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Trollope and Self-Help.

THE TROLLOPE PRIZE 2012.
A Competitive World:
Ambition and Self-Help in Trollope’s An Autobiography and The Three
Clerks

By Rebecca Richardson.

IN ANTHONY TROLLOPE’S The Three Clerks, Harry Norman and Alaric Tudor compete for the same promotion in the Weights and Measures branch of the Civil Service. Harry’s relatives comment on this “friendly” competition, revealing different ways of thinking about ambition. Gertrude, the woman that both Harry and Alaric hope to marry, praises the examination system that will determine the winner, while her mother is as skeptical as Trollope himself was of Civil Service Examinations:

“I would have a competitive examination in every service,” said Gertrude. “It would make young men ambitious. They would not be so idle and empty as they now are, if they had to contend in this way for every step upwards in the world.”

“The world,” said Mrs. Woodward, “will soon be like a fishpond, very full of fish, but with very little food for them. Every one is scrambling for the others’ prey, and they will end at last by eating one another.” (121)

At stake here are two very different ways of imagining competition, and of valuing the ambition that drives it. These views are implicit in the analogies that Gertrude and her mother use: for Gertrude, the exam works as part of a meritocratic system, which allows the winner to “step upwards” on the ladder, while Mrs. Woodward envisions a Malthusian fishpond where too many fish compete for limited resources. The two visions share no common imagery—the men climb up a ladder, while the fish remain on the horizontal plane of a pond—and each emphasizes a different aspect of competition. Gertrude optimistically compares the current “idle and empty” young men to the “ambitious” subjects they could become, while Mrs. Woodward imagines rivals “scrambling for the others’ prey”—and eating not the prey, but one another. The consequences of competition seem as irreconcilable as the metaphors used to describe them: ambitious individuals aspire to improve themselves, and yet, ambition in the collective suggests cutthroat competition.

In this essay, I analyze how Trollope figures ambition and competition in An Autobiography, and in his most autobiographical novel, The Three Clerks. First, I examine how Trollope manages the story of his own ambition in An Autobiography, where he uses self-help tropes in the mode of Samuel Smiles’s popular Self-Help. He uses these tropes in illustrating how he competes in the literary marketplace not only with other authors, but, more importantly, with himself. I then analyze how The Three Clerks is structured by such competitions—for promotions, spouses, and the moral high ground—and how these competitions have roots in Trollope’s linguistic structures themselves, with their repeated comparisons of characters and situations. This “comparative style,” I argue, is the basis of Trollope’s classic vacillation plot. Ultimately, I suggest that the tension between individuals’ lofty ambitions and the realities of the competitions they engage in is essential to Trollope’s work, as well as to the nineteenth-century novel’s strategies of characterization and plotting.

I. Trollope’s Self-Help and Self-Competition in An Autobiography.

THE THREE CLERKS is Trollope’s most autobiographical novel. Any reader of both the novel and the Autobiography will immediately note parallels, particularly with the youngest clerk, Charley. Both begin careers in the Civil Service; neither shows much promise. As Trollope remembers, “the first seven years of my official life were neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service” (40)—put simply, he was “always in trouble” (43). Much like Charley, Trollope had an admirer, whose mother (like Norah’s guardian in the novel) “appeared at the Post Office” to ask when he would marry her daughter (44). Both Trollope and Charley are haunted by a moneylender who admonishes them to be punctual (45). The most noteworthy parallel, however, is Charley’s interest in becoming a writer: he begins writing for the Daily Delight, with its many rules about starting in medias res, including an incident in every other paragraph, and incorporating a “slap at some of the iniquities of the times” (iniquities such as “the want of education for the poor,” and the “miscellaneous sale of poisons”) (213). We might also guess that Trollope has a special fondness for Charley from his inexplicable good fortune: when the Internal Navigation division is dissolved, Charley is one of the few “infernal navvies” who actually moves up in the world, gaining a promotion to the Weights and Measures branch.

Clicking an image will launch a captioned slideshow of the images appearing here.

Although we find many parallels between Trollope’s life and Charley’s, we have good reason to look elsewhere in The Three Clerks for vestiges of Trollope’s autobiography. Tony Bareham has suggested that Alaric Tudor, too, shares biographical parallels with Trollope—from “emotional deprivation,” to a “broken domestic circle,” to the youthful “false start in life in Europe” (67). And as Bareham tantalizingly notes, “[g]oodness knows whether the identical initials are conscious or not” (67). 1 I would argue that Alaric’s ambition is another particularly important parallel: Trollope’s ambitions as both a Civil Servant and as a writer come to preoccupy the Autobiography, whereas Charley seems to move up in the world through good luck rather than hard work. It would seem that Trollope imbued both Charley and Alaric with elements of his own biography. This is not the only time, however, that Trollope has had recourse to splitting his ambition across two entities, nor is it the first time that these entities have been made to compete for prizes and sympathy.

In this section, I take seriously the problem of how one sympathizes with competitive and ambitious characters. I read Trollope’s Autobiography as a self-help story featuring an ambitious protagonist who utilizes self-deprecation in a bid for readerly sympathy, and who depicts ambition not as a quality that threatens others, but rather, as the drive behind self-competition. (The splitting of Trollope across Charley and Alaric in The Three Clerks is even more natural if we consider the ways in which Trollope competes against himself.) Indeed, Trollope’s Autobiography is not at all what one would expect from the title, as readers and critics have been observing since its publication. Although we find no tortured spiritual epiphanies in its pages, we do learn the financial details of his dual careers, such as which publisher took which manuscript for how many pounds. 2 In many ways, An Autobiography seems modeled not after the Victorian tradition of introspective autobiography—particularly the tradition in which John Stuart Mill or John Henry Newman participated—but rather, after the model of the inspirational story of self-improvement, like those collected in Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help. 3

Trollope begins his Autobiography with his early poverty, to which he recurs whenever he steps back to consider his position in the world. He writes that his boyhood was “as unhappy as that of a young gentleman could well be, my misfortunes arising from a mixture of poverty and gentle standing on the part of my father, and from an utter want on my own part of that juvenile manhood which enables some boys to hold up their heads even among the distresses which such a position is sure to produce” (2). Trollope identifies his position between two categories—the genteel and the impoverished—as the root of his misfortunes. He also reveals the extent to which his early misfortunes had to do with his tendency to compare himself with others:

