Jody Griffith, “‘The less said the soonest mended’: Time and Etiquette in The Way We Live Now” (pp. 142–163)

Anthony Trollope’s novels were usually popular, but his 1875 novel The Way We Live Now was an exception. Contemporary readers and critics alike considered the novel unpleasant, or even rude. This article argues that reception was not only a response to the novel’s unlikable characters, but also to its uncomfortable temporal disruptions. The novel’s frequently repeated maxim “the less said the soonest mended” connects saying too much with incivility; to say less means to move quickly back to the status quo. The novel says “too much” by slowing down the present moment into its fragmented parts. The “now” in the title The Way We Live Now emphasizes the temporality of its narrative form, especially the tension of stabilizing a discrete present moment within the forward momentum of a novel. The instability of the “now” is a thematic focus of the novel, with characters unsettled by changing etiquette expectations. Similarly, as timelines slow down and speed up, skip ahead and reverse, the novel leaves us as temporally disoriented as the characters.

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