Anthony Trollope

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For other people named Trollope, see Trollope (disambiguation).
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Anthony Trollope (April 24, 1815December 6, 1882) became one of the most successful and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. His popularity continues into the present day (some famous fans being Alec Guinness, who never traveled without a Trollope novel, ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom John Major, and American mystery novelist Sue Grafton); however, his reputation amongst literary critics fluctuates markedly, for reasons explained below.



Anthony Trollope was born in London as the son of a barrister, Thomas Anthony Trollope, and his wife Frances, who would later become a successful writer. Thomas Trollope was a clever and well educated man, a fellow of New College, Oxford, but his bad temper led to the failure at the bar, his ventures into farming were unprofitable, and he lost the inheritance on which he was counting when an elderly uncle married and started a family. Nonetheless he was from a genteel background, with connections to the landed gentry, and wished his sons to be educated as gentlemen and to attend Oxford or Cambridge. The dichotomy between his family's social background and its poverty was to cause misery to Anthony Trollope as a boy.

Anthony attended Harrow as a day boy for three years from the age of seven as his father's farm was in that neighbourhood. After a spell at a private school he followed his father and two older brothers in attending Winchester, where he stayed for three years. Finally he again returned to Harrow as a day boy to reduce the cost of his education. Trollope's experiences at these schools were very miserable. These are two of the most elite schools in England but Trollope has no money and no friends and was beaten a great deal. At the age of twelve he fantasised about suicide. However, he took to daydreaming instead, constructing elaborate inner worlds.

Pillar box
Pillar box

In 1827 Frances Trollope moved to America with Trollope's three younger siblings, where she opened a bazaar in Cincinnatti, which was unsuccessful. Thomas Trollope joined them for a short time before returning to the farm at Harrow, but Anthony stayed in England throughout. His mother returned in 1831 and rapidly made a name for herself as a writer, soon earning a good income. His father's affairs however went from bad to worse. He gave up his practice at the bar entirely and in 1834 he fled to Belgium to avoid being arrested for debt. The whole family moved to a house near Bruges, where they were entirely dependent on Frances's earnings. In 1835, Thomas Trollope died.

While he was in Belgium Anthony worked as an usher in a school with a view to learning French and German so he could take up a promised commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment, but this only lasted six weeks. He then obtained a position as a civil servant in the Post Office through one of his mother's family connections and returned to London on his own. This was a gentlemanly occupation, but not well paid. Trollope lived in boarding houses and remained socially awkward; this was what he called his "hobbledehoyhood". He made little progress in his career until he was sent to work in Ireland in 1841. He married an Englishwoman named Rose Heseltine in 1844. They spent the early years of their marriage in Ireland, but later moved back to England.

On the numerous long train trips Trollope had to take to carry out his Post Office duties, he began writing, and set very firm goals about how much he would write per day, earning Trollope the title of being one of the most prolific writers of his time. He wrote his earliest novels while working as a postal service inspector, occasionally dipping into the 'lost-letter' box for ideas (it is significant that many of his earliest novels have Ireland as their setting — natural enough given his background, but not likely to lead to a warm critical reception given the contemporary English attitudes towards Ireland). During the period of his employment as a Post Office official, Trollope is credited with having introduced the pillar box (a bright red mail box) in the United Kingdom.

By the mid 1860s Trollope had reached a fairly senior position at the Post Office and was also earning a substantial income from his novels. He had overcome the awkwardness of his youth and was well liked in literary circles, and was also an enthusiastic huntsman. He left the Post Office in 1867 and after failing in a bid for election to Parliament as a Liberal candidate in 1868, he concentrated entirely on literature. As well as continuing to produce novels rapidly he worked as editor of the St Paul's Magazine, which published several of his novels in serial form. His first major success came with The Warden (1855) — the first in the series of six novels set in the mythical county of "Barsetshire" (often referred to as the Chronicles of Barsetshire). The best-known of these is probably the comic masterpiece, Barchester Towers (1857).

Trollope's other major sequence of novels deals with politics, mainly in the shape of Plantagenet Palliser (although, like the Barsetshire series, many other characters feature in each novel). Also noteworthy are Cousin Henry and Dr. Wortle's School, both probing psychological and moral studies in the vein of The Warden, and a sweeping satire, The Way We Live Now.

Trollope's popularity and contemporary critical success diminished in his later years, but he continued to write prolifically and some of his later novels are now highly regarded. By the time of his death Trollope had completed approximately four dozen novels, as well as dozens of short stories and a few books on travel.

Anthony Trollope died in London in 1882 and was interred in Kensal Green Cemetery, where his contemporary Wilkie Collins is also buried.

C. P. Snow wrote a biography of Trollope, published in 1975, titled Trollope: His Life and Art.


After his death, Trollope's Autobiography appeared. It was largely this volume that led to Trollope's downfall with the critics. Even during his writing career, reviewers of his books tended increasingly to shake their heads over his prodigious output (and the same went for Dickens), but when Trollope revealed that he actually adhered to a definite schedule, he confirmed his critics' worst fears. The Muse, in their view, might just possibly be immensely prolific; but she would never work on schedule. (Interestingly, no-one has decried Gustave Flaubert for diligence, though he too worked on a schedule-scheme similar to Trollope's.) Worse, Trollope admitted that he wrote for money and called the disdain of money false and foolish. The Muse should not be aware of money.

