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The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson

Anthony Trollope

Book Overview: 

Billed as a satire concerning the dishonest advertising and business practices of the day, it tells the tale of an upstart clothing business doomed from the get-go to utter failure. Its senior partner (the elderly Brown, who provides the investment) is far too timid for business. His son-in-law (Jones, who runs the store) is stealing from the till, and the junior partner, Robinson (who writes advertisements for the store) is so obsessed with the idea that advertising alone will drive the business, he uses up every last penny of the capital investment in a series of increasingly ludicrous ad campaigns and publicity stunts. Thrown into this mix are the two daughters of Brown, who are equally cold and calculating. The elder (married to Jones) is constantly trying to wring money out of the old man, and the younger, Maryanne, spends the entire novel playing off of two potential suitors, Robinson, or Brisket the butcher (one of Trollope's wonderful examples of ironic character naming). (above summary by Steve Forsyth, Texas) Nevertheless, Trollope shows considerable sympathy for the risks faced by small businessmen (and also notes the vulnerability of writers to over-ready critics); Robinson is to publish his experiences in the Cornhill Magazine, a prominent journal for over 100 years, in which many Victorians serialized novels (including this one). In the final chapter there is a surprising ennoblement of Robinson, and a very positive ending

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .And on the front in very large figures and letters, was stated the undoubted fact that nine times nine is 81. "If they will only call us 'The nine times nine,' the thing is done," said Robinson. Nevertheless, the house was christened Magenta House. "And now about glass," said Robinson, when the three had retired to the little back room within.

Mr. Robinson, however, admitted afterwards that he was wrong about the colour and the number. Such methods of obtaining attention were, he said, too easy of imitation, and devoid of any inherent attraction of their own. People would not care for nine times nine in Bishopsgate Street, if there were nine times nines in other streets as well. "No," said he; "I was but beginning, and made errors as beginners do. Outside there should be glass, gas, gold, and glare. Inside there should be the same, with plenty of brass, and if possible a little wit. If those won't do it, nothing will." All the same the magenta colour and the nin. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A fun satire where the protagonist is just the slightest bit ridiculous. It's light, but if you like Victorian literature it's short and worth reading.

Trollope's main satirical target in this novel is advertising. It's too heavy handed, particularly from a novelist whose satirical touch could be appealingly light. What saved this novel for me was the competition between Robinson and Brisket, the butcher, for the hand of Maryanne Brown, although th

I don't think I've ever laughed out loud over one of Anthony Trollope's stories before. The absurdities of the advertising campaigns dreamed up by the junior member of the firm, George Robinson, would actually fit the 21st century better than the 1860s. There is also a hilariously serious debating c

One of Trollope’s shorter novels which could perhaps have been even shorter as the relationship triangle and the shop shenanigans got a little repetitive. Other than that it zipped along with narration by the advertising “genius” and frequent Shakespeare referencer Robinson providing satire and humo

Satire, often quite bitter, from start to finish. I find I need that sort of comedy in small doses--I can't watch a whole movie like that, or several episodes at once. (Like Fleabag--very well done, but hard to watch.) An entire novel, albeit a short one, with everything meaning the opposite of what

It appears that Anthony Trollope himself was not too impressed by the book, meant to be funny. I will say I found the book very readable, which is the main thing I ask for always. It reminds me of Arnold Bennett's excursions into lighter novels such as 'The Regent', 'The Sharp' and others, its use

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 ventu

This tale of a failed haberdashery firm is definitely a lesser Trollope, but it's amusing and worth reading (if you're a Trollope fan, anyway, and most Trollope fans are the kind who will track down all of his books regardless). It's a satire on advertising, and very funny in spots, though the chara

I am not a longstanding Trollope devotee, but I enjoy my excursions into his urbane, mischievous and wickedly critical view of the world in combination with his - in my limited experience - unswerving advocacy of decency and kindness. I found this short novel secondhand in the market, knew nothing o

This was a wonderful read. Not at all typical Trollope, none of the usual authorial discursions, but very funny and some wonderful characterisations. I'd choose Maryanne and Brisket the butcher as probably the best, though the oily Jones and the sensible Poppins are a joy too. And as for the Goose C

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