Trollope’s Autobiography was written in reaction to a hostile review attacking him for being a mechanical writer, and of course the Autobiography itself could be read as giving yet further evidence for this view. The introduction to our edition (by Bradford Booth) seems biased against his novels, now frequently admired for their social realism (Irish series) and treatment of neglected persons on the fringe of social units, such as widows and spinsters.
Does Trollope’s self-description in the early chapters remind you of the portrayal of his mature self in the introduction? (e. g., convivial self enjoys fraternity denied him years before)
What seems to motivate him in writing his autobiography? What things does he state must be inevitably excluded from autobiography, and does he follow his own rules? (who could endure to own the doing of a mean thing? 1 -- feels contempt for cheating and underhandedness)
What is the tone of his attitude toward his past self? (mixture of self-revulsion and tempered blame of others)
How would you define the trait of which he seems ashamed? (lack of juvenile manhood, 1, 2; stupid boy’s slowness, 5) He responds to his earlier self with an interesting blend of detachment and reinvolvement (5).
What seems his attitude toward others in his past? (judges, but with laconic brevity, 4, e. g. Dr. Butler; he remembers the past wrongs of those toward whom he expresses little or no present hostility (e. g., brother, father)
What seems to have been the greatest cause of his early distress?
--social declassment, 8-11
--fringe status in schools of wealthy
--physical and economic neglect, especially by his father, e. g. in clothes and money, 15
--social humiliation and exclusion from conviviality, shabby clothes, loss of credit
--his own meekness, inability to conform or please, lack of moral courage, 11
What does he think of his father? Of the education his father gave him?
--his folly, 6
--“that suffering man,” 5
--astounding severity, 12, 13
--attention to his education, 12
--excessive educational demands, 12
--final eulogy, 27
One can compare the father of John Stuart Mill, and the rigor of the education he imposed on his son.
What seems his final judgement of his father’s methods? 12-13 How does he convey this response? What seems straightforward has a doubleness of intention, and makes charges implicity rather than overtly by the choice of actions he describes.
His father’s real attentiveness and steady civcarious intellectual ambitions for his children are treated with grudging distaste--Trollope feels he learned less because books were forced on him, feels resentment at his own lack of learning and his exclusion from Oxbridge.
Yet Anthony did pursue learning with considerable application from boyhood on, and strove to maintain the caste of his father. His deepest resentment of his father seems to be that the latter didn’t retain his class privileges for his son, on the outskirts of the gentry (compare Trollope’s own later hunting).
To what extent did Trollop come to resemble his father, if at all? (in application, in literary pursuits--describes his house as containing nothing but the novels of Cooper--and Trollope became a novelist).
How well do the public schools do by Trollope? What is his evaluation of these schools?
What seems to be his characteristic response to the perception of a social evil? Does this bear any relation to his later political stances?
How did he respond to hostility? Does he still employ any of these techniques in his self-descriptions and narration of the past? (both meek and truculent)
Do you agree with Bradford Booth that Trollope’s account is straightforward and lacks irony?--His tone often borders on controlled sarcasm, e. g., concerning his father, felt to be entitled to a country house (2), no one could accuse him of self-indulgence (11)
Are there any portions of Trollope’s emotional responses or record that you find contradictory or unexplained?
It seems hard to discern his full attitude toward his father and brother. He seems both to assert and to deny resentment or grievance. For example, he speaks of his father as a self-sacrificing tyrant (27), and accepts dual labelling of emotional situatiosn. He does remember old scores, however starightforward their recountal. He seems to have a desire for revenge; he is happy to see old enemies frustrated (e. g. Dr. Butler doesn’t become an archbishop).
His autobiography shows a pattern of extreme rejection of his past self, alternated with increasing self-satisfaction with later features of his life. He doesn’t seem to wish to make the obvious self-defenses--he was clearly not idle and weak but an imaginative, sensitive, conscientious child, yet he closes the issue and creates an automatic protective covering of modesty.
He tends to state extreme judgements so flatly that they seem reasonable--e. g., on mother’s unfitness to write(20), on himself (lack of juvenile manhood, 1, 2, stupid boy’s slowness, lack of moral courage, 11).
