Copyright, 1902, by The Century Co.Published November, 1902.
Among minor English novelists Anthony Trollope occupies the foremost place. In fact, there are few of the greatest who excel him in originality and delicacy of humor and the faithful portrayal of character. His work lacks very little of being that of genius. He was born in 1815; spent the greater part of his life in the postal service, as inspector in Ireland, England, and abroad; and died in 1882. In 1862 he visited the United States, and on his return published an account of his travels which was of considerable service in correcting English opinions on American affairs.
"Barchester Towers," perhaps the best, certainly the most delightful, of his novels, was published in 1857. Its scene is the cathedral town of "Barchester" (suggested by Salisbury), about which cluster a number of his most fascinating tales. The life of this imaginary town—the doings of its ecclesiastical dignitaries and of their neighbors—Trollope reveals with the exactness of a local historian and with inimitable humor. "I had formed for myself," he says, "so complete a picture of the locality, had acquired so accurate a knowledge of the cathedral town and the county in which I had placed the scene, and had become by a long-continued mental dwelling in it so intimate with sundry of its inhabitants, that to go back to it and write about it again and again has become one of the delights of my life." To peruse what he wrote is certainly one of the delights of the reader of English fiction. As pictures of contemporary life Trollope's works are unsurpassed. They may, as has been truly said, "fall into temporary oblivion, but when the twentieth century desires to estimate the nineteenth, they will be disinterred and studied with an attention accorded to no contemporary work of the kind, except, perhaps, George Eliot's 'Middlemarch.' "