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Autobiography of Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

EBook of Autobiography of Anthony Trollope by Anthony Trollope (www.anthonytrollope.com)

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope


It may be well that I should put a short preface to this book. In

the summer of 1878 my father told me that he had written a memoir

of his own life. He did not speak about it at length, but said

that he had written me a letter, not to be opened until after his

death, containing instructions for publication.

This letter was dated 30th April, 1876. I will give here as much

of it as concerns the public: "I wish you to accept as a gift from

me, given you now, the accompanying pages which contain a memoir

of my life. My intention is that they shall be published after

my death, and be edited by you. But I leave it altogether to your

discretion whether to publish or to suppress the work;--and also

to your discretion whether any part or what part shall be omitted.

But I would not wish that anything should be added to the memoir.

If you wish to say any word as from yourself, let it be done in

the shape of a preface or introductory chapter." At the end there

is a postscript: "The publication, if made at all, should be effected

as soon as possible after my death." My father died on the 6th of

December, 1882.

It will be seen, therefore, that my duty has been merely to pass

the book through the press conformably to the above instructions.

I have placed headings to the right-hand pages throughout the book,

and I do not conceive that I was precluded from so doing. Additions

of any other sort there have been none; the few footnotes are my

father's own additions or corrections. And I have made no alterations.

I have suppressed some few passages, but not more than would amount

to two printed pages has been omitted. My father has not given any

of his own letters, nor was it his wish that any should be published.

So much I would say by way of preface. And I think I may also give

in a few words the main incidents in my father's life after he

completed his autobiography.

He has said that he had given up hunting; but he still kept two

horses for such riding as may be had in or about the immediate

neighborhood of London. He continued to ride to the end of his

life: he liked the exercise, and I think it would have distressed

him not to have had a horse in his stable. But he never spoke

willingly on hunting matters. He had at last resolved to give up

his favourite amusement, and that as far as he was concerned there

should be an end of it. In the spring of 1877 he went to South

Africa, and returned early in the following year with a book on

the colony already written. In the summer of 1878, he was one of

a party of ladies and gentlemen who made an expedition to Iceland

in the "Mastiff," one of Mr. John Burns' steam-ships. The journey

lasted altogether sixteen days, and during that time Mr. and Mrs.

Burns were the hospitable entertainers. When my father returned,

he wrote a short account of How the "Mastiffs" went to Iceland.

The book was printed, but was intended only for private circulation.

Every day, until his last illness, my father continued his work.

He would not otherwise have been happy. He demanded from himself

less than he had done ten years previously, but his daily task was

always done. I will mention now the titles of his books that were

published after the last included in the list which he himself has

given at the end of the second volume:--

An Eye for an Eye, . . . . 1879

Cousin Henry, . . . . . . 1879

Thackeray, . . . . . . . 1879

The Duke's Children, . . . . 1880

Life of Cicero, . . . . . 1880

Ayala's Angel, . . . . . 1881

Doctor Wortle's School, . . . 1881

Frau Frohmann and other Stories, . 1882

Lord Palmerston, . . . . . 1882

The Fixed Period, . . . . . 1882

Kept in the Dark, . . . . . 1882

Marion Fay, . . . . . . 1882

Mr. Scarborough's Family, . . . 1883

At the time of his death he had written four-fifths of an Irish

story, called The Landleaguers, shortly about to be published; and

he left in manuscript a completed novel, called An Old Man's Love,

which will be published by Messrs. Blackwood & Sons in 1884.

In the summer of 1880 my father left London, and went to live at

Harting, a village in Sussex, but on the confines of Hampshire. I

think he chose that spot because he found there a house that suited

him, and because of the prettiness of the neighborhood. His last

long journey was a trip to Italy in the late winter and spring of

1881; but he went to Ireland twice in 1882. He went there in May

of that year, and was then absent nearly a month. This journey did

him much good, for he found that the softer atmosphere relieved

his asthma, from which he had been suffering for nearly eighteen

months. In August following he made another trip to Ireland, but

from this journey he derived less benefit. He was much interested

in, and was very much distressed by, the unhappy condition of the

country. Few men know Ireland better than he did. He had lived

there for sixteen years, and his Post Office word had taken him

into every part of the island. In the summer of 1882 he began his

last novel, The Landleaguers, which, as stated above, was unfinished

when he died. This book was a cause of anxiety to him. He could not

rid his mind of the fact that he had a story already in the course

of publication, but which he had not yet completed. In no other

case, except Framley Parsonage, did my father publish even the

first number of any novel before he had fully completed the whole


On the evening of the 3rd of November, 1882, he was seized with

paralysis on the right side, accompanied by loss of speech. His

mind had also failed, though at intervals his thoughts would return

to him. After the first three weeks these lucid intervals became

rarer, but it was always very difficult to tell how far his mind

was sound or how far astray. He died on the evening of the 6th of

December following, nearly five weeks from the night of his attack.

I have been led to say these few words, not at all from a desire

to supplement my father's biography of himself, but to mention the

main incidents in his life after he had finished his own record. In

what I have here said I do not think I have exceeded his instructions.

Henry M. Trollope.

September, 1883.

CHAPTER I My education 1815-1834

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. And

yet the garrulity of old age, and the aptitude of a man's mind to

recur to the passages of his own life, will, I know, tempt me to say

something of myself;--nor, without doing so, should I know how to

throw my matter into any recognised and intelligible form. That I,

or any man, should tell everything of himself, I hold to be impossible.

Who could endure to own the doing of a mean thing? Who is there

that has done none? But this I protest:--that nothing that I say

shall be untrue. I will set down naught in malice; nor will I give

to myself, or others, honour which I do not believe to have been

fairly won. My boyhood was, I think, as unhappy as that of a young

gentleman could well be, my misfortunes arising from a mixture of

poverty and gentle standing on the part of my father, and from an

utter want on my part of the juvenile manhood which enables some

boys to hold up their heads even among the distresses which such

a position is sure to produce.

I was born in 1815, in Keppel Street, Russell Square; and while a

baby, was carried down to Harrow, where my father had built a house

on a large farm which, in an evil hour he took on a long lease from

Lord Northwick. That farm was the grave of all my father's hopes,

ambition, and prosperity, the cause of my mother's sufferings, and

of those of her children, and perhaps the director of her destiny

and of ours. My father had been a Wykamist and a fellow of New

College, and Winchester was the destination of my brothers and

myself; but as he had friends among the masters at Harrow, and as

the school offered an education almost gratuitous to children living

in the parish, he, with a certain aptitude to do things differently

from others, which accompanied him throughout his life, determined

to use that august seminary as "t'other school" for Winchester, and

sent three of us there, one after the other, at the age of seven.

My father at this time was a Chancery barrister practising in

London, occupying dingy, almost suicidal chambers, at No. 23 Old

Square, Lincoln's Inn,--chambers which on one melancholy occasion

did become absolutely suicidal. [Footnote: A pupil of his destroyed

himself in the rooms.] He was, as I have been informed by those

quite competent to know, an excellent and most conscientious lawyer,

but plagued with so bad a temper, that he drove the attorneys from

him. In his early days he was a man of some small fortune and of

higher hopes. These stood so high at the time of my birth, that

he was felt to be entitled to a country house, as well as to that

in Keppel Street; and in order that he might build such a residence,

he took the farm. This place he called Julians, and the land runs

up to the foot of the hill on which the school and the church

stand,--on the side towards London. Things there went much against

him; the farm was ruinous, and I remember that we all regarded the

Lord Northwick of those days as a cormorant who was eating us up.

My father's clients deserted him. He purchased various dark gloomy

chambers in and about Chancery Lane, and his purchases always went

wrong. Then, as a final crushing blow, and old uncle, whose heir he

was to have been, married and had a family! The house in London was

let; and also the house he built at Harrow, from which he descended

to a farmhouse on the land, which I have endeavoured to make known

to some readers under the name of Orley Farm. This place, just as it

was when we lived there, is to be seen in the frontispiece to the

first edition of that novel, having the good fortune to be delineated

by no less a pencil than that of John Millais.

My two elder brothers had been sent as day-boarders to Harrow

School from the bigger house, and may probably have been received

among the aristocratic crowd,--not on equal terms, because a

day-boarder at Harrow in those days was never so received,--but at

any rate as other day-boarders. I do not suppose that they were well

treated, but I doubt whether they were subjected to the ignominy

which I endured. I was only seven, and I think that boys at seven

are now spared among their more considerate seniors. I was never

spared; and was not even allowed to run to and fro between our house

and the school without a daily purgatory. No doubt my appearance

was against me. I remember well, when I was still the junior boy

in the school, Dr. Butler, the head-master, stopping me in the

street, and asking me, with all the clouds of Jove upon his brow

and the thunder in his voice, whether it was possible that Harrow

School was disgraced by so disreputably dirty a boy as I! Oh, what

I felt at that moment! But I could not look my feelings. I do not

doubt that I was dirty;--but I think that he was cruel. He must

have known me had he seen me as he was wont to see me, for he was

in the habit of flogging me constantly. Perhaps he did not recognise

me by my face.

At this time I was three years at Harrow; and, as far as I can

remember, I was the junior boy in the school when I left it.

Then I was sent to a private school at Sunbury, kept by Arthur

Drury. This, I think, must have been done in accordance with the

advice of Henry Drury, who was my tutor at Harrow School, and my

father's friend, and who may probably have expressed an opinion that

my juvenile career was not proceeding in a satisfactory manner at

Harrow. To Sunbury I went, and during the two years I was there,

though I never had any pocket-money, and seldom had much in the

way of clothes, I lived more nearly on terms of equality with other

boys than at any other period during my very prolonged school-days.

Even here, I was always in disgrace. I remember well how, on one

occasion, four boys were selected as having been the perpetrators

of some nameless horror. What it was, to this day I cannot even

guess; but I was one of the four, innocent as a babe, but adjudged

to have been the guiltiest of the guilty. We each had to write out

a sermon, and my sermon was the longest of the four. During the

whole of one term-time we were helped last at every meal. We were

not allowed to visit the playground till the sermon was finished.

Mine was only done a day or two before the holidays. Mrs. Drury,

when she saw us, shook her head with pitying horror. There were

ever so many other punishments accumulated on our heads. It broke

my heart, knowing myself to be innocent, and suffering also under

the almost equally painful feeling that the other three--no doubt

wicked boys--were the curled darlings of the school, who would never

have selected me to share their wickedness with them. I contrived

to learn, from words that fell from Mr. Drury, that he condemned

me because I, having come from a public school, might be supposed

to be the leader of wickedness! On the first day of the next term

he whispered to me half a word that perhaps he had been wrong.

With all a stupid boy's slowness, I said nothing; and he had not

the courage to carry reparation further. All that was fifty years

ago, and it burns me now as though it were yesterday. What lily-livered

curs those boys must have been not to have told the truth!--at any

rate as far as I was concerned. I remember their names well, and

almost wish to write them here.

When I was twelve there came the vacancy at Winchester College which

I was destined to fill. My two elder brothers had gone there, and

the younger had been taken away, being already supposed to have lost

his chance of New College. It had been one of the great ambitions

of my father's life that his three sons, who lived to go to Winchester,

should all become fellows of New College. But that suffering man

was never destined to have an ambition gratified. We all lost the

prize which he struggled with infinite labour to put within our

reach. My eldest brother all but achieved it, and afterwards went

to Oxford, taking three exhibitions from the school, though he

lost the great glory of a Wykamist. He has since made himself well

known to the public as a writer in connection with all Italian

subjects. He is still living as I now write. But my other brother

died early.

While I was at Winchester my father's affairs went from bad to worse.

He gave up his practice at the bar, and, unfortunate that he was,

took another farm. It is odd that a man should conceive,--and in

this case a highly educated and a very clever man,--that farming

should be a business in which he might make money without any

special education or apprenticeship. Perhaps of all trades it is

the one in which an accurate knowledge of what things should be

done, and the best manner of doing them, is most necessary. And it is

one also for success in which a sufficient capital is indispensable.

He had no knowledge, and, when he took this second farm, no capital.

This was the last step preparatory to his final ruin.

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 pepper-boxes were

bought and the bazaar built. I have seen it since in the town of

Cincinnati,--a sorry building! But I have been told that in those

days it was an imposing edifice. My mother went first, with my

sisters and second brother. Then my father followed them, taking my

elder brother before he went to Oxford. But there was an interval

of some year and a half during which he and I were in Winchester


Over a period of forty years, since I began my manhood at a desk

in the Post Office, I and my brother, Thomas Adolphus, have been

fast friends. There have been hot words between us, for perfect

friendship bears and allows hot words. Few brothers have had more

of brotherhood. But in those schooldays he was, of all my foes,

the worst. In accordance with the practice of the college, which

submits, or did then submit, much of the tuition of the younger

boys from the elder, he was my tutor; and in his capacity of teacher

and ruler, he had studied the theories of Draco. I remember well

how he used to exact obedience after the manner of that lawgiver.

Hang a little boy for stealing apples, he used to say, and other

little boys will not steal apples. The doctrine was already exploded

elsewhere, but he stuck to it with conservative energy. The result

was that, as a part of his daily exercise, he thrashed me with a big

stick. That such thrashings should have been possible at a school

as a continual part of one's daily life, seems to me to argue a

very ill condition of school discipline.

At this period I remember to have passed one set of holidays--the

midsummer holidays--in my father's chambers in Lincoln's Inn. There

was often a difficulty about the holidays,--as to what should be

done with me. On this occasion my amusement consisted in wandering

about among those old deserted buildings, and in reading Shakespeare

out of a bi-columned edition, which is still among my books. It

was not that I had chosen Shakespeare, but that there was nothing

else to read.

After a while my brother left Winchester and accompanied my father

to America. Then another and a different horror fell to my fate.

My college bills had not been paid, and the school tradesmen who

administered to the wants of the boys were told not to extend their

credit to me. Boots, waistcoats, and pocket-handkerchiefs, which,

with some slight superveillance, were at the command of other

scholars, were closed luxuries to me. My schoolfellows of course

knew that it was so, and I became a Pariah. It is the nature of

boys to be cruel. I have sometimes doubted whether among each other

they do usually suffer much, one from the other's cruelty; but I

suffered horribly! I could make no stand against it. I had no friend

to whom I could pour out my sorrows. I was big, and awkward, and

ugly, and, I have no doubt, sulked about in a most unattractive

manner. Of course I was ill-dressed and dirty. But ah! how well

I remember all the agonies of my young heart; how I considered

whether I should always be alone; whether I could not find my way

up to the top of that college tower, and from thence put an end to

everything? And a worse thing came than the stoppage of the supplies

from the shopkeepers. Every boy had a shilling a week pocket-money,

which we called battels, and which was advanced to us out of the

pocket of the second master. On one awful day the second master

announced to me that my battels would be stopped. He told me the

reason,--the battels for the last half-year had not been repaid; and

he urged his own unwillingness to advance the money. The loss of a

shilling a week would not have been much,--even though pocket-money

from other sources never reached me,--but that the other boys all

knew it! Every now and again, perhaps three or four times in a

half-year, these weekly shillings were given to certain servants

of the college, in payment, it may be presumed, for some extra

services. And now, when it came to the turn of any servant, he

received sixty-nine shillings instead of seventy, and the cause

of the defalcation was explained to him. I never saw one of those

servants without feeling I had picked his pocket.

When I had been at Winchester something over three years, my father

returned to England and took me away. Whether this was done because

of the expense, or because my chance of New College was supposed

to have passed away, I do not know. As a fact, I should, I believe,

have gained the prize, as there occurred in my year an exceptional

number of vacancies. But it would have served me nothing, as there

would have been no funds for my maintenance at the University

till I should have entered in upon the fruition of the founder's

endowment, and my career at Oxford must have been unfortunate.

When I left Winchester, I had three more years of school before me,

having as yet endured nine. My father at this time having left my

mother and sisters with my younger brother in America, took himself

to live at a wretched tumble-down farmhouse on the second farm

he had hired! And I was taken there with him. It was nearly three

miles from Harrow, at Harrow Weald, but in the parish; and from

this house I was again sent to that school as a day-boarder. Let

those who know what is the usual appearance and what the usual

appurtenances of a boy at such a school, consider what must have

been my condition among them, with a daily walk of twelve miles

through the lanes, added to the other little troubles and labours

of a school life!

Perhaps the eighteen months which I passed in this condition,

walking to and fro on those miserably dirty lanes, was the worst

period of my life. I was now over fifteen, and had come to an age

at which I could appreciate at its full the misery of expulsion

from all social intercourse. I had not only no friends, but was

despised by all my companions. The farmhouse was not only no more

than a farmhouse, but was one of those farmhouses which seem always

to be in danger of falling into the neighbouring horse-pond. As it

crept downwards from house to stables, from stables to barns, from

barns to cowsheds, and from cowsheds to dungheaps, one could hardly

tell where one began and the other ended! There was a parlour in

which my father lived, shut up among big books; but I passed my most

jocund hours in the kitchen, making innocent love to the bailiff's

daughter. The farm kitchen might be very well through the evening,

when the horrors of the school were over; but it all added to the

cruelty of the days. A sizar at a Cambridge college, or a Bible-clerk

at Oxford, has not pleasant days, or used not to have them half a

century ago; but his position was recognised, and the misery was

measured. I was a sizar at a fashionable school, a condition never

premeditated. What right had a wretched farmer's boy, reeking from

a dunghill, to sit next to the sons of peers,--or much worse still,

next to the sons of big tradesmen who made their ten thousand a

year? The indignities I endured are not to be described. As I look

back it seems to me that all hands were turned against me,--those

of masters as well as boys. I was allowed to join in no plays. Nor

did I learn anything,--for I was taught nothing. The only expense,

except that of books, to which a house-boarder was then subject,

was the fee to a tutor, amounting, I think, to ten guineas. My

tutor took me without the fee; but when I heard him declare the fact

in the pupil-room before the boys, I hardly felt grateful for the

charity. I was never a coward, and cared for a thrashing as little

as any boy, but one cannot make a stand against the acerbities of

three hundred tyrants without a moral courage of which at that time

I possessed none. I know that I skulked, and was odious to the eyes

of those I admired and envied. At last I was driven to rebellion,

and there came a great fight,--at the end of which my opponent

had to be taken home for a while. If these words be ever printed,

I trust that some schoolfellow of those days may still be left alive

who will be able to say that, in claiming this solitary glory of

my school-days, I am not making a false boast.

I wish I could give some adequate picture of the gloom of that

farmhouse. My elder brother--Tom as I must call him in my narrative,

though the world, I think, knows him best as Adolphus--was at Oxford.

My father and I lived together, he having no means of living except

what came from the farm. My memory tells me that he was always

in debt to his landlord and to the tradesmen he employed. Of

self-indulgence no one could accuse him. Our table was poorer, I

think, than that of the bailiff who still hung on to our shattered

fortunes. The furniture was mean and scanty. There was a large

rambling kitchen-garden, but no gardener; and many times verbal

incentives were made to me,--generally, I fear, in vain,--to

get me to lend a hand at digging and planting. Into the hayfields

on holidays I was often compelled to go,--not, I fear, with much

profit. My father's health was very bad. During the last ten years

of his life, he spent nearly the half of his time in bed, suffering

agony from sick headaches. But he was never idle unless when

suffering. He had at this time commenced a work,--an Encyclopedia

Ecclesiastica, as he called it,--on which he laboured to the moment

of his death. It was his ambition to describe all ecclesiastical

terms, including the denominations of every fraternity of monks

and every convent of nuns, with all their orders and subdivisions.

Under crushing disadvantages, with few or no books of reference,

with immediate access to no library, he worked at his most ungrateful

task with unflagging industry. When he died, three numbers out

of eight had been published by subscription; and are now, I fear,

unknown, and buried in the midst of that huge pile of futile

literature, the building up of which has broken so many hearts.

And my father, though he would try, as it were by a side wind, to

get a useful spurt of work out of me, either in the garden or in

the hay-field, had constantly an eye to my scholastic improvement.

From my very babyhood, before those first days at Harrow, I had to

take my place alongside of him as he shaved at six o'clock in the

morning, and say my early rules from the Latin Grammar, or repeat

the Greek alphabet; and was obliged at these early lessons to hold

my head inclined towards him, so that in the event of guilty fault,

he might be able to pull my hair without stopping his razor or

dropping his shaving-brush. No father was ever more anxious for

the education of his children, though I think none ever knew less

how to go about the work. Of amusement, as far as I can remember,

he never recognised the need. He allowed himself no distraction,

and did not seem to think it was necessary to a child. I cannot

bethink me of aught that he ever did for my gratification; but for

my welfare,--for the welfare of us all,--he was willing to make

any sacrifice. At this time, in the farmhouse at Harrow Weald,

he could not give his time to teach me, for every hour that he was

not in the fields was devoted to his monks and nuns; but he would

require me to sit at a table with Lexicon and Gradus before me.

As I look back on my resolute idleness and fixed determination to

make no use whatever of the books thus thrust upon me, or of the

hours, and as I bear in mind the consciousness of great energy in

after-life, I am in doubt whether my nature is wholly altered, or

whether his plan was wholly bad. In those days he never punished

me, though I think I grieved him much by my idleness; but in passion

he knew not what he did, and he has knocked me down with the great

folio Bible which he always used. In the old house were the two first

volumes of Cooper's novel, called The Prairie, a relic--probably a

dishonest relic--of some subscription to Hookham's library. Other

books of the kind there was none. I wonder how many dozen times I

read those two first volumes.

It was the horror of those dreadful walks backwards and forwards

which made my life so bad. What so pleasant, what so sweet, as a

walk along an English lane, when the air is sweet and the weather

fine, and when there is a charm in walking? But here were the same

lanes four times a day, in wet and dry, in heat and summer, with

all the accompanying mud and dust, and with disordered clothes. I

might have been known among all the boys at a hundred yards' distance

by my boots and trousers,--and was conscious at all times that I

was so known. I remembered constantly that address from Dr. Butler

when I was a little boy. Dr. Longley might with equal justice have

said the same thing any day,--only that Dr. Longley never in his

life was able to say an ill-natured word. Dr. Butler only became

Dean of Peterborough, but his successor lived to be Archbishop of


I think it was in the autumn of 1831 that my mother, with the rest

of the family, returned from America. She lived at first at the

farmhouse, but it was only for a short time. She came back with a

book written about the United States, and the immediate pecuniary

success which that work obtained enabled her to take us all back to

the house at Harrow,--not to the first house, which would still have

been beyond her means, but to that which has since been called

Orley Farm, and which was an Eden as compared to our abode at

Harrow Weald. Here my schooling went on under somewhat improved

circumstances. The three miles became half a mile, and probably

some salutary changes were made in my wardrobe. My mother and

my sisters, too, were there. And a great element of happiness was

added to us all in the affectionate and life-enduring friendship

of the family of our close neighbour Colonel Grant. But I was never

able to overcome--or even to attempt to overcome--the absolute

isolation of my school position. Of the cricket-ground or racket-court

I was allowed to know nothing. And yet I longed for these things

with an exceeding longing. I coveted popularity with a covetousness

that was almost mean. It seemed to me that there would be an

Elysium in the intimacy of those very boys whom I was bound to hate

because they hated me. Something of the disgrace of my school-days

has clung to me all through life. Not that I have ever shunned to

speak of them as openly as I am writing now, but that when I have

been claimed as schoolfellow by some of those many hundreds who

were with me either at Harrow or at Winchester, I have felt that

I had no right to talk of things from most of which I was kept in


Through all my father's troubles he still desired to send me either

to Oxford or Cambridge. My elder brother went to Oxford, and Henry

to Cambridge. It all depended on my ability to get some scholarship

that would help me to live at the University. I had many chances.

There were exhibitions from Harrow--which I never got. Twice I tried

for a sizarship at Clare Hall,--but in vain. Once I made a futile

attempt for a scholarship at Trinity, Oxford,--but failed again. Then

the idea of a university career was abandoned. And very fortunate

it was that I did not succeed, for my career with such assistance

only as a scholarship would have given me, would have ended in debt

and ignominy.

When I left Harrow I was all but nineteen, and I had at first gone

there at seven. During the whole of those twelve years no attempt

had been made to teach me anything but Latin and Greek, and very

little attempt to teach me those languages. I do not remember

any lessons either in writing or arithmetic. French and German I

certainly was not taught. The assertion will scarcely be credited,

but I do assert that I have no recollection of other tuition

except that in the dead languages. At the school at Sunbury there

was certainly a writing master and a French master. The latter was

an extra, and I never had extras. I suppose I must have been in

the writing master's class, but though I can call to mind the man,

I cannot call to mind his ferule. It was by their ferules that I

always knew them, and they me. I feel convinced in my mind that I

have been flogged oftener than any human being alive. It was just

possible to obtain five scourgings in one day at Winchester, and

I have often boasted that I obtained them all. Looking back over

half a century, I am not quite sure whether the boast is true; but

if I did not, nobody ever did.

And yet when I think how little I knew of Latin or Greek on leaving

Harrow at nineteen, I am astonished at the possibility of such

waste of time. I am now a fair Latin scholar,--that is to say, I

read and enjoy the Latin classics, and could probably make myself

understood in Latin prose. But the knowledge which I have, I have

acquired since I left school,--no doubt aided much by that groundwork

of the language which will in the process of years make its way

slowly, even through the skin. There were twelve years of tuition

in which I do not remember that I ever knew a lesson! When I left

Harrow I was nearly at the top of the school, being a monitor, and,

I think, the seventh boy. This position I achieved by gravitation

upwards. I bear in mind well with how prodigal a hand prizes used

to be showered about; but I never got a prize. From the first to

the last there was nothing satisfactory in my school career,--except

the way in which I licked the boy who had to be taken home to be



Though I do not wish in these pages to go back to the origin of

all the Trollopes, I must say a few words of my mother,--partly

because filial duty will not allow me to be silent as to a parent

who made for herself a considerable name in the literature of her

day, and partly because there were circumstances in her career

well worthy of notice. She was the daughter of the Rev. William

Milton, vicar of Heckfield, who, as well as my father, had been

a fellow of New College. She was nearly thirty when, in 1809, she

married my father. Six or seven years ago a bundle of love-letters

from her to him fell into my hand in a very singular way, having

been found in the house of a stranger, who, with much courtesy,

sent them to me. They were then about sixty years old, and had been

written some before and some after her marriage, over the space of

perhaps a year. In no novel of Richardson's or Miss Burney's have

I seen a correspondence at the same time so sweet, so graceful,

and so well expressed. But the marvel of these letters was in the

strange difference they bore to the love-letters of the present

day. They are, all of them, on square paper, folded and sealed,

and addressed to my father on circuit; but the language in each,

though it almost borders on the romantic, is beautifully chosen,

and fit, without change of a syllable, for the most critical eye.

What girl now studies the words with which she shall address her

lover, or seeks to charm him with grace of diction? She dearly likes

a little slang, and revels in the luxury of entire familiarity with

a new and strange being. There is something in that, too, pleasant

to our thoughts, but I fear that this phase of life does not conduce

to a taste for poetry among our girls. Though my mother was a writer

of prose, and revelled in satire, the poetic feeling clung to her

to the last.

