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The Journey Abandoned: The Unfinished Novelby Lionel Trilling
Synopses & Reviews
In 1947, Lionel Trilling, the prominent literary critic, published a novel entitled The Middle of the Journey. While conducting research in the archives at Columbia University, Geraldine Murphy discovered a second novel-a clean, well-crafted "third" of a book that Trilling described as having "point, immediacy, warmth under control, drama, and even size." The Journey Abandoned was supposed to be a novel about the anomalies of heroic action in a conformist age. Instead, published here for the first time, it is a highly personal portrait of the life of letters in America.
Jorris Buxton, the narrative's larger-than-life focus, is an elderly poet and novelist turned distinguished mathematical physicist. Modeled on the romantic poet Walter Savage Landor, Buxton is destined to embroil himself in a principled but somewhat absurd conflict, just as the aged Landor had, and through his folly complicate the lives of his admirers. These memorable characters include Garda Thorne, a beautiful short-story writer (and Buxton's former mistress); Harold Outram, the director of an influential private foundation and a compromised man of letters; Philip Dyas, the headmaster of a private school; the Hollowells, a wealthy, progressive couple; Marion Cathcart, a young woman of Outram's household; and Vincent Hammell, an untried literary man from the Midwest and Buxton's newly appointed biographer.
Hammell is the central consciousness of the novel. A young man from the provinces, he is drawn from Trilling's own experience yet also indebted to the nineteenth-century bildungsroman, the literary form Trilling admired as a critic and emulated, in these pages, as a novelist. In her introduction, Murphy considers how The Journey Abandoned (which is her title) relates to the critical ideas Trilling articulated in his famous essay collection, The Liberal Imagination. She speculates that Henry James came to displace Landor as the model for Jorris Buxton, a development that may have both inspired and inhibited the writing of this novel.
"Fearsome 20th-century literary critic Trilling (1905 — 1975) published a single novel, The Middle of the Journey, in 1947. This unfinished work was unearthed among his papers by City College professor Murphy, along with Trilling's own preface and commentary on the work as it stands: 24 short chapters comprising a little more than half of the present book. The novel is based on the late-life of poet Walter Savage Landor (1775 — 1864), who got into some unpleasant business surrounding his Bath landlady and her 16-year-old ward. Trilling details the true-life incident in his preface, then moves his own story to 1930s New England. It's as interesting to read his extensive commentary on the unfinished work as it is the piece itself. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this newly discovered "third" of a book by one of the most influential literary critics of the postwar period, an elderly poet and novelist turned distinguished mathematical physicist embroils himself in a principled but somewhat absurd conflict, complicating the lives of his admirers. These memorable characters include a beautiful short-story writer; the director of a private foundation and a compromised man of letters; the headmaster of a private school; a wealthy, progressive couple; an au pair from the foundation director's household; and an untried literary man from the Midwest, drawn from Lionel Trilling's own life experiences. "The Journey Abandoned" was supposed to be a novel about the anomalies of heroic action in a conformist age. Instead, it presents an extremely personal portrait of the life of letters in America.
About the Author
Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) was born in New York and educated at Columbia University, to which he returned as an instructor in 1932, and where he continued to teach in the English department throughout his long and highly distinguished career. Among his many works are critical studies of Matthew Arnold and E. M. Forster; two essay collections, The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self; a novel, The Middle of the Journey; and the Norton lectures at Harvard, entitled Sincerity and Authenticity. Trilling was married to the writer and critic Diana Trilling. Geraldine Murphy is an associate professor of English and Deputy Dean of Humanities and Arts at the City College of New York, CUNY. She has published essays on Lionel Trilling and the New York Intellectuals and is working on a book-length study, "Anti-Stalinist Poetics."
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