In my boyhood, when I would be crawling up to school with dirty boots and trousers through the muddy lanes, I was always telling myself that the misery of the hour was not the worst of it, but that the mud and solitude and poverty of the time would insure me mud and solitude and poverty through my life. Those lads about me would go into Parliament, or become rectors and deans, or squires of parishes, or advocates thundering at the Bar. They would not live with me now,—but neither should I be able to live with them in after years. Nevertheless I have lived with them. When, at the age in which others go to the universities, I became a clerk in the Post Office, I felt that my old visions were being realized. (emphasis mine, 153-4)

I emphasize the comparative language in this passage in order to extend another comparison—between Trollope’s style in The Three Clerks and his style in narrating his own life. Trollope imagines his characters in comparison and competition, as well as himself as a youth. As a boy, Trollope’s mud and poverty separate him from the other boys, who, he imagines, will follow high callings that will only further separate them from him. And when “others go to the universities” while Trollope becomes a clerk, he imagines that this separation has been realized. Instead, Trollope pursues two careers—much like one of George Lillie Craik’s or Samuel Smiles’s inspirational men who work in a profession by day, and pursue their studies at night.

Trollope may well have needed more than one outlet for his ambition: he is notorious for his work ethic, and attributes his success to his hard work, rather than to his genius. Indeed, much of An Autobiography reads like a self-help text based on the adage that what one man has done, another may do. Trollope extols “the virtue of early hours”: “It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5:30 AM; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy” (248). Trollope infamously measures his hours by words: writing “with my watch before me, and [requiring] from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour” (249). He then converts these units, from words and quarter hours, to novels and years: his “division of time allowed [him] to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results three novels of three volumes each in the year” (249). 4 And, according to another oft-quoted passage, Trollope is equally insistent about working while he travels by rail or sea, as he finds he “could write as quickly in a railway-carriage as I could at my desk” (94). These practices seem to be offered to make Trollope’s work repeatable for others as well as himself—as if Trollope were breaking down what is often seen as a process of genius into easy, step-by-step instructions. 5

Trollope offers instruction in the form of maxims—the same type of maxims we find in Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Smiles, which offer apparently universal advice. Explaining his will to work, Trollope writes that, “Nothing surely is so potent as a law that may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water-drop that hollows the stone” (emphasis mine, 110). And mixing his metaphors a bit, adding demi-gods and creatures out of Aesop’s fables, Trollope reminds us that, “[a] small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. It is the tortoise which always catches the hare” (110). Or, with a Latin twist, “Mens sana in corpore sano. The author wants that as does every other workman,—that and a habit of industry” (111). It is in these maxims that we see the extent to which Trollope fashions his Autobiography not only as a full or even exemplary life, but as a life that should inspire others to follow the same habits to reach the same success: “I have been constant,—and constancy in labour will conquer all difficulties” (Autobiography 334).

When Trollope dwells on this aspect of comparing and competing with himself, he can be read as offering a refinement of the self-help ethos. In Self-Help, Smiles rarely confronts the question of what happens when many self-helping men must compete with one another—and when he does, as in the following passage, he hides behind clichés that obscure the realities of competing for limited positions: “Practical industry, wisely and vigorously applied, always produces its due effects. It carries a man onward, brings out his individual character, and stimulates the action of others. All may not rise equally, yet each, on the whole, very much according to his deserts. ‘Though all cannot live on the piazza,’ as the Tuscan proverb has it, ‘every one may feel the sun’” (224). Smiles trusts that, despite the fact that not all will necessarily “rise equally,” they will rise “according to [their] deserts.” (Smiles’s transition from plural to individual subjects is telling, as the “all” quickly turns into “each”—as if even here he cannot bear to imagine self-helping men competing as a group, but only as isolated individuals.) Smiles insists that one man’s industry not only carries him onward, but also stimulates others, as if to reiterate that self-help is not a selfish endeavor, but a national project. This theory runs into a snag, however, when industry stimulates others to action not only by offering inspiration, but also by introducing competition.

Trollope similarly avoids the idea of competing with others in the literary marketplace—but he does imagine competition with himself. He compares his industry to his own work history and goals, and he also imagines how he might overdo this industry. In fact, I argue that this fear of over-production haunts his Autobiography, particularly in the form of the writer who wrote so much that he “disgusted the publisher in Paternoster Row” (159), “[spawning] upon [him] three novels a year” (100). Trollope repeatedly invokes this character when he thinks about the economic realities of writing: if one offers too much of one’s wares, one crowds the market. Although self-help texts usually figure industry and work as always paying one back for the effort—either in money or improved character—Trollope here offers an analogy to explain how one may overdo industry, and actually undermine one’s own successes. In the following passage, Trollope confesses to the same crime: “I quite admit that I crowded my wares into the market too quickly, because the reading world could not want such a quantity of matter from the hands of one author in so short a space of time. I had not been quite so fertile as the unfortunate gentleman who disgusted the publisher in Paternoster Row […] but I had probably done enough to make both publishers and readers think that I was coming too often beneath their notice” (158-9). Trollope confesses—but he is not quite so guilty (“quite so fertile”) as this other writer. He seems to imagine that, if he compares his industry to the overproduction of the other gentleman, he can thereby lessen his own offenses. (The competition here is counterintuitive: who produces less?) Rather than directly confront the problem of a saturated literary market—as George Gissing will later do in New Grub Street—Trollope redirects the problem of competition with others into an imagined competition with himself. 6

To offset his overproduction, Trollope has recourse to two strategies. First, he simply delays publication. In fact, when he sails for Australia he even notes that, if the ship went down, he had “so provided that there would be new novels ready to come out under my name for some years to come. This consideration, however, did not keep me idle while I was at sea” (Autobiography 315). But Trollope also finds another solution to his overproduction: he tries publishing anonymously. 7 In the Autobiography, Trollope explains this decision with his suspicion that, in literary affairs, “a name once earned carried with it too much favour”:

