Sven Karsten: Dickens vs. Trollope: The History of Rivalry

“I have in a previous chapter said how I wrote Can You Forgive Her? after the plot of a play which had been rejected,—which play had been called The Noble Jilt. Some year or two after the completion of The Last Chronicle, I was asked by the manager of a theatre to prepare a piece for his stage, and I did so, taking the plot of this novel. I called the comedy Did He Steal It? But my friend the manager did not approve of my attempt. My mind at this time was less attentive to such a matter than when dear old George Bartley nearly crushed me by his criticism,—so that I forget the reason given. I have little doubt but that the manager was right. That he intended to express a true opinion, and would have been glad to have taken the piece had he thought it suitable, I am quite sure.”

An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope

 

“'Let's talk. We were speaking of Mr. Bazzard. It's a secret, and moreover it is Mr. Bazzard's secret; but the sweet presence at my table makes me so unusually expansive, that I feel I must impart it in inviolable confidence. What do you think Mr. Bazzard has done?'

'O dear!' cried Rosa, drawing her chair a little nearer, and her mind reverting to Jasper, 'nothing dreadful, I hope?'

'He has written a play,' said Mr. Grewgious, in a solemn whisper. 'A tragedy.'

Rosa seemed much relieved.

'And nobody,' pursued Mr. Grewgious in the same tone, 'will hear, on any account whatever, of bringing it out.'”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

 

C

HARLES Dickens was famous for such notable works as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, Bleak House and more than a dozen other novels that brought him people’s love and appreciation by the time he turned 43 in 1855. Dickens was a recognized master of novels, he had no match, except for Will Thackeray, who came up with his outstanding Vanity Fair seven years before.

The writer Anthony Trollope turned 40 when he finished his first novel The Warden in 1855. Later in his Autobiography he admits, that the novel-reading world didn’t get mad about The Warden and critics were too hard on him—for unintelligible plot and plenty of grammar mistakes throughout the text. Trollope tried himself as a playwright, writing a play The Noble Jilt five years before in 1850, which was never put on the stage.

Theodore Alois William Buckley an expert and a translator of Latin and Greek lan-guages wasn’t even an author himself. He made his living by submitting notes and articles for various magazines and translating classical works including Homer’s. Buckley was addicted to alcohol and opium and consorted with half of Londoners, including Charles Dickens. It was Buckley who initiated a confrontation between Dickens and Trollope, the confrontation having its echoes reflected in the authors’ novels: The Warden and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Buckley wrote a short four-page essay, which was published in the December issue of a weekly magazine edited by Charles Dickens in 1851. It was more like a story, with its plot based on The Whiston Case, which was a subject to wide discussions in London Press in the beginning of the 50s. The Rev. Robert Whiston, a Minor Canon of Rochester Cathedral and the headmaster of the King’s School, a cathedral school for boys, took on the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral with all clergymen, including his own Bishop. The reason for such discontent was clerical leaders’ outrageous (according to Whiston’s judgement) mercenariness and injustice towards the students of his school: boys’ stipends were as low as £5 a year and it had not been adjusted for more than two hundred years, while the clergymen didn’t forget to increase their own salaries once in a while, the increase had reached 10 times of the initial remuneration which made about £1000 by the time. As he couldn’t find understanding—it was refused to make adjustment for inflation increasing the stipends to £60 at least—he published a satirical pamphlet with his own money, attacking on the clerical vices. He was discharged because of that publication, but refused to leave the school and his post, he brought the matter to the court twice, suing the Deans, he was then reinstated, but wrote another pamphlet and was discharged again… Long story short, the incident was very popular and scandalous. Dickens who was also acquainted with The Rev. Whiston sympathized him and took the rebel Canon’s part.

Buckley called his work The History of a Certain Grammar-School, where he aggressively describes the confrontation between The Rev. Adolphus Hardhead, a fictitious headmaster of a Cathedral School and mercenary clergymen of Saint Costa-di-monga. The plot is very similar The Whiston Case, but the style makes it look more like another amusing incident of Punch magazine, rather than actual problem of the morality of clerical hypocrisy. Essay starts on the title page of the magazine with the editor’s (Charles Dickens) name on top, not mentioning the author, thus one might assume Dickens was the author of that article.

