Anthony Trollope.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope online

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1853, - having been then two years without having made any literary
effort, - I began _The Warden_, at Tenbury in Worcestershire. It was
then more than twelve months since I had stood for an hour on the
little bridge in Salisbury, and had made out to my own satisfaction
the spot on which Hiram's hospital should stand. Certainly no work
that I ever did took up so much of my thoughts. On this occasion I
did no more than write the first chapter, even if so much. I had
determined that my official work should be moderated, so as to allow
me some time for writing; but then, just at this time, I was sent
to take the postal charge of the northern counties in Ireland, - of
Ulster, and the counties Meath and Louth. Hitherto in official
language I had been a surveyor's clerk, - now I was to be a surveyor.
The difference consisted mainly in an increase of income from about
£450 to about £800; - for at that time the sum netted still depended
on the number of miles travelled. Of course that English work to
which I had become so warmly wedded had to be abandoned. Other parts
of England were being done by other men, and I had nearly finished
the area which had been entrusted to me. I should have liked to ride
over the whole country, and to have sent a rural post letter-carrier
to every parish, every village, every hamlet, and every grange in

We were at this time very much unsettled as regards any residence.
While we were living at Clonmel two sons had been born, who certainly
were important enough to have been mentioned sooner. At Clonmel we
had lived in lodgings, and from there had moved to Mallow, a town in
the county Cork, where we had taken a house. Mallow was in the centre
of a hunting country, and had been very pleasant to me. But our house
there had been given up when it was known that I should be detained
in England; and then we had wandered about in the western counties,
moving our headquarters from one town to another. During this time we
had lived at Exeter, at Bristol, at Caermarthen, at Cheltenham, and
at Worcester. Now we again moved, and settled ourselves for eighteen
months at Belfast. After that we took a house at Donnybrook, the
well-known suburb of Dublin.

The work of taking up a new district, which requires not only that
the man doing it should know the nature of the postal arrangements,
but also the characters and the peculiarities of the postmasters and
their clerks, was too heavy to allow of my going on with my book at
once. It was not till the end of 1852 that I recommenced it, and it
was in the autumn of 1853 that I finished the work. It was only one
small volume, and in later days would have been completed in six
weeks, - or in two months at the longest, if other work had pressed.
On looking at the title-page, I find it was not published till 1855.
I had made acquaintance, through my friend John Merivale, with
William Longman the publisher, and had received from him an assurance
that the manuscript should be "looked at." It was "looked at," and
Messrs. Longman made me an offer to publish it at half profits. I had
no reason to love "half profits," but I was very anxious to have my
book published, and I acceded. It was now more than ten years since
I had commenced writing _The Macdermots_, and I thought that if any
success was to be achieved, the time surely had come. I had not been
impatient; but, if there was to be a time, surely it had come.

The novel-reading world did not go mad about _The Warden_; but I soon
felt that it had not failed as the others had failed. There were
notices of it in the press, and I could discover that people around
me knew that I had written a book. Mr. Longman was complimentary, and
after a while informed me that there would be profits to divide. At
the end of 1855 I received a cheque for £9, 8s. 8d., which was the
first money I had ever earned by literary work; - that £20 which poor
Mr. Colburn had been made to pay certainly never having been earned
at all. At the end of 1856 I received another sum of £10, 15s. 1d.
The pecuniary success was not great. Indeed, as regarded remuneration
for the time, stone-breaking would have done better. A thousand
copies were printed, of which, after a lapse of five or six years,
about 300 had to be converted into another form, and sold as
belonging to a cheap edition. In its original form _The Warden_ never
reached the essential honour of a second edition.

I have already said of the work that it failed altogether in the
purport for which it was intended. But it has a merit of its own, - a
merit by my own perception of which I was enabled to see wherein lay
whatever strength I did possess. The characters of the bishop, of the
archdeacon, of the archdeacon's wife, and especially of the warden,
are all well and clearly drawn. I had realised to myself a series of
portraits, and had been able so to put them on the canvas that my
readers should see that which I meant them to see. There is no gift
which an author can have more useful to him than this. And the style
of the English was good, though from most unpardonable carelessness
the grammar was not unfrequently faulty. With such results I had no
doubt but that I would at once begin another novel.