In the first ten years of her married life she became the mother of

six children, four of whom died of consumption at different ages.

My elder sister married, and had children, of whom one still lives;

but she was one of the four who followed each other at intervals

during my mother's lifetime. Then my brother Tom and I were left to

her,--with the destiny before us three of writing more books than

were probably ever before produced by a single family. [Footnote:

The family of Estienne, the great French printers of the fifteenth

and sixteenth centuries, of whom there were at least nine or ten,

did more perhaps for the production of literature than any other

family. But they, though they edited, and not unfrequently translated

the works which they published, were not authors in the ordinary

sense.] My married sister added to the number by one little anonymous

high church story, called Chollerton.

From the date of their marriage up to 1827, when my mother went

to America, my father's affairs had always been going down in the

world. She had loved society, affecting a somewhat liberal role

and professing an emotional dislike to tyrants, which sprung from

the wrongs of would-be regicides and the poverty of patriot exiles.

An Italian marquis who had escaped with only a second shirt from

the clutches of some archduke whom he had wished to exterminate,

or a French proletaire with distant ideas of sacrificing himself to

the cause of liberty, were always welcome to the modest hospitality

of her house. In after years, when marquises of another caste had

been gracious to her, she became a strong Tory, and thought that

archduchesses were sweet. But with her politics were always an affair

of the heart,--as, indeed, were all her convictions. Of reasoning

from causes, I think that she knew nothing. Her heart was in

every way so perfect, her desire to do good to all around her so

thorough, and her power of self-sacrifice so complete, that she

generally got herself right in spite of her want of logic; but it

must be acknowledged that she was emotional. I can remember now her

books, and can see her at her pursuits. The poets she loved best

were Dante and Spenser. But she raved also of him of whom all such

ladies were raving then, and rejoiced in the popularity and wept

over the persecution of Lord Byron. She was among those who seized

with avidity on the novels, as they came out, of the then unknown

Scott, and who could still talk of the triumphs of Miss Edgeworth.

With the literature of the day she was familiar, and with the poets

of the past. Of other reading I do not think she had mastered much.

Her life, I take it, though latterly clouded by many troubles, was

easy, luxurious, and idle, till my father's affairs and her own

aspirations sent her to America. She had dear friends among literary

people, of whom I remember Mathias, Henry Milman, and Miss Landon;

but till long after middle life she never herself wrote a line for


In 1827 she went to America, having been partly instigated by the

social and communistic ideas of a lady whom I well remember,--a

certain Miss Wright,--who was, I think, the first of the American

female lecturers. Her chief desire, however, was to establish

my brother Henry; and perhaps joined with that was the additional

object of breaking up her English home without pleading broken

fortunes to all the world. At Cincinnati, in the State of Ohio,

she built a bazaar, and I fancy lost all the money which may have

been embarked in that speculation. It could not have been much, and

I think that others also must have suffered. But she looked about

her, at her American cousins, and resolved to write a book about

them. This book she brought back with her in 1831, and published

it early in 1832. When she did this she was already fifty. When

doing this she was aware that unless she could so succeed in making

money, there was no money for any of the family. She had never before

earned a shilling. She almost immediately received a considerable

sum from the publishers,--if I remember rightly, amounting to two

sums of (pounds)400 each within a few months; and from that moment till

nearly the time of her death, at any rate for more than twenty

years, she was in the receipt of a considerable income from her

writings. It was a late age at which to begin such a career.

The Domestic Manners of the Americans was the first of a series

of books of travels, of which it was probably the best, and was

certainly the best known. It will not be too much to say of it that

it had a material effect upon the manners of the Americans of the

day, and that that effect has been fully appreciated by them. No

observer was certainly ever less qualified to judge of the prospects

or even of the happiness of a young people. No one could have been

worse adapted by nature for the task of learning whether a nation

was in a way to thrive. Whatever she saw she judged, as most women

do, from her own standing-point. If a thing were ugly to her eyes,

it ought to be ugly to all eyes,--and if ugly, it must be bad.

What though people had plenty to eat and clothes to wear, if they

put their feet upon the tables and did not reverence their betters?

The Americans were to her rough, uncouth, and vulgar,--and she

told them so. Those communistic and social ideas, which had been so

pretty in a drawing-room, were scattered to the winds. Her volumes

were very bitter; but they were very clever, and they saved the

family from ruin.

Book followed book immediately,--first two novels, and then a book

on Belgium and Western Germany. She refurnished the house which

I have called Orley Farm, and surrounded us again with moderate

comforts. Of the mixture of joviality and industry which formed

her character, it is almost impossible to speak with exaggeration.

The industry was a thing apart, kept to herself. It was not necessary

that any one who lived with her should see it. She was at her table

at four in the morning, and had finished her work before the world

had begun to be aroused. But the joviality was all for others.

She could dance with other people's legs, eat and drink with other

people's palates, be proud with the lustre of other people's finery.

Every mother can do that for her own daughters; but she could do it

for any girl whose look, and voice, and manners pleased her. Even

when she was at work, the laughter of those she loved was a pleasure

to her. She had much, very much, to suffer. Work sometimes came

hard to her, so much being required,--for she was extravagant, and

liked to have money to spend; but of all people I have known she

was the most joyous, or, at any rate, the most capable of joy.

We continued this renewed life at Harrow for nearly two years,

during which I was still at the school, and at the end of which

I was nearly nineteen. Then there came a great catastrophe. My

father, who, when he was well, lived a sad life among his monks and

nuns, still kept a horse and gig. One day in March, 1834, just as

it had been decided that I should leave the school then, instead

of remaining, as had been intended, till midsummer, I was summoned

very early in the morning, to drive him up to London. He had been

ill, and must still have been very ill indeed when he submitted to

be driven by any one. It was not till we had started that he told

me that I was to put him on board the Ostend boat. This I did,

driving him through the city down to the docks. It was not within

his nature to be communicative, and to the last he never told me

why he was going to Ostend. Something of a general flitting abroad

I had heard before, but why he should have flown first, and flown

so suddenly, I did not in the least know till I returned. When I got

back with the gig, the house and furniture were all in the charge

of the sheriff's officers.

The gardener who had been with us in former days stopped me as I

drove up the road, and with gestures, signs, and whispered words,

gave me to understand that the whole affair--horse, gig, and

barness--would be made prize of if I went but a few yards farther.

Why they should not have been made prize of I do not know. The

little piece of dishonest business which I at once took in hand

and carried through successfully was of no special service to any

of us. I drove the gig into the village, and sold the entire equipage

to the ironmonger for (pounds)17, the exact sum which he claimed as being

due to himself. I was much complimented by the gardener, who seemed

to think that so much had been rescued out of the fire. I fancy

that the ironmonger was the only gainer by my smartness.

When I got back to the house a scene of devastation was in progress,

which still was not without its amusement. My mother, through

her various troubles, had contrived to keep a certain number of

pretty-pretties which were dear to her heart. They were not much,

for in those days the ornamentation of houses was not lavish as it

is now; but there was some china, and a little glass, a few books,

and a very moderate supply of household silver. These things, and

things like them, were being carried down surreptitiously, through

a gap between the two gardens, on to the premises of our friend

Colonel Grant. My two sisters, then sixteen and seventeen, and the

Grant girls, who were just younger, were the chief marauders. To

such forces I was happy to add myself for any enterprise, and

between us we cheated the creditors to the extent of our powers,

amidst the anathemas, but good-humoured abstinence from personal

violence, of the men in charge of the property. I still own a few

books that were thus purloined.

For a few days the whole family bivouacked under the Colonel's

hospitable roof, cared for and comforted by that dearest of all women,

his wife. Then we followed my father to Belgium, and established

ourselves in a large house just outside the walls of Bruges. At

this time, and till my father's death, everything was done with

money earned by my mother. She now again furnished the house,--this

being the third that she had put in order since she came back from

America two years and a half ago.

There were six of us went into this new banishment. My brother

Henry had left Cambridge and was ill. My younger sister was ill.

And though as yet we hardly told each other that it was so, we began

to feel that that desolating fiend, consumption, was among us. My

father was broken-hearted as well as ill, but whenever he could

sit at his table he still worked at his ecclesiastical records. My

elder sister and I were in good health, but I was an idle, desolate

hanger-on, that most hopeless of human beings, a hobbledehoy

of nineteen, without any idea of a career, or a profession, or

a trade. As well as I can remember I was fairly happy, for there

were pretty girls at Bruges with whom I could fancy that I was in

love; and I had been removed from the real misery of school. But

as to my future life I had not even an aspiration. Now and again

there would arise a feeling that it was hard upon my mother that

she should have to do so much for us, that we should be idle while

she was forced to work so constantly; but we should probably have

thought more of that had she not taken to work as though it were

the recognised condition of life for an old lady of fifty-five.

Then, by degrees, an established sorrow was at home among us. My

brother was an invalid, and the horrid word, which of all words were

for some years after the most dreadful to us, had been pronounced.

It was no longer a delicate chest, and some temporary necessity

for peculiar care,--but consumption! The Bruges doctor had said

so, and we knew that he was right. From that time forth my mother's

most visible occupation was that of nursing. There were two sick

men in the house, and hers were the hands that tended them. The

novels went on, of course. We had already learned to know that they

would be forthcoming at stated intervals,--and they always were

forthcoming. The doctor's vials and the ink-bottle held equal

places in my mother's rooms. I have written many novels under many

circumstances; but I doubt much whether I could write one when my

whole heart was by the bedside of a dying son. Her power of dividing

herself into two parts, and keeping her intellect by itself clear

from the troubles of the world, and fit for the duty it had to do,

I never saw equalled. I do not think that the writing of a novel

is the most difficult task which a man may be called upon to do;

but it is a task that may be supposed to demand a spirit fairly

at ease. The work of doing it with a troubled spirit killed Sir

Walter Scott. My mother went through it unscathed in strength,

though she performed all the work of day-nurse and night-nurse to

a sick household;--for there were soon three of them dying.

At this time there came from some quarter an offer to me of a

commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment; and so it was apparently

my destiny to be a soldier. But I must first learn German and

French, of which languages I knew almost nothing. For this a year

was allowed me, and in order that it might be accomplished without

expense, I undertook the duties of a classical usher to a school

then kept by William Drury at Brussels. Mr. Drury had been one of

the masters at Harrow when I went there at seven years old, and is

now, after an interval of fifty-three years, even yet officiating

as clergyman at that place. [Footnote: He died two years after

these words were written.] To Brussels I went, and my heart still

sinks within me as I reflect that any one should have intrusted to

me the tuition of thirty boys. I can only hope that those boys went

there to learn French, and that their parents were not particular

as to their classical acquirements. I remember that on two occasions

I was sent to take the school out for a walk; but that after the

second attempt Mrs. Drury declared that the boys' clothes would not

stand any further experiments of that kind. I cannot call to mind

any learning by me of other languages; but as I only remained in

that position for six weeks, perhaps the return lessons had not

been as yet commenced. At the end of the six weeks a letter reached

me, offering me a clerkship in the General Post Office, and I

accepted it. Among my mother's dearest friends she reckoned Mrs.

Freeling, the wife of Clayton Freeling, whose father, Sir Francis

Freeling, then ruled the Post Office. She had heard of my desolate

position, and had begged from her father-in-law the offer of a

berth in his own office.

I hurried back from Brussels to Bruges on my way to London, and

found that the number of invalids had been increased. My younger

sister, Emily, who, when I had left the house, was trembling on

the balance,--who had been pronounced to be delicate, but with that

false-tongued hope which knows the truth, but will lie lest the

heart should faint, had been called delicate, but only delicate,--was

now ill. Of course she was doomed. I knew it of both of them,

though I had never heard the word spoken, or had spoken it to any

one. And my father was very ill,--ill to dying, though I did not

know it. And my mother had decreed to send my elder sister away to

England, thinking that the vicinity of so much sickness might be

injurious to her. All this happened late in the autumn of 1834, in

the spring of which year we had come to Bruges; and then my mother

was left alone in a big house outside the town, with two Belgian

women-servants, to nurse these dying patients--the patients being

her husband and children--and to write novels for the sustenance

of the family! It was about this period of her career that her best

novels were written.

To my own initiation at the Post Office I will return in the next

chapter. Just before Christmas my brother died, and was buried at

Bruges. In the following February my father died, and was buried

alongside of him,--and with him died that tedious task of his,

which I can only hope may have solaced many of his latter hours. I

sometimes look back, meditating for hours together, on his adverse

fate. He was a man, finely educated, of great parts, with immense

capacity for work, physically strong very much beyond the average

of men, addicted to no vices, carried off by no pleasures, affectionate

by nature, most anxious for the welfare of his children, born to

fair fortunes,--who, when he started in the world, may be said to

have had everything at his feet. But everything went wrong with

him. The touch of his hand seemed to create failure. He embarked

in one hopeless enterprise after another, spending on each all the

money he could at the time command. But the worse curse to him of

all was a temper so irritable that even those whom he loved the

best could not endure it. We were all estranged from him, and yet

I believe that he would have given his heart's blood for any of

us. His life as I knew it was one long tragedy.

After his death my mother moved to England, and took and furnished

a small house at Hadley, near Barnet. I was then a clerk in the

London Post Office, and I remember well how gay she made the place

with little dinners, little dances, and little picnics, while

she herself was at work every morning long before others had left

their beds. But she did not stay at Hadley much above a year. She

went up to London, where she again took and furnished a house,

from which my remaining sister was married and carried away into

Cumberland. My mother soon followed her, and on this occasion did

more than take a house. She bought a bit of land,--a field of three

acres near the town,--and built a residence for herself. This, I

think, was in 1841, and she had thus established and re-established

herself six times in ten years. But in Cumberland she found the

climate too severe, and in 1844 she moved herself to Florence,

where she remained till her death in 1863. She continued writing

up to 1856, when she was seventy-six years old,--and had at that

time produced 114 volumes, of which the first was not written till

she was fifty. Her career offers great encouragement to those who

have not begun early in life, but are still ambitious to do something

before they depart hence.

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.

CHAPTER III The general post office 1834-1841

While I was still learning my duty as an usher at Mr. Drury's

school at Brussels, I was summoned to my clerkship in the London

Post Office, and on my way passed through Bruges. I then saw my

father and my brother Henry for the last time. A sadder household

never was held together. They were all dying; except my mother, who

would sit up night after night nursing the dying ones and writing

novels the while,--so that there might be a decent roof for them

to die under. Had she failed to write the novels, I do not know

where the roof would have been found. It is now more that forty

years ago, and looking back over so long a lapse of time I can tell

the story, though it be the story of my own father and mother, of

my own brother and sister, almost as coldly as I have often done

some scene of intended pathos in fiction; but that scene was indeed

full of pathos. I was then becoming alive to the blighted ambition

of my father's life, and becoming alive also to the violence of the

strain which my mother was enduring. But I could do nothing but go

and leave them. There was something that comforted me in the idea

that I need no longer be a burden,--a fallacious idea, as it soon

proved. My salary was to be (pounds)90 a year, and on that I was to live

in (pounds)ondon, keep up my character as a gentleman, and be happy.

That I should have thought this possible at the age of nineteen,

and should have been delighted at being able to make the attempt,

does not surprise me now; but that others should have thought it

possible, friends who knew something of the world, does astonish

me. A lad might have done so, no doubt, or might do so even in

these days, who was properly looked after and kept under control,--on

whose behalf some law of life had been laid down. Let him pay so

much a week for his board and lodging, so much for his clothes, so

much for his washing, and then let him understand that he has--shall

we say?--sixpence a day left for pocket-money and omnibuses. Any

one making the calculation will find the sixpence far too much. No

such calculation was made for me or by me. It was supposed that a

sufficient income had been secured to me, and that I should live

upon it as other clerks lived.

But as yet the (pounds)90 a year was not secured to me. On reaching London

I went to my friend Clayton Freeling, who was then secretary at

the Stamp Office, and was taken by him to the scene of my future

labours in St. Martin's le Grand. Sir Francis Freeling was the

secretary, but he was greatly too high an official to be seen at

first by a new junior clerk. I was taken, therefore, to his eldest

son Henry Freeling, who was the assistant secretary, and by him

I was examined as to my fitness. The story of that examination is

given accurately in one of the opening chapters of a novel written

by me, called The Three Clerks. If any reader of this memoir would

refer to that chapter and see how Charley Tudor was supposed to have

been admitted into the Internal Navigation Office, that reader

will learn how Anthony Trollope was actually admitted into the

Secretary's office of the General Post Office in 1834. I was asked

to copy some lines from the Times newspaper with an old quill pen,

and at once made a series of blots and false spellings. "That

won't do, you know," said Henry Freeling to his brother Clayton.

Clayton, who was my friend, urged that I was nervous, and asked

that I might be allowed to do a bit of writing at home and bring

it as a sample on the next day. I was then asked whether I was

a proficient in arithmetic. What could I say? I had never learned

the multiplication table, and had no more idea of the rule of three

than of conic sections. "I know a little of it," I said humbly,

whereupon I was sternly assured that on the morrow, should I succeed

in showing that my handwriting was all that it ought to be, I should

be examined as to that little of arithmetic. If that little should

not be found to comprise a thorough knowledge of all the ordinary

rules, together with practised and quick skill, my career in life

could not be made at the Post Office. Going down the main stairs

of the building,--stairs which have I believe been now pulled down

to make room for sorters and stampers,--Clayton Freeling told me

not to be too down-hearted. I was myself inclined to think that I

had better go back to the school in Brussels. But nevertheless I

went to work, and under the surveillance of my elder brother made

a beautiful transcript of four or five pages of Gibbon. With a

faltering heart I took these on the next day to the office. With

my caligraphy I was contented, but was certain that I should come

to the ground among the figures. But when I got to "The Grand,"

as we used to call our office in those days, from its site in

St. Martin's le Grand, I was seated at a desk without any further

reference to my competency. No one condescended even to look at my

beautiful penmanship.

That was the way in which candidates for the Civil Service were

examined in my young days. It was at any rate the way in which I

was examined. Since that time there has been a very great change

indeed;--and in some respects a great improvement. But in regard

to the absolute fitness of the young men selected for the public

service, I doubt whether more harm has not been done than good. And

I think that good might have been done without the harm. The rule

of the present day is, that every place shall be open to public

competition, and that it shall be given to the best among the

comers. I object to this, that at present there exists no known

mode of learning who is best, and that the method employed has no

tendency to elicit the best. That method pretends only to decide

who among a certain number of lads will best answer a string of

questions, for the answering of which they are prepared by tutors,

who have sprung up for the purpose since this fashion of election

has been adopted. When it is decided in a family that a boy shall

"try the Civil Service," he is made to undergo a certain amount of

cramming. But such treatment has, I maintain, no connection whatever

with education. The lad is no better fitted after it than he was

before for the future work of his life. But his very success fills

him with false ideas of his own educational standing, and so far

unfits him. And, by the plan now in vogue, it has come to pass that

no one is in truth responsible either for the conduct, the manners,

or even for the character of the youth. The responsibility was

perhaps slight before; but existed, and was on the increase.

There might have been,--in some future time of still increased

wisdom, there yet may be,--a department established to test the

fitness of acolytes without recourse to the dangerous optimism of

competitive choice. I will not say but that there should have been

some one to reject me,--though I will have the hardihood to say

that, had I been so rejected, the Civil Service would have lost

a valuable public servant. This is a statement that will not, I

think, be denied by those who, after I am gone, may remember anything

of my work. Lads, no doubt, should not be admitted who have none of

the small acquirements that are wanted. Our offices should not be

schools in which writing and early lessons in geography, arithmetic,

or French should be learned. But all that could be ascertained

without the perils of competitive examination.

The desire to insure the efficiency of the young men selected, has

not been the only object--perhaps not the chief object--of those

who have yielded in this matter to the arguments of the reformers.

There had arisen in England a system of patronage, under which it

had become gradually necessary for politicians to use their influence

for the purchase of political support. A member of the House of

Commons, holding office, who might chance to have five clerkships

to give away in a year, found himself compelled to distribute them

among those who sent him to the House. In this there was nothing

pleasant to the distributer of patronage. Do away with the system

altogether, and he would have as much chance of support as another.

He bartered his patronage only because another did so also. The

beggings, the refusings, the jealousies, the correspondence, were

simply troublesome. Gentlemen in office were not therefore indisposed

to rid themselves of the care of patronage. I have no doubt their

hands are the cleaner and their hearts are the lighter; but I do

doubt whether the offices are on the whole better manned.

As what I now write will certainly never be read till I am dead, I

may dare to say what no one now does dare to say in print,--though

some of us whisper it occasionally into our friends' ears. There

are places in life which can hardly be well filled except by

"Gentlemen." The word is one the use of which almost subjects one

to ignominy. If I say that a judge should be a gentleman, or a

bishop, I am met with a scornful allusion to "Nature's Gentlemen."

Were I to make such an assertion with reference to the House of

Commons, nothing that I ever said again would receive the slightest

attention. A man in public life could not do himself a greater

injury than by saying in public that the commissions in the army or

navy, or berths in the Civil Service, should be given exclusively

to gentlemen. He would be defied to define the term,--and would

fail should he attempt to do so. But he would know what he meant,

and so very probably would they who defied him. It may be that the

son of a butcher of the village shall become as well fitted for

employments requiring gentle culture as the son of the parson.

Such is often the case. When such is the case, no one has been more

prone to give the butcher's son all the welcome he has merited than

I myself; but the chances are greatly in favour of the parson's son.

The gates of the one class should be open to the other; but neither

to the one class nor to the other can good be done by declaring

that there are no gates, no barrier, no difference. The system of

competitive examination is, I think, based on a supposition that

there is no difference.

I got into my place without any examining. Looking back now, I think

I can see with accuracy what was then the condition of my own mind

and intelligence. Of things to be learned by lessons I knew almost

less than could be supposed possible after the amount of schooling

I had received. I could read neither French, Latin, nor Greek.

I could speak no foreign language,--and I may as well say here as

elsewhere that I never acquired the power of really talking French.

I have been able to order my dinner and take a railway ticket, but

never got much beyond that. Of the merest rudiments of the sciences

I was completely ignorant. My handwriting was in truth wretched. My

spelling was imperfect. There was no subject as to which examination

would have been possible on which I could have gone through an

examination otherwise than disgracefully. And yet I think I knew

more than the average young men of the same rank who began life at

nineteen. I could have given a fuller list of the names of the poets

of all countries, with their subjects and periods,--and probably

of historians,--than many others; and had, perhaps, a more accurate

idea of the manner in which my own country was governed. I knew the

names of all the Bishops, all the Judges, all the Heads of Colleges,

and all the Cabinet Ministers,--not a very useful knowledge indeed,

but one that had not been acquired without other matter which was

more useful. I had read Shakespeare and Byron and Scott, and could

talk about them. The music of the Miltonic line was familiar to

me. I had already made up my mind that Pride and Prejudice was the

best novel in the English language,--a palm which I only partially

withdrew after a second reading of Ivanhoe, and did not completely

bestow elsewhere till Esmond was written. And though I would

occasionally break down in my spelling, I could write a letter. If

I had a thing to say, I could so say it in written words that the

readers should know what I meant,--a power which is by no means

at the command of all those who come out from these competitive

examinations with triumph. Early in life, at the age of fifteen,

I had commenced the dangerous habit of keeping a journal, and this

I maintained for ten years. The volumes remained in my possession

unregarded--never looked at--till 1870, when I examined them, and,

with many blushes, destroyed them. They convicted me of folly,

ignorance, indiscretion, idleness, extravagance, and conceit. But

they had habituated me to the rapid use of pen and ink, and taught

me how to express myself with faculty.

I will mention here another habit which had grown upon me from

still earlier years,--which I myself often regarded with dismay

when I thought of the hours devoted to it, but which, I suppose,

must have tended to make me what I have been. As a boy, even as a

child, I was thrown much upon myself. I have explained, when speaking

of my school-days, how it came to pass that other boys would not

play with me. I was therefore alone, and had to form my plays

within myself. Play of some kind was necessary to me then, as it

always has been. Study was not my bent, and I could not please

myself by being all idle. Thus it came to pass that I was always

going about with some castle in the air firmly build within my

mind. Nor were these efforts in architecture spasmodic, or subject

to constant change from day to day. For weeks, for months, if

I remember rightly, from year to year, I would carry on the same

tale, binding myself down to certain laws, to certain proportions,

and proprieties, and unities. Nothing impossible was ever

introduced,--nor even anything which, from outward circumstances,

would seem to be violently improbable. I myself was of course my own

hero. Such is a necessity of castle-building. But I never became a

king, or a duke,--much less when my height and personal appearance

were fixed could I be an Antinous, or six feet high. I never was

a learned man, nor even a philosopher. But I was a very clever

person, and beautiful young women used to be fond of me. And I

strove to be kind of heart, and open of hand, and noble in thought,

despising mean things; and altogether I was a very much better

fellow than I have ever succeeded in being since. This had been

the occupation of my life for six or seven years before I went to

the Post Office, and was by no means abandoned when I commenced

my work. There can, I imagine, hardly be a more dangerous mental

practice; but I have often doubted whether, had it not been my

practice, I should ever have written a novel. I learned in this way

to maintain an interest in a fictitious story, to dwell on a work

created by my own imagination, and to live in a world altogether

outside the world of my own material life. In after years I have

done the same,--with this difference, that I have discarded the

hero of my early dreams, and have been able to lay my own identity


I must certainly acknowledge that the first seven years of my

official life were neither creditable to myself nor useful to the

public service. These seven years were passed in London, and during

this period of my life it was my duty to be present every morning

at the office punctually at 10 A.M. I think I commenced my quarrels

with the authorities there by having in my possession a watch

which was always ten minutes late. I know that I very soon achieved

a character for irregularity, and came to be regarded as a black

sheep by men around me who were not themselves, I think, very

good public servants. From time to time rumours reached me that if

I did not take care I should be dismissed; especially one rumour

in my early days, through my dearly beloved friend Mrs. Clayton

Freeling,--who, as I write this, is still living, and who, with

tears in her eyes, besought me to think of my mother. That was during

the life of Sir Francis Freeling, who died,--still in harness,--a

little more than twelve months after I joined the office. And yet

the old man showed me signs of almost affectionate kindness, writing

to me with his own hand more than once from his death-bed.

Sir Francis Freeling was followed at the Post Office by Colonel

Maberly, who certainly was not my friend. I do not know that I

deserved to find a friend in my new master, but I think that a man

with better judgment would not have formed so low an opinion of

me as he did. Years have gone by, and I can write now, and almost

feel, without anger; but I can remember well the keenness of my

anguish when I was treated as though I were unfit for any useful

work. I did struggle--not to do the work, for there was nothing

which was not easy without any struggling--but to show that I

was willing to do it. My bad character nevertheless stuck to me,

and was not to be got rid of by any efforts within my power. I do

admit that I was irregular. It was not considered to be much in

my favour that I could write letters--which was mainly the work of

our office--rapidly, correctly, and to the purpose. The man who

came at ten, and who was always still at his desk at half-past four,

was preferred before me, though when at his desk he might be less

efficient. Such preference was no doubt proper; but, with a little

encouragement, I also would have been punctual. I got credit for

nothing and was reckless.