Anthony Trollope, after writing few more unsuccessful stories (recognized neither by public nor by critics) about country life of Ireland by 1851, decides to write a new novel based on The Whiston Case. Trollope said in his Autobiography, that he was inspired to that idea by his visit to Salisbury Cathedral, not mentioning whether he had a copy of Household Words with Buckley’s story of Hardhead in it. I think it’s obvious that he’d read the story, because even his protagonist’s name was similar to Buckley’s Canon: he simply took Adolphus Hardhead changing the name to Septimus Harding.

Anthony Trollope’s novel takes place in Barchester, which is likely to be a fictitious name of Rochester (but not Salisbury, as it was supposed to be). No wonder, that he chose Rochester as his city, for it was The Rev. Robert Whiston’s city—the city he was born in and became the headmaster of the King’s School and the city where he lived at Minor Canon Row, the very exact place that twenty years later is to become the home of Dickens’s Minor Canon Septimus Crisparkle.

The Rev. Harding from a school headmaster turns into a warden of Hiram’s hospital, a place supporting twelve elderly bedesmen. The hospital was founded long before by the will of a benevolent wool monger Hiram. There was also a vast pasture adjacent to the hospital, the rent for which was meant to provide the living of its bedesmen according to Hiram’s will. The bedesmen’s small stipend of 1s 6p had not been adjusted for inflation for centuries, just like in The Whiston Case.

The Almshouse of twelve bedesmen is related to Rochester more, than it is to Salis-bury—there is ‘The Six Poor Travellers’ Inn in the high street of Rochester remained to this day—by the will of Mr. Watt, a trader and philanthropist, who died back in the XVI century, each night six poor travellers could find shelter for night, following with breakfast and six-pence to continue the route. The very Inn became an inspiration to Dickens’s novel The Seven Poor Travellers, with Dickens himself as the seventh traveller.

As the years went by, that part of the pasture became the uptown, cottages built on the area were leased at a good rate, bringing ten times greater profit to the owners of Hiram’s fund (thus, Canon Harding earned £1000 for his sinecure instead of £100 mentioned in Hiram’s testament), while poor bedesmen still had to do with 1s 6p, plus additional 2p that kind-hearted Canon Harding paid from his own savings. Harding did not mind earning a good salary for basic work, unless John Bold, a young reformer (who eventually marries Harding’s younger daughter), settled down in Barchester and drew his attention to the issue.

John Bold starts a lawsuit, driven by juvenile maximalism against his future father-in-law, bringing the heavy artillery against him—he publishes a malicious feuilleton in a newspaper, attacking the owners of the hospital, who made profit for account of poor men. And then we can see how Trollope for the sake of the story messes with The Whiston Case: in reality, Canon was the one who fought for justice against his own clerical superiors (i.e. following the Commandments of Jesus Christ), while according to Trollope, John Bold, a mere middle-class man, rises against the Church, while deans and chapters mainly described as positive characters act as victims of his poorly considered civil activity. And only Eleanor Harding is able to save her father Canon, as she agrees to marry John Bold in. The lawsuit is withdrawn, however The Rev. Harding no longer considers himself rightful of earning his £1000’ remuneration, resigns from the office leaving the warden post for a small parish in the countryside near the Cathedral Close, where he gets The Rector position with much lower income—thus he shows his loyalty, but rather to Martin Luther’s than Christ’s Commandments.

From the moment of Harding’s departure poor bedesmen are left with the same 1s 4d per day, since twopence usually given by Harding has been withdrawn. The bedesman now realize their own greed and come to grief for being deluded by John Bold’s false promises, who sold the truth for the beauty of young Eleanor. And that very twopence becomes a token making Trollope’s stand in The Warden clear to his readers: he thought that the Church alone should be concerned for Justice and Charity, whereas the gentry (middle classes) and civil activists should rather focus on daily chores and family issues, as for the poor… they should be satisfied with that little they are being granted out of charity, otherwise there is a danger of losing it all.

