Stephen Wall sees as crucial those passages in An Autobiography where Trollope rhapsodises on his equality with the personages of his fiction: 'There is a gallery of them, and of all in that gallery I may say that I know the tone of voice, and the colour of the hair, every flame of the eye, and the clothes they wear. Of each man I could assert whether he would have said these or the other words; of every woman, whether she would then have smiled or so have frowned.' These Trollopian people did not dissolve with the end of their novels and novel sequences. After the narrative had done with them, they were like friends who go to live in another town: no less solid because out of view. A character like Plantagenet Palliser ducks in and out of novels for the best part of two decades, evolving between his appearances from odious young prig to noble old man. Like wine in the cellar, he was maturing, even when we couldn't see him. The author, Trollope claimed in another rhapsody, must be prepared to argue with his characters, 'quarrel with them, forgive them, and even submit to them'. Trollope, not to put too fine a point on it, verges on the crazy in his insistence that his characters 'live'. One would like to think it a foible - Pirandelloish game-playing. But he goes on about it at such length that we have in the end to believe that Plantagenet Palliser, Glencora, Lizzie Eustace, Madame Max, Phineas Finn and all the rest of the gallery were as real to him as Joan of Arc's voices, Blake's angels or Elwood P. Dowd's giant white rabbit, Harvey.
LRB 2 February 1989 | PDF Download