Anthony Trollope in Chambers’ Cyclopædia of English Literature

Robert Chambers (1802-1871) was a Scottish publisher, geologist, author and journal editor who was enormously influential in mid-19th century political and scientific circles. Among his numerous published works was his Chambers’ Cyclopædia of English Literature, first published in 1840. The multi-volume work included biographies and samples of British and American authors, and was revised and reprinted several times under the editorship of Robert Carruthers.

The excerpt below  is from the 1880 edition, written near the peak of Anthony Trollope’s popularity. The biographical entry concludes with a fitting assessment of Trollope’s reputation: “Mr. Trollope is emphatically a ‘man of the time’…. He is a realist, a painter of men and manners of the present day, a satirist within a certain range, ready to make use of any type that may present itself, and seem characteristic as a product of the special conditions of the present century…. Who can ever forget [the many characters] he has taken up, and so set them in midst of their surroundings, that his pictures look like photographs, and they seem to be produced as easily as the photographer throws off his scenes and portraits.”

Samples extracted from three of Trollope’s early novels are also included and show the writer’s range of descriptive powers.

A few errors that exist in the original text have been noted below, and we have included the sources of the writing specimens for those that were not identified in the original.

Chambers’ Cyclopædia of English Literature

A History, Critical and Biographical, of British and American Authors, with Specimens of Their Writings, Originally Edited by Robert Chambers, LL.D., In Eight Volumes, Third Edition, 1880, Revised By Robert Carruthers, LL.D.


The most prolific novelist of the present times—far exceeding Scott and Dickens in the number of his works—is Mr. Anthony Trollope, second son of the late Mr. T. A. Trollope, barrister, and of Mrs. Trollope, noticed in a previous page as a distinguished authoress. Anthony was born April 24, 1815, and was educated at Winchester and Harrow. Having obtained an appointment in the General Post-office, he rose high in the service, and was despatched to Egypt, America, and other countries, in order to arrange postal conventions. He retired from the service in 1867, having made a handsome competency by his literary labours, which he was enabled to carry on during the busiest portions of his life by means of the invaluable habit of early rising. It was while stationed in Ireland, in the surveyor’s department of the Post-office, that Mr. Trollope commenced his career as an author.

In 1847 he published the first of his long file of novels — an Irish story entitled The Macdermots of Ballycloran. This was followed, a twelvemonth afterwards, by another Irish tale, The Kellys and the O’Kellys, or Landlords and Tenants. Conscious of his powers, and sure of readers, Mr. Trollope continued to pour forth works of fiction, among which are the following: La Vendée, 1850; The Warden, 1855; Barchester Towers, 1857; The Three Clerks, 1858; Doctor Thorne, 1858; The Bertrams, 1859; Castle Richmond, 1860; Framley Parsonage, 1861; Orley Farm, 1861; Tales of All Countries, 1861; Rachel Ray, 1863; Can You Forgive Her?, 1864; The Small House at Allington, 1864; Miss Mackenzie, 1865; The Belton Estate, 1866; The Last Chronicle of Barset, 1867; The Claverings, 1867; Lotta Schmidt and other Stories, 1867; He Knew he was Right, 1869; Phineas Finn, 1899; An Editor’s Tales, 1870; The Vicar of Bullhampton, 1870; Ralph the Heir, 1871; Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, 1871; The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson; The Eustace Diamonds, 1872-3; The Golden Lion of Grandpere, 1872-3; Harry Heathcote of Gangoil, Lady Anna, Phineas Redux, 1874; The Way We Live Now, and Diamond Cut Diamond, 1875 [Ed. note: Diamond Cut Diamond was written by Thomas Adolphus Trollope, Anthony Trollope’s brother]; The Prime Minister, 1876; etc. Besides the above works of fiction, Mr. Trollope has written The West Indies and the Spanish Main, a pleasing volume of travels and description, published in 1859; North America, 2 vols., 1862; Hunting Sketches, 1865; Travelling Sketches, 1866; Clergymen of the Church of England, 1866 (these last three works were reprints from the Pall Mall Gazette); British Sports and Pastimes, 1863; Australia and New Zealand, 2 vols., 1873. Mr. Trollope was for about three years editor of Saint Paul’s Magazine, and he has contributed largely to other periodicals.