Can you imagine The Rev. Robert Whiston’s feelings after reading (there is no doubt he read it) the Trollope’s novel, where his screaming heroic deeds for the sake of justice and love for his fellow men, his confrontation with the Bishop is opposed to Canon Harding’s refusal of remuneration—the deed that honestly could not be attributed to Harding’s prototype in real life; on the contrary, Whiston was strongly against resignation and would never be ‘seeking a shelter under a roof-tree’, he even brought a lawsuit twice to the court to be reinstated as the headmaster. Whiston was truly far from humility as Christians call it, besides he thought there were more opportunities to find justice for his student being the headmaster of a school (the justice according to his judgement). Anthony Trollope expressed that to his understanding, to worship God is just the same as to abandon Mammon, and even this is considered an excessive exception; while The Rev. Whiston proved his Christian love to his fellow men, standing his ground with confidence, he challenged uncompromisingly both Mammon and his mercenary-minded slaves. Long story short, the Canon of Rochester might feel nothing but offence for both him and his matter being satirized in Trollope’s novel The Warden.

However, Trollope was not satisfied with that caricature alone. It’s hard to say from the present moment, what was the reason, other than envy, that made unsuccessful Trollope making two unjustified parodies of the recognized masters of English Literature: Thomas Carlyle and even Charles Dickens. The later was given a nickname ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’ and was portrayed as a dynamic pen-pusher, who skilfully manipulated readers’ sentimentality for the sake of his own profit, coming up with speed stories of low quality, where he substituted life for grotesque an shallow fantasy. Trollope’s resentment is understandable: after his novel had been published he received a cheque for £9, 8s. 8d, while scribbler Dickens earned no less than £10,000 for his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Other comments made nothing but complaint for Trollope’s being unrecognized:

In former times great objects were attained by great work. When evils were to be reformed, reformers set about their heavy task with grave decorum and laborious argument. An age was occupied in proving a grievance, and philosophical researches were printed in folio pages, which it took a life to write, and an eternity to read. We get on now with a lighter step, and quicker: ridicule is found to be more convincing than argument, imaginary agonies touch more than true sorrows, and monthly novels convince, when learned quartos fail to do so. If the world is to be set right, the work will be done by shilling numbers.

Of all such reformers Mr Sentiment is the most powerful. It is incredible the number of evil practices he has put down: it is to be feared he will soon lack subjects, and that when he has made the working classes comforta-ble, and got bitter beer put into proper-sized pint bottles, there will be nothing further for him left to do. Mr Sentiment is certainly a very powerful man, and perhaps not the less so that his good poor people are so very good; his hard rich people so very hard; and the genuinely honest so very honest. Namby-pamby in these days is not thrown away if it be introduced in the proper quarters. Divine peeresses are no longer interesting, though possessed of every virtue; but a pattern peasant or an immaculate manufacturing hero may talk as much twaddle as one of Mrs Ratcliffe's heroines, and still be listened to. Perhaps, however, Mr Sentiment's great attraction is in his second-rate characters. If his heroes and heroines walk upon stilts, as heroes and heroines, I fear, ever must, their attendant satellites are as natural as though one met them in the street: they walk and talk like men and women, and live among our friends a rattling, lively life; yes, live, and will live till the names of their calling shall be forgotten in their own, and Buckett and Mrs Gamp will be the only words left to us to signify a detective police officer or a monthly nurse.

And then Trollope mocks Dickens’s style, showing how Mr. Popular Sentiment turns an elderly Canon passionate in music into a Fagin double—‘he was one who looked cruelly out of a hot, passionate, bloodshot eye; who had a huge red nose with a carbuncle, thick lips, and a great double, flabby chin, which swelled out into solid substance, like a turkey-cock's comb, when sudden anger inspired him’—the one who lives showing off his wealth, being in abundance for account of the poor bedesmen of the almshouse. This grotesque proves Trollope being a classical example of a windbag: first, a critic makes up something nasty, then attributes it to his opponent, shaming him for his own fable, and then terrifies with his amorality posturing for public. It is extremely difficult to reply to this abuse, since every single display of reasonable resentment may be considered as an attempt to justify one’s own obvious flaws and another prove for the deepness the opponents’ moral degradation.

Therefore Dickens acted wisely—he simply ignored Trollope with all his obvious criticism and ambiguous complements of Dickens’s skills paid to his parody—just like a heavily walking elephant ignores a vainly barking dog. Elephants are known for their outstanding memory, also Dickens—though he didn’t reply to Trollope’s attack immediately didn’t mean he could forget. He countered with a whole book fifteen years later, as it was expected of a novelist.

