Authors: Anthony Trollope

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

English novelist

April 24, 1815

London, England

December 6, 1882

London, England

Biography

The father of Anthony Trollope, Thomas Anthony Trollope, was an eccentric barrister who lost his wealth in wild speculations; his mother, Frances Trollope, kept the family together by fleeing to Belgium to escape creditors and by writing a total of 114 volumes, mostly novels. Her best-known work today is Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), a caustic and grossly exaggerated account of the United States she observed on a trip to Cincinnati in 1823 in an unsuccessful attempt to set up a great bazaar. As his older brother, Thomas Adolphus, was also a writer, Anthony was following a well-established family tradition.

Anthony Trollope

(Library of Congress)

According to his posthumous Autobiography, Trollope was born in London on April 24, 1815; he grew into an ungainly, oafish, and unpopular boy who spent miserable and friendless years at Harrow and Winchester, where he learned nothing. When he was nineteen, he sought work in London, first as a clerk and then as a civil servant with the post office. He hated his work and his lonely life in the city, and seven years later he accepted with relief an appointment as traveling postal inspector in Ireland (1841-1859). Later his duties carried him on brief trips to all the continents of the world. In Ireland Trollope’s pleasant experiences with genial country people and an exhilarating landscape helped him develop into a more confident and optimistic person.

He married Rose Haseltine and at the age of thirty began to write, his first novels being inspired by the ruins of an Irish mansion. His early works were failures, but he persevered under difficult conditions until The Warden found a responsive audience in 1855. This “scene from clerical life,” its setting the Episcopal establishment of Barchester, presents a detailed account of the day-to-day events of provincial life in Victorian England. Its sequel, Barchester Towers, with its incorrigible comic character, Bertie, was so successful that it was followed by four other novels on the same theme, the whole group constituting the perennially popular “Chronicles of Barsetshire.” During this same period, Trollope also wrote other novels, the best of which are The Three Clerks, an autobiographical account of the English civil service, and Orley Farm, a work which combines a plot involving a forged will with genre pictures of family life in the country.

In 1867, now confident of his powers, Trollope resigned from the post office and became interested in politics. He stood as Liberal candidate for Parliament in 1868 but was defeated. Nevertheless, he cut an impressive figure, chatting in the London literary clubs and riding to the hounds in southern England. All these interests are faithfully embodied in a series sometimes called the parliamentary novels, among them Phineas Finn, the Irish Member; Phineas Redux; The Prime Minister; and The Duke’s Children. Trollope could not compete with Benjamin Disraeli in this field (just as he was unable to compete with Charles Dickens in depicting city life among the lower and middle classes), and despite their appealing portraits of political life and character, his parliamentary series was not widely read. Trollope continued to turn out novel after novel—mild satires, histories, romances, travelogues, novels of manners, and even, in The Fixed Period, a futuristic work about life in 1980. A curiously interesting work is the story of an erring woman, Can You Forgive Her?—a novel as close as he ever came to modern realism.

Despite the fact that he wrote some sixty novels in all, it cannot be said of Trollope that he made the world his stage. He surveys generally a rather narrow scene, usually rural and provincial, peopled by mild villains and tame heroes. No powerful philosophical or social conviction charges his writing, and no keen analysis of human psychology opens the inner beings of his characters. “A novel,” he said, “should give a picture of common life enlivened by humor and sweetened by pathos.” In this endeavor Trollope succeeded so completely that Henry James said of him, “His great, his inestimable merit was a complete appreciation of the usual.” Trollope died on December 6, 1882, as the result of a stroke suffered one month earlier.

Trollope’s posthumously published Autobiography disappointed his admirers and dampened his reputation, for he candidly confessed that he wrote 250 words per hour, completing eight to sixteen pages a day. He is said to have earned some seventy thousand pounds from his writings. Despite the fact that he was not an inspired writer, he amused an entire generation with pleasant tales, the best of which have considerable value as sociological insights into a more tranquil age forever past.