Mr. Trollope is emphatically a ‘man of the time,’ the very antipodes of imaginative writers like George MacDonald. He is a realist, a painter of men and manners of the present day, a satirist within a certain range, ready to make use of any type that may present itself, and seem characteristic as a product of the special conditions of the present century. He is rather conservative and High Church, his best portraitures being those of the clergy. Who can ever forget Mr. Slope, Dr. Grantly, Bishop Prowdie (sic) or Mrs. Prowdie? (sic) Ladies of rank, aspiring members of parliament (Irish and English), habitues of the clubs, Australian stock men, female adventurers — all of these, and many more, he has taken up, and so set them in midst of their surroundings, that his pictures look like photographs, and they seem to be produced as easily as the photographer throws off his scenes and portraits.*

* In a lecture delivered in Natal by the Hon. Mr. Broome, secretary to the colony, and republished in the literary journal Evening Hours, is the following:

“Don’t you ever,” said a friend of mine to Mr. Trollope, “find a difficulty in beginning?”

“Not at all— why should I? I sit down to write and what difficulty is there? I do just four hundred words in a quarter of an hour.”

Nothing seems to disturb the even tenor of Mr. Trollope’s pen. The other day, going out to Australia round the Cape, he had a cabin fitted with a desk, and wrote novels at sea just as usual tor a certain time and a certain number of pages every morning. He published about one every two months for some time after he returned to England. But Mr. Trollope’s ruling passion is not novel-writing, but the hunting-field, and the last time I met him, in the vestibule of the Garrick Club, his arm was in a sling from a bad fall with the Berkshire hounds.

Mr. Trollope is eminently practical and also public-minded, for his characters frequently refer to great public questions, and suggest political changes. His humour is peculiar to himself, dry, direct, and with no infusion of sentiment. In his excellent story, The Small Houses of Allington (sic), he will not allow sentiment to suggest even the slightest poetical justice in reference to his beautiful and brave, but unfortunate heroine, Lily Dale. The reality of his subsidiary characters, and his manner of seizing on peculiar traits without dwelling on them, so as to suggest oddity, separate him entirely from the school of Dickens, whilst his dislike of moralising, and his trick of satire, separate him as distinctly from the school of Thackeray, in whom tenderness always lies alongside the cynical touches and bitterness. Mr. Trollope’s style is clear, natural, sometimes eloquent, and without any trace of artifice.

The Archdeacon’s Sanctum and the Old Church.

[Ed. note: from The Warden]

No room could have been more becoming for a dignitary of the church. Each wall was loaded with theology; over each separate book-case was printed in small gold letters the names of those great divines whose works were ranged beneath; beginning from the early fathers in due chronological order, there were to be found the precious labours of the chosen servants of the church down to the last pamphlet written in opposition to the consecration of Dr. Hampden; and raised above this were to be seen the busts of the greatest among the great — Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Thomas à Becket, Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop Laud and Dr. Philpotts.

Every application that could make study pleasant and give ease to the over-toiled brain was there; chairs made to relieve each limb and muscle; reading-desks and writing-desks to suit every attitude; lamps and candles mechanically contrived to throw their light on any favoured spot, as the student might desire; a shoal of newspapers to amuse the few leisure moments which might be stolen from the labours of the day; and then from the window a view right through a bosky vista, along which ran a broad green path from the rectory to the church, at the end of which the tawny-tinted tine old tower was seen with all its variegated pinnacles and parapets. Few parish churches in England are in better repair, or better worth keeping so, than that, at Plumstead Episcopi; and yet it is built in a faulty style; the body of the church is low— so low that the nearly flat leaden roof would be visible from the churchyard, were it not for the carved parapet with which it is surrounded. It is cruciform, though the transepts are irregular, one being larger than the other; and the tower is much too high in proportion to the church: but the color of the building is perfect; it is that rich yellow gray which one finds nowhere but in the south and west of England, and which is so strong a characteristic of most of our old houses of Tudor architecture. The stone work is also beautiful; the mullions of the windows and the rich tracery of the Gothic workmanship are as rich as fancy can desire; and though in gazing on such a structure, one knows by rule that the old priests who built it, built it wrong, one cannot bring one’s self to wish that they should have made it other than it is.

