Like his savagely accurate — and very funny — parody of Carlyle as Dr. Pessimist Anticant, Trollope's parody of Dickens both accurately characterizes that other great contemporary and makes clear where Trollope believes Dickens fails as a novelist. As you read the following few paragraphs, see if you can find the theory of characterization implicit in them. Which characters in The Warden act as intended contrasts to those created on the Dickensian method?
The passage begins when the man who would marry the warden's daughter catches sight of a Dickens-like (Dickensian!) novelistic attack on his future father-in-law. "Passing into the Strand," John Bold
saw in a bookseller's window an annoumcement of the first number of the "Almshouse;" so he purchased a copy, and hurrymg back to his lodgings, proceeded to ascertain what Mr. Popular Sentiment had to say to the public on the subject which had lately occupied so much of his own attention.
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 comfortable, 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 callings shall be forgotten in their own, and Buckett and Mrs. Gamp will be the only words left to us to signify detective police officer or a monthly nurse.
"The Almshouse" opened with a scene in a clergyman's house. Every luxury to be purchased by wealth was described as being there. ["Tom Towers, Dr. Anticant, and Mr. Sentiment"]
Trollope also includes a history of the novel that emphasizes that novelists and their readers have shifted their interest from upper classes to workers and what Carlyle called "Captains of Industry." What would Trollope think of claims that this movement down the social scale has produced more realistic visions of the world?
What does Trollope imply about the nature and role of protagonists — characters he calls heroes and heroines? How does this conception of the main character influence The Warden?
Last modified 2000