BORN: 1815, London, England
DIED: 1882, Harting, Sussex, England
GENRE: Drama, fiction
Barchester Towers (1857)
Orley Farm (1862)
The Eustace Diamonds (1873)
The Way We Live Now (1875)
Anthony Trollope was one of the most prolific English writers of the nineteenth century, writing some forty-seven novels and many further volumes of travels, sketches, criticism, and short fiction. Although most critics consider him a major Victorian novelist, the precise nature of his achievement has often proved elusive. In spite of conflicting interpretations, commentators tend to agree that his realistic characterizations form the basis of his importance and appeal.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
A Poor Victorian Trollope lived nearly all of his adult life during a time known as the Victorian era. This era was named after Queen Victoria, who ruled England and its territories, including Ireland. Queen Victoria sat on the throne longer than any other British monarch, from 1837 until 1901. This period saw significant changes for both Britain and Europe as a whole, with advances in industrialization leading much of the population to jobs in factories instead of on farms as in the past. The era was also marked by a preoccupation with proper behavior in society and domestic life, common themes found in Trollope's works.
Anthony Trollope was born on April 24, 1815, in London. His father, Thomas Trollope, failed at law and farming before going bankrupt, and his mother, Frances, began what eventually became a lucrative writing career to support the family. Trollope's early years were marked by poverty and humiliation; he was under constant ridicule by his wealthier classmates at Harrow and Winchester. At the age of nineteen he found work as a junior clerk at the post office and seven years later was transferred to Ireland.
The Barsetshire Series Trollope's move to Ireland inaugurated a period of change: For the first time in his life he was successful in work, love, friendship, and financial matters. Trollope began writing, though his first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847), received little critical attention. In the early 1850s Trollope's post office work absorbed all his energies. He was assigned to work out the routes for rural deliveries, first in a district in Ireland and then in a number of counties in England, particularly in the west. He did his work with zeal, riding over all the routes himself, determined to make it possible that a letter could be delivered to every remote residence in his district. It was while visiting the close of Salisbury Cathedral that he conceived the story of The Warden, the first in the series of novels about his invented county of Barsetshire that was to make him famous.
The Warden (1855), Trollope's fourth novel, was a moderate success. The story was followed by Barchester Towers (1857), the second novel in the series, which marked the public's recognition of a new major novelist. Many readers still regard it as the apogee of Trollope's achievement.
The other novels in the Barset series, with which Trollope was engaged intermittently over the next decade, were Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867). Each of these novels is distinctive, with its own plot, new major characters, and a few recurring characters. All were set in the quiet cathedral city of Barchester with its surrounding town, villages, and ancestral estates of Barsetshire. Framley Parsonage, the fourth novel in the Barsetshire series, was Trollope's first work to appear in serial form, a method of magazine publication that promised a wide readership and greater critical response.
The Palliser Series Before he had written his last chronicle of Barset, Trollope had already launched into the first of a new series of interconnected novels, the Palliser, or political, novels. Young Plantagenet Palliser, a dedicated politician and the heir to the duke of Omnium, was first introduced as a minor character in The Small House at Allington in the Barset series. Where the clergy are the focus of interest in the Barset novels, politicians and their business are the concern of the Palliser novels; and the major scene of action shifts from the quiet though sufficiently busy rural county of Barsetshire to the more hectic bustle of the metropolis. Like the Barset novels, the Palliser novels all have separate plots and are complete in themselves, but characters introduced in one novel are apt to recur in subsequent ones.
Political Life Having returned to England in 1859, the pattern of Trollope's life seems to have changed in the late 1860s. He left the post office, worked as an editor, and attempted to pursue a career in politics. In 1868, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Parliament. Trollope called the years 1867 and 1868, the years of his resignation, editorship, second trip to America, and political campaign, “the busiest of my life.” With the new decade he seemed to slow down a little. He continued to be busy, but he was perhaps less cheerful.
