Anthony Trollope.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope online

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any difficulty, and when I returned home the work was complete in my
desk. I began it on board the ship in which I left Kingston, Jamaica,
for Cuba, - and from week to week I carried it on as I went. From Cuba
I made my way to St. Thomas, and through the island down to Demerara,
then back to St. Thomas, - which is the starting-point for all places
in that part of the globe, - to Santa Martha, Carthagena, Aspinwall,
over the Isthmus to Panama, up the Pacific to a little harbour on the
coast of Costa Rica, thence across Central America, through Costa
Rica, and down the Nicaragua river to the Mosquito coast, and after
that home by Bermuda and New York. Should any one want further
details of the voyage, are they not written in my book? The fact
memorable to me now is that I never made a single note while
writing or preparing it. Preparation, indeed, there was none. The
descriptions and opinions came hot on to the paper from their causes.
I will not say that this is the best way of writing a book intended
to give accurate information. But it is the best way of producing
to the eye of the reader, and to his ear, that which the eye of the
writer has seen and his ear heard. There are two kinds of confidence
which a reader may have in his author, - which two kinds the reader
who wishes to use his reading well should carefully discriminate.
There is a confidence in facts and a confidence in vision. The one
man tells you accurately what has been. The other suggests to you
what may, or perhaps what must have been, or what ought to have been.
The former requires simple faith. The latter calls upon you to judge
for yourself, and form your own conclusions. The former does not
intend to be prescient, nor the latter accurate. Research is the
weapon used by the former; observation by the latter. Either may be
false, - wilfully false; as also may either be steadfastly true. As
to that, the reader must judge for himself. But the man who writes
_currente calamo_, who works with a rapidity which will not admit of
accuracy, may be as true, and in one sense as trustworthy, as he who
bases every word upon a rock of facts. I have written very much as I
have travelled about; and though I have been very inaccurate, I have
always written the exact truth as I saw it; - and I have, I think,
drawn my pictures correctly.

The view I took of the relative position in the West Indies of black
men and white men was the view of the _Times_ newspaper at that
period; and there appeared three articles in that journal, one
closely after another, which made the fortune of the book. Had it
been very bad, I suppose its fortune could not have been made for it
even by the _Times_ newspaper. I afterwards became acquainted with
the writer of those articles, the contributor himself informing me
that he had written them. I told him that he had done me a greater
service than can often be done by one man to another, but that I was
under no obligation to him. I do not think that he saw the matter
quite in the same light.

I am aware that by that criticism I was much raised in my position as
an author. Whether such lifting up by such means is good or bad for
literature is a question which I hope to discuss in a future chapter.
But the result was immediate to me, for I at once went to Chapman &
Hall and successfully demanded £600 for my next novel.



Soon after my return from the West Indies I was enabled to change
my district in Ireland for one in England. For some time past my
official work had been of a special nature, taking me out of my own
district; but through all that, Dublin had been my home, and there
my wife and children had lived. I had often sighed to return to
England, - with a silly longing. My life in England for twenty-six
years from the time of my birth to the day on which I left it, had
been wretched. I had been poor, friendless, and joyless. In Ireland
it had constantly been happy. I had achieved the respect of all with
whom I was concerned, I had made for myself a comfortable home, and
I had enjoyed many pleasures. Hunting itself was a great delight to
me; and now, as I contemplated a move to England, and a house in the
neighbourhood of London, I felt that hunting must be abandoned.[5]
Nevertheless I thought that a man who could write books ought not to
live in Ireland, - ought to live within the reach of the publishers,
the clubs, and the dinner-parties of the metropolis. So I made my
request at headquarters, and with some little difficulty got myself
appointed to the Eastern District of England, - which comprised Essex,
Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, and the greater
part of Hertfordshire.

[Footnote 5: It was not abandoned till sixteen more years had
passed away.]

