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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Anthony Trollope (1815–1882)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Jane Grosvenor Cooke
IN the pictured face of Anthony Trollope there is a certain bourgeois quality. The kindly deep-set eyes are shrewd rather than thoughtful. The rugged features express practical experience, and more of common than of uncommon sense.  1
  Anthony Trollope, third son of a scholarly but unpractical gentleman, came into the world soon after the family fortunes began to ebb; and hence passed an embittered childhood, which strongly influenced his mental development. Soon after his birth in London, in 1815, his father moved to Harrow, and began the unfortunate attempt at farming recounted in Anthony’s ‘Autobiography.’ The bookish visionary was still wrestling unhappily with the alternation of crops, and devoting spare moments to the preparation of an ‘Encyclopædia Ecclesiastica,’—which he never finished,—when at seven years old, Anthony was sent as day scholar to Harrow School. The Trollopes’ big poverty-stricken household was neither comfortable nor well ordered. Anthony describes himself as a shy and dirty lad, feeling from babyhood the degradation of a poverty which unclassed him. After three wretched years of social ostracism at Harrow, he was sent to Winchester College, where his experience was much the same. Meantime Mr. Trollope grew constantly poorer; and finally his wife, with three of her children, went to America in a heroic endeavor to better things. The bazaar for fancy articles which she established at Cincinnati was a failure; but she exercised her keen wit and ready observation upon the novel New World life, and soon after her return published ‘The Domestic Manners of the Americans’ (1832), with a gratifying pecuniary result. This she speedily followed with a successful novel; and from this time, for many years, she was the family bread-winner.  2
  Left with his father while his mother was in America, Anthony fared worse than ever. The plain sturdy lad was sensitive; and the mortification of his lot cowed him for a time. How could he maintain self-respect when he alone of all the schoolboy world had no pocket-money, could not contribute his quota to the servants’ fees, and heard the tutor tell people that he was gratuitously instructed? He returned to Harrow School, and remained in its unfriendly atmosphere until nearly nineteen. Youthful buoyancy and ideality were naturally scorched in this hot shame; and thus Anthony Trollope learned the esteem for money, and the practical view of life, evident in his stories. The constant repulse to his longing for affection and approbation, while encasing him in reserve and gaucherie, had one beneficial result: it whetted his naturally keen observation; and he appreciated with greater discrimination of mind and heart the pleasant comradeship he saw but could not share. It has often been thought curious that his scanty opportunities for social life should have resulted in such graphic and comprehensive pictures of society. But those to whom an experience is commonplace are usually not its most capable describers. Regarding much as self-evident, and so ignoring it, they draw blurred unfinished pictures. Nothing escapes an attention which is absorbed not in doing, but in longing to do, like others.  3
  Naturally Trollope’s ideal became that of money-getting. His was never the miserly spirit of mere acquisition; but he loved money for what it represented of liberal natural life,—of friends, beauty, and pleasure.  4
  There were hard humiliating years still before him, when, his education completed, and after much family discussion as to his future, he was sent to London in 1834, and established as a government clerk in the General Post Office, with a salary of £100 a year. To his inexperience this seemed almost wealth; but he soon realized its inadequacy to keep him out of debt. He was an unpopular employe,—stubborn, tactless; and frequently on the verge of dismissal. After seven years of this unsatisfactory life, he was transferred to Ireland as surveyor’s clerk, with a salary of £100, and perquisites amounting to £400 more; and this change inaugurated his prosperity. The chance to start over again, untrammeled by an unfortunate reputation, was what he needed; and for the following twenty-six years he was interested and efficient in his official duties.  5
  But under other preoccupations, Anthony Trollope had always nursed literary ambitions. His mother, brother, and sister, were all writing; but when he announced that he had a novel in manuscript, his family felt the news “an unfortunate aggravation of the disease.” In spite of misgivings, his mother found him a publisher; and in 1847 ‘The Macdermots of Ballycloran’ appeared, and found very few readers. A second Irish story, ‘The Kellys and the O’Kellys,’ was equally unsuccessful. Difficulty only made Trollope more persevering; and ten years later he was one of the most popular of English novelists. Thousands of readers found the men and women of his books almost as real as those they saw, and felt for them as genuine likings and dislikes. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s keen appreciation best sums up the effect produced; and it was very grateful to Anthony Trollope, because it showed that he had accomplished just what he attempted:
          “Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope?” Hawthorne asks. “They precisely suit my taste. Solid and substantial, written on the strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth, and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of; and these books are just as English as a beefsteak.”
