The Way of the World is a slip by RLS for Anthony Trollope’s novel, The Way we live now, inspired by the financial scandals of the early 1870s.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 515.]
To his parents [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 261-262]
[Hotel Canterbury], 44 Bd. Haussman, [Paris]
Friday [22 February 1878].
My dear people,
Do you know who is my favourite author just now? How are the mighty fallen! Anthony Trollope. I batten on him; he is so nearly wearying you, and yet he never does; or rather, he never does, until he gets near the end, when he begins to wean you from him, so that you’re as pleased to be done with him as you thought you would be sorry. I wonder if it’s old age? It is a little, I am sure. A young person would get sickened by the dead level of meanness and cowardliness; you require to be a little spoiled and cynical before you can enjoy it.
I have just finished the Way of the World; there is only one person in it – no, there are three – who are nice: the wild American woman, and two of the dissipated young men, Dolly and Lord Nidderdale. All the heroes and heroines are just ghastly. But what a triumph is Lady Carbury! That is real, sound, strong, genuine work: the man who could do that, if he had had courage, might have written a fine book; he has preferred to write many readable ones.
I meant to write such a long, nice letter, but I cannot hold the pen.