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The Three Clerks

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There is the proper mood and the just environment for the reading as well as for the writing of works of fiction, and there can be no better place for the enjoying of a novel by Anthony Trollope than under a tree in Kensington Gardens of a summer day. Under a tree in the avenue that reaches down from the Round Pond to the Long Water. There, perhaps more than anywhere else, lingers the early Victorian atmosphere. As we sit beneath our tree, we see in the distance the dun, red-brick walls of Kensington Palace, where one night Princess Victoria was awakened to hear that she was Queen; there in quaint, hideously ugly Victorian rooms are to be seen Victorian dolls and other playthings; the whole environment is early Victorian. Here to the mind's eye how easy it is to conjure up ghosts of men in baggy trousers and long flowing whiskers, of prim women in crinolines, in hats with long trailing feathers and with ridiculous little parasols, or with Grecian- bends and chignons—church-parading to and fro beneath the trees or by the water's edge—perchance, even the fascinating Lady Crinoline and the elegant Mr. Macassar Jones, whose history has been written by Clerk Charley in the pages we are introducing to the 'gentle reader'. As a poetaster of an earlier date has written:—

  Where Kensington high o'er the neighbouring lands  'Midst green and sweets, a royal fabric, stands,  And sees each spring, luxuriant in her bowers,  A snow of blossoms, and a wild of flowers,  The dames of Britain oft in crowds repair  To gravel walks, and unpolluted air.  Here, while the town in damps and darkness lies,  They breathe in sunshine, and see azure skies;  Each walk, with robes of various dyes bespread,  Seems from afar a moving tulip bed,  Where rich brocades and glossy damasks glow,  And chintz, the rival of the showery bow.

Indeed, the historian of social manners, when dealing with theVictorian period, will perforce have recourse to the earlyvolumes of Punch and to the novels of Thackeray, Dickens, andTrollope.

There are certain authors of whom personally we know little, but of whose works we cannot ever know enough, such a one for example as Shakespeare; others of whose lives we know much, but for whose works we can have but scant affection: such is Doctor Johnson; others who are intimate friends in all their aspects, as Goldsmith and Charles Lamb; yet others, who do not quite come home to our bosoms, whose writings we cannot entirely approve, but for whom and for whose works we find a soft place somewhere in our hearts, and such a one is Anthony Trollope. His novels are not for every-day reading, any more than are those of Marryat and Borrow—to take two curious examples. There are times and moods and places in which it would be quite impossible to read The Three Clerks; others in which this story is almost wholly delightful. With those who are fond of bed-reading Trollope should ever be a favourite, and it is no small compliment to say this, for small is the noble army of authors who have given us books which can enchant in the witching hour between waking and slumber....