Group read: The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

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Group read: The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

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Edited: Jul 6, 2019, 9:52pm


(I don't much care for any of the commonly available covers for this novel: the Pocket Classics edition does at least has a group scene of young men and women; while the OUP one reproduces something specific from the novel, Mrs Woodward comforting Katie.)

(This is an image of the three-volume first edition published by Richard Bentley.)

The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope (1857)

The London world, visitors as well as residents, are well acquainted also with Somerset House; and it is moreover tolerably well known that Somerset House is a nest of public offices, which are held to be of less fashionable repute than those situated in the neighbourhood of Downing Street, but are not so decidedly plebeian as the Custom House, Excise, and Post Office...

Edited: Jul 6, 2019, 10:09pm

Welcome to the group read of Anthony Trollope's sixth novel, The Three Clerks.


The Three Clerks was written over a period of six months in 1857, mostly while Trollope was commuting to and from work (!). When completed, it was offered to Trollope's current publisher, Longman's; however (particularly given the success of Barchester Towers), Trollope was not happy with the sum offered for his new book, nor with Longman's view that he should be compensated by having a "prestige" publisher handle his work. Consequently he offered it to Richard Bentley, who paid him £250 for it (Longman's had offered £100).

It was published in November of 1857, although (as was often done at the time) it carries a copyright date of the following year.

This is undoubtedly Trollope's most autobiographical novel, in some respects almost nakedly so. It draws heavily upon his first seven years as a low-level employee of the Post Office, an extremely difficult and unhappy period in his life, from which he was finally (and gratefully) removed by being sent to Ireland.

When The Three Clerks appeared Trollope was still working for the Post Office, and his satire of the Civil Service got him into some trouble with his superiors; although (ironically enough) he was by that time so hard-working and valued an employee, they let him off with a rap over the knuckles.

Reaction to this novel was mixed. Some critics considered it superior to Barchester Towers, which I can't actually agree with; others (typical!) criticised it for not being enough like Barchester Towers. Some found the satire on the mark, others thought it too heavy-handed. But generally there was praise for Trollope's characterisations, in particular the three sisters who become objects of interest to the title characters. Overall, however, it was a success.

Trollope himself always retained a deep affection for the novel.

Edited: Jul 6, 2019, 10:29pm

Edition differences:

Unfortunately---we have again have some issues with which is the "right" edition of The Three Clerks.

Subsequent to the novel's publication, Trollope was pressured by Bentley to shorten it. In particular, an entire chapter offering a rather straightfaced criticism of matters relating to the Civil Service was removed; and then further cuts made to disguise the first cut.

Many current editions retain these cuts.

An exception is the 1992 Trollope Society / Folio Society edition, which returned to the original text on the grounds that Trollope's cuts were not made voluntarily.

I am uncertain whether the OUP editions are unabridged, however I suspect that the American editions which follow the 1860 text *are* cut.

Furthermore, I have not yet found an uncut ebook edition (I will keep looking).

Please check in here (whether you will be participating or only lurking) and note which edition for have / have access to, and note whether it contains a chapter titled 'The Civil Service' (Chapter 28 / XXVIII in the single-volume, uncut edition).

We will proceed when we have this better sorted out. :(

Edited: Jul 8, 2019, 6:43pm

Well. That was unfortunate. :(

Copies of The Three Clerks therefore have either 48 or 47 chapters. I suggest that we aim at a reading pace of three chapters per day.

The usual group read guidelines apply:

- in any comment, please note which chapter you are referring to in bold;
- please be mindful of others and use spoiler tags if you get ahead or have read this before;
- if your edition has an introduction, DO NOT read it until you have completed the novel;
- the more comments and questions here on this thread, the better the experience this read will be for everyone!

Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 7:32pm

And while this isn't entirely in place now, I did leave it for a---

Cast of characters:

Harry Norman - a young clerk
Alaric Tudor - his work colleague and roommate
Charley Tudor - Alaric's young cousin

Mrs Woodward - a widow
Gertrude Woodward - her eldest daughter
Linda Woodward - her middle daughter
Katie Woodward - her youngest daughter

Captain Bartholomew Cuttwater - Mrs Woodward uncle, "Uncle Bat"

Undecimus ("Undy") Scott - the son of Lord Gaberlunzie, a Scottish peer
Captain Valentine ("Val") Scott - his elder brother
Mrs Val Scott - his sister-in-law
Miss Clementina Golightly - her daughter from her first marriage

Mr (afterwards Sir) Gregory Hardlines - Chief Clerk of the Weights and Measures Department
Mr Oldescole - Secretary of the Internal Navigation Department

Mr Fidus Neverbend - senior clerk of the Woods and Forests Department

Jul 7, 2019, 12:12am

The 1858 edition published by Richard Bentley is available in ebook format from The Internet Archive. The ePub and Kindle versions are unreadable as the OCR has not been edited for legibility. However, the PDF version seems to be readable in my ereader on my iPad.

Volume 1:
Volume 2:
Volume 3:

Jul 7, 2019, 8:02am

I have a Bodley Head edition from 1904, which does not have Chapter 28 titled as "The Civil Service".

Jul 7, 2019, 11:28am

I have an online edition which has forty seven chapters in all but chapter twenty eight is not entitled 'The Civil Service'.

Jul 7, 2019, 11:34am

>3 lyzard: The Dover edition, which is based on the first American edition, doesn't have the Civil Service chapter, just as you suspected. However, I do recall he takes some good swipes at the Civil Service, so not all negative references were cut.

>1 lyzard: My cover is pretty bland, too:

>6 cbl_tn: Thanks for finding this AND giving us the links!

Jul 7, 2019, 6:58pm

>6 cbl_tn:

Thank you very much for posting that, Carrie! The PDFs offered at the Internet Archive used to be mostly unreadable and I stopped bothering; this looks like they've made some improvements in that area.

I will spend a bit more time hunting for additional alternatives and post here if I find any.

Otherwise, I'm not quite sure how to proceed from here. What I can do regarding the missing chapter is scan mine and email you all a copy of it. That doesn't help with related missing material but at least it will show you the bone of contention.

Please continue to post any further information here (good or bad).

Jul 7, 2019, 6:59pm

Sorry about this, folks!

I thought we'd got past this problem. If it's any consolation, I believe this is the last instance of publisher interference (except for The Duke's Children, of course!).

Edited: Jul 7, 2019, 7:24pm

I would very much like to know about the OUP edition, but when I use the 'look inside' feature on our local Amazon, it helpfully directs me to a different edition...


It is becoming apparent that the first edition and the Trollope Society edition that followed it are the *only* unaltered versions, and that there has never been an American release with the original text.

Much as it sticks in my craw, I'm inclined to suggest that we proceed with the altered editions, and perhaps deal with the missing chapter either as an appendix to the read, or at the correct point in the novel either by the Internet Archive version or a scanned version (I can send anyone who would like one a copy, please send me a DM with your email if you would).


Jul 7, 2019, 10:52pm

Added this thread to the group wiki.

Jul 8, 2019, 3:35am

>12 lyzard: If access to the original is difficult, I think we have to go with the text that most of us have access to. The fact that the missing chapter is available from the second link in >6 cbl_tn: means that we can read the chapter in the right sequence but are not trying to read an entire book from a pdf scan. That would certainly put me off.

I accept it's not a perfect solution, but it's probably the most pragmatic solution to the problem.

Jul 8, 2019, 3:44am

>14 Helenliz:

I think you're probably right. It sets off all my in-brain OCD alarms, though. :)

Jul 8, 2019, 3:44am

>13 drneutron:

Thanks, Jim!

Jul 8, 2019, 3:45am

I would be happy to read one chapter from the online PDF but don't think I could face reading the whole book that way.

Jul 8, 2019, 6:36pm

Which edition do you have, Kerry?

It's mostly curiosity now but I would like to know which text the OUP used.

Jul 8, 2019, 6:37pm

Allrighty...I guess this will Have To Be...

Is everyone okay with reading the missing chapter online, or would anyone prefer an emailed scan?

Jul 9, 2019, 4:04am

>18 lyzard: I got it from Project Gutenberg, it has an introduction by Teignmouth Shore - sounds more like a place than a person!

Jul 9, 2019, 6:34pm

>20 CDVicarage:

Have fun with the author's name if you must but DON'T READ IT!! :D

Edited: Jul 9, 2019, 6:45pm


The first thing we have to be clear about in The Three Clerks is when Trollope is being satirical and where he isn't.

"Weights and Measures", or more properly the "Office of the Board of Commissioners for Regulating Weights and Measures", was a very real section of the Civil Service, and it would have told the contemporary reader a great deal about the abilities of Harry Norman and Alaric Tudor, that they were accepted there.

(The current incarnation of Weights and Measures is called the National Measurement and Regulation Office.)

Conversely, the "Internal Navigation" is absolutely NOT a real department, for reasons that rapidly become obvious.

Though he resented many of the public criticisms made of the Civil Service, Trollope was not blind to its faults, though he saw too what he regarded as the reason for those faults; and he makes them manifest in the Internal Navigation.

He also satirises one or two people of high standing within the Civil Service, and this is one of the things that got him into trouble.

Jul 9, 2019, 6:47pm

Perhaps the most important thing to recognise about this novel, however, is how very autobiographical it is, with respect to the character of Charley Tudor.

Most of what happens to Charley in this novel happened to Trollope as a young civil servant.

We will examine this in more detail going forward, but it is something to keep in mind from the outset.

Jul 9, 2019, 6:49pm

And one last admonition before we get properly started---

Our American participants should also keep in mind that the final title word is properly pronounced "CLAHHHKS", not "CLERRRKS". :D

Jul 10, 2019, 3:14pm

>12 lyzard: Sorry to be late joining the thread. I have the OUP edition and on first look it does not have Chapter 28: The Civil Service.

BUT it does include this chapter as Appendix A of the book noting that it is 'more correctly an essay' and 'adds nothing to the novel'.

There's also an Appendix B listing other deletions Trollope made between the first edition and the first single volume edition in 1859 which come to about 20 pages in total.

(I'm not sure if this is helpful at this stage or not).

Edited: Jul 10, 2019, 5:57pm

>25 souloftherose:

noting that it is 'more correctly an essay' and 'adds nothing to the novel'.

That is HARDLY the point! And frankly not the kind of excuse I expect from the OUP; hmmmph!

I wouldn't say it is entirely correct, either, given the autobiographical nature of the novel and that it grew out of Trollope's contemporary attitude to the Civil Service and the changes being made there.

But anyhoo...

Since I seem to be the only one who has the original text, I guess going forward I will post quotes out of the Gutenberg edition so that we all get the same material.

If you were willing to note where the other changes were made going forward, I would find that really helpful. Perhaps just noting the nature of the change, rather than quoting it; ir just that there was one if it gets too much.

Jul 10, 2019, 6:09pm

A few interesting touches in Chapter I, both general and specific.

Of the Weights and Measures, Trollope says:

It is exactly antipodistic of the Circumlocution Office, and as such is always referred to in the House of Commons by the gentleman representing the Government when any attack on the Civil Service, generally, is being made.

...a passing nod at Dickens, who offered his own take on the Civil Service in Little Dorrit, which was published across 1855 - 1857, and therefore appeared in book form immediately before Trollope began writing The Three Clerks. Perhaps Dickens' outsider view put the idea into his head?

We should also note that this is Trollope's second reference to his works to Little Dorrit, which I think we may take as a sign of his enjoyment of it. However this other is less specific, used it as an example of a contemporary best-seller: in Barchester Towers, we get this, during the struggle over the appointment of the new head of St Hiram's:

    "Bishop," she said, immediately after breakfast, on the morning of that eventful day, "have you signed the appointment yet?"
    "No, my dear, not yet; it is not exactly signed as yet."
    "Then do it," said the lady.
    The bishop did it; and a very pleasant day indeed he spent at Ullathorne. And when he got home he had a glass of hot negus in his wife's sitting-room, and read the last number of the Little Dorrit of the day with great inward satisfaction. Oh, husbands, oh, my marital friends, what great comfort is there to be derived from a wife well obeyed!

Jul 10, 2019, 6:32pm


Also in Chapter I we get the first of Trollope's cuts (I don't need Heather to point out this one!).

Trollope shortens his introductory description of Harry Norman---and since, remember, he wrote this on the back of Barchester Towers, I think it's worth quoting:

Norman had been brought up in the new tenets of High Church observances. He became a follower of, or rather an attendant on Mr Bennet; he had a cross of his prayer-book, and fed somewhat differently on Fridays and fast days than at other times. He talked of, and perhaps had read, the Tracts; he professed an immeasurable disgust for Mr Gorham, and in the course of time subscribed his £10, with the view of thwarting that clerical reprobate---as he called him---Mr Ditcher.

These are all references to people who played a significant part in the Oxford Movement controversy and its fallout. 'Mr Bennet' is William James Early Bennett, who as vicar of the Church of St John the Baptist in Frome forced ecclesiastic rulings on some of his church practices; 'Mr Gorham' was George Cornelius Gorham, who held unconventional views on baptism and, when denied a church posting, sued in the secular courts; 'Mr Ditcher' instituted a suit against fellow-clergyman George Denison over his sermons on the Eucharist.

From all this we may judge that Harry Norman is not only High Church, but rather too High Church for Trollope's taste, verging on Anglo-Catholicism: confirmation of which comes in a summary statement that:

Thus Harry Norman was respectable and Puseyistical...

...which also would have cued Trollope's readers to the fact that Harry is a bit of a prig. :)

Jul 10, 2019, 8:43pm

I just started Chapter 1 and was struck by the reference to decimal coinage. Wasn’t this the issue that Plantagenet Palliser worked on?

Jul 10, 2019, 9:18pm

And should we read anything into the names Norman and Tudor?

Jul 10, 2019, 10:59pm

>29 cbl_tn:

...aaaand that's what I was going to mention next.

(Figured I'd get the Barchester note out of the way before we started on the Pallisers!)

Carrie is quite right: this passage from Chapter I will be very familiar to those who have followed the political career of Plantagenet Palliser:

And then that question of the decimal coinage! is it not in these days of paramount importance? Are we not disgraced by the twelve pennies in our shilling, by the four farthings in our penny? One of the worthy assistant-secretaries, the worthier probably of the two, has already grown pale beneath the weight of this question. But he has sworn within himself, with all the heroism of a Nelson, that he will either do or die. He will destroy the shilling or the shilling shall destroy him...

Of course we know that poor Planty never did succeed in destroying the shilling; he had to give up being Chancellor of the Exchequer before he won that battle.