At this time I did not stand very well with the dominant interest at
the General Post Office. My old friend Colonel Maberly had been, some
time since, squeezed into, and his place was filled by Mr. Rowland
Hill, the originator of the penny post. With him I never had any
sympathy, nor he with me. In figures and facts he was most accurate,
but I never came across any one who so little understood the ways of
men, - unless it was his brother Frederic. To the two brothers the
servants of the Post Office, - men numerous enough to have formed a
large army in old days, - were so many machines who could be counted
on for their exact work without deviation, as wheels may be counted
on, which are kept going always at the same pace and always by the
same power. Rowland Hill was an industrious public servant, anxious
for the good of his country; but he was a hard taskmaster, and one
who would, I think, have put the great department with which he was
concerned altogether out of gear by his hardness, had he not been at
last controlled. He was the Chief Secretary, my brother-in-law - who
afterwards succeeded him - came next to him, and Mr. Hill's brother
was the Junior Secretary. In the natural course of things, I had not,
from my position, anything to do with the management of affairs; - but
from time to time I found myself more or less mixed up in it. I was
known to be a thoroughly efficient public servant; I am sure I may
say so much of myself without fear of contradiction from any one who
has known the Post Office; - I was very fond of the department, and
when matters came to be considered, I generally had an opinion of my
own. I have no doubt that I often made myself very disagreeable. I
know that I sometimes tried to do so. But I could hold my own because
I knew my business and was useful. I had given official offence by
the publication of _The Three Clerks_. I afterwards gave greater
offence by a lecture on The Civil Service which I delivered in one of
the large rooms at the General Post Office to the clerks there. On
this occasion, the Postmaster-General, with whom personally I enjoyed
friendly terms, sent for me and told me that Mr. Hill had told him
that I ought to be dismissed. When I asked his lordship whether he
was prepared to dismiss me, he only laughed. The threat was no threat
to me, as I knew myself to be too good to be treated in that fashion.
The lecture had been permitted, and I had disobeyed no order. In
the lecture which I delivered, there was nothing to bring me to
shame, - but it advocated the doctrine that a civil servant is
only a servant as far as his contract goes, and that he is beyond
that entitled to be as free a man in politics, as free in his
general pursuits, and as free in opinion, as those who are in open
professions and open trades. All this is very nearly admitted now,
but it certainly was not admitted then. At that time no one in the
Post Office could even vote for a Member of Parliament.

Through my whole official life I did my best to improve the style of
official writing. I have written, I should think, some thousands of
reports, - many of them necessarily very long; some of them dealing
with subjects so absurd as to allow a touch of burlesque; some few in
which a spark of indignation or a slight glow of pathos might find an
entrance. I have taken infinite pains with these reports, habituating
myself always to write them in the form in which they should be
sent, - without a copy. It is by writing thus that a man can throw on
to his paper the exact feeling with which his mind is impressed at
the moment. A rough copy, or that which is called a draft, is written
in order that it may be touched and altered and put upon stilts. The
waste of time, moreover, in such an operation, is terrible. If a man
knows his craft with his pen, he will have learned to write without
the necessity of changing his words or the form of his sentences.
I had learned so to write my reports that they who read them should
know what it was that I meant them to understand. But I do not think
that they were regarded with favour. I have heard horror expressed
because the old forms were disregarded and language used which had no
savour of red-tape. During the whole of this work in the Post Office
it was my principle always to obey authority in everything instantly,
but never to allow my mouth to be closed as to the expression of my
opinion. They who had the ordering of me very often did not know
the work as I knew it, - could not tell as I could what would be the
effect of this or that change. When carrying out instructions which
I knew should not have been given, I never scrupled to point out the
fatuity of the improper order in the strongest language that I could
decently employ. I have revelled in these official correspondences,
and look back to some of them as the greatest delights of my life.
But I am not sure that they were so delightful to others.

