Anthony Trollope and the Cult of Journalism

Anthony Trollope is one of those writers I’ve always had on my long list.  I finally began reading The Warden this week, and I am impressed. I never doubted that he could turn a phrase or characterize the psychology of a dialog quite as well as anyone in the English pastoral tradition. I never doubted that the adjective ‘masterful’ fully applied to him.  And I certainly never doubted that he depicted virtue and vice with nuance and grace; certainly Stanley Hauerwas and Frederick Buechner have put his work to use to that end.

But I never realized what a brilliant satirist he was.  Here is his depiction of the news media (The Jupiter, whose editor is Tom Towers, is almost certainly The Times):

It is a fact amazing to ordinary mortals that The Jupiter is never wrong. With what endless care, with what unsparing labour, do we not strive to get together for our great national council the men most fitting to compose it. And how we fail! Parliament is always wrong: look at The Jupiter, and see how futile are their meetings, how vain their council, how needless all their trouble! With what pride do we regard our chief ministers, the great servants of state, the oligarchs of the nation on whose wisdom we lean, to whom we look for guidance in our difficulties! But what are they to the writers of The Jupiter? They hold council together and with anxious thought painfully elaborate their country’s good; but when all is done, The Jupiter declares that all is naught. Why should we look to Lord John Russell–why should we regard Palmerston and Gladstone, when Tom Towers without a struggle can put us right? Look at our generals, what faults they make; at our admirals, how inactive they are. What money, honesty, and science can do, is done; and yet how badly are our troops brought together, fed, conveyed, clothed, armed, and managed. The most excellent of our good men do their best to man our ships, with the assistance of all possible external appliances; but in vain. All, all is wrong–alas! alas! Tom Towers, and he alone, knows all about it. Why, oh why, ye earthly ministers, why have ye not followed more closely this heaven-sent messenger that is among us?

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