Intense emotion hides behind the laconic statement of detached intentions--e. g., he states that he writes his autobiography to explain the career of a novelist, yet even on the first page his intensly subjective consciousness of individuality and emotion breaks through, and a similar pattern is reiterated throughout.
It seems a contradiction that he complains of over-rigoristic parental attention to his learning and plain board, yet in London he complains he hadn’t been brought up to a bookish life (probably it was more to the point that no concern had been paid to his practical circumstances).
Chapter II, “My Mother”
What are features of his attitude towards her?
What are features of his description of his mother’s youth? (He admires the style of her letters, compares her to “modern girls,” but condemns her early politics and her “extreme” statements (those traits for which she is now favorably remembered). By contrast, Anthony is cautious in political and imaginative assertions, but at times truculent or hostile in defending himself personally (18, 28). He condemns her emotionality, her subjectivity and her tendency toward romance (19, 20, “as most women do,” possible sex-stereotyping?)
How does he respond to feminist issues implicit in his mother’s long career? (e. g., her commencement of work at 50, her lack of training, her remarkable self-sacrifice, her separation of work from domestic duties and perforce living of a double life)
He expresses no pity for her circumstances, but feels respect for her overcoming them. He draws the moral that the old can attain, but doesn’t question why so talented a woman couldn’t have started earlier.
To what extent does he pattern himself after her?
In early youth he seems to have had something of her emotionality, and of course he became a novelist, and emulated her competence at supporting others. Like her Anthony was a novelist of maners and a sutdent of customs abroad. He also emulates her physical endurance, and the quantity of her achievement.
What is his final assessment of her? (a bit grudging, 28)
What does Trollope feel are his own merits as a novelist? (portrayal of character, 83)
How does he defend his interest in financial remuneration (88ff.)? What do you think of his defense? His concern with reputation (90-91)? (his reputation in his own day his chief concern)
What does his method of compositon reveal about his character and values (100ff.)? Can you defend his emphasis on exact lengths of composition? (organizes mentally, concerned with balance, 103, 114; dislikes revision; duty and pleasure for him combined in the same act, 101--a characteristic Victorian attitude)
What does Trollope believe to be the essential features of a good novel?--“common life enlivened by humor and sweetened by pathos” (107)--traits of his own work. What possible features of fiction does this not include?
Some general reflections:
--his possible ambivalence toward his father
--his method of stating a favorable response, the giving evidence of the unworthiness of its object (father, brother, schoolmaster)
--present pleasure in recalling instances of revenge, reexperience of grief and ostracisim
--determination not to prepeat the vices of his father--penury, improvidence, quixotic attention to an abstract intellectual project
--indirect method of revealing his own emotions--states father alienated all whom he loved without commenting that he was one of those alienated
--pattern of balanced opposities--persons both exonerated and judged, vindicated and exposed, presented as victims and yet responsible
--He exhibits a pattern of truculence and meekness--he desires to stand up to attack and prides himself on so doing.
What seems the motive for this?
--signs of depressive temperament, self-hate (internalizes condemnations of others, 24; defensive, brooding, subject to attacks of conscience, 44)
III. “The Post Office”
What are some of Trollope’s attitudes toward his first employment--and are any of these by now familiar?
What does he seem to feel about the way in which he was initiated into the Postal Service?
How does he justify his efense of postal non-examination?
In retrospect, how does he seem to feel about his earlier imaginative life?
What kind of inciddntsdoes he seem best at relating?
Does he seem disturbed at having received a “bad character” in his first employment? How does he explain the opinions of other? Does he feel they were justified?
According to his account, how did he come to choose the occupation of a novelist? Does this seem to you likely to have been the primary reason?
Are there any aspects of his London life which give him real pelasure? Do they anticipate his future?
Are there characteristic patterns to his account of how he came to be employed in Ireland? (49)
IV. “Ireland--My First Two Novels”
He tends to exaggerate the deprecation of others to build abetter success sotry. when he leaves for Ireland, for example, the world deprecates his choice, when he chooses to be a novelist, the whole family disapproves (62), people in Ireland are offended by his marriage (59).
What seems to attract him in Ireland? real interest in travel, manners; independence, pride in work
Can you explain his love of hunting? How is it related to other aspects of his life and temperament? (53)
Can you see traits of the novelist in his accounts of himself and oters whom he meets?
