MSEL Builds on Victorian Collection with Gift of Trollope's Work By Steve Libowitz Jacques Schlenger was always an avid reader. Sometime in the late 1960s, his wife's uncle encouraged him to begin collecting books and recommended he concentrate on the Victorian author Anthony Trollope, whose critical reputation was somewhat in decline. His first purchase was La Vend‚e, the writer's third novel. And he was hooked. In December, Schlenger, a Hopkins trustee and senior partner with the Venable law firm, and his wife, Suzanne, donated their 232-volume collection of Trollope's work--many of which are first editions--to the Special Collections Department of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. "We're known as the Trollope couple," Schlenger said. "We have spent the past 30 years collecting Trollope's work everywhere we traveled, sometimes buying two or three copies of the same book, hoping to improve the collection. My clients have even given me Trollope books as gifts. And I have read everything he wrote at least once. It has been a real joy." The Schlenger Collection of Victorian Literature brings to Hopkins British first editions of 29 Trollope novels, from his third--La Vend‚e, published in 1850--to the posthumously published An Old Man's Love (1884). Most are in two or three volumes, and some have their original cloth bindings, which are now very scarce. Many of the works in the Trollope collection are illustrated by such well-known British artists as J. E. Millais. The collection also includes a few first editions of Thackeray, Dickens and Charlotte Bront‰, along with 13 American first editions of several of Trollope's novels, and British first editions of some of his nonfiction and his autobiography. Before their appearance as books, several of Trollope's novels, such as Orley Farm, were issued in Britain in monthly installments with paper wrappers, each part containing two or three chapters and one or two full-page illustrations. Although copies of the part issues are rare, the Schlengers acquired and donated five sets. "Trollope's reputation is currently on the rise again, but it has had its ups and downs," said Hopkins English professor Avrom Fleishman, a scholar of Victorian-era literature. "He was enormously popular in his own time, writing books that we might consider drugstore paperbacks, which diminished his reputation somewhat. But he is generally considered among the half-dozen greatest Victorian novelists." While pursuing a successful career with the British Postal Service (where he invented the mailbox), Trollope wrote 47 novels, as well as biographies, histories, travel books, essays and five collections of short stories. In his autobiography, he revealed that he sat with his pocket watch on his writing table and wrote about 3500 words daily. Carolyn Smith, the rare books librarian at the Eisenhower Library, noted that Trollope's work, produced in this apparently mechanical way, is now recognized as exceptional in its observation of the Victorian social scene, particularly the clergy, landed gentry and politicians. "He was a master of the leisurely and extended character portrayal and the development of social complexities of the 19th-century world," Dr. Fleishman said. "[John] Updike is the closest modern comparison." Cynthia Ozick, in her recent cover story on Trollope in the New York Times Book Review, said that he, like Saul Bellow, is a "meticulous and often ferocious anatomizer of character and society. His hand can be both light and weighty; he gets to the bottom of vileness and also of decency; he is magisterially shrewd... he likes to write about churchmen but is easy on belief; nothing in the pragmatic workings of worldliness escapes him." The Schlenger Collection offers Eisenhower Library readers a remarkable opportunity to follow the publishing history of a major author and to see his work as his first readers saw it, the library's Carolyn Smith said. "This gift makes the library's holdings of Victorian literature among its strongest collections," said Stephen Nichols, the interim Sheridan Director of the library. "Victorian studies is growing at Hopkins, and we look forward to this collection being used by a wide range of faculty and students." That's Schlenger's intent, which is why he turned the collection over to the university now. "We thought about selling it, but Bill Richardson, my wife and I talked about its scholarly value and agreed that [making it a gift to the university] would be the best way to honor the books and the author," he said. Dr. Fleishman expects another use for the collection. "There is no definitive version of Trollope's work," Dr. Fleishman said. "This collection will serve as proof texts for editors who will sit down in the future to produce new editions of Trollope's work. It will be extremely valuable." Asked if he and his wife will miss the books they had so much enjoyed collecting and reading, Schlenger, a longtime supporter of the university, was philosophical. "It's like a child," said Schlenger, who has begun to collect British author Kingsley Amis. "We nurtured and lived with it, it grew up, and now it's time to send it out into the world so others can benefit from it."
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