As it was, the conduct of some of us was very bad. There was a

comfortable sitting-room up-stairs, devoted to the use of some one

of our number who in turn was required to remain in the place all

night. Hither one or two of us would adjourn after lunch, and

play ecarte for an hour or two. I do not know whether such ways

are possible now in our public offices. And here we used to have

suppers and card-parties at night--great symposiums, with much

smoking of tobacco; for in our part of the building there lived a

whole bevy of clerks. These were gentlemen whose duty it then was

to make up and receive the foreign mails. I do not remember that

they worked later or earlier than the other sorting-clerks; but

there was supposed to be something special in foreign letters,

which required that the men who handled them should have minds

undistracted by the outer world. Their salaries, too, were higher

than those of their more homely brethren; and they paid nothing

for their lodgings. Consequently there was a somewhat fast set in

those apartments, given to cards and to tobacco, who drank spirits

and water in preference to tea. I was not one of them, but was a

good deal with them.

I do not know that I should interest my readers by saying much of

my Post Office experiences in those days. I was always on the eve

of being dismissed, and yet was always striving to show how good a

public servant I could become, if only a chance were given me. But

the chance went the wrong way. On one occasion, in the performance

of my duty, I had to put a private letter containing bank-notes on

the secretary's table,--which letter I had duly opened, as it was

not marked private. The letter was seen by the Colonel, but had

not been moved by him when he left the room. On his return it was

gone. In the meantime I had returned to the room, again in the

performance of some duty. When the letter was missed I was sent

for, and there I found the Colonel much moved about his letter, and

a certain chief clerk, who, with a long face, was making suggestions

as to the probable fate of the money. "The letter has been taken,"

said the Colonel, turning to me angrily, "and, by G----! there has

been nobody in the room but you and I." As he spoke, he thundered

his fist down upon the table. "Then," said I, "by G----! you have

taken it." And I also thundered my fist down;--but, accidentally,

not upon the table. There was there a standing movable desk, at

which, I presume, it was the Colonel's habit to write, and on this

movable desk was a large bottle full of ink. My fist unfortunately

came on the desk, and the ink at once flew up, covering the Colonel's

face and shirt-front. Then it was a sight to see that senior clerk,

as he seized a quite of blotting-paper, and rushed to the aid of his

superior officer, striving to mop up the ink; and a sight also to

see the Colonel, in his agony, hit right out through the blotting-paper

at that senior clerk's unoffending stomach. At that moment there

came in the Colonel's private secretary, with the letter and the

money, and I was desired to go back to my own room. This was an

incident not much in my favour, though I do not know that it did

me special harm.

I was always in trouble. A young woman down in the country had

taken it into her head that she would like to marry me,--and a very

foolish young woman she must have been to entertain such a wish.

I need not tell that part of the story more at length, otherwise

than by protesting that no young man in such a position was ever

much less to blame than I had been in this. The invitation had

come from her, and I had lacked the pluck to give it a decided

negative; but I had left the house within half an hour, going away

without my dinner, and had never returned to it. Then there was a

correspondence,--if that can be called a correspondence in which

all the letters came from one side. At last the mother appeared at

the Post Office. My hair almost stands on my head now as I remember

the figure of the woman walking into the big room in which I sat

with six or seven other clerks, having a large basket on her arm and

an immense bonnet on her head. The messenger had vainly endeavoured

to persuade her to remain in the ante-room. She followed the man

in, and walking up the centre of the room, addressed me in a loud

voice: "Anthony Trollope, when are you going to marry my daughter?"

We have all had our worst moments, and that was one of my worst. I

lived through it, however, and did not marry the young lady. These

little incidents were all against me in the office.

And then a certain other phase of my private life crept into official

view, and did me a damage. As I shall explain just now, I rarely

at this time had any money wherewith to pay my bills. In this state

of things a certain tailor had taken from me an acceptance for, I

think, (pounds)12, which found its way into the hands of a money-lender.

With that man, who lived in a little street near Mecklenburgh Square,

I formed a most heart-rending but a most intimate acquaintance.

In cash I once received from him (pounds)4. For that and for the original

amount of the tailor's bill, which grew monstrously under repeated

renewals, I paid ultimately something over (pounds)200. That is so common

a story as to be hardly worth the telling; but the peculiarity of

this man was that he became so attached to me as to visit me every

day at my office. For a long period he found it to be worth his

while to walk up those stone steps daily, and come and stand behind

my chair, whispering to me always the same words: "Now I wish you

would be punctual. If you only would be punctual, I should like

you to have anything you want." He was a little, clean, old man,

who always wore a high starched white cravat inside of which he

had a habit of twisting his chin as he uttered his caution. When I

remember the constant persistency of his visits, I cannot but feel

that he was paid very badly for his time and trouble. Those visits

were very terrible, and can have hardly been of service to me in

the office.

Of one other misfortune which happened to me in those days I must

tell the tale. A junior clerk in the secretary's office was always

told off to sleep upon the premises, and he was supposed to be the

presiding genius of the establishment when the other members of

the Secretary's department had left the building. On an occasion

when I was still little more than a lad,--perhaps one-and-twenty

years old,--I was filling this responsible position. At about seven

in the evening word was brought to me that the Queen of,--I think

Saxony, but I am sure it was a Queen,--wanted to see the night

mails sent out. At this time, when there were many mail-coaches,

this was a show, and august visitors would sometimes come to see

it. But preparation was generally made beforehand, and some pundit

of the office would be at hand to do the honours. On this occasion

we were taken by surprise, and there was no pundit. I therefore

gave the orders, and accompanied her Majesty around the building,

walking backwards, as I conceived to be proper, and often in great

peril as I did so, up and down the stairs. I was, however, quite

satisfied with my own manner of performing an unaccustomed and most

important duty. There were two old gentlemen with her Majesty, who,

no doubt, were German barons, and an ancient baroness also. They

had come and, when they had seen the sights, took their departure

in two glass coaches. As they were preparing to go, I saw the two

barons consulting together in deep whispers, and then as the result

of that conversation one of them handed me a half-a-crown! That

also was a bad moment.

I came up to town, as I said before, purporting to live a jolly

life upon (pounds)90 per annum. I remained seven years in the General Post

Office, and when I left it my income was (pounds)140. During the whole

of this time I was hopelessly in debt. There were two intervals,

amounting together to nearly two years, in which I lived with

my mother, and therefore lived in comfort,--but even then I was

overwhelmed with debt. She paid much for me,--paid all that I

asked her to pay, and all that she could find out that I owed. But

who in such a condition ever tells all and makes a clean breast of

it? The debts, of course, were not large, but I cannot think now

how I could have lived, and sometimes have enjoyed life, with such

a burden of duns as I endured. Sheriff's officers with uncanny

documents, of which I never understood anything, were common

attendants on me. And yet I do not remember that I was ever locked

up, though I think I was twice a prisoner. In such emergencies some

one paid for me. And now, looking back at it, I have to ask myself

whether my youth was very wicked. I did no good in it; but was there

fair ground for expecting good from me? When I reached London no

mode of life was prepared for me,--no advice even given to me. I

went into lodgings, and then had to dispose of my time. I belonged

to no club, and knew very few friends who would receive me into

their houses. In such a condition of life a young man should no

doubt go home after his work, and spend the long hours of the evening

in reading good books and drinking tea. A lad brought up by strict

parents, and without having had even a view of gayer things, might

perhaps do so. I had passed all my life at public schools, where I

had seen gay things, but had never enjoyed them. Towards the good

books and tea no training had been given me. There was no house in

which I could habitually see a lady's face and hear a lady's voice.

No allurement to decent respectability came in my way. It seems to

me that in such circumstances the temptations of loose life will

almost certainly prevail with a young man. Of course if the mind be

strong enough, and the general stuff knitted together of sufficiently

stern material, the temptations will not prevail. But such minds

and such material are, I think, uncommon. The temptation at any

rate prevailed with me.

I wonder how many young men fall utterly to pieces from being turned

loose into London after the same fashion. Mine was, I think, of

all phases of such life the most dangerous. The lad who is sent

to mechanical work has longer hours, during which he is kept from

danger, and has not generally been taught in his boyhood to anticipate

pleasure. He looks for hard work and grinding circumstances.

I certainly had enjoyed but little pleasure, but I had been among

those who did enjoy it and were taught to expect it. And I had

filled my mind with the ideas of such joys.

And now, except during official hours, I was entirely without

control,--without the influences of any decent household around me.

I have said something of the comedy of such life, but it certainly

had its tragic aspect. Turning it all over in my own mind, as I

have constantly done in after years, the tragedy has always been

uppermost. And so it was as the time was passing. Could there be

any escape from such dirt? I would ask myself; and I always answered

that there was no escape. The mode of life was itself wretched. I

hated the office. I hated my work. More than all I hated my idleness.

I had often told myself since I left school that the only career in

life within my reach was that of an author, and the only mode of

authorship open to me that of a writer of novels. In the journal which

I read and destroyed a few years since, I found the matter argued

out before I had been in the Post Office two years. Parliament was

out of the question. I had not means to go to the Bar. In Official

life, such as that to which I had been introduced, there did not

seem to be any opening for real success. Pens and paper I could

command. Poetry I did not believe to be within my grasp. The drama,

too, which I would fain have chosen, I believed to be above me. For

history, biography, or essay writing I had not sufficient erudition.

But I thought it possible that I might write a novel. I had resolved

very early that in that shape must the attempt be made. But the

months and years ran on, and no attempt was made. And yet no day was

passed without thoughts of attempting, and a mental acknowledgment

of the disgrace of postponing it. What reader will not understand

the agony of remorse produced by such a condition of mind?

The gentleman from Mecklenburgh Square was always with me in the

morning,--always angering me by his hateful presence,--but when the

evening came I could make no struggle towards getting rid of him.

In those days I read a little, and did learn to read French and

Latin. I made myself familiar with Horace, and became acquainted with

the works of our own greatest poets. I had my strong enthusiasms,

and remember throwing out of the window in Northumberland Street,

where I lived, a volume of Johnson's Lives of the Poets, because

he spoke sneeringly of Lycidas. That was Northumberland Street by

the Marylebone Workhouse, on to the back-door of which establishment

my room looked out--a most dreary abode, at which I fancy I must

have almost ruined the good-natured lodging-house keeper by my

constant inability to pay her what I owed.

How I got my daily bread I can hardly remember. But I do remember

that I was often unable to get myself a dinner. Young men generally

now have their meals provided for them. I kept house, as it were.

Every day I had to find myself with the day's food. For my breakfast

I could get some credit at the lodgings, though that credit would

frequently come to an end. But for all that I had often breakfast

to pay day by day; and at your eating-house credit is not given. I

had no friends on whom I could sponge regularly. Out on the Fulham

Road I had an uncle, but his house was four miles from the Post

Office, and almost as far from my own lodgings. Then came borrowings

of money, sometimes absolute want, and almost constant misery.

Before I tell how it came about that I left this wretched life,

I must say a word or two of the friendships which lessened its

misfortunes. My earliest friend in life was John Merivale, with whom

I had been at school at Sunbury and Harrow, and who was a nephew

of my tutor, Harry Drury. Herman Merivale, who afterwards became my

friend, was his brother, as is also Charles Merivale, the historian

and Dean of Ely. I knew John when I was ten years old, and am happy

to be able to say that he is going to dine with me one day this

week. I hope I may not injure his character by stating that in those

days I lived very much with him. He, too, was impecunious, but he

had a home in London, and knew but little of the sort of penury

which I endured. For more than fifty years he and I have been close

friends. And then there was one W---- A----, whose misfortunes in

life will not permit me to give his full name, but whom I dearly

loved. He had been at Winchester and at Oxford, and at both places

had fallen into trouble. He then became a schoolmaster,--or perhaps

I had better say usher,--and finally he took orders. But he was

unfortunate in all things, and died some years ago in poverty. He

was most perverse; bashful to very fear of a lady's dress; unable

to restrain himself in anything, but yet with a conscience that

was always stinging him; a loving friend, though very quarrelsome;

and, perhaps, of all men I have known, the most humorous. And he

was entirely unconscious of his own humour. He did not know that

he could so handle all matters as to create infinite amusement out

of them. Poor W---- A----! To him there came no happy turning-point

at which life loomed seriously on him, and then became prosperous.

W---- A----, Merivale, and I formed a little club, which we called

the Tramp Society, and subjected to certain rules, in obedience to

which we wandered on foot about the counties adjacent to London.

Southampton was the furthest point we ever reached; but Buckinghamshire

and Hertfordshire were more dear to us. These were the happiest

hours of my then life--and perhaps not the least innocent, although

we were frequently in peril from the village authorities whom we

outraged. Not to pay for any conveyance, never to spend above five

shillings a day, to obey all orders from the elected ruler of the

hour (this enforced under heavy fines), were among our statutes.

I would fain tell here some of our adventures:--how A---- enacted

an escaped madman and we his pursuing keepers, and so got ourselves

a lift in a cart, from which we ran away as we approached the

lunatic asylum; how we were turned out of a little town at night,

the townsfolk frightened by the loudness of our mirth; and how we

once crept into a hayloft and were wakened in the dark morning by

a pitchfork,--and how the juvenile owner of that pitchfork fled

through the window when he heard the complaints of the wounded man!

But the fun was the fun of W---- A----, and would cease to be fun

as told by me.

It was during these years that John Tilley, who has now been for

many years the permanent senior officer of the Post Office, married

my sister, whom he took with him into Cumberland, where he was

stationed as one of our surveyors. He has been my friend for more

than forty years; as has also Peregrine Birch, a clerk in the House

of Lords, who married one of those daughters of Colonel Grant who

assisted us in the raid we made on the goods which had been seized

by the Sheriff's officer at Harrow. These have been the oldest and

dearest friends of my life, and I can thank God that three of them

are still alive.

When I had been nearly seven years in the Secretary's office of

the Post Office, always hating my position there, and yet always

fearing that I should be dismissed from it, there came a way of

escape. There had latterly been created in the service a new body

of officers called surveyors' clerks. There were at that time

seven surveyors in England, two in Scotland and three in Ireland.

To each of these officers a clerk had been lately attached, whose

duty it was to travel about the country under the surveyor's orders.

There had been much doubt among the young men in the office whether

they should or should not apply for these places. The emoluments

were good and the work alluring; but there was at first supposed

to be something derogatory in the position. There was a rumour that

the first surveyor who got a clerk sent the clerk out to fetch his

beer, and that another had called upon his clerk to send the linen

to the wash. There was, however, a conviction that nothing could be

worse than the berth of a surveyor's clerk in Ireland. The clerks

were all appointed, however. To me it had not occurred to ask for

anything, nor would anything have been given me. But after a while

there came a report from the far west of Ireland that the man sent

there was absurdly incapable. It was probably thought then that

none but a man absurdly incapable would go on such a mission to the

west of Ireland. When the report reached the London office I was

the first to read it. I was at that time in dire trouble, having

debts on my head and quarrels with our Secretary-Colonel, and a

full conviction that my life was taking me downwards to the lowest

pits. So I went to the Colonel boldly, and volunteered for Ireland

if he would send me. He was glad to be so rid of me, and I went.

This happened in August, 1841, when I was twenty-six years old. My

salary in Ireland was to be but (pounds)100 a year; but I was to receive

fifteen shillings a day for every day that I was away from home,

and sixpence for every mile that I travelled. The same allowances

were made in England; but at that time travelling in Ireland was

done at half the English prices. My income in Ireland, after paying

my expenses, became at once (pounds)400. This was the first good fortune

of my life.

CHAPTER IV Ireland--my first two novels 1841-1848

In the preceding pages I have given a short record of the first

twenty-six years of my life,--years of suffering, disgrace, and

inward remorse. I fear that my mode of telling will have left an idea

simply of their absurdities; but, in truth, I was wretched,--sometimes

almost unto death, and have often cursed the hour in which I was

born. There had clung to me a feeling that I had been looked upon

always as an evil, an encumbrance, a useless thing,--as a creature

of whom those connected with him had to be ashamed. And I feel

certain now that in my young days I was so regarded. Even my few

friends who had found with me a certain capacity for enjoyment were

half afraid of me. I acknowledge the weakness of a great desire to

be loved,--of a strong wish to be popular with my associates. No

child, no boy, no lad, no young man, had ever been less so. And I

had been so poor, and so little able to bear poverty. But from the

day on which I set my foot in Ireland all these evils went away

from me. Since that time who has had a happier life than mine?

Looking round upon all those I know, I cannot put my hand upon

one. But all is not over yet. And, mindful of that, remembering

how great is the agony of adversity, how crushing the despondency

of degradation, how susceptible I am myself to the misery coming

from contempt,--remembering also how quickly good things may go

and evil things come,--I am often again tempted to hope, almost to

pray, that the end may be near. Things may be going well now--

"Sin aliquem infandum casum, Fortuna, minaris;

Nunc, o nunc liceat crudelem abrumpere vitam."

There is unhappiness so great that the very fear of it is an alloy

to happiness. I had then lost my father, and sister, and brother,--have

since lost another sister and my mother;--but I have never as yet

lost a wife or a child.

When I told my friends that I was going on this mission to Ireland

they shook their heads, but said nothing to dissuade me. I think

it must have been evident to all who were my friends that my life

in London was not a success. My mother and elder brother were

at this time abroad, and were not consulted;--did not even know

my intention in time to protest against it. Indeed, I consulted

no one, except a dear old cousin, our family lawyer, from whom I

borrowed (pounds)200 to help me out of England. He lent me the money, and

looked upon me with pitying eyes--shaking his head. "After all,

you were right to go," he said to me when I paid him the money a

few years afterwards.

But nobody then thought I was right to go. To become clerk to

an Irish surveyor, in Connaught, with a salary of (pounds)100 a year, at

twenty-six years of age! I did not think it right even myself,--except

that anything was right which would take me away from the General

Post Office and from London.

My ideas of the duties I was to perform were very vague, as were

also my ideas of Ireland generally. Hitherto I had passed my time,

seated at a desk, either writing letters myself, or copying into

books those which others had written. I had never been called upon

to do anything I was unable or unfitted to do. I now understood that

in Ireland I was to be a deputy-inspector of country post offices,

and that among other things to be inspected would be the postmasters'

accounts! But as no other person asked a question as to my fitness

for this work, it seemed unnecessary for me to do so.

On the 15th of September, 1841, I landed in Dublin, without an

acquaintance in the country, and with only two or three letters of

introduction from a brother clerk in the Post Office. I had learned

to think that Ireland was a land flowing with fun and whisky, in

which irregularity was the rule of life, and where broken heads were

looked upon as honourable badges. I was to live at a place called

Banagher, on the Shannon, which I had heard of because of its having

once been conquered, though it had heretofore conquered everything,

including the devil. And from Banagher my inspecting tours were to

be made, chiefly into Connaught, but also over a strip of country

eastwards, which would enable me occasionally to run up to Dublin.

I went to a hotel which was very dirty, and after dinner I ordered

some whisky punch. There was an excitement in this, but when the

punch was gone I was very dull. It seemed so strange to be in a

country in which there was not a single individual whom I had ever

spoken to or ever seen. And it was to be my destiny to go down into

Connaught and adjust accounts,--the destiny of me who had never

learned the multiplication table, or done a sum in long division!

On the next morning I called on the Secretary of the Irish Post

Office, and learned from him that Colonel Maberly had sent a very

bad character with me. He could not have sent a very good one; but

I felt a little hurt when I was informed by this new master that he

had been informed that I was worthless, and must, in all probability,

be dismissed. "But," said the new master, "I shall judge you by your

own merits." From that time to the day on which I left the service,

I never heard a word of censure, nor had many months passed before

I found that my services were valued. Before a year was over, I

had acquired the character of a thoroughly good public servant.

The time went very pleasantly. Some adventures I had;--two of

which I told in the Tales of All Countries, under the names of The

O'Conors of Castle Conor, and Father Giles of Ballymoy. I will not

swear to every detail in these stories, but the main purport of

each is true. I could tell many others of the same nature, were

this the place for them. I found that the surveyor to whom I had

been sent kept a pack of hounds, and therefore I bought a hunter.

I do not think he liked it, but he could not well complain. He never

rode to hounds himself, but I did; and then and thus began one of

the great joys of my life. I have ever since been constant to the

sport, having learned to love it with an affection which I cannot

myself fathom or understand. Surely no man has laboured at it as I

have done, or hunted under such drawbacks as to distances, money, and

natural disadvantages. I am very heavy, very blind, have been--in

reference to hunting--a poor man, and am now an old man. I have

often had to travel all night outside a mail-coach, in order that

I might hunt the next day. Nor have I ever been in truth a good

horseman. And I have passed the greater part of my hunting life

under the discipline of the Civil Service. But it has been for

more than thirty years a duty to me to ride to hounds; and I have

performed that duty with a persistent energy. Nothing has ever

been allowed to stand in the way of hunting,--neither the writing

of books, nor the work of the Post Office, nor other pleasures.

As regarded the Post Office, it soon seemed to be understood that

I was to hunt; and when my services were re-transferred to England,

no word of difficulty ever reached me about it. I have written on

very many subjects, and on most of them with pleasure, but on no

subject with such delight as that on hunting. I have dragged it

into many novels,--into too many, no doubt,--but I have always felt

myself deprived of a legitimate joy when the nature of the tale has

not allowed me a hunting chapter. Perhaps that which gave me the

greatest delight was the description of a run on a horse accidentally

taken from another sportsman--a circumstance which occurred to my

dear friend Charles Buxton, who will be remembered as one of the

members for Surrey.

It was altogether a very jolly life that I led in Ireland. I

was always moving about, and soon found myself to be in pecuniary

circumstances which were opulent in comparison with those of my

past life. The Irish people did not murder me, nor did they even

break my head. I soon found them to be good-humoured, clever--the

working classes very much more intelligent than those of

England--economical, and hospitable. We hear much of their spendthrift

nature; but extravagance is not the nature of an Irishman. He

will count the shillings in a pound much more accurately than an

Englishman, and will with much more certainty get twelve pennyworth

from each. But they are perverse, irrational, and but little bound

by the love of truth. I lived for many years among them--not finally

leaving the country until 1859, and I had the means of studying

their character.

I had not been a fortnight in Ireland before I was sent down to a

little town in the far west of county Galway, to balance a defaulting

postmaster's accounts, find out how much he owed, and report upon

his capacity to pay. In these days such accounts are very simple.

They adjust themselves from day to day, and a Post Office surveyor

has nothing to do with them. At that time, though the sums dealt

with were small, the forms of dealing with them were very intricate.

I went to work, however, and made that defaulting postmaster teach

me the use of those forms. I then succeeded in balancing the account,

and had no difficulty whatever in reporting that he was altogether

unable to pay his debt. Of course, he was dismissed; but he had

been a very useful man to me. I never had any further difficulty

in the matter.

But my chief work was the investigating of complaints made by the

public as to postal matters. The practice of the office was and

is to send one of its servants to the spot to see the complainant

and to inquire into the facts, when the complainant is sufficiently

energetic or sufficiently big to make himself well heard. A great

expense is often incurred for a very small object; but the system

works well on the whole, as confidence is engendered, and a feeling

is produced in the country that the department has eyes of its own

and does keep them open. This employment was very pleasant, and

to me always easy, as it required at its close no more than the

writing of a report. There were no accounts in this business, no

keeping of books, no necessary manipulation of multitudinous forms.

I must tell of one such complaint and inquiry, because in its result

I think it was emblematic of many.

A gentleman in county Cavan had complained most bitterly of the

injury done to him by some arrangement of the Post Office. The

nature of his grievance has no present significance; but it was

so unendurable that he had written many letters, couched in the

strongest language. He was most irate, and indulged himself in

that scorn which is easy to an angry mind. The place was not in my

district, but I was borrowed, being young and strong, that I might

remember the edge of his personal wrath. It was mid-winter, and I

drove up to his house, a squire's country seat, in the middle of a

snowstorm, just as it was becoming dark. I was on an open jaunting

car, and was on my way from one little town to another, the cause

of his complaint having reference to some mail conveyance between

the two. I was certainly very cold, and very wet, and very

uncomfortable when I entered his house. I was admitted by a butler,

but the gentleman himself hurried into the hall. I at once began to

explain my business. "God bless me!" he said, "you are wet through.

John, get Mr. Trollope some brandy and water--very hot." I was

beginning my story about the post again when he himself took off my

greatcoat, and suggested that I should go up to my bedroom before

I troubled myself with business. "Bedroom!" I exclaimed. Then

he assured me that he would not turn a dog out on such a night as

that, and into a bedroom I was shown, having first drank the brandy

and water standing at the drawing-room fire. When I came down I was

introduced to his daughter, and the three of us went in to dinner.

I shall never forget his righteous indignation when I again brought

up the postal question on the departure of the young lady. Was I

such a Goth as to contaminate wine with business? So I drank my

wine, and then heard the young lady sing while her father slept

in his armchair. I spent a very pleasant evening, but my host was

too sleepy to hear anything about the Post Office that night. It

was absolutely necessary that I should go away the next morning

after breakfast, and I explained that the matter must be discussed

then. He shook his head and wrung his hands in unmistakable

disgust,--almost in despair. "But what am I to say in my report?"

I asked. "Anything you please," he said. "Don't spare me, if you

want an excuse for yourself. Here I sit all the day--with nothing

to do; and I like writing letters." I did report that Mr.---- was

now quite satisfied with the postal arrangement of his district;

and I felt a soft regret that I should have robbed my friend of his

occupation. Perhaps he was able to take up the Poor Law Board, or

to attack the Excise. At the Post Office nothing more was heard

from him.

I went on with the hunting surveyor at Banagher for three years,

during which, at Kingstown, the watering place near Dublin, I met

Rose Heseltine, the lady who has since become my wife. The engagement

took place when I had been just one year in Ireland; but there was

still a delay of two years before we could be married. She had no

fortune, nor had I any income beyond that which came from the Post

Office; and there were still a few debts, which would have been

paid off no doubt sooner, but for that purchase of the horse. When

I had been nearly three years in Ireland we were married on the

11th of June, 1844;--and, perhaps, I ought to name that happy day

as the commencement of my better life, rather than the day on which

I first landed in Ireland.

For though during these three years I had been jolly enough, I

had not been altogether happy. The hunting, the whisky punch, the

rattling Irish life,--of which I could write a volume of stories

were this the place to tell them,--were continually driving from

my mind the still cherished determination to become a writer of

novels. When I reached Ireland I had never put pen to paper; nor

had I done so when I became engaged. And when I was married, being

then twenty-nine, I had only written the first volume of my first

work. This constant putting off of the day of work was a great

sorrow to me. I certainly had not been idle in my new berth. I had

learned my work, so that every one concerned knew that it was safe

in my hands; and I held a position altogether the reverse of that

in which I was always trembling while I remained in London. But

that did not suffice,--did not nearly suffice. I still felt that

there might be a career before me, if I could only bring myself to

begin the work. I do not think I much doubted my own intellectual

sufficiency for the writing of a readable novel. What I did doubt

was my own industry, and the chances of the market.

