Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515
Anthony Hope Hawkins was born in London in 1863 as the younger son of the Reverend Edward Connerford Hawkins. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he had a distinguished record as an athlete and scholar. After settling in London, he read law and was called to the bar in 1887. By 1893, he had published five novels, become a successful barrister, and taken some part in politics; hence, three possible careers stood open to him. The choice was made in the autumn of 1893, when the plot of The Prisoner of Zenda came into his mind. By writing two chapters a day, Hope finished the novel in a month. At once, it became enormously popular and was hailed by Andrew Lang and Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel was soon dramatized and was produced by Sir George Alexander. The Dolly Dialogues, an equally popular volume of sketches, appeared in the same year.
Although he wrote more than thirty novels and ten plays and considered Double Harness his best work, Hope will always be remembered as the author of The Prisoner of Zenda. In this novel, he established a setting and story that was to be copied repeatedly both in England and the United States: the stock setting of a mythical Balkan kingdom where a handsome, debonair, well-born, and self-sacrificing English (or American) hero rescues a beautiful princess from various entanglements. It was the kind of novel that perfectly suited the taste of the period, which, in popular fiction, strongly inclined toward a dashing and romantic (if naïve and melodramatic) story and was willing to accept such in a contemporary setting. It was a pleasant and sunlit world, untroubled by international problems and unshadowed by the horrors of two world wars. The Balkans were merely a group of quaint and remote principalities, not to be taken too seriously, where almost any romantic adventure might take place. Realism in the English novel was still in the formative stage and was heartily disliked by the general reader.
Hope turned to another field in The Dolly Dialogues: the social world of London during the period when that world was at its height. These sketches, which consist of half-humorous, half-sentimental conversations, display a great gift for catching the tone of fashionable talk of the time. They have value for the social historian if for no one else. Hope was knighted for war services in 1918. He died on July 8, 1933, in Surrey.
Casey, Ellen Miller. “Anthony Hope.” In Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists, First Series, edited by George M. Johnson. Vol. 153 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 1995.
Fisher, Benjamin. “Frank Norris Parodies Anthony Hope.” Frank Norris Studies 15 (Spring, 1993).
Keating, Peter. The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel, 1875-1914. London: Secker & Warburg, 1989.
Mallet, Sir Charles Edward. Anthony Hope and His Books: Being the Authorised Life of Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins. 1935. Reprint. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1968.
Putt, S. Gorley. “The Prisoner of The Prisoner of Zenda: Anthony Hope.” In Scholars of the Heart: Essays in Criticism. London: Faber & Faber, 1962.
Wallace, Raymond. “Cardboard Kingdoms.” San Jose Studies 13 (September, 1987): 23-34.
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