1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Trollope, Anthony
TROLLOPE, ANTHONY (1815-1882), English novelist, was born in London, on the 24th of April 1815. His father, Thomas Anthony Trollope (1780-1835), a barrister who had been fellow of New College, Oxford, was reduced to poverty by unbusinesslike habits and injudicious speculation, and in 1829 Anthony's mother, Frances Milton Trollope (1780-1863), went with her husband to the United States to open a small fancy-goods shop in Cincinnati. The enterprise was a failure, but her three years' stay in that country resulted in a book on the Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), of which she gave an unflattering account that aroused keen resentment. Returning to England her husband was compelled to flee the country in order to escape his creditors, and Mrs Trollope thereafter supported him in Bruges until his death by her incessant literary work. She published some books of travel, most of which are coloured by prejudice, and many novels, among the best known of which are The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837) and the Widow Barnaby (1839), studies in that vein of broad comedy in which lay her peculiar gift. She wrote steadily for more than twenty years, until her death, at Florence, on the 6th of October 1863. (See Frances Trollope, her Life and Literary Work, by her daughter-in-law 1895.) Her eldest son Thomas Adolphus Trollope (1810-1892), was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and spent most of his life in Italy. He wrote a number of works on Italian subjects, among them Homes and Haunts of Italian Poets (1881), in collaboration with his second wife, Frances Eleanor Trollope, herself a novelist of no mean ability. He was a voluminous author, and perhaps the quantity of his work has obscured its real merit. Among his novels are La Beata (1861), Gemma (1866), and The Garstangs of Garstang Grange (1869). (See his autobiography, What I Remember 1887.)
Anthony Trollope was the third son. By his own account few English men of letters have had an unhappier childhood and youth. He puts down his own misfortunes, at Harrow, at Winchester, at Harrow again, and elsewhere, to his father's pecuniary circumstances, which made his own appearance dirty and shabby, and subjected him to various humiliations. But it is permissible to suspect that this was not quite the truth, and that some peculiarities of temper, of which in after life he had many, contributed to his unpopularity. At any rate he seems to have reached the verge of manhood as ignorant as if he had had no education at all. After an experience as usher in a private school at Brussels he obtained, at the age of nineteen, by favour (for he could not pass even the ridiculous examination then usual) a position in the London post office. Even then his troubles were not over. He got into debt; he got into ridiculous entanglements of love affairs, which he has very candidly avowed; he was in constant hot water with the authorities; and he seems to have kept some very queer company, which long afterwards stood him in good stead as models for some of his novels. At last in August 1841 he obtained the appointment of clerk to one of the post office surveyors in a remote part of Ireland with a very small salary. This, however, was practically quadrupled by allowances; living was cheap; and the life suited Trollope exactly, being not office work, which he always hated, but a kind of travelling inspectorship. In the discharge of his duties he evinced a business capacity quite unsuspected by his former superiors. Here he began that habit of hunting which, after a manner hardly possible in later conditions of official work, he kept up for many years even in England. Within three years of his appointment he became engaged to Rose Heseltine, whom he had met in Ireland but who was of English birth. They were married in June 1844. His headquarters had previously been at Banagher; he was now transferred to Clonmel.
Trollope had always dreamt of novel-writing, and his Irish experiences seemed to supply him with promising subjects. With some assistance from his mother he got published his first two books, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) and The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848). Neither was in the least a success, though the second perhaps deserved to be, and a third, La Vendée (1850), besides being a much worse book than either, was equally a failure. Trollope made various literary attempts, but for a time ill fortune attended all of them. Meanwhile he was set on a new kind of post office work, which suited him even better than his former employment—a sort of roving commission to inspect rural deliveries and devise their extension, first in Ireland, then throughout the west of England and South Wales. That he did good work is undeniable; but his curious conception of official duty, on his discharge of which he prided himself immensely, is exhibited by his confessions that he “got his hunting out of it,” and that he felt “the necessity of travelling miles enough”—he was paid by the mileage—“to keep his horses.” It was during this work that he struck the vein which gave him fortune and fame. A visit to Salisbury Close inspired him with the idea of The Warden (1855). It brought him little immediate profit, nor was even Barchester Towers, which followed in 1857, very profitable, though it contains his freshest, his most original, and, with the exception of The Last Chronicle of Barset, his best work. The two made him a reputation, however, and in 1858 he was able for the first time to sell a novel, The Three Clerks, for a substantial sum, £250. A journey on post office business to the West Indies gave him material for a book of travel, The West Indies and the Spanish Main (1859), which he frankly and quite truly acknowledges to be much better than some subsequent work of his in the same line. From this time his production, mainly of novels, was incessant, and the sums which he received were very large, amounting in one case to as much as £3525 for a single book, and to nearly £70,000 in the twenty years between 1859 and 1879. All these particulars are given with great minuteness by himself, and are characteristic. The full high tide of his fortunes began when the Cornhill Magazine was established. He was asked at short notice to contribute a novel, and wrote in 1861 Framley Parsonage, which was extremely popular; two novels immediately preceding it, The Bertrams (1859) and Castle Richmond (1860) had been much less successful.
