Friday, May 18, 2018

The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson

The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson, by One of the Firm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 254 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It will be observed by the literary and commercial world that, in this transaction, the name of the really responsible party does not show on the title-page. I — George Robinson — am that party.

Premise/plot: Brown, Jones, and Robinson may have failed miserably in their business venture BUT George Robinson's account of their attempt is a delightful treat. 

Mr. Brown is an older man, nearing retirement, let's say. He brings the money--the capital--to the business. He has two partners each with a twenty-five percent share. Mr. Jones is Mr. Brown's son-in-law. He's married to Sarah Jane, I believe. But Mr. Brown has ANOTHER daughter: Maryanne. Mr. Robinson has hopes to marry her one day. If she'll say yes and actually mean it. 

You see, Maryanne has ISSUES. First, she thinks the world revolves around her. Second, she doesn't like having just one suitor begging for her hand in marriage. Third, she doesn't care WHERE or HOW her father gets the money to pay her potential groom, so long as he does it SOON. Mr. Brisket is the other suitor. And he wants MONEY before saying I do. More money than Mr. Brown has. Perhaps more money than Mr. Brown can earn in the next year. 

Now don't be thinking that Maryanne is the only selfish person in the novel. She's not alone. Mrs. Jones--Sarah--is a piece of work as well. She wants what she wants when she wants it. And she's not above TAKING what she wants and hoping that no one else will notice. Her husband is like-minded. In fact, Robinson is all but sure that these two have been helping themselves to the store's money. That Mr. Brown probably WOULD have the money to pay Mr. Brisket if Mr. Jones wasn't such a scoundrel. The store seems destined for bankruptcy. 

Will she or won't she become Mrs. Robinson? Will she or won't she become Mrs. Brisket? Will Mr. Brown lose his home and his business? Will George Robinson land on his feet and find happiness and success elsewhere? Will lessons be learned?

My thoughts: George Robinson is far from perfect. He has mixed up priorities. But his narrative voice is so delightful. Even when the situation is dire--serious--there's a touch of humor to be found. I enjoyed this one so much. It was a GREAT reminder as to why I love Trollope. Orley Farm was a CHORE. But this one was a treat. 

Advertise, advertise, advertise; — and don’t stop to think too much about capital.
Capital is a very nice thing if you can get it. It is the desirable result of trade. A tradesman looks to end with a capital. But it’s gammon to say that he can’t begin without it. You might as well say a man can’t marry unless he has first got a family. Why, he marries that he may have a family. It’s putting the cart before the horse.
To obtain credit the only certain method is to advertise. Advertise, advertise, advertise. That is, assume, assume, assume. Go on assuming your virtue. The more you haven’t got it, the more you must assume it.
 Smile sweet enough, and all the world will believe you. Advertise long enough, and credit will come.
 O Commerce, how wonderful are thy ways, how vast thy power, how invisible thy dominion! Thou civilizest, hast civilized, and wilt civilize. Civilization is thy mission, and man’s welfare thine appointed charge. The nation that most warmly fosters thee shall ever be the greatest in the earth; and without thee no nation shall endure for a day. Thou art our Alpha and our Omega, our beginning and our end; the marrow of our bones, the salt of our life, the sap of our branches, the corner-stone of our temple, the rock of our foundation. We are built on thee, and for thee, and with thee. To worship thee should be man’s chiefest care, to know thy hidden ways his chosen study. “Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest.” May those divine words be ever found engraved on the hearts of Brown, Jones, and Robinson!
 “George,” said he, “all the world wears stockings; but those who require African monkey muffs are in comparison few in number.
The whole world wants stockings, [he began, not disdaining to take his very words from Mr. Brown] — and Brown, Jones, and Robinson are prepared to supply the whole world with the stockings which they want. One hundred and twenty baskets of ladies’ Spanish hose, — usual price, 1s. 3d.; sold by B., J., and R. at 9¾d. “Baskets!” said Mr. Brown, when he read the little book. Four hundred dozen white cotton hose, — usual price, 1s. 0½d.; sold by B., J., and R. at 7¼d. Eight stack of China and pearl silk hose, — usual price, 3s.; sold by B., J., and R. for 1s. 9¾d. Fifteen hundred dozen of Balbriggan, — usual price, 1s. 6d.; sold by B., J., and R. for 10½d. It may not, perhaps, be necessary to continue the whole list here; but as it was read aloud to Mr. Brown, he sat aghast with astonishment. “George!” said he, at last, “I don’t like it. It makes me quite afeard. It does indeed.”
“But, George,” said Mr. Brown, “I should like to have one of these bills true, if only that one might show it as a sample when the people talk to one.” “True!” said Robinson, again. “You wish that it should be true! In the first place, did you ever see an advertisement that contained the truth? If it were as true as heaven, would any one believe it? Was it ever supposed that any man believed an advertisement? Sit down and write the truth, and see what it will be! The statement will show itself of such a nature that you will not dare to publish it. There is the paper, and there the pen. “Did you ever believe an advertisement?” Jones, in self-defence, protested that he never had. “And why should others be more simple than you? No man, — no woman believes them. They are not lies; for it is not intended that they should obtain credit. I should despise the man who attempted to base his advertisements on a system of facts, as I would the builder who lays his foundation upon the sand. The groundwork of advertising is romance. It is poetry in its very essence. Is Hamlet true?”
Brown, Jones, and Robinson have sincere pleasure in presenting to the Fashionable World their new KATAKAIRION SHIRT, in which they have thoroughly overcome the difficulties, hitherto found to be insurmountable, of adjusting the bodies of the Nobility and Gentry to an article which shall be at the same time elegant, comfortable, lasting, and cheap. B., J., and R.’s KATAKAIRION SHIRT, and their Katakairion Shirt alone, is acknowledged to unite these qualities. Six Shirts for 39s. 9d. The Katakairion Shirt is specially recommended to Officers going to India and elsewhere, while it is at the same time eminently adapted for the Home Consumption.
 “There is nothing so fickle as the taste of the public. The most popular author of the day can never count on favour for the next six months.”
Would that women could be taught to hate bargains! How much less useless trash would there be in our houses, and how much fewer tremendous sacrifices in our shops!
As far as I can see, everything is mostly lies. The very worst article our people can get for sale, they call ‘middlings;’ the real middlings are ‘very superior,’ and so on. They’re all lies; but they don’t cost anything, and all the world knows what they mean.
Bad things must be bought and sold, and if we said our things was bad, nobody would buy them.
“Fourteen hours’ work a day is nothing, if you don’t do anything. A man may sweat hard digging holes and filling them up again. But what I say is, he does not do any good.
It’s only the sheep that lets themselves be shorn. The lions and the tigers know how to keep their own coats on their own backs.
The world of purchasers will have cheap articles, and the world of commerce must supply them.
The world of purchasers will have their ears tickled, and the world of commerce must tickle them.
Could it be that a man had a double duty, each separate from the other; — a duty domestic and private, requiring his devotion and loyalty to his wife, his children, his partners, and himself; and another duty, widely extended in all its bearings and due to the world in which he lived?

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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