Trollope : A Biography

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Anthony Trollope was a giant of Victorian letters whose works are still read avidly today. Now, in what is surely the definitive biography, the world's leading expert on Trollope provides an amusing, insightful, and authoritative portrait of this remarkable figure. N. John Hall writes with an unparalleled knowledge of his subject--he is the general editor of the 62-volume Selected Works of Anthony Trollope, and the editor of Letters of Anthony Trollope, which Victoria Glendinning (herself a Trollopian) suggested in The Spectator "already constitutes a biography by other means" simply by virtue of its "brilliant footnotes." In this volume, Hall draws on Trollope's works themselves, as well as all pertinent historical evidence, and interweaves Trollope's public and social life--as a civil servant, devoted hunter, and extensive traveler--with lucid accounts of his writing. Starting with Trollope's early days on the family farm and at the famous Harrow School (studying with Byron's former tutor), we learn of Trollope's marriage, his politics (Hall calls him a "conservative liberal"), his career at the Post Office, and his last decade (which gets full treatment, although many have ignored it). We trace his initial attempts at writing (his first three novels were resounding failures), and follow his eventual popular success (beginning with The Warden and Barchester Towers--the latter of which, Hall shows, boasts Trollope's rich comic dialogue and distinctive characterization). In Hall's telling, Trollope's life almost approaches that of his novels, as when we watch him swoop down into a small village on his horse to interview the surprised residents about their mail service. (Trollope once claimed that his life's ambition was "to cover the country with rural letter carriers.") Trollope's legendary prolific output--nearly seventy books in a thirty-five year career--attests to the rigor of his writing schedule. Every morning, he would produce a certain number of words (recording his output in a ledger he devised for the purpose), and then head off to work. To increase his efficiency he took to writing on trains (for which he designed a special writing tablet), and later had carpenters build him desks in his steamer cabins during ocean crossings. And, as Hall points out, Trollope was not simply a prodigious writer, but also more of a scholar than has been recognized. Nevertheless, his genius lay especially in his comic sensibility, and in the care and judgment of his writing (despite the fact that he almost never rewrote a line). Hall's complex, but sharply focused, narrative portrays this daunting figure in vivid detail, combining humor with subtle insight into a mysterious personality. Those who have enjoyed the Barsetshire chronicles or the Palliser novels, and who want to know more about one of the greats of 19th-century literature, will be richly rewarded by this comprehensive more

Product details

  • Paperback | 596 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 38.1mm | 907.18g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • illustrations, bibliography
  • 0192830716
  • 9780192830715

Review Text

Finding the relationship between the life and the art is one of the major challenges to a biographer of Trollope. As editor of the collected works (62 volumes including 47 novels) and the letters, Hall (English/Bronx Community College) may be one of the few scholars to have read all of them. He concludes that the vulgar, outspoken, quarrelsome persona of the real Trollope was as much an invention as the narrative voices in the novels, a mask to protect the tenderhearted, lonely little boy who survived in the ursine body of the adult. Unlike that of Dickens, Trollope's wretched childhood never enters his novels. One of seven children, all but two of whom died in childhood, he was neglected by his penniless father and his flighty mother. Unpopular and inept as a day student at Harrow, Trollope left school to work for the post office at age 19, married, fathered two sons, and published his first novel at age 32. Between 1859 and 1867, when he retired from the p.o. as an executive, he traveled to Egypt, Australia, and the US, then settled near London to enjoy life as literary gentleman. He entertained, hunted, attended London clubs, and wrote for three hours a day, every day, starting at 5:30 A.M., 25 words every 15 minutes. His productivity, his disciplined and methodical approach, and his self-deprecating belief that writing is a craft comparable to shoemaking led others to question his status as an artist. Even his familiar topic seemed uninspired: the romance of everyday life among the middle and upper classes, focusing on the nuances of feeling and conscience that the stormy, impulsive Trollope seemed incapable of. But in the fictions of the Barchester series and the Pallisers, Trollope vindicated himself, providing models of loyalty and friendship, manners and values for the very classes that had rejected him as a child. Clear, direct, cautious, respectful: a useful companion to the more interesting novels and letters - but between the masks and the fictions, the real Trollope is yet to be discovered. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About N. John Hall

About the Author: N. John Hall is Distinguished Professor of English at Bronx Community College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the editor of the Letters of Anthony Trollope, and author of Trollope and his more

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3 17% (2)
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