Declining Popularity The 1870s witnessed a decline in Trollope's popularity as his writing style and focus changed. Although they often include subjects similar to those in his earlier works, Trollope's later novels are more cynical and pessimistic in tone: He Knew He Was Right (1869) examines marriage and finds jealousy and corruption; The Way We Live Now (1875) studies society and uncovers financial and moral corruption. Critics objected to what they considered the sordid realism of these works, charging that Trollope ignored the novelist's responsibility of providing solutions to the social problems he depicted. In addition, because he was so prolific, Trollope was accused of commercialism.
Posthumous Self-Effacement During the 1870s, Trollope began to travel extensively and write travel Books. He also found time to write literary criticism. Yet as he aged, he encountered trouble with asthma, deafness, and other ailments. During a friendly evening with his old friends, Trollope had a stroke. He lingered a few weeks, but died on December 6, 1882.
Trollope's prudent habit of keeping a manuscript or two on hand meant that the novels kept coming for a while, including Mr. Scarborough's Family (1883) and The Landleaguers, which he had not lived to finish, yet was published incomplete. His major posthumous publication, however, was An Autobiography, an engagingly frank account of his professional life and working habits that has continued to shock and delight his readers in almost equal measure.
Works in Literary Context
Critics continue to dispute the nature of Trollope's achievement, and there is no general agreement on his rank among writers of fiction. Yet commentators universally applaud the quality of his characterizations. Many believe that Trollope was able to paint characters of such consistency, veracity, and depth because of his profound insight into and sympathy for his creations. Trollope himself considered the ability to live with one's characters essential and defined the main work of the novelist as “the creation of human beings in whose existence one is forced to believe.”
Maidens and Women “There must be love in a novel,” Trollope declared; and he became an acknowledged expert in handling a character's intricate vacillations between love and social constraints. It was for such portraits as that of Lucy Robarts that Henry James remembered Trollope as an author who celebrated the “simple maiden in her flower…. He is evidently always more or less in love with her.”
There are several comparable features in Trollope's two major series, the Barset and the Palliser novels. A major character in each is a dominating woman who competes with her husband for power and then dies suddenly toward the end of the series. A noticeable change is in the presentation of the other female characters. Whereas in the Barset novels “the simple maiden in her flower” had predominated—such girls as Mary Thorne, Lucy Robarts, and Grace Crawley—in the Palliser novels the interest shifts from innocent girls to experienced women: Lady Laura Kennedy, who deserts her husband and declares her adulterous passion for another man; Madame Max Goesler, who, having married once for a settlement pursues a handsome young man for love and actually proposes to him; and Lady Glencora herself, who not only is much more sympathetically handled than Mrs. Proudie but also breaks the standard Trollope code by abandoning her first love and devoting herself to a second.
Densely Layered Novels The Last Chronicle of Barset is typical of Trollope's copious, variegated kind of novel. Its characters are numerous and diverse, and its world is composed of several plots and different settings. Although he wrote a number of relatively short novels in which a classic unity of action is clearly preserved, his greatest works are those in which the main plot is amplified by subplots and the themes are enlarged and qualified. “Though [the novelist's] story should be all one, yet it may have many parts,” Trollope explained. “Though the plot itself may require but few characters, it may be so enlarged as to find its full development in many. There may be subsidiary plots, which shall all tend to the elucidation of the main story, and which will take their places as part of one and the same work.”
Works in Critical Context
Trollope's enormous productivity has had much to do with a patronizing dismissal of his work by some critics and a rather apologetic attitude adopted even by his admirers. In a review of Miss Mackenzie the young Henry James admitted, “We have long entertained for Mr. Trollope a partiality of which we have yet been somewhat ashamed.” It has been a recurring attitude. Even his major biographer, Michael Sadleir, writing in 1927, and his next major critic, Bradford A. Booth, have been tentative and cautious in their praise and have partly adopted the stance of apologists. Critics have found his elusive but undoubted quality difficult to analyze: “His work resists the kind of formal analysis to which we subject our better fiction,” Booth admitted. His unambiguous style has not invited critical interpretation. Compared with George Eliot or George Meredith he has seemed lowbrow, and compared with Charles Dickens and Hardy his unemphatic social commentary has seemed mild.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Trollope's famous contemporaries include:
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910): Called “The Lady with the Lamp” for her habit of caring for patients long into the night, Florence Nightingale became a public figure after her efforts to improve battlefield hospitals during the Crimean War. She was a lifelong advocate for nursing and patient care.
