Anthony Trollope (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of Trollope's best-loved works, known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire, but he also wrote penetrating novels on political, social, and gender issues and conflicts of his day.
Trollope's popularity continues into the present day (famous fans include Sir Alec Guinness [who never travelled without a Trollope novel], former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, and American mystery novelist Sue Grafton); his literary reputation dipped somewhat during the last years of his life, for reasons detailed below, but he had regained the esteem of critics by the mid-twentieth century.
Anthony Trollope's father, Thomas Anthony Trollope, worked as a barrister. Anthony's mother Frances Trollope would later become a successful writer. Thomas Trollope, though a clever and well-educated man and a Fellow of New College, Oxford, failed at the bar due to his bad temper. Not only that, but his ventures into farming proved unprofitable and he lost an expected inheritance when an elderly uncle married and had children. Nonetheless, he came from a genteel background, with connections to the landed gentry, and so wished to educate his sons as gentlemen and for them to attend Oxford or Cambridge. The conflict between his family's social background and its poverty would cause misery to Anthony Trollope as a boy.
Born in London, Anthony attended Harrow School as a day-boy for three years from the age of seven, as his father's farm lay in that neighbourhood. After a spell at a private school, he followed his father and two older brothers to Winchester College, where he remained for three years. He returned to Harrow as a day-boy to reduce the cost of his education. Trollope had some very miserable experiences at these two public schools. They ranked as two of the most élite schools in England, but Trollope had no money and no friends, and got bullied a great deal. At the age of twelve, he fantasized about suicide. However, he also day-dreamed instead, constructing elaborate imaginary worlds.
In 1827 Frances Trollope moved to America with Trollope's three younger siblings, where she opened a bazaar in Cincinnati, which proved unsuccessful. Thomas Trollope joined them for a short time before returning to the farm at Harrow, but Anthony stayed in England throughout. His mother returned in 1831 and rapidly made a name for herself as a writer, soon earning a good income. His father's affairs, however, went from bad to worse. He gave up his legal practice entirely and fled in 1834 to Belgium to avoid arrest for debt. The whole family moved to a house near Bruges, where they lived entirely on Frances's earnings. In 1835, Thomas Trollope died.
While living in Belgium, Anthony worked as a Classics usher (a junior or assistant teacher) in a school with a view to learning French and German, so that he could take up a promised commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment, which had to be cut short at six weeks. He then obtained a position as a civil servant in the British Post Office through one of his mother's family connections, and returned to London on his own. Post Office work provided a gentlemanly occupation, but not a well-paid one.
Time in Ireland
Trollope lived in boarding houses and remained socially awkward; he referred to this as his "hobbledehoyhood". He made little progress in his career until the Post Office sent him to Ireland in 1841. He married an Englishwoman named Rose Heseltine in 1844. They lived in Ireland until 1859 when they moved back to England. Despite the calamity of the famine in Ireland, Trollope wrote of his time in Ireland in his autobiography:
- "it was altogether a very jolly life that I led in Ireland. The Irish people did not murder me, nor did they even break my head. I soon found them to be good-humoured, clever - the working classes very much more intelligent than those of England - economical and hospitable'.
His professional role as a post-office surveyor brought him into contact with Irish people
Trollope began writing on the numerous long train trips around Ireland he had to take to carry out his postal duties. Setting very firm goals about how much he would write each day, he eventually became one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote his earliest novels while working as a Post Office inspector, occasionally dipping into the "
Return to England
By the mid-1860s, Trollope had reached a fairly senior position within the Post Office hierarchy. Postal history credits him with introducing the pillar box (the ubiquitous bright red mail-box) in the United Kingdom. He had by this time also started to earn a substantial income from his novels. He had overcome the awkwardness of his youth, made good friends in literary circles, and hunted enthusiastically.
He left the Post Office in 1867 to run for Parliament as a Liberal candidate in 1868. After he lost, he concentrated entirely on his literary career. As well as continuing to produce novels rapidly, he edited the St Paul's Magazine, which published several of his novels in serial form.
His first major success came with The Warden (1855) — the first of six novels set in the fictional county of "Barsetshire" (often collectively referred to as the Chronicles of Barsetshire), usually dealing with the clergy. The comic masterpiece Barchester Towers (1857) has probably become the best-known of these. Trollope's other major series, the Palliser novels, concerned itself with politics, with the wealthy, industrious Plantagenet Palliser and his delightfully spontaneous, even richer wife Lady Glencora usually featuring prominently (although, as with the Barsetshire series, many other well-developed characters populate each novel).