I will here say one word as a long-deferred answer to an item of
criticism which appeared in the _Times_ newspaper as to _The Warden_.
In an article - if I remember rightly, on _The Warden_ and _Barchester
Towers_ combined - which I would call good-natured, but that I take
it for granted that the critics of the _Times_ are actuated by
higher motives than good-nature, that little book and its sequel
are spoken of in terms which were very pleasant to the author.
But there was added to this a gentle word of rebuke at the morbid
condition of the author's mind which had prompted him to indulge in
personalities, - the personalities in question having reference to
some editor or manager of the _Times_ newspaper. For I had introduced
one Tom Towers as being potent among the contributors to the
_Jupiter_, under which name I certainly did allude to the _Times_.
But at that time, living away in Ireland, I had not even heard the
name of any gentleman connected with the _Times_ newspaper, and could
not have intended to represent any individual by Tom Towers. As I had
created an archdeacon, so had I created a journalist, and the one
creation was no more personal or indicative of morbid tendencies than
the other. If Tom Towers was at all like any gentleman then connected
with the _Times_, my moral consciousness must again have been very



It was, I think, before I started on my English tours among the rural
posts that I made my first attempt at writing for a magazine. I had
read, soon after they came out, the two first volumes of Charles
Merivale's _History of the Romans under the Empire_, and had got into
some correspondence with the author's brother as to the author's
views about Cæsar. Hence arose in my mind a tendency to investigate
the character of probably the greatest man who ever lived, which
tendency in after years produced a little book of which I shall have
to speak when its time comes, - and also a taste generally for Latin
literature, which has been one of the chief delights of my later
life. And I may say that I became at this time as anxious about
Cæsar, and as desirous of reaching the truth as to his character, as
we have all been in regard to Bismarck in these latter days. I lived
in Cæsar, and debated with myself constantly whether he crossed the
Rubicon as a tyrant or as a patriot. In order that I might review
Mr. Merivale's book without feeling that I was dealing unwarrantably
with a subject beyond me, I studied the Commentaries thoroughly, and
went through a mass of other reading which the object of a magazine
article hardly justified, - but which has thoroughly justified itself
in the subsequent pursuits of my life. I did write two articles,
the first mainly on Julius Cæsar, and the second on Augustus, which
appeared in the _Dublin University Magazine_. They were the result
of very much labour, but there came from them no pecuniary product.
I had been very modest when I sent them to the editor, as I had been
when I called on John Forster, not venturing to suggest the subject
of money. After a while I did call upon the proprietor of the
magazine in Dublin, and was told by him that such articles were
generally written to oblige friends, and that articles written to
oblige friends were not usually paid for. The Dean of Ely, as the
author of the work in question now is, was my friend; but I think
I was wronged, as I certainly had no intention of obliging him
by my criticism. Afterwards, when I returned to Ireland, I wrote
other articles for the same magazine, one of which, intended to be
very savage in its denunciation, was on an official blue-book just
then brought out, preparatory to the introduction of competitive
examinations for the Civil Service. For that and some other article,
I now forget what, I was paid. Up to the end of 1857 I had received
£55 for the hard work of ten years.

It was while I was engaged on _Barchester Towers_ that I adopted a
system of writing which, for some years afterwards, I found to be
very serviceable to me. My time was greatly occupied in travelling,
and the nature of my travelling was now changed. I could not any
longer do it on horseback. Railroads afforded me my means of
conveyance, and I found that I passed in railway-carriages very many
hours of my existence. Like others, I used to read, - though Carlyle
has since told me that a man when travelling should not read, but
"sit still and label his thoughts." But if I intended to make a
profitable business out of my writing, and, at the same time, to do
my best for the Post Office, I must turn these hours to more account
than I could do even by reading. I made for myself therefore a little
tablet, and found after a few days' exercise that I could write as
quickly in a railway-carriage as I could at my desk. I worked with a
pencil, and what I wrote my wife copied afterwards. In this way was
composed the greater part of _Barchester Towers_ and of the novel
which succeeded it, and much also of others subsequent to them. My
only objection to the practice came from the appearance of literary
ostentation, to which I felt myself to be subject when going to work
before four or five fellow-passengers. But I got used to it, as I had
done to the amazement of the west country farmers' wives when asking
them after their letters.

