Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens

Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful and prolific writers in Victorian England. He out wrote Dickens two to one, writing forty seven novels, as well as dozens of short stories and a few books on travel. His best loved novels are the Pallisers series, which was made into a BBC series in the seventies, and the Chronicles of Barsetshire, that are so loved, other authors, such as Angela Thirkell, used the imaginary county as a setting for her books. Oddly enough, one of his lasting contributions was from his work in the Post Office, when he introduced the Pillar Box to England, which is a free standing post box for mail which is still in use today, a lasting image that is truly British and is all thanks to Anthony Trollope.

Dickens and Trollope mainly knew each other through Dickens's friendship with Trollope's family, mainly Anthony's elder brother Thomas. Dickens also corresponded with Trollope's father and his mother, Francis, who was a well known writer in her own right. So it can be safely assumed they knew each other for quite some time, at least since the 1840s. Though the extent of their friendship is not known, they dined at each others homes and Dickens even corresponded with Trollope's wife Rose, though perhaps he had ulterior motives... one never knows with Dickens!

Their friendship was quite cordial, though Dickens apparently didn't like Trollope's writing, even though he published The Duke's Children in All the Year Round. They mainly saw each other at literary functions where occasionally they would speak on the same platform. The real reason Trollope must be mentioned with Dickens is for sheer output. You can not talk about one without the other. These two authors baffled their readers with how much they could produce. Yet, aside from their overabundance in writing, they greatly differed, moving in different crowds, Trollope loving the domesticated life and his work at the post office and his clubs, whereas Dickens felt stifled by his home life and loved to abandon it for actors and actresses and caused quite a to-do with his leaving his club.

While Dickens has come to be known as the Victorian paragon, during his time, aside from his writing, he was rather outre. He left his wife for an actress twenty seven years his junior. Trollope more embodied the ideals of the era, Victoria and Albert and all that is good and British. After Trollope's death in 1882 his popularity has greatly fluctuated. When his autobiography was published posthumously, his critics took great glee in learning that Trollope adhered to a strict daily writing quota, siting that output doesn't mean excellence, though that's just their opinion on the matter. Yet Trollope has surfaced again and again in popularity over the years and has strong societies dedicated to his works in both the US and UK. Two of his books, The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, have been recently adapted by the paragon of adaptations, Andrew Davies, for the BBC. His writing style is also far easier to enjoy than Dickens, but that is just a personal opinion. Anyway you look at it, the two of them dominated the literature of the Victorian era.


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