I indeed had never reached a height to which praise was awarded as a matter of course; but there were others who sat on higher seats to whom the critics brought unmeasured incense and adulation, even when they wrote, as they sometimes did write, trash which from a beginner would not have been thought worthy of the slightest notice. I hope no one will think that in saying this I am actuated by jealousy of others. Though I never reached that height, still I had so far progressed that that which I wrote was received with too much favour. The injustice which struck me did not consist in that which was withheld from me, but in that which was given to me. I felt that aspirants coming up below me might do work as good as mine, and probably much better work, and yet fail to have it appreciated. In order to test this, I determined to be such an aspirant myself, and to begin a course of novels anonymously, in order that I might see whether I could obtain a second identity,—whether as I had made one mark by such literary ability as I possessed, I might succeed in doing so again. In 1865 I began a short tale called Nina Balatka… (185-6)

The logic in this passage is convoluted: Trollope has not reached “a height to which praise was awarded as a matter of course,” but he still feels that what he writes receives “too much favour.” And in imagining that others might do as well or better work than he does, he somehow comes to the conclusion that he will become “such an aspirant” himself, and actually “obtain a second identity” (emphasis mine). Trollope wishes to split himself into two authors, and to recreate his obscurity-to-fame trajectory. This dissociation is no mere figure of speech: Trollope explains that he developed a new style to fit this new writer: “Of course I had endeavoured to change not only my manner of language, but my manner of story-telling also […] English life in them there was none. There was more of romance proper than had been usual with me. And I made an attempt at local colouring, at descriptions of scenes and places, which has not been usual with me” (187). After producing two works in this new style, Trollope runs into a setback: Blackwood declines a third attempt at publishing Trollope’s anonymous second identity. But Trollope remains optimistic, noting, in Smilesian fashion, that this failure does not mean that he “might not have succeeded a second time as I succeeded before, had I gone on with the same dogged perseverance” (187-8). (Also in Smilesian fashion, Trollope emphasizes his own character rather than circumstances—he will succeed with “dogged perseverance” despite a reluctant publisher and a crowded market.)

As Judith Knelman notes, the purpose of this experiment cannot be financial—“For The Claverings Trollope received £2,800; Nina and Linda brought him only £450 each” (23). After all the depictions of Trollope haggling with publishers, this is a strange episode in An Autobiography. I read its strangeness as having much to do with the logic of self-help, that phrase which linguistically dissociates the subject into both the helper and the helped: Trollope reveals a desire to compete not only against other authors, but also against his own past success—as if to prove that his success is due to ability rather than luck. This desire supersedes even strong financial motivations: the Trollope of An Autobiography desires another outlet for his ambition, and embarks upon this third career.

Although Trollope carefully crafted a different style for his anonymous writing, R.H. Hutton of The Spectator blew his cover when he reviewed Nina Balatka in 1867. It is significant that the phrase that tipped Hutton off was “making one’s way:” as Nicholas Dames has suggested, it seems to encapsulate the logic behind the career. I would argue, however, that it is even more broadly about self-help—about an individual’s pursuit after improvement or advancement. If we read Trollope’s Autobiography as an inspirational self-help story, we can better understand why Trollope’s characters have varying degrees of ordinary qualities: it is in the application of such ordinary qualities that we find the greatest inspiration. Hard work and strict habits are reproducible, whereas the productions of a genius are not. 8 It is in moments such as the following, when Trollope attributes his “comfortable but not splendid” success as an author to hard work, that he seems particularly sympathetic: “by my example may be seen what prospect there is that a man devoting himself to literature with industry, perseverance, certain necessary aptitudes, and fair average talents, may succeed in gaining a livelihood, as another man does in another profession. The result with me has been comfortable but not splendid, as I think was to have been expected from the combination of such gifts” (98). Trollope writes of his success not to gloat, but to accurately portray what can be done through “industry, perseverance […] and fair average talents.” Portraying himself as only a comparatively successful character—“comfortable but not splendid,” “fair average talents”—he forestalls envy, encouraging his readers to sympathize with him and even to be inspired by his example. Self-help tropes allow Trollope to record his success while remaining a sympathetic character.

If we read The Three Clerks as a competing fictionalization of Trollope’s Autobiography and his own rise in both the Civil Service and in the literary world, we can better appreciate the difficulties of fictionalizing such competitions. Samuel Smiles avoids the subject of competition in Self-Help, instead stipulating that even though all “may not rise equally,” most will rise according to their merit. In Trollope’s novel, however, competition is not so clear-cut: the ambitious Alaric is exiled to Australia, while the rakish Charley miraculously receives a promotion and becomes a successful author. If Trollope channeled his own biography into both these characters, it is tempting to see Alaric’s high ambition as correlating with the ambition that drove Trollope to excel in not one, but two (and almost three) careers. And if Charley’s luck offers an alternative way of imagining Trollope’s own rise to success, this would shed light on why Trollope hoped to “prove” his ability through a second authorial identity. In his Autobiography, Trollope portrays himself as a self-help character in competition not only with others, but most importantly, with himself.

II. Competitive Style: Making Comparisons in The Three Clerks.

THE THREE CLERKS stages a debate about the value of competition, and confronts the difficulty of representing it in narrative form. Instead of tracing the trajectory of one or even two characters, Trollope offers us a triad—three young men making their way in the world, often at one another’s expense. Harry and Alaric work in the same branch of the Civil Service, and both hope to marry the eldest Woodward sister, Gertrude. As examined in the previous section, the third clerk, Charley Tudor, is based on Trollope’s own experiences as a clerk, and even turns to writing popular fiction. Despite its interesting subject matter, The Three Clerks has received scant attention from literary critics, who have either dismissed it as a “bad novel” and a “false start,”9 or concentrated on how the novel represents the Civil Service career and exam. 10 I argue, however, that this novel is essential for identifying how Trollope’s distinctive style develops in a novel about competitive ambition. The novel marked a turning point in his writing career: it is the first novel Trollope sold outright. I analyze how this novel stages many competitions, not only in the socio-economic realm with the Civil Service exam, but also in the realm of feeling and sympathy with the marriage plots, and in the legal arena with Alaric’s embezzlement trial. Trollope uses the plotlines we associate with the nineteenth-century novel—the career plot, the marriage plot, the trial or test—and then troubles them by revealing how these plots, which rely on zero-sum games and binaries, are structured through comparisons of many more or less similar characters and situations.

