Trollope: A Biography Critical Essays

N. John Hall


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

"Anthony Trollope was born on 24 April 1815 at 16 Keppel Street, Russell Square, London” is not an auspicious beginning to a major new treatment of one of England’s most prolific and popular novelists. Not surprisingly, N. John Hall accepts the bulk of Trollope’s autobiographical writing at face value, rigorously follows his footsteps, and refrains from attempting a comprehensive explanation of the “mysteries of the man.” Indeed, one will hardly know that mysteries exist. However, having accepted Hall’s clearly stated fundamentals, one may quickly forget to remember that there should be more.

Trollope’s life in many ways reflects a common pattern of experience among middle-class Victorians. Death was ever present, claiming his father and brother at early ages. He was lonely at boarding school and had to endure his father’s financial failure. However, the family did have connections which brought Trollope appointment as clerk to the Postal Service in 1834, where he divided his efforts between his professional duties and the writing of novels. The turning point in his career came in 1855 with the publication his fourth novel, THE WARDEN. Having embarked upon the novel of comfortable English characters, Trollope found his element, and thereafter prodigiously manufactured novels at the rate of almost two per year during the last twenty-five years of his life (1857-1882).

An enormous percentage of Trollope’s time was spent in the acts of writing, and he acknowledged that his literary genius was “mechanical,” enabling him to write within a prescribed framework for serial publication. His gift was in characterization rather than plot. But he conveyed better than any novelist that warm satisfaction which comfortable Englishmen have always claimed as a reward for virtue and stability. As THE TIMES observed in 1865, when Trollope was at the height of his powers as a novelist, “he gives us pictures which are not dull of dull lives, dull households, dull dinner parties, dull teas and dull prayer meetings.” The amount of amusement, as they observed, was “certainly remarkable,” and one might add, quintessentially English.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. December 22, 1991, XIV, p. 4.

The Guardian. November 21, 1991, p. 25.

Library Journal. CXVI, August, 1991, p. 100.

Los Angeles Times. December 5, 1991, p. E13.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, December 22, 1991, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LXVII, December 23, 1991, p. 108.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, September 20, 1991, p. 115.

The Spectator. CCLXVII, November 30, 1991, p. 42.

The Times Literary Supplement. November 8, 1991, p. 7.

The Washington Post Book World. XXI, December 15, 1991, p. 5.