Anthony Trollope

(1815 - 1882)

Anthony Trollope was born in Bloomsbury, the fourth son of Thomas Anthony Trollope, a Chancery barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, and his wife Fanny, who later became an extremely popular and prolific novelist. Anthony’s early years
showed little sign of what was to come; after miserable schooldays at Harrow he was offered a commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment, but settled for a more sedate career in the General Post Office. Here he was noted for unpunctuality and insubordination, fell badly in debt, and was glad to escape to Western Ireland to work as a Surveyor’s clerk.

Anthony Trollope. Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864. NPG P214 (©National Portrait Gallery)

However it was in Ireland that Trollope was transformed. Here he married Rose Heseltine and their two sons, Henry and Fred, were born; here he acquired his passion for hunting; and here he became a novelist. His first three books failed to make much impression but The Warden, inspired by a visit to Salisbury cathedral, caught the public imagination; his income and reputation from writing took off rapidly, and he soon became one of the best-selling novelists of his day.

Like his mother, Trollope was remarkably industrious. He was woken early every morning and generally produced 2,500 words in three hours before his full day’s work for the Post Office. This industry eventually produced 47 novels, five travel books, two plays, three biographies and an autobiography, a translation of the commentaries of Caesar and many short stories, reviews, essays, periodical articles and lectures.

Despite this astonishing workload, Trollope found time to hunt, up to three times a week, and also travelled extensively. He visited and wrote about Australia and New Zealand, America and the West Indies, South Africa, Iceland, Canada and many parts of Europe. He always took his travelling desk on long journeys and never lost the opportunity to write.

One autumn evening in 1882, while dining at the house of the publisher Alexander Macmillan, passages of the newly published Vice Versa were being read aloud and Trollope was laughing uproariously. Suddenly it was noticed that he had slumped in his chair. He had suffered a stroke and would never speak again. A month later, he died.

While the novels of Anthony Trollope are remarkably consistent in quality, his fame rests particularly on The Way We Live Now – a scathing satire of contemporary life which found particular resonance during the financial scandals of recent years – and his two great sequences, the Barsetshire Chronicles and the political or Palliser novels, which culminate in The Duke’s Children. Trollope’s thorough acquaintance with political life (indeed he stood as parliamentary candidate for the Liberals) is much in evidence in these works, while their main plots chronicle the triumphs and vicissitudes of the Palliser family, and the perilous paths of true – and false – love.

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