The Three Clerks is a text marked by its competitions. Even before the exam, when Harry and Alaric are fast friends, Trollope’s narrator imagines them in competition; he introduces Alaric and Harry by comparing them. Alaric, we learn, is:

…by no means so handsome a youth as Harry Norman; but yet there was that in his face which was more expressive, and perhaps more attractive. He was a much slighter man, though equally tall. He could boast no adventitious capillary graces, whereas young Norman had a pair of black curling whiskers […] Tudor was perhaps not superior to Norman in point of intellect; but he was infinitely his superior in having early acquired a knowledge how best to use such intellect as he had. (emphasis mine, 7-8)

I italicize what I will call the “comparative language” in the passage above to emphasize the extent to which the descriptions rely upon comparisons. 11 The language is overridden with “more”s and “superior”s, as if neither character were distinctive enough to be described on his own terms. The third clerk, Charley, enters the novel later, but also by way of comparisons, as he is “some few years younger than his cousin Alaric,” and had “not been the most diligent of schoolboys” (12). By introducing the clerks in relation to one another, Trollope’s narrator avoids assigning too many essential characteristics—instead, characters are differentiated by their degree of intelligence or attractiveness as compared to others.

The three young men start from similar positions: all three join the ranks of the Civil Service as clerks, much like Trollope himself did. And all three aspire to marry one of the Woodward sisters. But they begin with asymmetrical degrees of ambition. Harry is “steady, sober, and discreet” (273) rather than overreaching; he drops out of the exam, and eventually is content to marry the modest middle sister, Linda. The youngest, Charley, is the ne’er-do-well who finds his ambition only after he falls in love with the girlish Katie. It is Alaric who is the locus of ambition in this novel, as he rises through ability and promotion, wins the favored sister for his wife, risks money in the stock market, and eventually fails after making bad investments with his ward’s fortune. And it is the ambitious Alaric who takes “Excelsior,” or “Ever Higher,” as his motto when he considers his career:

That is £1,200 a year. So far, so good. And now what must be the next step? Excelsior! It is very nice to be a Commissioner, and sit at a Board at Sir Gregory’s right hand: much nicer than being a junior clerk at the Weights and Measures, like Harry Norman. But there are nicer things even than that; there are greater men even than Sir Gregory; richer figures than even £1,200 a year! (emphasis mine, 327)

In this passage of direct discourse, we find that the comparative language so ubiquitous in this novel is not only the narrator’s style, but also the style of his characters. Alaric compares his new position to the one he left, and to the one that Harry still occupies; he then compares his new position to hypothetically “nicer,” “greater,” and “richer” positions. In Alaric, we see how Trollope figures ambition as fundamentally about making comparisons—comparing one’s current state with a hypothetical future state, and generating the drive to change the one for the other (displacing one’s superiors in the process). By looking up toward the next rung of the ladder and imagining further promotions, Alaric follows Dames’s examples of careerism in Trollope. But unlike many of Dames’s examples, Alaric is willing to cheat the system; in fact, Alaric is the counterexample to the sort of domestication that the career path is supposed to provide. We see Alaric jumping onto entirely different career ladders—in the case of stock-jobbing, a ladder that is often at odds with his position as a clerk, and in the case of an unsuccessful bid for Parliament, a ladder that might require that he resign from the Civil Service altogether. As the most ambitious clerk, Alaric reveals that ambition is not limited to a single career or plot trajectory.

Trollope might well have sympathized with Alaric’s ambition to rise in the Weights and Measures, as he was himself intensely interested in how the Civil Service rewarded ambition. In fact, although Trollope cut it from the first single-volume edition, Chapter XII, Volume II of The Three Clerks is an extended, essayistic reflection on the problems that plagued the Civil Service—the main problem being that the rewards for the energetic and ambitious are too few: “The Crown had greatly lamented that the aspiring, energetic, and ambitious among British youths do not flock into its Civil Service. As regards the service this is to be lamented; but as regards the British youths, we hardly think that it is ground for grief […] Ambition climbs. What is there in the Civil Service for her to climb to?” (561). Trollope, in both style and thesis, is very close here to his various essays on the same subject, including two entitled “The Civil Service” (one of which appeared in the Dublin University Magazine in 1855, the other in the Fortnightly Review in 1865), and “The Civil Service as a Profession” (which appeared in the Cornhill Magazine in 1861). In all these essays, he likewise addresses criticism of the Civil Service, and of the proposed Northcote-Trevelyan reforms, 12 which aimed to do away with the patronage system and to attract more ambitious young men into the Civil Service. Trollope disagreed with the means by which such ambition should be attracted (particularly the competitive exam), but he agreed that ambition is a needful thing. In fact, to attract ambitious applicants, Trollope proposed a hierarchy of promotions. 13 In a novel that will use Alaric Tudor’s excessive ambition as his tragic flaw, the inclusion of a chapter so closely aligned to Trollope’s many essays on the Civil Service is particularly important: it offers a check on facile conclusions about the value of ambition. It is not that ambition is bad—in fact, ambition is valuable—but that excessive ambition can go awry without sufficient outlets.

But the promotions within the Civil Service are not the only competitive game that pits types and degrees of ambition against one another. In the following passage, Trollope’s narrator introduces the three sisters who will eventually become the wives of the three clerks. They, too, are described through comparisons. The two older sisters are

…both pretty—but Gertrude, the elder, was by far the more strikingly so. They were, nevertheless, much alike; they both had rich brown hair, which they, like their mother, wore simply parted over the forehead […] But in appearance, as in disposition, Gertrude carried by far the greater air of command. She was the handsomer of the two, and the cleverer. She could write French and nearly speak it, while her sister could only read it […] But there was a softness about Linda, for such was the name of the second Miss Woodward, which in the eyes of many men made up both for the superior beauty and superior talent of Gertrude. Gertrude was, perhaps, hardly so soft as so young a girl should be. In her had been magnified that spirit of gentle raillery which made so attractive a part of her mother’s character. She enjoyed and emulated her mother’s quick sharp sayings, but she hardly did so with her mother’s grace, and sometimes attempted it with much more than her mother’s severity. (emphasis mine, 23-4)

