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Trollope Revisited

August 09, 1987

I was happy to see Richard Eder mention Anthony Trollope in his article on the Iran- contra Hearings (The Book Review, July 19). Trollope would have enjoyed the scandal hugely, because his interest was in situational ethics, the way people's behavior is shaped by social pressures, ambition and power.

Trollope hated the ceremony of lying, yet was fascinated by the dishonesty that politics breeds. How our drama would have fit one of his novels! Today we have this: X claims he does not know an important fact because his servant, Y, never told it to him; Y says he withheld the fact from X to give X deniability. Each man is dependent on the other for his own precarious credibility. I suspect Trollope would have winked and whispered to us behind his hand that both men are lying, and that their principles and "precepts" (ideology) have forced them into absurd and untenable positions.

"The Way We Live Now," his greatest novel, is worth re-reading (before North and Poindexter are pardoned), because it shows us how politics brings out the worst in most men, and how prevalent is our willingness to come to terms with evil if there is something in it for us. Thanks to Eder for helping reclaim Trollope's audience.

BRUCE A. TOOR

Los Angeles

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