about jumping to another book, always a good thing) and that made me want to continue with the Palliser series from the beginning, so I read Can You Forgive Her for the circuit tour and really enjoyed it too. I’ve had The Way We Live Now for a few years, which I never got into, so maybe try another one, perhaps The Warden since it’s short. The nice thing too about reading one of his series is that you’re soon sucked in and have to read them all, at least I am!

    • The more I ponder the more I think that this was the wrong time for me to read a slow Victorian novel. And reading other posts I’m sure I will like some of Trollope’s books, but I’m going to wait until one calls me rather than signing up for anything with a deadline.

  4. Trollope has been a recent discovery for me but is quickly becoming a favourite author. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with this one! I’m working my way through the Barsetshire series at the moment and have loved both The Warden and Barchester Towers – maybe you would enjoy those more? If you decide to give him another chance I hope you have better luck next time!

  5. I’m sorry to hear you did not think it was a better read. I enjoyed Rachel Ray very much, but it is the only Trollope I’ve read. It too is a lesser work–both in popularity and I gather in quality–although it was charming in its own way.

    • I’m afraid that it was charm that was lacking in this one. None of the characters appealed and with a slow moving story I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to hang on. But I shall give Trollope the benefit of the doubt, because i quite genuinely think that this was the wrong book to start with.

  6. I think you would really enjoy the Barsetshire series. Barchester Towers is really funny. I hadn’t even heard of Cousin Henry until recently. Like you, I’ve struggled with Dickens despite the fact that I’ve read and loved lots of other Victorian writers. Maybe I’ll get into him some day.

    • I’m definitely inclined towards the Barsetshire novels when I try Trollope again.

      Dickens clicked for me when I read and really enjoyed a couple of the shorter works that Hesperus are reissuing. That left me feeling more positive about the bigger books, and I’m finding that treating them as serials, reading a few chapters a day and reading other books around them is what works best for me.

  7. I’m struggling to get engaged in some books this season too. I’m just so busy reading is my escape time! I enjoyed the Trollope I read this month — but they are slow and character-driven (not plot) and meant to be read at your leisure. Sorry this didn’t work for you!

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