As Trollope’s narrator introduces Surbiton Cottage’s eligible women, he tangles them in comparisons. Again, Trollope’s sentences take first one of the girls as their main subject, then both, then the other—and troubles any easy assessment of which sister is the “best.” We may think that Gertrude has the greater abilities and is therefore the most eligible sister, but then we learn that she lacks Linda’s softness, and that her wit is not accompanied by her mother’s grace. In comparing these sisters, and in comparing Gertrude with her mother, Trollope tends toward parallelism—the turn of phrase that Hugh Sykes Davies identified as “not unlike that found in the heroic couplet of the Augustans, less compressed, less witty, but with the same power to make words modify one another by being held in a pattern of contrast” (77). This style seems inextricably linked to comparing two terms at a time. 14 The third sister, Katie, is thus introduced much as Charley is—almost as an afterthought (of the youngest, “it is not necessary at present to say much” [24]). As their introductory passages suggest, the three clerks and the three sisters will find themselves competing with one another throughout the novel, taking (and waiting for) turns as the novel’s “subject.” This pattern of competing for narrative space aligns with Alex Woloch’s description in The One vs. the Many of “characters who jostle for limited space within the same fictive universe” (13), and even more particularly, of the novel that features “dual (and sometimes dueling) protagonists” (245). It is interesting that, rather than one or even two potential protagonists fighting against a mob of minor characters, The Three Clerks insists on hosting a triad of protagonists—or, if one counts the Woodward sisters, a sextet. Trollope extends the structural problem of competition to the plot, and even, as I argue, to the language of the narrator and characters.

We see this comparative style emerge at the scale of paragraphs—particularly in relation to Charley’s love interests. Charley’s marriage plot introduces minor characters, as it is unique amongst the three clerks for its involvement of choices outside of the Woodward household. Charley has a long-standing flirtation with a barmaid, one Norah Geraghty, while Alaric hopes to convince Charley to pursue Clementina Golightly and her fortune. Of course, as so often happens in Trollope’s novels, we do not feel much risk from these minor female characters—one is reminded of Trollope’s suspense-killing reassurance in Barchester Towers that Elinor Bold will not marry Mr. Slope. Instead, these outside options seem to be doing something else: they offer points of comparison that lead Charley to the right choice, which is the youngest daughter, Katie. These comparisons take place over the course of several paragraphs, as the following passage demonstrates:

Norah Geraghty was a fine girl. Putting her in comparison with Miss Golightly, we are inclined to say that she was the finer girl of the two; and that, barring position, money, and fashion, she was qualified to make the better wife. In point of education, that is, the effects of education, there was not perhaps much to choose between them. Norah could make an excellent pudding, and was willing enough to exercise her industry and art in doing so; Miss Golightly could copy music, but she did not like the trouble; and could play a waltz badly. Neither of them had ever read anything beyond a few novels. In this respect, as to the amount of labour done, Miss Golightly had certainly far surpassed her rival competitor for Charley’s affections.

Charley got up and took [Norah’s] hand; and as he did so, he saw that her nails were dirty. He put his arms round her waist and kissed her; and as he caressed her, his olfactory nerves perceived that the pomatum in her hair was none of the best. He thought of [Katie’s] young lustrous eyes that would look up so wonderously into his face; he thought of the gentle touch, which would send a thrill through all his nerves; and then he felt very sick. (emphasis mine, 226)

In the first paragraph, the narrator insistently compares Norah Geraghty with Clementina Golightly, but seems unable to definitively conclude which would be the better choice. Norah would be the better wife, only if we do not take position, money, or fashion into account. In the second paragraph, Charley compares Norah with Katie—and does so indirectly, juxtaposing Norah’s flaws (which seem to be inextricably linked to her lower class position) with Katie’s best qualities, her “lustrous eyes” and “gentle touch.” It seems like rather an unfair game. But it is exactly this process of comparison, which in choosing between three, compares first A and B, then B and C, that results in a winner amongst the “rival competitors.” Examining the process at this level reveals the extent to which Trollope’s classic vacillation plot starts in his language.

Although critics have long identified Trollope’s novelistic structures with decision-making, 15 I would suggest that Trollope relies on an underlying system of comparisons, and particularly on comparisons that are structured by pairs. Even after the characters have made all their decisions, they compare their outcomes. In the final chapters, when Alaric and Gertrude emigrate and the couples say goodbye, Norman again compares his first love (Gertrude) with his current love (Linda), and notes that Gertrude is no longer the beauty—“‘Linda, at any rate, far exceeds her in beauty,’ was Norman’s first thought” (510). And in case the reader is slow to compare the fates of the different couples, Trollope’s narrator draws attention to how characters have fared in comparison to one another: “How different were their lots now! Harry was Mr. Norman of Normansgrove, immediately about to take his place as the squire of his parish […] Gertrude was the wife of a convicted felon, who was about to come forth from his prison in utter poverty, a man who, in such a catalogue as the world makes of its inhabitants, would be ranked among the very lowest” (508). With these comparisons, Trollope draws attention to the endpoints of the plot, and particularly to how the characters have won or lost the novel’s competitions: we are reminded that, while some characters have risen, others have fallen. It seems that Mrs. Woodward’s analogy of the competitive fishpond also applies to the novel’s plot.

If we attempt to isolate not only the endpoints, but also the movements of the plot, we can see more clearly how the clerks rise and fall, and how the narrative has trouble accommodating more than one or two plotlines at a time. Alaric’s plot line often threatens to take over entirely: when Alaric’s investments fail and he is put on trial for embezzlement, his story puts a hold on those of the other clerks—Harry and Linda postpone their marriage until after the trial, and even though Charley is rising in his profession (in large part due to Alaric’s fall), we only hear about it afterwards. Ruth apRoberts has wryly noted that Trollope is “naively faithful to chronological order—if he does give us a flashback it seems to be because there is something he forgot to tell” (34). But this example of Charley’s “delayed” plot—which appears in discourse time only after it has taken place in story time—demonstrates that in some cases Trollope does not forget something, but rather, finds that his plot structure cannot accommodate his characters. It is not only the trial that makes it impossible for Alaric to stay in England; Trollope, too, must send him packing in order to direct his attention to Harry’s and Charley’s marriages and promotions. Although the novel is ostensibly about three clerks, then, it seems that there is something about both Trollope’s language and narrative that can more easily accommodate two terms than three. Marriage plots boil down to two rivals, while the exam is not really about the entire office, but about Alaric and Harry. I argue that competition, although suggestive of a crowd of rivals, in actuality must be imagined as occurring between two characters. 16