A Low-church Chaplain.—From ‘Barchester Towers.’

Mr. Slope soon comforted himself with the reflection, that as he bad been selected as chaplain to the bishop, it would probably be in his power to get the good things in the bishop’s gift, without troubling himself with the bishop’s daughter; and he found himself able to endure the pangs of rejected love. As he sat himself down in the railway carriage, confronting the bishop and Mrs. Proudie, as they started on their first journey to Barchester, he began to form in his own mind a plan of his future life. He knew well his patron’s strong points, but he knew the weak ones as well. He understood correctly enough to what attempts the new bishop’s high spirit would soar, and he rightly guessed that the public life would better suit the great man’s taste, than the small details of diocesan duty.

He, therefore—he, Mr. Slope—would in effect be bishop of Barchester. Such was his resolve; and to give Mr. Slope his due, he had both courage and spirit to bear him out in his resolution. He knew that he should have a hard battle to fight, for the power and patronage of the see would be equally coveted by another great mind— Mrs. Proudie would also choose to be bishop of Barchester. Slope, however, flattered himself that he could out-manœuvre the lady. She must live much in London, while he would always be on the spot. She would necessarily remain ignorant of much, while he would know everything belonging to the diocese. At first, doubtless, he must flatter and cajole, perhaps yield in some things; but he did not doubt of ultimate triumph. If all other means failed, he could join the bishop against his wife, inspire courage into the unhappy man, lay an axe to the root of the woman’s power, and emancipate the husband.

Such were his thoughts as he sat looking at the sleeping pair in the railway-carriage, and Mr. Slope is not the man to trouble himself with such thoughts for nothing. He is possessed of more than average abilities, and is of good courage. Though he can stoop to fawn, and stoop low indeed, if need be, he has still within him the power to assume the tyrant; and with the power he has certainly the wish. His acquirements are not of the highest order; but such as they are, they are completely under control, and he knows the use of them. He is gifted with a certain kind of pulpit eloquence, not likely indeed to be persuasive with men, but powerful with the softer sex. In his sermons he deals greatly in denunciations, excites the minds of his weaker hearers with a not unpleasant terror, and leaves the impression on their minds that all mankind are in a perilous state, and all womankind too, except those who attend regularly to the evening lectures in Baker Street. His looks and tones are extremely severe, so much so that one cannot but fancy that he regards the greater part of the world as being infinitely too bad for his care. As he walks through the streets, his very face denotes his horror of the world’s wickedness; and there is always an anathema lurking in the corner of his eye.

In doctrine, he, like his patron, is tolerant of dissent, if so strict a mind can be called tolerant of anything. With Wesley and Methodists he has something in common, but his soul trembles in agony at the iniquities of the Puseyites. His aversion is carried to things outward as well as inward. His gall rises at a new church with a high-pitched roof; a full-breasted black-silk waistcoat is with him a symbol of Satan; und a profane jest-book would not, in his view, more foully desecrate the church seat of a Christian, than a book of prayer printed with red letters, and ornamented with a cross on the back. Most active clergymen have their hobby, and Sunday observances are his. Sunday, however, is a word which never pollutes his mouth— it is always ‘the Sabbath.’ The ‘desecration of the Sabbath,’ as he delights to call it, is to him meat and drink— he thrives upon that as policemen do on the general evil habits of the community. It is the loved subject of all his evening dis courses, the source of all his eloquence, the secret of all his power over the female heart. To him the revelation of God appears only in that one law given for Jewish observance. To him the mercies of our Saviour speak in vain. To him in vain has been preached that sermon which fell from divine lips on the mountain: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’—‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ To him the New Testament is comparatively of little moment, for from it can he draw no fresh authority for that dominion which he loves to exercise over at least a seventh part of man’s allotted time here below.