Trollope's popularity and critical success diminished in his later years, but he continued to write prolifically, and some of his later novels have acquired a good reputation. In particular, critics generally acknowledge the sweeping satire The Way We Live Now (1875) as his masterpiece. In all, Trollope wrote approximately four-dozen novels, as well as dozens of short stories and a few books on travel.
Anthony Trollope died in London in 1882. His grave stands in Kensal Green Cemetery, near that of his contemporary Wilkie Collins. C. P. Snow wrote a biography of Trollope, published in 1975, called Trollope: His Life and Art.
After his death, Trollope's Autobiography appeared. Trollope's downfall in the eyes of the critics stemmed largely from this volume. Even during his writing career, reviewers tended increasingly to shake their heads over his prodigious output (and the same went for Charles Dickens), but when Trollope revealed that he actually adhered to a definite schedule, he confirmed his critics' worst fears. The Muse, in their view, might prove immensely prolific for Trollope, but she would never ever adhere to a schedule. (Interestingly, no-one has decried Gustave Flaubert for diligence, though he too worked on a schedule-scheme similar to Trollope's.) Furthermore, Trollope admitted that he wrote for money; at the same time he called the disdain of money false and foolish. The Muse, claimed the critics, should not be aware of money.
Henry James expressed mixed opinions of Trollope. The young James wrote some scathing reviews of Trollope's novels (The Belton Estate, for instance, he called "a stupid book, without a single thought or idea in it ... a sort of mental pabulum"). He also made it clear that he disliked Trollope's narrative method; Trollope's cheerful interpolations into his novels to the extent that his storylines could take any twist their author wanted did not appeal to James' sense of artistic integrity. However, James thoroughly appreciated Trollope's attention to realistic detail, as he wrote in an essay shortly after the novelist's death:
"His [Trollope's] great, his incontestable merit, was a complete appreciation of the usual...he felt all daily and immediate things as well as saw them; felt them in a simple, direct, salubrious way, with their sadness, their gladness, their charm, their comicality, all their obvious and measurable meanings...Trollope will remain one of the most trustworthy, though not one of the most eloquent of writers who have helped the heart of man to know itself...A race is fortunate when it has a good deal of the sort of imagination — of imaginative feeling — that had fallen to the share of Anthony Trollope; and in this possession our English race is not poor."
James disliked Trollope's breaking the fourth wall in addressing readers directly. However, Trollope may have had some influence on James's own work; the earlier novelist's treatment of family tensions, especially between fathers and daughters, may resonate in some of James' novels. For instance, Alice Vavasor and her selfish father in the first of the so-called Palliser novels, Can You Forgive Her?, may pre-figure Kate Croy and her own insufferable father, Lionel, in The Wings of the Dove.
Writers such as Thackeray, Eliot and Collins admired and befriended Trollope, and George Eliot noted that she could not have embarked on so ambitious a project as Middlemarch without the precedent set by Trollope in his own novels of the fictional — yet thoroughly alive — county of Barsetshire.
As trends in the world of the novel moved increasingly towards subjectivity and artistic experimentation, Trollope would remain obscure for decades. In the 1940s, Trollopians made attempts to resurrect his reputation; he enjoyed a critical Renaissance in the 1960s, and again in the 1990s. Some critics today have a particular interest in Trollope's portrayal of women — he caused remark even in his own day for his remarkable insight and sensitivity to the inner conflicts caused by the position of women in Victorian society. But the understanding that critics find largely in Trollope's portrayal of women, readers find in his portrayal of humanity. A Trollope Society flourishes in the United Kingdom, as does its sister society in the United States.
Trollope's works on television
The British Broadcasting Corporation has made several television-drama serials based on the works of Anthony Trollope:
- The Pallisers, a twenty-six-episode adaptation of all six Palliser novels, first broadcast in 1974. Adapted by Simon Raven, it starred Philip Latham as Plantagenet Palliser and Susan Hampshire as Lady Glencora.