During these fifteen years, between 1855 and 1870, Trollope truly made it to the top novelists of his time, publishing a dozen novels and two dozen of shorter stories: his novel The Warden expanded into series of Chronicles of Barsetshire, the series concern the dealings of virtuous clergy and noble gentry, and thus Trollope succeeded in finding his own reader. Though his second attempt to write a play was also unsuccessful, Trollope sharpened his skills, but still remaining no match to Dickens with the swiftness, lightness and accuracy of his pen, just as it was in the beginning of his career—the grand master had been improving himself. During all this time Dickens had been watching the progression of Trollope gradually ascending the Olympus of literature, where Charles Dickens had reigned solely for decades. And at the moment of Trollope’s reaching the very top of that Olympus, Dickens determined it was the right time for letting his snobbish rival down to the foot of Dickens’s throne, where he was supposed to be.

He based his last novel on the story of The Rev. Robert Whiston, the same rebellious Canon Trollope described in his novel The Warden—fortunately, the acquaintance with much older but still vigorous Canon of Rochester Cathedral helped Dickens to create much more realistic and memorable image, as opposed to Trollope’s dim character Septimus Harding. Charles Dickens picked up Septimus—the same rare (and too artificial in my humble opinion) name for his character as did Trollope in The Warden, in order to make him notice his intention, and the last name Chrisparkle, a charactonym to signify the newly revised character possessed a ‘A Sparkle of God’. While Trollope was serious about naming his character Septimus (The Seventh), Dickens explained his choice with an irony—Crisparkle’s other six brothers died in their babyhood. Indeed, one can propose that poor Mrs. Crisparkle simply ran out of names when the seventh baby was born!

The succession of Canons’ names picked up by Buckley, Trollop and Dickens is obvi-ous:

Adolphus Hardhead — Septimus Harding — Septimus Crisparkle.

Thus, Dickens skilfully counters Trollope’s aphorism regarding Dickens’s characters being artificial: he takes the key character from Trollope, making him many times better, enlivens the character with the full power of his genius. Undoubtedly, Crisparkle is the main protagonist of the novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood—his heroic deeds, the confrontation with the Dean and the main Philanthropist Mr. Honeythunder, his fight for the soul and reputation of Neville Landless are the main ideas of morality in the novel. And what about Jasper you might ask? Isn’t he the key character? He sure is, Jasper is the key character or maybe half a character to be more accurate, because Crisparkle and Jasper are like Jekyll and Hyde, like Yin and Yang, two opposites completing one whole character, the rest characters only serve as setting and background to them, all the rest are minor characters (I’m going to discuss this issue in my next essay).

The main purpose of a parody is to humiliate and disgrace the original artwork, making it less sacred. But only the true master is able to achieve a better impact without humiliating, but rather improving the subject of his parody—showcasing the possibilities, that the author might have achieved if he only had talent; and then the original work reveals its true nature with imperfections and weaknesses to both readers and the satirized author. Dickens’s parody is of that rare kind.

Compare the following two fragments: the first one—from The Warden by Trollope…

The Rev. Septimus Harding was, a few years since, a beneficed clergyman residing in the cathedral town of ––––; let us call it Barchester. Were we to name Wells or Salisbury, Exeter, Hereford, or Gloucester, it might be presumed that something personal was intended; and as this tale will refer mainly to the cathedral dignitaries of the town in question, we are anxious that no personality may be suspected. Let us presume that Barchester is a quiet town in the West of England, more remarkable for the beauty of its cathedral and the antiquity of its monuments than for any commercial prosperity; that the west end of Barchester is the cathedral close, and that the aristocracy of Barchester are the bishop, dean, and canons, with their respective wives and daughters.

…and the second one—from The Mystery of Edwin Drood:

For sufficient reasons, which this narrative will itself unfold as it advances, a fictitious name must be bestowed upon the old Cathedral town. Let it stand in these pages as Cloisterham. It was once possibly known to the Druids by another name, and certainly to the Romans by another, and to the Saxons by another, and to the Normans by another; and a name more or less in the course of many centuries can be of little moment to its dusty chronicles.