The long fight for decimal currency was of course a real thing, and as with so much in this novel Trollope was referring to contemporary events. It had started early in the Victorian era, but it reached a new level after the Great Exhibition of 1851, when as a consequence there was an upsurge in international trade and it was realised that the complicated British system could be a hindrance to profit.

This led to a Royal Commission into decimal currency, which sat from 1856 - 1859 and of course is what Trollope is winking at here: some eighteen months after his novel was published, the Commission concluded that the idea had "few merits". Nevertheless the push persisted (and continued to get nowhere), as we may gather from Trollope turning into a running joke in the Palliser novels.

Jul 10, 2019, 11:01pm

>30 cbl_tn:

Good question! - I don't think so, though you could perhaps read a little "aristocracy" into Harry's name, and a few loose morals into Alaric's and Charley's. :)

Jul 11, 2019, 10:05am

I downloaded a free copy and read the first couple of chapters last night, so I'm a bit behind. The edition has 47 chapters. Hopefully I can play catch-up over the weekend.

Jul 11, 2019, 6:15pm

>33 thornton37814:

Welcome, Lori; great that you can join us! :)

You're not behind at all: we're only just getting properly underway after the editions kerfuffle.

Jul 11, 2019, 7:36pm

I am aiming for 3 chapters a day. I still have one chapter to go today. :-)

Jul 11, 2019, 8:44pm

>35 cbl_tn:

Take your time; enjoy; savour. :)

Edited: Jul 11, 2019, 8:58pm

One other thing we need to note from Chapter I - I will move on at some point, I promise! - and that is that the chief clerk of the Weights and Measures, Mr Gregory Hardlines, is a satirical portrait of a real person: Sir Charles Trevelyan, who was largely responsible for the introduction into the Civil Service of the competitive examination system, of which Trollope is so critical, and the co-author of The Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service, the report which Trollope goes to town on in the missing chapter.

Trevelyan and Trollope later became friends, which seems unlikely from all points; not least that despite his role in Civil Service reform, history remembers Trevelyan for his unfortunate (to say the least) role in the Irish famine, in which he stopped government relief, on the grounds that he considered the potato blight as God's punishment of the Irish, and is on record as saying of the famine that it was, "An effective mechanism for reducing surplus population." (Over a million people died.) He also argued that he the Irish should learn to solve their own problems, which is surely the only time in English-Irish relations that anyone in the government thought that the English should just butt out of Ireland...

Edited: Jul 11, 2019, 9:11pm

Having introduced Harry Norman and Alaric Tudor in Chapter I, Trollope devotes most of Chapter II to young Charley Tudor's induction into the "Infernal Navigation".

I cannot stress enough how much of himself at the same point in his life Trollope puts into Charley: almost all of Charley's experiences (particularly the bad ones) are taken direct from life.

This includes, by the way, Charley's farcical "examination" for entering the Civil Service: when someone protested, Trollope swore that he had himself undergone just such a test upon entering the Post Office.

At the same time, Trollope hardly spares himself in this passage...

...which, I believe, also features the introduction into English literature of what will later become a very famous name:

    "The Internal Navigation requires great steadiness, good natural abilities, considerable education, and---and---and no end of application. Come, Mr Tudor, let us see what you can do." And so saying, Mr Oldeschole, the Secretary, motioned him to sit down at an office table opposite to himself.
    Charley did as he was bid, and took from the hands of his future master an old, much-worn quill pen, with which the great man had been signing minutes.
    "Now," said the great man, "just copy the few first sentences of that leading article---either one will do," and he pushed over to him a huge newspaper.
    To tell the truth, Charley did not know what a leading article was, and so he sat abashed, staring at the paper.
    "Why don't you write?" asked the Secretary.
    "Where shall I begin, sir?" stammered poor Charley, looking piteously into the examiner's face.
    "God bless my soul! there; either of those leading articles," and leaning over the table, the Secretary pointed to a particular spot.
    Hereupon Charley began his task in a large, ugly, round hand, neither that of a man nor of a boy, and set himself to copy the contents of the paper. "The name of Pacifico stinks in the nostril of the British public. It is well known to all the world how sincerely we admire the versitility of Lord Palmerston's genius; how cordially we simpathise with his patriotic energies. But the admiration which even a Palmerston inspires must have a bound, and our simpathy may be called on too far. When we find ourselves asked to pay---". By this time Charley had half covered the half-sheet of foolscap which had been put before him, and here at the word 'pay' he unfortunately suffered a large blot of ink to fall on the paper.
    "That won't do, Mr Tudor, that won't do---come, let us look," and stretching over again, the Secretary took up the copy.
    "Oh dear! oh dear! this is very bad; versatility with an 'i!'---sympathy with an 'i!' sympathise with an 'i!' Why, Mr Tudor, you must be very fond of 'i's' down in Shropshire."
    Charley looked sheepish, but of course said nothing.
    "And I never saw a viler hand in my life. Oh dear, oh dear, I must send you back to Sir Gilbert. Look here, Snape, this will never do---never do for the Internal Navigation, will it?"
    Snape, the attendant senior clerk, said, as indeed he could not help saying, that the writing was very bad.
    "I never saw worse in my life," said the Secretary. "And now, Mr Tudor, what do you know of arithmetic?"
    Charley said that he thought he knew arithmetic pretty well;---"at least some of it," he modestly added...

Jul 12, 2019, 7:12pm

One of the most important things about The Three Clerks is the way it details what life was really like for young men living in London at this time.

In doing so it highlights what to us may seem a very strange thing: that at the time, you could not simply "go out" and "meet people" or "make friends".

A young man was completely circumscribed by who he happened to acquainted with, which in these circumstances was certainly to be the people he worked with.

Even Harry and Alaric, we see, are really only friends because they work together. It is unlikely they would have chosen each other otherwise.

As for poor Charley, he has nowhere to go but down. Trollope makes this point in several of his novels, and it is obvious this is something he went through himself: society being structured as it was, it was far easier for a young man to step down than to step up; he could go without acquaintance or introduction amongst the lower classes, but not amongst the higher classes without someone else to take him.

In particular, Trollope stresses the impossibility of young men meeting "nice girls", who were kept close by their parents and could not be met with anywhere but in their own homes or those of their parents' friends.

Trollope makes the natural consequences of having to choose between isolation and "improper company" painfully clear.

Edited: Jul 13, 2019, 7:19pm

The aspect of The Three Clerks which was most praised at the time of its first publication was the characterisation of the three Woodward sisters, who are introduced properly in Chapter III. Critics found the different but complimentary personalities of the girls intriguing, and (as would become a standard reaction to Trollope's novels) an attractive portrait of "young English womanhood".

    They were 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. They were both somewhat taller than her, and were nearly of a height. 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. She could play difficult pieces from sight, which it took her sister a morning's pains to practise. She could fill in and finish a drawing, while her sister was still struggling, and struggling in vain, with the first principles of the art.
    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. She also detested fools; but in promulgating her opinion on this subject, she was too apt to declare who the fools were whom she detested...
    Of the youngest girl, Katie, it is not necessary at present to say much. At this time she was but thirteen years of age, and was a happy, pretty, romping child. She gave fair promise to be at any rate equal to her sisters in beauty, and in mind was quick and intelligent...

Something did strike me when I was first reading this: those of you who were along for the reading of the Barchester novels will know that Trollope intended The Small House At Allington to be something of an updating of Sense And Sensibility, particularly of course with respect to the contrasting sisters. I wondered here if Trollope had something of the same notion in mind---particularly since in The Three Clerks he did just as Austen did, and included a third sister some years younger than her siblings; although Katie eventually plays a much more significant role in this story than Margaret does in the earlier novel.

The other echo I find here of Sense And Sensibility is the relationship of Mrs Woodward to her daughters:

With her daughters she lived on terms almost of equality. The two elder were now grown up; that is, they were respectively eighteen and seventeen years old. They were devotedly attached to their mother, looked on her as the only perfect woman in existence, and would willingly do nothing that could vex her; but they perhaps were not quite so systematically obedient to her as children should be to their only surviving parent. Mrs. Woodward, however, found nothing amiss, and no one else therefore could well have a right to complain.

We must understand that Trollope is being critical here: Mrs Woodward is too much of a friend and not enough of a parent, which may leave her daughters vulnerable.

Edited: Jul 15, 2019, 5:46pm

Trollope is unusually specific about the geography of the events in this novel, so I thought this map might be helpful:

Bushy Park is one of London's Royal Parks. It was established by Henry VIII as a hunting preserve. Other features were added and removed by different monarchs, according to their own tastes. Charles I was responsible for the construction of the canal which features in the novel; and under Charles II other achitectural changes were made were added, including the building of the Diana Fountain by Christopher Wren, who also designed Chestnut Avenue under William and Mary.

Bushy Park was a popular place to spend Sunday during the 19th century, although (as do our characters), some people found it a bit overpopulated by the working-classes. :)

Hampton, to the left of the map of the park, is where the Woodwards live; we see the proximity to the river, on which Harry often rows himself.

Edited: Jul 15, 2019, 6:14pm

Speaking of The Small House At Allington, one of the things that it has always seemed to me is almost unique in Trollope's novels is that he shows casual interactions between young men and women. That sounds like an odd thing to say from one perspective, but in fact very few novelists at this time took their characters out of formal situations and allowed them to just "be friends".

However, note that in Chapter IV, Mrs Woodward finds herself accounting for, and even apologising for, Harry and Alaric's presence at the cottage and easy access to the girls' company. Trollope has already sounded a reproving note with respect to Mrs Woodward's parenting, and he underscores it here.

At the same time, he intimates to us just how very restricted social interactions were at the time, that a group stroll was something that might be seen as requiring an apology:

    While this was going on in the garden, Mrs Woodward sat dutifully with her uncle while he sipped his obnoxious toddy, and answered his questions about their two friends.
    They were both in the Weights and Measures, by far the most respectable public office in London," as she told him, "and both doing extremely well there. They were, indeed, young men sure to distinguish themselves and get on in the world. Had this not been so, she might perhaps have hesitated to receive them so frequently, and on such intimate terms, at Surbiton Cottage." This she said in a half-apologetic manner, and yet with a feeling of anger at herself that she should condescend to apologise to any one as to her own conduct in her own house.
    "They are very nice young men, I am sure," said Uncle Bat.
    "Indeed they are," said Mrs Woodward.
    "And very civil to the young ladies," said Uncle Bat.
    "They have known them since they were children, uncle; and of course that makes them more intimate than young men generally are with young ladies;" and again Mrs. Woodward was angry with herself for making any excuses on the subject.

Mrs Woodward's consciousness here that she might be open to criticism in leaving the young people to themselves is followed up in Chapter V, with Trollope showing us what he no doubt considered some of the dangers attached to such unchaperoned meetings.

Early warning bells sound here: it quickly becomes evident both that Gertrude does not return Harry's passion, and that Linda is reading far too much into Alaric's overtures.

Here and other places, we have spent a good deal of time discussing the pressures to behave a certain way that were placed on young women at the time, particularly with respect to their interactions with men.

I was struck therefore with this phrase, when Trollope is dissecting Linda's emotions:

Linda was now quite beside herself. She knew that decorum required that she should say something stiff and stately to repress such language, but if all her future character for propriety had depended on it, she could not bring herself to say a word. She knew that Gertrude, when so addressed, would have maintained her dignity, and have concealed her secret, even if she allowed herself to have a secret to conceal. She knew that it behoved her to be repellent and antagonistic to the first vows of a first lover. But, alas! she had no power of antagonism, no energy for repulse left in her. Her knees seemed to be weak beneath her, and all she could do was to pluck to pieces the few flowers that she carried at her waist.

How does Linda know that? The whole point of these passages is to underscore that Mrs Woodward has not given her daughters sufficient guidance and surveillance. Possibly she absorbed this suggestion from the self-sufficient Gertrude - who we have just seen repulsing Harry quite effectively - but then Gertrude doesn't want Harry's "vows" so repulsing them isn't all that onerous for her.

However---I suspect that if asked, Trollope would have said that Linda has the "instincts" of a nice girl and therefore "knows" these things without being taught; which is the kind of unreasonable expectation that girls at the time were often confronted with.

Edited: Jul 15, 2019, 7:00pm

Chapters VI and VII find Trollope returning to his satire of the Civil Service, and of the reform of the Civil Service.

We must remember in all this that in Mr (soon "Sir") Gregory Hardlines, Trollope is attacking Sir Charles Trevelyan, who headed the contemporary inquiry into the Civil Service and was largely responsible for the nature of subsequent reforms.

It may be helpful to spell out the conclusions drawn in the so-called "Northcote-Trevelyan Report" which, though the report was not finalised until after the publication of The Three Clerks, were already well known to the public and the Civil Service itself through interim reports (and leaks).

The report had four major conclusions:

1. Recruitment into the civil service should be by open examination, conducted by an independent "civil service board".
2. Entrants should be recruited into a "home civil service" as a whole, rather than to a specific department.
3. Recruits would be segregated at entry into a hierarchy of grades, ranging from clerical officers who would conduct routine tasks, through to those who would provide policy advice to ministers.
4. Promotion would be on merit, not preferment, patronage, purchase, or length of service.

Some of this may well seem reasonable to us, and most of it was eventually put in place; but of course this had significant consequences, not for the newcomers, but those already within the service. It was was the first and final points that Trollope objected to, and attacked straightforwardly in the 'missing chapter'; but he makes a start here, on the grounds of what we would now call "a lack of job security":

It was no wonder that men's minds should be disturbed. Competitive examinations at eighteen, twenty, and twenty-two may be very well, and give an interesting stimulus to young men at college. But it is a fearful thing for a married man with a family, who has long looked forward to rise to a certain income by the worth of his general conduct and by the value of his seniority---it is a fearful thing for such a one to learn that he has again to go through his school tricks, and fill up examination papers, with all his juniors round him using their stoutest efforts to take his promised bread from out of his mouth. Detur digno is a maxim which will make men do their best to merit rewards; every man can find courage within his heart to be worthy; but detur digniori is a fearful law for such a profession as the Civil Service. What worth can make a man safe against the possible greater worth which will come treading on his heels? The spirit of the age raises, from year to year, to a higher level the standard of education. The prodigy of 1857, who is now destroying all the hopes of the man who was well enough in 1855, will be a dunce to the tyro of 1860.

Detur digno = "may it be given to the worthy one"; detur digniori = "may it be given to the more worthy one".

Under the first system, all worthy men would advance; under the latter, only one would.