I succeeded, however, in getting the English district, - which could
hardly have been refused to me, - and prepared to change our residence
towards the end of 1859. At the time I was writing _Castle Richmond_,
the novel which I had sold to Messrs. Chapman & Hall for £600. But
there arose at this time a certain literary project which probably
had a great effect upon my career. Whilst travelling on postal
service abroad, or riding over the rural districts in England, or
arranging the mails in Ireland, - and such for the last eighteen years
had now been my life, - I had no opportunity of becoming acquainted
with literary life in London. It was probably some feeling of this
which had made me anxious to move my penates back to England. But
even in Ireland, where I was still living in October, 1859, I had
heard of the _Cornhill Magazine_, which was to come out on the 1st of
January, 1860, under the editorship of Thackeray.

I had at this time written from time to time certain short stories,
which had been published in different periodicals, and which in due
time were republished under the name of _Tales of All Countries_. On
the 23d of October, 1859, I wrote to Thackeray, whom I had, I think,
never then seen, offering to send him for the magazine certain of
these stories. In reply to this I received two letters, - one from
Messrs. Smith & Elder, the proprietors of the _Cornhill_, dated 26th
of October, and the other from the editor, written two days later.
That from Mr. Thackeray was as follows: -

36 Onslow Square, S.W.,
October 28th.

MY DEAR MR. TROLLOPE, - Smith & Elder have sent you their
proposals; and the business part done, let me come to the
pleasure, and say how very glad indeed I shall be to have
you as a co-operator in our new magazine. And looking over
the annexed programme, you will see whether you can't help
us in many other ways besides tale-telling. Whatever a man
knows about life and its doings, that let us hear about.
You must have tossed a good deal about the world, and
have countless sketches in your memory and your portfolio.
Please to think if you can furbish up any of these besides
a novel. When events occur, and you have a good lively
tale, bear us in mind. One of our chief objects in this
magazine is the getting out of novel spinning, and back
into the world. Don't understand me to disparage our
craft, especially _your_ wares. I often say I am like the
pastrycook, and don't care for tarts, but prefer bread
and cheese; but the public love the tarts (luckily for
us), and we must bake and sell them. There was quite an
excitement in my family one evening when Paterfamilias
(who goes to sleep on a novel almost always when he tries
it after dinner) came up-stairs into the drawing-room wide
awake and calling for the second volume of _The Three
Clerks_. I hope the _Cornhill Magazine_ will have as
pleasant a story. And the Chapmans, if they are the honest
men I take them to be, I've no doubt have told you with
what sincere liking your works have been read by yours
very faithfully,


This was very pleasant, and so was the letter from Smith & Elder
offering me £1000 for the copyright of a three-volume novel, to come
out in the new magazine, - on condition that the first portion of it
should be in their hands by December 12th. There was much in all this
that astonished me; - in the first place the price, which was more
than double what I had yet received, and nearly double that which
I was about to receive from Messrs. Chapman & Hall. Then there was
the suddenness of the call. It was already the end of October, and a
portion of the work was required to be in the printer's hands within
six weeks. _Castle Richmond_ was indeed half written, but that was
sold to Chapman. And it had already been a principle with me in my
art, that no part of a novel should be published till the entire
story was completed. I knew, from what I read from month to month,
that this hurried publication of incompleted work was frequently,
I might perhaps say always, adopted by the leading novelists of the
day. That such has been the case, is proved by the fact that Dickens,
Thackeray, and Mrs. Gaskell died with unfinished novels, of which
portions had been already published. I had not yet entered upon the
system of publishing novels in parts, and therefore had never been
tempted. But I was aware that an artist should keep in his hand the
power of fitting the beginning of his work to the end. No doubt it is
his first duty to fit the end to the beginning, and he will endeavour
to do so. But he should still keep in his hands the power of
remedying any defect in this respect.