An ancient city, Cloisterham, and no meet dwelling-place for any one with hankerings after the noisy world. A monotonous, silent city, deriving an earthy flavour throughout from its Cathedral crypt, and so abounding in vestiges of monastic graves, that the Cloisterham children grow small salad in the dust of abbots and abbesses, and make dirt-pies of nuns and friars; while every ploughman in its outlying fields renders to once puissant Lord Treasurers, Archbishops, Bishops, and such-like, the attention which the Ogre in the story-book desired to render to his unbidden visitor, and grinds their bones to make his bread.

Don’t these two fragments look like the same passage, only the first being written by a student, while the second by a master, the first one—by a smith, and the second—by a poet of the greatest kind? Do you see how the first version fades away satirizing itself in the glare of Dickens’s passage?

One more example: first goes Anthony Trollope…

The tea consumed was the very best, the coffee the very blackest, the cream the very thickest; there was dry toast and buttered toast, muffins and crumpets; hot bread and cold bread, white bread and brown bread, home-made bread and bakers' bread, wheaten bread and oaten bread; and if there be other breads than these, they were there; there were eggs in napkins, and crispy bits of bacon under silver covers; and there were little fishes in a little box, and devilled kidneys frizzling on a hot-water dish; which, by the bye, were placed closely contiguous to the plate of the worthy archdeacon himself. Over and above this, on a snow-white napkin, spread upon the sideboard, was a huge ham and a huge sirloin; the latter having laden the dinner table on the previous evening.

…and then Charles Dickens:

It was a most wonderful closet, worthy of Cloisterham and of Minor Canon Corner. Above it, a portrait of Handel in a flowing wig beamed down at the spectator, with a knowing air of being up to the contents of the closet, and a musical air of intending to combine all its harmonies in one delicious fugue. No common closet with a vulgar door on hinges, openable all at once, and leaving nothing to be disclosed by degrees, this rare closet had a lock in mid-air, where two perpendicular slides met; the one falling down, and the other pushing up. The upper slide, on being pulled down (leaving the lower a double mystery), revealed deep shelves of pickle-jars, jam- pots, tin canisters, spice-boxes, and agreeably outlandish vessels of blue and white, the luscious lodgings of preserved tamarinds and ginger. Every benevolent inhabitant of this retreat had his name inscribed upon his stomach. The pickles, in a uniform of rich brown double-breasted buttoned coat, and yellow or sombre drab continuations, announced their portly forms, in printed capitals, as Walnut, Gherkin, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mixed, and other members of that noble family. The jams, as being of a less masculine temperament, and as wearing curlpapers, announced themselves in feminine caligraphy, like a soft whisper, to be Raspberry, Gooseberry, Apricot, Plum, Damson, Apple, and Peach. The scene closing on these charmers, and the lower slide ascending, oranges were revealed, attended by a mighty japanned sugar-box, to temper their acerbity if unripe. Home-made biscuits waited at the Court of these Powers, accompanied by a goodly fragment of plum- cake, and various slender ladies' fingers, to be dipped into sweet wine and kissed. Lowest of all, a compact leaden-vault enshrined the sweet wine and a stock of cordials: whence issued whispers of Seville Orange, Lemon, Almond, and Caraway-seed. There was a crowning air upon this closet of closets, of having been for ages hummed through by the Cathedral bell and organ, until those venerable bees had made sublimated honey of everything in store; and it was always observed that every dipper among the shelves (deep, as has been noticed, and swallowing up head, shoulders, and elbows) came forth again mellow-faced, and seeming to have undergone a saccharine transfiguration.

Isn’t the first fragment much like a piano scale learnt zealously—while the second is more like the above-mentioned ‘delicious fuge’ by Beethoven or Handel? Isn’t it true, that Mr. Popular Sentiment was truly a powerful writer, as powerful as Anthony Trollope was boring and repetitive; that Charles Dickens possessed more talent in his pinkie, that Trollope in his whole being with its beard and erupted bile?

Well, Mr. Trollope, you say: ‘Mr Sentiment's great attraction is in his second-rate characters. If his heroes and heroines walk upon stilts, as heroes and heroines, I fear, ever must, their attendant satellites are as natural as though one met them in the street’, don’t you? What would you say if each second-rate character had a little of Trollope in it? Do you recognize your own self, for example, in Tope, ‘Mr. Tope, Chief Verger and Showman, and accustomed to be high with excursion parties...’? Tope-Trollope — it’s just too obvious!

