Anthony Trollope Essay - Trollope, Anthony (Short Story Criticism)

Trollope, Anthony (Short Story Criticism)


Anthony Trollope 1815-1882

British novelist, short story writer, memoirist, critic, and essayist.

A prolific Victorian writer who produced some forty-seven novels as well as travel books and collections of essays and criticism, Trollope wrote forty-two stories, compiled in five volumes. His stories were commonly written specifically for publication in magazines and newspapers, such as Cassell's Illustrated Family Paper, the Illustrated London News, and Good Words, which were popular and lucrative vehicles aimed at the burgeoning middle class. As such, Trollope's short stories have been viewed as occasional pieces—written in response to a particular event or to relate an experience or encounter on one of the author's numerous travels—having no lasting significance. Recent critics, however, have come to view the stories as Trollope's literary exercises, as exploratory vehicles for themes he would later take up and expand upon in his novels. In addition, scholars have come to admire the realism of Trollope's short fiction; as Harold Orel has observed, in his shorter works, "Trollope wanted to be honest and dry-eyed in his examination of human problems that, all too easily, might have been treated sentimentally."

Biographical Information

Born in London, Trollope was raised in poverty. His father was a failed lawyer, scholar and farmer; his mother, Fanny Trollope, embarked on a writing career in order to support the family. She was very successful in this endeavor, eventually producing over a hundred books. Shy, awkward, and unkempt as a young boy, Trollope was ridiculed by his wealthier classmates at Harrow and Winchester schools. At the age of nineteen he found work as a clerk at the Post Office, and seven years later he transferred to Ireland, where he lived until 1859, when he returned permanently to London. Trollope's move to Ireland inaugurated a period of change; for the first time in his life he was successful in work, love, friendship, and financial matters, and he began to write. In Ireland, he met and married Rose Heseltin, with whom he had two children. In 1847 he published his first novel, The MacDermots of Ballycloran, but this work received little critical attention. Recognition came with the 1855 release of The Warden, the first of his so-called Barsetshire navels, a series of works portraying middle-class life in an invented English county. In the mid-1860s Trollope began to focus his attention on the political world. Can You Forgive Her? the first of his Palliser series of novels set in the political milieu of London, was published in 1864. Three years later Trollope left the Post Office, and in 1868 he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Parliament. During this period Trollope also began to work as an editor, first at the Fortnightly Review and then at St. Paul's Magazine. His experiences as an editor form the basis of the stories in An Editor's Tales, all of which were first published in St. Paul's. Trollope's popularity began to decline in the 1870s and deteriorated considerably after his death of a stroke in 1882.

Major Works of Short Fiction

According to Trollope himself, each of the stories in the two volumes of Tales of All Countries is "intended to be redolent of some different country—but they apply only to localities with which I myself am conversant." Stories such as "An Unprotected Female at the Pyramids," "The Man Who Kept His money in a Box," and "Miss Sarah Jack, of Spanish Town, Jamaica," are drawn from Trollope's travels in the Middle East, Europe, and America and demonstrate his belief in the constancy of human nature and in the existence of universal ethics and values. Lotta Schimidt and Other Stories, produced after a tour of the United States, continues Trollope's traveling theme. The pieces in An Editor's Tales, however, focus on Trollope's tenure in the publishing trade. This collection contains what Trollope himself felt was his best story, "The Spotted Dog," which recounts an editor's attempt to save a promising writer from his own self-destructive impulses. Trollope's final collection, Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and Other Stories contains perhaps his most nuanced tales, including the long story, "The Two Heroines of Plumplington," which reveals the author's experimentation with greater complexity of plot and point of view.

Critical Reception

Trollope's stories were celebrated in his day for their vivid evocation of foreign locales, their portraits of morally upright characters, and their realistic and detailed depiction of everyday life. Beginning as early as 1865, however, with the comments of Henry James, critics censured Trollope for the sordidness of his presentation of the common people and, citing his dependence on actual events for source material, for his lack of imagination. After Trollope's death, his short fiction was largely ignored. It wasn't until the 1970s that a sustained critical reevaluation of his short works took place. Since that time critics have come to regard Trollope's stories as experiments in which the author explored themes, plots, and narrative techniques later developed in his novels. With this has come a renewed appreciation of Trollope as a craftsman. Critics have also examined his depiction of women, finding in some of his female characters a surprising vigor and independence that overthrows stereotypes of passive Victorian women, while he elsewhere seems to hold an ideal of femininity that is domestic and dutiful. Generally, modern critics concur that Trollope's achievements in the short story form were modest but not negligible. His short pieces are skillful and frequently entertaining exercises by a practiced literary artist.