"Servetur ad imum
Qualis ab incepto processerit,"

should be kept in view as to every character and every string of
action. Your Achilles should all through, from beginning to end, be
"impatient, fiery, ruthless, keen." Your Achilles, such as he is,
will probably keep up his character. But your Davus also should be
always Davus, and that is more difficult. The rustic driving his pigs
to market cannot always make them travel by the exact path which he
has intended for them. When some young lady at the end of a story
cannot be made quite perfect in her conduct, that vivid description
of angelic purity with which you laid the first lines of her portrait
should be slightly toned down. I had felt that the rushing mode of
publication to which the system of serial stories had given rise,
and by which small parts as they were written were sent hot to the
press, was injurious to the work done. If I now complied with the
proposition made to me, I must act against my own principle. But such
a principle becomes a tyrant if it cannot be superseded on a just
occasion. If the reason be "tanti," the principle should for the
occasion be put in abeyance. I sat as judge, and decreed that the
present reason was "tanti." On this my first attempt at a serial
story, I thought it fit to break my own rule. I can say, however,
that I have never broken it since.

But what astonished me most was the fact that at so late a day this
new _Cornhill Magazine_ should be in want of a novel! Perhaps some
of my future readers will be able to remember the great expectations
which were raised as to this periodical. Thackeray's was a good name
with which to conjure. The proprietors, Messrs. Smith & Elder, were
most liberal in their manner of initiating the work, and were able to
make an expectant world of readers believe that something was to be
given them for a shilling very much in excess of anything they had
ever received for that or double the money. Whether these hopes were
or were not fulfilled it is not for me to say, as, for the first few
years of the magazine's existence, I wrote for it more than any other
one person. But such was certainly the prospect; - and how had it come
to pass that, with such promises made, the editor and the proprietors
were, at the end of October, without anything fixed as to what must
be regarded as the chief dish in the banquet to be provided?

I fear that the answer to this question must be found in the habits
of procrastination which had at that time grown upon the editor. He
had, I imagine, undertaken the work himself, and had postponed its
commencement till there was left to him no time for commencing. There
was still, it may be said, as much time for him as for me. I think
there was, - for though he had his magazine to look after, I had the
Post Office. But he thought, when unable to trust his own energy,
that he might rely upon that of a new recruit. He was but four years
my senior in life, but he was at the top of the tree, while I was
still at the bottom.

Having made up my mind to break my principle, I started at once from
Dublin to London. I arrived there on the morning of Thursday, 3d of
November, and left it on the evening of Friday. In the meantime I
had made my agreement with Messrs. Smith & Elder, and had arranged
my plot. But when in London, I first went to Edward Chapman, at 193
Piccadilly. If the novel I was then writing for him would suit the
_Cornhill_, might I consider my arrangement with him to be at an
end? Yes; I might. But if that story would not suit the _Cornhill_,
was I to consider my arrangement with him as still standing, - that
agreement requiring that my MS. should be in his hands in the
following March? As to that, I might do as I pleased. In our dealings
together Mr. Edward Chapman always acceded to every suggestion made
to him. He never refused a book, and never haggled at a price. Then
I hurried into the City, and had my first interview with Mr. George
Smith. When he heard that _Castle Richmond_ was an Irish story, he
begged that I would endeavour to frame some other for his magazine.
He was sure that an Irish story would not do for a commencement; - and
he suggested the Church, as though it were my peculiar subject. I
told him that _Castle Richmond_ would have to "come out" while any
other novel that I might write for him would be running through the
magazine; - but to that he expressed himself altogether indifferent.
He wanted an English tale, on English life, with a clerical flavour.
On these orders I went to work, and framed what I suppose I must call
the plot of _Framley Parsonage_.

