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."
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.
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.