"'Miss Altifiorla's tongue did itch': Anthony Trollope's Kept in the Dark and the Subject of Gossip"

In this paper I will examine the destabilizing and reordering power of gossip as it is figured in Anthony Trollope's late short novel, ironically titled Kept in the Dark (1882). In this novel, Trollope traces the origin of gossip from a secret concealed in understandable circumstances given the participants and a rigid code of Victorian morality; to a weapon of social castration and amusement (bloodsport) for those in-the-know; to a test of social fitness which manages to selectively exclude 'foreigners' and bad readers who fail to understand the subtleties of language and the prohibitions on the behaviour of a "lady'.

Trollope focuses on the psychological consequences of secrecy and exposure on individuals, on a marriage, and within a community of friends to challenge the prevailing, simplistic view of community and belonging. To do this he devotes his attention to the various ways in which gossip can be disseminated. More than the cackle of hens and overheard conversations, the novel's culminating blow is presented in a newspaper. As a private matter attracts more and more public attention, Trollope can once again delight in portraying the press as bourgeois and salacious, even though in this instance the press does no more or less than report the 'news'.

I believe that Trollope's novel provides a rich source for discussion of the problematizing of community and class, an important area of discovery.