Anthony Trollope (24 April 1815 – 6 December 1882)
Trollope was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era, penning no less than forty seven novels, numerous short stories, several travel books and an autobiography but, despite all that, and like many another Giant before and yet to come, posterity often pushes a lifetime’s achievement to one side to remember him for something else altogether: in this case, as the man who invented the pillar box. Which he didn’t even do.
trolls, those mythological cave-dwelling beings of folklore. So, Trollope has nothing whatsoever to do with ladies of ill-repute (their troll being in the sense of to wallow or roll about), meaning that we certainly shan’t be repeating, or even so much as mentioning, Prime Minister (and Trollope devotee) Harold MacMillan’s infamous remark that he liked nothing better than “to go to bed early with a Trollope.” SuperMac, as he was known, and not because of the size of his raincoat, was clearly a man who loved a good laugh, seeing he also came up with “You’ve never had it so good” (what he actually said was, “Most Britons have never had it so good”) and also organised something called the Night of the Long Knives (on Friday the Thirteenth, as it goes, 1962), sacking from Cabinet anyone who didn’t completely agree with him, about which another upcoming wit, young Liberal MP, Jeremy Thorpe, remarked that, “greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his friends for his life.”
So far, then, he had achieved nothing in his education, had been bullied, disgraced and an outcast, and had even flirted with the idea of suicide. In terms of becoming a literary giant, almost the perfect credentials.
In Belgium, Anthony was offered a commission in the Austrian cavalry but, instead, he took the next logical step towards a career in penmanship: he got a job with the Post Office. And, just as tradition demands, he was neither good at it nor at all conscientious, adding the other prerequisites of insubordination and unpunctuality while he was about it. Once again, as a budding author, he was ticking all the right boxes. Though he hated every minute, saying that, "the first seven years of my official life were neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service." Faulkner himself would have recognised the potential and been proud of him. Except that Trollope did it all first. When a rather undesirable opportunity arose in Ireland (ironically, to replace someone incompetent), Trollope leapt at the chance of escape and his boss, William Maberly (longtime soldier and later to be parodied by Trollope as Sir Boreas Bodkin in Marion Fay), keen to be rid, didn’t stand in his way.
The big literary break finally comes in 1859, when the Cornhill Magazine appears, edited by William Makepeace Thackeray (who couldn’t have been as miserable or as snooty as he looked) and Trollope decides he wants a slice of the action, extending his services as a penman, for which he is offered a towering £1,000 if he can come up with a novel to be serialised. The catch being that it has to be ready in six weeks. No bother, thinks Trollope, and he comes up with Framley Parsonage, thereby shortcutting the entire process by reusing the characters from Barchester Towers and creating yet more from the same wood. It is an enormous success, securing his reputation.
Miffed by being passed over for promotion in 1864, Anthony flounces out of the Post Office in high dudgeon, though not until 1867 when he’s saved up enough cash to cover the pension he will lose by leaving before he is sixty. Instead of going writing full-blast, however, he decides to have a crack at politics by standing for election as an MP in Beverley, this being a longstanding dream of his. The outcome perhaps wasn’t, though, as he spent £400 on his campaign, which he described as "the most wretched fortnight of my manhood" (he meant his adult life, of course – nothing unseemly about Trollope) and, of the four candidates standing, he came fourth. Parliament’s loss was literature’s gain because in 1871 he headed off to Australia to see his sheepfarming son. On the way out, he wrote Lady Anna; on the way back, Australia and New Zealand, in which he calls the Australians “braggarts.” The Australians don’t care for this one little bit and never forgive him, though it does keep up the family tradition, started by his mother, of visiting the colonies and then insulting the natives. Undaunted, Anthony has the nerve to go back there in 1875, to keep up another family tradition - helping close down the son’s failed farming enterprise. The Australians still hadn’t forgiven him.
“His voice was bass and resonant.... His laugh was, at its healthiest, a bellow.” At Garland’s Hotel, Pall Mall, on 3 November 1882, whilst laughing at a family reading of F. Anstey's Vice Versa, he was struck down by a paralytic stroke, dying on 6 December. Which is about as close as you will ever get to the old saying, “You’ll die laughing.” In the end, Trollope, who unashamedly wrote for money and said of inspiration, “it would not be more absurd if the shoemaker were to wait for inspiration,” really did have the last laugh.
"Harold Macmillan number 10 official" by Vivienne (Florence Mellish Entwistle) (Active 1940, died 1982) - http://www.gac.culture.gov.ukhttp://www.gac.culture.gov.uk/work.aspx?obj=27194 http://www.number10.gov.uk/past-prime-ministers/harold-macmillan/http://www.number10.gov.uk. Via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harold_Macmillan_number_10_official.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Harold_Macmillan_number_10_official.jpg
"Picture of Anthony Trollope" by Napoleon Sarony - The New York Public Library: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=301796&imageID=484405&word=Anthony%20Trollope&s=1¬word=&d=&c=&f=&k=1&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&sort=&total=3&num=0&imgs=20&pNum=&pos=2. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Picture_of_Anthony_Trollope.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Picture_of_Anthony_Trollope.jpg
"Orley Farm frontispiece illustration" by John Everett Millais - Internet Archive. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orley_Farm_frontispiece_illustration.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Orley_Farm_frontispiece_illustration.jpg
"Victorian post box Guernsey" by Man vyi - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victorian_post_box_Guernsey.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Victorian_post_box_Guernsey.jpg
"William Makepeace Thackeray by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst-crop" by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst (1819-1875), scanned by BPL - William Makepeace ThackerayUploaded by Trycatch. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Makepeace_Thackeray_by_Jesse_Harrison_Whitehurst-crop.jpg#mediaviewer/File:William_Makepeace_Thackeray_by_Jesse_Harrison_Whitehurst-crop.jpg
"Anthony Trollope Vanity Fair 5 April 1873" by Leslie Ward - Published in Vanity Fair, 5 April 1873.Downloaded from http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/largerimage.php?mkey=mw136861&LinkID=mp04701. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anthony_Trollope_Vanity_Fair_5_April_1873.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Anthony_Trollope_Vanity_Fair_5_April_1873.jpg