August 24th, 2009

The Panjandrum

The Panjandrum is a short story by Anthony Trollope. I love Trollope’s writings but I realize that I will have a tough job convincing many people to agree with me. Therefore, I will not try very hard. If you don’t like Trollope, it is your loss. I will only say this: no other writer has ever conceived of as many characters whom I think I know, who I am convinced once lived three farms down the road, or was a neighbor of my mother’s cousin.

You must make some allowances for Trollope. He was a Victorian, a maligned and misunderstood generation, whose attitude toward gender and morality is startlingly different from anyone now alive. I can almost guarantee that your conception of what Trollope thought about these matters differs radically from what he thought.  If you begin to read his novels, you quickly find that power, sex, and money were uppermost in his character’s minds. His characters are obsessed and depressed, good and bad, driven by desire and destroyed by indifference, shaped by their  surroundings and ready to rise above their  environment. They are perceptive and dull. Fascinating and boring.

I have posted a short story by Trollope that a few of my writing friends may find especially interesting, although I think it also has general appeal. Trollope was primarily a novelist. He only wrote a handful of short stories compared to his over fifty novels. The Panjandrum is not Trollope’s best work, but it is good. As a short story, it is longish– close to twenty thousand words– and written in the first person, differing from most of his novels most of which are written from the view point of an omnicient narrator.  The Panjandrum was published as part of a collection, An Editor’s Tales, which was published after Trollope had become a magazine editor. As near as I can gather from the Trollope experts, the story is entirely fiction.  When I read it, I savor the realism of the characters and the situation and think of myself as a founder of the Panjandrum.

The Panjandrum

Part 1. Hope.
Part 2. Despair.