In the writing of _Barchester Towers_ I took great delight. The
bishop and Mrs. Proudie were very real to me, as were also the
troubles of the archdeacon and the loves of Mr. Slope. When it was
done, Mr. W. Longman required that it should be subjected to his
reader; and he returned the MS. to me, with a most laborious and
voluminous criticism, - coming from whom I never knew. This was
accompanied by an offer to print the novel on the half-profit system,
with a payment of £100 in advance out of my half-profits, - on
condition that I would comply with the suggestions made by his
critic. One of these suggestions required that I should cut the novel
down to two volumes. In my reply, I went through the criticisms,
rejecting one and accepting another, almost alternately, but
declaring at last that no consideration should induce me to cut out
a third of my work. I am at a loss to know how such a task could be
performed. I could burn the MS., no doubt, and write another book on
the same story; but how two words out of six are to be withdrawn from
a written novel, I cannot conceive. I believe such tasks have been
attempted - perhaps performed; but I refused to make even the attempt.
Mr. Longman was too gracious to insist on his critic's terms; and the
book was published, certainly none the worse, and I do not think much
the better, for the care that had been taken with it.

The work succeeded just as _The Warden_ had succeeded. It achieved no
great reputation, but it was one of the novels which novel readers
were called upon to read. Perhaps I may be assuming upon myself more
than I have a right to do in saying now that _Barchester Towers_ has
become one of those novels which do not die quite at once, which live
and are read for perhaps a quarter of a century; but if that be so,
its life has been so far prolonged by the vitality of some of its
younger brothers. _Barchester Towers_ would hardly be so well known
as it is had there been no _Framley Parsonage_ and no _Last Chronicle
of Barset_.

I received my £100, in advance, with profound delight. It was a
positive and most welcome increase to my income, and might probably
be regarded as a first real step on the road to substantial success.
I am well aware that there are many who think that an author in his
authorship should not regard money, - nor a painter, or sculptor, or
composer in his art. I do not know that this unnatural self-sacrifice
is supposed to extend itself further. A barrister, a clergyman, a
doctor, an engineer, and even actors and architects, may without
disgrace follow the bent of human nature, and endeavour to fill
their bellies and clothe their backs, and also those of their wives
and children, as comfortably as they can by the exercise of their
abilities and their crafts. They may be as rationally realistic, as
may the butchers and the bakers; but the artist and the author forget
the high glories of their calling if they condescend to make a money
return a first object. They who preach this doctrine will be much
offended by my theory, and by this book of mine, if my theory and
my book come beneath their notice. They require the practice of a
so-called virtue which is contrary to nature, and which, in my eyes,
would be no virtue if it were practised. They are like clergymen who
preach sermons against the love of money, but who know that the love
of money is so distinctive a characteristic of humanity that such
sermons are mere platitudes called for by customary but unintelligent
piety. All material progress has come from man's desire to do the
best he can for himself and those about him, and civilisation and
Christianity itself have been made possible by such progress. Though
we do not all of us argue this matter out within our breasts, we do
all feel it; and we know that the more a man earns the more useful he
is to his fellow-men. The most useful lawyers, as a rule, have been
those who have made the greatest incomes, - and it is the same with
the doctors. It would be the same in the Church if they who have the
choosing of bishops always chose the best man. And it has in truth
been so too in art and authorship. Did Titian or Rubens disregard
their pecuniary rewards? As far as we know, Shakespeare worked always
for money, giving the best of his intellect to support his trade as
an actor. In our own century what literary names stand higher than
those of Byron, Tennyson, Scott, Dickens, Macaulay, and Carlyle?
And I think I may say that none of those great men neglected the
pecuniary result of their labours. Now and then a man may arise among
us who in any calling, whether it be in law, in physic, in religious
teaching, in art, or literature, may in his professional enthusiasm
utterly disregard money. All will honour his enthusiasm, and if he be
wifeless and childless, his disregard of the great object of men's
work will be blameless. But it is a mistake to suppose that a man is
a better man because he despises money. Few do so, and those few in
doing so suffer a defeat. Who does not desire to be hospitable to
his friends, generous to the poor, liberal to all, munificent to his
children, and to be himself free from the carking fear which poverty
creates? The subject will not stand an argument; - and yet authors
are told that they should disregard payment for their work, and be
content to devote their unbought brains to the welfare of the public.
Brains that are unbought will never serve the public much. Take away
from English authors their copyrights, and you would very soon take
away from England her authors.