I propose that this dependence upon comparing two characters amongst many resolves an implicit paradox in Trollope’s writing. Trollope’s style is often described as “plain,” and his content as complex. For example, Kincaid argues that Trollope “achieves his effects very largely through a uniform and plain style” (Novels of Anthony Trollope 48), while apRoberts proposes a situation ethics and aesthetics of Trollope, insisting that Trollope is “everywhere a complicator” (41). These two assessments of Trollope—as both plain in style and a “complicator” in content—may seem contradictory at first glance. But Trollope’s method relies on comparisons and, more abstractly, on juxtapositions, which allow him to represent complicated moral muddles on the sly. Thus, although Trollope rarely invokes figurative language—which compares two (unlike) things—he does rely on comparative language. 17 More specifically, Trollope uses simple sentence structures to compare two (like) terms—hence the frequent occurrence of “more” and “less.” At the level of paragraphs, and even of plotlines, Trollope relies on juxtaposition and parallels. I would suggest that despite the seemingly paradoxical terms, then, Trollope is both a plain writer and a complicator. He complicates by simplifying.

Trollope develops his “comparative language” in The Three Clerks, as this language comes to structure his style and the plot’s competitions. Trollope imagines competition becoming the dominant force not only in the professional marketplace, but also in the private, domestic spaces of the marriage plot. He compares the needs of competition—which can select only one winner, one spouse, etc.—with the more lenient sympathies of his characters. To draw out this tension, I will turn to Trollope’s most intriguing comparison in The Three Clerks—between the zero-sum game of the trial system and the sympathetic, “more or less” thinking of his characters. Or, as I will suggest, we might read this as a comparison between the dictates of the plot and the sympathies of the characters (and reader).

Throughout Alaric’s trial, his lawyer, Chaffanbrass, makes every effort to paint Alaric sympathetically. His strategy is risky—he must admit that Alaric is guilty of embezzling Clementina’s fortune, but that he is less guilty of this crime than Undy Scott. In the following passage, the Judge offers parting advice to the jury, summing up how difficult it will be to deliver a judgment of “guilty” or “not guilty” when the trial has concentrated, thus far, on relative guilt:

An endeavour has been made to affix a deep stigma on one of the witnesses who has been examined before you; and to induce you to feel, rather than to think, that Mr. Tudor is, at any rate, comparatively innocent—innocent as compared with that gentleman. That is not the issue which you are called on to decide; not whether Mr. Scott, for purposes of his own, led Mr. Tudor on to guilt, and then turned against him; but whether Mr. Tudor himself has, or has not, been guilty under this Act of Parliament that has been explained to you. (487)

The judge emphasizes the discrepancy between judging Alaric Tudor by comparison to Undy Scott, and judging Alaric Tudor by comparison to the Act of Parliament. Next to Undy, Alaric is “comparatively innocent—innocent as compared with that gentleman,” but according to the law, Alaric is guilty. And the judge further compares these types of judgment (relative or absolute) by opposing them: one feels in comparisons, and one thinks in binaries. But despite the judge’s warning, the jury insists upon ruling by relative comparisons. When they find Alaric “guilty” on one count, but “not guilty” on four others, they appeal to the judge: “We beg, however, most strongly to commend the prisoner to your lordship’s merciful consideration, believing that he has been led into this crime by one who has been much more guilty than himself” (491). The zero-sum game of the trial is here in tension with Trollope’s mode of characterization, which insists upon understanding characters in relation to one another: Trollope’s jury asks that we understand guilt not in absolute, but in relative terms.

Throughout his novels, Trollope endorses this mode of characterization. He tends to focus on the middle or the average—much as the three clerks start in the same modest profession, each very like a self-help character attempting to rise in the world—and this tendency, I would suggest, compels Trollope to set his characters on a fairly level playing field. It is the level playing field that creates interpersonal interest: as Helmut Schoeck notes, social proximity is key if a character is to feel envy—which “is usually directed only towards persons with whom it has been possible to compete” (22-3). Finding small differences gives rise to envy, emulation, or competition, whereas the commoner rarely even thinks to compare himself to the king. We seem more interested in making comparisons when the differences being weighed are, in the end, rather insignificant. This is why, as Robert Polhemus has observed, “[f]ew of Trollope’s people can stand out of context like a Don Quixote or a Mrs. Gamp” (20). Or, as Henry James early noted, “Trollope’s heroines have a strong family likeness, but it is a wonder how finely he discriminates between them” (127). What seems to start as an insult (all of Trollope’s heroines are similar), resolves in commendation (to “finely” discriminate sounds like high praise, coming from James). 18 Trollope is at his most convincing when he directs his attention to what is distinctive about his characters’ very similarities, their very ordinariness. To so finely discriminate requires not only two characters being held up for comparison (which would tend to represent characters through binary relationships), but three or more characters. It is by invoking the characters in comparison to others—and in comparisons that emphasize not the best or worst excesses, but rather, the small differences, the “more or less” of this or that quality—that Trollope distinguishes them.


Rebecca Richardson is currently a graduate student at Stanford University, where she is completing her dissertation, Narrative Ambition: Victorian Self-Help and Competition.

“A Competitive World: Ambition and Self-Help in Trollope’s An Autobiography and The Three Clerkswas the winning essay selected by the judges of the Graduate Trollope Prize at the University of Kansas, 2012. The Fortnightly Review is a partner in this prize: the winning essay is first published here and a modest additional honorarium is awarded the author by The Fortnightly Review.

More: “The Intensive and Extensive Worlds of Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage” by Lucy Sheehan was the winning Trollope Prize essay in 2011. Read it here.

Elsewhere online:

An Autobiography in digital formats at the Internet Archive (archive.org).

The Three Clerks in digital formats at the Internet Archive (archive.org).

Ellen Moody‘s website contains a great deal of information relating to Trollope. Prof Moody is the author of Trollope on the Net. The Trollope Society (and its American branch) are also online.


Works Cited.

Aguirre, Robert D. “Cold Print: Professing Authorship in Anthony Trollope’s An Autobiography.” Biography Vol. 25, No. 4 (Fall 2002). p 569-92.

Aitken, David. “ ‘A Kind of Felicity’: Some Notes About Trollope’s Style.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 20, No. 4 (March 1966). p 337-353.

