The Journey Abandoned

The Unfinished Novel

Lionel Trilling. Edited by Geraldine Murphy

Columbia University Press

The Journey Abandoned

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Pub Date: May 2008

ISBN: 9780231144513

224 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: May 2008

ISBN: 9780231144506

224 Pages

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Pub Date: May 2008

ISBN: 9780231513494

224 Pages

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The Journey Abandoned

The Unfinished Novel

Lionel Trilling. Edited by Geraldine Murphy

Columbia University Press

In 1947, Lionel Trilling, the prominent literary critic, published a novel entitled The Middle of the Journey. While conducting research in the archives at Columbia University, Geraldine Murphy discovered a second novel-a clean, well-crafted "third" of a book that Trilling described as having "point, immediacy, warmth under control, drama, and even size." The Journey Abandoned was supposed to be a novel about the anomalies of heroic action in a conformist age. Instead, published here for the first time, it is a highly personal portrait of the life of letters in America.

Jorris Buxton, the narrative's larger-than-life focus, is an elderly poet and novelist turned distinguished mathematical physicist. Modeled on the romantic poet Walter Savage Landor, Buxton is destined to embroil himself in a principled but somewhat absurd conflict, just as the aged Landor had, and through his folly complicate the lives of his admirers. These memorable characters include Garda Thorne, a beautiful short-story writer (and Buxton's former mistress); Harold Outram, the director of an influential private foundation and a compromised man of letters; Philip Dyas, the headmaster of a private school; the Hollowells, a wealthy, progressive couple; Marion Cathcart, a young woman of Outram's household; and Vincent Hammell, an untried literary man from the Midwest and Buxton's newly appointed biographer.

Hammell is the central consciousness of the novel. A young man from the provinces, he is drawn from Trilling's own experience yet also indebted to the nineteenth-century bildungsroman, the literary form Trilling admired as a critic and emulated, in these pages, as a novelist. In her introduction, Murphy considers how The Journey Abandoned (which is her title) relates to the critical ideas Trilling articulated in his famous essay collection, The Liberal Imagination. She speculates that Henry James came to displace Landor as the model for Jorris Buxton, a development that may have both inspired and inhibited the writing of this novel.

A genuinely revealing text by a famous critic, a man with quite an enigmatic personality, The Journey Abandoned is of great interest. The book adds significantly to our understanding of Lionel Trilling, who remains in many ways a fascinating figure. Though academic theorists consider him an old-fashioned man of letters, and perhaps a reactionary to boot, Trilling's work, like Edmund Wilson's, remains a point of reference for all serious literary intellectuals in England and America. I'm sure there are many others who will read this long, aborted, and completely unknown work with as much interest as I did.

Morris Dickstein, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

A satisfying if partial portrait of a great critic and his ambitions as a novelist.

Times Literary Supplement
Acknowledgments
Introduction
A Note on the Manuscript and Related Materials
Trilling's Preface
The Unfinished Novel
Trilling's Commentary
Appendix: "The Lesson and the Secret"
Web Features:

About the Author

Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) was born in New York and educated at Columbia University, to which he returned as an instructor in 1932, and where he continued to teach in the English department throughout his long and highly distinguished career. Among his many works are critical studies of Matthew Arnold and E. M. Forster; two essay collections, The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self; a novel, The Middle of the Journey; and the Norton lectures at Harvard, entitled Sincerity and Authenticity. Trilling was married to the writer and critic Diana Trilling.Geraldine Murphy is a professor of English and Deputy Dean of Humanities and Arts at the City College of New York, CUNY. She has published essays on Lionel Trilling and the New York Intellectuals and is working on a book-length study, "Anti-Stalinist Poetics."