Single Life

  • R. C. Terry


All Trollope’s fiction revolves on this axiom of Victorian felicity. So far I have traced it through young love and married life. The pursuit of love is also my main concern in this chapter, among those characters who for one reason or another are deprived of marriage, or who for reasons of temperament or psychological difficulty are denied the comforts of family life. Trollope’s fiction depicts dozens of single people on the fringe of the family circle or the social world: the widow struggling to bring up her family, or shyly looking at the possibilities of matrimony; the gay old stagers and half-pay officers making their pensions go a long way and enjoying flirtations with married women; the spinster aunts and bachelor uncles for whom the family makes room at times with a sigh of impatience. Trollope’s sympathy is also directed towards the bereaved, the outstanding example being Plantagenet Palliser after the death of Glencora. Trollope’s emphasis in later books falls upon loneliness as a problem of the elderly, quite naturally, since he felt keenly the limitations old age imposed upon himself. That unfortunate foray into science fiction, The Fixed Period, is interesting solely for its sense of weariness in old age fused with masochistic contemplation of the ultimate solitude.


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© R. C. Terry 1977

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