The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

If you don’t know much about Anthony Trollope you can read about him here. I enjoyed this book which was first published in 1858 and if you fancy reading it too you can download it from Project Gutenberg here. The three clerks in the title are young men trying to get a foothold on the career ladder of the Civil Service, Harry Norman, Alaric Tudor and Charley Tudor. The Tudors are cousins and Harry is their friend and at the weekend they often accompany him on his visits to his aunt’s, Mrs Woodward. She has three young daughters, Gertrude, Linda and Katie and they provide the love interest in The Three Clerks.

The book seems to be very autobiographical with the character of Charley being based on Trollope as a young man in London. Alaric is full of confidence and it isn’t long before his career takes off, but it’s all bluff and bluster really and he is easily led into corruption and bribery. When Undecimus Scott a member of a Scottish aristocratic family (his father is Lord Gaberlunzie) takes interest in Alaric he is flattered and ends up being drawn into Undy Scott’s money making schemes, which are nothing more than dodgy speculation and gambling on being able to make money from buying and selling shares for constructions which don’t even exist – and may never get planning permission. Scott of course never uses his own money for speculating, as I mentioned in a previous post the Scottish word ‘gaberlunzie’ means beggar, if only Alaric had known it, he would have been forewarned.

There’s doomed love, scandal, greed, spectacular falls from grace, civil service re-organisation, plundering of private pension funds and insider dealing. In fact it’s all amazingly up to date, because human beings always have the same weaknesses and faults, no matter which century they’re living in. I’m surprised that this one hasn’t been dramatised for TV, I think it would be very popular.

If you look at the long list of books which Anthony Trollope wrote you can’t help thinking that he must have been so underemployed in his position as Postmaster General, and whatever jobs he had before he reached that dizzy height, that he was spending all of his time scribbling away at his novels. Not that I’m complaining mind you, I’m glad he found something to keep himself busy and the rest of us entertained.

Now my only problem is – which Trollope should I read next!

4 thoughts on “The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

  1. But that’s such a lovely problem to have 🙂 You’re right, this could make a great TV adaptation, so topical – and it’s one of the shorter books.

      • I am a huge fan of Jane Austen, but really, you’d think there were no other women writers (well, they do film the Brontes & Elizabeth Gaskell occasionally, but still) – let alone Trollope and his wonderful characters.

        • Lisa,
          I think the powers that be in TV can’t be very well read as they can’t see past the usual classics. SO ANNOYING! Actually I wish someone would do Thirkell, they’re not classics but definitely different, but it would be difficult with a cast of so many characters.

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