Allen, Peter. “Trollope to His Readers: The Unreliable Narrator of An Autobiography.” Biography, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1996). p 1-18

apRoberts, Ruth. The Moral Trollope. Athens: The Ohio University Press, 1971.

Bareham, Tony. “Introduction,” and “Patterns of Excellence: Theme and Structure in The Three Clerks.” Anthony Trollope, ed. Tony Bareham. London: Vision Press, 1980. p. 7-11, 54-80.

Clark, John W. The Language and Style of Anthony Trollope. Chatham: W& J Mackay Limited, 1975.

Dames, Nicholas. “Trollope and the Career: Vocational Trajectories and the Management of Ambition.” Victorian Studies, Vol 45, No 2 (Winter 2003), p 247-278.

Jaffe, Audrey. “Trollope in the Stock Market: Irrational Exuberance and The Prime Minister.” Victorian Studies. Vol 45, No. 1 (Autumn 2002), p 43-64.

James, Henry. Partial Portraits. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1888.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Trans. by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987.

Kincaid, James R. The Novels of Anthony Trollope. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

________. “Trollope’s Fictional Autobiography.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Vol. 37, No. 3 (Dec. 1982), p. 340-349

Knelman, Judith. “Trollope’s Experiments with Anonymity.” Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), p 21-4.

Polhemus, Robert M. The Changing World of Anthony Trollope. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.

Ruth, Jennifer. Novel Professions: Interested Disinterest and the Making of the Professional in the Victorian Novel. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2006.

Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Schoeck, Helmut. Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour. Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1987.

Shuman, Cathy. Pedagogical Economies: The Examination and the Victorian Literary Man. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Smiles, Samuel. Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character, Conduct, and Perseverance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Super, R.H. “Truth and Fiction in Trollope’s Autobiography.Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 48, No. 1 (June 1993), p 74-88.

Tracy, Robert. “Stranger than Truth: Fictional Autobiography and Autobiographical Fiction.” Dickens Studies Annual, Vol. 15 (1986), p. 275-291.

Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography. New York: Penguin, 1993.

____. “The Civil Service as a Profession.” Cornhill Magazine, 3:14 (February 1861), p. 214-28.

____. The Three Clerks. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Woloch, Alex. The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

NOTES.

Note: In the following citations, braces ({ } – also called “curly brackets”) are used in place of brackets to avoid a coding compatibility error.