Trollope translates the latter into practical terms at the end of Chapter VI, when Harry and Alaric are both contemplating entering competition for promotion:

"We won't mind Gertrude," said Norman, with a little shade of black upon his brow. "You are an older man than I, and therefore promotion is to you of more importance than to me. You are also a poorer man. I have some means besides that drawn from my office, which, if I marry, I can settle on my wife; you have none such...."

Translated into straight financial terms such as these, we see how these changes would immediately impact the Service. Remember there was no automatic pay-rise at the time, no "index-linking": if you couldn't count on eventual promotion, there was no guarantee you could cope with increasing expenses. For those who already had a wife and children, or were contemplating them, this was a serious and ominous change.

Jul 16, 2019, 7:28am

Sorry to chime in late, work took precedence. Trying to catch up quickly!

Jul 16, 2019, 6:59pm

>44 MissWatson:

Not at all, very glad to have you here! :)

Edited: Jul 16, 2019, 8:13pm

From Chapter VII onwards the novel traces the professional ascendancy of Alaric Tudor, whose quick-thinking, adaptability and capacity to turn his hand to almost anything is soon recogised as a valuable professional asset.

The kinds of appointments that Alaric receives here and going forward were indeed the basis of many a solid career, not least because they tended to multiply one another, as a man showed that he could be "useful" in government investigations and committee work.

However, it is the conversation between Alaric and Harry that sounds this section's keynote:

    "But, Alaric," said Norman, going on rather with the thread of his own thoughts, than answering or intending to answer what the other said, "in following up your high ambition---and I know you have a high ambition---do not allow yourself to believe that the end justifies the means, because you see that men around you act as though they believed so."
    "Do I do so---do I seem to do so?" said Alaric, turning sharply round.
    "Don't be angry with me, Alaric; don't think that I want to preach; but sometimes I fancy, not that you do so, but that your mind is turning that way; that in your eager desire for honourable success you won't scrutinise the steps you will have to take."
    "That I would get to the top of the hill, in short, even though the hillside be miry. Well, I own I wish to get to the top of the hill."
    "But not to defile yourself in doing so."
    "When a man comes home from a successful chase, with his bag well stuffed with game, the women do not quarrel with him because there is mud on his gaiters."
    "Alaric, that which is evil is evil. Lies are evil---"
    "And am I a liar?"
    "Heaven forbid that I should say so: heaven forbid that I should have to think so! but it is by such doctrines as that that men become liars."
    "What! by having muddy gaiters?"
    "By disregarding the means in looking to the end."

This is an early example of something that would come to occupy Trollope profoundly over the course of his career, the question of how far a man may go in pursuit of success and whether the line between right and wrong was sharp or blurred...or whether it depended upon circumstances.

By the time of Trollope's late novels, he had become disillusioned with the state of society, which seemed to him to have discarded honesty and wholly adopted a view that the end did justify the means.

At this point, however, he was more concerned with illustrating the sorts of temptations and traps which might assail any young man setting out to pursue a career.

Jul 16, 2019, 8:17pm

...and speaking of traps and temptations, Chapter VIII introduces Undy Scott.


They were a cannie, comely, sensible brood. Their father and mother, if they gave them nothing else, gave them strong bodies and sharp brains. They were very like each other, though always with a difference. Red hair, bright as burnished gold; high, but not very high, cheek bones; and small, sharp, twinkling eyes, were the Gaberlunzie personal characteristics. There were three in the army, two in the navy, and one at a foreign embassy; one was at the diggings, another was chairman of a railway company, and our own more particular friend, Undecimus, was picking up crumbs about the world in a manner that satisfied the paternal mind that he was quite able to fly alone...


If anyone has any questions about anything in the quick sketch of Undy's political career, please do speak up!

(Actually, please speak up anyway: how are you all going?)

Jul 16, 2019, 9:37pm

I have just finished ch. XXI. I’ll hold my comments a bit longer so as not to give spoilers for those who aren’t as far along.

Jul 17, 2019, 9:59am

After reading the discussion about editions, I have downloaded the 1858 version that Carrie linked to in >6 cbl_tn:, thank you so much!

I'm currently in chapter III and enjoying Trollope's wordplay: match-making, match-marring and a few lines later "in those first tender years in which they (ie. girls) so often have to make or mar their fortunes."

There are quite a few quotes from songs and poems. Would most of his readers have known them?

Jul 17, 2019, 2:02pm

I made it through chapter 15 last night. I am not enamored of the novel, but I'll continue reading it.

Jul 17, 2019, 6:29pm

I read Chapter XXII earlier today - Crinoline and Macassar. What a hoot! I was nearly in tears as I read it.

Jul 17, 2019, 8:19pm

>48 cbl_tn:

Thanks, Carrie: please do hold those thoughts for posting!

>49 MissWatson:

Yes, those were all old standards, of the kind you would get in family singalongs around the piano. All very conservative and "the good old days" in tone. The lyrics for "The Roast Beef Of Old England" were in fact written by Henry Fielding for his play, The Grub-Street Opera, and after they were later set to music the song became an anthem for the Royal Navy.

(Various recordings of all these songs may be found on YouTube etc., if you're interested.)

>50 thornton37814:

Sorry it's not working better for you, Lori.

>51 cbl_tn:


Yes, we'll take a closer look at all that going forward!

Edited: Jul 17, 2019, 8:49pm

I will speed this up shortly, but I do want to take a very close look at Chapter IX, which is critical overall but also reflects Trollope's understanding of the psychology of young men, and particularly young men trying to make their way up the professional and social ladder.

We've seen in some of Trollope's other novels how, through a combination of pressures, a man might be pressured or manipulated into financial difficulties---most notably, perhaps, Mark Robarts signing his name to Mr Sowerby's bills in Framley Parsonage.

Trollope was very aware of the difficulties involved in refusal: that you didn't want to let down a friend, that you didn't want to seem to be judging others, that you didn't want to look like a prig. Of course unscrupulous people could and would take advantage, and knew how to exert the right kind of pressure (the 19th century equivalent of, "I thought you were cool").

Look at the language that Trollope uses in this chapter, as Undy Scott manipulates Alaric into what amounts to insider trading; look too at the different pressure points Undy hits, and how Alaric, for petty shame, allows himself to get pushed into something he knows very well is dishonest:

     "Perhaps I ought not to mention it," said Neverbend, "but I do hope you'll not get among mining people. Only think what our position here is."
    "What on earth do you mean?" said Alaric. "Do you think I shall be bribed over by either side because I choose to drink a glass of wine with a friend at another hotel?"
    "Bribed! No, I don't think you'll be bribed; but I think we should both keep ourselves absolutely free from all chance of being talked to on the subject, except before each other and before witnesses. I would not drink brandy-and-water at the Blue Dragon, before this report be written, even if my brother were there."
    "Well, Mr Neverbend, I am not so much afraid of myself. But wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions..."


    "Who, Neverbend?---he never speculates!"
    "Why not? Ah, my fine fellow, you don't know the world yet. Those sort of men, dull drones like Neverbend, are just the fellows who go the deepest. I'll be bound he will not return without a few Mary Janes in his pocket-book. He'll be a fool if he does, I know."
    Why, that's the very mine we are down here about."
    "And that's the very reason why he'll purchase Mary Janes. He has an opportunity of knowing their value. Oh, let Neverbend alone. He is not so young as you are, my dear fellow."
    "Young or old, I think you mistake his character."
    "Why, Tudor, what would you think now if he not only bought for himself, but was commissioned to buy by the very men who sent him down here?"
    "It would be hard to make me believe it."
    "Ah! faith is a beautiful thing..."


Alaric began to feel uneasy, and to think that there might by possibility be something in what Neverbend had said to him. He did not like the idea of meeting a Cornish stock-jobber in a familiar way over his brandy-punch, while engaged, as he now was, on the part of Government; he felt that there might be impropriety in it, and he would have been glad to get off if he could. But he felt ashamed to break his engagement, and thus followed Undy into the hotel.


    "I'll leave you, Scott," said Alaric, who did not enjoy the society of Mr Manylodes, and to whom the nature of the conversation was, in his present position, extremely irksome; "I must be back at the Bedford early."
    "Early---why early? surely our honest friend can get himself to bed without your interference. Come, you don't like the brandy toddy, nor I either. We'll see what sort of a hand they are at making a bowl of bishop."
    "Not for me, Scott."
    "Yes, for you, man; surely you are not tied to that fellow's apron-strings," he said, removing himself from the close contiguity of Mr Manylodes, and speaking under his voice; "take my advice; if you once let that man think you fear him, you'll never get the better of him."
    Alaric allowed himself to be persuaded and stayed...


    "And in the next place, I should not think of buying mining shares, and more especially these, while I am engaged as I now am."
    "Fal de ral, de ral, de ral! That's all very fine, Mr Commissioner; only you mistake your man; you think you are talking to Mr. Neverbend."
    "Well, Scott, I shan't have them."
    "Just as you please, my dear fellow; there's no compulsion. Only mark this; the ball is at your foot now, but it won't remain there. 'There is a tide in the affairs of men'---you know the rest; and you know also that 'tide and time wait for no man.' If you are contented with your two or three hundred a year in the Weights and Measures, God forbid that I should tempt you to higher thoughts---only in that case I have mistaken my man."
    "I must be contented with it, if I can get nothing better," said Tudor, weakly.
    "Exactly; you must be contented---or rather you must put up with it---if you can get nothing better. That's the meaning of contentment all the world over. You argue in a circle. You must be a mere clerk if you cannot do better than other mere clerks. But the fact of your having such an offer as that I now make you, is proof that you can do better than others; proves, in fact, that you need not be a mere clerk, unless you choose to remain so."


"But the long and the short of the thing is this; most men circumstanced as you are have no chance of doing anything good till they are forty or fifty, and then their energies are worn out. You have had tact enough to push yourself up early, and yet it seems you have not pluck enough to take the goods the gods provide you."


    "How do you think that such men as Hardlines, Vigil, and Mr Estimate have got up in the world? Would they be where they are now, had they been contented with their salaries?"
    "They had private fortunes."
    "Very private they must have been---I never heard of them. No; what fortunes they have they made. Two of them are in Parliament, and the other has a Government situation of £2,000 a year, with little or nothing to do. But they began life early, and never lost a chance."
    "It is quite clear that that blackguard who was here just now thinks that he can influence my opinion by inducing me to have an interest in the matter."
    "He had no such idea---nor have I. Do you think I would persuade you to such villany? Do you think I do not know you too well? Of course the possession of these shares can have no possible effect on your report, and is not expected to have any. But when men like you and me become of any note in the world, others, such as Manylodes, like to know that we are embarked in the same speculation with themselves. Why are members of Parliament asked to be directors, and vice-governors, and presidents, and guardians, of all the joint-stock societies that are now set agoing? Not because of their capital, for they generally have none; not for their votes, because one vote can be but of little use in any emergency. It is because the names of men of note are worth money. Men of note understand this, and enjoy the fat of the land accordingly. I want to see you among the number."

This is of course the far end of the conversation between Alaric and Harry in Chapter VII, as Trollope makes quite clear in his summing up:

'Twas but a thin veil that the Hon. Undecimus Scott threw over the bait with which he fished for the honesty of Alaric Tudor, and yet it sufficed. One would say that a young man, fortified with such aspirations as those which glowed in Alaric's breast, should have stood a longer siege; should have been able to look with clearer eyesight on the landmarks which divide honour from dishonour, integrity from fraud, and truth from falsehood. But he had never prayed to be delivered from evil. His desire had rather been that he might be led into temptation...

Edited: Jul 18, 2019, 7:33pm

Chapter XI finds Trollope having some fun with the dreaded competitive examination; 'Mr Jobbles' here, who so enthusiastically conducts these examinations, is a satirical sketch of Benjamin Jowett, who was also involved in preparing the Northcote-Trevelyan Report on the Civil Service:

Mr Jobbles had for many years been examining undergraduates for little goes and great goes, and had passed his life in putting posing questions, in detecting ignorance by viva voce scrutiny, and eliciting learning by printed papers. He, by a stupendous effort of his mathematical mind, had divided the adult British male world into classes and sub-classes, and could tell at a moment's notice how long it would take him to examine them all. His soul panted for the work. Every man should, he thought, be made to pass through some 'go'...

Jowett was (or became) Master of Balliol College at Oxford, and was a respected academic and administrative reformer; Trollope perhaps does not do him justice here, though apparently his sketch of him as 'Mr Jobbles' was recognisable:

    The examination lasted for four days, and it was arranged that on each of the four days each of the five candidates should be called up to undergo a certain quantum of Mr Jobbles' viva voce. This part of his duty Mr. Jobbles performed with a mildness of manner that was beyond all praise. A mother training her first-born to say 'papa,' could not do so with a softer voice, or more affectionate demeanour.
    "The planet Jupiter," said he to Mr Precis; "I have no doubt you know accurately the computed distance of that planet from the sun, and also that of our own planet. Could you tell me now, how would you calculate the distance in inches, say from London Bridge to the nearest portion of Jupiter's disc, at twelve o'clock on the first of April?" Mr Jobbles, as he put his little question, smiled the sweetest of smiles, and spoke in a tone conciliating and gentle, as though he were asking Mr Precis to dine with him and take part of a bottle of claret at half-past six.
    But, nevertheless, Mr Precis looked very blank.
    "I am not asking the distance, you know," said Mr Jobbles, smiling sweeter than ever; "I am only asking how you would compute it."
    But still Mr Precis looked exceedingly blank.
    "Never mind," said Mr Jobbles, with all the encouragement which his voice could give, "never mind..."
    But Mr Jobbles, in spite of his smiles, so awed the hearts of some of his candidates, that two of them retired at the end of the second day...

Jul 18, 2019, 7:42pm

But of course, despite Trollope's poking of fun, the examination is no joke for those involved: as we have been led to anticipate, Alaric is the successful candidate; while Harry's self-doubt and thin skin get the better of him, so that he is one of the two to resign at the end of the second day.

This outcome drives a permanent wedge between the two, as Harry cannot get over his feelings of resentment, and Alaric cannot completely conceal his sense of superiority.