'And the style of the English was good, though from most unpardonable carelessness the grammar was not unfrequently faulty.'

An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope

 

'Yes, Mr. Dean. I have stayed for him, your Reverence. He [Jasper] has been took a little poorly.'

'Say "taken," Tope — to the Dean,' the younger rook interposes in a low tone with this touch of correction, as who should say: 'You may offer bad grammar to the laity, or the humbler clergy, not to the Dean.'

Mr. Tope […] ,declines with a silent loftiness to perceive that any suggestion has been tendered to him.

Maybe Mr. Tope-Trollope simply couldn’t find any excuse? It sure must be embarrass-ing, when your own character Canon Septimus makes a remark, that your knowledge of English grammar is insufficient. Such a gentle mockery it is! No one would get it, but the person whom it was directed—Anthony Trollope!

But does Anthony Trollope recognize himself in Anthony (Tony-Stony) Durdles?

'Durdles was making his reflections here when you come up, sir, surrounded by his works, like a poplar Au-thor. — Your own brother-in-law;' introducing a sarcophagus within the railing, white and cold in the moonlight. 'Mrs. Sapsea;' introducing the monument of that devoted wife. 'Late Incumbent;' introducing the Reverend Gentleman's broken column. 'Departed Assessed Taxes;' introducing a vase and towel, standing on what might represent the cake of soap. 'Former pastrycook and Muffin-maker, much respected;' introducing gravestone. 'All safe and sound here, sir, and all Durdles's work. Of the common folk, that is merely bundled up in turf and brambles, the less said the better. A poor lot, soon forgot.'

Anthony Durdles, Mr. Poplar Author, who writes exclusively about ‘noble gentry’, and how hates ‘craftsmen and commoners’, those miserable people don’t even get a proper tombstone when they die. Is it a caricature to any other ‘Poplar Author’, who also gets stoned by critics after each and every novel he publishes?

Or maybe it is simply obvious? Does Anthony Trollope recognize links between his life events and the literature career of Mr. Bazzard, a clerk from Staple Inn? It is known, that young Trollope was a son of a London attorney, who ruined himself, and then decided to recover his financial well-being by leaving for countryside and becoming a leaseholder of a so called model farm. But Trollope Senior didn’t succeed as a farmer either, their financial troubles continued, they were starving, and young Anthony had to make his own living, therefore he worked as a clerk in a post office. According to Wikipedia Trollope said: ‘the first seven years of my official life were neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service.’ At the Post Office, he acquired a reputation for unpunctuality and insubordination. Doesn’t it sound like Bazzard to you?

'How came you to be his master, sir?' asked Rosa.

'A question that naturally follows,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'Let's talk. Mr. Bazzard's father, being a Norfolk farmer, would have furiously laid about him with a flail, a pitch-fork, and every agricultural implement available for assaulting purposes, on the slightest hint of his son's having written a play. So the son, bringing to me the father's rent (which I receive), imparted his secret, and pointed out that he was determined to pursue his genius, and that it would put him in peril of starvation, and that he was not formed for it.'

‘It was impossible to deny the position, that Mr. Bazzard was not formed to be starved, and Mr. Bazzard then pointed out that it was desirable that I should stand between him and a fate so perfectly unsuited to his for-mation. In that way Mr. Bazzard became my clerk, and he feels it very much.'

The next passage belongs to Trollope, but it could be easily taken for a note of Bazzard’s diary:

The mode of life was itself wretched. I hated the office. I hated my work. More than all I hated my idleness. I had often told myself since I left school that the only career in life within my reach was that of an author, and the only mode of authorship open to me that of a writer of novels.

Well, it’s true that after the death of ‘Bard of Avon’, writing become the best way to make one’s living and immortalize one’s name in history. Clerk Bazzard—‘A pale, puffy-faced, dark-haired person of thirty, with big dark eyes that wholly wanted lustre, and a dissatisfied doughy complexion […] A gloomy person with tangled locks.’— wrote (probably during his office hours) a play The Thorn of Anxiety, in search of glory, the play, that ‘nobody will hear, on any account whatever, of bringing it out.’ Clerk Trollope, who turned 30 wrote his first novel The Macdermots of Ballycloran during his extended assignments in 1842, a novel that was ‘an abysmal failure with the reading public’, — according to John Sutherland. Dickens played with the name of one of Trollope’s latest novels Doctor Thorne converting it into Bazzard’s The Thorn of Anxiety to make the hinting evident.

