Against the Odds

Like Charles Dickens, Jane Gaskell, William Thackeray, and Jane Austen, Trollope is part of the golden age of Victorian literature. A prolific author, Trollope’s most famous writing is two series of novels, the Barchester Chronicles (1857-1867), based on a fictional cathedral community, and the more political Palliser series (1864-1880). Trollope is also known for his faithful recording of the daily drama of life, and for memorable characters such as the Duke of Omnium, Phineas Finn, and Mrs. Proudie. He was commercially successful during most of his life, but his reputation sank after his death, partly due to his workmanlike attitude towards writing: he wrote a fixed number of words each morning, 1,000, according to a fixed schedule, and he wrote for money. At a time when “trade” was regarded as far less noble than “art”, Trollope was regarded as something of a hack. But later readers have rediscovered the quality of his writing. Physically large and solid, Trollope was a boisterous, argumentative man – a contradiction to the detailed, workmanlike style of his novels.

The fourth son of an unsuccessful lawyer, Trollope attended a number of schools, including Harrow. After the family went bankrupt in 1834, his mother, Frances, began writing novels to support the family. Also in 1834, Trollope found work as a clerk in the Post Office, where he would be employed in various capacities until 1867, by which time his writing had made him financially independent. In 1868 he made an unsuccessful run for Parliament. He continued writing until his death in 1882; he was survived by a wife and two sons.

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