However, Harry's trials have only just begun. Proving, perhaps, that he does not understand the character of the girl he loves as well as he thinks, or ought to, he chooses the wake of his professional failure to propose marriage to Gertrude:

The reader, however, along with Mrs Woodward, knows very well what answer Harry will get from the moment of this ominous conversation in Chapter XII:

    On the Saturday morning, the morning of that night which was, as he hoped, to see him go to bed a happy lover, so happy in his love as to be able to forget his other sorrows, she was sitting alone with her mother. It was natural that their conversation should turn to Alaric and Harry. Alaric, with his happy prospects, was soon dismissed; but Mrs. Woodward continued to sing the praises of him who, had she been potent with the magi of the Civil Service, would now be the lion of the Weights and Measures.
    "I must say I think it was weak of him to retire," said Gertrude. "Alaric says in his letter to Uncle Bat, that had he persevered he would in all probability have been successful."
    "I should rather say that it was generous," said her mother.
    "Well, I don't know, mamma; that of course depends on his motives; but wouldn't generosity of that sort between two young men in such a position be absurd?"
    "You mean that such regard for his friend would be Quixotic."
    "Yes, mamma."
    "Perhaps it would. All true generosity, all noble feeling, is now called Quixotic. But surely, Gertrude, you and I should not quarrel with Harry on that account."
    "I think he got frightened, mamma, and had not nerve to go through with it."
    Mrs Woodward looked vexed; but she made no immediate reply, and for some time the mother and daughter went on working without further conversation. At last Gertrude said:---
    "I think every man is bound to do the best he can for himself---that is, honestly; there is something spoony in one man allowing another to get before him, as long as he can manage to be first himself."

Trollope certainly agreed with Mrs Woodward's observation that, "All true generosity, all noble feeling, is now called Quixotic." He was, as I have said, worried about the direction that society was taking, and that any act of generosity or self-sacrifice was becoming regarded as a sign of weakness.

Jul 18, 2019, 9:27pm

>55 lyzard: I think every man is bound to do the best he can for himself---that is, honestly

This is interesting on the heels of Alaric's yielding to Undy Scott's temptation to dishonest financial dealings.

Jul 18, 2019, 10:57pm

>56 cbl_tn:

Yes, it's an important touch. We see that though Gertrude and Alaric have the same sort of pragmatism, even a hard streak, they are operating from a different moral base.

Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 7:27pm

Regarding Chapters XIII, XIV and XV, I'd be interested to get people's views of how we're supposed to take these various events?

Even setting aside his financial incentive, has Alaric really betrayed Harry in courting Gertrude so quickly after his own rejection (and his confidences on the subject)? Should he have waited longer, or not courted her at all?

Are we meant to take Linda's despair seriously, when her "passion" is based on nothing more than a few ambiguous words from Alaric?

How much of Harry's response is justified, and how much is just self-pity?

I find all this rather ambiguous, and I'm not sure how far Trollope intended it to be.

Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 10:16pm

>58 lyzard: Even setting aside his financial incentive, has Alaric really betrayed Harry in courting Gertrude so quickly after his own rejection (and his confidences on the subject)? Should he have waited longer, or not courted her at all?

I don't know what Trollope intended here. If Trollope hadn't revealed Alaric's thoughts and we had only the characters' actions to go by, I would tend to think that Harry is overreacting. But we know that Alaric rationalized this step before he took it.

Are we meant to take Linda's despair seriously, when her "passion" is based on nothing more than a few ambiguous words from Alaric?

I tend to agree with Mrs. Woodward when she berated herself for giving too much attention to Gertrude and not enough to Linda. I don't think her mother prepared her for the situation she found herself in. Gertrude isn't the kind of sister you'd want to confide in, and she seems to have no other girlfriends her age to talk to.

How much of Harry's response is justified, and how much is just self-pity?.

Having both worked with and shared rooms with Alaric for so long, I wonder how much Harry suspects about Alaric's true character? If we didn't know what Alaric was thinking I'd say it's self-pity. However, we know that Alaric has no scruples about doing things that hurt Harry. He certainly doesn't avoid hurting Harry, and there are times that he seems to do it on purpose.

Jul 20, 2019, 6:45am

OK, I'm on this now. Playing catch up, chapter 1 completed. Will read posts as I get to the relevant chapters so have skimmed so far.

Jul 20, 2019, 6:41pm

>60 Helenliz:

Thanks, Helen!

Jul 20, 2019, 6:57pm

>59 cbl_tn:

We do know that Alaric was attracted to Gertrude in the first place and did back off because of Harry; so it isn't all about Uncle Bat's bequest, although it seems unlikely he would have acted so rapidly without that impetus. However I'm wondering how much the opportunity to "beat" Harry at that, after beating him to promotion, also factored in: I can imagine that operating on someone of Alaric's temperament.

I don't think Trollope intends any satire with Linda - I'm sure he thought her both properly feminine and properly heroic - but to be sent to such extremes on "the first words of a first lover" seems (like Harry's behaviour) almost like self-dramatising.

This whole area of discussion for me emphasises something we touched on at the outset: the potential isolation of life at this time, just through circumstance.

As far as we know the Woodwards have no other friends: they only know Harry, and that because he's Mrs Woodward's cousin; and through him Alaric and Charley. So Harry and Alaric are the first (and only) young men that the girls have met and interacted with.

Charley we know is more or less forced into the lower levels of society through having no way of meeting anyone else; and Harry and Alaric become "friends" not because they have much in common, but because they're thrown together at work.

Subsequently, Gertrude can only see the people that Alaric allows / forces her to see.

I don't think Trollope was even trying to make this point (except with Charley), but it just seems to have been amazingly difficult to expand your circle at all---particularly for women, of course.

If you were a "gentleman" - and you could afford it, and you had a contact - you could become a member of a club and meet people that way; but for the majority life seems a lonely business unless you had a large family.

Of course---there's an irony here too because the one independent friend anyone does make here is Undy Scott...

Jul 20, 2019, 7:17pm

Chapter XVII is, I think, one of the most overtly "Trollopian" chapters in The Three Clerks, in the way that Trollope dissects out Undy Scott's methods of leading Alaric down the path to destruction.

As we've seen in numerous other novels by now, Trollope had a remarkable ability to put himself in the mindset of people doing wrong, showing the kind of sophistical thinking that became a sop to the conscience, and how someone could be led astray step by step.

Here, to Alaric's slide downwards, we have added the quiet but completely ruthless way that Undy goes about entangling Alaric, and through him Charley, in his various schemes.

We can only wonder how many other victims have fallen foul of this sort of manipulation.

But of course, having led us into the mire along with Alaric, Trollope suddenly pulls back---using the same language that Alaric himself did earlier, when excusing his choices to Harry, and to express his own disgust as the increasingly "flexible" honesty - the latitude - with which society conducted its money matters:

Undy did not exactly open his mind to Alaric Tudor in this matter. Alaric's education was going on rapidly; but his mind had not yet received with sufficient tenacity those principles of philosophy which would enable him to look at this scheme in its proper light. He had already learnt the great utility, one may almost say the necessity, of having a command of money; he was beginning also to perceive that money was a thing not to be judged of by the ordinary rules which govern a man's conduct. In other matters it behoves a gentleman to be open, above-board, liberal, and true; good-natured, generous, confiding, self-denying, doing unto others as he would wish that others should do unto him; but in the acquirement and use of money---that is, its use with the object of acquiring more, its use in the usurer's sense—his practice should be exactly the reverse; he should be close, secret, exacting, given to concealment, not over troubled by scruples; suspicious, without sympathies, self-devoted, and always doing unto others exactly that which he is on his guard to prevent others from doing unto him---viz., making money by them. So much Alaric had learnt, and had been no inapt scholar. But he had not yet appreciated the full value of the latitude allowed by the genius of the present age to men who deal successfully in money. He had, as we have seen, acknowledged to himself that a sportsman may return from the field with his legs and feet a little muddy; but he did not yet know how deep a man may wallow in the mire, how thoroughly he may besmear himself from head to foot in the blackest, foulest mud, and yet be received an honoured guest by ladies gay and noble lords, if only his bag be sufficiently full.

Edited: Jul 20, 2019, 7:39pm

Chapter XVII also offers our first mention of something we shouldn't be at all surprised to find in this novel: Charley's dealings with a money-lender.

There is even a very familiar phrase used:

He had lately, that is, within the last twelve months, made acquaintance with an interesting gentleman named Jabesh M'Ruen. Mr Jabesh M'Ruen was in the habit of relieving the distresses of such impoverished young gentlemen as Charley Tudor; and though he did this with every assurance of philanthropic regard, though in doing so he only made one stipulation, "Pray be punctual, Mr Tudor, now pray do be punctual, sir, and you may always count on me," nevertheless, in spite of all his goodness, Mr M'Ruen's young friends seldom continued to hold their heads well up over the world's waters.

As we might recall, in Phineas Finn Trollope also has his hero harassed by a money-lender who used precisely the same expression.

There is a very good reason for this repetition: Charley's woes here are blow-for-blow what happened to Trollope himself. Trollope admitted much later that he was more or less in debt the entire seven years he spent in London, before escaping to Ireland, and that nightmare scenes such as Charley undergoes with Mr M'Ruen were a frequent event.

Jul 21, 2019, 6:45pm

I thought this was an interesting detail, a reminder of life before refrigeration, when meat as well as vegetables was seasonal:

Chapter XVIII

    "Oh, here's a regular go," said Scatterall. "It's all up with Corkscrew, I believe."
    "Why, what's the cheese now?"
    "Oh! it's all about some pork chops, which Screwy had for supper last night." Screwy was a name of love which among his brother navvies was given to Mr Corkscrew. "Mr Snape seems to think they did not agree with him."
    "Pork chops in July!" exclaimed Charley.
    "Poor Screwy forgot the time of year," said another navvy; "he ought to have called it lamb and grass."

Edited: Jul 21, 2019, 6:54pm

BUT---(to return to Carrie's point in >51 cbl_tn:)---even while Charley gets himself in deeper with Mr M'Ruen, he reveals a hidden talent!

Chapter XIX

Now there were those who had found out that Charley Tudor, in spite of his wretched, idle, vagabond mode of life, was no fool; indeed, that there was that talent within him which, if turned to good account, might perhaps redeem him from ruin and set him on his legs again; at least so thought some of his friends, among whom Mrs. Woodward was the most prominent. She insisted that if he would make use of his genius he might employ his spare time to great profit by writing for magazines or periodicals; and, inspirited by so flattering a proposition, Charley had got himself introduced to the editor of a newly-projected publication. At his instance he was to write a tale for approval, and Crinoline and Macassar was the name selected for his first attempt...

Now, this is painful as well as funny: we should remember that Trollope was a very late bloomer, and for many years was basically considered the fool of his family: his own writing attempts were greeted with much more scepticism than the Woodwards receive Charley's.

There's quite a lot going on in this parody---particularly with respect to the "guidance" given to Charley about what sort of "messages" his stories should carry; but again there's a sting in it, when we remember the poor reception of Trollope's first few novels.

It isn't too hard to interpret this:

    "You must always begin with an incident now, and then hark back for your explanation and description; that's what the editor says is the great secret of the present day, and where we beat all the old fellows that wrote twenty years ago."
    "Oh!---yes---I see. They used to begin at the beginning; that was very humdrum."
    "A devilish bore, you know, for a fellow who takes up a novel because he's dull. Of course he wants his fun at once. If you begin with a long history of who's who and all that, why he won't read three pages; but if you touch him up with a startling incident or two at the first go off, then give him a chapter of horrors, then another of fun, then a little love or a little slang, or something of that sort, why, you know, about the end of the first volume, you may describe as much as you like, and tell everything about everybody's father and mother for just as many pages as you want to fill. At least that's what the editor says."

Jul 23, 2019, 4:10am

I find myself slowed down repeatedly by tracking down the Latin quotes or other obscure allusions. Are they explained in the notes of the OUP edition?

For instance, in Chapter XI we have "In days long gone by, there were, as we all know, three kings at Cologne, and again three kings at Brentford." I can guess that the three kings in Cologne means the reliquary of the Three Magi held at Cologne Cathedral, but who are the three kings of Brentford? A reference to the Battle of Brentford? The kings being Edmund Ironside, Canute and Ethelred the Unready?

I'm not complaining, I'm learning fascinating stuff, but it takes time.

Jul 23, 2019, 4:12pm

>47 lyzard: So I'm this far and I have to ask about some of the names. Undecimus - should I be reading 11th son? Hardlines and Oldeschole sound far too made up to not be madeup. But should I be reading anything into the words that they sound like? Is Old school going to be a stick in the mud while hard lines is going to be very rigid and inflexible? Is it a psychic wink as to their characters?. Like Mr Neverbend strikes me as being rather of a stickler and inflexible and no better at his job for either of those faults.

Edited: Jul 23, 2019, 6:52pm

>67 MissWatson:

Please do post any similar researches and/or queries here! - I guarantee if you're wondering, someone else is too.

I don't have the OUP edition (anyone) but hopefully can answer that anyway. :)

Yes, well done! Although the wars between the English and the Vikings went on for years at many different locations, English writers often referenced the "Battle of Brentford" because it was a rare English victory, when the forces of Edmund Ironsides, the son of Æthelred II, temporarily defeated those of the invading Cnut and broke his siege of London.

Prior to this Æthelred and Edmund had defended London together, but Æthelred died in April of 1016 and Edmund was elected king (so that, as you say, there were "three kings at Brentford"). He himself died after only a few months, however, and was succeeded by the conquering Cnut.

We should perhaps note that while Æthelred II has gone down in history as "Æthelred the Unready", this does not mean what it sounds like: "unready" derived from the Old English, "Unræd", and meant "poor counsel" or "bad advice". It was a play on his own name: "Æthelred" meant "noble counsel".

Edited: Jul 23, 2019, 7:06pm

>68 Helenliz:

We've often seen Trollope resorting to this comical or second-meaning way of naming his supporting characters, but he really let himself go in this respect in The Three Clerks, which was one of the things that contemporary critics objected to.

Yes, the background of Undy's name is alluded to in his introductory chapter: explaining why he and the others of his family are so predatory---they have to be!

Chapter VIII

The Hon. Undecimus Scott was the eleventh son of the Lord Gaberlunzie. Lord Gaberlunzie was the representative of a very old and very noble race, more conspicuous, however, at the present time for its age and nobility than for its wealth. The Hon. Undecimus, therefore, learnt, on arriving at manhood, that he was heir only to the common lot of mortality, and that he had to earn his own bread. This, however, could not have surprised him much, as nine of his brethren had previously found themselves in the same condition...

I would say that you have correctly interpreted "Oldescole" but there is a second possible meaning for "Hardlines".

"Hard lines" is/was an expression of commiseration meaning "bad luck" or "that's too bad".

"Lines" in this sense derives from the bible, and means something like your place in life, or your circumstances ("The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage"); so "hard lines" means the opposite, difficult or unpleasant circumstances.

