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Trollope, Anthony

The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature
Margaret Drabble, Jenny Stringer, Daniel Hahn

Trollope, Anthony 


became a junior clerk in the General Post Office in London in 1834, but only began to make any professional progress when transferred to Ireland in 1841. He married Rose Heseltine of Rotherham in 1844. Trollope did not return permanently to England until 1859, although he travelled extensively on Post Office business. By the end of his professional career, he had become a successful and important civil servant. Among his achievements is the introduction in Great Britain of the pillar‐box for letters. He resigned from the Post Office in 1867, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Liberal in 1868. He edited the St Paul's Magazine, 1867–70.

His literary career began with The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) but not until his fourth novel, The Warden (1855), did he establish the manner and material by which he is best known. This, the first of the ‘Barsetshire’ series, was followed by Barchester Towers (1857), Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867). The action of these novels is for the most part set in the imaginary west country county of Barset and its chief town, Barchester. The Barset novels are interconnected by characters who appear in more than one of them, and Trollope developed this technique in his second series, known as the ‘Political’ novels or—perhaps more appropriately—as the ‘Palliser’ novels, after Plantagenet Palliser, who appears in all of them. This series began with Can you Forgive Her? (1864), and continued with Phineas Finn (1869), The Eustace Diamonds (1873), Phineas Redux (1876), The Prime Minister (1876), and The Duke's Children (1880). Trollope established the novel‐sequence in English fiction.

Trollope attributed his remarkable output, which included 47 novels, several travel books, and biographies, as well as collections of short stories and sketches, to a disciplined regularity of composition, producing a given number of words an hour in the early morning before going off to his post office duties. He was more concerned with character than with plot. In his Autobiography (1883; written 1875–7) Trollope writes eloquently of the novelist's need to live with his creatures ‘in the full reality of established intimacy’ and the importance of recording change and the effects of time.

Trollope's other principal novels include: The Three Clerks (1857), The Bertrams (1859), Orley Farm (1862), The Belton Estate (1866), The Claverings (1867), He Knew He Was Right (1869), The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870), The Way we Live Now (1875), The American Senator (1877), Doctor Wortle's School (1881), Ayala's Angel (1881), Mr Scarborough's Family (1883). Trollope became a popular figure in London and literary society in his later years. He greatly admired Thackeray, of whom he nevertheless wrote a clear‐sighted study (1879), and was a close friend of G. Eliot and G. H. Lewes.