Seeking First to Understand

Sunlight gilds the pine boughs at my window,
Each needle haloed, dark against the light,
As if this evanescent brightness shows
The good this day may hold. The time is tight,
To catch my breath before the press of all
I have to do; the minutes slip away,
The fading sunlight moves along the wall
And I have done so little yet this day.
But still I turn aside, set down my pen,
And heed the deeper call that bids me here.
Agnus Dei, dona nobis pacem.
Time out of time: eternity comes near,
And in the hour I thought I could not spare,
I kneel, and, halting, ask the saints for prayer.

On Daily Mass, by Holly Ordway


Anthony Trollope was born on this day, April 24th  in 1815. Like Jane Austen, he is known for imaginative fiction that focuses on character development and interaction. Through the lives of characters, we learn to draw and test conclusions that are at once grounded by our experience but more so, inform our perspective and spur us to growth.

In her book,  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination, Holly Ordway writes:

Good stories do more than allow us to practice theory of mind: they also give us more material with which to work. Literature, here including both fiction and non-fiction in the form of well-written memoirs and biographies, can help us to see from another’s perspective. We have the opportunity to experience other cultures and times, to learn from other experiences, and to engage the world through a different personality, perhaps even very different values and ideas. As Lewis says in An Experiment in Criticism: “Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. . . . in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

Which literary character is your favorite?

What aspect resonates most with you?

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Anthony Trollope

(born April 24, 1815, London, Eng.—died Dec. 6, 1882, London) English novelist whose popular success concealed until long after his death the nature and extent of his literary merit. A series of books set in the imaginary English county of Barsetshire remains his best loved and most famous work, but he also wrote convincing novels of political life as well as studies that show great psychological penetration. One of his greatest strengths was a steady, consistent vision of the social structures of Victorian England, which he re-created in his books with unusual solidity.

Trollope grew up as the son of a sometime scholar, barrister, and failed gentleman farmer. He was unhappy at the great public schools of Winchester and Harrow. Adolescent awkwardness continued until well into his 20s. The years 1834–41 he spent miserably as a junior clerk in the General Post Office, but he was then transferred as a postal surveyor to Ireland, where he began to enjoy a social life. In 1844 he married Rose Heseltine, an Englishwoman, and set up house at Clonmel, in Tipperary. He then embarked upon a literary career that leaves a dominant impression of immense energy and versatility.

The Warden (1855) was his first novel of distinction, a penetrating study of the warden of an old people’s home who is attacked for making too much profit from a charitable sinecure. During the next 12 years Trollope produced five other books set, like The Warden, in Barsetshire: Barchester Towers (1857), Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (serially 1866–67; 1867). Barchester Towers is the funniest of the series; Doctor Thorne perhaps the best picture of a social system based on birth and the ownership of land; and The Last Chronicle, with its story of the sufferings of the scholarly Mr. Crawley, an underpaid curate of a poor parish, the most pathetic.

The Barsetshire novels excel in memorable characters, and they exude the atmosphere of the cathedral community and of the landed aristocracy.

In 1859 Trollope moved back to London, resigning from the civil service in 1867 and unsuccessfully standing as a Liberal parliamentary candidate in 1868. Before then, however, he had produced some 18 novels apart from the Barsetshire group. He wrote mainly before breakfast at a fixed rate of 1,000 words an hour. Outstanding among works of that period were Orley Farm (serially, 1861–62; 1862), which made use of the traditional plot of a disputed will, and Can You Forgive Her? (serially, 1864–65; 1865), the first of his political novels, which introduced Plantagenet Palliser, later duke of Omnium, whose saga was to stretch over many volumes down to The Duke’s Children (serially, 1879–80; 1880), a subtle study of the dangers and difficulties of marriage. In the political novels Trollope is less concerned with political ideas than with the practical working of the system—with the mechanics of power.

In about 1869 Trollope’s last, and in some respects most interesting, period as a writer began. Traces of his new style are to be found in the slow-moving He Knew He Was Right (serially, 1868–69; 1869), a subtle account of a rich man’s jealous obsession with his innocent wife. Purely psychological studies include Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite (serially, 1870; 1871) and Kept in the Dark (1882). Some of the later works, however, were sharply satirical: The Eustace Diamonds (serially, 1871–73; 1873), a study of the influence of money on sexual relationships; The Way We Live Now (serially, 1874–75; 1875), remarkable for its villain-hero, the financier Melmotte; and Mr. Scarborough’s Family (posthumously, 1883), which shows what can happen when the rights of property are wielded by a man of nihilistic temperament intent upon his legal rights.
Trollope’s final years were spent in the seclusion of a small Sussex village, where he worked on in the face of gradually diminishing popularity, failing health, and increasing melancholy. He was in London when he died, having been stricken there with paralysis.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).

Holly Ordway

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).

Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.

 

Image by Tom Darin Liskey

 

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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life