Saturday, March 10, 2007

Trollope and Money

I posted a while ago that Tolstoy seemed to think the profit motive to be an evil one, and that writers generally look down on money making as beneath them, and I have been pleasantly surprised by Trollope's acknowledgment of money, as having a place in the motivations of even (otherwise) decent people.
I was gratified, therefore, to find that the great, liberal, Canadian economist, J. K. Galbraith, had written an introduction to a copy of Barchester Towers I happened to see in my local library. I wondered what economic insights he might bring to the work. It turns out that Trollope lost a great deal of public affection after his death, when his posthumous autobiography revealed that he had a strict writing schedule, at a rate of a thousand words an hour. His readers felt that the muse should not have a wristwatch. But he also reported, to the penny, how much he made from each novel. And I immediately thought less of him.
Why, I wonder? Is it unfair of me to expect someone to do all this work, and not care about the reward? Or would I rather they lied, and pretended they would have done just the same thing for nothing? I don't seem to mind George Clooney getting a fortune in some films, as long as he does the odd low budget picture, to pay his dues.
Am I a hypocrite? Most of us have families to look after, and Trollope had a bankrupt father, so getting and keeping money was a serious business for him. Perhaps it's a hangover from when the aristocracy decided what was polite, when the pursuit of money was seen as vulgar. Because the 'in' crowd was born with it.

2 comments:

Sayeth said...

Have you read The Three Musketeers? Even more than romance and adventure, the characters are motivated by having enough money to pay for their wine, food, rent and soldiering equipment.

ChrisHughes said...

I have read it, and yes, there is an acknowledgment that you need money, but it is seen as a roguish side of their characters, I think.
But I wonder how many virtuous hero types in nineteenth century literature have to earn a living?
Of course! Jane Austen has a money focus as well... I feel a post coming on...