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84Victorian Review N. John Hall. Trollope: A Biography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. 581. $42.00 CDN (cloth). Commenting on his response to reading as a young man, Trollope wrote of a "love of opposing which always affects me read what I wUl. ... I love to disagree—tocavü—to oppose—tocondemne—countermine—& argue. ..." He was noticing something that others would notice aU his Ufe. He was a bear of a man, large, vigorous, blustering, overbearing. As a postal official in Ireland, he would storm into local postoffices , and throw his weight about quite literally, Uke a parody of an outraged squire. As a traveller, he was indefatigable, in America, the West Indies, and die Australian outback. Consider him checking out postal routes in die West Indies in die hope of reducing a three-day journey to two, his horse and saddle, an "instrument of torture," chosen by his hosts with an eye to defeating his purpose: "by the first night he was so saddle-sore tiiat he nearly relented. But, as tiiat would have been 'dreadful' to him, he ordered two bottles of brandy, 'poured them into a wash-hand basin, and sat in it!' The result was temporarily agonizing, but die next day he was able to ride, and of course made die journey in two days. " He was an ardent horseman and hunter, loving die sport, as he said, with "an affection which I cannot myself fathom or understand." His physicality augmented his manner. In later life, as a distinguished man of letters, he would bully and rant in drawing rooms, discomposing politer guests. "Many of Trollope's contemporaries were puzzled or intrigued," says Hall, "by the apparent incompatibility between the man they knew and die story-teller; otiier novelists—Thackeray, George Eliot, Dickens—did not give rise to similar questions. " The contrast was especiaUy surprising to those who knew him only slightly. In 1866 Lady Rose Fane, staying at Lord Houghton's estate, where Trollope was also a guest, wrote, "I wish I had never seen Mr. Trollope. I think he is detestable—vulgar, noisy & domineering—a mixture of Dickens vulgarity & Mr. Burtons selfsufficiency —as unlike his books as possible. " 77iere is die intriguing element. His books are notable for moral or psychological delicacy and nuance and die sensitive rendering of emotion. Reviews85 Hall traces the pattern of this enigmatic mixture with lucid and clearsighted sympathy. Trollope may have inherited some of his bulUshness from his father, a lawyer whose practice withered, partly, no doubt, as a result of his temper: "A colleague once remarked that Thomas Anthony 'never came into contact with a blockhead without insisting on irrefutably demonstrating to him that he was such. '" TroUope had reason to be divided. His school Ufe was miserable: "Harrow School remained a torture. " A contemporary in the school wrote that "He gave no sign ofpromise whatsoever, was always in the lowest part of the form, and was regarded by masters and by boys as an incorrigible dunce." He had a cranky father in financial distress, an agonizing life at school, and a remarkable but unconventional mother who took off to assist in an already scandal-ridden communal experiment in America (and no doubt to escape her depressing husband). As she wrote, "I have left the people making great eyes at me—but I care but a litde for this. " The community was a swampy horror. So she built a bazaar in Cincinnati—also a disaster. But she subsequently wrote Domestic Manners of the Americans, "the most talked about travel book of its day." Back in Belgium, with her husband and children dying about her, she maintained the family by writing with extraordinary industry, eventually writing forty-one books, anticipating her son's amazing creativity. At the age of nineteen, TroUope entered the Post Office, and led a raffish life in lodgings. The Post Office "seemed largely a continuation ofhis unhappy and unproductive school days." As Hall says of TroUope's veiled but suggestive account of this time, "whatever the case, all the talk in An Autobiography about 'dirt' and debauchery and the temptations of a loose life surely meant more than smoking cigars and drinking gin and bitters. " His transfer to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 84-88
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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