April 24 is the birthday of Anthony Trollope – one of the most prolific and popular authors of Victorian times.
I’ve been re-reading the autobiography of this modest and remarkable man.
Born in 1815, Anthony’s early life was marked by profound sadness, with unhappy circumstances in his home and school life.
After school, he changed course and applied to join the Post Office; the circumstances of his interview for the post are related in the autobiography with humour and horror in equal measure!
Seven dry years followed. Then chance led him to apply for a post no one else seemed particularly interested in – in Ireland.
And here, life began to change, infinitely for the better. He felt welcomed, and at home. Happy and successful in his work, he was also married at this time.
Strict writing schedules
He would eventually go on to great success with the Post Office, and was responsible for recommending the introduction of post boxes in the UK. First trialled in the Channel Islands in 1854, London’s first post boxes appeared the following year. Originally painted sage green, their colour was changed to red in 1874.
Anthony believed in rising early to begin three hours of writing every day at 5.30am, before heading to his “day job” at the Post Office. He adhered to strict writing schedules, too, with a set amount of pages written per day; it wasn’t unknown for him to finish one book, only to start another straight away.
A keen traveller and travel writer, like his mother, he wrote 47 novels, edited and contributed to magazines, and also stood for election in 1868 as the Liberal candidate for Beverley – a situation he described as “a fortnight of misery”!
John Everett Millais illustrated a number of Trollope’s novels, and would go on to become a good friend of the author. One illustration, for “Framley Parsonage”, was so popular, it started a fashion trend in ladies dresses.
And there’s a “People’s Friend” connection, too. When we were in the Archive researching for our 150th Fiction Special, I happened on a serialisation of “Ayala’s Angel”, which ran in the “Friend” from January to November, 1881.
Here is the original front cover of our issue dated Wednesday, January 5, 1881. This is where the first instalment appeared:
Following his death in 1882, a review of his autobiography appeared in the “Friend”, the following year.
Fell from favour
It’s thought that the reason Trollope fell from favour to some degree after his death was due in part to his honesty, in his autobiography, around his methodical approach to writing, and business-like approach to monies earned. Both entirely understandable, when we consider that he wrote in tandem with a successful career, and the precarious family finances of his early days.
As he said, “I did think much of Messrs. Longman’s name, but I liked it best at the bottom of a cheque.”
I first became aware of Trollope’s works in 1982, thanks to the BBC’s television production of “The Barchester Chronicles”, widely considered one of the finest TV dramas ever filmed, with Alan Rickman as the slippery Mr Slope.
Nearly forty years later, I’m still reading and enjoying Trollope’s novels; I’m currently reading “Dr Wortle’s School”, which I’ll review soon!
Happy birthday, Mr Trollope, and thank you.
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