  Although Trollope wrote for money, as he frankly admits, he was also ambitious of fame, of a desirable place in public estimation. His honest mind never attributed to itself genius. He never aspired to poetic heights. But he did believe that he could tell a story so as to interest people.  7
  Unlike his friend Wilkie Collins, he could not devise startling situations, or an ingenious puzzle of a plot. But then, character appealed to him more strongly than incident.  8
  With many fine qualities, his nature was slightly tinged with mediocrity. So, naturally enough, he felt more interest in the kind of men and women he saw about him than in unusual characters. He loved to show people in the everyday relations of life,—acting and reacting upon each other,—and in the English setting he best knew. Thus he was a forerunner of our later realism, with its effort to fix contemporary life. Of strong yet simple emotions himself, with a satirically humorous sense of common self-deceptions and foibles, and also an optimistic belief in human nobility, he pictures the world to which most of his readers belong.  9
  More idealistic minds find something revolting in Trollope’s method of work. He exulted in his own capacity for plodding, and could not understand George Eliot’s shudders when he boasted of his twenty pages a week, and two hundred and fifty words a page,—which, sick or well, he forced himself to accomplish. “To me it would not be more absurd if the shoemaker were to wait for inspiration, or the tallow-chandler for the divine moment of melting,” he maintained. This hard-and-fast system, although conducive to quantity, was somewhat deleterious to quality. Anthony Trollope was very prolific. He wrote many magazine sketches, short stories, and books of travel; and did a great deal of editorial work in connection with the Cornhill Magazine and the Fortnightly Magazine, in addition to about thirty novels. But of all his works perhaps only ‘The Parliamentary Series,’ ‘The Chronicles of Barset,’ and ‘Orley Farm,’—by many considered his best story,—have permanent qualities of merit. ‘Phineas Finn,’ ‘Phineas Redux,’ ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ ‘The Duke’s Children,’ ‘The Prime Minister,’ afford an intimate acquaintance with London life and the complications of English politics; and are full of brilliant character sketches. But for simple human interest they are inferior to the ‘Chronicles.’ Wandering about Salisbury one day, Anthony Trollope conceived the idea of ‘The Warden,’—the first and shortest of the five included in this series. Its reception showed him that he had learned at last how to gratify the public. The imaginary county of Barset became very real to novel readers. Gentle Bishop Proudie, impotent under the rule of his shrewish wife; the impressive but shallow archdeacon, his good sensible wife, and his wife’s relations, with their exaggerated respect for ecclesiastical precedences, involving petty squabbles,—form the background for pleasant romances. Trollope delights in pretty, sensible, spirited girls. Grace Crawley, Lily Dale, Mary Thorne, and their sisterhood, are fine warm-hearted young women. Perhaps the most lovable character in all Trollope’s works is mild Mr. Harding,—a pure-minded and simple Christian, loving his faith, and trying his best to live it consistently.  10
  Trollope never forces a moral. His tales were written for the recreation of others, although it was a matter of pride with him that the pleasure he furnished was always wholesome.  11
  Trollope saw the world as a sphere of many satisfactions, much pleasure, and little joy. Most people, it seemed to him, struggling more or less cheerfully through difficulties, find life something of a makeshift. This truth he shows, and emphasizes in a rich voluminous style,—like that of a ready talker with a copious vocabulary at command.  12
  It is pleasant to remember that after his hard youth, Anthony Trollope passed years of comfort and congenial companionship. His frank delight in the Garrick Club—where he met Dickens, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, and other gifted men—compensated his solitary boyhood. Another enduring pleasure was hunting. He kept fine horses, and followed the hounds clumsily but enthusiastically almost to the time of his death in 1882.  13

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