On my journey back to Ireland, in the railway carriage, I wrote the
first few pages of that story. I had got into my head an idea of what
I meant to write, - a morsel of the biography of an English clergyman
who should not be a bad man, but one led into temptation by his own
youth and by the unclerical accidents of the life of those around
him. The love of his sister for the young lord was an adjunct
necessary, because there must be love in a novel. And then by placing
Framley Parsonage near Barchester, I was able to fall back upon my
old friends Mrs. Proudie and the archdeacon. Out of these slight
elements I fabricated a hodge-podge in which the real plot consisted
at last simply of a girl refusing to marry the man she loved till the
man's friends agreed to accept her lovingly. Nothing could be less
efficient or artistic. But the characters were so well handled, that
the work from the first to the last was popular, - and was received as
it went on with still increasing favour by both editor and proprietor
of the magazine. The story was thoroughly English. There was a little
fox-hunting and a little tuft-hunting, some Christian virtue and some
Christian cant. There was no heroism and no villainy. There was much
Church, but more love-making. And it was downright honest love, - in
which there was no pretence on the part of the lady that she was too
ethereal to be fond of a man, no half-and-half inclination on the
part of the man to pay a certain price and no more for a pretty toy.
Each of them longed for the other, and they were not ashamed to say
so. Consequently they in England who were living, or had lived, the
same sort of life, liked _Framley Parsonage._ I think myself that
Lucy Robarts is perhaps the most natural English girl that I ever
drew, - the most natural, at any rate, of those who have been good
girls. She was not as dear to me as Kate Woodward in _The Three
Clerks_, but I think she is more like real human life. Indeed I
doubt whether such a character could be made more lifelike than Lucy

And I will say also that in this novel there is no very weak
part, - no long succession of dull pages. The production of novels in
serial form forces upon the author the conviction that he should not
allow himself to be tedious in any single part. I hope no reader will
misunderstand me. In spite of that conviction, the writer of stories
in parts will often be tedious. That I have been so myself is a fault
that will lie heavy on my tombstone. But the writer when he embarks
in such a business should feel that he cannot afford to have many
pages skipped out of the few which are to meet the reader's eye at
the same time. Who can imagine the first half of the first volume of
_Waverley_ coming out in shilling numbers? I had realised this when I
was writing _Framley Parsonage_; and working on the conviction which
had thus come home to me, I fell into no bathos of dulness.

I subsequently came across a piece of criticism which was written on
me as a novelist by a brother novelist very much greater than myself,
and whose brilliant intellect and warm imagination led him to a kind
of work the very opposite of mine. This was Nathaniel Hawthorne, the
American, whom I did not then know, but whose works I knew. Though it
praises myself highly, I will insert it here, because it certainly
is true in its nature: "It is odd enough," he says, "that my own
individual taste is for quite another class of works than those which
I myself am able to write. If I were to meet with such books as
mine by another writer, I don't believe I should be able to get
through them. Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope?
They precisely suit my taste, - solid and substantial, written on the
strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale, and just as real
as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it
under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily
business, and not suspecting that they were being made a show of.
And these books are just as English as a beef-steak. Have they ever
been tried in America? It needs an English residence to make them
thoroughly comprehensible; but still I should think that human nature
would give them success anywhere."

This was dated early in 1860, and could have had no reference to
_Framley Parsonage_; but it was as true of that work as of any that
I have written. And the criticism, whether just or unjust, describes
with wonderful accuracy the purport that I have ever had in view
in my writing. I have always desired to "hew out some lump of the
earth," and to make men and women walk upon it just as they do walk
here among us, - with not more of excellence, nor with exaggerated
baseness, - so that my readers might recognise human beings like to
themselves, and not feel themselves to be carried away among gods
or demons. If I could do this, then I thought I might succeed in
impregnating the mind of the novel-reader with a feeling that honesty
is the best policy; that truth prevails while falsehood fails; that a
girl will be loved as she is pure, and sweet, and unselfish; that a
man will be honoured as he is true, and honest, and brave of heart;
that things meanly done are ugly and odious, and things nobly done
beautiful and gracious. I do not say that lessons such as these may
not be more grandly taught by higher flights than mine. Such lessons
come to us from our greatest poets. But there are so many who will
read novels and understand them, who either do not read the works of

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Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeAutobiography of Anthony Trollope → online text (page 9 of 23)