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April 20, 2004

Oh, hobbledehoy... of course

I slept badly last night: shortly after I turned out the light and shortly before I fell asleep, a strange memory floated to the surface briefly, then disappeared. It is a puzzling memory from a decade ago, in which I was not absolutely certain what was going on: unable to read other people's – and particularly one other person's – intentions.

I didn't dream about it, but instead worried about how I was to post an entry to the Commonplace this morning. Half-formed dreams repeatedly harried me with unreturned comments on some nameless but very popular website. Nothing I saw or read really grabbed me yesterday (except the seed of an idea to write on the new Trollope TV adaptation on BBC1 on Sunday evening) and the blogging addiction has been curiously rapid in its annexation of my spare time.

So this morning I went on another ramble to find a specimin to post. I eventually made it to The Morning News where today, Juan Martinez explores the the Hobbledehoy.

The 19th-century novelist Anthony Trollope almost certainly did not sleep with his friend Kate Field. She liked him. They corresponded frequently. They saw each other as often as they could, which, given that Trollope lived in Britain and Field in America, was not often. Trollope was enough of a public figure to generate some tabloid press over the non-affair. He was happily married, and faithful. For all that, I have no doubt there were times when Anthony and Kate sat across from each other and he wished she would jump out of her chair and into his arms. Kate was stunning, funny, an early feminist, and altogether formidable. He wrote of feeling his heart flutter in her presence. Everything remained platonic – the novelist had often written about hobbledehoys, and at the core of hobbledehoydom there is a commitment to reasonableness, a tempering of one’s acts if not one’s thoughts, all born out of terror in the presence of beautiful women. So he sat. Had he moved at all, Kate might have responded favorably. Who knows? He did not dare. He was a putz, a coward, a Charlie Brown, a hobbledehoy.

On reading this article everything fell neatly into place. Though different in circumstances, this was the word to describe my situation all those years back, and Martinez writes beautifully in exploring what it means to him and to Trollope. For perhaps now I look back, it was in seeing He Knew He Was Right the other day that dislodged the fragment. The hero, Louis Trevelyan, does what he thinks is correct even though he is uncertain how to read his fellow characters or still more importantly express himself effectively.

Trevelyan is a hobbledehoy, though not in quite the same way as Martinez argues Trollope himself was, but he is a 'putz, a coward, a Charlie Brown' all the same, just as I was in that fragment, which now rests back where it belongs.

April 20, 2004 in Books, Literature, Observations, Recollections, Television | Permalink


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In this day and age is 'a commitment to reasonableness' feasible?

Doesn't life now move so quickly that if we stop, or even slow down, for reasonableness, we can miss that chance of a lifetime?

Maybe it's my brash American way to be forthcoming in regard to my wishes/desires?

So what I wish is...
to know how you modify your posts so that (when rambling, as I also do) you compress the latter portion as to not take up several pages and only interested parties can continue?

Posted by: Christine | Apr 20, 2004 10:30:47 AM


Firstly, I think a commitment to reasonableness may indeed be quite often an excuse for being a hobbledehoy. I would like to think that I, for one, still try to be reasonable, whilst losing my hobbledehoyness several years back! (At least my girlfriend seems to think so). I'll admit, however, that Trollope probably thought likewise ;-)

Secondly, re the 'extended posts option', I'm not sure whether it is restricted to the most expensive Typepad package, but if when you are posting you click on 'customise the display of this page' it should offer you the option.



Posted by: Tim | Apr 20, 2004 11:14:02 AM


Firstly, to use a typical American expression, "good riddens to bad hobbledehoyness."

Secondly, thank you for the information. I'm very new at "Blogging" and just jumped in without reading the manual. The typepad package I have includes the extended post option.

Thanks again and I enjoy reading your Blog.

Posted by: Christine | Apr 20, 2004 11:48:30 AM