Principal Works

Short Fiction

Tales of All Countries, First Series 1861

Tales of All Countries, Second Series 1863

Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories 1867

Nina Balatka (novella) 1867

Linda Tressel (novella) 1868

An Editor's Tales 1870

Harry Heathcote of Gangoil (novella) 1873

Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and Other Stories 1882

The Complete Short Stories. 5 vols. 1979-83

The Complete Shorter Fiction 1992

Early Short Stories 1995

Later Short Stories 1995

Other Major Works

The Macdermots of Ballycloran (novel) 1847

The Kellys and the O'Kellys; or, Landlords and Tenants (novel) 1848

*The Warden (novel) 1855

*Barchester Towers (novel) 1857

*Doctor Thorne (novel) 1858

The Three Clerks (novel) 1858

The Bertrams (novel) 1859

*Framley Parsonage (novel) 1861

Orley Farm (novel) 1862

Can You Forgive Her? (novel) 1864

*The Small House at Allington (novel) 1864

The Belton Estate (novel) 1866

The Claverings (novel) 1867

*The Last Chronicle of Barset (novel) 1867

He Knew He Was Right (novel) 1869

Phineas Finn, the Irish Member (novel) 1869

The Eustace Diamonds (novel) 1873

Phineas Redux (novel) 1874

The Way We Live Now (novel) 1875

The Prime Minister (novel) 1876

The American Senator (novel) 1877

Is He Popinjoy? (novel) 1878

The Duke's Children (novel) 1880

Ayala's Angel (novel) 1881

Dr. Worth's School (novel) 1881

An Autobiography (autobiography) 1883

An Old Man's Love (unfinished novel) 1884

The Letters of Anthony Trollope (correspondence) 1951

*These works are collectively known as the Barsetshire series.

†These works are collectively known as the Palliser series.


Henry James (essay date 1865)

SOURCE: Review of Miss Mackenzie, in The Nation, New York, Vol. I, July 13, 1865, pp. 51-2.

[As a novelist James is valued for his psychological acuity and complex sense of artistic form. Throughout his career, James also wrote literary criticism in which he developed his artistic ideals and applied them to the works of others. Among the numerous dictums he formed to clarify the nature of fiction was his definition of the novel as "a direct impression of life." The quality of this impressionits level of moral and intellectual developmentand the author's ability to communicate this impression in an effective and artistic manner were the two principal criteria by...

(The entire section is 1444 words.)

The Spectator (review date 1882)

SOURCE: "Mr. Trollope's Shorter Tales," in The Spectator, Vol. 55, No. 2805, April 1, 1882, p. 443.

[In the following assessment of Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices, and Other Tales, the anonymous reviewer praises Trollope for the "diagnostic of the true significance of various little nuances of social manners," which he conducts in his stories.]

Mr. Trollope is always amusing, but he is never more amusing than in his shorter tales, when he makes them turn, as he so often does, on his curiously microscopic knowledge of those little social tactics and manœuvres by which so many important positions are gained or lost, though no one but social microscopists...

(The entire section is 1999 words.)

Brander Matthews (essay date 1901)

SOURCE: The Philosophy of the Short-story, Peter Smith, 1931, pp. 22-6.

[In the following excerpt from a work that was initially published in 1901, Matthews negatively appraises Trollope's ability as a short story writer, arguing that the author's talents are better suited to novel writing.]

[Other] things are required of a writer of Short-stories which are not required of a writer of Novels. The novelist may take his time; he has abundant room to turn about. The writer of Short-stories must be concise, and compression, a vigorous compression, is essential. For him, more than for any one else, the half is more than the whole. Again, the novelist may be commonplace, he...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

John Hampden (essay date 1953)

SOURCE: "Farewell to Barsetshire," in The Two Heroines of Plumplington by Anthony Trollope, Andre Deutsch, 1953, pp. 7-13.

[In the essay below, Hampden recounts the genesis and initial publication of "The Two Heroines of Plumplington," and examines the story's relationship to Trollope's Barsetshire novels.]


