April 29, 2012

Helping the heart of man to know itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:23 am

How I missed the anniversary of Anthony Trollope’s birth on April 24, I will never know – probably couldn’t put Barchester Towers down long enough to observe the occasion.

One of the two towering figures of Victorian literature (along with Dickens, of course), Trollope alone wears well still.  You can find all of his works at Project Gutenberg, including his Autobiography.  It was the posthumous publication of his autobiography that gave critics an excuse to diminish him – after all, no real artist can stick to a rigorous writing schedule like Trollope did and hold down a mundane job at the post office while doing it.

But like Dickens, Trollope was brought up in a dysfunctional family and had a ne’er-do-well father – he learned the value of a steady paycheck at an early age and never forgot it.

Also like Dickens, Trollope was, in the eyes of his critics, overly prolific. He wrote 47 novels, ten collections of short stories and a great deal of nonfiction. Critics seem to prefer the tortured romantic figure that manages to create a half dozen or so significant works.

Real Victorian pillar box, thought to be oldest surviving one. Photo by Manvyi

But if you haven’t read the Barchester novels or the Parliamentary novels – at least once – then you have a great treat in store. Henry James had his reservations about Trollope, but in sum he admitted that

“His great, his inestimable merit was a complete appreciation of the usual. … he felt all daily and immediate things as well as saw them; felt them in a simple, direct, salubrious way, with their sadness, their gladness, their charm, their comicality, all their obvious and measurable meanings. … Trollope will remain one of the most trustworthy, though not one of the most eloquent, of the writers who have helped the heart of man to know itself. … A race is fortunate when it has a good deal of the sort of imagination—of imaginative feeling—that had fallen to the share of Anthony Trollope…”

(Btw, if you are tackling the wonderful world of the church political in the Barchester series – and if you are not English by birth – it is worth checking out the Church of England in Wikipedia to get an idea of the differences between vicars and rectors, deans and archdeacons.)

In addition to leaving the world of literature a better place, Trollope is also reputed to have created the pillar box for the collection of mail.   Surely a man of many talents.



  1. Fairly recently read my first Trollope. Like him as you picture him, also, he looks like my favorite neighbor, Ron, whom you’ve met. Don’t ;you just love men who realize you have to have a steady job if you want all the other stuff that makes life full.


    Comment by Carol — April 29, 2012 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  2. I am looking forward to reading Trollope. Thank you for the blog and the down-load


    Comment by avery zia — April 30, 2012 @ 9:11 am | Reply

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