The vigour necessary to prosecute two professions at the same time

is not given to every one, and it was only lately that I had found

the vigour necessary for one. There must be early hours, and I

had not as yet learned to love early hours. I was still, indeed, a

young man; but hardly young enough to trust myself to find the power

to alter the habits of my life. And I had heard of the difficulties

of publishing,--a subject of which I shall have to say much should

I ever bring this memoir to a close. I had dealt already with

publishers on my mother's behalf, and knew that many a tyro who

could fill a manuscript lacked the power to put his matter before

the public;--and I knew, too, that when the matter was printed,

how little had then been done towards the winning of the battle!

I had already learned that many a book--many a good book--

"is born to blush unseen

And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

But still the purpose was strong within me, and the first effort

was made after the following fashion. I was located at a little

town called Drumsna, or rather village, in the county Leitrim,

where the postmaster had come to some sorrow about his money; and

my friend John Merivale was staying with me for a day or two. As

we were taking a walk in that most uninteresting country, we turned

up through a deserted gateway, along a weedy, grass-grown avenue,

till we came to the modern ruins of a country house. It was one of

the most melancholy spots I ever visited. I will not describe it

here, because I have done so in the first chapter of my first novel.

We wandered about the place, suggesting to each other causes for

the misery we saw there, and, while I was still among the ruined

walls and decayed beams, I fabricated the plot of The Macdermots

of Ballycloran. As to the plot itself, I do not know that I ever

made one so good,--or, at any rate, one so susceptible of pathos.

I am aware that I broke down in the telling, not having yet studied

the art. Nevertheless, The Macdermots is a good novel, and worth

reading by any one who wishes to understand what Irish life was

before the potato disease, the famine, and the Encumbered Estates


When my friend left me, I set to work and wrote the first chapter

or two. Up to this time I had continued that practice of castle-building

of which I have spoken; but now the castle I built was among the

ruins of that old house. The book, however, hung with me. It was

only now and then that I found either time or energy for a few

pages. I commenced the book in September, 1843, and had only written

a volume when I was married in June, 1844.

My marriage was like the marriage of other people, and of no

special interest to any one except my wife and me. It took place

at Rotherham, in Yorkshire, where her father was the manager of a

bank. We were not very rich, having about (pounds)400 a year on which to


Many people would say that we were two fools to encounter such

poverty together. I can only reply that since that day I have never

been without money in my pocket, and that I soon acquired the means

of paying what I owed. Nevertheless, more than twelve years had to

pass over our heads before I received any payment for any literary

work which afforded an appreciable increase to our income.

Immediately after our marriage, I left the west of Ireland and the

hunting surveyor, and joined another in the south. It was a better

district, and I was enabled to live at Clonmel, a town of some

importance, instead of at Banagher, which is little more than a

village. I had not felt myself to be comfortable in my old residence

as a married man. On my arrival there as a bachelor I had been

received most kindly, but when I brought my English wife I fancied

that there was a feeling that I had behaved badly to Ireland

generally. When a young man has been received hospitably in an

Irish circle, I will not say that it is expected of him that he

should marry some young lady in that society;--but it certainly is

expected of him that he shall not marry any young lady out of it.

I had given offence, and I was made to feel it.

There has taken place a great change in Ireland since the days in

which I lived at Banagher, and a change so much for the better,

that I have sometimes wondered at the obduracy with which people

have spoken of the permanent ill condition of the country. Wages

are now nearly double what they were then. The Post Office, at any

rate, is paying almost double for its rural labour,--9s. a week

when it used to pay 5s., and 12s. a week when it used to pay 7s.

Banks have sprung up in almost every village. Rents are paid with

more than English punctuality. And the religious enmity between

the classes, though it is not yet dead, is dying out. Soon after I

reached Banagher in 1841, I dined one evening with a Roman Catholic.

I was informed next day by a Protestant gentleman who had been

very hospitable to me that I must choose my party. I could not sit

both at Protestant and Catholic tables. Such a caution would now

be impossible in any part of Ireland. Home-rule, no doubt, is a

nuisance,--and especially a nuisance because the professors of the

doctrine do not at all believe it themselves. There are probably

no other twenty men in England or Ireland who would be so utterly

dumfounded and prostrated were Home-rule to have its way as the

twenty Irish members who profess to support it in the House of

Commons. But it is not to be expected that nuisances such as these

should be abolished at a blow. Home-rule is, at any rate, better

and more easily managed than the rebellion at the close of the

last century; it is better than the treachery of the Union; less

troublesome than O'Connell's monster meetings; less dangerous than

Smith O'Brien and the battle of the cabbage-garden at Ballingary,

and very much less bloody than Fenianism. The descent from O'Connell

to Mr. Butt has been the natural declension of a political disease,

which we had no right to hope would be cured by any one remedy.

When I had been married a year my first novel was finished. In

July, 1845, I took it with me to the north of England, and intrusted

the MS. to my mother to do with it the best she could among the

publishers in London. No one had read it but my wife; nor, as far

as I am aware, has any other friend of mine ever read a word of

my writing before it was printed. She, I think, has so read almost

everything, to my very great advantage in matters of taste. I am sure

I have never asked a friend to read a line; nor have I ever read a

word of my own writing aloud,--even to her. With one exception,--which

shall be mentioned as I come to it,--I have never consulted a friend

as to a plot, or spoken to any one of the work I have been doing.

My first manuscript I gave up to my mother, agreeing with her that

it would be as well that she should not look at it before she gave

it to a publisher. I knew that she did not give me credit for the

sort of cleverness necessary for such work. I could see in the

faces and hear in the voices of those of my friends who were around

me at the house in Cumberland,--my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law,

and, I think, my brother,--that they had not expected me to come

out as one of the family authors. There were three or four in the

field before me, and it seemed to be almost absurd that another

should wish to add himself to the number. My father had written

much,--those long ecclesiastical descriptions,--quite unsuccessfully.

My mother had become one of the popular authors of the day. My

brother had commenced, and had been fairly well paid for his work.

My sister, Mrs. Tilley, had also written a novel, which was at the

time in manuscript--which was published afterwards without her name,

and was called Chollerton. I could perceive that this attempt of

mine was felt to be an unfortunate aggravation of the disease.

My mother, however, did the best she could for me, and soon reported

that Mr. Newby, of Mortimer Street, was to publish the book. It

was to be printed at his expense, and he was to give me half the

profits. Half the profits! Many a young author expects much from such

an undertaking. I can, with truth, declare that I expected nothing.

And I got nothing. Nor did I expect fame, or even acknowledgment.

I was sure that the book would fail, and it did fail most absolutely.

I never heard of a person reading it in those days. If there was

any notice taken of it by any critic of the day, I did not see it.

I never asked any questions about it, or wrote a single letter on

the subject to the publisher. I have Mr. Newby's agreement with me,

in duplicate, and one or two preliminary notes; but beyond that I

did not have a word from Mr. Newby. I am sure that he did not wrong

me in that he paid me nothing. It is probable that he did not sell

fifty copies of the work;--but of what he did sell he gave me no


I do not remember that I felt in any way disappointed or hurt. I

am quite sure that no word of complaint passed my lips. I think I

may say that after the publication I never said a word about the

book, even to my wife. The fact that I had written and published

it, and that I was writing another, did not in the least interfere

with my life, or with my determination to make the best I could of

the Post Office. In Ireland, I think that no one knew that I had

written a novel. But I went on writing. The Macdermots was published

in 1847, and The Kellys and the O'Kellys followed in 1848. I

changed my publisher, but did not change my fortune. This second

Irish story was sent into the world by Mr. Colburn, who had

long been my mother's publisher, who reigned in Great Marlborough

Street, and I believe created the business which is now carried on

by Messrs. Hurst & Blackett. He had previously been in partnership

with Mr. Bentley in New Burlington Street. I made the same agreement

as before as to half profits, and with precisely the same results.

The book was not only not read, but was never heard of,--at any

rate, in Ireland. And yet it is a good Irish story, much inferior

to The Macdermots as to plot, but superior in the mode of telling.

Again I held my tongue, and not only said nothing but felt nothing.

Any success would, I think, have carried me off my legs, but I was

altogether prepared for failure. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the

writing of these books, I did not imagine, when the time came for

publishing them, that any one would condescend to read them.

But in reference to The O'Kellys there arose a circumstance which

set my mind to work on a subject which has exercised it much ever

since. I made my first acquaintance with criticism. A dear friend

of mine to whom the book had been sent,--as have all my books,--wrote

me word to Ireland that he had been dining at some club with a man

high in authority among the gods of the Times newspaper, and that

this special god had almost promised that The O'Kellys should be

noticed in that most influential of "organs." The information moved

me very much; but it set me thinking whether the notice, should it

ever appear, would not have been more valuable, at any rate, more

honest, if it had been produced by other means;--if, for instance,

the writer of the notice had been instigated by the merits or demerits

of the book instead of by the friendship of a friend. And I made

up my mind then that, should I continue this trade of authorship,

I would have no dealings with any critic on my own behalf. I would

neither ask for nor deplore criticism, nor would I ever thank a

critic for praise, or quarrel with him, even in my own heart, for

censure. To this rule I have adhered with absolute strictness, and

this rule I would recommend to all young authors. What can be got

by touting among the critics is never worth the ignominy. The same

may, of course, be said of all things acquired by ignominious means.

But in this matter it is so easy to fall into the dirt. Facilis

descensus Averni. There seems to be but little fault in suggesting

to a friend that a few words in this or that journal would be of

service. But any praise so obtained must be an injustice to the

public, for whose instruction, and not for the sustentation of the

author, such notices are intended. And from such mild suggestion

the descent to crawling at the critic's feet, to the sending of

presents, and at last to a mutual understanding between critics

and criticised, is only too easy. Other evils follow, for the

denouncing of which this is hardly the place;--though I trust I

may find such place before my work is finished. I took no notice

of my friend's letter, but I was not the less careful in watching

The Times. At last the review came,--a real review in The Times. I

learned it by heart, and can now give, if not the words, the exact

purport. "Of The Kellys and the O'Kellys we may say what the master

said to his footman, when the man complained of the constant supply

of legs of mutton on the kitchen table. Well, John, legs of mutton

are good, substantial food;' and we may say also what John replied:

'Substantial, sir,--yes, they are substantial, but a little coarse.'"

That was the review, and even that did not sell the book!

From Mr. Colburn I did receive an account, showing that 375 copies

of the book had been printed, that 140 had been sold,--to those,

I presume, who liked substantial food though it was coarse,--and

that he had incurred a loss of (pounds)63 19S. 1 1/2d. The truth of the

account I never for a moment doubted; nor did I doubt the wisdom

of the advice given to me in the following letter, though I never

thought of obeying it--


November 11, 1848.

"MY DEAR SIR,--I am sorry to say that absence from town and other

circumstances have prevented me from earlier inquiring into the

results of the sale of The Kellys and the O'Kellys, with which the

greatest efforts have been used, but in vain. The sale has been,

I regret to say, so small that the loss upon the publication is

very considerable; and it appears clear to me that, although in

consequence of the great number of novels that are published, the

sale of each, with some few exceptions, must be small, yet it is

evident that readers do not like novels on Irish subjects as well

as on others. Thus, you will perceive, it is impossible for me to

give any encouragement to you to proceed in novel-writing.

"As, however, I understand you have nearly finished the novel La Vendee,

perhaps you will favour me with a sight of it when convenient.--I

remain, etc., etc.,


This, though not strictly logical, was a rational letter, telling

a plain truth plainly. I did not like the assurance that "the

greatest efforts had been used," thinking that any efforts which

might be made for the popularity of a book ought to have come from

the author;--but I took in good part Mr. Colburn's assurance that

he could not encourage me in the career I had commenced. I would

have bet twenty to one against my own success. But by continuing

I could lose only pen and paper; and if the one chance in twenty

did turn up in my favour, then how much might I win!

CHAPTER V My first success 1849-1855

I had at once gone to work on a third novel, and had nearly

completed it, when I was informed of the absolute failure of the

former. I find, however, that the agreement for its publication was

not made till 1850, by which time I imagine that Mr. Colburn must

have forgotten the disastrous result of The O'Kellys, as he thereby

agrees to give me (pounds)20 down for my "new historical novel, to be

called La Vendee." He agreed also to pay me (pounds)30 more when he had

sold 350 copies, and (pounds)50 more should he sell 450 within six months. I

got my (pounds)20, and then heard no more of (pounds)a Vendee, not even receiving

any account. Perhaps the historical title had appeared more alluring

to him than an Irish subject; though it was not long afterwards that

I received a warning from the very same house of business against

historical novels,--as I will tell at length when the proper time


I have no doubt that the result of the sale of this story was

no better than that of the two that had gone before. I asked no

questions, however, and to this day have received no information.

The story is certainly inferior to those which had gone before;--chiefly

because I knew accurately the life of the people in Ireland, and

knew, in truth, nothing of life in the La Vendee country, and also

because the facts of the present time came more within the limits

of my powers of story-telling than those of past years. But I read

the book the other day, and am not ashamed of it. The conception

as to the feeling of the people is, I think, true; the characters

are distinct, and the tale is not dull. As far as I can remember,

this morsel of criticism is the only one that was ever written on

the book.

I had, however, received (pounds)20. Alas! alas! years were to roll by

before I should earn by my pen another shilling. And, indeed, I

was well aware that I had not earned that; but that the money had

been "talked out of" the worthy publisher by the earnestness of

my brother, who made the bargain for me. I have known very much

of publishers and have been surprised by much in their mode of

business,--by the apparent lavishness and by the apparent hardness

to authors in the same men,--but by nothing so much as by the ease

with which they can occasionally be persuaded to throw away small

sums of money. If you will only make the payment future instead of

present, you may generally twist a few pounds in your own or your

client's favour. "You might as well promise her (pounds)20. This day six

months will do very well." The publisher, though he knows that the

money will never come back to him, thinks it worth his while to

rid himself of your importunity at so cheap a price.

But while I was writing La Vendee I made a literary attempt in

another direction. In 1847 and 1848 there had come upon Ireland

the desolation and destruction, first of the famine, and then of

the pestilence which succeeded the famine. It was my duty at that

time to be travelling constantly in those parts of Ireland in which

the misery and troubles thence arising were, perhaps, at their

worst. The western parts of Cork, Kerry, and Clare were pre-eminently

unfortunate. The efforts,--I may say, the successful efforts,--made

by the Government to stay the hands of death will still be in the

remembrance of many:--how Sir Robert Peel was instigated to repeal the

Corn Laws; and how, subsequently, Lord John Russell took measures

for employing the people, and supplying the country with Indian

corn. The expediency of these latter measures was questioned by

many. The people themselves wished, of course, to be fed without

working; and the gentry, who were mainly responsible for the rates,

were disposed to think that the management of affairs was taken

too much out of their own hands. My mind at the time was busy with

the matter, and, thinking that the Government was right, I was

inclined to defend them as far as my small powers went. S. G. O.

(Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne) was at that time denouncing the

Irish scheme of the Administration in the Times, using very strong

language,--as those who remember his style will know. I fancied

then,--as I still think,--that I understood the country much better

than he did; and I was anxious to show that the steps taken for

mitigating the terrible evil of the times were the best which the

Minister of the day could have adopted. In 1848 I was in London,

and, full of my purpose, I presented myself to Mr. John Forster,--who

has since been an intimate and valued friend,--but who was at that

time the editor of the Examiner. I think that that portion of the

literary world which understands the fabrication of newspapers

will admit that neither before his time, nor since, has there been

a more capable editor of a weekly newspaper. As a literary man, he

was not without his faults. That which the cabman is reported to

have said of him before the magistrate is quite true. He was always

"an arbitrary cove." As a critic, he belonged to the school of

Bentley and Gifford,--who would always bray in a literary mortar

all critics who disagreed from them, as though such disagreement

were a personal offence requiring personal castigation. But that

very eagerness made him a good editor. Into whatever he did he put

his very heart and soul. During his time the Examiner was almost

all that a Liberal weekly paper should be. So to John Forster I

went, and was shown into that room in Lincoln's Inn Fields in which,

some three or four years earlier, Dickens had given that reading of

which there is an illustration with portraits in the second volume

of his life.

At this time I knew no literary men. A few I had met when living

with my mother, but that had been now so long ago that all such

acquaintance had died out. I knew who they were as far as a man

could get such knowledge from the papers of the day, and felt myself

as in part belonging to the guild, through my mother, and in some

degree by my own unsuccessful efforts. But it was not probable that

any one would admit my claim;--nor on this occasion did I make any

claim. I stated my name and official position, and the fact that

opportunities had been given me of seeing the poorhouses in Ireland,

and of making myself acquainted with the circumstances of the

time. Would a series of letters on the subject be accepted by the

Examiner? The great man, who loomed very large to me, was pleased

to say that if the letters should recommend themselves by their

style and matter, if they were not too long, and if,--every reader

will know how on such occasions an editor will guard himself,--if

this and if that, they should be favourably entertained. They were

favourably entertained,--if printing and publication be favourable

entertainment. But I heard no more of them. The world in Ireland

did not declare that the Government had at last been adequately

defended, nor did the treasurer of the Examiner send me a cheque

in return.

Whether there ought to have been a cheque I do not even yet know.

A man who writes a single letter to a newspaper, of course, is not

paid for it,--nor for any number of letters on some point personal

to himself. I have since written sets of letters to newspapers, and

have been paid for them; but then I have bargained for a price. On

this occasion I had hopes; but they never ran high, and I was not

much disappointed. I have no copy now of those letters, and could

not refer to them without much trouble; nor do I remember what I

said. But I know that I did my best in writing them.

When my historical novel failed, as completely as had its predecessors,

the two Irish novels, I began to ask myself whether, after all,

that was my proper line. I had never thought of questioning the

justice of the verdict expressed against me. The idea that I was

the unfortunate owner of unappreciated genius never troubled me. I

did not look at the books after they were published, feeling sure

that they had been, as it were, damned with good reason. But still

I was clear in my mind that I would not lay down my pen. Then and

therefore I determined to change my hand, and to attempt a play.

I did attempt the play, and in 1850 I wrote a comedy, partly in

blank verse, and partly in prose, called The Noble Jilt. The plot

I afterwards used in a novel called Can You Forgive Her? I believe

that I did give the best of my intellect to the play, and I must

own that when it was completed it pleased me much. I copied it,

and re-copied it, touching it here and touching it there, and then

sent it to my very old friend, George Bartley, the actor, who had

when I was in London been stage-manager of one of the great theatres,

and who would, I thought, for my own sake and for my mother's, give

me the full benefit of his professional experience.

I have now before me the letter which he wrote to me,--a letter

which I have read a score of times. It was altogether condemnatory.

"When I commenced," he said, "I had great hopes of your production.

I did not think it opened dramatically, but that might have been

remedied." I knew then that it was all over. But, as my old friend

warmed to the subject, the criticism became stronger and stronger,

till my ears tingled. At last came the fatal blow. "As to the

character of your heroine, I felt at a loss how to describe it,

but you have done it for me in the last speech of Madame Brudo."

Madame Brudo was the heroine's aunt. "'Margaret, my child, never

play the jilt again; 'tis a most unbecoming character. Play it

with what skill you will, it meets but little sympathy.' And this,

be assured, would be its effect upon an audience. So that I must

reluctantly add that, had I been still a manager, The Noble Jilt

is not a play I could have recommended for production." This was a

blow that I did feel. The neglect of a book is a disagreeable fact

which grows upon an author by degrees. There is no special moment

of agony,--no stunning violence of condemnation. But a piece of

criticism such as this, from a friend, and from a man undoubtedly

capable of forming an opinion, was a blow in the face! But I

accepted the judgment loyally, and said not a word on the subject

to any one. I merely showed the letter to my wife, declaring my

conviction, that it must be taken as gospel. And as critical gospel

it has since been accepted. In later days I have more than once

read the play, and I know that he was right. The dialogue, however,

I think to be good, and I doubt whether some of the scenes be not

the brightest and best work I ever did.

Just at this time another literary project loomed before my eyes,

and for six or eight months had considerable size. I was introduced

to Mr. John Murray, and proposed to him to write a handbook for

Ireland. I explained to him that I knew the country better than

most other people, perhaps better than any other person, and could

do it well. He asked me to make a trial of my skill, and to send

him a certain number of pages, undertaking to give me an answer

within a fortnight after he should have received my work. I came

back to Ireland, and for some weeks I laboured very hard. I "did"

the city of Dublin, and the county of Kerry, in which lies the

lake scenery of Killarney, and I "did" the route from Dublin to

Killarney, altogether completing nearly a quarter of the proposed

volume. The roll of MS. was sent to Albemarle Street,--but was never

opened. At the expiration of nine months from the date on which it

reached that time-honoured spot it was returned without a word, in

answer to a very angry letter from myself. I insisted on having

back my property,--and got it. I need hardly say that my property

has never been of the slightest use to me. In all honesty I think

that had he been less dilatory, John Murray would have got a very

good Irish Guide at a cheap rate.

Early in 1851 I was sent upon a job of special official work, which

for two years so completely absorbed my time that I was able to

write nothing. A plan was formed for extending the rural delivery

of letters, and for adjusting the work, which up to that time had

been done in a very irregular manner. A country letter-carrier

would be sent in one direction in which there were but few letters

to be delivered, the arrangement having originated probably at

the request of some influential person, while in another direction

there was no letter-carrier because no influential person had exerted

himself. It was intended to set this right throughout England,

Ireland, and Scotland; and I quickly did the work in the Irish

district to which I was attached. I was then invited to do the same

in a portion of England, and I spent two of the happiest years of

my life at the task. I began in Devonshire; and visited, I think

I may say, every nook in that county, in Cornwall, Somersetshire,

the greater part of Dorsetshire, the Channel Islands, part of

Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire,

Monmouthshire, and the six southern Welsh counties. In this way I

had an opportunity of seeing a considerable portion of Great Britain,

with a minuteness which few have enjoyed. And I did my business

after a fashion in which no other official man has worked at

least for many years. I went almost everywhere on horseback. I had

two hunters of my own, and here and there, where I could, I hired

a third horse. I had an Irish groom with me,--an old man, who has

now been in my service for thirty-five years; and in this manner I

saw almost every house--I think I may say every house of importance--in

this large district. The object was to create a postal network

which should catch all recipients of letters. In France it was, and

I suppose still is, the practice to deliver every letter. Wherever

the man may live to whom a letter is addressed, it is the duty of

some letter-carrier to take that letter to his house, sooner or

later. But this, of course, must be done slowly. With us a delivery

much delayed was thought to be worse than none at all. In some places

we did establish posts three times a week, and perhaps occasionally

twice a week; but such halting arrangements were considered to

be objectionable, and we were bound down by a salutary law as to

expense, which came from our masters at the Treasury. We were not

allowed to establish any messenger's walk on which a sufficient

number of letters would not be delivered to pay the man's wages,

counted at a halfpenny a letter. But then the counting was in our

own hands, and an enterprising official might be sanguine in his

figures. I think I was sanguine. I did not prepare false accounts;

but I fear that the postmasters and clerks who absolutely had the

country to do became aware that I was anxious for good results.

It is amusing to watch how a passion will grow upon a man. During

those two years it was the ambition of my life to cover the country

with rural letter-carriers. I do not remember that in any case a

rural post proposed by me was negatived by the authorities; but I

fear that some of them broke down afterwards as being too poor, or

because, in my anxiety to include this house and that, I had sent

the men too far afield. Our law was that a man should not be required

to walk more than sixteen miles a day. Had the work to be done been

all on a measured road, there would have been no need for doubt as

to the distances. But my letter-carriers went here and there across

the fields. It was my special delight to take them by all short

cuts; and as I measured on horseback the short cuts which they would

have to make on foot, perhaps I was sometimes a little unjust to


All this I did on horseback, riding on an average forty miles a

day. I was paid sixpence a mile for the distance travelled, and it

was necessary that I should at any rate travel enough to pay for

my equipage. This I did, and got my hunting out of it also. I have

often surprised some small country postmaster, who had never seen

or heard of me before, by coming down upon him at nine in the

morning, with a red coat and boots and breeches, and interrogating

him as to the disposal of every letter which came into his office.

And in the same guise I would ride up to farmhouses, or parsonages,

or other lone residences about the country, and ask the people how

they got their letters, at what hour, and especially whether they

were delivered free or at a certain charge. For a habit had crept

into use, which came to be, in my eyes, at that time, the one sin

for which there was no pardon, in accordance with which these rural

letter-carriers used to charge a penny a letter, alleging that the

house was out of their beat, and that they must be paid for their

extra work. I think that I did stamp out that evil. In all these

visits I was, in truth, a beneficent angel to the public, bringing

everywhere with me an earlier, cheaper, and much more regular delivery

of letters. But not unfrequently the angelic nature of my mission

was imperfectly understood. I was perhaps a little in a hurry to

get on, and did not allow as much time as was necessary to explain

to the wondering mistress of the house, or to an open-mouthed farmer,

why it was that a man arrayed for hunting asked so many questions

which might be considered impertinent, as applying to his or her

private affairs. "Good-morning, sir. I have just called to ask a

few questions. I am a surveyor of the Post Office. How do you get

your letters? As I am a little in a hurry, perhaps you can explain

at once." Then I would take out my pencil and notebook, and wait

for information. And in fact there was no other way in which the

truth could be ascertained. Unless I came down suddenly as a summer's

storm upon them, the very people who were robbed by our messengers

would not confess the robbery, fearing the ill-will of the men. It

was necessary to startle them into the revelations which I required

them to make for their own good. And I did startle them. I became

thoroughly used to it, and soon lost my native bashfulness;--but

sometimes my visits astonished the retiring inhabitants of country

houses. I did, however, do my work, and can look back upon what I

did with thorough satisfaction. I was altogether in earnest; and

I believe that many a farmer now has his letters brought daily to

his house free of charge, who but for me would still have had to

send to the post-town for them twice a week, or to have paid a man

for bringing them irregularly to his door.

This work took up my time so completely, and entailed upon me so

great an amount of writing, that I was in fact unable to do any

literary work. From day to day I thought of it, still purporting

to make another effort, and often turning over in my head some

fragment of a plot which had occurred to me. But the day did not

come in which I could sit down with my pen and paper and begin

another novel. For, after all, what could it be but a novel? The

play had failed more absolutely than the novels, for the novels

had attained the honour of print. The cause of this pressure of

official work lay, not in the demands of the General Post Office,

which more than once expressed itself as astonished by my celerity,

but in the necessity which was incumbent on me to travel miles

enough to pay for my horses, and upon the amount of correspondence,

returns, figures, and reports which such an amount of daily travelling

brought with it. I may boast that the work was done very quickly

and very thoroughly,--with no fault but an over-eagerness to extend

postal arrangements far and wide.

