The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lost Masterpiece

Imagine a novel sequence, building to a climax after five preceding volumes, reaching what is meant to be its grad conclusion in volume six.

And then imagine that the publisher made the author cut fully one-quarter of that last volume,solely for production costs purposes.

How good mist the author be to make that last volume a classic of English literature anyway, and what must the full uncut version be?

From the Folio Society:
24th April 2015 is the bicentenary of the birth of Anthony Trollope; commemorative events will be taking place throughout the year culminating in a service at Westminster Abbey in December. The Folio Society will mark the anniversary with the first ever publication of The Duke’s Children in its complete, unabridged form.

The final volume of Trollope’s Palliser novels and widely regarded as one of his finest, The Duke’s Children, in its current form, is considerably shorter than the preceding titles in the series. However, as originally written, it was of equal length, containing additional threads of plot and far richer characterisation. Due to economic constraints, Trollope was instructed to reduce the book by one quarter, cutting no less than 65,000 words.

The original manuscript of The Duke’s Children lay neglected in the Beinecke Library of Yale University for many years. Over the last decade several researchers, led by Professor Steven Amarnick, have been patiently working to restore the book to the original form the author intended. The first page of the manuscript, reproduced here, demonstrates not only the extent of the cuts – almost half the page was lost – but the problem of legibility the researchers had to overcome: Trollope’s handwriting is hard to decipher at the best of times, and even more so when struck through.

No knowledge of the earlier books is necessary to enjoy the plot chronicling the vicissitudes of the Palliser family, and the perilous paths of true – and false – love. To accompany the first complete edition of The Duke’s Children The Folio Society has commissioned essays from those closely involved in the restoration project; Professor Steven Amarnick, Robert F. Wiseman, Susan Lowell Humphreys and, chairman of The Trollope Society, Michael G. Williamson. These are printed in a separate commentary volume.

The new edition, made possible through a partnership between The Folio Society and the Trollope Society, also includes an introductio which has, fittingly, been written by Joanna Trollope, 5th generation niece to the author. The books will be half-bound in Indian goatskin with green canvas sides, gold blocking, gilded top edge, hand-marbled endpapers and a limitation page numbered by hand. Some special copies, forming part of the same hand-numbered limitation, will be made available full-bound in Indian goatskin, blocked in 22-carat gold, with hand-marbled edges and endpapers, and presented in a solander box.
It is an extraordinary literary event, and most fortuitously timed to fall in this bicentennial year.

Of course, I own several copies of the truncated edition--one the Copyright edition published by Tauchnitz, another part of a nice leather-bound set of the Barsetshire and Pallisers novels I picked up, and the 1970s OUP hardcover edition.

But those lost 65,000 words--who knows what they will add, in terms of the in depth characterization Trollope specialized in? 65,000 words--that's almost the entire recommended word count for a contemporary novel. Imagine what Anthony Trollope could do with all that?

Or, better yet, read it.

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