I say this here, because it is my purpose as I go on to state what to
me has been the result of my profession in the ordinary way in which
professions are regarded, so that by my example may be seen what
prospect there is that a man devoting himself to literature with
industry, perseverance, certain necessary aptitudes, and fair average
talents, may succeed in gaining a livelihood, as another man does in
another profession. The result with me has been comfortable but not
splendid, as I think was to have been expected from the combination
of such gifts.

I have certainly always had also before my eyes the charms of
reputation. Over and above the money view of the question, I wished
from the beginning to be something more than a clerk in the Post
Office. To be known as somebody, - to be Anthony Trollope if it be no
more, - is to me much. The feeling is a very general one, and I think
beneficent. It is that which has been called the "last infirmity of
noble mind." The infirmity is so human that the man who lacks it is
either above or below humanity. I own to the infirmity. But I confess
that my first object in taking to literature as a profession was that
which is common to the barrister when he goes to the Bar, and to the
baker when he sets up his oven. I wished to make an income on which
I and those belonging to me might live in comfort.

If indeed a man writes his books badly, or paints his pictures badly,
because he can make his money faster in that fashion than by doing
them well, and at the same time proclaims them to be the best he can
do, - if in fact he sells shoddy for broadcloth, - he is dishonest, as
is any other fraudulent dealer. So may be the barrister who takes
money that he does not earn, or the clergyman who is content to
live on a sinecure. No doubt the artist or the author may have a
difficulty which will not occur to the seller of cloth, in settling
within himself what is good work and what is bad, - when labour enough
has been given, and when the task has been scamped. It is a danger as
to which he is bound to be severe with himself - in which he should
feel that his conscience should be set fairly in the balance against
the natural bias of his interest. If he do not do so, sooner or later
his dishonesty will be discovered, and will be estimated accordingly.
But in this he is to be governed only by the plain rules of honesty
which should govern us all. Having said so much, I shall not scruple
as I go on to attribute to the pecuniary result of my labours all the
importance which I felt them to have at the time.

_Barchester Towers_, for which I had received £100 in advance, sold
well enough to bring me further payments - moderate payments - from the
publishers. From that day up to this very time in which I am writing,
that book and _The Warden_ together have given me almost every year
some small income. I get the accounts very regularly, and I find that
I have received £727, 11s. 3d. for the two. It is more than I got for
the three or four works that came afterwards, but the payments have
been spread over twenty years.

When I went to Mr. Longman with my next novel, _The Three Clerks_, in
my hand, I could not induce him to understand that a lump sum down
was more pleasant than a deferred annuity. I wished him to buy it
from me at a price which he might think to be a fair value, and I
argued with him that as soon as an author has put himself into a
position which insures a sufficient sale of his works to give a
profit, the publisher is not entitled to expect the half of such
proceeds. While there is a pecuniary risk, the whole of which must
be borne by the publisher, such division is fair enough; but such
a demand on the part of the publisher is monstrous as soon as the
article produced is known to be a marketable commodity. I thought
that I had now reached that point, but Mr. Longman did not agree with
me. And he endeavoured to convince me that I might lose more than I
gained, even though I should get more money by going elsewhere. "It
is for you," said he, "to think whether our names on your title-page
are not worth more to you than the increased payment." This seemed
to me to savour of that high-flown doctrine of the contempt of money
which I have never admired. I did think much of Messrs. Longman's
name, but I liked it best at the bottom of a cheque.