In the course of the job I visited Salisbury, and whilst wandering

there one mid-summer evening round the purlieus of the cathedral I

conceived the story of The Warden,--from whence came that series of

novels of which Barchester, with its bishops, deans, and archdeacon,

was the central site. I may as well declare at once that no one

at their commencement could have had less reason than myself to

presume himself to be able to write about clergymen. I have been

often asked in what period of my early life I had lived so long

in a cathedral city as to have become intimate with the ways of a

Close. I never lived in any cathedral city,--except London, never

knew anything of any Close, and at that time had enjoyed no peculiar

intimacy with any clergyman. My archdeacon, who has been said to be

life-like, and for whom I confess that I have all a parent's fond

affection, was, I think, the simple result of an effort of my moral

consciousness. It was such as that, in my opinion, that an archdeacon

should be,--or, at any rate, would be with such advantages as

an archdeacon might have; and lo! an archdeacon was produced, who

has been declared by competent authorities to be a real archdeacon

down to the very ground. And yet, as far as I can remember, I had

not then even spoken to an archdeacon. I have felt the compliment

to be very great. The archdeacon came whole from my brain after

this fashion;--but in writing about clergymen generally, I had to

pick up as I went whatever I might know or pretend to know about

them. But my first idea had no reference to clergymen in general.

I had been struck by two opposite evils,--or what seemed to me to

be evils,--and with an absence of all art-judgment in such matters, I

thought that I might be able to expose them, or rather to describe

them, both in one and the same tale. The first evil was the

possession by the Church of certain funds and endowments which had

been intended for charitable purposes, but which had been allowed

to become incomes for idle Church dignitaries. There had been more

than one such case brought to public notice at the time, in which

there seemed to have been an egregious malversation of charitable

purposes. The second evil was its very opposite. Though I had been

much struck by the injustice above described, I had also often

been angered by the undeserved severity of the newspapers towards

the recipients of such incomes, who could hardly be considered

to be the chief sinners in the matter. When a man is appointed to

a place, it is natural that he should accept the income allotted

to that place without much inquiry. It is seldom that he will be

the first to find out that his services are overpaid. Though he be

called upon only to look beautiful and to be dignified upon State

occasions, he will think (pounds)2000 a year little enough for such beauty

and dignity as he brings to the task. I felt that there had been

some tearing to pieces which might have been spared. But I was

altogether wrong in supposing that the two things could be combined.

Any writer in advocating a cause must do so after the fashion of

an advocate,--or his writing will be ineffective. He should take up

one side and cling to that, and then he may be powerful. There should

be no scruples of conscience. Such scruples make a man impotent for

such work. It was open to me to have described a bloated parson,

with a red nose and all other iniquities, openly neglecting every

duty required from him, and living riotously on funds purloined

from the poor,--defying as he did do so the moderate remonstrances

of a virtuous press. Or I might have painted a man as good, as sweet,

and as mild as my warden, who should also have been a hard-working,

ill-paid minister of God's word, and might have subjected him to the

rancorous venom of some daily Jupiter, who, without a leg to stand

on, without any true case, might have been induced, by personal

spite, to tear to rags the poor clergyman with poisonous, anonymous,

and ferocious leading articles. But neither of these programmes

recommended itself to my honesty. Satire, though it may exaggerate

the vice it lashes, is not justified in creating it in order that

it may be lashed. Caricature may too easily become a slander, and

satire a libel. I believed in the existence neither of the red-nosed

clerical cormorant, nor in that of the venomous assassin of the

journals. I did believe that through want of care and the natural

tendency of every class to take care of itself, money had slipped

into the pockets of certain clergymen which should have gone

elsewhere; and I believed also that through the equally natural

propensity of men to be as strong as they know how to be, certain

writers of the press had allowed themselves to use language which

was cruel, though it was in a good cause. But the two objects

should not have been combined--and I now know myself well enough

to be aware that I was not the man to have carried out either of


Nevertheless I thought much about it, and on the 29th of July,

1853,--having been then two years without having made any literary

effort,--I began The Warden, at Tenbury in Worcestershire. It was

then more than twelve months since I had stood for an hour on the

little bridge in Salisbury, and had made out to my own satisfaction

the spot on which Hiram's hospital should stand. Certainly no work

that I ever did took up so much of my thoughts. On this occasion

I did no more than write the first chapter, even if so much. I had

determined that my official work should be moderated, so as to allow

me some time for writing; but then, just at this time, I was sent

to take the postal charge of the northern counties in Ireland,--of

Ulster, and the counties Meath and Louth. Hitherto in official

language I had been a surveyor's clerk,--now I was to be a surveyor.

The difference consisted mainly in an increase of income from about

(pounds)450 to about (pounds)800;--for at that time the sum netted still depended

on the number of miles travelled. Of course that English work

to which I had become so warmly wedded had to be abandoned. Other

parts of England were being done by other men, and I had nearly

finished the area which had been entrusted to me. I should have

liked to ride over the whole country, and to have sent a rural

post letter-carrier to every parish, every village, every hamlet,

and every grange in England.

We were at this time very much unsettled as regards any residence.

While we were living at Clonmel two sons had been born, who certainly

were important enough to have been mentioned sooner. At Clonmel we

had lived in lodgings, and from there had moved to Mallow, a town

in the county Cork, where we had taken a house. Mallow was in the

centre of a hunting country, and had been very pleasant to me. But

our house there had been given up when it was known that I should

be detained in England; and then we had wandered about in the western

counties, moving our headquarters from one town to another. During

this time we had lived at Exeter, at Bristol, at Caermarthen,

at Cheltenham, and at Worcester. Now we again moved, and settled

ourselves for eighteen months at Belfast. After that we took a

house at Donnybrook, the well-known suburb of Dublin.

The work of taking up a new district, which requires not only that

the man doing it should know the nature of the postal arrangements,

but also the characters and the peculiarities of the postmasters

and their clerks, was too heavy to allow of my going on with my

book at once. It was not till the end of 1852 that I recommenced it,

and it was in the autumn of 1853 that I finished the work. It was

only one small volume, and in later days would have been completed

in six weeks,--or in two months at the longest, if other work had

pressed. On looking at the title-page, I find it was not published

till 1855. I had made acquaintance, through my friend John Merivale,

with William Longman the publisher, and had received from him an

assurance that the manuscript should be "looked at." It was "looked

at," and Messrs. Longman made me an offer to publish it at half

profits. I had no reason to love "half profits," but I was very

anxious to have my book published, and I acceded. It was now more

than ten years since I had commenced writing The Macdermots, and

I thought that if any success was to be achieved, the time surely

had come. I had not been impatient; but, if there was to be a time,

surely it had come.

The novel-reading world did not go mad about The Warden; but I soon

felt that it had not failed as the others had failed. There were

notices of it in the press, and I could discover that people around

me knew that I had written a book. Mr. Longman was complimentary,

and after a while informed me that there would be profits to divide.

At the end of 1855 I received a cheque for (pounds)9 8s. 8d., which was

the first money I had ever earned by literary work;--that (pounds)20 which

poor Mr. Colburn had been made to pay certainly never having been

earned at all. At the end of 1856 I received another sum of (pounds)10

15s. 1d. The pecuniary success was not great. Indeed, as regarded

remuneration for the time, stone-breaking would have done better.

A thousand copies were printed, of which, after a lapse of five or

six years, about 300 had to be converted into another form, and sold

as belonging to a cheap edition. In its original form The Warden

never reached the essential honour of a second edition.

I have already said of the work that it failed altogether in

the purport for which it was intended. But it has a merit of its

own,--a merit by my own perception of which I was enabled to see

wherein lay whatever strength I did possess. The characters of the

bishop, of the archdeacon, of the archdeacon's wife, and especially

of the warden, are all well and clearly drawn. I had realised to

myself a series of portraits, and had been able so to put them on

the canvas that my readers should see that which I meant them to

see. There is no gift which an author can have more useful to him

than this. And the style of the English was good, though from most

unpardonable carelessness the grammar was not unfrequently faulty.

With such results I had no doubt but that I would at once begin

another novel.

I will here say one word as a long-deferred answer to an item of

criticism which appeared in the Times newspaper as to The Warden.

In an article-if I remember rightly--on The Warden and Barchester

Towers combined--which I would call good-natured, but that I take

it for granted that the critics of the Times are actuated by higher

motives than good-nature, that little book and its sequel are spoken

of in terms which were very pleasant to the author. But there was

added to this a gentle word of rebuke at the morbid condition of the

author's mind which had prompted him to indulge in personalities,--the

personalities in question having reference to some editor or manager

of the Times newspaper. For I had introduced one Tom Towers as being

potent among the contributors to the Jupiter, under which name I

certainly did allude to the Times. But at that time, living away in

Ireland, I had not even heard the name of any gentleman connected

with the Times newspaper, and could not have intended to represent

any individual by Tom Towers. As I had created an archdeacon, so had

I created a journalist, and the one creation was no more personal

or indicative of morbid tendencies than the other. If Tom Towers

was at all like any gentleman connected with the Times, my moral

consciousness must again have been very powerful.

CHAPTER VI "Barchester towers" and the "Three clerks" 1855-1858

It was, I think, before I started on my English tours among the

rural posts that I made my first attempt at writing for a magazine.

I had read, soon after they came out, the two first volumes of

Charles Menvale's History of the Romans under the Empire, and had

got into some correspondence with the author's brother as to the

author's views about Caesar. Hence arose in my mind a tendency to

investigate the character of probably the greatest man who ever

lived, which tendency in after years produced a little book of

which I shall have to speak when its time comes,--and also a taste

generally for Latin literature, which has been one of the chief

delights of my later life. And I may say that I became at this time

as anxious about Caesar, and as desirous of reaching the truth as

to his character, as we have all been in regard to Bismarck in these

latter days. I lived in Caesar, and debated with myself constantly

whether he crossed the Rubicon as a tyrant or as a patriot. In

order that I might review Mr. Merivale's book without feeling that

I was dealing unwarrantably with a subject beyond me, I studied the

Commentaries thoroughly, and went through a mass of other reading

which the object of a magazine article hardly justified,--but which

has thoroughly justified itself in the subsequent pursuits of my

life. I did write two articles, the first mainly on Julius Caesar,

and the second on Augustus, which appeared in the Dublin University

Magazine. They were the result of very much labour, but there came

from them no pecuniary product. I had been very modest when I sent

them to the editor, as I had been when I called on John Forster,

not venturing to suggest the subject of money. After a while I did

call upon the proprietor of the magazine in Dublin, and was told

by him that such articles were generally written to oblige friends,

and that articles written to oblige friends were not usually paid

for. The Dean of Ely, as the author of the work in question now

is, was my friend; but I think I was wronged, as I certainly had

no intention of obliging him by my criticism. Afterwards, when I

returned to Ireland, I wrote other articles for the same magazine,

one of which, intended to be very savage in its denunciation, was

on an official blue-book just then brought out, preparatory to the

introduction of competitive examinations for the Civil Service. For

that and some other article, I now forget what, I was paid. Up to

the end of 1857 I had received (pounds)55 for the hard work of ten years.

It was while I was engaged on Barchester Towers that I adopted a

system of writing which, for some years afterwards, I found to be

very serviceable to me. My time was greatly occupied in travelling,

and the nature of my travelling was now changed. I could not

any longer do it on horseback. Railroads afforded me my means of

conveyance, and I found that I passed in railway-carriages very

many hours of my existence. Like others, I used to read,--though

Carlyle has since told me that a man when travelling should not

read, but "sit still and label his thoughts." But if I intended

to make a profitable business out of my writing, and, at the same

time, to do my best for the Post Office, I must turn these hours

to more account than I could do even by reading. I made for myself

therefore a little tablet, and found after a few days' exercise

that I could write as quickly in a railway-carriage as I could at

my desk. I worked with a pencil, and what I wrote my wife copied

afterwards. In this way was composed the greater part of Barchester

Towers and of the novel which succeeded it, and much also of others

subsequent to them. My only objection to the practice came from

the appearance of literary ostentation, to which I felt myself to

be subject when going to work before four or five fellow-passengers.

But I got used to it, as I had done to the amazement of the west

country farmers' wives when asking them after their letters.

In the writing of Barchester Towers I took great delight. The bishop

and Mrs. Proudie were very real to me, as were also the troubles

of the archdeacon and the loves of Mr. Slope. When it was done,

Mr. W. Longman required that it should be subjected to his reader;

and he returned the MS. to me, with a most laborious and voluminous

criticism,--coming from whom I never knew. This was accompanied

by an offer to print the novel on the half-profit system, with a

payment of (pounds)100 in advance out of my half-profits,--on condition

that I would comply with the suggestions made by his critic. One

of these suggestions required that I should cut the novel down to

two volumes. In my reply, I went through the criticisms, rejecting

one and accepting another, almost alternately, but declaring at

last that no consideration should induce me to cut out a third of

my work. I am at a loss to know how such a task could have been

performed. I could burn the MS., no doubt, and write another book

on the same story; but how two words out of six are to be withdrawn

from a written novel, I cannot conceive. I believe such tasks have

been attempted--perhaps performed; but I refused to make even the

attempt. Mr. Longman was too gracious to insist on his critic's

terms; and the book was published, certainly none the worse, and

I do not think much the better, for the care that had been taken

with it.

The work succeeded just as The Warden had succeeded. It achieved

no great reputation, but it was one of the novels which novel

readers were called upon to read. Perhaps I may be assuming upon

myself more than I have a right to do in saying now that Barchester

Towers has become one of those novels which do not die quite at once,

which live and are read for perhaps a quarter of a century; but if

that be so, its life has been so far prolonged by the vitality of

some of its younger brothers. Barchester Towers would hardly be

so well known as it is had there been no Framley Parsonage and no

Last Chronicle of Barset.

I received my (pounds)100, in advance, with profound delight. It was a

positive and most welcome increase to my income, and might probably

be regarded as a first real step on the road to substantial success.

I am well aware that there are many who think that an author in his

authorship should not regard money,--nor a painter, or sculptor, or

composer in his art. I do not know that this unnatural sacrifice

is supposed to extend itself further. A barrister, a clergyman, a

doctor, an engineer, and even actors and architects, may without

disgrace follow the bent of human nature, and endeavour to fill

their bellies and clothe their backs, and also those of their wives

and children, as comfortably as they can by the exercise of their

abilities and their crafts. They may be as rationally realistic,

as may the butchers and the bakers; but the artist and the author

forget the high glories of their calling if they condescend to make

a money return a first object. They who preach this doctrine will

be much offended by my theory, and by this book of mine, if my theory

and my book come beneath their notice. They require the practice

of a so-called virtue which is contrary to nature, and which, in

my eyes, would be no virtue if it were practised. They are like

clergymen who preach sermons against the love of money, but who

know that the love of money is so distinctive a characteristic

of humanity that such sermons are mere platitudes called for by

customary but unintelligent piety. All material progress has come

from man's desire to do the best he can for himself and those

about him, and civilisation and Christianity itself have been made

possible by such progress. Though we do not all of us argue this

matter out within our breasts, we do all feel it; and we know that

the more a man earns the more useful he is to his fellow-men. The

most useful lawyers, as a rule, have been those who have made the

greatest incomes,--and it is the same with the doctors. It would

be the same in the Church if they who have the choosing of bishops

always chose the best man. And it has in truth been so too in art

and authorship. Did Titian or Rubens disregard their pecuniary

rewards? As far as we know, Shakespeare worked always for money,

giving the best of his intellect to support his trade as an actor.

In our own century what literary names stand higher than those of

Byron, Tennyson, Scott, Dickens, Macaulay, and Carlyle? And I think

I may say that none of those great men neglected the pecuniary result

of their labours. Now and then a man may arise among us who in any

calling, whether it be in law, in physic, in religious teaching,

in art, or literature, may in his professional enthusiasm utterly

disregard money. All will honour his enthusiasm, and if he be

wifeless and childless, his disregard of the great object of men's

work will be blameless. But it is a mistake to suppose that a man

is a better man because he despises money. Few do so, and those few

in doing so suffer a defeat. Who does not desire to be hospitable

to his friends, generous to the poor, liberal to all, munificent

to his children, and to be himself free from the casking fear which

poverty creates? The subject will not stand an argument;--and yet

authors are told that they should disregard payment for their work,

and be content to devote their unbought brains to the welfare of

the public. Brains that are unbought will never serve the public

much. Take away from English authors their copyrights, and you

would very soon take away from England her authors.

I say this here, because it is my purpose as I go on to state what

to me has been the result of my profession in the ordinary way in

which professions are regarded, so that by my example may be seen

what prospect there is that a man devoting himself to literature

with industry, perseverance, certain necessary aptitudes, and fair

average talents, may succeed in gaining a livelihood, as another man

does in another profession. The result with me has been comfortable

but not splendid, as I think was to have been expected from the

combination of such gifts.

I have certainly always had also before my eyes the charms of

reputation. Over and above the money view of the question, I wished

from the beginning to be something more than a clerk in the Post

Office. To be known as somebody,--to be Anthony Trollope if it be

no more,--is to me much. The feeling is a very general one, and

I think beneficent. It is that which has been called the "last

infirmity of noble mind." The infirmity is so human that the man who

lacks it is either above or below humanity. I own to the infirmity.

But I confess that my first object in taking to literature as a

profession was that which is common to the barrister when he goes

to the Bar, and to the baker when he sets up his oven. I wished to

make an income on which I and those belonging to me might live in


If indeed a man writes his books badly, or paints his pictures

badly, because he can make his money faster in that fashion than

by doing them well, and at the same time proclaims them to be the

best he can do,--if in fact he sells shoddy for broadcloth,--he

is dishonest, as is any other fraudulent dealer. So may be the

barrister who takes money that he does not earn, or the clergyman

who is content to live on a sinecure. No doubt the artist or the

author may have a difficulty which will not occur to the seller of

cloth, in settling within himself what is good work and what is

bad,--when labour enough has been given, and when the task has been

scamped. It is a danger as to which he is bound to be severe with

himself--in which he should feel that his conscience should be set

fairly in the balance against the natural bias of his interest. If

he do not do so, sooner or later his dishonesty will be discovered,

and will be estimated accordingly. But in this he is to be governed

only by the plain rules of honesty which should govern us all.

Having said so much, I shall not scruple as I go on to attribute

to the pecuniary result of my labours all the importance which I

felt them to have at the time.

Barchester Towers, for which I had received (pounds)100 in advance, sold

well enough to bring me further payments--moderate payments--from

the publishers. From that day up to this very time in which I am

writing, that book and The Warden together have given me almost

every year some small income. I get the accounts very regularly,

and I find that I have received (pounds)727 11S. 3d. for the two. It is

more than I got for the three or four works that came afterwards,

but the payments have been spread over twenty years.

When I went to Mr. Longman with my next novel, The Three Clerks,

in my hand, I could not induce him to understand that a lump sum

down was more pleasant than a deferred annuity. I wished him to

buy it from me at a price which he might think to be a fair value,

and I argued with him that as soon as an author has put himself into

a position which insures a sufficient sale of his works to give a

profit, the publisher is not entitled to expect the half of such

proceeds. While there is a pecuniary risk, the whole of which must

be borne by the publisher, such division is fair enough; but such

a demand on the part of the publisher is monstrous as soon as the

article produced is known to be a marketable commodity. I thought

that I had now reached that point, but Mr. Longman did not agree with

me. And he endeavoured to convince me that I might lose more than

I gained, even though I should get more money by going elsewhere.

"It is for you," said he, "to think whether our names on your

title-page are not worth more to you than the increased payment."

This seemed to me to savour of that high-flown doctrine of the

contempt of money which I have never admired. I did think much

of Messrs. Longman's name, but I liked it best at the bottom of a


I was also scared from the august columns of Paternoster Row by

a remark made to myself by one of the firm, which seemed to imply

that they did not much care for works of fiction. Speaking of a

fertile writer of tales who was not then dead, he declared that ----

(naming the author in question) had spawned upon them (the publishers)

three novels a year! Such language is perhaps justifiable in regard

to a man who shows so much of the fecundity of the herring; but I

did not know how fruitful might be my own muse, and I thought that

I had better go elsewhere.

I had then written The Three Clerks, which, when I could not sell

it to Messrs. Longman, I took in the first instance to Messrs.

Hurst & Blackett, who had become successors to Mr. Colburn. I had

made an appointment with one of the firm, which, however, that

gentleman was unable to keep. I was on my way from Ireland to Italy,

and had but one day in London in which to dispose of my manuscript.

I sat for an hour in Great Marlborough Street, expecting the return

of the peccant publisher who had broken his tryst, and I was about

to depart with my bundle under my arm when the foreman of the

house came to me. He seemed to think it a pity that I should go,

and wished me to leave my work with him. This, however, I would not

do, unless he would undertake to buy it then and there. Perhaps he

lacked authority. Perhaps his judgment was against such purchase.

But while we debated the matter, he gave me some advice. "I hope

it's not historical, Mr. Trollope?" he said. "Whatever you do,

don't be historical; your historical novel is not worth a damn."

Thence I took The Three Clerks to Mr. Bentley; and on the same

afternoon succeeded in selling it to him for (pounds)250. His son still

possesses it, and the firm has, I believe, done very well with the

purchase. It was certainly the best novel I had as yet written.

The plot is not so good as that of the Macdermots; nor are there

any characters in the book equal to those of Mrs. Proudie and the

Warden; but the work has a more continued interest, and contains

the first well-described love-scene that I ever wrote. The passage

in which Kate Woodward, thinking that she will die, tries to take

leave of the lad she loves, still brings tears to my eyes when I

read it. I had not the heart to kill her. I never could do that.

And I do not doubt but that they are living happily together to

this day.

The lawyer Chaffanbrass made his first appearance in this novel,

and I do not think that I have cause to be ashamed of him. But this

novel now is chiefly noticeable to me from the fact that in it I

introduced a character under the name of Sir Gregory Hardlines, by

which I intended to lean very heavily on that much loathed scheme

of competitive examination, of which at that time Sir Charles

Trevelyan was the great apostle. Sir Gregory Hardlines was intended

for Sir Charles Trevelyan,--as any one at the time would know who

had taken an interest in the Civil Service. "We always call him

Sir Gregory," Lady Trevelyan said to me afterwards, when I came

to know her and her husband. I never learned to love competitive

examination; but I became, and am, very fond of Sir Charles Trevelyan.

Sir Stafford Northcote, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer,

was then leagued with his friend Sir Charles, and he too appears

in The Three Clerks under the feebly facetious name of Sir Warwick

West End.

But for all that The Three Clerks was a good novel.

When that sale was made I was on my way to Italy with my wife,

paying a third visit there to my mother and brother. This was in

1857, and she had then given up her pen. It was the first year in

which she had not written, and she expressed to me her delight that

her labours should be at an end, and that mine should be beginning

in the same field. In truth they had already been continued for

a dozen years, but a man's career will generally be held to date

itself from the commencement of his success. On those foreign

tours I always encountered adventures, which, as I look back upon

them now, tempt me almost to write a little book of my long past

Continental travels. On this occasion, as we made our way slowly

through Switzerland and over the Alps, we encountered again and

again a poor forlorn Englishman, who had no friend and no aptitude

for travelling. He was always losing his way, and finding himself

with no seat in the coaches and no bed at the inns. On one occasion

I found him at Coire seated at 5 A. M. in the coupe of a diligence

which was intended to start at noon for the Engadine, while it was

his purpose to go over the Alps in another which was to leave at

5.30, and which was already crowded with passengers. "Ah!" he said,

"I am in time now, and nobody shall turn me out of this seat,"

alluding to former little misfortunes of which I had been a witness.

When I explained to him his position, he was as one to whom life

was too bitter to be borne. But he made his way into Italy, and

encountered me again at the Pitti Palace in Florence. "Can you

tell me something?" he said to me in a whisper, having touched my

shoulder. "The people are so ill-natured I don't like to ask them.

Where is it they keep the Medical Venus?" I sent him to the Uffizzi,

but I fear he was disappointed.

We ourselves, however, on entering Milan had been in quite as much

distress as any that he suffered. We had not written for beds,

and on driving up to a hotel at ten in the evening found it full.

Thence we went from one hotel to another, finding them all full.

The misery is one well known to travellers, but I never heard of

another case in which a man and his wife were told at midnight to

get out of the conveyance into the middle of the street because the

horse could not be made to go any further. Such was our condition.

I induced the driver, however, to go again to the hotel which was

nearest to him, and which was kept by a German. Then I bribed the

porter to get the master to come down to me; and, though my French

is ordinarily very defective, I spoke with such eloquence to

that German innkeeper that he, throwing his arms round my neck in

a transport of compassion, swore that he would never leave me nor

my wife till he had put us to bed. And he did so; but, ah! there

were so many in those beds! It is such an experience as this which

teaches a travelling foreigner how different on the Continent is

the accommodation provided for him, from that which is supplied

for the inhabitants of the country.

It was on a previous visit to Milan, when the telegraph-wires were

only just opened to the public by the Austrian authorities, that

we had decided one day at dinner that we would go to Verona that

night. There was a train at six, reaching Verona at midnight, and

we asked some servant of the hotel to telegraph for us, ordering

supper and beds. The demand seemed to create some surprise; but

we persisted, and were only mildly grieved when we found ourselves

charged twenty zwanzigers for the message. Telegraphy was new at

Milan, and the prices were intended to be almost prohibitory. We

paid our twenty zwanzigers and went on, consoling ourselves with the

thought of our ready supper and our assured beds. When we reached

Verona, there arose a great cry along the platform for Signor

Trollope. I put out my head and declared my identity, when I

was waited upon by a glorious personage dressed like a beau for a

ball, with half-a-dozen others almost as glorious behind him, who

informed me, with his hat in his hand, that he was the landlord of

the "Due Torre." It was a heating moment, but it became more hot

when he asked after my people,--"mes gens." I could only turn round,

and point to my wife and brother-in-law. I had no other "people."

There were three carriages provided for us, each with a pair of

grey horses. When we reached the house it was all lit up. We were

not allowed to move without an attendant with a lighted candle. It

was only gradually that the mistake came to be understood. On us

there was still the horror of the bill, the extent of which could

not be known till the hour of departure had come. The landlord,

however, had acknowledged to himself that his inductions had been

ill-founded, and he treated us with clemency. He had never before

received a telegram.

I apologise for these tales, which are certainly outside my purpose,

and will endeavour to tell no more that shall not have a closer

relation to my story. I had finished The Three Clerks just before

I left England, and when in Florence was cudgelling my brain for

a new plot. Being then with my brother, I asked him to sketch me a

plot, and he drew out that of my next novel, called Doctor Thorne.

I mention this particularly, because it was the only occasion in

which I have had recourse to some other source than my own brains

for the thread of a story. How far I may unconsciously have adopted

incidents from what I have read,--either from history or from works

of imagination,--I do not know. It is beyond question that a man

employed as I have been must do so. But when doing it I have not

been aware that I have done it. I have never taken another man's

work, and deliberately framed my work upon it. I am far from

censuring this practice in others. Our greatest masters in works

of imagination have obtained such aid for themselves. Shakespeare

dug out of such quarries whenever he could find them. Ben Jonson,

with heavier hand, built up his structures on his studies of

the classics, not thinking it beneath him to give, without direct

acknowledgment, whole pieces translated both from poets and

historians. But in those days no such acknowledgment was usual.

