Anthony Trollope.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope online

. (page 10 of 23)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeAutobiography of Anthony Trollope → online text (page 10 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

our great poets, or reading them miss the lesson! And even in prose
fiction the character whom the fervid imagination of the writer has
lifted somewhat into the clouds, will hardly give so plain an example
to the hasty normal reader as the humbler personage whom that reader
unconsciously feels to resemble himself or herself. I do think that a
girl would more probably dress her own mind after Lucy Robarts than
after Flora Macdonald.

There are many who would laugh at the idea of a novelist teaching
either virtue or nobility, - those, for instance, who regard the
reading of novels as a sin, and those also who think it to be simply
an idle pastime. They look upon the tellers of stories as among the
tribe of those who pander to the wicked pleasures of a wicked world.
I have regarded my art from so different a point of view that I have
ever thought of myself as a preacher of sermons, and my pulpit as
one which I could make both salutary and agreeable to my audience.
I do believe that no girl has risen from the reading of my pages less
modest than she was before, and that some may have learned from them
that modesty is a charm well worth preserving. I think that no youth
has been taught that in falseness and flashness is to be found the
road to manliness; but some may perhaps have learned from me that it
is to be found in truth and a high but gentle spirit. Such are the
lessons I have striven to teach; and I have thought it might best be
done by representing to my readers characters like themselves, - or to
which they might liken themselves.

_Framley Parsonage_ - or, rather, my connection with the
_Cornhill_ - was the means of introducing me very quickly to that
literary world from which I had hitherto been severed by the fact of
my residence in Ireland. In December, 1859, while I was still very
hard at work on my novel, I came over to take charge of the Eastern
District, and settled myself at a residence about twelve miles from
London, in Hertfordshire, but on the borders both of Essex and
Middlesex, - which was somewhat too grandly called Waltham House. This
I took on lease, and subsequently bought after I had spent about
£1000 on improvements. From hence I was able to make myself frequent
both in Cornhill and Piccadilly, and to live, when the opportunity
came, among men of my own pursuit.

It was in January, 1860, that Mr. George Smith - to whose enterprise
we owe not only the _Cornhill Magazine_ but the _Pall Mall
Gazette_ - gave a sumptuous dinner to his contributors. It was a
memorable banquet in many ways, but chiefly so to me because on that
occasion I first met many men who afterwards became my most intimate
associates. It can rarely happen that one such occasion can be
the first starting-point of so many friendships. It was at that
table, and on that day, that I first saw Thackeray, Charles Taylor
(Sir) - than whom in latter life I have loved no man better, - Robert
Bell, G. H. Lewes, and John Everett Millais. With all these men
I afterwards lived on affectionate terms; - but I will here speak
specially of the last, because from that time he was joined with me
in so much of the work that I did.

Mr. Millais was engaged to illustrate _Framley Parsonage_, but this
was not the first work he did for the magazine. In the second number
there is a picture of his accompanying Monckton Milne's _Unspoken
Dialogue_. The first drawing he did for _Framley Parsonage_ did not
appear till after the dinner of which I have spoken, and I do not
think that I knew at the time that he was engaged on my novel. When I
did know it, it made me very proud. He afterwards illustrated _Orley
Farm_, _The Small House at Allington_, _Rachel Ray_, and _Phineas
Finn_. Altogether he drew from my tales eighty-seven drawings, and
I do not think that more conscientious work was ever done by man.
Writers of novels know well - and so ought readers of novels to have
learned - that there are two modes of illustrating, either of which
may be adopted equally by a bad and by a good artist. To which class
Mr. Millais belongs I need not say; but, as a good artist, it was
open to him simply to make a pretty picture, or to study the work of
the author from whose writing he was bound to take his subject. I
have too often found that the former alternative has been thought to
be the better, as it certainly is the easier method. An artist will
frequently dislike to subordinate his ideas to those of an author,
and will sometimes be too idle to find out what those ideas are. But
this artist was neither proud nor idle. In every figure that he drew
it was his object to promote the views of the writer whose work he
had undertaken to illustrate, and he never spared himself any pains
in studying that work, so as to enable him to do so. I have carried
on some of those characters from book to book, and have had my own
early ideas impressed indelibly on my memory by the excellence of his
delineations. Those illustrations were commenced fifteen years ago,
and from that time up to this day my affection for the man of whom I
am speaking has increased. To see him has always been a pleasure. His
voice has been a sweet sound in my ears. Behind his back I have never
heard him praised without joining the eulogist; I have never heard a
word spoken against him without opposing the censurer. These words,
should he ever see them, will come to him from the grave, and will
tell him of my regard, - as one living man never tells another.