Lewis Carroll (1832–1898): The pen name of Charles Dodgson, Carroll was a master of the genre of literary nonsense, penning the surreal tales of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and the poem “Jabberwocky.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881): One of the premier Russian novelists of the nineteenth century, Dostoyevsky focused on troubled psyches and is considered by many to be the father of existentialism.
William Gladstone (1809–1898): A lion of Victorian politics, Gladstone was Liberal prime minister on four occasions, repeatedly butting heads with both Queen Victoria and his Conservative rival, Benjamin Disraeli.
Cetshwayo (1826–1884): The last king of the Zulu nation, from 1872 to 1879, Cetshwayo was the grandnephew of the legendary king Shaka.
Alexander II (1818–1881): From his ascension to the throne as leader of the Russian Empire in 1855 to his assassination in 1881, Alexander II led a program of systematic reforms, most notably the emancipation of the peasant class of serfs.
Some critics, including several of his original reviewers, have found fault with Trollope's subsidiary plots and have wished them away. Recent criticism, however, has shown Trollope's impressive art in the orchestration of plot with subplot. In the article entitled “Trollope at Full Length,” Gordon Ray demonstrates how Trollope “knew exactly how to assign each set of characters its proper part in the story, to time his shifts from one plot to another so as to obtain maximum emphasis, contrast, and change of pace, and to bring the whole to a smooth conclusion within the space allotted. Trollope, in fact, made himself a great master of the contrapuntal novel long before anyone had thought of the term.”
The Barset Series The Barsetshire series elicited several comments that were repeated throughout Trollope's lifetime. Above all, critics warmed to his characters and praised both Trollope's lively, readable style and his humorous portrayal of everyday life. They also noted his fidelity to the English character, particularly in his portraits of young girls, although some critics noted that he overused the plot scheme of a heroine vacillating between two suitors.
Trollope's early critics attributed a number of his faults, including careless construction, grammatical errors, and insubstantial story lines, to the fact that Trollope wrote quickly, and they blamed the exigencies of serial publication for his overly episodic and fragmentary plots. In addition, many commentators found Trollope's technique of allowing the narrator to constantly comment on the action and characters to be irrelevant and distracting.
Legacy If it has taken time for critics to claim a place for Trollope among the greatest novelists, the readers have kept buying and reading his Books. He has continued to be “obsessively readable,” in C. P. Snow's phrase. He lost some readers during his lifetime and some more after his death; but after the 1890s reprints of his many novels have proved sound investments for many publishers. During the two world wars, Trollope and Barset were in enormous demand. In the 1970s his second series was adapted by the BBC as a highly successful television serial, The Pallisers. And increasingly in the two decades before the centenary of his death, the critics have ceased to be apologists. Trollope has been recognized as a major novelist.
Responses to Literature
- Read several of Trollope's short stories. Discuss how Trollope presents Victorian life. What makes his characters different from those of other Victorian writers? Do you think his stories represent a realistic view? Find textual examples to support your position.
- Using Trollope's autobiography as a source, analyze his objectivity in his introspective study of himself as an artist.
- Contrast two characters from opposite ends of the social spectrum in one of Trollope's early novels, for example, Barchester Towers.
- Compare Trollope to Charles Dickens. How did their literary styles differ? How were they similar? Which author do you feel is more emblematic of the Victorian period? Why?
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Trollope made a name for himself with the tales of the residents of an invented county that held recognizable elements from real locations despite its being fictional. Other works featuring famous fictional settings that bear a strong resemblance to real places include:
“The Dunwich Horror” (1929), a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. This pulp horror writer used Arkham County, a prototypical New England locale, as a setting for many of his stories. This, one of his best-known short stories, prominently features two of Arkham County's most famous locales: Miskatonic University and the town of Dunwich.
Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), a novel by Thomas Hardy. Hardy wrote a series of stories and poems set in the semifictional Wessex County; this was his fourth such story and first major success.
Gulliver's Travels (1726), a novel by Jonathan Swift. In this would-be travelogue, the locations visited by Gulliver—Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and so forth—are allegorical countries, each representing a different aspect of human nature.