I don't think Trollope means that Sir Gregory's circumstances are difficult, rather that those under his authority are: if Sir Gregory got his eye on you, it was "hard lines" for you. :)

Jul 23, 2019, 7:03pm

Keep 'em coming. :D

Edited: Jul 23, 2019, 7:27pm

While Chapters XVIII - XX outline Charley's ever-worsening situation with respect to Mr M'Ruen and Norah Geraghty, Chapter XXI finds him placed on an entirely different footing with Woodwards:

    The barge went on its way, and luckily made its entry under the arch before the little craft had swung round into the stream before it; as it was, the boat, still clinging by its nose, came round with its stern against the side of the barge, and as the latter went on, the timbers of Norman's wherry cracked and crumpled in the rude encounter.
    The ladies should all have kept their seats. Mrs Woodward did do so. Linda jumped up, and being next to the barge, was pulled up into it by one of the men. Katie stood bolt upright, with the tiller-ropes still in her hand, awe-struck at the misfortune she had caused; but while she was so standing, the stern of the boat was lifted nearly out of the water by the weight of the barge, and Katie was pitched, behind her mother's back, head foremost into the water.
    Norman, at the moment, was endeavouring to steady the boat, and shove it off from the barge, and had also lent a hand to assist Linda in her escape. Charley was on the other side, standing up and holding on by the piers of the bridge, keeping his eyes on the ladies, so as to be of assistance to them when assistance might be needed.
    And now assistance was sorely needed, and luckily had not to be long waited for. Charley, with a light and quick step, passed over the thwarts, and, disregarding Mrs Woodward's scream, let himself down, over the gun-wale behind her seat into the water. Katie can hardly be said to have sunk at all. She had, at least, never been so much under the water as to be out of sight. Her clothes kept up her light body; and when Charley got close to her, she had been carried up to the piers of the bridge, and was panting with her head above water, and beating the stream with her little hands.
    She was soon again in comparative safety. Charley had her by one arm as he held on with the other to the boat, and kept himself afloat with his legs. Mrs. Woodward leaned over and caught her daughter's clothes; while Linda, who had seen what had happened, stood shrieking on the barge, as it made its way on, heedless of the ruin it left behind...

We must appreciate here that Katie is in real and immediate danger of her life: not only, at the time, did very few women and girls know how to swim, but for all that Trollope initially has Katie held up by her clothes, the layering of women's outfits at the time, with multiple petticoats etc., could rapidly weigh someone down in the water and make it extremely difficult even to stay afloat.

Charley subsequently makes light of his action but the Woodwards may well be right in crediting him with saving Katie's life.

If you look at the map in >41 lyzard:, that is Hampton Court Bridge in the foreground.

Edited: Jul 23, 2019, 8:00pm

And with an abrupt change of tone after the near tragedy, Chapter XXII gives us Crinoline and Macassar; or, My Aunt's Will.

My heart's at my office, my heart is always there---
My heart's at my office, docketing with care;
Docketing the papers, and copying all day,
My heart's at my office, though I be far away.


Note that after we remarked Trollope's overdosing of allusory names in this novel (in >70 lyzard:), he admits as much here:

    "Crinoline and Macassar!" said Uncle Bat. "Are they intended for human beings' names?"
    "They are the heroine and the hero, as I take it," said Mrs Woodward, "and I presume them to be human, unless they turn out to be celestial."
    "I never heard such names in my life," said the captain.
    "At any rate, uncle, they are as good as Sir Jib Boom and Captain Hardaport," said Katie, pertly.

While I think most of Trollope's joking and satire in Charley's novel is understandable - please ask if there's anything that isn't! - one thing that we might want to examine more closely is Crinoline's "Tom and Jerry hat".

While now we probably think of a cartoon cat and mouse, "Tom and Jerry" were characters Pierce Egan's Life In London, a comic (or comic in intention) work describing the adventures of the two at all levels of London society. The book started as a monthly journal in the newspapers, advertised as, "The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq., and his elegant friend, Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the Metropolis." The individual sketches were collected into a book in 1821, and illustrated by Isaac and George Cruikshank, who - along with Egan himself - were the loose inspiration for the title characters.

The sketches were subsequently turned into a popular play; while the expression "Tom and Jerry" became slang for all sorts of disreputable goings-on.

Life In London is a very rare work that describes all levels of society during the Regency, and offers one of the very first detailed views of the London poor. This was extremely shocking for many people and as a consequence, although this was by no means Egan's intention, his book was hugely influential upon subsequent social reformers---and literary ones, including Charles Dickens.

Anyway---a "Tom and Jerry hat" was based upon the Cruikshanks' illustrations---sort of a cut-down top hat, the same design but with a low crown instead of a high one. Presumably this male piece of attire was later seconded by the female sex and made the basis of a fashion.

Jul 24, 2019, 2:47am

>70 lyzard: duh! I musty have bene just about to start chapter 12, as I'd not read that bit. Asked my question a little prematurely.

I assume that the share dealing and conflict of interest in Chapter 13 was as frowned on then as it would be now - and not just by Harry Norman?

Edited: Jul 24, 2019, 4:05am

>68 Helenliz: >70 lyzard: Regarding the speaking names of most of the male characters – Captain Cuttwater and his naval acquaintance all have names derived from nautical terms – I seem to remember that Dickens freuquently made use of them, too. But never with this intensity. It is getting a bit much.

>69 lyzard: Thanks, Liz. We have an author of historical fiction in Germany, Rebecca Gablé who has a degree in Medieval English studies and actually wrote a book explaining about Aethelred's nickname and other fascinating stuff: Von Ratlosen und Löwenherzen which is very funny.

ETA: I also found this blog about the use of classical literature by Trollope (kept by Hendrix College) which is very helpful:

Edited: Jul 24, 2019, 3:09pm

>68 Helenliz:, >75 MissWatson: I'm probably in the minority here, but I get a kick out of the goofy names. To me, it's sort of Trollope's way of reminding me that this is a story, and he's in control. It's his way of the now ubiquitous disclaimer that you find at the front of current fiction books: "This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."

Jul 24, 2019, 6:41pm

>74 Helenliz:

Never mind! :)

That's a good question. With the material presented the answer is "we don't know". We have Undy's insistence that "everyone's doing it", and because it's not the sort of thing people would admit to, we have no guidance as to whether that's true or whether it's just one more way Alaric is being manipulated---or both.

What we can say for sure is that Trollope felt no-one ought to be doing it; that these sorts of financial manipulations were the think edge of the wedge as far as the general honesty of society went. Once it was admitted that there was any area of life where dishonesty was, in effect, required, and therefore accepted, the rest would surely follow.

See this extract already quoted in >63 lyzard:, from Chapter XVII:

In other matters it behoves a gentleman to be open, above-board, liberal, and true; good-natured, generous, confiding, self-denying, doing unto others as he would wish that others should do unto him; but in the acquirement and use of money---that is, its use with the object of acquiring more, its use in the usurer's sense---his practice should be exactly the reverse; he should be close, secret, exacting, given to concealment, not over troubled by scruples; suspicious, without sympathies, self-devoted, and always doing unto others exactly that which he is on his guard to prevent others from doing unto him---viz., making money by them.

Edited: Jul 24, 2019, 7:00pm

>75 MissWatson:

Thanks for posting that link! I remember now that I have visited that site before from time to time.

>75 MissWatson:, >76 kac522:

Dickens certainly did it and I actually find his usage harder to take because he often applied it to his main characters; whereas with Trollope it's confined to the supporting cast where it does less damage---although he certainly did let himself go here!

I must admit, I do enjoy M. Jaquêtanàpe. :D

Edited: Jul 24, 2019, 7:03pm

Chapter XXIV is interesting because in all of Trollope's fiction, it is the first piece of overtly political material, the first to deal with electioneering: what was, at the time, often a very dirty business.

Also, for longtime readers of Trollope, an extremely ominous note is struck here, when Undy tries to push Mr M'Ruen at Alaric:

'I wouldn't have my name on a bill in such a man's hands on any account,' said Alaric.

But in order to avoid Mr M'Ruen, Alaric consents to try and borrow money from Uncle Bat; and there is an ironic touch here, as we see that Alaric has learned Undy's lessons better than he realises: he manipulates Uncle Bat exactly as Undy has been manipulating him:

Alaric in making his application had not done so actually without making any explanation on the subject. He wrote a long letter, worded very cleverly, which only served to mystify the captain, as Alaric had intended that it should do. Captain Cuttwater was most anxious that Alaric, whom he looked on as his adopted son, should rise in the world; he would have been delighted to think that he might possibly live to see him in Parliament; would probably have made considerable pecuniary sacrifice for such an object. With the design, therefore, of softening Captain Cuttwater's heart, Alaric in his letter had spoken about great changes that were coming, of the necessity that there was of his stirring himself, of the great pecuniary results to be expected from a small present expenditure; and ended by declaring that the money was to be used in forwarding the election of his friend Scott for the Tillietudlem district burghs.

Jul 24, 2019, 7:16pm

Charley's rescue of Katie has numerous consequences---not least that he ends up self-banished from the cottage as "unfit" to be there.

We see the vicious circle in which Charley is trapped: he is unfit because he has fallen foul of the temptations of London, yet in banishing himself he can only place himself back in the way of those temptations.

Of course his own weakness of character plays a big role in all this too.

Yet that very weakness throws a fascinating light over Charley's reaction to Alaric's attempt to "provide for him", that is, to rope him into Undy's long-distance plot to get his hands on the fortune of Clementina Golightly:

Chapter XXVI

    "But she has got guardians, hasn't she?"
    "Yes---her father's first cousin, old Sam Golightly. He is dying; or dead probably by this time; only Mrs Val won't have the news brought to her, because of this party. He had a fit of apoplexy yesterday. Then there's her father's brother-in-law, Figgs; he's bedridden. When old Golightly is off the hooks altogether, another will be chosen, and Undy talks of putting in my name as that of a family friend; so you'll have everything to assist you."
    Charley looked very grave. He had not been in the habit of discussing such matters, but it seemed to him, that if Alaric was about to become in any legal manner the guardian of Miss Golightly's fortune, that that in itself was reason enough why he, Alaric, should not propose such a match as this. Needy men, to be sure, did often marry rich ladies, and the world looked on and regarded it only as a matter of course; but surely it would be the duty of a guardian to protect his ward from such a fate, if it were in his power to do so...

The fact that weak, fallen, "unfit" Charley sees so very clearly the dishonesty in this proposal - that Alaric knows the proposal is dishonest, as shown by the follow-up remark, that he essayed to remove the impression which was thus made - shows just how far Alaric has degenerated already in his dealings with Undy.

We also get another illustration of Alaric's growing powers of manipulation: this is surely the unkindest cut of all!---

    "What other hope have you? what rational hope of setting yourself right?"
    "Perhaps I may do something by writing," said Charley, very bashfully.
    "By writing! ha, ha, ha," and Alaric laughed somewhat cruelly at the poor navvy---"do something by writing! what will you do by writing? will you make £20,000---or 20,000 pence? Of all trades going, that, I should say, is likely to be the poorest for a poor man---the poorest and the most heart-breaking. What have you made already to encourage you?"
    "The editor says that 'Crinoline and Macassar' will come to £4 10s."
    "And when will you get it?"
    "The editor says that the rule is to pay six months after the date of publication. The Daily Delight is only a new thing, you know. The editor says that, if the sale comes up to his expectations, he will increase the scale of pay."
    "A prospect of £4 10s. for a fortnight's hard work! That's a bad look-out, my boy; you had better take the heiress."

Jul 24, 2019, 7:19pm


Is everyone okay with accessing "the missing chapter" online? Does anyone need a copy?

Jul 25, 2019, 3:42am

>76 kac522: That is a great way to look at the names!

>78 lyzard: Good point about Dickens. I actually tried to pronounce M. Jaquêtanàpe before I got it.
>81 lyzard: Yes, thanks, I've got it, but I'm still at chapter 19...

Jul 25, 2019, 8:41pm

>82 MissWatson:

No hurry, Birgit, just checking that everyone's covered. :)

Jul 26, 2019, 7:35am

I have reached Chapter XXII and find myself giggling over Charley's novel, listing all the makers of Crinoline's clothes. I was wondering which empress is the originator of a hairstyle à l'impératrice? I assume Eugénie of France, given the time the novel was written?

Edited: Jul 26, 2019, 7:46pm

There were real hairstyles around this time called the a l'imperiale as well as the a l'imperatrice, so it's hard to know which Trollope means, though he clearly wasn't a fan: he disapproved of overdone fashions (those of you who did He Knew He Was Right might recall the mockery of the oversized chignon).

There were two competing fashion models for young women at the time: the Empress Eugénie, who married Napoleon III in 1853; and Elisabeth of Austria, who married Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1854. They were both very beautiful, very stylish women, who became highly publicised figures through their marriages and set the tone for fashion for the next decade or so.

These images are from the 1860s, so later versions of the style being referenced, but they give you an idea. At the time I believe the style tended to include lots of ringlets, more like the one on the right; the tucked-up one on the left came later:


Edited: Jul 28, 2019, 8:09pm

"The missing chapter" (Chapter XXVIII in the first edition)

In spite of the later contention / justification that this chapter "adds nothing" to the novel, it does of course give us an immediate insight into the thinking of Anthony Trollope on a subject that (after 20 years in the Post Office service) was obviously close to his heart.

To reiterate, the object of Trollope's anger was the so-called Northcote-Trevelyan Report into the state of the Civil Service, which was published early in 1854 and did eventually form the basis for an overhaul of the entire Civil Service.

Trollope took personal offense at many of the criticisms contained within the report, which he quotes and responds to in this chapter.

He objects strenuously to the all take / no give aspect of the report, which is constantly about what the government needs, and not what it is willing to give in return.

He offers a bifurcated argument in rebuttal, that (i) the standard of work at the Civil Service is by no means, as has been suggested, generally poor (on the contrary, he contends); but (ii), if it was, it would only be what might be expected from the twin discouragements of inadequate wages and an absence of a clear path of promotion. He also very much resents the lack of job security for men getting towards the end of their careers.

What we take away, then, is that Trollope agreed that the Civil Service needed to be reformed; but unlike the government, which thought this should happen from the bottom up, he felt it needed doing from the top down.

