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Complete Short Stories. Vol. 1. The Christmas Stories

de Anthony Trollope

Outros autores: Betty Breyer (Editor)

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: Complete Short Stories of Anthony Trollope (1)

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When one hears the words Victorian and Christmas in the same sentence, they immediately think of Christmas miracles, Christmas trees and a ghost or three. If you expect any of this here, you are reading the wrong author. Trollope used Christmas mostly as a marker of time, as a time for the family to get together but then wrote his usual stories - dealing with people's hearts and their reactions to what was happening to them. Most of his Christmas stories can be moved into another time and as long as one can invent a reason for the people to be together at that time and for the weather to be the same, the stories will still work.

This first volume of the collection edition of all his stories collects the 8 which are considered Christmas ones:

The Mistletoe Bough (originally published in The Illustrated London News, Christmas Supplement, 21 December, 1861; collected in Tales of All Countries, Second Series, 1863) is essentially a love story. Elizabeth Garrow had been happily engaged to the young banker Godfrey Holmes but for some reason, she decides that she is not going to be a good wife and breaks the engagement. Then he shows up in her house, still in love with her as much as she is with him. What follows is almost a tragicomedy - but the season and actual sense prevail.

Christmas at Thompson Hall (originally published in The Graphic, Christmas number, 1876; collected in Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and Other Stories, 1882) surprised me. I never think of Trollope as a comedic author - he does not seem to have the correct timing in his prose for that - he is always too serious and too busy exploring yet another hidden part of a character's heart. And yet, here he shows that he can get the timing right creating one of those stories that at a later age may be material for a stand-up comedy routine (or a variety show). Mrs. Brown and her sickly husband (well, you will also get sickly if you need to deal with your in-laws when you are married to Mrs. Brown) are traveling from France to her old home at Thompson Hall to meet her sister's future husband. While at a Parisian hotel, the husband takes ill and she decides to make him a mustard poultice - except that somehow in the dark she ends up in someone else's room and gets the concoction on them instead. Hilarity (not for the characters but for the readers of course) ensues when she is discovered and the whole sordid story comes to light. And then the final scene closes the story in the best possible way (my note about the comedic timing should tell you where that story was going even if you did not figure it out earlier).

Christmas at Kirkby Cottage (originally published in Routledge's Christmas Annual, 1870) is another love story of two lovers who had separated - this time because the intended groom, Maurice Archer, had been insensitive enough to tell his future bride that he does not like Christmas (and here I was thinking only the Twitter generation can break up for something like that). A classical case of misunderstanding of who means what when they say Christmas - and all it requires is for both of them to talk and to listen to the other. Replace the setting with Facebook (or whatever the cool kids use today) and that story can happen again.

The Two Heroines of Plumplington (originally published in Good Cheer, the Christmas number of Good Words, December 1882) - set in Barsetshire, it is the only one of the 8 stories that ties to his novels in any way and uses Christmas to resolve yet another love problem (2 of them actually). Two young women had fallen in love with men their fathers do not approve - the bank manager really does not want his daughter Emily to marry one of his cashiers and the local brewer believes that his daughter Polly, who had been raised to believe herself part of the higher class, to marry the malt dealer. Both of them decide to fight their fathers in their own way - Emily by taking ill, Polly by refusing to do all the things she used to and claiming that she needs to stay in her own class. It comes down to the rector at Plumplington to invite both families and both young men for Christmas dinner for the whole affair to come to a head. This is the only one of the 8 stories I had read before and I enjoyed it as much as I did the previous times I've read it.

The Widow's Mite (originally published in Good Words, January 1863; collected in Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories, 1867) ties with the Lancashire Cotton Famine and the efforts (mainly via relief committees) in England to try to assist the people who needed help). Nora Field, a young woman who lives with her uncle Reverend Mr. Granger, is about to get married to an American and had spent the last few years collecting the money for her trousseau. With the Reverend active in one of these relief committees, Nora is torn between becoming a wife in the expected way and giving away her things to people who need the money to survive. The ending is sweet - in a lot of ways. The title itself is a reference to the Bible (Mark 12:42, King James version for the word mite, any version for the reference) and Trollope ties it into the story (by having Nora consider it when wondering what to do and then making her decision).

And while the previous story deals with some of the aftermath of the American Civil War in England, the next one The Two Generals ( originally published in Good Words, December 1863, collected in Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories, 1867) takes us straight to the Civil War itself. The Reckenthorpes live peacefully in Kansas until the war starts and the two sons decides to join - on opposite sites. The fact that both of them are in love with the same woman does not help matters. The story proceeds to show us the two of them on subsequent Christmases - while the war rages and the family is split. In a way, it ends up being a love story again but it is very different in both style and feeling from any of the others in the volume.

Catherine Carmichael; or, Three Years Running (originally published in Masonic Magazine, Christmas number, 1878; never collected?) takes us to the other end of the world - New Zealand. Catherine Baird had been born to a Scottish family which fell on bad times and moved to New Zealand when she was 10. Unfortunately, the life of a miner is a poor one and having a big family does not help. So when she and her siblings lose both their parents, Catherine is a bit too old to be shipped back to an aunt so instead is married to an old associate of her father - a man who is disagreeable to start with and gets even worse as time progresses. He has only one good feature - a young nephew - who unfortunately has no money so Catherine has no choice in whom to marry. And just when she starts to settle, he nephew comes back to the sheep farm. The end was surprising in more than one way - not because I did not expect Catherine to be noble but when life knocks you around as much as it did her, that kind of behavior is unusual.

Not if I Know It (originally published in Life, Christmas number, 1882.) closes the volume with another tale of misunderstanding. A brother-in-law asks for a signature and without asking for details, the man asked refuses harshly thus ruining the so far harmonious relationship between the two. With some nudging from the wife and sister, the two men finally decide to talk and find out what this was all about (and a Christmas sermon helps a bit).

If you like Trollope, you will like these. And even if you don't, I suspect you may find something that suits you. Joanna Trollope's Foreword and Betty Breyer's Introduction are better read after you read the stories - both are interesting but work better after you had read the stories. ( )
  AnnieMod | Mar 21, 2023 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Anthony Trollopeautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Breyer, BettyEditorautor secundáriotodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Trollope, JoannaPrefácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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