'To be known as somebody . . . is to me much', wrote Anthony Trollope when in middle age he had achieved respect and worldly success as one of the most popular of Victorian novelists. In childhood he had suffered from his father's financial troubles, and his craving for recognition and friendship was a reaction to what Trollope described in his Autobiography as the 'absolute isolation of my school position' as an impoverished dayboy at Harrow.
Trollope started his career as a junior clerk in the Post Office in London but, after seven years, he was given a job in Ireland and it was here that he started his first novel. He believed that his object in writing was to make money yet, as Mr Sykes Davies shows, his writing satisfied deeper needs. Trollope 'became exactly what he wished, the moral historian of men and women in the middle range' so that, as Trollope wrote in his Autobiography, 'my readers might recognize human beings like to themselves and not feel themselves to be carried away among gods or demons'. As Henry James remarked, 'His great, his incontestable merit, was a complete appreciation of the usual'. In the Barsetshire novels, as in the later political series, there are a vast number of characters, many of them set in motion by the conflict between love and the Victorian sense of property. This conflict saved Trollope from the trouble of making plots for, as Trollope observed, 'When I sit down to write a novel, I do not at all know . . . and I do not very much care how it is to end.' A few years after Trollope's death, Henry James paid him a remarkable tribute:
'Trollope will remain one of the most trust-worthy, though not one of the most eloquent of 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; and in this possession our English race is not poor.'
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