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Source: (consider it) Thread: February Book Group - The Warden
andras
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# 2065

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The Ship of Fools Book Group pick for February 2018 is Anthony Trollope's The Warden. This is the first book in his Barset series, and his first successful novel; it's a short, quick read and a good introduction to the other books in the series.

Numerous hard copy editions are available at all sorts of prices, and it's also a free Kindle download from Amazon.

I'll be posting some questions and thoughts on February 20th, so enjoy the read!

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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MaryLouise
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Looking forward to this. I have a print copy on my bookshelf, but may use the free download from Project Gutenberg so I can increase text size. My Kindle seems to have expired.

Easy-to-read Gutenberg Warden

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Sarasa
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Looking forward to this. I read the book years ago after seeing the BBC series of the first two books in the Barchester Chronocles series. It was the first time I came across Alan Rickman, who played Obidiah Slope.

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MaryLouise
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Damn, I missed that. I would watch Alan Rickman in anything.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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andras
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Sadly the Rev. Slope doesn't appear until the next book, along with the frightful Mrs. Proudie the Bishop's Wife. But this one does have the Archdeacon, who's pretty good value himself.

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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Cathscats
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I love this book, especially the character of the Warden himself.

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Trudy Scrumptious

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I read this and other Trollopes in grad school, where my 19th c lit course was basically a Trollope course because that was the prof's favourite 19th c novelist. I haven't picked him up since, although reading Catherine Fox's Lindchester series twice in the last couple of years made me want to revisit Trollope, as that's the original she's paying homage to. So I'm hoping to be in for this month.

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Brenda Clough
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I too have read this, but remember almost nothing of it. (My memory is like a sieve.) So I shall have to reread!

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
This is the first book in his Barset series, and his first successful novel; it's a short, quick read and a good introduction to the other books in the series.

I don't know that it's a perfect introduction. The Archdeacon Grantly we know and sort of love from Barchester Towers onwards is not exactly the same Grantly as we see here. And, as already said, no Mrs Proudie.
Still worth reading though.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Pigwidgeon

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# 10192

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My sister lent me The Warden about 25 years ago, with the warning that it was very difficult to get into, but once I did, I'd be hooked. I think I finally persevered on my third try -- and I was, indeed, hooked and read the whole series. Now that I'm retired I intend to do so again.

I have watched the BBC series several times, and -- of course -- loved Alan Rickman in it. [Waterworks]

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Brenda Clough
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How accurate is the BBC version to the book?

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andras
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
How accurate is the BBC version to the book?

Pretty close, from what I remember of it - including Mr. Harding's habit of playing his imaginary 'cello when feeling stressed. I think that The Warden occupied the first two programmes of - I think - a six-programme adaptation.

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Adrian Plass

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Bishops Finger
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Yes, the BBC series (available free on YouTube) was pretty good, though I could never quite accept Donald Pleasance as a convincing Mr. Harding - Pleasance had far too villainous a visage!

But, on the whole, The Warden is indeed a good read, with well-portrayed characters, and a very English (or should I say Anglican) plot.

It's a pity, in a way, that some of Trollope's other novels are IMHO rather cumbersome and verbose.

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Pretty close, from what I remember of it - including Mr. Harding's habit of playing his imaginary 'cello when feeling stressed. I think that The Warden occupied the first two programmes of - I think - a six-programme adaptation.

Something modern churchgoers won't pick up on, is that in the first half of the C19, the cello would have been seen as an ecclesiastical instrument much as we'd regard an organ today. By the time Trollope was writing, with the changes in church music going on at the time, it even had much the same sort of 'traditional' association as the organ has in contrast with guitars and the like now. So it is aligning the Revd Septimus Harding with the church life of his youth.

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Brenda Clough
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Now that I did not know. I do know that the cello was far more popular at one point in time. Jack Aubrey, the ship captain in the Patrick O'Brian novels plays the cello -- this was set during the Napoleonic wars.

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Bishops Finger
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By the time The Warden was published in 1855, the traditional west-gallery quires and bands were indeed becoming things of the past.

Thomas Hardy's father and grandfather both played in church bands, but by the time young Tom himself was growing up, in the 1840s, the musicians were mostly employed at social gatherings, rather than at Divine Service.