Thus, it could be understood, that Dickens intended his novel for public, but also for one particular person: Anthony Trollope, his colleague, in order to give him a lesson. The lesson that Trollope might not like, but the one he had to learn and remember. And lastly, here is a fragment from Autobiography by Trollope dated 1883, where he pays it back to the deceased novelist:

There can be no doubt that the most popular novelist of my time—probably the most popular English novelist of any time—has been Charles Dickens. He has now been dead nearly six years, and the sale of his books goes on as it did during his life. The certainty with which his novels are found in every house—the familiarity of his name in all English-speaking countries—the popularity of such characters as Mrs. Gamp, Micawber, and Pecksniff, and many others whose names have entered into the English language and become well-known words—the grief of the country at his death, and the honours paid to him at his funeral,—all testify to his popularity. Since the last book he wrote himself, I doubt whether any book has been so popular as his biography by John Forster. There is no withstanding such testimony as this. Such evidence of popular appreciation should go for very much, almost for everything, in criticism on the work of a novelist. The primary object of a novelist is to please; and this man's novels have been found more pleasant than those of any other writer. It might of course be objected to this, that though the books have pleased they have been injurious, that their tendency has been immoral and their teaching vicious; but it is almost needless to say that no such charge has ever been made against Dickens. His teaching has ever been good. From all which, there arises to the critic a question whether, with such evidence against him as to the excellence of this writer, he should not subordinate his own opinion to the collected opinion of the world of readers. To me it almost seems that I must be wrong to place Dickens after Thackeray and George Eliot, knowing as I do that so great a majority put him above those authors.

My own peculiar idiosyncrasy in the matter forbids me to do so. I do acknowledge that Mrs. Gamp, Micaw-ber, Pecksniff, and others have become household words in every house, as though they were human beings; but to my judgment they are not human beings, nor are any of the characters human which Dickens has portrayed. It has been the peculiarity and the marvel of this man's power, that he has invested his puppets with a charm that has enabled him to dispense with human nature. There is a drollery about them, in my estimation, very much below the humour of Thackeray, but which has reached the intellect of all; while Thackeray's humour has escaped the intellect of many. Nor is the pathos of Dickens human. It is stagey and melodramatic. But it is so expressed that it touches every heart a little. There is no real life in Smike. His misery, his idiotcy, his devotion for Nicholas, his love for Kate, are all overdone and incompatible with each other. But still the reader sheds a tear. Every reader can find a tear for Smike. Dickens's novels are like Boucicault's plays. He has known how to draw his lines broadly, so that all should see the colour.

He, too, in his best days, always lived with his characters;—and he, too, as he gradually ceased to have the power of doing so, ceased to charm. Though they are not human beings, we all remember Mrs. Gamp and Pick-wick. The Boffins and Veneerings do not, I think, dwell in the minds of so many.

Of Dickens's style it is impossible to speak in praise. It is jerky, ungrammatical, and created by himself in defiance of rules—almost as completely as that created by Carlyle. To readers who have taught themselves to regard language, it must therefore be unpleasant. But the critic is driven to feel the weakness of his criticism, when he acknowledges to himself—as he is compelled in all honesty to do—that with the language, such as it is, the writer has satisfied the great mass of the readers of his country. Both these great writers have satisfied the readers of their own pages; but both have done infinite harm by creating a school of imitators. No young novelist should ever dare to imitate the style of Dickens. If such a one wants a model for his language, let him take Thackeray.

As we could see, the proverb 'A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion' fits Trollope perfectly. Well, the history has sorted out the things for us: Dickens is still loved and recognized, while Anthony Trollope’s books are of no significance, and only valued by so called Trollopians, a narrow circle of his fans. None of his character ever to become an eponym.

The only question is still bothering me— did Anthony Trollope recognize his own protagonist Septimus Harding not only in Crisparkle, an improved, kind and heroic character, but also in opium-smoker John Jasper? Well, we’d better answer this question with a separate chapter of our investigation.

Translated by Lucius Tellus