And above all, he believed (to use the commonly quoted biblical phrase) that the labourer was worthy of his hire:

    The Crown has 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 it is ground for grief. Why should they do so? By what hopes actuated should energy and ambition seek the Civil Service? Ambition climbs. What is there in the Civil Service for her to climb to? Energy expects reward. What reward does the Civil Service offer? Energy and ambition! There is, as it were, an arrogance in the very allusion to such claims on the part of the Crown...
    The Crown has no right to ask for such things. Ambition and energy are the luxuries of the labour market, and will go to those who pay highly for them. Those who require cheap work, must be content to put up with bad work. Careless men will gain but scanty wages, and scanty wages will gain but careless men.
    Great men sitting at the Treasury, talking over these matters with anxious minds, consider how best they may dissolve the evils of patronage, and open the Civil Service to the educated ambition of the country. But no allusion is made to any project of making due payment for the article required. Much is said of the manner in which young men are to be put in at the bottom of this government machine called the Civil Service, but very little of the treatment of elderly men who might get to the top. Much is said of the required excellence of education; but nothing of the rewards by which such excellence is to be stimulated...

And there is one other allusion at the outset, which we should perhaps highlight.

Trollope begins his chapter by lamenting the widespread, general and (in his opinion) ill-informed criticism of the Civil Service, emanating from all quarters and all sorts of people...including the writers of fiction:

Then comes the popular novelist, and, with his sledge hammer, gives it the last blow, and devotes every mother's son in the public offices to lasting ignominy and vile disgrace.

THAT is unmistakably a reference to the notorious "Circumlocution Office" of Little Dorrit.

We've seen this before in Trollope: that however much he admired Charles Dickens as a novelist (as his frequent references to his books makes plain), he disliked him as an "amateur reformer", dabbling in this and that social issue and then moving on to another. In this guise he satirises him in The Warden as "Mr Popular Sentiment"; at the same time showing just what damage amateur reformers can do, in the character of John Bold.

Edited: Jul 28, 2019, 8:28pm

From here I have to be careful about my chapter numbers. :)

As we have said, the misfortunes of Charley Tudor are highly autobiographical; however in Chapter XVIII, something befalls Charley that Trollope himself avoided by the skin of his teeth:

    Returning to his room, he took his hat and went downstairs. As he was sauntering forth through the archway into the Strand, a man with a decent coat but a very bad hat came up to him.
    "I'm afraid I must trouble you to go with me, Mr Tudor," said the man.
    "All right," said Charley; "Outerman, I suppose; isn't it?"
    "All right," said the bailiff.
    And away the two walked together to a sponging-house in Cursitor Street...

Trollope was in debt to a greater or lesser degree his entire seven years in London; and though he was never arrested, he lived in fear of it the entire time.

We should take particular note here that it is Charley's tailor who has him arrested: Trollope got into debt with his tailor for (initially) £12. It was this debt that drove him to the moneylender who pursued him into his work-place and constantly exhorted him to be "punctual"; the £12 debt in question eventually grew to one of over £200.

Trollope also had a different but equally damaging experience to draw upon: in 1834, his father went bankrupt and had to flee the country to avoid being imprisoned; the whole family left England to live in Brussels, where they were entirely supported by Frances Trollope's writing. (With typical male perversity, Trollope always resented his mother's success much more than his father's failure!)

Jul 29, 2019, 5:06am

Was there a particular reason for choosing Brussels? Charlotte Bronte ended up there, too.

Jul 29, 2019, 7:06pm

Belgium generally was popular basically because it was convenient without being France. :)

Brussels specifically underwent rapid expansion and development during the 19th century and became a significant trade and finance hub: most business was conducted at least bilingually and there were many jobs available as a consequence for people with the right skills. This also led to a mixed population including numerous English people, so it was attractive to other English people who had to live abroad.

Charlotte and Emily Bronte went to Brussels to improve their language skills, in return for which they themselves gave lessons, with Charlotte teaching English.

Edited: Jul 29, 2019, 8:37pm

In Chapter XXIX we discover that Charley's imprisonment has had the inadvertent positive side-effect of severing him from Norah Geraghty, which he was too weak to do himself; however, it has as certainly severed him from Katie, as the other side-effect is permanent banishment from the cottage:

Poor Mrs Woodward was in a dreadful state of doubt as to what it now behoved her to do. She felt that, however anxious she might be to assist Charley for his own sake, it was her bounden duty to separate him from her child. Whatever merits he might have---and in her eyes he had many---at any rate he had not those which a mother would desire to see in the future husband of her daughter. He was profligate, extravagant, careless, and idle; his prospects in life were in every respect bad; he had no self-respect, no self-reliance, no moral strength. Was it not absolutely necessary that she should put a stop to any love that might have sprung up between such a man as this and her own young bright-eyed darling?

We need to keep in mind here that Trollope is effectively describing himself, at the same point in his life.

Perhaps we may find hope for Charley in that we know how his creator's story turned out. :)

Edited: Jul 29, 2019, 8:50pm

Meanwhile, whatever difficulties Charley may be going through, they are nothing to those looming in the lives of Alaric and Gertrude, as Trollope makes clear in his title to Chapter XXX:

     Thus Alaric obtained full control of Miss Golightly's fortune: for Figgs, his co-trustee, was, as has been said, a shadow. He obtained the full control of £20,000, and out of it he paid the calls due upon the West Cork shares, held both by himself and Undy Scott. But he put a salve upon his conscience, and among his private memoranda, appertaining to that lady's money affairs he made an entry, intelligible to any who might read it, that he had so invested this money on her behalf. The entry was in itself a lie---a foolish, palpable lie---and yet he found in it something to quiet remorse and stupefy his conscience.
    Undy Scott had become tyrannical in his logic as soon as he had persuaded Alaric to make use of a portion of Madame Jaquêtanàpe's marriage portion. "You have taken part of the girl's money," was Undy's argument; "you have already converted to your own purposes so much of her fortune; it is absurd for you now to talk of conscience and honesty, of your high duties as a trustee, of the inviolable distinction between meum and tuum. You have already shown that the distinction is not inviolable; let us have no more such nonsense; there are still left £15,000 on which we can trade; open the till, and let us go on swimmingly with the business."

Of course, however Alaric's stock juggling may have been excused or explained away, this is an outright felony.

We see here something that recurs repeatedly in Trollope's novels, the matter of "meum and tuum", where the line between them lies, and the number of people whose lives are dedicated to converting the latter into the former---and how they were going about it.

He immediately expresses his concern for the direction of society in this regard by extrapolating from the specific to the general:

    Alas, alas! how is it that in these days such men become rogues? How is it that we see in such frightful instances the impotency of educated men to withstand the allurements of wealth? Men are not now more keen after the pleasures which wealth can buy than were their forefathers. One would rather say that they are less so. The rich labour now, and work with an assiduity that often puts to shame the sweat in which the poor man earns his bread. The rich rogue, or the rogue that would be rich, is always a laborious man. He allows himself but little recreation, for dishonest labour admits of no cessation. His wheel is one which cannot rest without disclosing the nature of the works which move it. It is not for pleasure that men:
            Put rancours in the vessel of their peace;
    ...nor yet primarily for ambition. Men do not wish to rise by treachery, or to become great through dishonesty. The object, the ultimate object, which a man sets before himself, is generally a good one. But he sets it up in so enviable a point of view, his imagination makes it so richly desirable, by being gazed at it becomes so necessary to existence, that its attainment is imperative. The object is good, but the means of attaining it---the path to the object---ah! there is the slip. Expediency is the dangerous wind by which so many of us have wrecked our little boats.
    And we do so more now than ever, because great ships, swimming in deepest waters, have unluckily come safe to haven though wafted there by the same pernicious wind. Every great man, who gains a great end by dishonest means, does more to deteriorate his country and lower the standard of his countrymen than legions of vulgar thieves, or nameless unaspiring rogues...

Trollope then switches back from the general to the specific, with an attack upon Robert Peel, whose political backflipping he despised. And again, his use of Peel's behaviour in the matter of the Corn Laws is something he refers to in other novels, as a classic example of political dishonesty.

But one other detail in that quote above about Alaric that we should note is yet another reference to Dickens---which after his implied criticisms in "the missing chapter", he may have included as an apology of sorts, and another indication that he was criticising his his politics, not his writing:

Alaric Tudor was now a rogue; despite his high office, his grand ideas, his exalted ambition; despite his talent, zeal, and well-directed official labours, he was a rogue; a thief, a villain who had stolen the money of the orphan, who had undertaken a trust merely that he might break it; a robber, doubly disgraced by being a robber with an education, a Bill Sykes without any of those excuses which a philanthropist cannot but make for wretches brought up in infamy.

Jul 30, 2019, 3:41am

>89 lyzard: Thanks again. Belgium is such a blank on my mental map. Hmmmm, maybe a biography of the first Leopold would help...

Jul 30, 2019, 3:44am

I'm almost caught up. In the chapter on Katie's first ball, were young women of that period always so wet? I can't think of a better way to describe it, but they do seem to become overwrought or exhausted at what seems to me to be very little physical exertion. Was dancing much more energetic than I imagine it to be? Were they corsetted at this time and does that explain it (reduced lung capacity along with those tiny waists).

Jul 30, 2019, 10:09am

I think corsets are much to blame for women being so easily winded. And unlike Austen's girls, who live in the country, there are no long, strenuous walks in fresh air. No muscles to speak of, just plump and soft flesh. No wonder they wilt.
What strikes me is how trammelled and stifling the lives of the Woodward sisters are, they have absolutely no way to occupy themselves other than with needlework, which gives them ample time to mope themselves into mental illness. There is apparently no other company for them, no female friends or relatives to pass the time with. I have noticed this before in Victorian novels, but never with such pity.

Jul 30, 2019, 6:13pm

>92 MissWatson:

That sounds like the kind of remedy I might undertake. :D

Edited: Jul 30, 2019, 6:26pm

>93 Helenliz:, >94 MissWatson:

Dancing could be extremely strenuous; it was the only form of strenuous exercise that girls were permitted and even encouraged at this time. Waltzes and polkas were (are) both very demanding.

However, this is something not often acknowledged in Victorian fiction. Perhaps it was yet another of the realities that were routinely ignored: it may have been felt indelicate to acknowledge that young women could and did exert themselves to the point of panting and (horrors!) sweating.

Trollope is almost the only novelist of the period to admit this outright, even to dwell on it in. In---{think, think}---Framley Parsonage, it is, when the powers that be are pushing Griselda Grantly on Lord Lufton, there's a scene where they're dancing and then need to take a break, and try to have a polite conversation while they're both gasping for air for long minutes.

It was hard work on the men, but as you both note, corsets imposed an additional strain on the female dancer. Corsetting became more and more severe over the 19th century, after the fairly revealing Regency fashions. At this time it wasn't intolerable (although as a trade-off girls had to manage their crinolines), but as skirts came in, waists were forced in too, to an excruciating degree late in the century---which finally (and not before time) prompted a determined (though of course much ridiculed and abused) campaign for sensible clothes for women.

So yes, there was a fair amount of fainting; but it was almost always for physical reasons, mostly hyperventilation, not the emotionalism so beloved of novelists (and which persisted up to WWII, for crying out loud!).

Edited: Jul 31, 2019, 7:20pm

Meanwhile, Alaric's story continues with a sort of split-vision, what we know of his illegal activities set against his continued climb in the public eye---to, almost inevitably for Trollope, a point where he may stand for Parliament.

The political material in The Three Clerks is intriguing because it shows how engaged Trollope already was mentally and emotionally with the issues that later gave rise to the Palliser books.

Though here it is more a matter of setting Alaric up for his fall, Trollope is already analysing the realities of running for office (as he would later do, so disastrously; he should have heeded his own warning!). In particular he addresses the precarious financial situation of anyone who took this path, culminating in the fact that Members of Parliament at this time received no income.

NB: Trollope slightly shortened the debate between Alaric and Sir Gregory over his decision, but I think it is important enough to quote in full:

Chapter XXXIII

    "Then you will not see the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject?"
    "No," said Sir Gregory; 'it would be useless for me to do so. I could not advocate such a scheme, feeling certain that it would be injurious both to yourself and to the service; and I would not desire to see the Chancellor with the view of opposing your wishes."
    "I am much obliged to you for that, at any rate," said Alaric.
    "But I do hope that you will not carry your plan any farther. When I tell you, as I do with the utmost sincerity, that I feel certain that an attempt to seat yourself in Parliament can only lead to the ruin of your prospects as a Civil servant---prospects which are brighter now than those of any other young man in the service---I cannot but think that you must hesitate before you take any step which will be irrecoverable. If you once publish an address to a constituency, that step will be irrecoverable. Indeed I think that you cannot do so without previously resigning."
    "I shall be sorry to resign, Sir Gregory, as I have such true pleasure in serving with you."
    "And, I presume, a salary of £1,200 a year is not unacceptable?" said Sir Gregory, with the very faintest of smiles.
    "By no means," said Alaric; "I am a poor man, depending altogether on my own exertions for an income. I cannot afford to throw away a chance."
    "Then take my word for it, you should give up all idea of Parliament," said Sir Gregory, who thought that he had carried his point.
    "But I call a seat in Parliament a chance," said Alaric; "the best chance that a man, circumstanced as I am, can possibly have. I have the offer of a seat, Sir Gregory, and I can't afford to throw it away..."

What is made very clear here is that while Trollope, like so many of his characters never lost the feeling that sitting in the House of Commons was and ought to be the pinnacle of a man's ambition and success - even Alaric, though clearly thinks a lot more of what it can bring him than how he can serve others - even at this early stage he was fully aware of the difficulties involved for the individual in the actual process of making the attempt.

More ominously in context, he was also aware of the absurdities, contradictions and sheer waste associated with a lot of political practices---as he shows via the ridiculous committee business in Chapter XXXII, which he suggestively places before Alaric's tussle with himself over whether "to stand or not to stand" in Chapter XXXIII.

Edited: Jul 31, 2019, 7:41pm

Trollope closes Chapter XXXIII with Alaric's rather hollow triumph over Sir Gregory; and then immediately tears it down via a series of amazingly brutal scenes between Alaric and Undy Scott.

One of Trollope's real strengths as a writer was his ability to put himself within the thinking of someone he disapproved of and even despised---and I don't think there's any doubt that he despised both Alaric and Undy. Yet Undy's manipulation of Alaric and his self-exculpation from their dirty financial dealings is brilliantly done. I don't think there has ever been a better illustration of plausible deniability, on which Undy literally lives.

If we ever really feel sorry for Alaric, it is here, I think, rather than during later events.

