Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 23, 1995

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
     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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