At the time of The Warden, of course, Barchester Cathedral had what we would now regard as the standard Anglican choir and organist, so despised, later in the series of novels, by the egregious Mr. Slope.

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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MaryLouise
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Sat up and read right through The Warden last night and put it down at 2am. I'm tempted to read nothing but Trollope like a guilty pleasure all through Lent, but will wait until after the book discussion.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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andras
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Our little C-i-W church still has a sort-of gallery band. Our excellent Fr. B is a great fan of Hardy, and has twisted various arms so that our Sung Eucharists every Sunday are accompanied by the combined strains of organ, flute and viola.

We don't actually have a gallery, so the flautist and violist play from the choir, sitting right by the organ console; it's absolutely lovely!

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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Bishops Finger
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How delightful! Well done, Fr. B..... [Overused]

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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Rossweisse

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I reread "The Warden" last year. (E-readers are a great invention, particularly for long flights on airplanes.) I now need to rewatch the BBC version; Alan Rickman (of blessed memory) was perfect as the odious Obediah Slope.

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Pangolin Guerre
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# 18686

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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
How delightful! Well done, Fr. B..... [Overused]

IJ

Indeed! Were the old Dean still in place, I'd suggest it to him, if only as a one off or occasional event. The current one, I suspect, would react coldly. Nonetheless, good on Fr B.'s display of playful good taste.
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MaryLouise
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I can't help feeling FrB would find a kindred spirit in the warden Mr Harding's passion for church music and his secret extravagance:

'Since his appointment to his precentorship, he has published, with all possible additions of vellum, typography, and gilding, a collection of our ancient church music, with some correct dissertations on Purcell, Crotch, and Nares. He has greatly improved the choir of Barchester, which, under his dominion, now rivals that of any cathedral in England.'

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Anselmina
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'The Warden' is a clever presentation of several perennial problems.

The problem of where 'justice' and 'righteousness' really do lie. John Bold, has a point, doesn't he? Isn't Harding being overpaid for what is really quite a comfortable sinecure? Is it really good use of the charitable funds? Even in today's parlance it might appear that the Aims and Objectives are not being met! However, the hospital pensioners are, or at least were, happy, content. Harding is kind, conscientious, pious, a genuine pastor to his 'old men', even if not exactly overworked. On whose behalf is Bold agitating such unnecessary controversy. It appears that it is only in Bold's tender conscience where the trouble lies; and he has nothing personally to do with the matter.

Sub-plot: Bold is also courting Harding's daughter. At what height of marytyrdom is Bold uselessly aiming, to demonstrate just how 'disinterested' his concern for the hospital pensioners is? Again, the word 'unnecessary' seems to fit here.

Summing up: Bold may have a point. BUT no-one was being hurt, far from it. Godly work was being carried out conscientiously and all was right with the world. Is it only for the appeasing of his own tortured moralising that Bold is agitating the wasps' nest? He is a good enough person to know, later, he did no good. He is appalled that he can't undo what he has set in train.

So that's problem one.


Next, the problem of a mischievous media wanting to sell copy, and a crusading journalist always on the lookout for a nice 'vehicle' for his artistic and moralising talents, regardless of context and consequences. And - even in those days - compromising of the truth.

The problem of naive and innocent people (Harding) who are pulled into the issue and left high and dry when the media circus has got bored and moved on to their next moral platform.

This is exacerbated when the hospital pensioners whose only complaint, hitherto, was the cello-playing of their warden, are alerted by the press of their 'injustice'. They have benefited from the quiet and kindly christian ministry of Harding for years, but now that they've been told they are in fact victims of Harding's greed, they want what's due to them. Their status, as a result of the campaign on their behalf, is ultimately damaged, however. Their hopes and avarice, awakened by Bold's moralising and the press's mischief, result in their disappointment, and even shame.

The problem of the 'righteous defence', typified by Grantly. Energetic, non-negotiable, aggressive. The grace of perhaps being morally right seems to lose some of its graciousness in Grantly's explosive righteous indignation, which the under-siege Warden finds equally as repugnant as the injustice of Bold's campaign.

