misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

A memory: Anthony Trollope, silver fork novelist?

Dear friends and readers,

Another memory, not formative but telling.

On Twitter I'm a follower of the post-John Letts Trollope society. His fan club in the UK plans tiaras and toff affairs consistently (expensive), cruises in summer (as much as $2000 for the week, that's exclusive of the clothes, fare to the UK); the snobbery is ceaseless.  Trollope (I do believe) would have seen through these people and not come to play cards. I think of his crumpled hat, of so much of his fiction's presentation of people on the fringe of the middle class, let alone the top 10,000 as he does call them.

I asked the Admiral,  Why does Trollope attract this? Letts was able to moderate it, but him gone and they are back to silver forks again. The admiral suggested I had my clue in my casual phrase. He said that enough of Trollope's novels are the closest of the mid-century Victorian "great" novelists, with readable long books, to the silver fork books of the 1820s. Look at what books are still known and discussing: Barsetshire and Palliser novels. You need only forget about 1/3 of the novels and most of the short stories. What he, the Admiral, has wondered about is why Disraeli is not picked up by such a group. After all, he was also a powerful glamorous man in himself.  I responded: the lack of readability as Trollope himself says, but I remember how Trollope anathematized Disraeli and it was not just for the Jewishness. No he hated the book's moral thrusts which are sometimes genuinely political radical. Sybil has working class heroines who have sex outside marriage, drink and dance at taverns and, far from being punished, seem to be enjoying life and marry afterwards.

But my Captain countered with a memory. He asked if I remembered the one Trollope dinner we went to here in the US (it cost something like $260!). It was shortly after the publication of my book. Indeed I did. The only time in my life I've socialized with bankers. There were hot-shot lawyers at the reception.  And the only time I was in the super-wealthy Knickerbocker Club. I remembered the fancy dinner with wine flowing. The speakers included N John Hall. Of course they could call on him but when I attempted to speak to him, he more or less was curt and turned away.  He has spontaneously written me a couple of times, inveighing against David Case's readings of Trollope (which I love), but when I've asked him for help, he says he knows nothing beyond what's in his books and signs off.  His speech was moving, a genuinely in-depth reaction to Trollope. The second was a witty MP who gave a speech that amused and went over very well; I can only recall that he referred to me as "Ellen" as if he knew me, an acknowledgement of my newly published book.

But that's not the core of the memory. It's of he and I walked away from the Knickerbocker down 5th Avenue. We were filled with wine, champagne, food.  We were laughing.   Dressed elegantly. I had on an evening gown I had bought for the trip to England where we went to Lincoln's Inn for a dinner at the UK Trollope society. Emerald green with thin straps. Also high heels. He had on the tux and fancy shoes he had bought for that occasion.  (We did not buy new outfits for this second time in the US.)  It was a chilly night and he wrapped his jacket around my shoulders. He remembered how we were walking from one club to another for at that time the Williams Club was still going.

Inside the downstairs halls are all marble and there is wide grandstair with carved bannisters leading to the second floor

(The Williams Club as a building is no more. They ceased attracting enough people to use it often enough really as a club, and so a remnant of the membership has now goes to the very fancy modern Princeton building. The whole nature of the Cultural life spilling over from Williams College is gone.)

Well, saith the admiral, this is what these silver fork people want to experience; they want this lifestyle and Trollope is their intellectual-cultural mascot. He approved. He was part of it.  A site. Watching Film Adaptations is not enough. They don't count?

The admiral admitted not only had he enjoyed but it seemed a special moment. There walking so carelessly from one building (for privileged people) to another down the grand avenue leading away from the Park.

I do not remember the walk much only that indeed we walked away and were for the moment cheered and that I wrote about it on whatever Trollope list Mike Powe was hosting at the time.

It is true that the Trollope Society of NYC nowadays often makes the focus of its meeting an academic style paper from a college teacher, literary scholar in the wide area they can choose from. I do regret not living in NYC when I think of these sessions. I don't have the money it would take to get there in one day, listen, and home again. I would if I could.

Tags: anthony trollope, life-writing (mine), romance, social life

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