- The Barchester Chronicles, a seven-episode adaptation of the first two Barset novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers. Adapted by Alan Plater, it starred Donald Pleasence as the Reverend Septimus Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly, and Alan Rickman as the Reverend Obadiah Slope.
- The Way We Live Now, a four-episode adaptation of the novel of the same name. Adapted by Andrew Davies, it starred David Suchet as Auguste Melmotte and Matthew Macfadyen as Sir Felix Carbury.
- He Knew He Was Right transmitted April 18, 2004 on BBC One, the first of four sixty-minute episodes. Produced by BBC Wales, and adapted again by Andrew Davies, it starred, amongst others, Bill Nighy, Laura Fraser, David Tennant, and Geoffrey Palmer.
In the United States, PBS has broadcast all four series: The Pallisers in its own right, and The Barchester Chronicles, The Way We Live Now, and He Knew He Was Right as part of Masterpiece Theatre.
Trollope's works on radio
The BBC commissioned a four-part radio adaptation of The Small House at Allington, the fifth novel of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which it broadcast in 1993. Listeners responded so positively that the BBC had the five remaining novels of the series adapted, and BBC Radio 4 broadcast the complete series between December 1995 and March 1998. In this adaptation, Stephen Moore played the part of Archdeacon Grantley.
BBC Radio 4 broadcast a serialised radio adaptation of The Kellys and the O'Kellys, starring Derek Jacobi, between 21 November 1982 and 2 January 1983.
Radio 4 broadcast The Pallisers, a new twelve-part adaptation of the Palliser novels, from January to April 2004 in the weekend Classic Serial slot.
Novels unless otherwise noted:
Chronicles of Barsetshire
The Warden (1855) · Barchester Towers (1857) · Doctor Thorne (1858) · Framley Parsonage (1861) · The Small House at Allington (1864) · The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867)
Can You Forgive Her? (1864) · Phineas Finn (1869) · The Eustace Diamonds (1873) · Phineas Redux (1874) · The Prime Minister (1876) · The Duke's Children (1879)
- The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847)
- The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848)
- La Vendée (1850)
- The Three Clerks (1858)
- The West Indies and the Spanish Main (travel) (1859)
- The Bertrams (1859)
- Castle Richmond (1860)
- Tales of All Countries--1st Series (stories) (1861)
- Tales of All Countries--2nd Series (stories) (1863)
- Tales of All Countries--3rd Series (stories) (1870)
- Orley Farm (1862)
- North America (travel) (1862)
- Rachel Ray (1863)
- Miss Mackenzie (1865)
- Hunting Sketches (sketches) (1865)
- Travelling Sketches (sketches) (1866)
- Clergymen of the Church of England (sketches) (1866)
- The Belton Estate (1866)
- The Claverings (1867)
- Nina Balatka (1867)
- Linda Tressel (1868)
- He Knew He Was Right (1869)
- Did He Steal It? (play) (1869)
- The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson (1870)
- The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870)
- An Editor's Tales (stories) (1870)
- The Commentaries of Caesar (school textbook) (1870)
- Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite (1871)
- Ralph the Heir (1871)
- The Golden Lion of Granpère (1872)
- Australia and New Zealand (travel) (1873)
- Harry Heathcote of Gangoil (1874)
- Lady Anna (1874)
- The Way We Live Now (1875)
- The American Senator (1877)
- Is He Popenjoy? (1878)
- South Africa (travel) (1878)
- How the 'Mastiffs' Went to Iceland (travel) (1878)
- John Caldigate (1879)
- An Eye for an Eye (1879)
- Cousin Henry (1879)
- Thackeray (criticism) (1879)
- Life of Cicero (biography) (1880)
- Ayala's Angel (1881)
- Doctor Wortle's School (1881)
- Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and other Stories (stories) (1882)
- Lord Palmerston (biography) (1882)
- The Fixed Period (1882)
- Kept in the Dark (1882)
- Marion Fay (1882)
- Mr. Scarborough's Family (1883)
- Autobiography (autobiography) (1883)
- The Landleaguers (unfinished novel) (1883)
- An Old Man's Love (1884)
- The Noble Jilt (play) (1923)
- London Tradesmen (sketches) (1927)
- The New Zealander (essay) (1972)
"Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him even Balzac is a romantic." — W. H. Auden
- ^ McNally, Frank. "An Irishman's Diary", The Irish Times, 2006-08-14.
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