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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

Book Review
Castle Richmond
by Anthony Trollope
published in 1860

  1860 was a big year for classic literature.  Seven novels published in 1860 made the cut for the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die (2006 ed.) list.   You've got Great Expectations by my man Charles Dickens,  Ivan Turgenev, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne,  Dutch author Multatuli and of course Anthony Trollope.  Anthony Trollope placed four works onto the 2006 edition list.

  Anthony Trollope was certainly a writer who possessed insight into the market for his works. His prolific career is a testament to the contemporary popular and critical Audience during a very busy period in the literary world.   An easy way to see how relevant Anthony Trollope was with his contemporary Audience is to look at an Ngram comparing the popularity of Trollope, Eliot and Hawthorne between 1850 through 1870.  There you can see that Trollope was right there with George Eliot and Nathaniel Hawthorne between 1850 and 1870.

 I think the natural comparison is to Hawthorne- with Trollope occupying the same slot with the domestic UK audience for fiction as Hawthorne did in the United States.   I would also imagine that if you went into a high school or university level literature course Trollope would pop up as frequently there as Hawthorne does here.

 To give you some idea of the size of the bibliography of Anthony Trollope, Castle Richmond was the third of five novels Trollope wrote set in Ireland, and his tenth published novel.

    Trollope was not Irish, but he worked for the British government as an administration during the Irish Potato Famine.  Castle Richmond is set during the beginning of the Irish Potato Famine, and the main plot regarding the inheritance of the local estate by one or the other heir is interspersed with vividly observed descriptions of Famine-related suffering that don't quite gibe with inheritance related main plot.

    There are some American Psycho level funny moments when the landed British gentry interact with the local, starving peasantry.  Castle Richmond seems like a strange pick for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list given the sheer depth of the Trollope's catalog.  I think perhaps it was included because of the Irish/Potato Famine setting.

  One cautionary note is that it kind of sort of seems like Anthony Trollope was anti-semitic. Arguably anti-semitic. I wouldn't have even searched that phrase except for the odd descriptive touches that Trollope included in Castle Richmond.  I don't believe Castle Richmond is one of the examples of Trollope's anti-semitism in print, but he's got so many books...

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