Henry James drove the final nail into the coffin of Trollope's reputation. The young James wrote some scathing reviews of Trollope's novels (The Belton Estate, for instance, he called "a stupid book, without a single thought or idea in it ... a sort of mental pablum"). He also made it clear that he despised Trollope's narrative method; a real novel, in James's view, should maintain "the fiction of fiction", and never talk as if the made-up characters actually were made up. Nor would the reliable narrator have appealed to James's tastes. As trends in the world of the novel moved increasingly towards subjectivity, James's views and, more importantly, modern ideas on the novel in general, assured that Trollope would remain obscure for decades. In the forties some attempts were made to resurrect Trollope; he enjoyed a brief critical Renaissance in the sixties; and again in the nineties. Critics today are particularly interested in Trollope's portrayal of women — which caused remark even in his own day for its remarkable insight and sensitivity to the inner conflicts caused by the constrained position of women in Victorian society. But the understanding that critics find largely in Trollope's portrayal of women, readers find in Trollope's portrayals of human beings in general. Trollope's sales amongst readers have never waned.

A Trollope Society flourishes in the UK.

Trollope on television

The British Broadcasting Corporation has made several television drama serials based on the works of Anthony Trollope:

The Pallisers, a 26-episode adaptation of all six Palliser novels, first broadcast in 1974. Adapted by Simon Raven; starred Philip Latham as Plantagenet Palliser and Susan Hampshire as Lady Glencora.

The Barchester Chronicles, an eight-episode adaptation of the first two Barset novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers. Adapted by Alan Plater; starred Donald Pleasance as the Reverend Septimus Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly, and Alan Rickman as the Reverend Obadiah Slope.

The Way We Live Now, a four-episode adaptation of the novel of the same name. Adapted by Andrew Davies; starred David Suchet as Auguste Melmotte and Matthew MacFadyen as Sir Felix Carbury.

All three have been shown in the United States on PBS; The Pallisers in its own right, and The Barchester Chronicles and The Way We Live Now as part of Masterpiece Theatre.

A dramatization of He Knew He Was Right in four 60-minute episodes began on April 18 2004 on BBC One. It was produced by BBC Wales, and starred, amongst others, Bill Nighy, Laura Fraser, David Tennant and Geoffrey Palmer.

Trollope on radio

The BBC commissioned a four part radio adaptation of The Small House at Allington, the fifth novel of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which was broadcast in 1993. The response of listeners was so positive that adaptations of the five remaining novels of the series were commissioned and the complete series broadcast on BBC Radio 4 between December 1995 and March 1998. In this adaptation, the part of Archdeacon Grantley was played by Stephen Moore.

The Pallisers, a new 12-part adaptation of the Pallisers novels, was broadcast on Radio 4 from January to April 2004, in the weekend Classic Serial slot.


These are all novels, unless otherwise noted.

Chronicles of Barsetshire

Pallisers series


  • The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847)
  • The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848)
  • La Vende (1850)
  • The Three Clerks (1858)
  • The West Indies and the Spanish Main (travel) (1859)
  • The Bertrams (1859)
  • Castle Richmond (1860)
  • Tales of All Countries--1st Series (stories) (1861)
  • Tales of All Countries--2nd Series (stories) (1863)
  • Tales of All Countries--3rd Series (stories) (1870)
  • Orley Farm (1862)
  • North America (travel) (1862)
  • Rachel Ray (1863)
  • Miss Mackenzie (1865)
  • Hunting Sketches (sketches) (1865)
  • Travelling Sketches (sketches) (1866)
  • Clergymen of the Church of England (sketches) (1866)
  • The Belton Estate (1866)
  • The Claverings (1867)
  • Nina Balatka (1867)
  • Linda Tressel (1868)
  • He Knew He Was Right (1869)
  • Did He Steal It? (play) (1869)
  • Brown, Jones, and Robinson (1870)
  • The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870)
  • An Editor's Tales (stories) (1870)
  • The Commentaries of Caesar (Ancient Classics) (biography) (1870)
  • Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite (1871)
  • Ralph the Heir (1871)
  • The Golden Lion of Granpre (1872)
  • Australia and New Zealand (travel) (1873)
  • Harry Heathcote of Gangoil (1874)
  • Lady Anna (1874)
  • The Way We Live Now, (1875)
  • The American Senator (1877)
  • Is He Popenjoy? (1878)
  • South Africa (travel) (1878)
  • How the 'Mastiffs' Went to Iceland (travel) (1878)
  • John Caldigate (1879)
  • An Eye for an Eye (1879)
  • Cousin Henry (1879)
  • Thackeray (criticism) (1879)
  • Life of Cicero (biography) (1880)
  • Ayala's Angel (1881)
  • Doctor Wortle's School (1881)
  • Why Frau Frohmann Raised Her Prices and other Stories (stories) (1882)
  • Lord Palmerston (biography) (1882)
  • The Fixed Period (1882)
  • Kept in the Dark (1882)
  • Marion Fay (1882)
  • Mr. Scarborough's Family (1883)
  • Autobiography (autobiography) (1883)
  • The Landleaguers (unfinished novel) (1883)
  • An Old Man's Love (1884)
  • The Nobel Jilt (play) (1923)
  • London Tradesmen (sketches) (1927)
  • The New Zealander (1972)


"Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him even Balzac is a romantic." W. H. Auden

External links

nl:Anthony Trollope


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