Sir Charles Taylor, who carried me home in his brougham that evening,
and thus commenced an intimacy which has since been very close, was
born to wealth, and was therefore not compelled by the necessities
of a profession to enter the lists as an author. But he lived much
with those who did so, - and could have done it himself had want or
ambition stirred him. He was our king at the Garrick Club, to which,
however, I did not yet belong. He gave the best dinners of my time,
and was, - happily I may say is,[6] - the best giver of dinners. A man
rough of tongue, brusque in his manners, odious to those who dislike
him, somewhat inclined to tyranny, he is the prince of friends,
honest as the sun, and as open-handed as Charity itself.

[Footnote 6: Alas! within a year of the writing of this he went
from us.]

Robert Bell has now been dead nearly ten years. As I look back over
the interval and remember how intimate we were, it seems odd to me
that we should have known each other for no more than six years. He
was a man who had lived by his pen from his very youth; and was so
far successful that I do not think that want ever came near him. But
he never made that mark which his industry and talents would have
seemed to ensure. He was a man well known to literary men, but not
known to readers. As a journalist he was useful and conscientious,
but his plays and novels never made themselves popular. He wrote
a life of Canning, and he brought out an annotated edition of the
British poets; but he achieved no great success. I have known no
man better read in English literature. Hence his conversation had a
peculiar charm, but he was not equally happy with his pen. He will
long be remembered at the Literary Fund Committees, of which he was
a staunch and most trusted supporter. I think it was he who first
introduced me to that board. It has often been said that literary men
are peculiarly apt to think that they are slighted and unappreciated.
Robert Bell certainly never achieved the position in literature which
he once aspired to fill, and which he was justified in thinking that
he could earn for himself. I have frequently discussed these subjects
with him, but I never heard from his mouth a word of complaint as to
his own literary fate. He liked to hear the chimes go at midnight,
and he loved to have ginger hot in his mouth. On such occasions no
sound ever came out of a man's lips sweeter than his wit and gentle

George Lewes, - with his wife, whom all the world knows as George
Eliot, - has also been and still is one of my dearest friends. He is,
I think, the acutest critic I know, - and the severest. His severity,
however, is a fault. His intention to be honest, even when honesty
may give pain, has caused him to give pain when honesty has not
required it. He is essentially a doubter, and has encouraged himself
to doubt till the faculty of trusting has almost left him. I am not
speaking of the personal trust which one man feels in another, but of
that confidence in literary excellence, which is, I think, necessary
for the full enjoyment of literature. In one modern writer he did
believe thoroughly. Nothing can be more charming than the unstinted
admiration which he has accorded to everything that comes from the
pen of the wonderful woman to whom his lot has been united. To her
name I shall recur again when speaking of the novelists of the
present day.

Of "Billy Russell," as we always used to call him, I may say that
I never knew but one man equal to him in the quickness and
continuance of witty speech. That one man was Charles Lever - also
an Irishman - whom I had known from an earlier date, and also with
close intimacy. Of the two, I think that Lever was perhaps the more
astounding producer of good things. His manner was perhaps a little
the happier, and his turns more sharp and unexpected. But "Billy"
also was marvellous. Whether abroad as special correspondent, or
at home amidst the flurry of his newspaper work, he was a charming
companion; his ready wit always gave him the last word.

Of Thackeray I will speak again when I record his death.

