He's one of the best-loved novelists of the 19th Century, whose work has been read and studied by academics and an army of fans, including Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.Now, I'll disagree with Julian Fellowes calling the present text of The Duke's Children "ineffective," but I will agree that it is something of an anti-climax. Certainly the descending action of the book, which focuses more on the next generation with the Duke acting as a foil to his children, loses some of the impetus that the preceding novels had created. Also, losing Lady Glen (oh, all right, the Duchess) in the first chapter, while a truly gutsy move, also deprives the move of Trollope's most reliable source of action and warmth in the series. Lady Glen is missed sorely. As Ellen Moody has pointed out, Simon Raven's adaptation of the novels puts off Lady Glen's death, and extends her role fairly dramatically.
But remarkably, none of them has been getting the full story of Anthony Trollope's work – until now. A novel 'butchered' at the time of its original publication has been restored after 135 years, and is being hailed as virtually a whole new book.
When The Duke's Children was submitted for publication in 1879, Trollope was forced to hack away more than 65,000 words – a quarter of the original text. But now the sixth and final instalment in his series of novels about the Palliser family is to be published as he intended.
Last night Lord Fellowes said: 'I couldn't be more pleased. The truncated version is an ineffective conclusion to the Palliser novels but this is tremendous and does justice to the series which came before.'
But the novel has its glories. The Duke's jealousy and his anger at Glencora's championing of Frank Tregear's courtship of Lady Mary (which he sees as a repudiation of their forced marriage) is excellently portrayed, and his injustice to Marie Finn (the former Madame Max) is even more so. We see Plantagenet's shadow side here, and Marie stands up to him with vigor. He is entirely in the wrong, and, ultimately, his own decency forces him, most reluctantly, to admit it.
It is in this novel that we get a glimpse into the Duke's feelings for Phineas Finn, in his answer to a question posed by his son over dinner at the Beargarden:
"To tell the truth it's a matter I don't care much about. They've got into some mess as to the number of Judges and what they ought to do. Finn was saying that they had so arranged that there was one Judge who never could possibly do anything."In Raven's screenplay, they have become closer than this; however, for Palliser, this is not nothing. It is the primary basis, in fact, from which I projected the relationship between the Duke and Phineas in Phineas at Bay.
"If Mr. Finn said so it would probably be so, with some little allowance for Irish exaggeration. He is a clever man, with less of his country's hyperbole than others;—but still not without his share."
"You know him well, I suppose."
"Yes;—as one man does know another in the political world."
"But he is a friend of yours? I don't mean an 'honourable friend,' which is great bosh; but you know him at home."
"Oh yes;—certainly. He has been staying with me at Matching. In public life such intimacies come from politics."
"You don't care very much about him then."
The Duke paused a moment before he answered. "Yes I do;—and in what I said just now perhaps I wronged him. I have been under obligations to Mr. Finn,—in a matter as to which he behaved very well. I have found him to be a gentleman. If you come across him in the House I would wish you to be courteous to him. I have not seen him since we came from abroad. I have been able to see nobody. But if ever again I should entertain my friends at my table, Mr. Finn would be one who would always be welcome there." This he said with a sadly serious air as though wishing that his words should be noted. At the present moment he was remembering that he owed recompense to Mrs. Finn, and was making an effort to pay the debt.
An expanded text will certain;y be richer with those character moments that make Trollope unique among his contemporaries. I'll be buying mine as soon as it's available, with thanks to The Trollope Society for keeping on it!