I was also scared from the august columns of Paternoster Row by a
remark made to myself by one of the firm, which seemed to imply that
they did not much care for works of fiction. Speaking of a fertile
writer of tales who was not then dead, he declared that - - (naming
the author in question) had spawned upon them (the publishers) three
novels a year! Such language is perhaps justifiable in regard to a
man who shows so much of the fecundity of the herring; but I did not
know how fruitful might be my own muse, and I thought that I had
better go elsewhere.

I had then written _The Three Clerks_, which, when I could not sell
it to Messrs. Longman, I took in the first instance to Messrs. Hurst
& Blackett, who had become successors to Mr. Colburn. I had made an
appointment with one of the firm, which, however, that gentleman was
unable to keep. I was on my way from Ireland to Italy, and had but
one day in London in which to dispose of my manuscript. I sat for an
hour in Great Marlborough Street, expecting the return of the peccant
publisher who had broken his tryst, and I was about to depart with
my bundle under my arm when the foreman of the house came to me. He
seemed to think it a pity that I should go, and wished me to leave
my work with him. This, however, I would not do, unless he would
undertake to buy it then and there. Perhaps he lacked authority.
Perhaps his judgment was against such purchase. But while we debated
the matter, he gave me some advice. "I hope it's not historical,
Mr. Trollope?" he said. "Whatever you do, don't be historical; your
historical novel is not worth a damn." Thence I took _The Three
Clerks_ to Mr. Bentley; and on the same afternoon succeeded in
selling it to him for £250. His son still possesses it, and the firm
has, I believe, done very well with the purchase. It was certainly
the best novel I had as yet written. The plot is not so good as that
of the _Macdermots_; nor are there any characters in the book equal
to those of Mrs. Proudie and the Warden; but the work has a more
continued interest, and contains the first well-described love-scene
that I ever wrote. The passage in which Kate Woodward, thinking that
she will die, tries to take leave of the lad she loves, still brings
tears to my eyes when I read it. I had not the heart to kill her.
I never could do that. And I do not doubt but that they are living
happily together to this day.

The lawyer Chaffanbrass made his first appearance in this novel, and
I do not think that I have cause to be ashamed of him. But this novel
now is chiefly noticeable to me from the fact that in it I introduced
a character under the name of Sir Gregory Hardlines, by which
I intended to lean very heavily on that much loathed scheme of
competitive examination, of which at that time Sir Charles Trevelyan
was the great apostle. Sir Gregory Hardlines was intended for Sir
Charles Trevelyan, - as any one at the time would know who had taken
an interest in the Civil Service. "We always call him Sir Gregory,"
Lady Trevelyan said to me afterwards, when I came to know her and
her husband. I never learned to love competitive examination; but
I became, and am, very fond of Sir Charles Trevelyan. Sir Stafford
Northcote, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, was then leagued
with his friend Sir Charles, and he too appears in _The Three Clerks_
under the feebly facetious name of Sir Warwick West End.

But for all that _The Three Clerks_ was a good novel.

When that sale was made I was on my way to Italy with my wife, paying
a third visit there to my mother and brother. This was in 1857, and
she had then given up her pen. It was the first year in which she had
not written, and she expressed to me her delight that her labours
should be at an end, and that mine should be beginning in the same
field. In truth they had already been continued for a dozen years,
but a man's career will generally be held to date itself from
the commencement of his success. On those foreign tours I always
encountered adventures, which, as I look back upon them now, tempt me
almost to write a little book of my long past Continental travels. On

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Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeAutobiography of Anthony Trollope → online text (page 7 of 23)