  1. If one begins looking, such suggestive parallels abound. For example, when Alaric imagines himself as a hunter who, despite muddy boots, has a bag full of game, he seems again aligned with Trollope, and his irrepressible fondness for fox-hunting.
  2. Most recently, critics have suggested that it is this work’s very admission of self-interest that preserves it: Jennifer Ruth writes that “{C}ritics have begun, in fact, to speak of Trollope as a kind of hero. When one considers that this generation of Victorianists has been trained to read the disavowal of interest as deeply disingenuous if not downright devious, Trollope’s rejection of this disavowal makes his sudden rise in critical fortune predictable” (30).
  3. In “Trollope to His Readers: The Unreliable Narrator of An Autobiography,” Peter Allen offers the only other substantial consideration of how An Autobiography invokes self-help tropes. However, Allen dismisses these invocations as the stuff of parody: “But we can also read this posturing as an elaborate joke on himself, a pose so at odds with his real or gentlemanly nature as to be only a comically assumed mask. Embarrassed by having to talk about his need to make money, he signals the ludicrousness of his position by an absurd self-parody” (10). As tempting as it is to imagine An Autobiography as an extended wink to his more observant readers, I consider it more likely that when Trollope repeatedly utilizes self-help tropes, he does so earnestly—both for didactic reasons and for a more sympathetic self-presentation. In this section, I will offer a reading of how Trollope invokes self-help tropes to his own ends, while he refines what it means to be in competition with others and with one’s self.
  4. This language is remarkably similar to Smiles’s praise of the “careful employment of those invaluable fragments of time, called ‘odd moments,’” which, when collected, result in self-help figures producing similarly capacious volumes of writing: “Daguesseau, one of the great Chancellors of France, by carefully working up his odd bits of time, wrote a bulky and able volume in the successive intervals of waiting for dinner; and Madame de Genlis composed several of her charming volumes while waiting for the princess to whom she gave her daily lessons” (119). In measuring his time by the number of words he could produce, and his years in the number of volumes yielded, Trollope closely mirrors both the lessons and the language of self-help’s greatest popularizer.
  5. It is worth noting that Trollope’s self-help story has indeed managed to inspire emulation. Henry James remembers Trollope’s “magnificent example”: “It was once the fortune of the author of these lines to cross the Atlantic in his company, and he has never forgotten the magnificent example of plain persistence that it was in the power of the eminent novelist to give on that occasion” (98-9). And R.H. Super not only notes the didacticism inherent in Trollope’s description of his work ethic—he also uses it to inspire his own self-help regime: “And the advice of so prolific a novelist to all other authors that they should keep to a rigorous schedule is wholesome and useful: I myself had just read the Autobiography when I wrote my life of Walter Savage Landor many years ago, and I remained at my desk without cocktails or dinner until the day’s stint of pages had been typed” (79-80).
  6. Trollope dedicates much space in the Autobiography to his theory of writerly self-competition—almost as if this were an underground way of comparing himself to other authors. It seems significant, then, that An Autobiography is so frequently compared to Dickens. Robert D. Aguirre notes that both Dickens and Trollope portray themselves as lonely victims (569), and R.H. Super suggests that Trollope’s “decision to stress his own miseries at school” was “colored by his reading of Dickens’s story” (75). Peter Allen asserts that Trollope was indignant at Dickens’s portrayal of his parents in his autobiographical fragment, and that this led him to portray himself not as an unrecognized child prodigy, but rather as an ordinary child, who “never fancied myself to be a man of genius” (Allen 12). Kincaid in “Trollope’s Fictional Autobiography” offers the most extended comparison between Dickens’s biography and Trollope’s Autobiography, noting how both concentrate on their childhood desolation “to point the contrast between the outcast child and the successful adult and to build subtle psychological ties between their alienation and destitution and their subsequent industry and acceptance” (344). Comparisons of An Autobiography with David Copperfield also abound; Robert Tracy observes that it is exactly what Copperfield neglects to tell us about—his literary work—that we get an overabundance of in An Autobiography (284).
  7. For more on Trollope’s anonymous publications, see Judith Knelman’s “Trollope’s Experiments with Anonymity.”
  8. Kant writes that the genius cannot trace his steps, as “he himself does not know how he came by the ideas for it; nor is it in his power {Gewalt} to devise such products at his pleasure, or by following a plan, and to communicate {his procedure} to others in precepts that would enable them to bring about like products” (175).
  9. Michael Sadleir early deemed it a “bad novel” (374), and James Kincaid has argued that, as good as the novel is, it “is only another false start” (Novels of Anthony Trollope 73). And yet, among his early novels, it was Trollope’s own favorite, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning considered it the best of his early works, telling Trollope’s sister-in-law that she was “wrung to tears by the third volume,” and that her husband, “who can seldom get a novel to hold him,” had been “held by all three {of Trollope’s novels} and by this the strongest” (Sadleir 196).
  10. See, for example, Jennifer Ruth’s Novel Professions: Interested Disinterest and the Making of the Professional in the Victorian Novel, Cathy Shuman’s Pedagogical Economies: The Examination and the Victorian Literary Man, and Nicholas Dames’s “Trollope and the Career: Vocational Trajectories and the Management of Ambition” in Victorian Studies.
  11. I also take this passage as representative in revealing the types of comparative language Trollope relies upon: we can easily track the total number of appearances that “more” and “equally” make in the text, but it is much more difficult to track the usage of phrases such as “slighter” or “so handsome.”
  12. The reforms were based on the Northcote-Trevelyan Report made in 1853.
  13. Trollope argues that, if “men were confident that they could rise in the Civil Service to be secretaries, under-secretaries, and commissioners; that they or their brethren in the Civil Service must so rise; that, by the law of the service, no one else could so rise—I think we may say that a sufficient amount of competency would be found” (Cornhill 227).
  14. Davies investigated what he termed Trollope’s “cadence,” which relies on the words “and” and “but” to explore “the relation between principles and practice” (see 76, 82). Davies is close to identifying the importance of two terms in his brief but illuminating study—he notes that Trollope’s conjunctions are “used to establish an antithesis between two very closely related phrases, and the repetition of words and phrases is nearly as characteristic an aspect of this special cadence as the conjunction itself” (italics mine, 76). Indeed, the use of a “but” suggests a pivot that requires two clauses, but that is limited to holding together only two. John W. Clark, in his exhaustive work on Trollope’s language, has likewise noticed this use of conjunctions, and how such conjunctions work to represent “internal debates”: “In passages of ‘internal debate,’ balanced sentences, and pairs of sentences balancing each other, the clauses or sentences being joined by adversative conjunctions, are noticeably common, but very properly so” (19). Clark likewise implicitly addresses the importance of two terms (“pairs of sentences”), but does not pursue this line of inquiry.
  15. Cathy Shuman notes that “{c}ritics of Trollope seem to agree that his work is structured by vacillation or unresolvable opposition” (84). Audrey Jaffe observes another occurrence of this vacillation plot in her recent article, tracing the connections between emotions and the stock market in Trollope. Jaffe identifies how characters “waver” in the process of making decisions: in The Prime Minister, “Wharton’s thoughts display not the unwavering certainty of the clear moral line but rather the jittery peaks and valleys of the stock-market graph” (58). Wharton’s reactions to Ferdinand Lopez take “shape as a mental wavering {…} Tracing the fluctuating movements of characters’ thoughts as they wend their way from one side of a question to the other, Trollope gives narrative form and identity to those peaks and valleys” (58, italics mine). Again, I would suggest the importance of both Trollope’s language and the language critics use to describe it: these expressions—“waver” and “wend their way from one side of a question to the other”—both suggest that only two decisions or states are possible.
  16. Even when they announce otherwise, Trollope’s marriage plots simplify themselves into systems of two rivals: when Violet Effingham has a chapter devoted to her four suitors, we know that only Phineas Finn and Lord Chiltern stand a chance—Violet immediately dismisses the idea of marrying Lord Fawn or Mr. Appledom. And indeed, it is Finn and Chiltern who travel abroad and fight a duel over the lady in question. Lizzie in The Eustace Diamonds similarly has a group of suitors, but they take turns competing—Lord Fawn and Frank Greystock begin as rivals, but as Lord Fawn exits the competition, Joseph Emilius enters it. Most of Trollope’s marriage plots, however, are based on characters having two rather starkly divided options: Frank Greystock must choose between Lizzie Eustace and Lucy Morris; Adolphus Crosbie jilts Lily Dale for Lady Alexandrina de Courcy in The Small House at Allington; in Framley Parsonage, Lord Lufton decides against Griselda Grantley (his mother’s choice), and marries his own favorite, Lucy Roberts; and in Can You Forgive Her? Alice Vavasor wavers between George Vavasor and John Grey, while Glencora Palliser dithers over whether to stay with her husband, Plantagenet, or to run away with her former flame, Burgo Fitzgerald.
  17. And when Trollope does use metaphoric language, David Aitken has noted that “the largest number of his similes and metaphors are not expressions of original imaginative perceptions at all, but are drawn straight from the stock of conventional figures of speech preserved in our language in clichés and familiar quotations” (350-351). Even at his most figurative, Trollope cannot bear to make comparisons between drastically different things, but relies on terms we already associate with one another out of habit.
  18. The risk of this ordinariness, of course, is that characters do not stand out in marked ways, and are therefore less memorable. Even Trollope himself had trouble remembering his characters sometimes. In discussing Ralph the Heir in his Autobiography, Trollope compares the “life” of his characters: “Ralph the heir has not much life about him; while Ralph who is not the heir, but is intended to be the real hero, has none. The same may be said of the young ladies,—of whom one, she who was meant to be the chief, has passed utterly out of my mind, without leaving a trace of remembrance behind” (313). I quote this not only for its comedy, but also for how Trollope’s memories here use the sort of comparative language I have examined. One Ralph has “not much life,” while the hero “has none;” of the young ladies, the “chief” is completely forgotten. It is worth noting that here the excesses—the fairytale-like hero or “chief” characters—are what are forgotten in Trollope, and by Trollope. What remains, however faintly, are the young ladies who apparently left at least a trace of remembrance behind, and the heir with his little bit of life.
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