Study Guide

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope Biography

An Autobiography (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Critical Evaluation:

An Autobiography, by Anthony Trollope, is at once egotistical and amusing. One of the most prolific novelists of the nineteenth century, Trollope tells how he rose from obscurity to become second only to Dickens and Thackeray in popularity, and he shares as interesting sidelights his opinions of his contemporaries and of the art of creative writing, opinions that are calculated to shock anyone who believes in “inspiration.” Trollope was a boisterous, outspoken man through whose eyes we can see a side of Victorianism that is often neglected—the rich humor of the satirist.

Trollope looked back on his childhood as a time of misery; his father was poor, and he was unable to defend himself in fist fights with the local boys. Also, his family was divided. His mother went to America, and he found himself pretty much on his own, with the responsibility of having to pay the bills of his father. From this miserable origin exaggerated in order to make An Autobiography more dramatic Trollope could move in only one way. He managed to obtain a job in the General Post Office in London, a civil service position that he always looked to with pride.

Never very studious, Trollope was the type of young man who worked so that he might play. He wanted to be a gentleman because gentlemen had more pleasures than other people enjoyed. Thus, his earliest days in the General Post Office were turbulent; he was continually making clumsy mistakes that threatened his dismissal. In fact, the situation became so bad that he hated his work and was only too glad to be transferred to Ireland. This transfer pleased his superior perhaps as much as himself.

In Ireland three things happened to the young man: he acquired a taste, almost an obsession, for fox hunting, he wrote his early novels, and he married. His marriage brought financial problems that his first novels were unable to alleviate. While he was at work on his third novel, he made a change in his literary endeavors; he wrote a short paper satirically denouncing the government’s policy in Ireland. Then, while he was surveying for the Post Office in rural England, a new idea matured. He decided to use material drawn from people he had met and to write satire directed against the abuses that he most frequently encountered. This novel was THE WARDEN, the first of the Barchester novels.

From this point on, his life was a continual rise. In his work at the Post Office, he was promoted, and in his literary career he wrote BARCHESTER TOWERS, his greatest novel. He began to travel more often in an official capacity, making trips to Egypt and the West Indies, and he learned to write in whatever situation he found himself—on horseback, on ship, even in sickness. He was very methodical: he kept a diary in which he maintained strict account of the number of pages he wrote each day. Then he set a certain number of pages that he planned to write each week, and finally he arranged his novels so that they would come to exactly the number of pages that the publisher wanted. Because he did not believe in inspiration, he thought of creative writing as he did of any other occupation; the excellence came as a result of practice and diligence. He therefore trained himself to begin a new novel on the day after an old one...

(The entire section is 1370 words.)

Anthony Trollope Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201596-Trollope.jpgAnthony Trollope Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The father of Anthony Trollope (TRAHL-uhp), 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.

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...

(The entire section is 755 words.)

Anthony Trollope Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anthony Trollope, born on April 24, 1815, in London, seems to have owed his boisterous energy, booming voice, quarrelsome touchiness, and reticent sensitivity to a childhood of offhanded upbringing. C. P. Snow refers to him as “weighed down by 20 years of neglect and humiliation.” His father was a tactless and impractical barrister who had pretensions about being a landowner in Harrow. There, he established his family in an elegant though quickly declining farm, Julians, later the model for the experimental Orley Farm in the novel of that name. Trollope’s mother, Frances, was the driving force of the family; she was closer to Trollope’s oldest brother, Tom, than to Anthony: Anthony received neither much encouragement nor much regular affection from her. After starting his education at Sunbury School, with a brief stint at Harrow, Anthony was sent to Winchester, his father’s old school, for three years. In 1827, the family was forced to move into a smaller house in Harrow for financial reasons.

Meanwhile, his mother made the acquaintance of a zealous utopian reformer, Fanny Wright, and went with her and three of her children—Henry, Cecilia, and Emily—to the United States. Their experiences there border on black comedy. Among other misfortunes, Frances, without past experience or common sense, started a fancy emporium or bazaar in Cincinnati; the building evolved into a grand structure modeled on an Egyptian temple. The enterprise only succeeded in making the family penniless. Through the efforts of a painter friend, her husband, and son Tom, they managed to piecemeal their way home to England.

Anthony was removed from Winchester in 1830, which deprived him of the chance to enter Oxford University, from which he might have entered into the clergy, the usual course at that time. He returned as a day student to Harrow School, where the intense and entrenched snobbery made the shabby boy the butt of ridicule and persecution, and perhaps began his lifelong pattern of irritability. Also at that time, Trollope’s father sank into petty miserliness and self-pitying moroseness, becoming more obsessively preoccupied with his scholarly work, an ecclesiastical encyclopedia.

The success of Frances’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), a book adversely critical of American society, temporarily kept the family from bankruptcy, but her husband’s financial mismanagement created more debts. To prevent his arrest for bankruptcy in 1834, the family, without Anthony, went to Bruges, Belgium. Any possible happiness they might have found was destroyed by tuberculosis, which killed Anthony’s father, brother Henry, and sister Emily between 1834 and 1836. Frances Trollope was obviously too occupied with nursing to pay much attention to Anthony, but she did get him a tutoring position in Belgium for a short time. He returned to England, where he survived in squalid lodgings in Marylebone, London, at a clerk’s job in the main post office for seven years. At age twenty-six, he got the chance that changed his life, obtaining the post of deputy surveyor, the overseer of mail service, in western Ireland.

At Banaghar, he found a comfortable social milieu for the first time, though his manner with carriers and postmasters was brusque and his temper was at times violent. Trollope became a man jovial with companions, truculent with superiors, bullying with inferiors, and tender with close friends and family. In 1842, he married Rose Heseltine, an Anglo-Irish woman. Her bank-manager father, like one of Trollope’s own shady characters, was an embezzler. A trusted partner, Rose handled Trollope’s financial affairs, edited his...

(The entire section is 1501 words.)

Anthony Trollope Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201596-Trollope.jpgAnthony Trollope Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Anthony Trollope (TRAHL-uhp) was born in London, England, on April 24, 1815. His father, Thomas Trollope, was a well-educated barrister, but he had a difficult disposition and gradually failed in that occupation. Throughout the first twenty years of Trollope’s life, his father tried many and various ways of making money, all ill-planned and mismanaged. His mother, Frances, eventually became the one who held the family together financially.

Trollope began school at Harrow at the age of seven. In his Autobiography (1883), one of the most widely read of English autobiographies, he writes of his schooldays as being so horrible as to be indescribable. At twelve, he was moved to his father’s former school,...

(The entire section is 824 words.)

Anthony Trollope Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anthony Trollope attributed his success to his imagination, from which he developed an intimate knowledge of his lifelike characters. One of the most prolific of the Victorian writers and one of the most popular, he was in his own day admired as a realist; modern readers, however, tend to view his works in a more comic light, with his characters under the firm control of the writer’s irony rather than simply people leading their daily lives. Regardless of how Trollope’s works are viewed, they endure as classics of Victorian literature.

(The entire section is 92 words.)