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The Journey Abandoned The Unfinished Novel by Lionel (Geraldine Murphy) Trilling


The Journey Abandoned The Unfinished Novel by Lionel (Geraldine Murphy) Trilling

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 satisfying if partial portrait of a great critic and his ambitions as a novelist. Times Literary Supplement

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.

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Book Info

Publication date

23rd July 2009


Lionel (Geraldine Murphy) Trilling

More books by Lionel (Geraldine Murphy) Trilling
Author 'Like for Like'


Columbia University Press


224 pages


Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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