What in his character might cause him to emphasize his secrecy about his novels? to have been secret in the first place?
--a carefully compartmentalized imaginative life
Why do you think he refrains from asking others to read his novels? (61)
What are his political views on Irish matters? On Home Rule? (61) Does he stereotype the people whom he observed so minutely? (perverse, irrational, not given to truth, 54)
How does he present his marriage and family life?
What relation does his wife seem to bear to his work and inner life? (63)
What attitude does he take toward reviewers and publishers? Do their opinionsmatter to him?
--bitter but doesn’t change his behavior--again characteristic
Writes defending Russell’s Irish politcy
attitude toward reviwers and critics?
What is his attitude toward his work in the postal service?
What kind of characters does he seem interested in presenting in The Warden?
How are his political and soical attitudes shown in his treatment of benefices? --both defends and attacks
“Dr. Thorne,” “The Bertrams,” “The West Indies and the Spanish Main”
He describes his methods of composition. What do you think of the way he narrates this?
Why do you think he finds plots the least significant part of a novel? Which schools of modern criticism might agree with him, and which would oppose? What does he think makes a good portrait? (120-21)
What seems to be his criteria for the writing of a travelogue?
--inaccurate but true, 110
Are these contrary to the practices of his mother?
After bringing his chapter to a climax, he demands six hundred pounds for the sale of his next chapter.
“The Cornill Magazine” and “Framley Parsonage”
Why do you think he moves back to England?
--wants to be near publishers and literary contacts, clubs, dinners
What are his views about the rights of civil servants to hold their own opinions on political matters? (he feels they have this right, 114; he argues yet conforms, loves verbal argument, 115) What this an issue at the time?
What features does he like in his own writing? (121) What pleases him in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s praise? (praises his realism and humanity, 122-23)
What did he see as the moral function of the novel? (regards self as preacher, 124) Whas this a characteristic value of the time?
--for him, relaism was allied with the protrayal of good persons--presumably the protagonists were meant to be exemplary, 123
What lessons does he wish to teach?
He makes up a map of Barsetshire, “the dear country,” with characteristic exactitude and sentiment
What was his attitude toward his male friends?
What was the purpose of his move to London?
More on composition, 131. Mind constantly employed on the work he’s done--does this strike you as a characteristic feature of his work?
Again he considers the issue of social rank, 142-43. He repeats his earlier pattern of disclaimers and assertions. What do you find characteristic about his attitude toward riding and hunting? (144, has ridden hard)
composition--for him rapidity and intensity of work associated
--his emotional attitude toward his ownc reations, 147-48 (laughs, cries, four readings, 149), fond of his characters
resonse to Platangenet Palliser? Judges book on whether characters are lovable (yet Glencour more imperfect, 154)
Gives his views, 151, presents sin as unattractive
Why do you think he attempted anonymous novels in the midst of his career?
on discouraging young aspiratnt?
advantage of the author’s life 174 (beyond social status)
What does he see as the function of novels?
--mixture of realism and sensation, 191, emotion and truth
authorial involvement, 194
style,unity of organization, 198-99
“On English Novelists of the Present Day”
On what basis does he admireother novelists of his own day?
Thackeray--power of creating gentlemen (203) and chapter in general (203-204); clarity
Eliot--analytical, philosophical, difficult, even obscure (205-206)
Dickens--stagey and melodramatic (208); doesn’t draw realistic characters (207); dislikes style
What do his preferences reveal about his own literarytastes and criteria?
Have they been favored by later critics? (211) His canon is realism in emotions.
Bulwer-Lytton--too labored and affected, doesn’t present character well
Charles Lever--humorous, cannot draw characer
What do you feel he means when he sepaks of living with one’s characters?
Why does he criticize Rhoda Broghton? (215)
not sweet--coured and therefore less “true to nature”
her women are unladylike
On what grounds does he criticize Disraeli? his heroes are intrigers, 216-17
Trollope became friends with Kate Field, an American whom he met in 1860, when she was 20 and he 45. He corresponded with her, and shevisited him and his wife. he sent her advice on novel-writing and generally disapproved of her career as a lecturer on social reformist auses. Kate was a feminist, and Trollope opposed women’s rights in his novels until the end. His two letters convey his closest known sentiments, 237 and 289.