Tuesday, March 22, 2016

from Ralph the Heir by Anthony Trollope

Sir Thomas Underwood . . . was one of those who are not able to make themselves known intimately to any. I am speaking now of a man of sixty, and I am speaking also of one who had never yet made a close friend,--who had never by unconscious and slow degrees of affection fallen into that kind of intimacy with another man which justifies and renders necessary mutual freedom of intercourse in all the affairs of life. And yet he was possessed of warm affections, was by no means misanthropic in his nature, and would, in truth, have given much to be able to be free and jocund as are other men. He lacked the power that way, rather than the will. To himself it seemed to be a weakness in him rather than a strength that he should always be silent, always guarded, always secret and dark. He had lamented it as an acknowledged infirmity;--as a man grieves that he should be short-sighted, or dull of hearing; but at the age of sixty he had taken no efficient steps towards curing himself of the evil, and had now abandoned all idea of any such cure.

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Descriptions such as this one are why I return to the novels of Anthony Trollope. Despite their clutter of middle-class Victoriana, they offer as precise and as sympathetic a delineation of everyday character as I have ever read. How many Sir Thomas Underwoods have you met? Or perhaps you are a Sir Thomas yourself . . . the one who grieves, as Chu Shu Chen does, "Tonight as always / There is no one to share my thoughts."

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