The Lost Chronicle of Omnium | The Rediscovery of The Duke’s Children
It is a remarkable fact that one of the best-known novels by one of the greatest 19th-century English novelists has never been published in the form its author intended. Anthony Trollope wrote The Duke’s Children as a four-volume work but then reduced it to three, necessitating the loss of almost a quarter of his original text. The precise reason is lost to posterity but is likely to have been a demand from his publishers on the grounds of economy; it would not have come from Trollope himself, who had earlier written in his Autobiography: ‘I am at a loss to know how such a task could be performed. I could burn the MS., no doubt, and write another book on the same story; but how two words out of every six are to be withdrawn from a written novel, I cannot conceive.’
Yet this is precisely what he was obliged to do, and 65,000 words ended up on the cutting-room floor. As he wrote to John Blackwood not long after making the revisions: ‘I am bound to say that I have never found myself able to effect changes in the plot of a story. Small as the links are, one little thing hangs on another to such an extent that any change sets the whole narrative wrong. There are so many inﬁnitesimal allusions to what is past, that the whole should be rewritten or it will be faulty.’ It was meticulous, exacting and soul-destroying work.
The original manuscript of The Duke’s Children has lain neglected in the Beinecke Library of Yale University for many years. However, over the last decade several researchers, led by Professor Steven Amarnick, have been patiently working to restore the work to its original, fully extended version. The first page of the manuscript, 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.
Although Trollope was able to edit The Duke’s Children so that the narrative did not go ‘wrong’—and that he was able to do so is a remarkable achievement—it is hard to imagine many readers, faced with the massive accumulation of details now included for the ﬁrst time, who won’t agree that the restored novel is richer, more complex, more Trollopian: a clearly superior book to the one that has always been published.
To accompany the first complete edition of The Duke’s Children, we have commissioned essays from those closely involved in the restoration project; these are printed in a separate commentary volume. The essays consist of:
- An introduction by Steven Amarnick, telling the whole story of the book and its restoration, and illuminating the effect of the restored passages on our understanding of the book.
- A detailed listing of the principal cuts by Robert F. Wiseman, with observations on the different types of cuts employed by Trollope and their significance.
- An essay by Susan Lowell Humphreys on the manuscript itself, and what it tells us about Trollope’s working methods.
- Contextual notes by Michael G. Williamson on key issues and institutions: fashion, customs and etiquette; the position of women; parliament and the political process; sports and pastimes; gentlemen’s clubs. Also a comprehensive index of characters, cross-referenced with the rest of the Trollope canon.
While the novels of Anthony Trollope are remarkably consistent in quality, his fame rests particularly on The Way We Live Now – a scathing satire of contemporary life which found particular resonance during the financial scandals of recent years – and his two great sequences, the Barsetshire Chronicles and the political or Palliser novels, which culminate in The Duke’s Children. Trollope’s thorough acquaintance with political life (indeed he stood as parliamentary candidate for the Liberals) is much in evidence in these works, while their main plots chronicle the triumphs and vicissitudes of the Palliser family, and the perilous paths of true – and false – love.
Our limited edition of The Duke’s Children is now available.
Explore the edition and read more about the life of Anthony Trollope here