Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope by Lock and Whitfield, British Library
Anthony Trollope by Lock and Whitfield, British Library

Biography

Anthony Trollope was one of the most prolific authors of the 19th century whose works include the Barsetshire Chronicles and The Way We Live Now. Trollope’s depictions of ordinary life ‘enlivened by humour and sweetened by pathos’ have endeared him to readers and ensured his continued popularity. His rich body of work is particularly impressive, given that he also maintained a successful career in the Post Office, a feat he famously attributed to his ‘habit of industry’.

Born on 24 April 1815 in London, Trollope’s childhood was overshadowed by his father’s financial problems and tuberculosis which claimed the lives of many of his siblings. In 1834 he became a junior clerk in the General Post Office in London. Trollope’s upbringing had not prepared him for the professional world and his time there was not a success. His fortunes improved in 1841 when he transferred to work for the Post Office in Ireland as a Surveyor’s Clerk and in 1843, aged 28, he began to write his first novel The Macdermots of Ballycloran. Although Trollope’s early novels were not critical successes they were the beginning of a long and successful career.

Trollope’s fourth novel, The Warden (1855), finally bought him public recognition and he began to develop a series of ‘rules for novel writing’. These included the ability to write honestly, naturally, intelligibly, rhythmically and pleasantly; to create sympathetic characters and primarily a willingness to submit to severe toil. In 1859 Trollope returned to England and in 1860 he published his first piece of serialised fiction, Framley Parsonage. He attributed his entire success to the virtue of his early hours; he would rise at 5am each day and undertake his literary work for three hours before starting for the Post Office.

Trollope was a hugely prolific writer producing 47 novels, an autobiography, two plays, short stories, travel books, articles, reviews and lectures. Proud of his achievements, he boasted that he always had a pen in hand and was bound to the rules of labour in the same way as a mechanic or a shoemaker. These blunt comparisons raised eyebrows among literary circles, as did the honest admission of his motivation of writing for money. His autobiography, published after his death in 1882, remains a testament to the value of hard work and self-motivation.

Further information about the life of Anthony Trollope can be found here via the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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