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An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope

An Autobiography (1883)

by Anthony Trollope

Other authors: Henry M. Trollope (Preface)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I always feel torn when it comes to reading author biographies/autobiographies: I want to read them before I read the author's novels so that I can understand their novels, but the biographies often include plot summaries and spoilers for those books. For Trollope I decided to risk it and take the plunge and although there were a couple of plot reveals for books I hadn't read, I'm very glad I did.

Written towards the end of Trollope's life, but only published in 1883 after his death, this autobiography covers Trollope's unhappy childhood, his work for the Post Office and travels abroad, all of which I found interesting, but by far my favourite sections were those where Trollope discusses his own books and the works of contemporary authors.

Trollope was very methodical in his writing habits, setting aside time each day for writing and recording in detail how much he wrote in a dairy. It seems to have been this admission that upset the critics when his autobiography was published. When writing, he seems to have 'lived' with his characters, something I'm sure is a factor in my finding so many of Trollope's characters very believable.

"It is so that I have lived with my characters, and thence has come whatever success I have obtained. There is a gallery of them, and of all in that gallery I may say that I know the tone of the voice, and the colour of the hair, every flame of the eye, and the very clothes they wear. Of each man I could assert whether he would have said these or the other words; of every woman, whether she would then have smiled or so have frowned. When I shall feel that this intimacy ceases, then I shall know that the old horse should be turned out to grass."

Because this is Trollope, there are plenty of digressions in the autobiography; it's broadly chronological but chapters where he considers a history of English fiction, shares his views on what makes a good novel and assesses his contemporary English novelists are slotted in amongst the chapters commenting on his published works.

On his published works, I've added several of his less well-known novels such as The Three Clerks, Miss Mackensie and The Vicar of Bulhampton to my reading list, but it was Trollope's comments on the characters which feature in his Palliser novels that really captured my imagination and made me even more eager to continue with this series next year. Although Trollope frequently comments that he doesn't expect most of his novels to last and be read more than a few years after their publication, it's the characters in the Palliser and Barsetshire novels who he believes will be remembered if any are:

"I do not think it probable that my name will remain among those who in the next century will be known as the writers of English prose fiction;—but if it does, that permanence of success will probably rest on the character of Plantagenet Palliser, Lady Glencora, and the Rev. Mr. Crawley." ( )
5 vote souloftherose | Nov 30, 2013 |
This is a review specifically of the unabridged audio reading by Bernard Mayes.
Over the past five years I have sporadically read my two printed editions of the Autobiography, but it wasn't until I heard this recording that I heard it as a kind of Trollopian novel, read by Trollope himself. Mayes sounds somewhat as I imagine Trollope to sound, and the fact that the technical quality of the recording is not great (but certainly passable), that the narrator stumbles a bit, stops and resumes again somewhat unaccountably, and moves from room to room (altering acoustics), makes it all the better. If I hadn't heard this recording, I would never have enjoyed or paid as much attention to the Autobiography.
Highly recommended.
Produced by Blackstone Audio, 1997, duration 10 hours 20 minutes. ( )
1 vote davidcla | Aug 9, 2011 |
After a depressing account of the author's unhappy childhood, gives a fascinating picture of 19th-century publishing, of authorship in general and Trollope's own idiosyncratic methods of writing, his views of literary criticism, the works of his contemporary novelists, and politics. ( )
  KayCliff | Jun 8, 2010 |
This was a read for one of my classes, and unfortunately I have to say that I liked Trollope and his works much better before I read this. It is interesting, no doubt--but the man himself is rather unappealing, thoroughly self-important, lacking in confidence, and vindictive. It is more a discussion of his works and his theory on work than a thorough autobiography. Still, of course, it is a must-read for Trollopian fans. ( )
  stephxsu | Jan 24, 2010 |
"Trollope's [Autobiography], perhaps, is as good as any that I know, but of all forms of literature it is the one least adapted to the national genius. You could not imagine a British Rousseau, still less a British Benvenuto Cellini." --Through the Magic Door, p. 86-87.
  ACDoyleLibrary | Jan 21, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Trollope, Henry M.Prefacesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, P. D.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, FrederickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sadleir, MichaelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, Davidsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In writing these pages, which, for the want of a better name, I shall be fain to call the autobiography of so insignificant a person as myself, it will not be so much my intention to speak of the little details of my private life, as of what I, and perhaps others round me, have done in literature; of my failures and successes such as they have been, and their causes; and of the opening which a literary career offers to men and women for the earning of their bread.
It is as natural that a novel reader wanting novels should send to a library for those by George Eliot or Wilkie Collins, as that a lady when she wants a pie for a picnic should go to Fortnum & Mason.
[on his mother, Frances Trollope): She was an unselfish, affectionate, and most industrious woman, with great capacity for enjoyment and high physical gifts. She was endowed, too, with much creative power, with considerable humour, and a genuine feeling for romance. But she was neither clear-sighted nor accurate; and in her attempts to describe morals, manners, and even facts, was unable to avoid the pitfalls of exaggeration.
Soon after I had been sent to Winchester, my mother went to America, taking with her my brother Henry and my two sisters, who were then no more than children. This was, I think, in 1827. I have no clear knowledge of her object, or of my father's; but I believe that he had an idea that money might be made by sending goods, -- little goods, such as pin-cushions, pepper-boxes, and pocket-knives, -- out to the still unfurnished States; and that she conceived that an opening might be made for my brother Henry by erecting some bazaar or extended shop in one of the Western cities. Whence the money came I do not know, but the pocket-knives and the peper-boxes were bought, and the bazaar was built.
A novel should give a picture of common life enlivened by humour and sweetened by pathos. To make that picture worthy of attention, the canvas should be crowded with real portraits, not of individuals known to the world or to the author, but of created personages impregnated with traits of character which are known. To my thinking, the plot is but the vehicle for all this; and when you have the vehicle without the passengers, a story of mystery in which the agents never spring to life, you have but a wooden show. There must ,however, be a story. You must provide a vehicle of some sort.
It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M.; and to allow myself no mercy. By beginning at that hour I could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast. I would work continuously for three hours, with my watch before me, and require from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.
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Book description
Anthony Trollope is most famous for his portrait of the professional and landed classes of Victorian England, especially in his Palliser and Barsetshire novels. But he was also the author of one of the most fascinating autobiographies of the 19th century.
Trollope was born in 1815, the son of a formidable mother and a tragically unsuccessful father. Poor, ill-dressed, awkward and sullen, he was the victim of vicious bullying at Harrow and Winchester. But he managed later to carve out a successful career in the General Post Office while devoting every spare moment (except the hunting season) to writing. How he paid his groom to wake him every morning at 530 am and disciplined himself to write 250 words every quarter of an hour has become part of literary legend. His efforts resulted in over 60 books, fortune and fame, and in 'An Autobiography' Trollope looks back on his life with some satisfaction. The facts he reveals and the opinions he records - about Dickens and George Eliot, politics and the civil service - are as revealing as the judgements he passes on his own character.
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The fascinating autobiography of one of the Victorian era's greatest authors. Anthony Trollope is loved by many around the world, and many celebrities have cited him as one of their favourite authors, including former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, and legendary thespian Sir Alec Guinness, who never travelled without a Trollope novel.… (more)

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