Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More of Trollope's short stories

Tales of All Countries, Second Series, Anthony Trollope

I really need to stop buying books of Anthony Trollope's short stories.  I already have them all, in two collections (divided into "Early" and "Later") published by Oxford University Press.  But I find the volumes of the "Penguin Trollope Series" nearly irresistible.  I think it's partly the familiar orange of the design, but even more the image of Trollope himself on the cover, looking venerable and benevolent:



These editions have none of the introductions or notes that I find so helpful, but they are neat and compact, and I can't help thinking how appealing they would look, all lined up together along on my Trollope shelf.

As you may perhaps have guessed from the title, this is the second of two books of short stories, which were drawn from Trollope's experiences traveling on post-office business.  Many were originally published in the Cornhill Magazine, edited by his friend William Thackeray, and later published in book form (this second volume in 1863).  The stories here really are a mixed bag, some with exotic settings far from Barsetshire or London.  The first, "Aaron Trow," set in Bermuda, is about an escaped convict who breaks into an isolated cottage in search of food and money.  Finding a woman there alone, with no money to give him, he threatens to "do worse than murder you."  The next day, her quiet fianc√© joins an island-wide manhunt to track him down.  It's a bleak, violent story, and when I finished it, I put the book down for quite a while.

When I came back to it, I found familiar Trollopian elements in two that take place in England, both concerned with romance and marriage, though in very different ways.  The others deal with British citizens abroad, working or playing.  "Mrs. General Tallboys" is set among the British expatriate colony in Rome, where the title character is spending a winter away from her husband. The author's note mentions that Thackeray rejected this story, because its subject is "a woman not as pure as she should be."  Three are narrated by British gentlemen traveling abroad, and they're the funniest.  I was particularly taken with "George Walker of Suez," who has been sent to Egypt, ostensibly for health reasons, but really he believes because "my partners wished to be rid of me while they made certain changes in the management of the firm."  Poor George goes on to Suez, where he is mistaken for someone else, to his eventual mortification.  And Mr. Robinson, who tells the story of "The Man Who Kept His Money in a Box," gets embroiled not just with that man and his family, but also with the box itself, which goes missing at a crucial moment.

It is a neat coincidence that I was reading Trollope's short stories three years ago today, when I sat down and created this blog, on a sudden impulse.  It's hard to believe that another year of blogging has come and gone (and how far the TBR stack has grown).  Thank you again for reading along, and for sharing your love of books here and on your own blogs.

5 comments:

  1. I've never read any of Trollope's short stories. Which editions have you bought? I have two really nice volumes of a five-volume set of Trollope's short stories, and someday it is my dream to have the entire set -- one is "Tourists and Colonials" and the other is "Editors and Writers." I know one is all Christmas stories, and that one's hard to find.

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  2. Karen, besides the two OUP collections, and this one, I have "Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices & Other Stories" (from 1882), and a volume of Christmas stories published by the Trollope Society. Are your two part of the Society's editions?

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  3. What a neat coincidence indeed! Congratulations on your three-year anniversary.
    ~Kristin

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  4. I've only read his novels, and only a few of those. (He wrote 53 I think.) How he found time to fit in a couple of volumes of short stories is beyond me.

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  5. Kristin, thank you :) I really can't believe it's been that long!

    James, I wonder if he found the shorter format freeing, a change from the complications of his books? He wrote at least 42 of them, according to something I read.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!