Plagiary existed, and was very common, but was not known as a sin.

It is different now; and I think that an author, when he uses either

the words or the plot of another, should own as much, demanding to

be credited with no more of the work than he has himself produced.

I may say also that I have never printed as my own a word that has

been written by others. [Footnote: I must make one exception to

this declaration. The legal opinion as to heirlooms in The Eustace

Diamonds was written for me by Charles Merewether, the present

Member for Northampton. I am told that it has become the ruling

authority on the subject.] It might probably have been better for

my readers had I done so, as I am informed that Doctor Thorne, the

novel of which I am now speaking, has a larger sale than any other

book of mine.

Early in 1858, while I was writing Doctor Thorne, I was asked by

the great men at the General Post Office to go to Egypt to make a

treaty with the Pasha for the conveyance of our mails through that

country by railway. There was a treaty in existence, but that had

reference to the carriage of bags and boxes by camels from Alexandria

to Suez. Since its date the railway had grown, and was now nearly

completed, and a new treaty was wanted. So I came over from Dublin

to London, on my road, and again went to work among the publishers.

The other novel was not finished; but I thought I had now progressed

far enough to arrange a sale while the work was still on the stocks.

I went to Mr. Bentley and demanded (pounds)400,--for the copyright. He

acceded, but came to me the next morning at the General Post Office

to say that it could not be. He had gone to work at his figures

after I had left him, and had found that (pounds)300 would be the outside

value of the novel. I was intent upon the larger sum; and in furious

haste,--for I had but an hour at my disposal,--I rushed to Chapman

& Hall in Piccadilly, and said what I had to say to Mr. Edward

Chapman in a quick torrent of words. They were the first of a great

many words which have since been spoken by me in that back-shop.

Looking at me as he might have done at a highway robber who had

stopped him on Hounslow Heath, he said that he supposed he might

as well do as I desired. I considered this to be a sale, and it

was a sale. I remember that he held the poker in his hand all the

time that I was with him;--but in truth, even though he had declined

to buy the book, there would have been no danger.


As I journeyed across France to Marseilles, and made thence a

terribly rough voyage to Alexandria, I wrote my allotted number of

pages every day. On this occasion more than once I left my paper

on the cabin table, rushing away to be sick in the privacy of my

state room. It was February, and the weather was miserable; but

still I did my work. Labor omnia vincit improbus. I do not say that

to all men has been given physical strength sufficient for such

exertion as this, but I do believe that real exertion will enable

most men to work at almost any season. I had previously to this

arranged a system of task-work for myself, which I would strongly

recommend to those who feel as I have felt, that labour, when not

made absolutely obligatory by the circumstances of the hour, should

never be allowed to become spasmodic. There was no day on which

it was my positive duty to write for the publishers, as it was my

duty to write reports for the Post Office. I was free to be idle if

I pleased. But as I had made up my mind to undertake this second

profession, I found it to be expedient to bind myself by certain

self-imposed laws. When I have commenced a new book, I have always

prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried it on for the

period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work.

In this I have entered, day by day, the number of pages I have

written, so that if at any time I have slipped into idleness for

a day or two, the record of that idleness has been there, staring

me in the face, and demanding of me increased labour, so that the

deficiency might be supplied. According to the circumstances of the

time,--whether my other business might be then heavy or light, or

whether the book which I was writing was or was not wanted with

speed,--I have allotted myself so many pages a week. The average

number has been about 40. It has been placed as low as 20, and has

risen to 112. And as a page is an ambiguous term, my page has been

made to contain 250 words; and as words, if not watched, will have

a tendency to straggle, I have had every word counted as I went. In

the bargains I have made with publishers I have,--not, of course,

with their knowledge, but in my own mind,--undertaken always to

supply them with so many words, and I have never put a book out

of hand short of the number by a single word. I may also say that

the excess has been very small. I have prided myself on completing

my work exactly within the proposed dimensions. But I have prided

myself especially in completing it within the proposed time,--and

I have always done so. There has ever been the record before me,

and a week passed with an insufficient number of pages has been a

blister to my eye, and a month so disgraced would have been a sorrow

to my heart.

I have been told that such appliances are beneath the notice of a

man of genius. I have never fancied myself to be a man of genius,

but had I been so I think I might well have subjected myself to

these trammels. Nothing surely is so potent as a law that may not

be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the

stone. A small daily task, If it be really daily, will beat the

labours of a spasmodic Hercules. It is the tortoise which always

catches the hare. The hare has no chance. He loses more time in

glorifying himself for a quick spurt than suffices for the tortoise

to make half his journey.

I have known authors whose lives have always been troublesome and

painful because their tasks have never been done in time. They

have ever been as boys struggling to learn their lessons as they

entered the school gates. Publishers have distrusted them, and they

have failed to write their best because they have seldom written at

ease. I have done double their work--though burdened with another

profession,--and have done it almost without an effort. I have not

once, through all my literary career, felt myself even in danger

of being late with my task. I have known no anxiety as to "copy."

The needed pages far ahead--very far ahead--have almost always

been in the drawer beside me. And that little diary, with its dates

and ruled spaces, its record that must be seen, its daily, weekly

demand upon my industry, has done all that for me.

There are those who would be ashamed to subject themselves to

such a taskmaster, and who think that the man who works with his

imagination should allow himself to wait till--inspiration moves

him. When I have heard such doctrine preached, I have hardly been

able to repress my scorn. To me it would not be more absurd if the

shoemaker were to wait for inspiration, or the tallow-chandler for

the divine moment of melting. If the man whose business it is to

write has eaten too many good things, or has drunk too much, or

smoked too many cigars,--as men who write sometimes will do,--then

his condition may be unfavourable for work; but so will be the

condition of a shoemaker who has been similarly imprudent. I have

sometimes thought that the inspiration wanted has been the remedy

which time will give to the evil results of such imprudence.--Mens

sana in corpore sano. The author wants that as does every other

workman,--that and a habit of industry. I was once told that the

surest aid to the writing of a book was a piece of cobbler's wax on

my chair. I certainly believe in the cobbler's wax much more than

the inspiration.

It will be said, perhaps, that a man whose work has risen to no

higher pitch than mine has attained, has no right to speak of the

strains and impulses to which real genius is exposed. I am ready

to admit the great variations in brain power which are exhibited by

the products of different men, and am not disposed to rank my own

very high; but my own experience tells me that a man can always do

the work for which his brain is fitted if he will give himself the

habit of regarding his work as a normal condition of his life. I

therefore venture to advise young men who look forward to authorship

as the business of their lives, even when they propose that that

authorship be of the highest class known, to avoid enthusiastic

rushes with their pens, and to seat themselves at their desks day

by day as though they were lawyers' clerks;--and so let them sit

until the allotted task shall be accomplished.

While I was in Egypt, I finished Doctor Thorne, and on the following

day began The Bertrams. I was moved now by a determination to excel,

if not in quality, at any rate in quantity. An ignoble ambition

for an author, my readers will no doubt say. But not, I think,

altogether ignoble, if an author can bring himself to look at his

work as does any other workman. This had become my task, this

was the furrow in which my plough was set, this was the thing the

doing of which had fallen into my hands, and I was minded to work

at it with a will. It is not on my conscience that I have ever

scamped my work. My novels, whether good or bad, have been as good

as I could make them. Had I taken three months of idleness between

each they would have been no better. Feeling convinced of that, I

finished Doctor Thorne on one day, and began The Bertrams on the


I had then been nearly two months in Egypt, and had at last

succeeded in settling the terms of a postal treaty. Nearly twenty

years have passed since that time, and other years may yet run on

before these pages are printed. I trust I may commit no official

sin by describing here the nature of the difficulty which met me.

I found, on my arrival, that I was to communicate with an officer

of the Pasha, who was then called Nubar Bey. I presume him to have

been the gentleman who has lately dealt with our Government as to

the Suez Canal shares, and who is now well known to the political

world as Nubar Pasha. I found him a most courteous gentlemen, an

Armenian. I never went to his office, nor do I know that he had an

office. Every other day he would come to me at my hotel, and bring

with him servants, and pipes, and coffee. I enjoyed his coming

greatly; but there was one point on which we could not agree. As

to money and other details, it seemed as though he could hardly

accede fast enough to the wishes of the Postmaster-General; but

on one point he was firmly opposed to me. I was desirous that the

mails should be carried through Egypt in twenty-four hours, and he

thought that forty-eight hours should be allowed. I was obstinate,

and he was obstinate; and for a long time we could come to

no agreement. At last his oriental tranquillity seemed to desert

him, and he took upon himself to assure me, with almost more than

British energy, that, if I insisted on the quick transit, a terrible

responsibility would rest on my head. I made this mistake, he

said,--that I supposed that a rate of travelling which would be

easy and secure in England could be attained with safety in Egypt.

"The Pasha, his master, would," he said, "no doubt accede to

any terms demanded by the British Post Office, so great was his

reverence for everything British. In that case he, Nubar, would at

once resign his position, and retire into obscurity. He would be

ruined; but the loss of life and bloodshed which would certainly

follow so rash an attempt should not be on his head." I smoked my

pipe, or rather his, and drank his coffee, with oriental quiescence

but British firmness. Every now and again, through three or four

visits, I renewed the expression of my opinion that the transit

could easily be made in twenty-four hours. At last he gave way,--and

astonished me by the cordiality of his greeting. There was no

longer any question of bloodshed or of resignation of office, and

he assured me, with energetic complaisance, that it should be his

care to see that the time was punctually kept. It was punctually

kept, and, I believe, is so still. I must confess, however, that my

persistency was not the result of any courage specially personal to

myself. While the matter was being debated, it had been whispered

to me that the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company had

conceived that forty-eight hours would suit the purposes of their

traffic better than twenty-four, and that, as they were the great

paymasters on the railway, the Minister of the Egyptian State,

who managed the railway, might probably wish to accommodate them.

I often wondered who originated that frightful picture of blood

and desolation. That it came from an English heart and an English

hand I was always sure.

From Egypt I visited the Holy Land, and on my way inspected the

Post Offices at Malta and Gibraltar. I could fill a volume with

true tales of my adventures. The Tales of All Countries have, most

of them, some foundation in such occurrences. There is one called

John Bull on the Guadalquivir, the chief incident in which occurred

to me and a friend of mine on our way up that river to Seville. We

both of us handled the gold ornaments of a man whom we believed to

be a bull-fighter, but who turned out to be a duke,--and a duke,

too, who could speak English! How gracious he was to us, and yet

how thoroughly he covered us with ridicule!

On my return home I received (pounds)400 from Messrs. Chapman & Hall for

Doctor Thorne, and agreed to sell them The Bertrams for the same sum.

This latter novel was written under very vagrant circumstances,--at

Alexandria, Malta, Gibraltar, Glasgow, then at sea, and at last

finished in Jamaica. Of my journey to the West Indies I will say

a few words presently, but I may as well speak of these two novels

here. Doctor Thorne has, I believe, been the most popular book that

I have written,--if I may take the sale as a proof of comparative

popularity. The Bertrams has had quite an opposite fortune. I do not

know that I have ever heard it well spoken of even by my friends,

and I cannot remember that there is any character in it that has

dwelt in the minds of novel-readers. I myself think that they are

of about equal merit, but that neither of them is good. They fall

away very much from The Three Clerks, both in pathos and humour.

There is no personage in either of them comparable to Chaffanbrass the

lawyer. The plot of Doctor Thorne is good, and I am led therefore

to suppose that a good plot,--which, to my own feeling, is the

most insignificant part of a tale,--is that which will most raise

it or most condemn it in the public judgment. The plots of Tom Jones

and of Ivanhoe are almost perfect, and they are probably the most

popular novels of the schools of the last and of this century; but

to me the delicacy of Amelia, and the rugged strength of Burley

and Meg Merrilies, say more for the power of those great novelists

than the gift of construction shown in the two works I have named.

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. That

of The Bertrams was more than ordinarily bad; and as the book was

relieved by no special character, it failed. Its failure never

surprised me; but I have been surprised by the success of Doctor


At this time there was nothing in the success of the one or the

failure of the other to affect me very greatly. The immediate sale,

and the notices elicited from the critics, and the feeling which

had now come to me of a confident standing with the publishers, all

made me know that I had achieved my object. If I wrote a novel,

I could certainly sell it. And if I could publish three in two

years,--confining myself to half the fecundity of that terrible

author of whom the publisher in Paternoster Row had complained to

me,--I might add (pounds)600 a year to my official income. I was still

living in Ireland, and could keep a good house over my head, insure

my life, educate my two boys, and hunt perhaps twice a week, on (pounds)1400

a year. If more should come, it would be well;--but (pounds)600 a year I

was prepared to reckon as success. It had been slow in coming, but

was very pleasant when it came.

On my return from Egypt I was sent down to Scotland to revise the

Glasgow Post Office. I almost forget now what it was that I had

to do there, but I know that I walked all over the city with the

letter-carriers, going up to the top flats of the houses, as the

men would have declared me incompetent to judge the extent of their

labours had I not trudged every step with them. It was midsummer,

and wearier work I never performed. The men would grumble, and

then I would think how it would be with them if they had to go home

afterwards and write a love-scene. But the love-scenes written in

Glasgow, all belonging to The Bertrams, are not good.

Then in the autumn of that year, 1858, I was asked to go to the West

Indies, and cleanse the Augean stables of our Post Office system

there. Up to that time, and at that time, our Colonial Post Offices

generally were managed from home, and were subject to the British

Postmaster-General. Gentlemen were sent out from England to be

postmasters, surveyors, and what not; and as our West Indian islands

have never been regarded as being of themselves happily situated

for residence, the gentlemen so sent were sometimes more conspicuous

for want of income than for official zeal and ability. Hence the

stables had become Augean. I was also instructed to carry out in

some of the islands a plan for giving up this postal authority to

the island Governor, and in others to propose some such plan. I

was then to go on to Cuba, to make a postal treaty with the Spanish

authorities, and to Panama for the same purpose with the Government

of New Grenada. All this work I performed to my satisfaction, and

I hope to that of my masters in St. Martin's le Grand.

But the trip is at the present moment of importance to my subject,

as having enabled me to write that which, on the whole, I regard

as the best book that has come from my pen. It is short, and, I

think I may venture to say, amusing, useful, and true. As soon as

I had learned from the secretary at the General Post Office that

this journey would be required, I proposed the book to Messrs.

Chapman & Hall, demanding (pounds)250 for a single volume. The contract

was made without 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 require 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 (pounds)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. [Footnote: It was not abandoned till sixteen more years

had passed away.] 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.

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 (pounds)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 the 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:--


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 (pounds)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 he 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 Robarts.

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 our great poets, or reading them

miss the lesson! And even in prose fiction the character whom

the fervid imagination of the writer has lifted somewhat into the

clouds, will hardly give so plain an example to the hasty normal

reader as the humbler personage whom that reader unconsciously feels

to resemble himself or herself. I do think that a girl would more

probably dress her own mind after Lucy Robarts than after Flora


There are many who would laugh at the idea of a novelist teaching

either virtue or nobility,--those, for instance, who regard

the reading of novels as a sin, and those also who think it to be

simply an idle pastime. They look upon the tellers of stories as

among the tribe of those who pander to the wicked pleasures of a

wicked world. I have regarded my art from so different a point of

view that I have ever thought of myself as a preacher of sermons,

and my pulpit as one which I could make both salutary and agreeable

to my audience. I do believe that no girl has risen from the reading

of my pages less modest than she was before, and that some may have

learned from them that modesty is a charm well worth preserving. I

think that no youth has been taught that in falseness and flashness

is to be found the road to manliness; but some may perhaps have

learned from me that it is to be found in truth and a high but

gentle spirit. Such are the lessons I have striven to teach; and

I have thought it might best be done by representing to my readers

characters like themselves,--or to which they might liken themselves.

Framley Parsonage--or, rather, my connection with the Cornhill--was

the means of introducing me very quickly to that literary world

from which I had hitherto been severed by the fact of my residence

in Ireland. In December, 1859, while I was still very hard at work

on my novel, I came over to take charge of the Eastern District,

and settled myself at a residence about twelve miles from London,

in Hertfordshire, but on the borders both of Essex and Middlesex,--which

was somewhat too grandly called Waltham House. This I took on

lease, and subsequently bought after I had spent about (pounds)1000 on

improvements. From hence I was able to make myself frequent both

in Cornhill and Piccadilly, and to live, when the opportunity came,

among men of my own pursuit.

It was in January, 1860, that Mr. George Smith--to whose enterprise

we owe not only the Cornhill Magazine but the Pall Mall Gazette--gave

a sumptuous dinner to his contributors. It was a memorable banquet

in many ways, but chiefly so to me because on that occasion I first

met many men who afterwards became my most intimate associates.

It can rarely happen that one such occasion can be the first

starting-point of so many friendships. It was at that table, and

on that day, that I first saw Thackeray, Charles Taylor (Sir)--than

whom in latter life I have loved no man better,--Robert Bell, G. H.

Lewes, and John Everett Millais. With all these men I afterwards

lived on affectionate terms;--but I will here speak specially of

the last, because from that time he was joined with me in so much

of the work that I did.

Mr. Millais was engaged to illustrate Framley Parsonage, but this

was not the first work he did for the magazine. In the second number

there is a picture of his accompanying Monckton Milne's Unspoken

Dialogue. The first drawing he did for Framley Parsonage did not

appear till after the dinner of which I have spoken, and I do not

think that I knew at the time that he was engaged on my novel. When

I did know it, it made me very proud. He afterwards illustrated

Orley Farm, The Small House of Allington, Rachel Ray, and Phineas

Finn. Altogether he drew from my tales eighty-seven drawings, and

I do not think that more conscientious work was ever done by man.

Writers of novels know well--and so ought readers of novels to

have learned--that there are two modes of illustrating, either of

which may be adopted equally by a bad and by a good artist. To

which class Mr. Millais belongs I need not say; but, as a good

artist, it was open to him simply to make a pretty picture, or to

study the work of the author from whose writing he was bound to take

his subject. I have too often found that the former alternative

has been thought to be the better, as it certainly is the easier

method. An artist will frequently dislike to subordinate his ideas

to those of an author, and will sometimes be too idle to find out

what those ideas are. But this artist was neither proud nor idle.

In every figure that he drew it was his object to promote the

views of the writer whose work he had undertaken to illustrate, and

he never spared himself any pains in studying that work, so as to

enable him to do so. I have carried on some of those characters from

book to book, and have had my own early ideas impressed indelibly

on my memory by the excellence of his delineations. Those illustrations

were commenced fifteen years ago, and from that time up to this

day my affection for the man of whom I am speaking has increased.

To see him has always been a pleasure. His voice has been a sweet

sound in my ears. Behind his back I have never heard him praised

without joining the eulogist; I have never heard a word spoken

against him without opposing the censurer. These words, should he

ever see them, will come to him from the grave, and will tell him

of my regard,--as one living man never tells another.

Sir Charles Taylor, who carried me home in his brougham that

evening, and thus commenced an intimacy which has since been very

close, was born to wealth, and was therefore not compelled by the

necessities of a profession to enter the lists as an author. But

he lived much with those who did so,--and could have done it himself

had want or ambition stirred him. He was our king at the Garrick

Club, to which, however, I did not yet belong. He gave the best

dinners of my time, and was,--happily I may say is, [Footnote:

Alas! within a year of the writing of this he went from us.]--the

best giver of dinners. A man rough of tongue, brusque in his manners,

odious to those who dislike him, somewhat inclined to tyranny, he

is the prince of friends, honest as the sun, and as openhanded as

Charity itself.

Robert Bell has now been dead nearly ten years. As I look back

over the interval and remember how intimate we were, it seems odd

to me that we should have known each other for no more than six

years. He was a man who had lived by his pen from his very youth;

and was so far successful that I do not think that want ever came

near him. But he never made that mark which his industry and talents

would have seemed to ensure. He was a man well known to literary

men, but not known to readers. As a journalist he was useful

and conscientious, but his plays and novels never made themselves

popular. He wrote a life of Canning, and he brought out an annotated

edition of the British poets; but he achieved no great success.

I have known no man better read in English literature. Hence his

conversation had a peculiar charm, but he was not equally happy

with his pen. He will long be remembered at the Literary Fund

Committees, of which he was a staunch and most trusted supporter.

I think it was he who first introduced me to that board. It has

often been said that literary men are peculiarly apt to think that

they are slighted and unappreciated. Robert Bell certainly never

achieved the position in literature which he once aspired to fill,

and which he was justified in thinking that he could earn for

himself. I have frequently discussed these subjects with him, but

I never heard from his mouth a word of complaint as to his own

literary fate. He liked to hear the chimes go at midnight, and he

loved to have ginger hot in his mouth. On such occasions no sound

ever came out of a man's lips sweeter than his wit and gentle


George Lewes,--with his wife, whom all the world knows as George

Eliot,--has also been and still is one of my dearest friends.

He is, I think, the acutest critic I know,--and the severest. His

severity, however, is a fault. His intention to be honest, even when

honesty may give pain, has caused him to give pain when honesty has

not required it. He is essentially a doubter, and has encouraged

himself to doubt till the faculty of trusting has almost left him.

I am not speaking of the personal trust which one man feels in

another, but of that confidence in literary excellence, which is,

I think, necessary for the full enjoyment of literature. In one

modern writer he did believe thoroughly. Nothing can be more charming

than the unstinted admiration which he has accorded to everything

that comes from the pen of the wonderful woman to whom his lot has

been united. To her name I shall recur again when speaking of the

novelists of the present day.

Of "Billy Russell," as we always used to call him, I may say

that I never knew but one man equal to him in the quickness and

continuance of witty speech. That one man was Charles Lever--also

an Irishman--whom I had known from an earlier date, and also with

close intimacy. Of the two, I think that Lever was perhaps the

more astounding producer of good things. His manner was perhaps a

little the happier, and his turns more sharp and unexpected. But

"Billy" also was marvellous. Whether abroad as special correspondent,

or at home amidst the flurry of his newspaper work, he was a charming

companion; his ready wit always gave him the last word.

Of Thackeray I will speak again when I record his death.

There were many others whom I met for the first time at George

Smith's table. Albert Smith, for the first, and indeed for the last

time, as he died soon after; Higgins, whom all the world knew as

Jacob Omnium, a man I greatly regarded; Dallas, who for a time was

literary critic to the Times, and who certainly in that capacity

did better work than has appeared since in the same department;

George Augustus Sala, who, had he given himself fair play, would

have risen to higher eminence than that of being the best writer

in his day of sensational leading articles; and Fitz-James Stephen,

a man of very different calibre, who had not yet culminated, but

who, no doubt, will culminate among our judges. There were many

others;--but I cannot now recall their various names as identified

with those banquets.

Of Framley Parsonage I need only further say, that as I wrote it I

became more closely than ever acquainted with the new shire which

I had added to the English counties. I had it all in my mind,--its

roads and railroads, its towns and parishes, its members of Parliament,

and the different hunts which rode over it. I knew all the great

lords and their castles, the squires and their parks, the rectors

and their churches. This was the fourth novel of which I had placed

the scene in Barsetshire, and as I wrote it I made a map of the

dear county. Throughout these stories there has been no name given

to a fictitious site which does not represent to me a spot of which I

know all the accessories, as though I had lived and wandered there.


When I had half-finished Framley Parsonage, I went back to my other

story, Castle Richmond, which I was writing for Messrs. Chapman &

Hall, and completed that. I think that this was the only occasion

on which I have had two different novels in my mind at the same

time. This, however, did not create either difficulty or confusion.

Many of us live in different circles; and when we go from our friends

in the town to our friends in the country, we do not usually fail

to remember the little details of the one life or the other. The

parson at Rusticum, with his wife and his wife's mother, and all

his belongings; and our old friend, the Squire, with his family

history; and Farmer Mudge, who has been cross with us, because we

rode so unnecessarily over his barley; and that rascally poacher,

once a gamekeeper, who now traps all the foxes; and pretty Mary

Cann, whose marriage with the wheelwright we did something to

expedite;--though we are alive to them all, do not drive out of our

brain the club gossip, or the memories of last season's dinners, or

any incident of our London intimacies. In our lives we are always

weaving novels, and we manage to keep the different tales distinct.

A man does, in truth, remember that which it interests him to

remember; and when we hear that memory has gone as age has come on,

we should understand that the capacity for interest in the matter

concerned has perished. A man will be generally very old and feeble

before he forgets how much money he has in the funds. There is

a good deal to be learned by any one who wishes to write a novel

well; but when the art has been acquired, I do not see why two or

three should not be well written at the same time. I have never

found myself thinking much about the work that I had to do till

I was doing it. I have indeed for many years almost abandoned the

effort to think, trusting myself, with the narrowest thread of

a plot, to work the matter out when the pen is in my hand. But my

mind is constantly employing itself on the work I have done. Had

I left either Framley Parsonage or Castle Richmond half-finished

fifteen years ago, I think I could complete the tales now with very

little trouble. I have not looked at Castle Richmond since it was

published; and poor as the work is, I remember all the incidents.

Castle Richmond certainly was not a success,--though the plot is a

fairly good plot, and is much more of a plot than I have generally

been able to find. The scene is laid in Ireland, during the famine;

and I am well aware now that English readers no longer like Irish

stories. I cannot understand why it should be so, as the Irish

character is peculiarly well fitted for romance. But Irish subjects

generally have become distasteful. This novel, however, is of

itself a weak production. The characters do not excite sympathy.

The heroine has two lovers, one of whom is a scamp and the other

a prig. As regards the scamp, the girl's mother is her own rival.

Rivalry of the same nature has been admirably depicted by Thackeray

in his Esmond; but there the mother's love seems to be justified

by the girl's indifference. In Castle Richmond the mother strives

to rob her daughter of the man's love. The girl herself has no

character; and the mother, who is strong enough, is almost revolting.

The dialogue is often lively, and some of the incidents are well

told; but the story as a whole was a failure. I cannot remember,

however, that it was roughly handled by the critics when it came

out; and I much doubt whether anything so hard was said of it then

as that which I have said here.

I was now settled at Waltham Cross, in a house in which I could

entertain a few friends modestly, where we grew our cabbages

and strawberries, made our own butter, and killed our own pigs. I

occupied it for twelve years, and they were years to me of great

prosperity. In 1861 I became a member of the Garrick Club, with

which institution I have since been much identified. I had belonged

to it about two years, when, on Thackeray's death, I was invited

to fill his place on the Committee, and I have been one of that

august body ever since. Having up to that time lived very little

among men, having known hitherto nothing of clubs, having even as

a boy been banished from social gatherings, I enjoyed infinitely at

first the gaiety of the Garrick. It was a festival to me to dine

there--which I did indeed but seldom; and a great delight to play

a rubber in the little room up-stairs of an afternoon. I am speaking

now of the old club in King Street. This playing of whist before

dinner has since that become a habit with me, so that unless there

be something else special to do--unless there be hunting, or I am

wanted to ride in the park by the young tyrant of my household--it

is "my custom always in the afternoon." I have sometimes felt sore

with myself for this persistency, feeling that I was making myself

a slave to an amusement which has not after all very much to

recommend it. I have often thought that I would break myself away

from it, and "swear off," as Rip Van Winkle says. But my swearing

off has been like that of Rip Van Winkle. And now, as I think of

it coolly, I do not know but that I have been right to cling to it.