There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Anthony Trollope's public farewell to Barsetshire, or to think that any Vincent Crummies of a publisher could ever have tempted him to a succession of positively last appearances in his 'dear county'. The concluding paragraph of The Last Chronicle of Barset is firmly unequivocal:


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Donald D. Stone (essay date 1976)

SOURCE: "Trollope as a Short Story Writer," in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 1, June, 1976, pp. 26-47.

[In the essay below, Stone provides a comprehensive survey of Trollope's short fiction, noting that the stories are often less substantial and serious than the author's novels.]

Anthony Trollope's stories constitute a substantial and substantially ignored portion of his prodigious output. He began writing them after having established, in his mid-forties, a reputation as author of the first three Barsetshire novels; and with the great success of Framley Parsonage in 1860, editors of Victorian middlebrow magazines began to importune him for short...

(The entire section is 7245 words.)

Arthur Pollard (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: "Other Works," in Anthony Trollope, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978, pp. 174-91.

[In the following excerpt, Pollard contends that Trollope's short stories generally lack focus and intensity. He does note some exceptions, however, particularly "Malachi's Cove."]

Adapting what Trollope applied only to the years 1859 to 1871, 'I feel confident that in amount no other writer contributed so much . . . to English literature.' (Autobiography, ch. 15) To his forty-seven or so novels must be added a mass of miscellaneous and occasional writing. . . .

To begin with, there are five collections of short stories—Tales of All...

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Betty Jane Breyer (essay date 1979)

SOURCE: Introduction to Anthony Trollope: The Complete Short Stories, Volume 1: The Christmas Stories, Texas Christian University Press, 1979, pp. i-viii.

[In the essay below, Breyer examines Trollope's ambivalence toward the genre of the Christmas tale, and his efforts to avoid sentimentality in his own stories of the type by infusing them with elements of the everyday world, with its "little lacerations of the spirit."]

It is best to be candid about this volume. Trollope seems to have been somewhat contradictory in his attitude toward Christmas stories. In his autobiography he expressed a certain dislike for them, yet near the end of his career many of the short...

(The entire section is 2942 words.)

Donald D. Stone (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: Introduction to Tales of All Countries: First Series, Arno Press, 1981, pp. i-viii.

[In the following essay, Stone argues that the realism and anti-romanticism of the stories in the first series of Tales of All Countries paradoxically reflect Trollope's "own deeply romantic nature. That reality will not conform to one's fanciful or youthful impressions is a source of both comedy and pathos for Trollope."]

"Mr. Trollope is alone in his power of telling a story about absolutely nothing," grumbled the Saturday Review critic assigned to the novelist's first collection of short stories, Tales of All Countries (first series, 1861). "Every...

(The entire section is 2496 words.)

Donald D. Stone (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: Introduction to Tales of All Countries: Second Series, by Anthony Trollope, Arno Press, 1981, pp. i-viii.

[In this essay, Stone judges the stories in the second series of Tales of All Countries superior to those in the first, reflecting Trollope's "increasing artistic commitment to the short story form."]

Trollope's second series of Tales of All Countries (1863) shows a considerable advance over the first volume. The stories in this collection provide more in the way of local color, more allowance for passion among the characters, and more unforced humor and pathos than were evident in their generally anti-romantic predecessors. As in the...

(The entire section is 2304 words.)

Francine G. Navakas (essay date 1985)

SOURCE: "The Case for Trollope's Short Stories," in Modern Philology, Vol. 83, No. 2, November 1985, pp. 172-78.

[The following essay is a review of Betty Jane Breyer's edition of The Complete Short Stories. In it, Navakas finds Trollope's stories of interest primarily for their relationship to his novels, for which they often served as experiments and trials.]

Trollope's short stories, like those of his contemporaries, have scarcely evoked the tributes of literary historians or the accolades of modern readers. Not only were such narratives as "Aaron Trow," "An Unprotected Female at the Pyramids," and "Christmas Day at Kirby Cottage" hastily deserted by...

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Harold Orel (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: "Anthony Trollope: Baking Tarts for Readers of Periodicals," in The Victorian Short Story: Development and Triumph of a Literary Genre, Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 79-95.

[In the essay below, Orel discusses Trollope's short stories as examples of finely crafted moral tales tailored to the tastes of middle-class Victorian readers.]

Trollope, like Dickens, earned his bread and butter from his novels, and thought his short stories commercially viable, but on the whole marginal material for the making of a reputation. It is precisely this ordinariness, or casualness about the genre, which makes Trollope's case at mid-century so useful as an index to...