Mr. Slope is tall, and not ill made. His feet and hands are large, as has ever been the case with all his family, but he has a broad chest and wide shoulders to carry off these excrescences, and on the whole his figure is good. His countenance, however, is not specially prepossessing. His hair is lank, and of a dull, pale reddish hue. It is always formed into three straight lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision, and cemented with much grease; two of them adhere closely to the sides of his face, and the other lies at right angles above them. He wears no whiskers, and is always punctiliously shaven. His face is nearly of the same colour as his hair, though perhaps a little redder: it is not unlike beef—beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. His forehead is capacious and high, but square and heavy, and unpleasantly shining. His mouth is large, though his lips are thin and bloodless; and his big, prominent, pale brown eyes inspire anything but confidence. His nose, however, is his redeeming feature: it is pronounced, straight and well formed; though I myself should have liked it better did it not possess a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of a red-coloured cork.

I never could endure to shake hands with Mr. Slope. A cold, clammy perspiration always exudes from him, the small drops are ever to be seen standing on his brow, and his friendly grasp is unpleasant. Such is Mr. Slope—such is the man who has suddenly fallen into the midst of Barchester Close, and is destined there to assume the station which has heretofore been tilled by the son of the late bishop.

The Humanity of the Age

[Ed. note: from The Bertrams]

This is undoubtedly the acre of humanity— as far, at least, as England is concerned. A man who beats his wife is shocking to us, and a colonel who cannot manage his soldiers without having them beaten is nearly equally so. We are not very fond of hanging; and some of us go so far as to recoil under any circumstances from taking the blood of life. We perform our operations under chloroform; and it has even been suggested that those schoolmasters who insist on adhering in some sort to the doctrines of Solomon should perform the operations in the same guarded manner. If the disgrace be absolutely necessary, let it be inflicted; but not the bodily pain.

So far as regards the low externals of humanity, this is doubtless a humane age. Let men, women, and children have bread; let them have, if possible, no blows, or, at least, as few as may be; let them also be decently clothed; and let the pestilence be kept out of their way. In venturing to call these low, I have done so in no contemptuous spirit; they are comparatively low if the body be lower than the mind. The humanity of the age is doubtless suited to its material wants, and such wants are those which demand the promptest remedy. But in the inner feelings of men to men, and of one man’s mind to another man’s mind, is it not an age of extremest cruelty?

There is sympathy for the hungry man, but there is no sympathy for the unsuccessful man who is not hungry. If a fellow-mortal be ragged, humanity will subscribe to mend his clothes; but humanity will subscribe nothing to mend his ragged hopes, so long as his outside coat shall be whole and decent.

To him that hath shall be given; and from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. This is the special text that we delight to follow, and success is the god that we delight to worship. ‘Ah, pity me! I have struggled and fallen—struggled so manfully, yet fallen so utterly—help me up this time that I may yet push forward again!’ Who listens to such a plea as this? ‘Fallen! do you want bread?’ ‘Not bread, but a kind heart and a kind hand.’ ‘My friend, I cannot stay by you; I myself am in a hurry; there is that fiend of a rival there even now gaining a step on me. I beg your pardon, but I will put my foot on your shoulder—only for one moment.’ Occupant extremus scabies.