As a man grows old he wants amusement, more even than when he is

young; and then it becomes so difficult to find amusement. Reading

should, no doubt, be the delight of men's leisure hours. Had I to

choose between books and cards, I should no doubt take the books.

But I find that I can seldom read with pleasure for above an hour

and a half at a time, or more than three hours a day. As I write

this I am aware that hunting must soon be abandoned. After sixty

it is given but to few men to ride straight across country, and I

cannot bring myself to adopt any other mode of riding. I think that

without cards I should now be much at a loss. When I began to play

at the Garrick, I did so simply because I liked the society of the

men who played.

I think that I became popular among those with whom I associated.

I have long been aware of a certain weakness in my own character,

which I may call a craving for love. I have ever had a wish to be

liked by those around me,--a wish that during the first half of

my life was never gratified. In my school-days no small part of my

misery came from the envy with which I regarded the popularity of

popular boys. They seemed to me to live in a social paradise, while

the desolation of my pandemonium was complete. And afterwards,

when I was in London as a young man, I had but few friends. Among

the clerks in the Post Office I held my own fairly for the first

two or three years; but even then I regarded myself as something of

a pariah. My Irish life had been much better. I had had my wife and

children, and had been sustained by a feeling of general respect.

But even in Ireland I had in truth lived but little in society.

Our means had been sufficient for our wants, but insufficient for

entertaining others. It was not till we had settled ourselves at

Waltham that I really began to live much with others. The Garrick

Club was the first assemblage of men at which I felt myself to be


I soon became a member of other clubs. There was the Arts Club in

Hanover Square, of which I saw the opening, but from which, after

three or four years, I withdrew my name, having found that during

these three or four years I had not once entered the building.

Then I was one of the originators of the Civil Service Club--not

from judgment, but instigated to do so by others. That also I left

for the same reason. In 1864 I received the honour of being elected

by the Committee at the Athenaeum. For this I was indebted to the

kindness of Lord Stanhope; and I never was more surprised than when

I was informed of the fact. About the same time I became a member

of the Cosmopolitan, a little club that meets twice a week in

Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and supplies to all its members,

and its members' friends, tea and brandy and water without charge!

The gatherings there I used to think very delightful. One met

Jacob Omnium, Monckton Mimes, Tom Hughes, William Stirling, Henry

Reeve, Arthur Russell, Tom Taylor, and such like; and generally

a strong political element, thoroughly well mixed, gave a certain

spirit to the place. Lord Ripon, Lord Stanley, William Forster,

Lord Enfield, Lord Kimberley, George Bentinck, Vernon Harcourt,

Bromley Davenport, Knatchbull Huguessen, with many others, used to

whisper the secrets of Parliament with free tongues. Afterwards I

became a member of the Turf, which I found to be serviceable--or

the reverse--only for the playing of whist at high points.

In August, 1861, I wrote another novel for the Cornhill Magazine.

It was a short story, about one volume in length, and was called

The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson. In this I attempted a

style for which I certainly was not qualified, and to which I never

had again recourse. It was meant to be funny, was full of slang,

and was intended as a satire on the ways of trade. Still I think

that there is some good fun it it, but I have heard no one else

express such an opinion. I do not know that I ever heard any opinion

expressed on it, except by the publisher, who kindly remarked

that he did not think it was equal to my usual work. Though he had

purchased the copyright, he did not republish the story in a book

form till 1870, and then it passed into the world of letters sub

silentio. I do not know that it was ever criticised or ever read.

I received (pounds)600 for it. From that time to this I have been paid at

about that rate for my work--(pounds)600 for the quantity contained in

an ordinary novel volume, or (pounds)3000 for a long tale published in

twenty parts, which is equal in length to five such volumes. I have

occasionally, I think, received something more than this, never

I think less for any tale, except when I have published my work

anonymously. [Footnote: Since the date at which this was written

I have encountered a diminution in price.] Having said so much, I

need not further specify the prices as I mention the books as they

were written. I will, however, when I am completing this memoir,

give a list of all the sums I have received for my literary labours.

I think that Brown, Jones and Robinson was the hardest bargain I

ever sold to a publisher.

In 1861 the War of Secession had broken out in America, and from

the first I interested myself much in the question. My mother

had thirty years previously written a very popular, but, as I had

thought, a somewhat unjust book about our cousins over the water.

She had seen what was distasteful in the manners of a young people,

but had hardly recognised their energy. I had entertained for

many years an ambition to follow her footsteps there, and to write

another book. I had already paid a short visit to New York City and

State on my way home from the West Indies, but had not seen enough

then to justify me in the expression of any opinion. The breaking

out of the war did not make me think that the time was peculiarly

fit for such inquiry as I wished to make, but it did represent itself

as an occasion on which a book might be popular. I consequently

consulted the two great powers with whom I was concerned. Messrs.

Chapman & Hall, the publishers, were one power, and I had no difficulty

in arranging my affairs with them. They agreed to publish the book

on my terms, and bade me God-speed on my journey. The other power

was the Postmaster-General and Mr. Rowland Hill, the Secretary of

the Post Office. I wanted leave of absence for the unusual period

of nine months, and fearing that I should not get it by the ordinary

process of asking the Secretary, I went direct to his lordship.

"Is it on the plea of ill-health?" he asked, looking into my face,

which was then that of a very robust man. His lordship knew the

Civil Service as well as any one living, and must have seen much

of falseness and fraudulent pretence, or he could not have asked

that question. I told him that I was very well, but that I wanted

to write a book. "Had I any special ground to go upon in asking for

such indulgence?" I had, I said, done my duty well by the service.

There was a good deal of demurring, but I got my leave for nine

months,--and I knew that I had earned it. Mr. Hill attached to

the minute granting me the leave an intimation that it was to be

considered as a full equivalent for the special services rendered

by me to the department. I declined, however, to accept the grace

with such a stipulation, and it was withdrawn by the directions of

the Postmaster-General. [Footnote: During the period of my service

in the Post Office I did very much special work for which I never

asked any remuneration,--and never received any, though payments

for special services were common in the department at that time.

But if there was to be a question of such remuneration, I did not

choose that my work should be valued at the price put upon it by

Mr. Hill.]

I started for the States in August and returned in the following

May. The war was raging during the time that I was there, and the

country was full of soldiers. A part of the time I spent in Virginia,

Kentucky, and Missouri, among the troops, along the line of attack.

I visited all the States (excepting California) which had not then

seceded,--failing to make my way into the seceding States unless I

was prepared to visit them with an amount of discomfort I did not

choose to endure. I worked very hard at the task I had assigned to

myself, and did, I think, see much of the manners and institutions

of the people. Nothing struck me more than their persistence in

the ordinary pursuits of life in spite of the war which was around

them. Neither industry nor amusement seemed to meet with any check.

Schools, hospitals, and institutes were by no means neglected

because new regiments were daily required. The truth, I take it,

is that we, all of us, soon adapt ourselves to the circumstances

around us. Though three parts of London were in flames I should

no doubt expect to have my dinner served to me if I lived in the

quarter which was free from fire.

The book I wrote was very much longer than that on the West Indies,

but was also written almost without a note. It contained much

information, and, with many inaccuracies, was a true book. But it

was not well done. It is tedious and confused, and will hardly,

I think, be of future value to those who wish to make themselves

acquainted with the United States. It was published about the

middle of the war,--just at the time in which the hopes of those

who loved the South were I most buoyant, and the fears of those who

stood by the North were the strongest. But it expressed an assured

confidence--which never quavered in a page or in a line--that the

North would win. This assurance was based on the merits of the

Northern cause, on the superior strength of the Northern party,

and on a conviction that England would never recognise the South,

and that France would be guided in her policy by England. I was

right in my prophecies, and right, I think, on the grounds on which

they were made. The Southern cause was bad. The South had provoked

the quarrel because its political supremacy was checked by the election

of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency. It had to fight as a little man

against a big man, and fought gallantly. That gallantry,--and a

feeling based on a misconception as to American character that the

Southerners are better gentlemen than their Northern brethren,--did

create great sympathy here; but I believe that the country was too

just to be led into political action by a spirit of romance, and

I was warranted in that belief. There was a moment in which the

Northern cause was in danger, and the danger lay certainly in the

prospect of British interference. Messrs. Slidell and Mason,--two

men insignificant in themselves,--had been sent to Europe by the

Southern party, and had managed to get on board the British mail

steamer called "The Trent," at the Havannah. A most undue importance

was attached to this mission by Mr. Lincoln's government, and

efforts were made to stop them. A certain Commodore Wilkes, doing

duty as policeman on the seas, did stop the "Trent," and took the

men out. They were carried, one to Boston and one to New York,

and were incarcerated, amidst the triumph of the nation. Commodore

Wilkes, who had done nothing in which a brave man could take glory,

was made a hero and received a prize sword. England of course

demanded her passengers back, and the States for a while refused

to surrender them. But Mr. Seward was at that time the Secretary

of State, and Mr. Seward, with many political faults, was a wise

man. I was at Washington at the time, and it was known there that

the contest among the leading Northerners was very sharp on the

matter. Mr. Sumner and Mr. Seward were, under Mr. Lincoln, the two

chiefs of the party. It was understood that Mr. Sumner was opposed

to the rendition of the men, and Mr. Seward in favour of it. Mr.

Seward's counsels at last prevailed with the President, and England's

declaration of war was prevented. I dined with Mr. Seward on the

day of the decision, meeting Mr. Sumner at his house, and was told

as I left the dining-room what the decision had been. During the

afternoon I and others had received intimation through the embassy

that we might probably have to leave Washington at an hour's

notice. This, I think, was the severest danger that the Northern

cause encountered during the war.

But my book, though it was right in its views on this subject,--and

wrong in none other as far as I know,--was not a good book. I can

recommend no one to read it now in order that he may be either

instructed or amused,--as I can do that on the West Indies. It

served its purpose at the time, and was well received by the public

and by the critics.

Before starting to America I had completed Orley Farm, a novel which

appeared in shilling numbers,--after the manner in which Pickwick,

Nicholas Nickleby, and many others had been published. Most of

those among my friends who talk to me now about my novels, and are

competent to form an opinion on the subject, say that this is the

best I have written. In this opinion I do not coincide. I think

that the highest merit which a novel can have consists in perfect

delineation of character, rather than in plot, or humour, or pathos,

and I shall before long mention a subsequent work in which I think

the main character of the story is so well developed as to justify

me in asserting its claim above the others. The plot of Orley Farm

is probably the best I have ever made; but it has the fault of

declaring itself, and thus coming to an end too early in the book.

When Lady Mason tells her ancient lover that she did forge the

will, the plot of Orley Farm has unravelled itself;--and this she

does in the middle of the tale. Independently, however, of this the

novel is good. Sir Peregrine Orme, his grandson, Madeline Stavely,

Mr. Furnival, Mr. Chaffanbrass, and the commercial gentlemen,

are all good. The hunting is good. The lawyer's talk is good. Mr.

Moulder carves his turkey admirably, and Mr. Kantwise sells his

tables and chairs with spirit. I do not know that there is a dull

page in the book. I am fond of Orley Farm;--and am especially fond

of its illustrations by Millais, which are the best I have seen in

any novel in any language.

I now felt that I had gained my object. In 1862 I had achieved that

which I contemplated when I went to London in 1834, and towards which

I made my first attempt when I began the Macdermots in 1843. I had

created for myself a position among literary men, and had secured

to myself an income on which I might live in ease and comfort,--which

ease and comfort have been made to include many luxuries. From this

time for a period of twelve years my income averaged (pounds)4500 a year.

Of this I spent about two-thirds, and put by one. I ought perhaps

to have done better,--to have spent one-third, and put by two; but

I have ever been too well inclined to spend freely that which has

come easily.

This, however, has been so exactly the life which my thoughts and

aspirations had marked out,--thoughts and aspirations which used

to cause me to blush with shame because I was so slow in forcing

myself to the work which they demanded,--that I have felt some pride

in having attained it. I have before said how entirely I fail to

reach the altitude of those who think that a man devoted to letters

should be indifferent to the pecuniary results for which work is

generally done. An easy income has always been regarded by me as

a great blessing. Not to have to think of sixpences, or very much

of shillings; not to be unhappy because the coals have been burned

too quickly, and the house linen wants renewing; not to be debarred

by the rigour of necessity from opening one's hands, perhaps

foolishly, to one's friends;--all this to me has been essential to

the comfort of life. I have enjoyed the comfort for I may almost

say the last twenty years, though no man in his youth had less

prospect of doing so, or would have been less likely at twenty-five

to have had such luxuries foretold to him by his friends.

But though the money has been sweet, the respect, the friendships, and

the mode of life which has been achieved, have been much sweeter.

In my boyhood, when I would be crawling up to school with dirty

boots and trousers through the muddy lanes, I was always telling

myself that the misery of the hour was not the worst of it, but

that the mud and solitude and poverty of the time would insure me

mud and solitude and poverty through my life. Those lads about me

would go into Parliament, or become rectors and deans, or squires

of parishes, or advocates thundering at the Bar. They would not

live with me now,--but neither should I be able to live with them

in after years. Nevertheless I have lived with them. When, at the

age in which others go to the universities, I became a clerk in

the Post Office, I felt that my old visions were being realised. I

did not think it a high calling. I did not know then how very much

good work may be done by a member of the Civil Service who will show

himself capable of doing it. The Post Office at last grew upon me

and forced itself into my affections. I became intensely anxious

that people should have their letters delivered to them punctually.

But my hope to rise had always been built on the writing of novels,

and at last by the writing of novels I had risen.

I do not think that I ever toadied any one, or that I have acquired

the character of a tuft-hunter. But here I do not scruple to say

that I prefer the society of distinguished people, and that even the

distinction of wealth confers many advantages. The best education

is to be had at a price as well as the best broadcloth. The son

of a peer is more likely to rub his shoulders against well-informed

men than the son of a tradesman. The graces come easier to the

wife of him who has had great-grandfathers than they do to her

whose husband has been less,--or more fortunate, as he may think

it. The discerning man will recognise the information and the graces

when they are achieved without such assistance, and will honour

the owners of them the more because of the difficulties they have

overcome;--but the fact remains that the society of the well-born

and of the wealthy will as a rule be worth seeking. I say this

now, because these are the rules by which I have lived, and these

are the causes which have instigated me to work.

I have heard the question argued--On what terms should a man of

inferior rank live with those who are manifestly superior to him?

If a marquis or an earl honour me, who have no rank, with his

intimacy, am I in my intercourse with him to remember our close

acquaintance or his high rank? I have always said that where the

difference in position is quite marked, the overtures to intimacy

should always come from the higher rank; but if the intimacy be

ever fixed, then that rank should be held of no account. It seems

to me that intimate friendship admits of no standing but that

of equality. I cannot be the Sovereign's friend, nor probably the

friend of many very much beneath the Sovereign, because such equality

is impossible.

When I first came to Waltham Cross in the winter of 1859-1860, I had

almost made up my mind that my hunting was over. I could not then

count upon an income which would enable me to carry on an amusement

which I should doubtless find much more expensive in England than

in Ireland. I brought with me out of Ireland one mare, but she was

too light for me to ride in the hunting-field. As, however, the

money came in, I very quickly fell back into my old habits. First

one horse was bought, then another, and then a third, till it became

established as a fixed rule that I should not have less than four

hunters in the stable. Sometimes when my boys have been at home

I have had as many as six. Essex was the chief scene of my sport,

and gradually I became known there almost as well as though I had

been an Essex squire, to the manner born. Few have investigated more

closely than I have done the depth, and breadth, and water-holding

capacities of an Essex ditch. It will, I think, be accorded to me

by Essex men generally that I have ridden hard. The cause of my

delight in the amusement I have never been able to analyse to my

own satisfaction. In the first place, even now, I know very little

about hunting,--though I know very much of the accessories of the

field. I am too blind to see hounds turning, and cannot therefore

tell whether the fox has gone this way or that. Indeed all the

notice I take of hounds is not to ride over them. My eyes are so

constituted that I can never see the nature of a fence. I either

follow some one, or ride at it with the full conviction that I

may be going into a horse-pond or a gravel-pit. I have jumped into

both one and the other. I am very heavy, and have never ridden

expensive horses. I am also now old for such work, being so stiff

that I cannot get on to my horse without the aid of a block or a

bank. But I ride still after the same fashion, with a boy's energy,

determined to get ahead if it may possibly be done, hating the

roads, despising young men who ride them, and with a feeling that

life can not, with all her riches, have given me anything better

than when I have gone through a long run to the finish, keeping a

place, not of glory, but of credit, among my juniors.


During the early months of 1862 Orley Farm was still being brought

out in numbers, and at the same time Brown, Jones and Robinson was

appearing in the Cornhill Magazine. In September, 1862, the Small

House at Allington began its career in the same periodical. The

work on North America had also come out in 1862. In August, 1863,

the first number of Can You Forgive Her? was published as a separate

serial, and was continued through 1864. In 1863 a short novel was

produced in the ordinary volume form, called Rachel Ray. In addition

to these I published during the time two volumes of stories called

The Tales of all Countries. In the early spring of 1865 Miss Mackenzie

was issued in the same form as Rachel Ray; and in May of the same

year The Belton Estate was commenced with the commencement of the

Fortnightly Review, of which periodical I will say a few words in

this chapter.

I quite admit that I crowded my wares into the market too

quickly,--because the reading world could not want such a quantity

of matter from the hands of one author in so short a space of

time. I had not been quite so fertile as the unfortunate gentleman

who disgusted the publisher in Paternoster Row,--in the story of

whose productiveness I have always thought there was a touch of

romance,--but I had probably done enough to make both publishers

and readers think that I was coming too often beneath their notice.

Of publishers, however, I must speak collectively, as my sins

were, I think, chiefly due to the encouragement which I received

from them individually. What I wrote for the Cornhill Magazine, I

always wrote at the instigation of Mr. Smith. My other works were

published by Messrs. Chapman & Hall, in compliance with contracts

made by me with them, and always made with their good-will. Could

I have been two separate persons at one and the same time, of whom

one might have been devoted to Cornhill and the other to the interests

of the firm in Piccadilly, it might have been very well;--but as

I preserved my identity in both places, I myself became aware that

my name was too frequent on titlepages.

Critics, if they ever trouble themselves with these pages, will, of

course, say that in what I have now said I have ignored altogether

the one great evil of rapid production,--namely, that of inferior

work. And of course if the work was inferior because of the too

great rapidity of production, the critics would be right. Giving

to the subject the best of my critical abilities, and judging of

my own work as nearly as possible as I would that of another, I

believe that the work which has been done quickest has been done

the best. I have composed better stories--that is, have created

better plots--than those of The Small House at Allington and Can

You Forgive Her? and I have portrayed two or three better characters

than are to be found in the pages of either of them; but taking

these books all through, I do not think that I have ever done better

work. Nor would these have been improved by any effort in the art

of story telling, had each of these been the isolated labour of a

couple of years. How short is the time devoted to the manipulation

of a plot can be known only to those who have written plays and

novels; I may say also, how very little time the brain is able

to devote to such wearing work. There are usually some hours of

agonising doubt, almost of despair,--so at least it has been with

me,--or perhaps some days. And then, with nothing settled in my

brain as to the final development of events, with no capability

of settling anything, but with a most distinct conception of some

character or characters, I have rushed at the work as a rider rushes

at a fence which he does not see. Sometimes I have encountered

what, in hunting language, we call a cropper. I had such a fall in

two novels of mine, of which I have already spoken--The Bertrams

and Castle Richmond. I shall have to speak of other such troubles.

But these failures have not arisen from over-hurried work. When my

work has been quicker done,--and it has sometimes been done very

quickly--the rapidity has been achieved by hot pressure, not in

the conception, but in the telling of the story. Instead of writing

eight pages a day, I have written sixteen; instead of working five

days a week, I have worked seven. I have trebled my usual average,

and have done so in circumstances which have enabled me to give

up all my thoughts for the time to the book I have been writing.

This has generally been done at some quiet spot among the

mountains,--where there has been no society, no hunting, no whist,

no ordinary household duties. And I am sure that the work so done

has had in it the best truth and the highest spirit that I have

been able to produce. At such times I have been able to imbue myself

thoroughly with the characters I have had in hand. I have wandered

alone among the rocks and woods, crying at their grief, laughing at

their absurdities, and thoroughly enjoying their joy. I have been

impregnated with my own creations till it has been my only excitement

to sit with the pen in my hand, and drive my team before me at as

quick a pace as I could make them travel.

The critics will again say that all this may be very well as to

the rough work of the author's own brain, but it will be very far

from well in reference to the style in which that work has been

given to the public. After all, the vehicle which a writer uses for

conveying his thoughts to the public should not be less important

to him than the thoughts themselves. An author can hardly hope to

be popular unless he can use popular language. That is quite true;

but then comes the question of achieving a popular--in other words,

I may say, a good and lucid style. How may an author best acquire

a mode of writing which shall be agreeable and easily intelligible

to the reader? He must be correct, because without correctness he

can be neither agreeable nor intelligible. Readers will expect him

to obey those rules which they, consciously or unconsciously, have

been taught to regard as binding on language; and unless he does

obey them, he will disgust. Without much labour, no writer will

achieve such a style. He has very much to learn; and, when he has

learned that much, he has to acquire the habit of using what he has

learned with ease. But all this must be learned and acquired,--not

while he is writing that which shall please, but long before. His

language must come from him as music comes from the rapid touch of

the great performer's fingers; as words come from the mouth of the

indignant orator; as letters fly from the fingers of the trained

compositor; as the syllables tinkled out by little bells form

themselves to the ear of the telegraphist. A man who thinks much of

his words as he writes them will generally leave behind him work

that smells of oil. I speak here, of course, of prose; for in poetry

we know what care is necessary, and we form our taste accordingly.

Rapid writing will no doubt give rise to inaccuracy,--chiefly because

the ear, quick and true as may be its operation, will occasionally

break down under pressure, and, before a sentence be closed, will

forget the nature of the composition with which it was commenced.

A singular nominative will be disgraced by a plural verb, because

other pluralities have intervened and have tempted the ear into

plural tendencies. Tautologies will occur, because the ear, in

demanding fresh emphasis, has forgotten that the desired force has

been already expressed. I need not multiply these causes of error,

which must have been stumbling-blocks indeed when men wrote in the

long sentences of Gibbon, but which Macaulay, with his multiplicity

of divisions, has done so much to enable us to avoid. A rapid writer

will hardly avoid these errors altogether. Speaking of myself, I

am ready to declare that, with much training, I have been unable to

avoid them. But the writer for the press is rarely called upon--a

writer of books should never be called upon--to send his manuscript

hot from his hand to the printer. It has been my practice to read

everything four times at least--thrice in manuscript and once in

print. Very much of my work I have read twice in print. In spite

of this I know that inaccuracies have crept through,--not single

spies, but in battalions. From this I gather that the supervision

has been insufficient, not that the work itself has been done too

fast. I am quite sure that those passages which have been written

with the greatest stress of labour, and consequently with the

greatest haste, have been the most effective and by no means the

most inaccurate.

The Small House at Allington redeemed my reputation with the spirited

proprietor of the Cornhill, which must, I should think, have been

damaged by Brown, Jones, and Robinson. In it appeared Lily Dale,

one of the characters which readers of my novels have liked the

best. In the love with which she has been greeted I have hardly

joined with much enthusiasm, feeling that she is somewhat of a

French prig. She became first engaged to a snob, who jilted her;

and then, though in truth she loved another man who was hardly

good enough, she could not extricate herself sufficiently from the

collapse of her first great misfortune to be able to make up her

mind to be the wife of one whom, though she loved him, she did not

altogether reverence. Prig as she was, she made her way into the

hearts of many readers, both young and old; so that, from that time

to this, I have been continually honoured with letters, the purport

of which has always been to beg me to marry Lily Dale to Johnny

Eames. Had I done so, however, Lily would never have so endeared

herself to these people as to induce them to write letters to the

author concerning her fate. It was because she could not get over

her troubles that they loved her. Outside Lily Dale and the chief

interest of the novel, The Small House at Allington is, I think,

good. The De Courcy family are alive, as is also Sir Raffle Buffle,

who is a hero of the Civil Service. Sir Raffle was intended to

represent a type, not a man; but the man for the picture was soon

chosen, and I was often assured that the portrait was very like.

I have never seen the gentleman with whom I am supposed to have

taken the liberty. There is also an old squire down at Allington,

whose life as a country gentleman with rather straitened means is,

I think, well described.

Of Can you Forgive Her? I cannot speak with too great affection,

though I do not know that of itself it did very much to increase

my reputation. As regards the story, it was formed chiefly on that

of the play which my friend Mr. Bartley had rejected long since,

the circumstances of which the reader may perhaps remember. The

play had been called The Noble Jilt; but I was afraid of the name

for a novel, lest the critics might throw a doubt on the nobility.

There was more of tentative humility in that which I at last adopted.

The character of the girl is carried through with considerable

strength, but is not attractive. The humorous characters, which are

also taken from the play,--a buxom widow who with her eyes open

chooses the most scampish of two selfish suitors because he is

the better looking,--are well done. Mrs. Greenow, between Captain

Bellfield and Mr. Cheeseacre, is very good fun--as far as the fun

of novels is. But that which endears the book to me is the first

presentation which I made in it of Plantagenet Palliser, with his

wife, Lady Glencora.

By no amount of description or asseveration could I succeed in

making any reader understand how much these characters with their

belongings have been to me in my latter life; or how frequently

I have used them for the expression of my political or social

convictions. They have been as real to me as free trade was to Mr.

Cobden, or the dominion of a party to Mr. Disraeli; and as I have

not been able to speak from the benches of the House of Commons,

or to thunder from platforms, or to be efficacious as a lecturer,

they have served me as safety-valves by which to deliver my soul.

Mr. Plantagenet Palliser had appeared in The Small House at Allington,

but his birth had not been accompanied by many hopes. In the last

pages of that novel he is made to seek a remedy for a foolish

false step in life by marrying the grand heiress of the day;--but

the personage of the great heiress does not appear till she comes

on the scene as a married woman in Can You Forgive Her? He is

the nephew and heir to a duke--the Duke of Omnium--who was first

introduced in Doctor Thorne, and afterwards in Framley Parsonage,

and who is one of the belongings of whom I have spoken. In these

personages and their friends, political and social, I have endeavoured

to depict the faults and frailties and vices,--as also the virtues,

the graces, and the strength of our highest classes; and if I have

not made the strength and virtues predominant over the faults and

vices, I have not painted the picture as I intended. Plantagenet

Palliser I think to be a very noble gentleman,--such a one as justifies

to the nation the seeming anomaly of an hereditary peerage and of

primogeniture. His wife is in all respects very inferior to him;

but she, too, has, or has been intended to have, beneath the thin

stratum of her follies a basis of good principle, which enabled her

to live down the conviction of the original wrong which was done

to her, and taught her to endeavour to do her duty in the position

to which she was called. She had received a great wrong,--having

been made, when little more than a child, to marry a man for whom

she cared nothing;--when, however, though she was little more than

a child, her love had been given elsewhere. She had very heavy

troubles, but they did not overcome her.