The problem of the Law. Harding's lawyer is brought into the question, and as we all know, when you go to the Law, don't always expect justice. Despite it's not being the good or the best solution, Harding is convinced that resignation is the 'right' - the lawful - solution. More confusion.

Trollope is great at blending all this, making it real, offering well-developed believable characters, and raising questions: what would I do? How would I respond? Great stuff!

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ACK
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Just downloaded 'The Warden'. Haven't read any Anthony Trollope in years, but was thinking about it,so this is a good spur to get on with it. I was introduced both to Trollope and Alan Rickman by that dramatisation. Hoping the book is as good as I recall. Rickman, of course, continued to be brilliant in everything I subsequently saw him in.

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andras
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Can I ask everyone please to be careful and mark or (better) avoid spoilers - we only started this thread three days ago and not everyone's read as far as you have.

Thanks!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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BroJames
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# 9636

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Now that I did not know. I do know that the cello was far more popular at one point in time. Jack Aubrey, the ship captain in the Patrick O'Brian novels plays the cello -- this was set during the Napoleonic wars.

IIRC it’s Stephen Maturin who plays the cello. Jack Aubrey plays the violin.
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Brenda Clough
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Could be; it's been some years since I've read the O'Brian books. I do remember that Aubrey has an Amati which is judged to be well above his station.

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Anselmina
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Can I ask everyone please to be careful and mark or (better) avoid spoilers - we only started this thread three days ago and not everyone's read as far as you have.

Thanks!

Ooops. I've misunderstood what the thread was about. I thought it was about discussing the book. Many apologies!

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andras
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# 2065

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quote:
Originally posted by Anselmina:
quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Can I ask everyone please to be careful and mark or (better) avoid spoilers - we only started this thread three days ago and not everyone's read as far as you have.

Thanks!

Ooops. I've misunderstood what the thread was about. I thought it was about discussing the book. Many apologies!
Anselmina, the reminder was meant for myself as much as anyone else - I easily get dragged into any sort of Lit Crit (too easily, Mrs. Andras would say)!

But the discussion really opens on the 20th or thereabouts, to give everyone a chance to get to the end of the book. In the meantime all sorts of comments are welcome, as long as they don't reveal the plot - or, if you really must unburden yourself, warn us with a Spoiler Alert please.

Will Mr Harding be persuaded to stay as Warden?
Will the Archdeacon have a fit of apoplexy?
Will John Bold run off with Tom Towers and open a boarding house in Margate? (Now, that would be a development that I'm sure didn't occur to Trollope!)

Thrills, spills and cliff-hangers...

Well no, not really...

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Trudy Scrumptious

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I started yesterday and, predictably, realized I'd forgotten how good Trollope is.

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Books and things.

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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The thing that strikes me is how the pace of fiction has changed. You need to give the Victorians time; they're not going to open up on page 1 with the explosions and the murders and the girls flinging their panties off. We, operating at the speed of Wifi, have different expectations of our storytellers. We have to shift gears.

This may be also a function of how the work was published. Am I correct, that this work (like most of Trollope, Dickens, Gaskell, etc.) first appeared in serial form? That was a whalebone corset that highly constricted how the work was written. Even after the serialization was finished, the author expected to (and did) extensively revise the text for the book edition. Entire academic careers have been erected upon the foundation of analyzing how much these works were rewritten, and why, when they were republished in hard covers.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Am I correct, that this work (like most of Trollope, Dickens, Gaskell, etc.) first appeared in serial form?

First published in one volume if I read the chronology at the front of my edition right. I think most of Trollope's books were published as three volume novels: in one of them Trollope complains (tongue in cheek I presume) that his publisher won't let him have a fourth volume to tie up all his loose ends.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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andras
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# 2065

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Serial rights were where an author could make serious money, apparently, but Trollope wasn't in a position to get those until a lot further on in his writing career.

The first printing of The Warden took a while to sell out, and Trollope admitted that he'd have made better money breaking stones.

By the time Framley Parsonage came along he was an established author with a devoted following - Mrs Gaskell enjoyed the serial parts so much that she wished that it would never end (she'd have loved a good tv soap!) - but even Barchester Towers ran into serious objections from the publisher's reader, who was very much put out by the Signora Neroni as well as by the Proudies and the Rev. Slope - exactly the characters that a modern reader is most likely to love.