Chapter XXXIV

    "We have each of us put something near to £5,000 into this venture."
    "I have put more," said Scott.
    "Very well. But we have each of us withdrawn a sum equal to that I have named from my ward's fortune for this purpose."
    "I deny that," said Undy. "I have taken nothing from your ward's fortune. I have had no power to do so. You have done as you pleased with that fortune. But I am ready to admit that I have borrowed £5,000---not from your ward, but from you."
    Alaric was nearly beside himself; but he still felt that he should have no chance of carrying his point if he lost his temper.
    "That is ungenerous of you, Scott, to say the least of it; but we'll let that pass. To enable me to lend you the £5,000, and to enable me to join you in this speculation, £10,000 has been withdrawn from Clementina's fortune."
    "I know nothing about that," said Scott.
    "Know nothing about it!" said Alaric, looking at him with withering scorn. But Undy was not made of withering material, and did not care a straw for his friend's scorn.
    "Nothing whatever," said he.
    "Well, so be it," said Alaric; "but the fact is, the money has been withdrawn."
    "I don't doubt that in the least," said Undy.
    "I am not now going to argue whether the fault has been most mine or yours," continued Alaric.
    "Well, that is kind of you," said Undy, "considering that you are the girl's trustee, and that I have no more to do with it than that fellow in the wig there."


Chapter XXXVI

    "Look here, Undy; if my doing this were the only means of saving both you and me from rotting in gaol, by the Creator that made me I would not do it!"
    "I don't know that it will have much effect upon me, one way or the other," said Undy, coolly; "but it seems to me to be the only way that can save yourself from some such fate. Shall I tell you what the clauses are of this new bill about trust property?"
    "I know the clauses well enough; I know my own position; and I know yours also."
    "D--- your impudence!' said Undy; "how do you dare to league me with your villany? Have I been the girl's trustee? have I drawn, or could I have drawn, a shilling of her money? I tell you, Tudor, you are in the wrong box. You have one way of escape, and one only. I don't want to ruin you; I'll save you if I can; I think you have treated the girl in a most shameful way, nevertheless I'll save you if I can; but mark this, if this money be not at once produced I cannot save you."
    Alaric felt that he was covered with cold perspiration. His courage did not fail him; he would willingly have taken Undy by the throat, could his doing so have done himself or his cause any good; but he felt that he was nearly overset by the cool deep villany of his companion...

Aug 3, 2019, 6:58pm

The Three Clerks takes a dark turn at this point, with Katie's desperate illness running parallel with Alaric's fall from grace, which ends, inevitably, with his arrest.

Set against this we have the muted and unsatisfying matter of the planed marriage of Harry and Linda, which it is hard to think of as other than both of them "settling". It certainly does nothing to lighten the mood.

Nor, for that matter - though Trollope no doubt intended that it should - does the dissection of Gertrude's shifting attitude towards Alaric. We've spoken in other contexts of Trollope's exasperating (and rather smug) contention that a "proper woman" should worship her husband "like a god", no matter how little he deserves it. Few if any of Trollope's protagonists have deserved it less than Alaric, yet Gertrude rises to the occasion:


He had done wrong, he had sinned grievously; but no sooner did she acknowledge so much than she acknowledged also that a man may sin and yet not be all sinful; that glory may be tarnished, and yet not utterly destroyed; that pride may get a fall, and yet live to rise again. He had sinned, and had repented; and now to her eyes he was again as pure as snow. Others would now doubt him, that must needs be the case; but she would never doubt him; no, not a whit the more in that he had once fallen. He should still be the cynosure of her eyes, the pride of her heart, the centre of her hopes...


The complete lack of any anger, resentment or disgust in Gertrude's reaction is wholly unbelievable. We have spoken many times of the unrealistic expectations placed upon women at this period, and this is another face of it.

Yet to be fair, the longer this goes, the more there is an overt sense of self-deception in Gertrude's response to her situation---a greater feeling that she makes up her mind to "feel" a certain way and won't admit to anything less. Trollope himself doesn't seem prepared to admit it either, but it creeps into the narrative almost against his will.

Edited: Aug 6, 2019, 7:00pm

One of the consistently interesting areas of Trollope's writing, chiefly because of the perpetually unresolved tension behind it, is when he was considering the legal profession.

Of course we're not talking about the normal, necessary functions of solicitors, but of the criminal justice system and the actions of the barristers practising within it.

Trollope never got over the feeling that an innocent man shouldn't need a lawyer, and that if you did hire a lawyer to defend you, you were permanently "soiled" even if your name was subsequently cleared. He expresses this most fully in Phineas Redux, where Phineas cannot get over his feelings of disgrace.

Likewise, he considered much of the practice of criminal law, which often involved "black being made white", to be completely dishonest, and those making a living by it as worse than the clients they defended.

But whatever Trollope felt about this as personally, he was completely alive to the dramatic possibilities of legal difficulties and courtroom scenes, and these frequently occur within his novels.

Somewhat oddly, his first venture in this area was a predominantly positive one, in the strenuous defence mounted for Thady Macdermot in The Macdermots Of Ballycloran---perhaps because we know from the outset that these efforts are certain to be unavailing.

A more typical passage is that in The Warden, when Mr Harding consults Sir Abraham Haphazard, the Attorney General: the latter is bewildered by Mr Harding's need to be actually innocent of the accusations made against him, not merely legally innocent.

Sir Abraham would later make another brief appearance in Doctor Thorne; but it is here, in The Three Clerks, that Trollope really gave voice for the first time to his ambivalent but largely disapproving attitude towards legal manoeuvring, with the creation of Mr Chaffanbrass:

Chapter XL

    Mankind in general take pleasure in cruelty, though those who are civilised abstain from it on principle. On the whole Mr Chaffanbrass is popular at the Old Bailey. Men congregate to hear him turn a witness inside out, and chuckle with an inward pleasure at the success of his cruelty. This Mr Chaffanbrass knows, and, like an actor who is kept up to his high mark by the necessity of maintaining his character, he never allows himself to grow dull over his work. Therefore Mr Chaffanbrass bullies when it is quite unnecessary that he should bully; it is a labour of love; and though he is now old, and stiff in his joints, though ease would be dear to him, though like a gladiator satiated with blood, he would as regards himself be so pleased to sheathe his sword, yet he never spares himself. He never spares himself, and he never spares his victim.
    As a lawyer, in the broad and high sense of the word, it may be presumed that Mr Chaffanbrass knows little or nothing. He has, indeed, no occasion for such knowledge. His business is to perplex a witness and bamboozle a jury, and in doing that he is generally successful. He seldom cares for carrying the judge with him: such tactics, indeed, as his are not likely to tell upon a judge. That which he loves is, that a judge should charge against him, and a jury give a verdict in his favour. When he achieves that he feels that he has earned his money. Let others, the young lads and spooneys of his profession, undertake the milk-and-water work of defending injured innocence; it is all but an insult to his practised ingenuity to invite his assistance to such tasteless business. Give him a case in which he has all the world against him; Justice with her sword raised high to strike; Truth with open mouth and speaking eyes to tell the bloody tale; outraged humanity shrieking for punishment; a case from which Mercy herself, with averted eyes, has loathing turned and bade her sterner sister do her work; give him such a case as this, and then you will see Mr Chaffanbrass in his glory. Let him, by the use of his high art, rescue from the gallows and turn loose upon the world the wretch whose hands are reeking with the blood of father, mother, wife, and brother, and you may see Mr Chaffanbrass, elated with conscious worth, rub his happy hands with infinite complacency. Then will his ambition be satisfied, and he will feel that in the verdict of the jury he has received the honour due to his genius. He will have succeeded in turning black into white, in washing the blackamoor, in dressing in the fair robe of innocence the foulest, filthiest wretch of his day; and as he returns to his home, he will be proudly conscious that he is no little man...

Mr Chaffanbrass offers a fascinating insight into Trollope's divided mindset here. There is no question at all that - in a detached way - Trollope is completely disgusted by his own creation; yet he takes enormous pleasure in siccing Mr Chaffanbrass on the even more disgusting Undy Scott...and expects us to do so too:

Chapter XLI

    "But the shares were bought with the lady's money."
    "What shares?" asked Undy.
    "What shares, sir? Those shares which you had professed to hold on the lady's behalf, and which afterwards you did not scruple to call your own. Those shares of yours---since you have the deliberate dishonesty so to call them---those shares of yours, were they not bought with the lady's money?"
    "They were bought with the money which I borrowed from Mr. Tudor."
    "And where did Mr Tudor get that money?"
    "That is a question you must ask himself," said Undy.
    "It is a question, sir, that just at present I prefer to ask you. Now, sir, be good enough to tell the jury, whence Mr Tudor got that money; or tell them, if you dare do so, that you do not know."
    Undy for a minute remained silent, and Mr Chaffanbrass remained silent also. But if the fury of his tongue for a moment was at rest, that of his eyes was as active as ever. He kept his gaze steadily fixed upon the witness, and stood there with compressed lips, still resting on his two hands, as though he were quite satisfied thus to watch the prey that was in his power. For an instant he glanced up to the jury, and then allowed his eyes to resettle on the face of the witness, as though he might have said, "There, gentlemen, there he is---the son of a peer, a member of Parliament; what do you think of him?"
    The silence of that minute was horrible to Undy, and yet he could hardly bring himself to break it. The judge looked at him with eyes which seemed to read his inmost soul; the jury looked at him, condemning him one and all; Alaric looked at him with fierce, glaring eyes of hatred, the same eyes that had glared at him that night when he had been collared in the street; the whole crowd looked at him derisively; but the eyes of them all were as nothing to the eyes of Mr Chaffanbrass.
    "I never saw him so great; I never did," said Mr Gitemthruet, whispering to his client; and Alaric, even he, felt some consolation in the terrible discomfiture of his enemy...

Aug 5, 2019, 3:16am

>100 lyzard: Undy being submitted to this cross-examination certainly provides much-needed relief to the reader who longs to see Undy taken down a peg. But it is also a very canny demonstration that law and justice have little in common.

Aug 5, 2019, 6:32pm

Yes, very cathartic. :D

That's exactly how Trollope felt; worse, that guilt and innocence didn't have much to do with it at all.

Aug 6, 2019, 6:08am

I have finished the final volume and found Katie's extended period of illness a real slog. She is too much idealised here to convince as a character, in my opinion. The final chapter with the mock literary critique compensates for it, though.

Aug 6, 2019, 7:28am

>99 lyzard: Oh good oh! I thought it was me being rather cynical thinking that was not what any normal woman would feel. Either that or applying a modern sensibility to a past social norm.

Edited: Aug 6, 2019, 7:37am

>103 MissWatson:, >104 Helenliz:

Or applying a woman's judgement to a man's idea of a "proper woman". :D

We can chat about this more tomorrow: I meant to wrap up my comments today but got distracted onto a silly side-project; I will do so in the morning.

In the meantime, please expand on your observations if you feel so inclined...

Aug 6, 2019, 6:56pm

Or not. :)

Aug 6, 2019, 7:19pm

Chapter XL

All Mr Chaffanbrass's efforts cannot disguise the fact that Alaric is guilty; but the exposure of Undy Scott does serve to present him as sinned against as well as sinning; and he escapes with a comparatively light jail sentence of six months.

(This is particularly so given the recent introduction of new laws protecting trusts, referenced several times in the text, when you'd think they'd be looking for someone to make an example of.)

Once Alaric has been permanently "stained" by his prison sentence, there's only one possible place of refuge for himself and Gertrude:

Chapter XLII

    "What does Linda say about it, mamma?"
    "Linda and I are both of Harry's way of thinking," said Mrs Woodward, "because Normansgrove is such a distance."
    "Distance!" repeated Gertrude, with something of sorrow, but more of scorn in her tone. "Distance, mamma! why you can get to her between breakfast and dinner. Think where Melbourne is, mamma!"


But Alaric's fall is the cue for Charley's rise: the crisis allows himself to show the better part of his character, and the time it absorbs severs him from his disreputable contacts. Finally he is rescued from Internal Navigation and placed at Weights and Measures, which completes his redemption.

Most of all, of course, there is eventually this, in Chapter XLVI:

    Our tale and toils have now drawn nigh to an end; our loves and our sorrows are over; and we are soon to part company with the three clerks and their three wives. Their three wives? Why, yes. It need hardly be told in so many words to an habitual novel-reader that Charley did get his bride at last.
    Nevertheless, Katie kept her promise to Mrs Woodward. What promise did she ever make and not keep? She kept her promise, and did not go from her mother. She married Mr Charles Tudor, of the Weights and Measures, that distinguished master of modern fiction, as the Literary Censor very civilly called him the other day; and Mr Charles Tudor became master of Surbiton Cottage...

In this Trollope is kinder to Charley that life was to himself: though he himself was rescued from the mire of London by being transferred to Ireland, he had many more years of struggle before he really found his feet, and before the people who had known him in his early days (including his own family) learned to trust him or expect anything better of him.

Likewise, Charley literary career develops a great deal more smoothly than Trollope's, which took ten years of false starts to really get going.

Aug 6, 2019, 7:47pm

Ultimately I tend to agree with those who class The Three Clerks as one of Trollope's minor works. However, it is still fascinating to me for those embryonic glimpses into the issues that would occupy him going forward, and which he would later analyse with much more depth and subtlety than he attempts here.

One of the odd things about this novel is that in spite of its title, it's really a story without a hero. You can't call Charley the hero in spite of his eventual redemption; and in spite of his prominence during the early stages, Harry's reaction to his twin failures and his removal of himself from public life eliminate any such thought with regard to him; though that said, I think Trollope is more open to the idea of a life of gentlemanly retirement on an inherited income being also a life well lived than perhaps we are.

However, typically for Trollope, he is a lot more interested in, and insightful with respect to, Alaric's wrongdoings than with Harry's rather grudging and ungracious "goodness".

But if The Three Clerks has no hero, Trollope certainly meant it to have a heroine; in fact, he meant it to have three of them.

The Woodward sisters were the most critically praised aspect of this novel at the time of its first publication, which is interesting: it suggests that "real girls" were few and far between in novels of the 1850s.

The problem is that they're not real---not in the sense that some of Trollope's later young women certainly are. Rather, I think that Trollope meant each of the three to represent what he considered one face of "proper womanhood": Gertrude's stubborn loyalty and devotion to her man in spite of everything; Linda's clinging femininity; and Katie as "inspiration" to a struggling man.

What this means in practice is that none of them is a complete person; they are more symbols than women.

Katie is real when she is a girl messing around in boats and playing on the island and getting covered in mud; but as soon as she falls in love and "grows up", she ceases to be so. Linda is never real to me, but that's probably because I don't share Trollope's taste for wilting flowers. As for Gertrude, like Katie she becomes "less real" over the course of the book, in her lack of anger and resentment towards Alaric.