As to the heaviest of these troubles, I will say a word in vindication

of myself and of the way I handled it in my work. In the pages of

Can You Forgive Her? the girl's first love is introduced,--beautiful,

well-born, and utterly worthless. To save a girl from wasting

herself, and an heiress from wasting her property on such a scamp,

was certainly the duty of the girl's friends. But it must ever

be wrong to force a girl into a marriage with a man she does not

love,--and certainly the more so when there is another whom she does

love. In my endeavour to teach this lesson I subjected the young

wife to the terrible danger of overtures from the man to whom her

heart had been given. I was walking no doubt on ticklish ground,

leaving for a while a doubt on the question whether the lover

might or might not succeed. Then there came to me a letter from a

distinguished dignitary of our Church, a man whom all men honoured,

treating me with severity for what I was doing. It had been one

of the innocent joys of his life, said the clergyman, to have my

novels read to him by his daughters. But now I was writing a book

which caused him to bid them close it! Must I also turn away to

vicious sensation such as this? Did I think that a wife contemplating

adultery was a character fit for my pages? I asked him in return,

whether from his pulpit, or at any rate from his communion-table,

he did not denounce adultery to his audience; and if so, why should

it not be open to me to preach the same doctrine to mine. I made

known nothing which the purest girl could not but have learned,

and ought not to have learned, elsewhere, and I certainly lent no

attraction to the sin which I indicated. His rejoinder was full

of grace, and enabled him to avoid the annoyance of argumentation

without abandoning his cause. He said that the subject was so much

too long for letters; that he hoped I would go and stay a week with

him in the country,--so that we might have it out. That opportunity,

however, has never yet arrived.

Lady Glencora overcomes that trouble, and is brought, partly by her

own sense of right and wrong, and partly by the genuine nobility

of her husband's conduct, to attach herself to him after a certain

fashion. The romance of her life is gone, but there remains a

rich reality of which she is fully able to taste the flavour. She

loves her rank and becomes ambitious, first of social, and then of

political ascendancy. He is thoroughly true to her, after his thorough

nature, and she, after her less perfect nature, is imperfectly true

to him.

In conducting these characters from one story to another I realised

the necessity, not only of consistency,--which, had it been maintained

by a hard exactitude, would have been untrue to nature,--but also

of those changes which time always produces. There, are, perhaps,

but few of us who, after the lapse of ten years, will be found to

have changed our chief characteristics. The selfish man will still

be selfish, and the false man false. But our manner of showing or

of hiding these characteristics will be changed,--as also our power

of adding to or diminishing their intensity. It was my study that

these people, as they grew in years, should encounter the changes

which come upon us all; and I think that I have succeeded. The

Duchess of Omnium, when she is playing the part of Prime Minister's

wife, is the same woman as that Lady Glencora who almost longs to

go off with Burgo Fitzgerald, but yet knows that she will never do

so; and the Prime Minister Duke, with his wounded pride and sore

spirit, is he who, for his wife's sake, left power and place when

they were first offered to him;--but they have undergone the changes

which a life so stirring as theirs would naturally produce. To do

all this thoroughly was in my heart from first to last; but I do

not know that the game has been worth the candle.

To carry out my scheme I have had to spread my picture over so wide

a canvas that I cannot expect that any lover of such art should

trouble himself to look at it as a whole. Who will read Can You

Forgive Her? Phineas Finn, Phineas Redux, and The Prime Minister

consecutively, in order that they may understand the characters of

the Duke of Omnium, of Plantagenet Palliser, and of Lady Glencora?

Who will ever know that they should be so read? But in the performance

of the work I had much gratification, and was enabled from time to

time to have in this way that fling at the political doings of the

day which every man likes to take, if not in one fashion then in

another. I look upon this string of characters,--carried sometimes

into other novels than those just named,--as the best work of

my life. Taking him altogether, I think that Plantagenet Palliser

stands more firmly on the ground than any other personage I have


On Christmas day, 1863, we were startled by the news of Thackeray's

death. He had then for many months given up the editorship of the

Cornhill Magazine,--a position for which he was hardly fitted either

by his habits or temperament,--but was still employed in writing

for its pages. I had known him only for four years, but had grown

into much intimacy with him and his family. I regard him as one

of the most tender-hearted human beings I ever knew, who, with an

exaggerated contempt for the foibles of the world at large, would

entertain an almost equally exaggerated sympathy with the joys

and troubles of individuals around him. He had been unfortunate in

early life--unfortunate in regard to money--unfortunate with an

afflicted wife--unfortunate in having his home broken up before

his children were fit to be his companions. This threw him too much

upon clubs, and taught him to dislike general society. But it never

affected his heart, or clouded his imagination. He could still revel

in the pangs and joys of fictitious life, and could still feel--as

he did to the very last--the duty of showing to his readers the

evil consequences of evil conduct. It was perhaps his chief fault

as a writer that he could never abstain from that dash of satire

which he felt to be demanded by the weaknesses which he saw around

him. The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but

little,--or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his

own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he

lives. I myself regard Esmond as the greatest novel in the English

language, basing that judgment upon the excellence of its language,

on the clear individuality of the characters, on the truth of

its delineations in regard to the tine selected, and on its great

pathos. There are also in it a few scenes so told that even Scott

has never equalled the telling. Let any one who doubts this read

the passage in which Lady Castlewood induces the Duke of Hamilton to

think that his nuptials with Beatrice will be honoured if Colonel

Esmond will give away the bride. When he went from us he left behind

living novelists with great names; but I think that they who best

understood the matter felt that the greatest master of fiction of

this age had gone.

Rachel Ray underwent a fate which no other novel of mine has

encountered. Some years before this a periodical called Good Words

had been established under the editorship of my friend Dr. Norman

Macleod, a well-known Presbyterian pastor in Glasgow. In 1863 he

asked me to write a novel for his magazine, explaining to me that

his principles did not teach him to confine his matter to religious

subjects, and paying me the compliment of saying that he would feel

himself quite safe in my hands. In reply I told him I thought he

was wrong in his choice; that though he might wish to give a novel

to the readers of Good Words, a novel from me would hardly be what

he wanted, and that I could not undertake to write either with

any specially religious tendency, or in any fashion different from

that which was usual to me. As worldly and--if any one thought me

wicked--as wicked as I had heretofore been, I must still be, should

I write for Good Words. He persisted in his request, and I came

to terms as to a story for the periodical. I wrote it and sent it

to him, and shortly afterwards received it back--a considerable

portion having been printed--with an intimation that it would not

do. A letter more full of wailing and repentance no man ever wrote.

It was, he said, all his own fault. He should have taken my advice.

He should have known better. But the story, such as it was, he

could not give to his readers in the pages of Good Words. Would I

forgive him? Any pecuniary loss to which his decision might subject

me the owner of the publication would willingly make good. There

was some loss--or rather would have been--and that money I exacted,

feeling that the fault had in truth been with the editor. There is

the tale now to speak for itself. It is not brilliant nor in any

way very excellent; but it certainly is not very wicked. There is

some dancing in one of the early chapters, described, no doubt,

with that approval of the amusement which I have always entertained;

and it was this to which my friend demurred. It is more true of

novels than perhaps of anything else, that one man's food is another

man's poison.

Miss Mackenzie was written with a desire to prove that a novel may

be produced without any love; but even in this attempt it breaks

down before the conclusion. In order that I might be strong in my

purpose, I took for my heroine a very unattractive old maid, who

was overwhelmed with money troubles; but even she was in love before

the end of the book, and made a romantic marriage with an old man.

There is in this story an attack upon charitable bazaars, made

with a violence which will, I think, convince any reader that such

attempts at raising money were at the time very odious to me. I beg

to say that since that I have had no occasion to alter my opinion.

Miss Mackenzie was published in the early spring of 1865.

At the same time I was engaged with others in establishing a

periodical Review, in which some of us trusted much, and from which

we expected great things. There was, however, in truth so little

combination of idea among us, that we were not justified in our

trust or in our expectations. And yet we were honest in our purpose,

and have, I think, done some good by our honesty. The matter on which

we were all agreed was freedom of speech, combined with personal

responsibility. We would be neither conservative nor liberal, neither

religious nor free-thinking, neither popular nor exclusive;--but

we would let any man who had a thing to say, and knew how to say

it, speak freely. But he should always speak with the responsibility

of his name attached. In the very beginning I militated against this

impossible negation of principles,--and did so most irrationally,

seeing that I had agreed to the negation of principles,--by declaring

that nothing should appear denying or questioning the divinity of

Christ. It was a most preposterous claim to make for such a publication

as we proposed, and it at once drove from us one or two who had

proposed to join us. But we went on, and our company--limited--was

formed. We subscribed, I think, (pounds)1250 each. I at least subscribed

that amount, and--having agreed to bring out our publication every

fortnight, after the manner of the well-known French publication,--we

called it The Fortnightly. We secured the services of G. H. Lewes

as our editor. We agreed to manage our finances by a Board, which

was to meet once a fortnight, and of which I was the Chairman.

And we determined that the payments for our literature should be

made on a liberal and strictly ready-money system. We carried out

our principles till our money was all gone, and then we sold the

copyright to Messrs. Chapman & Hall for a trifle. But before we

parted with our property we found that a fortnightly issue was not

popular with the trade through whose hands the work must reach the

public; and, as our periodical had not become sufficiently popular

itself to bear down such opposition, we succumbed, and brought

it out once a month. Still it was The Fortnightly, and still it

is The Fortnightly. Of all the serial publications of the day, it

probably is the most serious, the most earnest, the least devoted

to amusement, the least flippant, the least jocose,--and yet it

has the face to show itself month after month to the world, with

so absurd a misnomer! It is, as all who know the laws of modern

literature are aware, a very serious thing to change the name of

a periodical. By doing so you begin an altogether new enterprise.

Therefore should the name be well chosen;--whereas this was very

ill chosen, a fault for which I alone was responsible.

That theory of eclecticism was altogether impracticable. It was as

though a gentleman should go into the House of Commons determined

to support no party, but to serve his country by individual utterances.

Such gentlemen have gone into the House of Commons, but they have

not served their country much. Of course the project broke down.

Liberalism, freethinking, and open inquiry will never object to appear

in company with their opposites, because they have the conceit to

think that they can quell those opposites; but the opposites will

not appear in conjunction with liberalism, free-thinking, and open

inquiry. As a natural consequence, our new publication became an

organ of liberalism, free-thinking, and open inquiry. The result

has been good; and though there is much in the now established

principles of The Fortnightly with which I do not myself agree, I

may safely say that the publication has assured an individuality,

and asserted for itself a position in our periodical literature,

which is well understood and highly respected.

As to myself and my own hopes in the matter,--I was craving after

some increase in literary honesty, which I think is still desirable but

which is hardly to be attained by the means which then recommended

themselves to me. In one of the early numbers I wrote a paper

advocating the signature of the authors to periodical writing,

admitting that the system should not be extended to journalistic

articles on political subjects. I think that I made the best of

my case; but further consideration has caused me to doubt whether

the reasons which induced me to make an exception in favour of

political writing do not extend themselves also to writing on other

subjects. Much of the literary criticism which we now have is very

bad indeed;--. so bad as to be open to the charge both of dishonesty

and incapacity. Books are criticised without being read,--are

criticised by favour,--and are trusted by editors to the criticism

of the incompetent. If the names of the critics were demanded,

editors would be more careful. But I fear the effect would be that

we should get but little criticism, and that the public would put

but little trust in that little. An ordinary reader would not care

to have his books recommended to him by Jones; but the recommendation

of the great unknown comes to him with all the weight of the Times,

the Spectator, or the Saturday.

Though I admit so much, I am not a recreant from the doctrine I then

preached. I think that the name of the author does tend to honesty,

and that the knowledge that it will be inserted adds much to the

author's industry and care. It debars him also from illegitimate

license and dishonest assertions. A man should never be ashamed

to acknowledge that which he is not ashamed to publish. In The

Fortnightly everything has been signed, and in this way good has,

I think, been done. Signatures to articles in other periodicals

have become much more common since The Fortnightly was commenced.

After a time Mr. Lewes retired from the editorship, feeling that

the work pressed too severely on his moderate strength. Our loss

in him was very great, and there was considerable difficulty in

finding a successor. I must say that the present proprietor has

been fortunate in the choice he did make. Mr. John Morley has done

the work with admirable patience, zeal, and capacity. Of course

he has got around him a set of contributors whose modes of thought

are what we may call much advanced; he being "much advanced" himself,

would not work with other aids. The periodical has a peculiar tone

of its own; but it holds its own with ability, and though there

are many who perhaps hate it, there are none who despise it. When

the company sold it, having spent about (pounds)9000 on it, it was worth

little or nothing. Now I believe it to be a good property.

My own last personal concern with it was on a matter, of fox-hunting.

[Footnote: I have written various articles for it since, especially

two on Cicero, to which I devoted great labour.] There came out in

it an article from the pen of Mr. Freeman the historian, condemning

the amusement, which I love, on the grounds of cruelty and general

brutality. Was it possible, asked Mr. Freeman, quoting from Cicero,

that any educated man should find delight in so coarse a pursuit?

Always bearing in mind my own connection with The Fortnightly, I

regarded this almost as a rising of a child against the father. I

felt at any rate bound to answer Mr. Freeman in the same columns,

and I obtained Mr. Morley's permission to do so. I wrote my defence

of fox-hunting, and there it is. In regard to the charge of cruelty,

Mr. Freeman seems to assert that nothing unpleasant should be

done to any of God's creatures except f or a useful purpose. The

protection of a lady's shoulders from the cold is a useful purpose;

and therefore a dozen fur-bearing animals may be snared in the

snow and left to starve to death in the wires, in order that the

lady may have the tippet,--though a tippet of wool would serve

the purpose as well as a tippet of fur. But the congregation and

healthful amusement of one or two hundred persons, on whose behalf

a single fox may or may not be killed, is not a useful purpose. I

think that Mr. Freeman has failed to perceive that amusement is as

needful and almost as necessary as food and raiment. The absurdity

of the further charge as to the general brutality of the pursuit,

and its consequent unfitness for an educated man, is to be attributed

to Mr. Freeman's ignorance of what is really done and said in the

hunting-field,--perhaps to his misunderstanding of Cicero's words.

There was a rejoinder to my answer, and I asked for space for

further remarks. I could have it, the editor said, if I much wished

it; but he preferred that the subject should be closed. Of course

I was silent. His sympathies were all with Mr. Freeman,--and

against the foxes, who, but for fox-hunting, would cease to exist

in England. And I felt that The Fortnighty was hardly the place for

the defence of the sport. Afterwards Mr. Freeman kindly suggested

to me that he would be glad to publish my article in a little book

to be put out by him condemnatory of fox-hunting generally. He was

to have the last word and the first word, and that power of picking

to pieces which he is known to use in so masterly a manner, without

any reply from me! This I was obliged to decline. If he would give

me the last word, as be would have the first, then, I told him, I

should be proud to join him in the book. This offer did not however

meet his views.

It had been decided by the Board of Management, somewhat in opposition

to my own ideas on the subject, that the Fortnightly Review should

always contain a novel. It was of course natural that I should write

the first novel, and I wrote The Belton Estate. It is similar in

its attributes to Rachel Ray and to Miss Mackenzie. It is readable,

and contains scenes which are true to life; but it has no peculiar

merits, and will add nothing to my reputation as a novelist. I have

not looked at it since it was published; and now turning back to

it in my memory, I seem to remember almost less of it than of any

book that I have written.


The Claverings, which came out in 1866 and 1867, was the last novel

which I wrote for the Cornhill; and it was for this that I received

the highest rate of pay that was ever accorded to me. It was the

same length as Framley Parsonage, and the price was (pounds)2800. Whether

much or little, it was offered by the proprietor of the magazine,

and was paid in a single cheque.

In The Claverings I did not follow the habit which had now become

very common to me, of introducing personages whose names are already

known to the readers of novels, and whose characters were familiar

to myself. If I remember rightly, no one appears here who had

appeared before or who has been allowed to appear since. I consider

the story as a whole to be good, though I am not aware that the

public has ever corroborated that verdict. The chief character

is that of a young woman who has married manifestly for money and

rank,--so manifestly that she does not herself pretend, even while

she is making the marriage, that she has any other reason. The

man is old, disreputable, and a wornout debauchee. Then comes the

punishment natural to the offence. When she is free, the man whom

she had loved, and who had loved her, is engaged to another woman.

He vacillates and is weak,--in which weakness is the fault of the

book, as he plays the part of hero. But she is strong--strong in

her purpose, strong in her desires, and strong in her consciousness

that the punishment which comes upon her has been deserved.

But the chief merit of The Clarverings is in the genuine fun of

some of the scenes. Humour has not been my forte, but I am inclined

to think that the characters of Captain Boodle, Archie Clavering,

and Sophie Gordeloup are humorous. Count Pateroff, the brother of

Sophie, is also good, and disposes of the young hero's interference

in a somewhat masterly manner. In The Claverings, too, there is a

wife whose husband is a brute to her, who loses an only child--his

heir--and who is rebuked by her lord because the boy dies. Her

sorrow is, I think, pathetic. From beginning to end the story is

well told. But I doubt now whether any one reads The Claverings.

When I remember how many novels I have written, I have no right

to expect that above a few of them shall endure even to the second

year beyond publication. This story closed my connection with the

Cornhill Magazine;--but not with its owner, Mr. George Smith, who

subsequently brought out a further novel of mine in a separate

form, and who about this time established the Pall Mall Gazette,

to which paper I was for some years a contributor.

It was in 1865 that the Pall Mall Gazette was commenced, the

name having been taken from a fictitious periodical, which was the

offspring of Thackeray's brain. It was set on foot by the unassisted

energy and resources of George Smith, who had succeeded by means

of his magazine and his publishing connection in getting around him

a society of literary men who sufficed, as far as literary ability

went, to float the paper at one under favourable auspices. His two

strongest staffs probably were "Jacob Omnium," whom I regard as the

most forcible newspaper writer of my days, and Fitz-James Stephen,

the most conscientious and industrious. To them the Pall Mall

Gazette owed very much of its early success,--and to the untiring

energy and general ability of its proprietor. Among its other

contributors were George Lewes, Hannay,--who, I think, came up

from Edinburgh for employment on its columns,--Lord Houghton, Lord

Strangford, Charles Merivale, Greenwood the present editor, Greg,

myself, and very many others;--so many others, that I have met

at a Pall Mall dinner a crowd of guests who would have filled the

House of Commons more respectably than I have seen it filled even

on important occasions. There are many who now remember--and no

doubt when this is published there will be left some to remember--the

great stroke of business which was done by the revelations of a

visitor to one of the casual wards in London. A person had to be

selected who would undergo the misery of a night among the usual

occupants of a casual ward in a London poorhouse, and who should at

the same time be able to record what he felt and saw. The choice

fell upon Mr. Greenwood's brother, who certainly possessed the

courage and the powers of endurance. The description, which was

very well given, was, I think, chiefly written by the brother of

the Casual himself. It had a great effect, which was increased by

secrecy as to the person who encountered all the horrors of that

night. I was more than once assured that Lard Houghton was the man.

I heard it asserted also that I myself had been the hero. At last

the unknown one could no longer endure that his honours should be

hidden, and revealed the truth,--in opposition, I fear, to promises

to the contrary, and instigated by a conviction that if known he

could turn his honours to account. In the meantime, however, that

record of a night passed in a workhouse had done more to establish

the sale of the journal than all the legal lore of Stephen, or the

polemical power of Higgins, or the critical acumen of Lewes.

My work was various. I wrote much on the subject of the American

War, on which my feelings were at the time very keen,--subscribing,

if I remember right, my name to all that I wrote. I contributed

also some sets of sketches, of which those concerning hunting found

favour with the public. They were republished afterwards, and had

a considerable sale, and may, I think, still be recommended to those

who are fond of hunting, as being accurate in their description of

the different classes of people who are to be met in the hunting-field.

There was also a set of clerical sketches, which was considered to

be of sufficient importance to bring down upon my head the critical

wrath of a great dean of that period. The most ill-natured review

that was ever written upon any work of mine appeared in the

Contemporary Review with reference to these Clerical Sketches. The

critic told me that I did not understand Greek. That charge has

been made not unfrequently by those who have felt themselves strong

in that pride-producing language. It is much to read Greek with

ease, but it is not disgraceful to be unable to do so. To pretend

to read it without being able,--that is disgraceful. The critic,

however, had been driven to wrath by my saying that Deans of the

Church of England loved to revisit the glimpses of the metropolitan


I also did some critical work for the Pall Mall,--as I did also for

The Fortnightly. It was not to my taste, but was done in conformity

with strict conscientious scruples. I read what I took in hand, and

said what I believed to be true,--always giving to the matter time

altogether incommensurate with the pecuniary result to myself. In

doing this for the Pall Mall, I fell into great sorrow. A gentleman,

whose wife was dear to me as if she were my own sister; was in

some trouble as to his conduct in the public service. He had been

blamed, as he thought unjustly, and vindicated himself in a pamphlet.

This he handed to me one day, asking me to read it, and express my

opinion about it if I found that I had an opinion. I thought the

request injudicious, and I did not read the pamphlet. He met me

again, and, handing me a second pamphlet, pressed me very hard. I

promised him that I would read it, and that if I found myself able

I would express myself;--but that I must say not what I wished

to think, but what I did think. To this of course he assented. I

then went very much out of my way to study the subject,--which was

one requiring study. I found, or thought that I found, that the

conduct of the gentleman in his office had been indiscreet; but that

charges made against himself affecting his honour were baseless.

This I said, emphasising much more strongly than was necessary the

opinion which I had formed of his indiscretion,--as will so often

be the case when a man has a pen in his hand. It is like a club

or sledge-hammer,--in using which, either for defence or attack,

a man can hardly measure the strength of the blows he gives. Of

course there was offence,--and a breaking off of intercourse between

loving friends,--and a sense of wrong received, and I must own,

too, of wrong done. It certainly was not open to me to whitewash

with honesty him whom I did not find to be white; but there was no

duty incumbent on me to declare what was his colour in my eyes,--no

duty even to ascertain. But I had been ruffled by the persistency

of the gentleman's request,--which should not have been made,--and

I punished him for his wrong-doing by doing a wrong myself. I must

add, that before he died his wife succeeded in bringing us together.

In the early days of the paper, the proprietor, who at that time

acted also as chief editor, asked me to undertake a duty,--of which

the agony would indeed at no one moment have been so sharp as that

endured in the casual ward, but might have been prolonged until

human nature sank under it. He suggested to me that I should during

an entire season attend the May meetings in Exeter Hall, and give

a graphic and, if possible, amusing description of the proceedings.

I did attend one,--which lasted three hours,--and wrote a paper which

I think was called A Zulu in Search of a Religion. But when the

meeting was over I went to that spirited proprietor, and begged him

to impose upon me some task more equal to my strength. Not even on

behalf of the Pall Mall Gazette, which was very dear to me, could

I go through a second May meeting,--much less endure a season of

such martyrdom.

I have to acknowledge that I found myself unfit for work on

a newspaper. I had not taken to it early enough in life to learn

its ways and bear its trammels. I was fidgety when any work was

altered in accordance with the judgment of the editor, who, of

course, was responsible for what appeared. I wanted to select my

own subjects,--not to have them selected for me; to write when I

pleased,--and not when it suited others. As a permanent member of

the staff I was of no use, and after two or three years I dropped

out of the work.

From the commencement of my success as a writer, which I date

from the beginning of the Cornhill Magazine, I had always felt an

injustice in literary affairs which had never afflicted me or even

suggested itself to me while I was unsuccessful. It seemed to me

that a name once earned carried with it too much favour. I indeed

had never reached a height to which praise was awarded as a matter

of course; but there were others who sat on higher seats to whom

the critics brought unmeasured incense and adulation, even when

they wrote, as they sometimes did write, trash which from a beginner

would not have been thought worthy of the slightest notice. I hope

no one will think that in saying this I am actuated by jealousy

of others. Though I never reached that height, still I had so

far progressed that that which I wrote was received with too much

favour. The injustice which struck me did not consist in that which

was withheld from me, but in that which was given to me. I felt

that aspirants coming up below me might do work as good as mine,

and probably much better work, and yet fail to have it appreciated.

In order to test this, I determined to be such an aspirant myself,

and to begin a course of novels anonymously, in order that I might

see whether I could obtain a second identity,--whether as I had made

one mark by such literary ability as I possessed, I might succeed

in doing so again. In 1865 I began a short tale called Nina Balatka,

which in 1866 was published anonymously in Blackwood's Magazine.

In 1867 this was followed by another of the same length, called

Linda Tressel. I will speak of them together, as they are of the

same nature and of nearly equal merit. Mr. Blackwood, who himself

read the MS. of Nina Balatka, expressed an opinion that it would

not from its style be discovered to have been written by me;--but

it was discovered by Mr. Hutton of the Spectator, who found the

repeated use of some special phrase which had rested upon his ear

too frequently when reading for the purpose of criticism other

works of mine. He declared in his paper that Nina Balatka was by

me, showing I think more sagacity than good nature. I ought not,

however, to complain of him, as of all the critics of my work he

has been the most observant, and generally the most eulogistic.

Nina Balatka never rose sufficiently high in reputation to make

its detection a matter of any importance. Once or twice I heard the

story mentioned by readers who did not know me to be the author,

and always with praise; but it had no real success. The same may

be said of Linda Tressel. Blackwood, who of course knew the author,

was willing to publish them, trusting that works by an experienced

writer would make their way, even without the writer's name, and he

was willing to pay me for them, perhaps half what they would have

fetched with my name. But he did not find the speculation answer,

and declined a third attempt, though a third such tale was written

for him.

Nevertheless I am sure that the two stories are good. Perhaps the

first is somewhat the better, as being the less lachrymose. They

were both written very quickly, but with a considerable amount of

labour; and both were written immediately after visits to the towns

in which the scenes are laid,--Prague, mainly, and Nuremberg. Of

course I had endeavoured to change not only my manner of language,

but my manner of story-telling also; and in this, pace Mr. Hutton,

I think that I was successful. English life in them there was none.

There was more of romance proper than had been usual with me. And

I made an attempt at local colouring, at descriptions of scenes

and places, which has not been usual with me. In all this I am

confident that I was in a measure successful. In the loves, and

fears, and hatreds, both of Nina and of Linda, there is much that

is pathetic. Prague is Prague, and Nuremberg is Nuremberg. I know

that the stories are good, but they missed the object with which

they had been written. Of course there is not in this any evidence

that I might not have succeeded a second time as I succeeded before,

had I gone on with the same dogged perseverance. Mr. Blackwood,

had I still further reduced my price, would probably have continued

the experiment. Another ten years of unpaid unflagging labour might

have built up a second reputation. But this at any rate did seem

clear to me, that with all the increased advantages which pr