There were many others whom I met for the first time at George
Smith's table. Albert Smith, for the first, and indeed for the last
time, as he died soon after; Higgins, whom all the world knew as
Jacob Omnium, a man I greatly regarded; Dallas, who for a time was
literary critic to the _Times_, and who certainly in that capacity
did better work than has appeared since in the same department;
George Augustus Sala, who, had he given himself fair play, would have
risen to higher eminence than that of being the best writer in his
day of sensational leading articles; and Fitz-James Stephen, a man
of very different calibre, who has not yet culminated, but who, no
doubt, will culminate among our judges. There were many others; - but
I cannot now recall their various names as identified with those

Of _Framley Parsonage_ I need only further say, that as I wrote it
I became more closely than ever acquainted with the new shire which
I had added to the English counties. I had it all in my mind, - its
roads and railroads, its towns and parishes, its members of
Parliament, and the different hunts which rode over it. I knew all
the great lords and their castles, the squires and their parks, the
rectors and their churches. This was the fourth novel of which I had
placed the scene in Barsetshire, and as I wrote it I made a map of
the dear county. Throughout these stories there has been no name
given to a fictitious site which does not represent to me a spot of
which I know all the accessories, as though I had lived and wandered



When I had half-finished _Framley Parsonage_, I went back to my other
story, _Castle Richmond_, which I was writing for Messrs. Chapman &
Hall, and completed that. I think that this was the only occasion on
which I have had two different novels in my mind at the same time.
This, however, did not create either difficulty or confusion. Many
of us live in different circles; and when we go from our friends
in the town to our friends in the country, we do not usually fail
to remember the little details of the one life or the other. The
parson at Rusticum, with his wife and his wife's mother, and all his
belongings; and our old friend, the Squire, with his family history;
and Farmer Mudge, who has been cross with us, because we rode so
unnecessarily over his barley; and that rascally poacher, once a
gamekeeper, who now traps all the foxes; and pretty Mary Cann, whose
marriage with the wheelwright we did something to expedite; - though
we are alive to them all, do not drive out of our brain the club
gossip, or the memories of last season's dinners, or any incident of
our London intimacies. In our lives we are always weaving novels, and
we manage to keep the different tales distinct. A man does, in truth,
remember that which it interests him to remember; and when we hear
that memory has gone as age has come on, we should understand that
the capacity for interest in the matter concerned has perished. A
man will be generally very old and feeble before he forgets how much
money he has in the funds. There is a good deal to be learned by
any one who wishes to write a novel well; but when the art has been
acquired, I do not see why two or three should not be well written
at the same time. I have never found myself thinking much about the
work that I had to do till I was doing it. I have indeed for many
years almost abandoned the effort to think, trusting myself, with the
narrowest thread of a plot, to work the matter out when the pen is
in my hand. But my mind is constantly employing itself on the work I
have done. Had I left either _Framley Parsonage_ or _Castle Richmond_
half-finished fifteen years ago, I think I could complete the tales
now with very little trouble. I have not looked at _Castle Richmond_
since it was published; and poor as the work is, I remember all the

_Castle Richmond_ certainly was not a success, - though the plot is a
fairly good plot, and is much more of a plot than I have generally
been able to find. The scene is laid in Ireland, during the famine;
and I am well aware now that English readers no longer like Irish
stories. I cannot understand why it should be so, as the Irish
character is peculiarly well fitted for romance. But Irish subjects
generally have become distasteful. This novel, however, is of itself
a weak production. The characters do not excite sympathy. The heroine
has two lovers, one of whom is a scamp and the other a prig. As
regards the scamp, the girl's mother is her own rival. Rivalry of the
same nature has been admirably depicted by Thackeray in his _Esmond_;
but there the mother's love seems to be justified by the girl's
indifference. In _Castle Richmond_ the mother strives to rob her
daughter of the man's love. The girl herself has no character; and
the mother, who is strong enough, is almost revolting. The dialogue
is often lively, and some of the incidents are well told; but the
story as a whole was a failure. I cannot remember, however, that it
was roughly handled by the critics when it came out; and I much doubt
whether anything so hard was said of it then as that which I have
said here.