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Enoch
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# 14322

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But Trollope had quite a reasonable job in the Irish Post Office.

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Brenda Clough
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He did -- but writing, once his career took off, paid a lot better. OTOH without the postal job he would have starved to death before ever completing a novel, so it's just as well.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
OTOH without the postal job he would have starved to death before ever completing a novel, so it's just as well.

In addition while in the job Trollope had the idea for the free standing red letter box.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Rossweisse

High Church Valkyrie
# 2349

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quote:
Originally posted by MaryLouise:
...'Since his appointment to his precentorship, he has published, with all possible additions of vellum, typography, and gilding, a collection of our ancient church music, with some correct dissertations on Purcell, Crotch, and Nares. He has greatly improved the choir of Barchester, which, under his dominion, now rivals that of any cathedral in England.'

That's just one reason I love his character.

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I'm not dead yet.

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Rossweisse

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# 2349

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Could be; it's been some years since I've read the O'Brian books. I do remember that Aubrey has an Amati which is judged to be well above his station.

Oh, yes, it would be.

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I'm not dead yet.

Posts: 15117 | From: Valhalla | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
andras
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# 2065

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
But Trollope had quite a reasonable job in the Irish Post Office.

... which was then, of course, simply the GPO rather than an Irish institution per se. He apparently did his Post Office work in England very badly and with an ill grace until he was sent over to Dublin with, if I remember correctly, a note from his superiors suggesting that he should be sacked as soon as possible.

But he fell in love with Ireland and the Irish, rode all over the country working out possible routes for the rural postmen (always men then!) and developed a passion for hunting, though he admitted in his autobiography that he rode very badly to hounds.

And, yes, he invented the pillar box too!

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Adrian Plass

Posts: 544 | From: Tregaron | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Pigwidgeon

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# 10192

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quote:
Originally posted by Pigwidgeon:
My sister lent me The Warden about 25 years ago, with the warning that it was very difficult to get into, but once I did, I'd be hooked. I think I finally persevered on my third try -- and I was, indeed, hooked and read the whole series. Now that I'm retired I intend to do so again.

Thanks, everyone -- this thread convinced me it's time to read the whole series again. I started The Warden last night, and finding it much easier to get into this time. Now I'm excited about re-reading all of them (probably interspersed with other books in between).

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"...that is generally a matter for Pigwidgeon, several other consenting adults, a bottle of cheap Gin and the odd giraffe."
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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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If you read his autobiography, you can discern that (by his own admission) the young Anthony was very nearly worthless. In early adulthood he scraped along unable to support himself, got his first clerk job due to the influence of his mother's friends, and then spent all his time slacking off, looking for things to drink and friends to introduce him to girls. It was only when his employer shuffled him off to Ireland (passing the bad penny along in hopes of getting rid of it) that he found his way. He didn't start writing seriously for a good while. He was one of those late-maturers, only becoming a worthwhile person later on in life. Actually a hopeful tale, when you consider all the slackers and layabouts of your acquaintance. Maybe one of them shall grow up to be a titan of literature.

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andras
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# 2065

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
If you read his autobiography, you can discern that (by his own admission) the young Anthony was very nearly worthless. In early adulthood he scraped along unable to support himself, got his first clerk job due to the influence of his mother's friends, and then spent all his time slacking off, looking for things to drink and friends to introduce him to girls. It was only when his employer shuffled him off to Ireland (passing the bad penny along in hopes of getting rid of it) that he found his way. He didn't start writing seriously for a good while. He was one of those late-maturers, only becoming a worthwhile person later on in life. Actually a hopeful tale, when you consider all the slackers and layabouts of your acquaintance. Maybe one of them shall grow up to be a titan of literature.

And having spent half his life slacking, he turned into an absolute workaholic, aiming to produce a (large) fixed number of words each day, written in pencil, often on railway journeys but also on board ship, which were then copied out tidily by his long-suffering wife.

I'm very much of the fixed-number-of-words persuasion myself (just finished today's quota, actually) but I certainly wouldn't start on the next book if I'd finished the current one with some of my word-count total left unused - which is what Trollope did.

