Christmas at Thompson Hall – Anthony Trollope

Christmas at Thompson Hall is one of a set of five Christmas Classics published by Penguin this year. This is the only one I bought but they all have variations on the same elegant cover with snow & cardinals on a pine tree. The other authors are Charles Dickens, Nikolai Gogol, Louisa May Alcott & E T A Hoffmann. Series like this are one of the reasons that, however much I love my ereaders, I will always want real books as well. I have these Trollope stories in my Delphi Classics ebook edition of Trollope but this little hardback was just irresistible.

The title story is about a couple traveling from the south of France to the woman’s home in England. The Thompson family love getting together at Christmas but, since their marriage some years before, Mrs Mary Brown & her husband, Charles (their names have been changed to spare them embarrassment) have stayed in France rather than travel back to England for the holiday. Mrs Brown’s family have become more & more upset about their defection & so, this year, even though Mr Brown has a terrible head cold, she convinces him to make the journey. When they arrive in Paris, Charles is so ill & so irritable that he almost refuses to go on. However, his wife proposes to make him a mustard plaster, having seen a jar of mustard in the dining room. So, late at night, & in her nightclothes, she begins wandering the endless corridors of the hotel.

Discovered by a porter, she is too embarrassed to admit her real errand & pretends she has lost a handkerchief. The porter insists on accompanying her to the dining room & back to her room so she then has to retrace her steps once he’s gone to find the mustard & make up the plaster. Unfortunately, she gets lost on her way back to her room, enters another man’s room & applies the mustard plaster to him instead. Mortified by the impropriety of this, Mary rushes back to her room & prepares to brazen it out next morning when the hotel is in uproar over the assault on a defenceless guest & the very strange behaviour of an English matron. I have to admit that this story, at almost 60pp, was too long & a bit tedious. Mary’s wanderings through the hotel were interminable & the identity of the man with the mustard plaster is not difficult to work out. It’s a very English story of embarrassment & a level of refinement that prevents poor Mary from just telling the truth.

Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage is the story of a young girl, in love with a boy but unable to get past her pride & a silly quarrel when he declares that Christmas is a bore. There are many tears & misunderstandings before the happy ending. In The Mistletoe Bough, Elizabeth Garrow has broken off her engagement to Godfrey Holmes & has ever since been miserable. It takes a Christmas visit from Godfrey & his sister, Isabella, to reveal the true story of why Elizabeth broke the engagement.  The Two Generals is set during the American Civil War & concerns two brothers, each a general but one fights for the North & the other for the South. They both love the same woman & their rivalry in every area of their lives leads to the potential for betrayal one Christmas. Not If I Know It concerns a quarrel between brothers-in-law, George & Wilfred, at Christmas time & the efforts of the exasperated woman who loves them both to make them see sense.These are slight but charming stories, all set at Christmas & just right for reading at the end of a busy day.

My Christmas reading seems to have started later than usual this year. I’m reading several books at the moment & still listening to the sublime Moby-Dick but I do hope to get to these two Christmas mysteries, Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer & Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon, as well as my annual reading of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I haven’t even started watching Christmas movies yet although I have them all lined up – several versions of A Christmas Carol, including the Muppets, The Holly & the Ivy, Miracle on 34th Street & The Bishop’s Wife. I have been listening to carols for several weeks though as I cook & wrap presents. Christmas seems to have crept up on me this year although I’m organised, even though I’m working until Christmas Eve, & now don’t need to go near a shop until it’s all over, thank goodness. Plenty of time for all this Christmas reading, watching & listening.

16 thoughts on “Christmas at Thompson Hall – Anthony Trollope

  1. I love the Trollope cover! I have The Christmas Stories volume of a Trollope society edition of his complete short stories. It includes those stories plus a few more. I'd forgotten all about it but I think I'll have to read it next week. I've never read any of Trollope's short stories, thanks for reminding me about it!

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  2. All the covers in this series are lovely, Karen. I haven't read many of Trollope's stories & I prefer his novels but, at this time of year, short stories are just right.

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  3. Well, what a British farce! The covers of the series do look wonderful – putting you in the right mood for Christmas, which this year finds me oddly unprepared and unenthusiastic. So perhaps these books can remedy that!

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  4. I had the same volume that Karen mentioned, and introduction pointed out that Trollope could be a bit of a Grinch about Christmas. I read these over Christmas last year and really enjoyed them. I haven't watched any Christmas movies either, but we have similar lists!

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  5. I just read that today (Dec. 19) is the day that a Christmas Carol was first published I saw this little volume with its lovely cover in the bookstore the other day, and now I have a feeling I will be going back there at lunchtime to pick it up. Merry Christmas, Lyn!

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  6. I'm a big fan of Trollope for comfort reading, so when I saw the new Penguin edition I was instantly feeling covetous! I'm going to see if I can track down the stories for my ereader instead though; not just because they're free, but also because hardcover books are more difficult for my arthritic hands to handle. Even when they come beautifully covered.

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  7. It was the right book to begin my Christmas reading, I think. I've nearly finished A Christmas Carol as well & hope to start watching some movies tomorrow as well.

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  8. It's taken me a bit longer than usual to get into the Christmas mood this year for some reason. I can definitely see the Grinch in Trollope. He's no Dickens when it comes to loving Christmas!

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  9. Merry Christmas, Audrey. I do hope you enjoy the stories if you go back & buy them. The anniversary of ACC means that it's appropriate that I started my annual reread last night.

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  10. I've heard lots of good things about MIW (including from your blog). I know I read all the Heyer mysteries when I was a teenager but that's a long time ago & I've forgotten everything about them. Definitely time for a reread.

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  11. Ereaders are a great convenience, aren't they? Although, these new Penguin editions are very light for hardbacks. I'm sure you'll be able to find the stories as ebooks though.

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  12. I just bought three of the Trollope Christmas story books to complete my shopping for my three nieces. I love Trollope and I have a feeling they've never read him. I hope they like these stories and will read more Trollope.
    I just finished Mystery in White. I liked it a lot. For atmosphere, it can't be beat. Snowed in in a mysterious isolated house, wicked storm continuing, strange happenings – what fun! To read about that is!

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  13. I have ordered these books b/c they are just too beautiful to not own. That's what I tell myself. Our Christmas movies are ready to watch. My husband must see Chevy Chase in Christmas vacation but I always love Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life. (We have very different tastes to each other) Have a great Christmas and all the best for 2015.

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  14. Another recommendation for MIW, thanks Joan. Yes, I'd rather read about being snowed in than actually experience it. Short stories may be a good way to introduce your nieces to Trollope, especially if they're not used to reading Victorian triple deckers! Good luck!

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