I was now settled at Waltham Cross, in a house in which I could
entertain a few friends modestly, where we grew our cabbages and
strawberries, made our own butter, and killed our own pigs. I
occupied it for twelve years, and they were years to me of great
prosperity. In 1861 I became a member of the Garrick Club, with which
institution I have since been much identified. I had belonged to
it about two years, when, on Thackeray's death, I was invited to
fill his place on the Committee, and I have been one of that august
body ever since. Having up to that time lived very little among men,
having known hitherto nothing of clubs, having even as a boy been
banished from social gatherings, I enjoyed infinitely at first the
gaiety of the Garrick. It was a festival to me to dine there - which
I did indeed but seldom; and a great delight to play a rubber in the
little room up-stairs of an afternoon. I am speaking now of the old
club in King Street. This playing of whist before dinner has since
that become a habit with me, so that unless there be something else
special to do - unless there be hunting, or I am wanted to ride in the
park by the young tyrant of my household - it is "my custom always
in the afternoon." I have sometimes felt sore with myself for this
persistency, feeling that I was making myself a slave to an amusement
which has not after all very much to recommend it. I have often
thought that I would break myself away from it, and "swear off,"
as Rip Van Winkle says. But my swearing off has been like that of
Rip Van Winkle. And now, as I think of it coolly, I do not know but
that I have been right to cling to it. As a man grows old he wants
amusement, more even than when he is young; and then it becomes so
difficult to find amusement. Reading should, no doubt, be the delight
of men's leisure hours. Had I to choose between books and cards, I
should no doubt take the books. But I find that I can seldom read
with pleasure for above an hour and a half at a time, or more than
three hours a day. As I write this I am aware that hunting must soon
be abandoned. After sixty it is given but to few men to ride straight
across country, and I cannot bring myself to adopt any other mode of
riding. I think that without cards I should now be much at a loss.
When I began to play at the Garrick, I did so simply because I liked
the society of the men who played.

I think that I became popular among those with whom I associated. I
have long been aware of a certain weakness in my own character, which
I may call a craving for love. I have ever had a wish to be liked by
those around me, - a wish that during the first half of my life was
never gratified. In my school-days no small part of my misery came
from the envy with which I regarded the popularity of popular boys.
They seemed to me to live in a social paradise, while the desolation
of my pandemonium was complete. And afterwards, when I was in London
as a young man, I had but few friends. Among the clerks in the Post
Office I held my own fairly for the first two or three years; but
even then I regarded myself as something of a pariah. My Irish life
had been much better. I had had my wife and children, and had been
sustained by a feeling of general respect. But even in Ireland I had
in truth lived but little in society. Our means had been sufficient
for our wants, but insufficient for entertaining others. It was not
till we had settled ourselves at Waltham that I really began to live
much with others. The Garrick Club was the first assemblage of men at
which I felt myself to be popular.

I soon became a member of other clubs. There was the Arts Club in
Hanover Square, of which I saw the opening, but from which, after
three or four years, I withdrew my name, having found that during
these three or four years I had not once entered the building. Then
I was one of the originators of the Civil Service Club - not from
judgment, but instigated to do so by others. That also I left for the
same reason. In 1864 I received the honour of being elected by the
Committee at the Athenæum. For this I was indebted to the kindness
of Lord Stanhope; and I never was more surprised than when I was
informed of the fact. About the same time I became a member of the
Cosmopolitan, a little club that meets twice a week in Charles
Street, Berkeley Square, and supplies to all its members, and its
members' friends, tea and brandy and water without charge! The
gatherings there I used to think very delightful. One met Jacob
Omnium, Monckton Milnes, Tom Hughes, William Stirling, Henry Reeve,
Arthur Russell, Tom Taylor, and such like; and generally a strong
political element, thoroughly well mixed, gave a certain spirit to
the place. Lord Ripon, Lord Stanley, William Forster, Lord Enfield,
Lord Kimberley, George Bentinck, Vernon Harcourt, Bromley Davenport,
Knatchbull Huguessen, with many others, used to whisper the secrets
of Parliament with free tongues. Afterwards I became a member of the
Turf, which I found to be serviceable - or the reverse - only for the
playing of whist at high points.