(The entire section is 7204 words.)

Shirley Robin Letwin (review date 1991)

SOURCE: "Independently True to Love," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4615, September 13, 1991, p. 24.

[In the following review of the fourth volume of Betty Jane Breyer's edition of The Complete Short Stories, Letwin argues that the female characters in Trollope's short fiction defy stereotypes of Victorian women as passive and dependent; instead, she contends, Trollope offers "spirited, independent, self-moving, unresentful heroines."]

Although Anthony Trollope was and is regarded as a writer of eminent respectability, these stories [in The Complete Short Stories, Volume 4: Courtship and Marriage] about courtship and marriage may shock the...

(The entire section is 1658 words.)

Richard Mullen (essay date 1992)

SOURCE: "Anthony Trollope at Christmas," in Contemporary Review, Vol. 261, No. 1523, December, 1992, pp. 309-13.

[In the following essay, Mullen places Trollope's Christmas stories within the context of the author's own holiday celebrations.]

'A sirloin of beef a foot and a half broad, a turkey as big as an ostrich, a plum-pudding bigger than the turkey and two or three dozen mince-pies'—that was Anthony Trollope's menu for a perfect Christmas dinner. This rousing evocation of a truly English feast helps to explain Trollope's ever-increasing popularity with the Prime Minister as his best known reader. Contemporary Review takes some pride in seeing Trollope's...

(The entire section is 2386 words.)

Julian Thompson (essay date 1992)

SOURCE: Introduction to Anthony Trollope: The Complete Shorter Fiction, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1992, pp. ix-xiii.

[In the following essay, Thompson observes that, although the short story form was not amenable to Trollope's talents as a writer, his tales are nevertheless "lucid, sinewy exercises in their chosen form."]

Trollope wrote short stories from 1859 (just before the publication of Framley Parsonage in the Cornhill Magazine made his name) until the last year of his life, producing them rapidly and apparently without effort—eighteen stories, for instance, between 1859 and 1861. In all, Trollope's 'pile' comprises forty-two stories, the...

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Denise Kohn (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: "The Journey to Panama': One of Trollope's Best Tarts'—or, Why You Should Read The Journey to Panama' to Develop Your Taste for Trollope," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter, 1993, pp. 15-22.

[In the essay below, Kohn contends that "The Journey to Panama" demonstrates that Trollope was a feminist]

Today's literary appetites don't care much for Trollope's short stories. Although his place, for now, in the canon is firm, his reputation rests solely upon his novels. Trollope-hungry Victorians, however, enjoyed his short stories, which were published in popular periodicals such as Cornhill, edited by William Thackeray. In a letter to...

(The entire section is 2942 words.)

John Sutherland (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: Introduction to Anthony Trollope: Later Short Stories, Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. vii-xxii.

[In the following essay, Sutherland surveys the stories that were originally collected in An Editor's Tales and Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and Other Sories, placing them in the context of Trollope's overall literary and editorial career.]

It was towards the end of his tenure [as editor of St Pauls Magazine] in October 1869 that Trollope began his series of editor's tales. In general they portray the wretchedness and the pettiness of authorial existence as it is perceived by the godlike figure who has it in his power to accept or...

(The entire section is 3881 words.)

Stephen Gill (review date 1995)

SOURCE: "Trollope's Shockers," in Times Literary Supplement, June 23, 1995, pp. 28-9.

[The following is a review of John Sutherland's two-volume edition of Trollope's short fiction, Early Short Stories and Later Short Stories. Here Gill argues that despite their surprisingly unconventional themes, these stories are "familiar Trollope in unfamiliar guise."]

"I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don't see any reason why it should ever come to an end. . . ." Elizabeth Gaskell had yielded to Trollope's power, as countless readers, to judge from the success of the World's Classics series alone, still do. Trollope lacked...

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Further Reading


Mullen, Richard. Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in His World. London: Duckworth, 1990, 767 p.

Situates Trollope within the Victorian age, paying particular attention to the author's relationship to the publishing industry.


MacDonald, Susan Peck. Anthony Trollope. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987, 138 p.

A critical and biographical examination of Trollope that takes into account the general reassessment of his work that took place in the 1960s and '70s.

Rogers, Henry N. III. "Trollope and James:...

(The entire section is 198 words.)