Yes. Let the devil take the hindmost; the three or four hindmost if you will; nay, all but those strong-running horses who can force themselves into noticeable places under the judge’s eye. This is the noble shibboleth with which the English youth are now spurred on to deeds of— what shall we say?—money-making activity. Let every place in which a man can hold up his head be the reward of some antagonistic struggle, of some grand competitive examination. Let us get rid of the fault of past ages. With us, let the race he ever to the swift; the victory always to the strong. And let us always be racing, so that the swift and the strong shall ever be known, among us. But what, then, for those who are not swift, not strong? Væ victis! Let them go to the wall. They can hew wood probably; or, at any rate, draw water.


[Ed. note: from The Bertrams]

This at least should be a rule through the letter-writing world—that no angry letter be posted till four-and-twenty hours shall have elapsed since it was written. We all know how absurd is that other rule, that of saying the alphabet when you are angry. Trash! Sit down and write your letter; write it with all the venom in your power; spit out your spleen at the fullest; ‘twill do you good. You think you have been injured; say all that you can say with all your poisoned eloquence, and gratify yourself by reading it while your temper is still hot. Then put it in your desk; and as a matter of course, burn it before breakfast the following morning. Believe me that you will then have a double gratification.

A pleasant letter I hold to be the pleasantest thing that this world has to give. It should be good-humoured; witty it may be, but with a gentle diluted wit. Concocted brilliancy will spoil it altogether. Not long, so that it be not tedious in the reading; nor brief, so that the delight suffice not to make itself felt. It should be written specially for the reader, and should apply altogether to him, and not altogether to any other. It should never flatter—flattery is always odious. But underneath the visible stream of pungent water there may be the slightest under-current of eulogy, so that it be not seen, but only understood. Censure it may contain freely, but censure which, in arraigning the conduct, implies no doubt as to the intellect. It should be legibly written, so that it may be read with comfort; but no more than that. Caligraphy betokens caution, and if it be not light in hand, it is nothing. That it be fairly grammatical and not ill spelt, the writer owes to his schoolmaster, but this should come of habit, not of care. Then let its page be soiled by no business; one touch of utility will destroy it all. If you ask for examples, let it be as unlike Walpole as may be. If you can so write it that Lord Byron might have written it, you will not be very far from high excellence.

Early Days—Lovers’ Walks

[Ed. note: from The Bertrams]

Ah! those lovers’ walks, those loving lovers’ rambles. Tom Moore is usually somewhat sugary and mawkish; but in so much he was right. If there be an Elysium on earth, it is this. They are done and over for us, O my compatriots! Never again—unless we are destined to rejoin our houris in heaven, and to saunter over fields of asphodel in another and a greener youth—never again shall those joys be ours! And what can ever equal them? ‘Twas then, between sweet hedgerows, under green oaks, with our feet rustling on the crisp leaves, that the world’s cold reserve was first thrown off, and we found that, those we loved were not goddesses, made of buckram and brocade, but human beings like ourselves, with blood in their veins and hearts in their bosoms—veritable children of Adam like ourselves.

‘Gin a body meet a body comin’ through the rye.’ Ah, how delicious were those meetings! How convinced we were that there was no necessity for loud alarm! How fervently we agreed with the poet! My friends, born together with me in the consulship of Lord Liverpool, all that is done and over for us! There is a melancholy in this that will tinge our thoughts, let us draw ever so strongly on our philosophy. We can still walk with our wives, and that is pleasant too, very—of course. But there was more animation in it when we walked with the same ladies under other names. Nay, sweet spouse, mother of dear bairns, who hast so well done thy duty; but this was so, let thy brows be knit ever so angrily. That lord of mine has been indifferently good to thee, and thou to him hast been more than good. Uphill together have we walked peaceably laboring; and now arm in arm ye shall go down the gradual slope which ends below there in the green churchyard. ‘Tis good and salutary to walk thus. But for the full cup of joy, for the brimming springtide of human bliss, oh give me back—! Well, well, well; it is nonsense; I know it, but may not a man dream now and again in his evening nap and yet do no harm?

Vixi puellis nuper idoneus
Et militavi.

How well Horace knew all about it, but that hanging up of the gittern; one would fain have put it off, had falling hairs, and marriage vows, and obesity have permitted it.