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

Posts: 544 | From: Tregaron | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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I would argue that the pressure of filling the quota makes for weaker prose (the National Write a Novel in November effect). But OTOH he had the pressure of serialization behind him. To be able to write the serial, month by month or week by week, and have it appear before you've finished the thing, is like walking out on a high wire.

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Rossweisse

High Church Valkyrie
# 2349

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I believe in getting it down, and then editing the hell out of it. Having a word-count goal can help with that.

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I'm not dead yet.

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andras
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# 2065

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I would argue that the pressure of filling the quota makes for weaker prose (the National Write a Novel in November effect). But OTOH he had the pressure of serialization behind him. To be able to write the serial, month by month or week by week, and have it appear before you've finished the thing, is like walking out on a high wire.

I think you're right about the dangers of a quota; but then, without the need to get something down on paper, how many writers would ever finish anything? Douglas Adams was so famously dilatory at doing any work that at one point his editor actually moved into his flat to force him to get on with it, at which point he finally sat down at the keyboard and got on with it.

It's the same with most writers' groups: the requirement to write a poem / chapter / short story on X by next Thursday is a wonderful stimulus to imagination, and darned good discipline too.

But yes, it then needs editing! Once again, a good writers' group that doesn't mind giving honest advice and opinions is a wonderful thing. But sadly too many of them tend to pussyfoot around and not speak the hard truths that a writer needs to hear.

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

Posts: 544 | From: Tregaron | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged
Sarasa
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# 12271

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Just finished the book yesterday and I'm looking forward to the discussion.
I'm in the 'put something/anything down on paper' and then edit it camp when it comes to writing. Trouble is getting something down in the first place.

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'I guess things didn't go so well tonight, but I'm trying. Lord, I'm trying.' Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets.

Posts: 2035 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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Clearly this is one of the (enormously many!) different strokes issues. Many writers do not need the support and encouragement of a group or an editor; the story is a pressure from within like a full bladder, and you have to sit down and write to get it out. I get the sense that Tolkien was like this; you don't grind out all that stuff about the First Age without being kind of obsessive. Also this varies from day to day or even book to book; writers love it when the Muse is insistent because then production is easy and the wind is at your back.

I think it could be proven by looking at the books (although not necessarily this one) that Trollope was of the grind-it-out school. This, combined with the longeurs of the Victorian story style, makes some of the later Barchesters a tough slog. Because The Warden is shorter and his first venture into Barchester it's the most accessible, what do you think?

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Bishops Finger
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# 5430

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Brenda said:
quote:
I get the sense that Tolkien was like this; you don't grind out all that stuff about the First Age without being kind of obsessive.

Very true - and inventing the various forms of Elvish must have been a sort of busman's holiday for him, being a philologist. What an incredibly broad and deep imagination he possessed!

/Very Small Spoiler Alert/

Back to The Warden for a moment, there is mention in the story of a certain very small parish church within the city of Barchester. Those of you familiar with the book will know whereof I speak, but does anyone know if it was based on a church IRL? A bit of Googling suggests that it's an amalgam of a couple of long-gone churches in Bristol, but the scanty notes in my edition of the book make no mention of whether Trollope had any particular example in mind.

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

Posts: 10149 | From: Behind The Wheel Again! | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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Somebody somewhere must have created a map of Barchester town, I say to myself. And behold, the power of the Google! You can click on the maps to biggify them.

Here is a larger discussion of Barsetshire's geography.

And this image is especially fine.

All these links are a free click.

[ 07. February 2018, 14:35: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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Posts: 6378 | From: Washington DC | Registered: Mar 2014  |  IP: Logged
andras
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# 2065

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I've been known to describe writing as the most fun one can have with one's clothes on, but yes, even then I sometimes have to drag out the words; but I'm not sure whether the end result is really better then or worse than when 'the wind's behind you'. One can write an awful lot of twaddle when it's all flowing freely!

The Last Chronicles has never struck me as being 'ground out' I must say; indeed, I find some parts of it incredibly powerful. But The Way We Live Now shows Trollope writing in anger rather than just telling a story, though being who he is, it's still a pretty restrained sort of anger. Moderate Anglican to his fingertips was Trollope!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

Posts: 544 | From: Tregaron | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged



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