Author Works Long Fiction: The Macdermots of Ballycloran, 1847 The Kellys and the O’Kellys, 1848 La Vendée: An Historical Romance, 1850 The Warden, 1855 Barchester Towers, 1857 The Three Clerks, 1858 Doctor Thorne, 1858 The Bertrams, 1859 Castle Richmond, 1860 Framley Parsonage, 1860-1861 Orley Farm, 1861-1862 The Struggles of Brown, Jones & Robinson, 1862 The Small House at Allington, 1862-1864 Rachel Ray, 1863 Can You Forgive Her?, 1864-1865 Miss Mackenzie, 1865 The Belton Estate, 1865-1866 The Claverings, 1866-1867 The Last Chronicle of Barset, 1867 Nina Balatka, 1867 Phineas Finn, the Irish Member, 1867-1869 Linda Tressel, 1868 He Knew He Was Right, 1868-1869 The Vicar of Bulhampton, 1869-1870 Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, 1871 Ralph the Heir, 1871 The Eustace Diamonds, 1871-1873 The Golden Lion of Granpère, 1872 Phineas Redux, 1873-1874 Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, 1874 Lady Anna, 1874 The Way We Live Now, 1874-1875 The Prime Minister, 1875-1876 The American Senator, 1876-1877 Is He Popenjoy?, 1877-1878 John Caldigate, 1878-1879 An Eye for an Eye, 1879 Cousin Henry, 1879 The Duke’s Children, 1879-1880 Dr. Wortle’s School, 1880 Ayala’s Angel, 1881 The Fixed Period, 1881-1882 Kept in the Dark, 1882 Marion Fay, 1882 The Landleaguers, 1882-1883 Mr. Scarborough’s Family, 1882-1883 An Old Man's Love, 1884 Short Fiction: Tales of All Countries, 1861, 1863 Lotta Schmidt, and Other Stories, 1867 An Editor’s Tales, 1870 Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices, and Other Stories, 1882 The Two Heroines of Plumpington, 1882 Nonfiction: The West Indies and the Spanish Main, 1859 North America, 1862 Clergymen of the Church of England, 1865-1866 Hunting Sketches, 1865 Travelling Sketches, 1865-1866 On English Prose Fiction as a Rational Amusement, 1869 The Commentaries of Caesar, 1870 (translation) Australia and New Zealand, 1873 New South Wales and Queensland, 1874 South Africa, 1878 How the 'Mastiffs' Went to Iceland, 1878 Thackeray, 1879 Life of Cicero, 1880 Lord Palmerston, 1882 Autobiography, 1883 London Tradesman, 1883 The Letters of Anthony Trollope, 1951 (Bradford A. Booth, editor) The New Zealander, 1972 Bibliography Felber, Lynette. Gender and Genre in Novels Without End: The British Roman-Fleuve. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995. Discusses Trollope’s Palliser novels, Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage (1938, 1967), and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (1955-1975). An excellent study. Glendinning, Victoria. Anthony Trollope. New York: Knopf, 1993. Hall, N. John. Trollope: A Biography. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1991. Draws heavily on the great Victorian’s own words and pays particular attention to Trollope’s travel writing and his final decade. Hall, N. John, ed. The Trollope Critics. Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Macmillan, 1981. A good critical anthology for introductory purposes. Includes twenty Trollope critics and covers a wide range of topics. Contains bibliography. Halperin, John. Trollope and Politics. New York: Macmillan, 1977. This study focuses on each of the six Palliser novels and includes several more general chapters. Contains a select bibliography and indexes. Mullen, Richard, and James Munson. The Penguin Companion to Trollope. New York: Penguin, 1996. A thorough guide to Trollope’s life and works. With index and bibliography. Pollard, Arthur. Anthony Trollope. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978. Pollard seeks to put all of Trollope’s novels and a variety of miscellaneous works within the context of his life and time. Stresses Trollope’s evocation of his age and his guiding moral purpose. Includes an index. Terry, R. C., ed. Trollope: Interviews and Recollections. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. This invaluable collection is a useful adjunct to the numerous biographies of Trollope. Terry collects forty-six memories of Trollope by a host of individuals who knew him at various points in his life. Includes critical evaluations of Trollope’s work. Wall, Stephen. Trollope: Living with Character. New York: Henry Holt, 1989. Wright, Andrew. Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art. Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Macmillan, 1983. This brief study of fifteen of Trollope’s novels sees them as contemporary fictions, transfiguring life in a certain way. Contains a bibliography and an index.

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