Ap Roberts, Ruth. The Moral Trollope. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1971.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 21: Victorian Novelists Before 1885. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. Ira B. Nadel, University of British Columbia, and William E. Fredeman, University of British Columbia. Detroit: Gale Group, 1983.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 57: Victorian Prose Writers After 1867. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. William B. Thesing, University of South Carolina. Detroit: Gale Group, 1987.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 159: British Short-Fiction Writers, 1800–1880. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Ed. John R. Greenfield, McKendree College. Detroit: Gale Group, 1996.
Halperin, John. Trollope and Politics: A Study of the Pallisers and Others. New York: Macmillan, 1977.
———. Trollope Centenary Essays. New York: St. Martin's, 1982.
Herbert, Christopher. Trollope and Comic Pleasure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Kendrick, Walter M. The Novel-Machine: The Theory and Fiction of Anthony Trollope. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
McMaster, Juliet. Trollope's Palliser Novels: Theme and Pattern. New York: Macmillan, 1978.
Morse, Deborah Denenholz. Women in Trollope's Palliser Novels. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1987.
Mullen, Richard. Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in His World. London: Duckworth, 1990.
Nardin, Jane. He Knew She Was Right: The Independent Woman in the Novels of Anthony Trollope. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.
The Trollope Critics. Edited by H. John Hall. New York: Macmillan, 1981.
Huntington Library Quarterly, volume 31, 1968.
Nineteenth Century Fiction, June 1949; September 1949.
Nationality: English. Born: London, 24 April 1815; son of the writer Frances Trollope. Education: Harrow School, Middlesex, 1822-25 and 1831-33; Winchester College, Hampshire, 1825-30. Family: Married Rose Heseltine in 1844; two sons. Career: Classical usher at a school in Brussels, 1834; worked for the British Post Office, 1834-67: surveyor's clerk, later deputy surveyor, in Bangher, Clonmel, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1841-54; chief surveyor, Dublin, 1854-59; chief surveyor of the Eastern District, London, 1859-67; suggested the use of letter boxes; made official visits to Egypt, 1858, the West Indies, 1858-59, and the U.S., 1861-62, 1868; lived at Waltham House, Hertfordshire, 1859-71, in London, from 1872, and at Harting Grange, Sussex, until 1882; a founder, Fortnightly Review, 1865; editor, Pall Mall Gazette, 1865-66, and St. Paul's Magazine, 1867-70; Liberal parliamentary candidate for Beverley, 1868; traveled in Australia and New Zealand, 1871-72, Australia, 1875, and South Africa, 1877. Died: 6 December 1882.
The Trollope Reader, edited by Esther Cloudman Dunn and Marion E. Dodd. 1947.
The Oxford Illustrated Trollope, edited by Michael Sadleir and Frederick Page. 15 vols., 1948-54.
Complete Short Stories, edited by Betty Jane Breyer. 5 vols., 1979-83.
Later Short Stories, edited by John Sutherland. 1995 .
Tales of All Countries. 2 vols., 1861-63.
Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories. 1867.
An Editor's Tales. 1870.
Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and Other Stories. 1882.
The Macdermots of Ballycloran. 1847; edited by Robert Tracy, 1989.
The Kellys and the O'Kellys; or, Landlords and Tenants: A Tale of Irish Life. 1848.
La Vendee: An Historical Romance. 1850.
The Warden. 1855; edited by David Skilton, 1980.
Barchester Towers. 1857.
Doctor Thorne. 1858.
Framley Parsonage. 1861.
The Small House at Allington. 1864; edited by James R. Kincaid, 1980.
The Last Chronicle of Barset. 1867; edited by Stephen Gill, 1981.
The Three Clerks. 1858; edited by Graham Handley, 1989.
The Bertrams. 1859.
Castle Richmond. 1860; edited by Mary Hamer, 1989.
Orley Farm. 1862.
The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson, by One of the Firm. 1862.
Rachel Ray. 1863; edited by P. D. Edwards, 1988.
Can You Forgive Her? 1864; edited by Andrew Swarbrick, 1982.
Phineas Finn, The Irish Member. 1869; edited by Jacques Berthoud, 1982.
The Eustace Diamonds. 1872; edited by W. J. McCormack, 1983.
Phineas Redux. 1874; edited by John C. Whale, 1983.
The Prime Minister. 1876; edited by Jennifer Uglow. 1983.
The Duke's Children. 1880; edited by Hermione Lee, 1983.
Miss Mackenzie. 1865; edited by A. O. J. Cockshut, 1988.
The Belton Estate. 1866; edited by John Halperin, 1986.
The Claverings. 1867(?).
Nina Balatka. 1867.
Linda Tressel. 1868.
He Knew He Was Right. 1869; edited by John Sutherland, 1985.
The Vicar of Bullhampton. 1870; edited by David Skilton, 1988.
Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite. 1871.
Mary Gresley. 1871.
Ralph the Heir. 1871; edited by John Sutherland, 1990.
The Golden Lion of Granpère. 1872.
Lady Anna. 1873; edited by Stephen Orgel, 1990.
Harry Heathcote of Gangoil: A Tale of Australian Bush Life. 1874.
The Way We Live Now. 1875.
The American Senator. 1877; edited by John Halperin, 1986.
Christmas at Thompson Hall. 1877; as Thompson Hall, 1885.
Is He Popenjoy? 1878; edited by John Sutherland, 1986.
How the Mastiffs Went to Iceland. 1878.
The Lady of Launay. 1878.
An Eye for an Eye. 1879.
John Caldigate. 1879.
Cousin Henry. 1879.
Dr. Wortle's School. 1881; edited by John Halperin, 1984.
Ayala's Angel. 1881.
The Fixed Period. 1882.
Marion Fay. 1882.
Kept in the Dark. 1882.
Not If I Know It. 1883.
The Two Heroines of Plumplington. 1882.
Mr. Scarborough's Family. 1883; edited by Geoffrey Harvey, 1989.
The Landleaguers (unfinished). 1883.
An Old Man's Love. 1884.
Did He Steal It? 1869; edited by R. H. Taylor, 1952.
The Noble Jilt, edited by Michael Sadleir. 1923.
The West Indies and the Spanish Main. 1859.
North America. 2 vols., 1862; edited by Robert Mason, 1968.
Hunting Sketches. 1865.
Travelling Sketches. 1866.
Clergymen of the Church of England. 1866.
The Commentaries of Caesar. 1870.
Australia and New Zealand. 2 vols., 1873;
Australia edited by P. D. nEdwards and R. B. Joyce, 1967.
South Africa. 2 vols., 1878; revised abridgement, 1879.
The Life of Cicero. 2 vols., 1880.
Lord Palmerston. 1882.
An Autobiography, edited by H. M. Trollope. 2 vols., 1883; edited by Michael Sadleir, 1947.
London Tradesmen, edited by Michael Sadleir. 1927.
Four Lectures, edited by Morris L. Parrish. 1938.
The Tireless Traveller: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury 1875, edited by Bradford A. Booth. 1941.
The New Zealander, edited by N. John Hall. 1972.
Trollope-to-Reader: A Topical Guide to Digressions in the Novels of Trollope, edited by Mary L. Daniels. 1983.
Letters, edited by N. John Hall and Nina Burgis. 2 vols., 1983.
The Irish Famine: Six Letters to the Examiner 1849-1850, edited by Lance Tingay. 1987.
Trollope the Traveller: Selections from Anthony Trollope's Travel Writings. 1995.
Editor, British Sports and Pastimes. 1868.*
Trollope: A Bibliography by Michael Sadleir, 1928, revised edition, 1934; The Reputation of Trollope: An Annotated Bibliography 1925-1975 by John C. Olmsted, 1978; The Trollope Collector: A Record of Writings and Books about Trollope by Lance Tingay, 1985; Trollope: An Annotated Bibliography of Periodical Works by and about Him in the United States and Great Britain to 1900 by Anne K. Lyons, 1985.
Trollope: A Commentary by Michael Sadleir, 1927, revised edition, 1945; The Trollopes: The Chronicle of a Writing Family by Lucy Poate Stebbins and Richard Poate Stebbins, 1945; Trollope by B. C. Brown, 1950; Trollope: A Critical Study by A. O. J. Cockshut, 1955; Trollope: Aspects of His Life and Work by Bradford A. Booth, 1958; The Changing World of Trollope by Robert Polhemus, 1968; Trollope: The Critical Heritage edited by Donald Smalley, 1969; Trollope by James Pope-Hennessy, 1971; Trollope: Artist and Moralist by Ruth Roberts, 1971, as The Moral Trollope, 1971; A Guide to Trollope by Winifred Gerould and James Gerould, 1975; Trollope: His Life and Art by C. P. Snow, 1975; The Language and Style of Trollope by John Williams Clark, 1975; Trollope and His Contemporaries: A Study in the Theory and Conventions of Mid-Victorian Fiction by David Skilton, 1976; The Novels of Trollope by James R. Kincaid, 1977; Trollope and Politics: A Study of the Pallisers and Others by John Halperin, 1977, and Trollope Centenary Essays edited by Halperin, 1982; Trollope: The Artist in Hiding, 1977, and A Trollope Chronology, 1989, both by R. C. Terry, and Trollope: Interviews and Recollections edited by Terry, 1987; Trollope: His Art and Scope by P. D. Edwards, 1977; Trollope's Later Novels by Robert Tracey, 1978; Trollope's Palliser Novels: Theme and Pattern by Juliet McMaster, 1978; Trollope by Arthur Pollard, 1978; Trollope, 1980, and Trollope: The Barsetshire Novels: A Casebook, 1983, both edited by T. Bareham; Trollope and His Illustrators by N. John Hall, 1980, and The Trollope Critics edited by Hall, 1981; The Art of Trollope by Geoffrey Harvey, 1980; The Novel-Machine: The Theory and Fiction of Trollope by Walter M. Kendrick, 1980; Trollope in the Post Office, 1981, and The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Trollope, 1988, both by R.H. Super; The Trollope Critics edited by N. John Hall, 1981, and Trollope: A Biography by Hall, 1991; The Reasonable Man: Trollope's Legal Fiction by Coral Lansbury, 1981; The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct by Shirley Robin Letwin, 1982; The Androgynous Trollope: Attitudes to Women Amongst Early Victorian Novelists by Rajiva Wijesinha, 1982; Trollope: Dream and Art by Andrew Wright, 1983; Trollope and the Law by R. D. McMaster, 1986; Trollope: Barchester Towers by Graham Handley, 1987; Writing by Numbers: Trollope's Serial Fiction by Mary Hamer, 1987; Trollope by Susan Peck MacDonald, 1987; Women in Trollope's Palliser Novels by Deborah Denenholz Morse, 1987; Trollope and Comic Pleasure by Christopher Herbert, 1987; The Chronicler ofBarsetshire: A Life of Trollope by R. H. Super, 1988; Trollope and Character by Stephen Wall, 1988, as Trollope: Living with Character, 1989; A Guide to Trollope by A. Craig Bell, 1989; Trollope: A Victorian in His World by Richard Mullen, 1990; Trollope by Victoria Glendinning, 1993; Trollope: A Biography by John N. Hall, 1993; The Penguin Companion to Trollope by Richard Mullen, 1996; Trollope and Victorian Moral Philosophy by Jane Nardin, 1996; Trollope and Women by Margaret Markwick, 1997.* * *
Anthony Trollope is not regarded as a great short story writer, and since he wrote 47 substantial novels his output of shorter fiction is often ignored. He did, however, produce 42 short stories that have usefully been divided, in an edition of his works, into five categories.
The first category is called "Editors and Writers." Trollope was of course a writer all his life, and between 1867 and 1870 he was editor of the St. Paul's Magazine. This gave rise to eight stories, of which "The Spotted Dog" is the longest, best, and best known, concerning the struggles of authorship and the trials of editorship. A persuasive account is given, in the Grub Street mode, of those who turn to their pens as a last resort in a financially desperate situation and of the difficulties an editor faces in trying to get rid of such importunate people.
The second category, which also numbers eight items, is that of Christmas stories. These were a highly popular genre in mid-Victorian times, and Trollope, although he professed dislike of the clichés involved, managed to turn out some respectable examples. The happy ending required evidently went somewhat against the grain (in his best fiction Trollope sees life as too complex for simple resolutions), but in these tales of hitches in young love being smoothed out by goodwill and Christmas cheer, he manages to put forward his most optimistic side. Again, typically for Trollope whose forte was the extended narrative, the longest story is the best: "Two Heroines of Plumplington" is a simple tale of paternal objection to the suitors of two young women; love triumphs in the end quite predictably, so we are forced to see that the interest in the story centers around character portrayal and handling of dramatic scene rather than around the plot.
In the third category are the ten stories based on Trollope's extensive travels round the world. In these we see a grimmer world than in the English Christmas scenes but also a world of immense vigor and some comic potential. Whether in the Middle East, Jamaica, or Belgium, Trollope's English abroad are empire-builders and tourists of the middling sort whose exploits are more likely to concern marriage, meals, and getting value for money out of the natives than anything more elevated or political. As with the stories of editors and writers we have here a strong strain of pleasant autobiography, but there is also a bleaker dimension, for the mid-Victorian travelers and colonialists risked their lives to a degree almost unimaginable in the late twentieth century. Students of the British imperial period would do well to read "Returning Home" or "George Walker at Suez."
The fourth category comprises eight stories about travel and foreigners, less about Empire and tourism than about the quirks and coincidences of daily life. Mostly set in Europe, they foreshadow some of E. M. Forster's preoccupations with the meaning of the English experience of the continent. Confrontations between the different cultures inevitably generate tensions that make worse the small but infuriating problems that beset Trollopian characters. "The Journey to Panama" is a superb example of realism in which the everyday, in the close confines of a ship, becomes almost intolerable for one whose major preoccupation, love, is going wrong.
The eight stories in the fifth category (called "Courtship and Marriage") are closer to Trollope's more usual territory; as in his novels he is concerned here with the whole complex social and personal comedy of human pairing. "Alice Dugdale" could be read as a miniature version of a number of his novels, and "The Parson's Daughter of Oxney Colne" is as good a short story as many by Hardy or other recognized masters of the genre.
Trollope's stories are always entertaining if sometimes slightly predictable. They do not conform to our usual expectations of the genre, however, in that they are not neat or pithy or cryptic or rounded off with a piquant twist, Trollope being incapable of writing except at length. Instead they are somewhat inconclusive slices of life wrapped up rather faster than the author would evidently have liked. But Trollope's greatest strength was his ability to bring characters together and allow us to watch them interacting. This he does in every story he wrote, immediately and vigorously.
These stories offer unusually frank insights into aspects of Victorian society; most of them were written in the 1860s, and they could usefully be set alongside the paintings of the period. We find sentimentality in them ("Mary Gresley") and a certain preoccupation with Christian themes (charity in "The Widow's Mite"), but for the most part they help to make the Victorians more normal to us.
—Lance St. John Butler
The English novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote a series of novels that chronicle the everyday life of middle-class Victorians. Quietly humorous and at times satirical, his works reveal the vigorous and modest good nature of their author.
After the depressions and near-revolutions of the 1840s, England entered a period of peace and plenty that lasted from 1850 to about 1870. Anthony Trollope's fiction mirrors the Establishment of that period—comfortably off, even wealthy; concerned with individual morality; and relatively unaware of how private virtues and vices interact with public issues.
Trollope was born on April 24, 1815. His mother, Frances Trollope (1780-1863), was the author of The Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) and many novels. He was a large, awkward, shy boy who developed into a burly, vigorous, even boisterous man. He went to school at Winchester and Harrow, but he was a very poor student. When he was 19 years old, he went to work in London as a clerk in the Post Office.
In 1841 Trollope volunteered to become a postal inspector in Ireland. He then took up hunting and followed the sport for many years. In 1844 he married Rose Heseltine; they had two sons. To add to his income Trollope wrote The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) and The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848), two novels about Ireland; and La Vendée (1850), a novel set in Bruges during the French Revolution. None of these books was successful.
From 1851 to 1853 Trollope inspected post offices in southern England. In Salisbury in 1851 he conceived the idea for The Warden (1855), a novel about clerical life in a cathedral town, the first of his Barsetshire novels. It was followed by Barchester Towers (1857), in which two of the series's most popular figures—the Bishop and Mrs. Proudie—made their first appearance. These wise, humorous, and gentle novels presented the Victorian middle class without the preaching of Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke (1850) and other "sociological" novels and without the sensational events recorded in novels by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Reade. The Barsetshire series, successful financially and critically, was completed by Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867).
Many of the Barsetshire characters appear in more than one novel, growing older from novel to novel and revealing new but not inconsistent aspects of their personalities. Barsetshire itself was so vividly imagined that readers have published maps of this make-believe country. The series may have ended because Trollope's readers let him know they were growing tired of it.
In 1858-1859 Trollope was sent by the Post Office to Egypt, Scotland, and the West Indies and, in 1861, to the United States. From these journeys he developed stories and travel books. In 1859 Trollope was promoted to chief inspector of the Post Office, and he then moved his family from Ireland to England. In 1860 he met Kate Field, a young American with whom he had a fatherly relationship, and William Makepeace Thackeray, whose novels he admired and about whom he wrote a memoir (Thackeray, 1879). In 1867 Trollope resigned from the Post Office and made a second trip to the United States. Wherever he went, he kept at his writing. In all, he wrote 47 novels, in addition to short stories, travel books, hunting sketches, biographies, and other volumes.
Can You Forgive Her? (1864) began a series of political novels that includes Phineas Finn (1869), The Eustace Diamonds (1873), Phineas Redux (1874), The Prime Minister (1876), and The Duke's Children (1880). The characters in this series develop as they do in the Barsetshire novels, especially Plantagenet Palliser, who is seen as a young man in the first novel and as a widower in the last.
Most of Trollope's novels are good-natured, but The Way We Live Now (1875) is not. This novel is a scathing satire of England in the 1870s, greedy for money while on the edge of moral bankruptcy. This novel seems to reveal a Trollope different from the author of the Barsetshire stories. The author, however, is the man he always was; his story is now about a different England.
Trollope was a methodical writer. He began writing as early as 5:30 in the morning and before breakfast entered in a diary kept for each of his novels, beginning with Barchester Towers, the number of pages he had written. He wrote aboard ship or on a train. When he finished a novel, he turned it over to his publisher and promptly began another. His method of working made him liable to the charge of being a mechanical rather than a methodical writer. However, his steady output was the result of pondering the characters and situations of a projected book while traveling or during intervals in his business day.
Trollope's Autobiography, written in 1875-1876 but not published until 1883, the year after his death, revealed his method of writing and caused a decline in his reputation. Only in the 20th century was his reputation restored. The Autobiography presents an older and sadder man—but not an essentially different one—than the Trollope who commented upon his characters in the Barsetshire novels.
After resigning from the Post Office, Trollope traveled for pleasure. He continued to write during each journey. He suffered a stroke and after a short illness died on Dec. 6, 1882.
Trollope's Autobiography (1883; many subsequent editions) is a valuable self-portrait but an underestimation of his abilities. Michael Sadleir, Trollope: A Commentary (1927), undoubtedly the best biography, presents him as a healthy, normal man content with the life around him and happy to create the illusion of it in his books. Lucy Poate Stebbins and Richard Stebbins, The Trollopes: The Chronicle of a Writing Family (1945), analyzes Trollope as an unhappy man who betrayed his talent and revealed his embitterment in his Autobiography. The best critical study is Bradford A. Booth, Anthony Trollope: Aspects of His Life and Art (1958), which mediates these views. Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 (1957), is an excellent presentation of historical background.
Glendinning, Victoria, Anthony Trollope, New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 1993.
Mullen, Richard, Anthony Trollope: a Victorian in his world, Savannah: F.C. Beil, 1992.
Snow, C. P. (Charles Percy), Trollope, his life and art, New York: Scribner, 1975.
Trollope, Anthony, An illustrated autobiography: including How the "Mastiffs" went to Iceland, Wolfeboro, N.H.: A. Sutton, 1987.
Terry, R. C. (Reginald Charles), Trollope: interviews and recollections, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987. □
J. A. Cannon