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The Three Clerks Paperback – Large Print, May 29 2008
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|Paperback, Large Print, May 29 2008||
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About the Author
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) started his writing career while working in Ireland as a postal surveyor. Travelling around the country, Trollope gained knowledge of the country and its people which proved to be useful material for his first two novels, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) and The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848). Trollope soon started writing fiercely, producing a series entitled Chronicles of Barsetshire. The Warden, the first in the series, was published in 1855. Barchester Towers (1857), the comic masterpiece, Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864) and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867) followed, portraying events in an imaginary English county of Barsetshire. In 1867, Trollope left the Post Office to run as a candidate for the Parliament. Having lost at the elections, Trollope focused on his writing. A satire from his later writing, The Way We Live Now (1875) is often viewed as Trollope's major work, however, his popularity and writing reputation diminished at the later stage of his life. Anthony Trollope died in London in 1882. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
One problem could be that Trollope tries to handle too many characters. The Three Clerks of the title are Harry Norman, his best friend and eventually worst enemy Alaric Tudor (who steals his promotion and then his lady-love), and Alaric's cousin, the dissipated and indebted Charley Tudor. Of these young men, Harry Norman in his innocence, having much to learn about the ways of men, women and the world, would have been the most interesting to pursue, but Trollope concentrates on Alaric and his ambitions which eventually get him into a courtroom and jail -- though with a surprisingly light sentence for a man who swindles a client's fortune. The young men are matched to three young women, the Woodward sisters.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One problem could be that Trollope tries to handle too many characters. The Three Clerks of the title are Harry Norman, his best friend and eventually worst enemy Alaric Tudor (who steals his promotion and then his lady-love), and Alaric's cousin, the dissipated and indebted Charley Tudor. Of these young men, Harry Norman in his innocence, having much to learn about the ways of men, women and the world, would have been the most interesting to pursue, but Trollope concentrates on Alaric and his ambitions which eventually get him into a courtroom and jail -- though with a surprisingly light sentence for a man who swindles a client's fortune. The young men are matched to three young women, the Woodward sisters. Gertrude, the eldest, is cold-hearted and ambitious, and though Harry Norman loves her greatly, makes a heartless but intellectual decision to unite herself with Alaric, whose ambition she admires. She pays the price for this, but she does so in the typical female role, always viewing her husband as something near to a god, never blaming him for his failings and his crimes, and standing by her man through the trials that will follow for her and her children. Gertrude, like Alaric, gets her comeuppance, but she is also symbolic of the dependent woman of her time and often of our times, sticking to a man through all insult because the world has convinced her that not only can she not stand on her own, but she deserves no better than to be the support of a man whose ethics and behaviors are questionable. Linda, Gertrude's younger sister, who is loved and romanced but then dumped by Alaric, who cold-heartedly and ambitiously wants the oldest daughter rather than the one he professes to love, is like Harry Norman an interesting character who should have been explored but who gets little mention in the pages of the book. She is superceded by her baby sister, Katie, who falls for the useless rogue Charley and thus falls into an hysterical wasting-away that is so annoying that you almost wish . . . Well, never mind what you wish, but all six of these characters are dissatisfying and foolish, victims of their era and their stations in life. Add to that, we have Mrs. Woodward, mother to the three women, who is very nice but ineffectual and though having the opportunity to succeed, succumbs to being helpless without a man to take care of her. She is of no benefit to her daughters and actually far too negligent in her mothering of them, leading to the disasters and potential disasters in the book. Lesser characters include Undecimus Scott, the villian who leads Alaric astray, who is not as evil as he is expected to be but merely manipulative and conniving, essentially a bore. There is also Uncle Bat, a retired sea captain who makes a home with the Woodwards and generally drinks himself into a stupor. Or members of the civil service who both support or compete with Harry and Alaric in their rise in their careers. Everything ends well for Harry, at least, and Linda -- two good people get their just reward. Charley Tudor turns into a Trollope himself, writing stories for the literary magazines of his day, although the author reproduces his stories within the context of the book, which introduces just another method of dulling the pace and the action of the novel itself. Plenty of pages here to skim or skip, the book could have been half the size but still have retained the essence of the story -- on the other hand, if the author had only developed his characters and followed the important ones more closely, we could have had a finer novel of psychological and moral import.
The novel follows the careers of three clerks in the Civil Service of Great Britain, circa 1850. At the beginning of the novel, they are friends and spend many of their weekends together at the cottage of Mrs. Woodward on the outskirts of London on the Thames. Mrs. Woodward has three daughters, and in due course the three clerks pair up with the three daughters. It is a rather conventional Victorian plot.
The novel is a platform for Trollope to express himself on two concerns. One is the Civil Service, in which Trollope served in his "day job" (as a Surveyor in the Post Office). In the 1850's, the Civil Service had become maligned by much of the national press, including, famously, by Charles Dickens, and in THE THREE CLERKS Trollope rebutted many of the criticisms and offered his own ideas of reform. There is a chapter in the novel that is nothing more than an "op-ed" piece. The subject might have been topical in 1857, but it is rather dry today.
Trollope's other concern is corruption in the financial community and the government. There are assorted schemes to bribe or otherwise manipulate individuals in the government in order to cash in on private speculative ventures. One of the three clerks is caught up in the greed and corruption and his career is ruined. This concern is much more topical; indeed, it brings home how little things have changed in a century and a half.
The novel contains several scenes or matters that I found interesting, including inspection of a tin mine in Cornwall, the practice of bill discounting (a form of usury), and a pettifogging trial lawyer in action. But overall the novel is far too long and overwritten. On occasion the writing becomes florid. Melodrama is given free rein. Women are prone to becoming emotionally overwrought and on separate occasions each of the clerks bursts into tears. Moreover, Trollope lets his penchant for silly names run amok: we encounter (among others) parson Everscreech, attorney Gitemthruet, Sir Gregory Hardline, Captain Cuttwater, Verax Corkscrew, the spinster sisters Lactamel and Ugolina Neverbend, and the villain Undecimus ("Undy") Scott.
If you are interested in acquiring THE THREE CLERKS, what edition do you get? I have a handsome, sturdy hardcover edition from the Folio Society, published in 1992. It can be found on the secondary market for about $15. Judging from other Amazon reviews, the print editions put out by CreateSpace and other print-on-demand "publishers" are atrocious. Or there is Kindle.