As it will be possible to notice few of his other works, the list of them, a sufficiently astonishing one, may be given here: Doctor Thorne (1858); Tales of All Countries (3rd series 1863); Orley Farm; North America (1862); Rachael Ray (1863); The Small House at Allington, Can You Forgive Her? (1864); Miss Mackenzie (1865); The Belton Estate (1866); The Claverings, Nina Balatka, The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867); Linda Tressel (1868); Phineas Finn, He Knew He Was Right (1869); The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson, the Vicar of Bullhampton, An Editor's Tales, The Commentaries of Caesar (1870); Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, Ralph the Heir (1871); The Golden Lion of Granpere (1872); The Eustace Diamonds, Australia and New Zealand (1873); Phineas Redux, Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, Lady Anna (1874); The Way We Live Now (1875); The Prime Minister (1876); The American Senator (1877); Is He Popenjoy? South Africa (1878); John Caldigate, An Eye for an Eye, Cousin Henry, Thackeray (1879); The Duke's Children, Cicero (1880); Ayala's Angel, Dr Wortle's School (1881); Frau Frohmann, Lord Palmerston, The Fixed Period, Kept in the Dark, Marion Fay (1882); Mr Scarborough's Family, The Land Leaguers (1883); and An Old Man's Love (1884), and several volumes of short stories.
How this enormous total was achieved in spite of official work (of which, lightly as he took it, he did a good deal, and which he did not give up for many years), of hunting three times a week in the season, of whist-playing, of not a little going into general society, he has explained with his usual curious minuteness. He reduced novel-writing to the conditions of regular mechanical work so much so that latterly he turned out 250 words every quarter of an hour, and wrote at this rate three hours a day. He divided every book beforehand into so many days' work and checked off the amount as he wrote.
A life thus spent could not be very eventful, and its events may be summed up rapidly. In 1858 he went to Egypt on post office business, and at the end of 1859 he got himself transferred from Ireland to the eastern district of England. Here he took a house, at Waltham. He took an active part in the establishment of the Fortnightly Review in 1865; he was editor of St Paul's for some time after 1867; and at the end of that year he resigned his position in the post office. He stood as a parliamentary candidate for Beverley and was defeated; he received from his old department special missions to America and elsewhere — he had already gone to America during the Civil War. He went to Australia in 1871, and before going broke up his household at Waltham. When he returned he established himself in London, and lived there until 1880, when he removed to Harting, on the confines of Sussex and Hampshire. He had visited South Africa in 1877 and travelled elsewhere. He died of paralysis on the 6th of December 1882.
Of Trollope's personal character it is not necessary to say much. Strange as his conception of official duty may seem, it was evidently quite honest and sincere, and, though he is said to have been as an official popular neither with superiors nor inferiors, he no doubt did much good work. Privately he was much liked and much disliked — a great deal of real kindness being accompanied by a blustering and overbearing manner, and an egotism, not perhaps more deep than other men's, but more vociferous. None of his literary work except the novels is remarkable for merit. His Caesar and Cicero are curious examples of a man's undertaking work for which he was not in the least fitted. Thackeray exhibits, though Trollope appears to have both admired Thackeray as an artist and liked him as a man, grave faults of taste and judgment, and a complete lack of real criticism. The books of travel are not good, and of a kind not good. Nina Balatka and Linda Tressel — stories dealing with Prague and Nuremberg respectively — were published anonymously and as experiments in the romantic style. They have been better thought of by the author and by some competent judges than by the public or the publishers. The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson was still more disliked, and is certainly very bad as a whole, but has touches of curious originality in parts. Trollope seldom creates a character of the first merit; at the same time his characters are always alive. Dr Thorne, Mr Harding, who has the courage to resign his sinecure in The Warden, Mr Crawley, Archdeacon Grantley, and Mrs Proudie in the same ecclesiastical series, are distinct additions to the personae of English fiction After his first failures he never produced any thing that was not a faithful and sometimes a very amusing transcript of the sayings and doings of possible men and women. His characters are never marionettes, much less sticks. He has some irritating mannerisms, notably a trick of repetition of the same form of words. He is sometimes absolutely vulgar — that is to say, he does not deal with low life, but shows, though always robust and pure in morality, a certain coarseness of taste. He is constantly rather trivial, and perhaps nowhere out of the Barset series (which, however, is of itself no inconsiderable work) has he produced books that will live. The very faithfulness of his representation of a certain phase of thought, of cultivation, of society, uninformed as it is by any higher spirit, in the long run damaged, as it had first helped, the popularity of his work. But, allowing for all this it may and must still be said that he held up his mirror steadily to nature, and that the mirror itself was fashioned with no inconsiderable art.
Trollope wrote an Autobiography, edited by his son Henry M. Trollope in 1883, explaining his literary methods with amusing frankness. See also Sir L. Stephen's Studies of a Biographer (1898), James Bryce's Studies in Contemporary Biography (1903), and Henry James's Partial Portraits (1888).