He Knew He Was Right

He Knew He Was Right

Book - 1994
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Publisher: London ; New York : Penguin Books, 1994
ISBN: 9780140433913
Characteristics: xxi, 834 p. ; 20 cm
Additional Contributors: Sutherland, John 1938-


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Jul 13, 2016

For its length (99 chapters) a tedious and verbose book, with little reward for the effort invested by the reader. Trollope's characters in this work are considerably less interesting than those in Barchester Towers, and the supposed parallel to Shakespeare's "Othello" far-fetched - Louis Trevelyan is no hero with notable service to his country on his C.V. He has indeed one achievement, success in the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge (or, was it Oxford ? - the author appears to change his mind in a later chapter), a seeming measure of intelligence which is contradicted by his almost uniform stupidity in the novel. Trollope was a mass-producer with little interest in checking and revision of his prodigious output; hence the significant number of contradictions between statements in different chapters, which a careful reader will note. In terms of characters, he is unable to produce strikingly original personalities, such as those who populate Dickens' novels, nor has he the outstanding descriptive powers of Thomas Hardy. The actual conversations recorded often jar and gall, with adult women using the speech of infants, with their frequent "papa" and "mama". This mode of speech is beautifully satirised in a far greater novel, Charles Dickens' "Little Dorrit" (1857), which Trollope probably did not read, in the words of the ridiculous Mrs. General (Ch. V of Book II): "Papa is a preferable mode of address; Father is rather vulgar, my dear. The word Papa, besides, gives a pretty form to the lips. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism...". Trollope's characters, as most in "Dorrit", learn nothing, enjoy little, make no interesting observations in Italy, fitting in perfectly with Dickens' older parody. Trollope, of course, largely disliked Dickens, attempting to make him look ridiculous in the figure of Mr. Popular Sentiment in "The Warden", venerating instead ("a great master") another producer of interminable novels, W. M. Thackeray. Lastly, one can only suppose that laws against libel in Trollope's day were very lax - apart from his attempted satire of Dickens in "The Warden", this work includes a virulent attack on the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle (whose history of the French Revolution inspired Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities") - an attack which might lead to a libel suit for defamation to-day. Similarly, in the present novel, he tells us nothing of the notable achievements of the now highly respected John William Colenso, D.D. (also a Cambridge mathematician, but a real one), but allows Jemima Stanbury to call him an "apostate and a traitor" second only to Judas Iscariot - and this, during Colenso's lifetime. One can only wonder at this piece of stupid insensitivity.
In conclusion, this novel might have been improved considerably by careful proof-reading, and pruning to one third of its length.

Nov 29, 2010

Louis causes consternation to his young loving wife when her bohemian ways are seen as a secret love affair. Too soon his mind is poisoned and he cannot believe he wasn't right all along.


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