On the other hand, in what Trollope intends as an indication of a certain "hardness", which he will criticise openly in his last chapters (while admitting that given Alaric's situation, perhaps it's just as well she is hard), Gertrude gets a moment of "realness" denied to the others, when she sniffs at Harry's behaviour:

Chapter XII

    Mrs. Woodward looked vexed; but she made no immediate reply, and for some time the mother and daughter went on working without further conversation. At last Gertrude said:---
    "I think every man is bound to do the best he can for himself---that is, honestly; there is something spoony in one man allowing another to get before him, as long as he can manage to be first himself..."

Aug 7, 2019, 12:55am

Permission to hve a little snort at the names of the lawyers?

Aug 7, 2019, 1:51am

>109 Helenliz:

Have at it! :D

Aug 7, 2019, 4:47am

>108 lyzard: Good point about the Woodward sisters, that's exactly what it feels like, a study in three types.

The lack of a designated "hero*ine" means that the focus shifts often abruptly and as a reader I cannot really "root" for one character, so the emotional engagement is not very strong. But many of the aspects he raises about the civil service, financial markets, politics and law are still relevant today, so it feels much more modern to me than Dickens' novels.

>109 Helenliz: Yes, I liked them, too.

Aug 7, 2019, 5:57pm

>111 MissWatson:

Our awareness that Charley is largely an unflattering self-portrait lends interest there, but otherwise I would agree with you that this is a novel more interesting for its depiction of contemporary society than on the level of character.

Aug 9, 2019, 2:42am

I've finished, thanks for the additional analysis. My first Troloppe read and it's been enought to want to try more (like I need any more series to wade through!).
I thought the way he brought Undy Scott to his fate was interesting, comparing him to Bill Sykes. Its an interesting set of couples, I'm not sure that Alaric deserved Gertrude, Charley certainly needed a steadying influence like Katie in his life, Linda & Harry seem to have ended up together and while it felt like a settling, it probably turns out for the best all round. I'm not sure that I was all that invested in each character, it's more of an ensemble piece than a piece with a lead role, if that makes sense.
Is there something in he thinks people shouldn't try and over-reach? Was Alaric stretching outside of his alloted sphere in life and was was brought low accordingly.

Edited: Aug 9, 2019, 6:09pm

>113 Helenliz:

Oh my goodness, I didn't realise it was your first Trollope ever!

Thank you so much for joining us, then. This was probably a bit of an odd introduction, as it is both a fairly early and a fairly minor work. However, as you would have noted from the points above, it does offer a taste of a lot of things Trollope would pursue over his more mature works, so if you liked this you would probably like those a lot more.

In his later novels he does achieve a better balance, and a better integration, of his character and theme elements.

I think there are two distinct points about your last question. There's no doubt that Trollope was disturbed by the behaviours he observed around stock ownership and manipulation. Although financial investment in capital ventures was not a new thing, it had really taken a new turn with the building of the railways and associated construction, which had made it a more general and accessible thing, but also allowed for lots of "fly by night" ventures and for exploitation by people like Undy Scott.

Trollope's objections here were two-fold: he disliked the increased focus on making money for the sake of making money, as opposed to earning a fair wage by fair work (stockholders didn't work for their income); and he disliked what he perceived as the increasing dishonesty of this sort of dealing---and that this dishonesty was becoming "the norm".

One of the things I find most intriguing aboyt The Three Clerks is that Undy's repeated contention that "everyone's doing it", that is, that everyone is making money by shady stock deals and by exploiting confidential knowledge, is never either confirmed or repudiated. Trollope shows us the ugliest face of this through Undy, but perhaps didn't either want to or dare to show senior Civil Sefvants doing much the same thing; however, he leaves behind the possibility. (Since most of his senior Civil Servants here are based on real people, it would hardly have been appropriate!)

His problem with Alaric is that he not only involves himself in this, he almost goes looking for opportunities (as per the conversation between himself and Harry, quoted in >46 lyzard:). Trollope was a great believer in "honest ambition" as both a motivation and a goal in life, and part of his complaint in the "missing chapter" is that the current arrangements of the Civil Service did not allow for men to climb to the top of their profession, that outsiders were brought in to fill senior posts instead of them being filled by internal promotion.

So he actually wanted people to "reach", but not to "over-reach" as Alaric does, by taking increasingly dishonest shortcuts and by stepping on people.

It's interesting that there's a note of disapproval in both Alaric's rapid climb up the ladder and Harry's quitting of the game---and funny that Trollope finally leaves Charley to be the happy medium; though I suppose that's another aspect of the self-portrait, as Trollope (much to everyone's surprise) turned out to be an excellent Civil Servant.

Aug 11, 2019, 10:39am

>114 lyzard: Thanks, Liz, I really enjoy your comments.

Edited: Aug 16, 2019, 12:38pm

I read The Three Clerks some months ago, and didn't try to re-read, but I have appreciated all the comments and background. I'm probably in the minority here, but I very much enjoyed this book, even while acknowledging all the points everyone has made about it. I think it was a case of the right book at the right time for me, as I was in a bit of a reading funk at the time, and it felt wonderful to get back to Trollope.

Having been a civil servant here in the US for over 30 years, Trollope's observations were meaningful to me, and despite the century and ocean between our experiences, much has not changed. My reading of the book was without the Civil Service chapter; I read that separately now. I think it gives a lot of perspective on Trollope for those of us looking back on his work, but I'm not sure it would have added a lot to my original reading of the story. I think he makes his points clearly in the rest of the novel.

While I was reading this book, I also happened to be listening to an audio of David Copperfield, which was written about 10 years before The Three Clerks. Copperfield is thought to be the most autobiographical of Dickens' works, and is told in the first person. Both books are about young men who start out as clerks, search for love, and end up finding a talent and moderate success in writing. I wonder how much Trollope was influenced by Copperfield; that is, in crafting a different kind of story about young people making their way in life.

I thought it interesting that Trollope chose to start his story with his characters as young adults, whereas Dickens began with Copperfield's birth and young life. I think Copperfield's early life is the strongest part of the book, but his young adulthood is more about the other characters than about David. Despite being twice as long and told from the first person (David), when I got to the end of the books, I actually felt I had a better sense of the personality and feelings of Charlie Tudor then I did of David Copperfield. Trollope does such a wonderful job of giving us the sense of the insecurities of young adults, and their strengths, too.

Loved Trollope's argument about Undy being more evil than Bill Sykes. And if you think Katie's illness was over the top, just re-read the Copperfield sections about dear Dora's illness and death. Trollope seems tame in comparison. And Gertrude's "stand by your man" approach can't hold a candle to poor Mrs. Micawber ("I will never abandon Mr. Micawber!"). So, as much as Trollope's women seem stereotypical (and they are), they're light years ahead of women in the Dickensian world. It's hard to believe they were written only 10 years apart.

Anyway, I loved this book (maybe a second reading will temper that a bit), and if I remember correctly, I don't recall a single horse racing or hunting scene, which makes it even better for me ;) I'm ready for The Bertrams.

Aug 16, 2019, 4:19pm

>116 kac522: and if I remember correctly, I don't recall a single horse racing or hunting scene
Good catch! That is definitely a point in favour of the book!

Aug 20, 2019, 7:40pm

>116 kac522:

Thank you so much for adding your comments and perspective, Kathy!

I agree that the missing chapter doesn't add anything to the novel as a novel, but for me it has the interest of placing something broadly familiar in its specific contemporary context. This to me is the value of "old books", rather than historical fiction: an immediate glimpse of how things actually were, as opposed to how people later think they were (or think they ought to have been). An impassioned defence of the Civil Service is not without it's funny side, of course, but it is also a fascinating insight into Trollope's psyche and how he thought the world should work - particularly in terms of what we were discussing in >113 Helenliz: and >114 lyzard: - about where the line lies between proper and improper ambition and the right way to achieve your goals.

(It is worthwhile remembering that Trollope ruined his own reputation as a writer when he published his autobiography and revealed that he viewed writing as "a job" rather than as "art", and a hard job at that!)

Oh, we do not really want to get into the Dickens / Trollope war again, do we?? :D

Of course there are many who love Dickens' idiosyncratic approach, but personally I prefer Trollope's more prosaic voice, which (to follow on from the point above) gives me a feeling of seeing reality---as opposed to Dickens' world which is rarely real to me, or at least not often populated by real people...least of all his women! His unbelievable female characters and his over-the-top sentimentality drag his books down for me, though obviously this is not so for many readers.

I don't think it's a matter of when the books were published, though, just of completely different authorial styles.

One other fundamental difference, that you raise here, is that while Dickens broods in his books about his miserable childhood, Trollope never wanted to talk about his (which was almost as bad, though in a very different way). Children are actually conspicuous by their absence in Trollope's books, which reflects the reality of life at the time. People marry and have babies, but they don't occupy centre-stage until they are adolescents at the earliest, like Katie here---that point in life when a young person would have been coming out of the schoolroom, or returning from school, to take up their place in the family.

Trollope also expended his desire to be autobiographical in Charley Tudor. Although other books deal with Trollope's experiences, he never felt the need to include himself in any of his other books.

But again, just with the specific examples you cite, the difference in approach between the actualisations of David Copperfield and Charley is fascinating. Trollope, I think, is telling it like it is (was), whereas Dickens is telling it as he would have preferred it to be. The psychological aspects are quite distinct.

Aug 20, 2019, 7:42pm

>116 kac522:, >117 MissWatson:

Great point! - struggling young men living in the city couldn't afford such luxuries (not the money, and not the time). It is when Trollope's novels are either set in Ireland - where almost everybody hunted, as we saw in The Kellys And The O'Kellys; and where Trollope gained his passion for those pursuits - or amongst the next few rungs on the English social ladder that we get those scenes.

Aug 21, 2019, 3:54pm

>118 lyzard: Oh, we do not really want to get into the Dickens / Trollope war again, do we?? :D

I couldn't help it...I was reading/listening to the two books at the same time!

But I have a question re: I don't think it's a matter of when the books were published, though, just of completely different authorial styles.

Do you think they were writing for the same or different reading audiences?

Aug 21, 2019, 5:23pm

>120 kac522:

The same audience inasmuch as "the reading public" at the time consisted chiefly of middle-class and up people who could afford to buy books or belong to a circulating library or buy the more expensive magazines. The working-classes tended to be catered for via less expensive publications.

Of course there was overlap as educational standards and literacy changed (among women as well as men); but it still came down to what you could afford or how you could access material.

However at this specific time Dickens was a long-established, popular author, and Trollope was really only just starting out. Remember that his first three novels, written across 1847 - 1850, were failures; it was The Warden that first garnered him a little positive attention, and Barchester Towers that was his first real success. However, he still had quite a way to go before he became a well-known, broadly popular author. The offer of serialisation, which was the hallmark of a 'selling' author, didn't happen until Framley Parsonage, in 1861. (That is also when he returned to England from Ireland.)

I terms of a "rivalry" or a battle for readers, I always think it should be pointed out that in practical terms, Dickens and Trollope didn't really go "head to head" for more than a few years: Dickens' last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, was published in 1865; Trollope didn't become generally popular until Doctor Thorne, which was published in 1860.

Aug 21, 2019, 9:11pm

>121 lyzard: I wasn't thinking about them going "head to head" at all. Where I was going with this, was whether their different writing styles would be geared for slightly different audiences. Especially in terms of The Three Clerks and some of the earlier works of Trollope, it seems he might be writing for a younger audience (especially the way he uses every day dialogue), whereas Dickens was writing for older (and probably loyal) readers. But that may be just my impression of the books, and not necessarily so.

Aug 22, 2019, 1:24am

Well, no: I meant in terms of the time of their writing; if you look at the peaks of their respective careers, they come about 20 years apart. So Trollope would have been, not aiming for a different audience, but writing for one nearly a generation later than Dickens, purely by virtue of when he was writing.

(Put it this way: at the time when Dickens' career took off there was no cross-country railway system in England; social change came rapidly after that.)

Dickens' style is very idiosyncratic, Trollope is much more realistic, so they probably attracted different readers then as they do now. But I don't think it was really about older or younger. Some of Dickens' writing was certainly aimed at a more general audience, like his Christmas stories, and he prided himself on being "suitable for the whole family"; so if anything it would have been him who was aiming for younger readers.

There would have been other factors at work, too, such as what books entered the house and who had access to them was probably more tightly controlled when Dickens started writing.

Aug 22, 2019, 6:47pm

Oh, by the way, Kathy---I got lost in your specific points, but I meant to say how much I agree with this:

I was in a bit of a reading funk at the time, and it felt wonderful to get back to Trollope

I'm always conscious of a moment at the outset of a Trollope novel where it's like leaning back against comfy pillows. :)

Aug 22, 2019, 10:32pm

>124 lyzard: so true!

Aug 23, 2019, 4:07am

I've not read all that much Dickens, and this is my first trollope, so I'm no expert. However I did feel that Trollope was very real and grounded. I can't imagine him resorting to someone dieing by spontaneous combustion at any point, or a mystery inherritance. With Trollope, I think you'd always know where the money was comming from ... and where it would go >:-)

Oct 8, 2019, 3:19am

About three months late but I've finally found the brain space to start reading this and just finished Chapter VII.
>40 lyzard: I also thought of the Dashwoods from Sense and Sensibility when reading about the Woodwards in this book.

Oct 11, 2019, 7:53pm

>128 souloftherose:

Oh, my goodness! I'm so glad to see you here, and so sorry it didn't work out for you earlier.

Please do continue to add comments.

BTW (as noted in >47 lyzard:), there's something for you in Chapter VIII. :D

Oct 11, 2019, 7:56pm

>127 Helenliz:

I also see I forgot to reply to Helen's observation, as I meant to.

For me, reading Dickens is somewhat like reading urban fantasy: he has an extraordinary vision of society, but it's not (or often not) a realistic one. It makes sense on its own terms, and is believable on those terms, but it is a distorted view of contemporary life. It is of course hugely entertaining, but if we wanted to know what ordinary mid-19th century life was really like, we would turn to Trollope rather than Dickens.

Oct 28, 2019, 2:14pm

>129 lyzard: Reporting in that I have finished and enjoyed this reread although agree it's not one of his best books (but a Trollope novel is still a Trollope novel). Interesting to know this time how much of Charley's situation was similar to Trollope's experiences and how restricted the men and women were from forming friendships without family to make introductions.

Edited: Oct 28, 2019, 4:10pm

Well done! I'm glad you were able to stick with it. :)

(Though I'm kind of sorry you didn't hold it up for a few more days, so you could have added it to my November challenge!)

That's a point Trollope makes in several of his novels, generally from the perspective of young men getting into trouble (he's less concerned with young women being bored out of their minds), but of course never so forcefully or personally as here.