In August, 1861, I wrote another novel for the _Cornhill Magazine_.
It was a short story, about one volume in length, and was called _The
Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson_. In this I attempted a style
for which I certainly was not qualified, and to which I never had
again recourse. It was meant to be funny, was full of slang, and was
intended as a satire on the ways of trade. Still I think that there
is some good fun in it, but I have heard no one else express such an
opinion. I do not know that I ever heard any opinion expressed on it,
except by the publisher, who kindly remarked that he did not think
it was equal to my usual work. Though he had purchased the copyright,
he did not republish the story in a book form till 1870, and then
it passed into the world of letters _sub silentio_. I do not know
that it was ever criticised or ever read. I received £600 for it.
From that time to this I have been paid at about that rate for my
work - £600 for the quantity contained in an ordinary novel volume, or
£3000 for a long tale published in twenty parts, which is equal in
length to five such volumes. I have occasionally, I think, received
something more than this, never I think less for any tale, except
when I have published my work anonymously.[7] Having said so much,
I need not further specify the prices as I mention the books as they
were written. I will, however, when I am completing this memoir,
give a list of all the sums I have received for my literary labours.
I think that _Brown, Jones, and Robinson_ was the hardest bargain I
ever sold to a publisher.

[Footnote 7: Since the date at which this was written I have
encountered a diminution in price.]

In 1861 the War of Secession had broken out in America, and from the
first I interested myself much in the question. My mother had thirty
years previously written a very popular, but, as I had thought, a
somewhat unjust book about our cousins over the water. She had seen
what was distasteful in the manners of a young people, but had hardly
recognised their energy. I had entertained for many years an ambition
to follow her footsteps there, and to write another book. I had
already paid a short visit to New York City and State on my way home
from the West Indies, but had not seen enough then to justify me in
the expression of any opinion. The breaking out of the war did not
make me think that the time was peculiarly fit for such inquiry as I
wished to make, but it did represent itself as an occasion on which a
book might be popular. I consequently consulted the two great powers
with whom I was concerned. Messrs. Chapman & Hall, the publishers,
were one power, and I had no difficulty in arranging my affairs
with them. They agreed to publish the book on my terms, and bade me
God-speed on my journey. The other power was the Postmaster-General
and Mr. Rowland Hill, the Secretary of the Post Office. I wanted
leave of absence for the unusual period of nine months, and fearing
that I should not get it by the ordinary process of asking the
Secretary, I went direct to his lordship. "Is it on the plea of
ill-health?" he asked, looking into my face, which was then that of
a very robust man. His lordship knew the Civil Service as well as
any one living, and must have seen much of falseness and fraudulent
pretence, or he could not have asked that question. I told him that I
was very well, but that I wanted to write a book. "Had I any special
ground to go upon in asking for such indulgence?" I had, I said, done
my duty well by the service. There was a good deal of demurring, but
I got my leave for nine months, - and I knew that I had earned it. Mr.
Hill attached to the minute granting me the leave an intimation that
it was to be considered as a full equivalent for the special services
rendered by me to the department. I declined, however, to accept the
grace with such a stipulation, and it was withdrawn by the directions
of the Postmaster-General.[8]

[Footnpte 8: During the period of my service in the Post
Office I did very much special work for which I never asked
any remuneration, - and never received any, though payments for
special services were common in the department at that time.
But if there was to be a question of such remuneration, I did
not choose that my work should be valued at the price put upon
it by Mr. Hill.]

I started for the States in August and returned in the following
May. The war was raging during the time that I was there, and the
country was full of soldiers. A part of the time I spent in Virginia,
Kentucky, and Missouri, among the troops, along the line of attack.
I visited all the States (excepting California) which had not then

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeAutobiography of Anthony Trollope → online text (page 10 of 23)