Trollope is an author eschewed in favor, perhaps, of Austen or Fielding. At any rate, I've never run across someone outside my family who has admitted to reading Trollope. This really ought not be, if only for the imaginative names that he gives to his characters that make them the double-butt of his wit - Mrs. Prime, the prim and proper controller of the house, Mr. Prong the minister who needles people, &c., &c.
On the eighteenth of May, I picked up a copy of "The Way We Live Now" by Trollope, which lovely edition was callously marked up by some free-thinking person who surmised in the margin that perhaps the reason that such and such a man wasn't kissed was because he was black. This person also espied Trollope's treatment of nature versus nurture. The real crime, though, is not such hideous distortions, but what it was that was subject to such decor - the book is a beaut with original illustrations and everything, and it's...marked. I love marking up books. My father, however, doesn't, so sometimes out of filial piety I promise that I won't write in it, and, on at least one occasion, my father's buying of a book for me was contingent upon such a promise. And then there are the books I can't read until I'm married. But. Point being. If the book is lovely, rare, and good, then it stays that way - if it is common then I have no qualms about doodling and scrawling and spilling things on it. I would be embarassed, otherwise, to own a book I professed to love yet looked unread.
The Way We Live Now is absolutely wonderful (thus far). The reader is introduced to the Carbury family, which consists of a widow, son, and daughter. The mother married young to a man of twice her age, and, though faithful to her husband, was quite miserable being an object of physical abuse and various other ill-treatment, from which she ran and garnered a questionable reputation. This widow is rather destitute due to the extravagance of her son, who is angelic to behold but has the character and depth of a paper doll, only twice as heartless.
The daughter, as all daughters generally are, is pure and sweet. From the indulgence that the mother proffers to her son, this daughter surmises that all men have vices which should be endured with tranquility, if not encouraged. Enter cousin twice her age, falls in love with her, and the mother (despite her bad experience with just such a marriage) does all she can to make the match. To be fair, the cousin really isn't a bad chap, but he does not exactly cut a romantic figure. The young girl unwittingly replies to his protestations of love that she is too young for marriage, and is promptly assured that, you know, when twelve months pass you'll be that much older. Feminine modesty, wot wot!
Her brother, meanwhile, is wooing a young heiress so's he can have her money. This is weary work: after a night at a ball whereat he nonchalantly whispered several small things into her ear, proclaims that this whole wooing thing is such a bore. There is passion for you. I'm now at the point where he has proposed to the poor heiress. Which heiress, was mercilessly bandied about as Quite A Good Match because her father is the richest man around, able to afford a ball rumored to cost sixty thousand £s. This girl submitted to being wooed by a couple men because her papa told her to - one match was almost made, but the father of the heiress would not trust the future son-in-law with half a million £s, to which the family lawyer retorted that if the father were content to trust his only child to such a man, would the money really matter? Well... yes.
It's such a funny mesh of people, with their little intrigues, their hypocrisies, the marriage market, the delicious descriptions and exposes of the character of the people through simple events that happen their way (the son, for example, holding on to twenty £s his mother lent him, when he has seven hundred and more at his disposal, because those twenty £s might be needed in order to secure this rich heiress). Read it, do.
There are about half a dozen books that I've started but proceed to read at a snail's pace: The Way We Live Now, Hogsfather (Pratchett), Saint Francis of Assisi (Chesterton), a Gene Wolfe book, another Graham Greene book, and no doubt much more. Someday, I will approach near-culture.
Here are some cheering lines from Saint Semonides (of Amorgos) - at least, this is what the men at my former college called him:
An Essay on Women
...and they stay with us. They won't go.
For women are the biggest single bad thing Zeus
has made for us. Even when a wife appears to help,
her husband finds out in the end that after all
she didn't. No day goes by from end to end
enjoyable, when you have spent it with your wife.
there is a woman in the house, no one can ask
a friend to come and stay with him, and still feel safe.
...For women are the biggest single bad thing Zeus
has made for us; a ball-and-chain; we can't get loose
since that time when the fight about a wife began
the Great War, and they volunteered, and went to hell.
I think I'm allergic to joy, because whenever I become really happy and start laughing muchly, my nose begins running. Humph. Bah! Humbug!