The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Trollope: lost genius

Share
Related Topics
NO DOUBT I was out at the ungodly hour at which the literary editor of this youthful newspaper chose to telephone, but he - or she (]]]) - failed to get hold of me to ask me to contribute my list to the annual 'Books of the Year' feature. It is not for me to say, of course, but it seemed to me that my absence left something of a gaping hole in the feature. To my mind one can have a little too much of the book choices of what one might call the Blue Stockings - of both sexes]]] - who comprise today's literati.

Let it be a lesson to the literary editor that a little persistence would have paid dividends. One cannot fail to sigh when one casts one's weary eye over the vast lists of poetic tomes by heavily bearded foreign scriveners blessed with lacklustre middle initials, all recommended for Christmas stockings. For this reason, I have compiled my own cut-out-and-keep 'Arnold Guide to Books of the Year', designed for the bookish general reader replete with pipe and slippers rather than (spare us]) the boot-faced academic.

One of my favourite biographies of this year or any year was Trollope the Animal Lover by Ernst Caulfield (Constable pounds 20), notable for this thorough examination of that consistently underrated novelist's multitude of pets, including his hunting ponies, his hamster and his three dogs. In the same area, Trollope's Hamster by Emily Secombe (Hutchinson pounds 12.95) is a fascinating and detailed study of the role of the hamster in Trollope's narrative.

Why, asks the goodly Miss (Msss]) Secombe, does the hamster pop up nowhere in the novels? By a close examination of the role of the hamster in contemporary society, she concludes that Trollope simply shared in the Victorian distrust of that endearing rodent. Scintillating stuff.

Trollope's Hamster serves as an excellent hors d'oeuvre to Trollope: The Bearded Novelist (OUP pounds 35), a useful introduction to Trollope's beard, written by Arthur Maynard, an ex-Professor of Trichology at Harvard University. To some, Professor Maynard's theory that Trollope's beard was detachable, and that beneath it he led a secret double life as Gladstone, may seem far-fetched. But to my mind it goes a long way towards explaining his almost obsessive interest in, and knowledge of, the political process.

If Trollope: The Bearded Novelist is a marvellous main course, then Trollope: The Authorised Biography by N T Morgan (Heinemann, pounds 19.50) makes the perfect savoury. It is a copious and brilliantly researched account of the life of Herbert Trollope, the great-nephew of the novelist, who lived an uneventful life of no visible achievement, but who will long be remembered as one of the few men ever to have had Trollope as a great-uncle. I am reliably informed that Morgan is now researching a full life of Maisie Trollope, Herbert's splendidly straightforward wife, for publication in early 1998, a work earnestly to be looked forward to.

In the arena of essays and appreciations, no book meant more to me this year than My Trollope edited by John Mortimer (John Murray, pounds 12.95), in which luminaries from the world of literature, Roy Hattersley and Godfrey Smith among them, choose a favourite Trollope they would take to bed with them. The essays in this marvellously civilised tome are all deliciously erudite and tempered with their scriveners' customary wit, and one reads them one after another, reaching the end satiated - yes - but also richly satisfied, rather as if one had just tackled a brand new box of After Eights. The perfect accompaniment to this tome - the coffee to the mints, as it were - would undoubtedly be my old friend and quiffing partner Kenneth Baker's collection of Great Trollope Anecdotes (Faber pounds 17.50), in which many of the great novelist's friends and contemporaries testify to his general reliability and dedication to his work. To finish, with a glass of Beaumes de Venise, might I recommend Trollope's Provence by Peter Mayle (pounds 22.95, fully illustrated), the first in a sumptuous series, each concentrating on a different region that Trollope might have enjoyed had he visited it. All in all, a timely tome about a sorely neglected novelist.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam