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Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

 

Popular British author, who described realistically Victorian world. Trollope's best known stories were set in the imaginary English county of Barsetshire. In his autobiography (1883) Trollope wrote, that the novelist's task is "to make his readers so intimately acquainted with his characters that the creation of his brain should be to them speaking, moving, living, human creatures." Trollope is notable for having developed the chronicle form of fiction. The Barsetshire novels were the first serial fiction in English literature. Among Trollope's other achievements is the introduction of the red British mail boxes for letters, known as pillar-boxes. 

"It is a comfortable feeling to know that you stand on your own ground. Land is about the only thing that can't fly away." (from The Last Chronicle of Barset, 1867)

Anthony Trollope was born at 16 Keppel Street in London. He was the fifth of seven children. His father, Thomas Anthony, was a fellow of New College, Oxford, who failed both as a lawyer and as a farmer. The family's poverty made Trollope miserable at the rigid public social hierarchy in Harrow and Winchester. "It is hard to think of any good writer who had as wretched a time and had to endure it for so long," C. P. Snow wrote in Trollope (1975). Sometimes his parents could not afford to pay their son's school fees. After financial troubles, the family moved to Belgium, where Trollope's father died, broken-hearted and ill.

Trollope's mother, Frances Trollope (1780-1863), took her three youngest children to America to assist in the founding of the city of New Harmony, Memphis. The venture failed, and she traveled for fifteen months in America. In 1832, back in England, she published Domestic Manners of the Americans - she was at that time 52. The work gained success, and she could support her family through her writing. Trollope has recalled that some of her best works were born during the tragic period when her husband and daughter died. She continued writing until she was seventy-six.

Trollope joined at the age of 19 the post office, where he worked as a clerk. In 1841, at the age of 26, he became a postal surveyor in Ireland. Trollope spent in this work for 33 years and used later his experiences in many novels.  After marrying Rose Heseltine in 1844, Trollope set up a house at Clonmel and started his literary career. Soon after marrying Trollope began writing his spare time to earn extra money. He also began to speculate about the health of his wife and wrote to Miss Dorothea Sankey, another Irish woman of his acquaintance: "Should anything happen to her, will you supply her place - as soon as a proper period of decent mourning is over?" Eventually Rose Heseltine outlived her husband.

On Post Office business Trollope traveled in Egypt (1858), the West Indies (1858-59), and the United States (1861-62, 1868). "The marine people - the captain and his satellites - are bound to provide me; and all that they have provided is yams, salt pork, biscuit, and bad coffee," complained Trollope on his ocean voyage to Cuba in 1859. "I should be starved but for the small ham - would that it had been a large one - which I thoughtfully purchased in Kingston..." (from The West Indies and the Spanish Main, 1859). By the end of his professional career Trollope had became a successful civil servant.

Trollope's greatest desire as a surveyor was that "the public in little villages should be enabled to buy postage-stamps; that they should have their letters delivered free and at an early hour; that pillar letterboxes should be put up for them". Before the mailboxes one had to go to the Post Office to mail a letter. In November 1851 he suggested to his boss, that he try out the idea in St Helier, Jersey. Though in his 1869 novel He Knew He Was Right one of the characters expresses her mistrust of the "iron pillar boxes," Trollope reassured his readers in The Eustache Diamonds, (1873) that the letters would reach their destination. The protagonist, Frank Greystock, proposes to  Lucy Morris by putting his proposal in a letterbox; it appears on the breakfast table on time, "thanks to the accuracy in the performance of its duties for which [the Post Office] is conspicious among all offices."

"Needless to deny that the normal London plumber is a dishonest man. We do not even allow ourselves to think so. That question, as to the dishonesty of mankind generally, is one that disturbs us greatly; - whether a man in all grades of life will by degrees train his honesty to suit his own book, so that the course of life which he shall bring himself to regard as soundly honest shall, if known to his neighbours, subject him to their reproof. We own to a doubt whether the honesty of a bishop would shine bright as the morning star to the submissive ladies who now worship him, if the theory of life upon which he lives were understood by them in all its bearings." (The 'Plumber,' 1880)

In 1859 he moved back to London and resigned from the civil service in 1867. His election campaign as a Liberal parliamentary candidate was unsuccessful, but about 1869 Trollope began his creative late period, publishing psychological and sharply satirical novels. Between the years 1867 and 1870 he edited the St Paul's Magazine. In 1871-72 he traveled in Australia and New Zealand, again in Australia in 1875, and in South Africa in 1877.

Trollope regularly produced 1000 words an hour before breakfast - his page contained 250 words. "Perhaps the main characteristic of writers like Jane Austen and Trollope is their complete non-literariness", noted Ford Madox Ford in The March of Literature (1938). "Indeed, you would say that they are without the passion to write that distinguishes a Balzac, a Dickens, a Thackeray or even a genuine artist like Gautier." Trollope spent three productive hours a day at his desk, before a quire of paper, pen in hand. "I always began my task by reading the work of the day before," he wrote in An Autobiography (1883). "I would strongly recommend this practice to all tyros in writing". Rewriting Trollope considered "a waste of time." In the evening he enjoyed playing whist at the Garrick Club.

Trollope's first book, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, was published in 1847. The powerful story depicted a doomed Irish family. The book did not sell and the published attributed the authorship to Trollope's mother, a better known writer. It took 12 years before Trollope started to make money with his pen. Most of his novels appeared first in serialized form in magazines.

His reputation as a writer Trollope established with his fourth novel, The Warden  (1855), which was set in the imaginary English county Barsetshire. The story told about a clergyman whose gentle life is upset when he is accused of misusing money meant for the old people's home he looks after. The Warden was conceived according to the author while wandering round Salisbury cathedral on a summer evening. It was followed by the 'Chronicles of Barsetshire', Barchester Towers (1857), perhaps the most popular of all his novels, Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1967), which the author considered his finest novel. The series with realistic presentation of middle-class domestic relationship was received with enthusiasm by the mid-Victorian reading public. With humour and gentle satire, the author told stories of ordinary men and women with human weaknesses.

Palliser series was about an invented family of nobles started in 1864 with the novel Can You Forgive Her? It continued with Phineas Finn (1869), The Eustace Diamonds, Phineas Redux (1876), The Prime Minister (1876), and The Duke's Children (1880). One of the central characters, Plantagenet Palliser (later Lord Omnium), had first appeared in The Small House at Allington. Trollope deepened the presentation of the dry, ambitious politician and his brilliant wife Glencora, and later considered that they were the two characters on whom his reputation with posterity would rest. The Way We Live Now (1874-75) was a social satire, which has been compared to Thackeray's Vanity Fair (1848). Trollope wrote it after returning to England from the colonies. The central character is Augustus Melmotte, an Austrian Jewish financier, who moves to London and and becomes the center of financial and political intrigues.

The Barset novels and Palliser series took together over twenty years of Trollope's writing life. His popularity was at its peak during the 1860s, when he lived at Waltham House, Hertfordshire. Especially readers admired his detailed description of social life and vivid psychological portraits of his characters, among them Madame Max Goesler, who appeared in several novels, and the scheming Mrs. Proudie. George Eliot remarked that his books "are filled with belief in goodness without the slightest tinge of maudlin." Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that Trollope's novels are "solid, substantial, written on the strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale..." Trollope himself boasted that he produced novels with factory-like methodicalness. Henry James regarded it as a "betrayal of a sacred office and a "terrible crime", when Trollope admitted to his readers that the events he narrates have not really happened, and that he can give his narrative any turn the reader like best.

Trollope's work continued in more realistic vein the literary tradition on William Thackeray, of whom he wrote a study in 1879. He published some 40 novels, short stories, travel books, and essays. His only science fiction novel, The Fixed Period (1882), was set in 1980 and dealt with euthanasia; a plan is launched on the imaginary island of Britannula near New Zealand to put away people who have reached the age of 67.The story was narrated by the President of the Republic.

Trollope lived in London from 1872 and at Harting Grange, Sussex, until 1882. He had a private library of 5,000 volumes, which was dearer to him "even than the horses." Trollope died in London on December 6, 1882. His last novel, Mr. Scarborough's Family, was published posthumously in 1883. During the Second World War Trollope's novels were read primarily as romances but from the 1970s, critical revaluation of the author's contribution to the history of the novel has taken place, and Trollope's reputation as a moralist has risen greatly. However, still in the 1990s, his works were dismissed in the London Sunday Telegraph as overrated and flat.

For further reading: Anthony Trollope by Bradford A. Booth (1958); The Critical Heritage, ed. by D.A. Smalley (1969); The Moral Trollope by Ruth apRoberts (1971); Trollope by C.P. Snow (1975); The Novels of Anthony Trollope by James Kincaid (1977); The Novel-Machine by Walter M. Kendrick (1980); Trollope and Comic Pleasure by Christopher Herbert (1987); He Knew She Was Right by Jane Nardin (1989); Anthony Trollope by Richard Mullen (1990); Anthony Trollope and His Contemporaries by David Skilton (1996); Trollope and the Magazines: Gendered Issues in Mid-Victorian Britain by Mark W. Turner (2000); Anthony Trollope by James Pope-Hennessy (2002).  In Finnish: Trollopelta on suomennettu sukuromaanisarja Palliser-taru.  Note 1: Angela Margaret Thirkell, writer and a cousin of Rudyard Kipling (1890-1961), continued the Bersetshire series in more than 30 novels, dealing with the descendants of characters from Trollope's books. Note 2: Anthony Trollope's distant relation Joanna Trollope have published several bestsellers. Her books have sold more than 6 million copies around the world. Latest novel, Marrying the Mistress (2000) depicts a 62-year-old judge who wants to leave his wife and marry his young barrister mistress. Anthony Trollope's brother Thomas Adolphus Trollope (1810-92) wrote some 60 volumes of travel writing, history and fiction.

Selected works:

  • The Macdermots of Ballycloran, 1847
  • The Kellys and the O'Kellys, 1848
  • La Vendée: An Historical Romance, 1850
  • The Warden, 1855 (Barsetshire series)
    - Vanhan miehen omatunto (suom. 1953)
    - BBC television drama 1951, with J.H. Roberts, Thea Holme, Lockwood West, Avice Landone, David Markham, Arthur Hambling
  • Barchester Towers, 1857
    - TV drama 1961, dir. by Stuart Latham; TV series Barchester Chronicles (The Warden and Barchester Towers), 1982, prod. by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. by David Giles, written by Alan Plater, starring Donald Pleasence, David Gwillim, John Ringham, Janet Maw, Angela Pleasence
  • Doctor Thorne, 1858 (Barsetshire series)
  • The Three Clerks, 1858
  • The Bertrams, 1859
  • The West Indies and the Spanish Main, 1859
  • Castle Richmond, 1860
  • Framley Parsonage, 1861 (Barsetshire series)
  • Orley Farm, 1861-62
  • North America, 1862
  • The Struggles of Brown, Jones & Robinson, 1862
  • Rachel Ray , 1863
  • The Small House at Allington, 1864 (Barsetshire series)
    - BBC TV series 1960, with Miranda Connell, Frederick Jaeger, Shirley Lawrence, John Robinson, Nora Swinburne, David Horne
  • Can You Forgive Her?, 1864 (Palliser series)
    - Epävarmoja tunteita: Palliser-taru (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1978) / Korkeita tavoitteita: Palliser-taru (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1979)
    - TV series 1973-74, directed by Hugh David, Ronald Wilson, written by Simon Raven, starring Susan Hampshire, Roland Culver, Philip Latham, Fabia Drake, Carole Mortimer, Sonia Dresdel, Sarah Badel, Gary Watson
  • Miss Mackenzie, 1865
  • The Belton Estate, 1866
  • Nina Balatka, 1867
  • The Last Chronicle of Barset, 1867 (Barsetshire series)
    - BBC TV series 1959, with Hugh Burden, Maureen Pryor, Clive Morton, Pamela Buck, Frances Rowe, Bernard Brown
  • The Clavering, 1867
  • Linda Tressel, 1868
  • Phineas Finn, the Irish Member, 1869 (Palliser series)
    - Toiveita: Palliser-taru 3 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1979); Kunnian vuoksi: Palliser-taru 4 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1979)
  • Did He Steal It?, 1869 (play)
  • He Knew He Was Right, 1869
    - BBC television series 2004, dir. by Tom Vaughan, script by Andrew Davies, starring Oliver Dimsdale, Laura Fraser, Bill Nighy, David Tenant, Anna Massey
  • The Vicar of Bullhampton, 1870
  • Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, 1871
  • The Eustace Diamonds, 1872 (Palliser series)
    - Timanttien välkettä: Palliser-taru 5 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1980); Salaisia juonia: Palliser-taru 6 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1980)
    - BBC TV-series 1959, with Wendy Williams, David McCallum, Perlita Neilson, Kynaston Reeves, Jessica Dunning, Graham Crowden
  • Lady Anna, 1873
  • Australia and New Zealand, 1873
  • Phineas Redux, 1874 (Palliser series)
    - Liian suuri houktus: Palliser-taru 7 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1981); Murhasta syytettynä: Palliser-taru 8 (suom. Marja Helanen-Ahtola, 1981)
  • Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, 1874
  • The Way We Live Now, 1875
    - TV film 1969, prod. BBC, dir. by James Cellan Jones, adaptation by Simon Raven; BBC television series 2001, dir. by David Yates, script by Andrew Davies, starring Paloma Baeza, David Bradley, Tony Britton, Cheryl Campbell, Jim Carter, Allan Corduner, Michele Dotrice, Miranda Otto, Michael Riley, David Suchet
  • The Prime Minister, 1876 (Palliser series)
  • The American Senator, 1877
  • Is He Popenjoy?, 1878
  • South Africa, 1878
  • An Eye for an Eye, 1879
  • John Caldigate, 1879
  • Cousin Henry, 1879
  • The Duke's Children, 1880 (Palliser series)
  • Life of Cicero, 1880
  • Doctor Wortle's School, 1881
  • Ayala's Angel, 1881
  • Marion Fay, 1882
  • The Fixed Period, 1882
  • Kept in the Dark, 1882
  • The Landleaguers, 1883
  • Mr. Scarborough's Family, 1883
  • An Autobiography, 1883
  • An Old Man's Love, 1884
  • The Noble Jilt, 1923 (play)
  • London Tradesmen, 1927
  • Four Lectures, 1938 (printed verbatim from the original texts; edited with collations, notes, etc., by Morris L. Parrish)
  • The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury, 1941
  • The Trollope Reader, 1947 (selected and ed. by Esther Cloudman Dunn and Marion E. Dodd)
  • The Letters of Anthony Trollope, 1951 (edited by Bradford Allen Booth)
  • The Letters of Anthony Trollope, 1983 (2 vols., ed. by N. John Hall)
  • Anthony Trollope: The Collected Shorter Fiction 1993 (edited by Julian Thompson)
  • Early Short Stories, 1994 (edited with an introduction by John Sutherland)
  • Trollope the Traveller: Selections from Anthony Trollope's Travel Writings, 1994 (ed. by Graham Handley)


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