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The Maker of Many Books


During the winter of 1879, when I was in London, it was my fortune to
attend, a social meeting of literary men at the rooms of a certain eminent
publisher. The rooms were full of tobacco-smoke and talk, amid which were
discernible, on all sides, the figures and faces of men more or less
renowned in the world of books. Most noticeable among these personages was
a broad-shouldered, sturdy man, of middle height, with a ruddy
countenance, and snow-white tempestuous beard and hair. He wore large,
gold-rimmed spectacles, but his eyes were black and brilliant, and looked
at his interlocutor with a certain genial fury of inspection. He seemed to
be in a state of some excitement; he spoke volubly and almost
boisterously, and his voice was full-toned and powerful, though pleasant
to the ear. He turned himself, as he spoke, with a burly briskness, from
one side to another, addressing himself first to this auditor and then to
that, his words bursting forth from beneath his white moustache with such
an impetus of hearty breath that it seemed as if all opposing arguments
must be blown quite away. Meanwhile he flourished in the air an ebony
walking-stick, with much vigor of gesticulation, and narrowly missing, as
it appeared, the pates of his listeners. He was clad in evening dress,
though the rest of the company was, for the most part, in mufti; and he
was an exceedingly fine-looking old gentleman. At the first glance, you
would have taken him to be some civilized and modernized Squire Western,
nourished with beef and ale, and roughly hewn out of the most robust and
least refined variety of human clay. Looking at him more narrowly,
however, you would have reconsidered this judgment. Though his general
contour and aspect were massive and sturdy, the lines of his features were
delicately cut; his complexion was remarkably pure and fine, and his face
was susceptible of very subtle and sensitive changes of expression. Here
was a man of abundant physical strength and vigor, no doubt, but carrying
within him a nature more than commonly alert and impressible. His
organization, though thoroughly healthy, was both complex and high-
wrought; his character was simple and straightforward to a fault, but he
was abnormally conscientious, and keenly alive to others' opinion
concerning him. It might be thought that he was overburdened with self-
esteem, and unduly opinionated; but, in fact, he was but overanxious to
secure the good-will and agreement of all with whom he came in contact.
There was some peculiarity in him--some element or bias in his composition
that made him different from other men; but, on the other hand, there was
an ardent solicitude to annul or reconcile this difference, and to prove
himself to be, in fact, of absolutely the same cut and quality as all the
rest of the world. Hence he was in a demonstrative, expository, or
argumentative mood; he could not sit quiet in the face of a divergence
between himself and his associates; he was incorrigibly strenuous to
obliterate or harmonize the irreconcilable points between him and others;
and since these points remained irreconcilable, he remained in a constant
state of storm and stress on the subject.

It was impossible to help liking such a man at first sight; and I believe
that no man in London society was more generally liked than Anthony
Trollope. There was something pathetic in his attitude as above indicated;
and a fresh and boyish quality always invested him. His artlessness was
boyish, and so were his acuteness and his transparent but somewhat belated
good-sense. He was one of those rare persons who not only have no
reserves, but who can afford to dispense with them. After he had shown you
all he had in him, you would have seen nothing that was not gentlemanly,
honest, and clean. He was a quick-tempered man, and the ardor and hurry of
his temperament made him seem more so than he really was; but he was never
more angry than he was forgiving and generous. He was hurt by little
things, and little things pleased him; he was suspicious and perverse, but
in a manner that rather endeared him to you than otherwise. Altogether, to
a casual acquaintance, who knew nothing of his personal history, he was
something of a paradox--an entertaining contradiction. The publication of
his autobiography explained many things in his character that were open to
speculation; and, indeed, the book is not only the most interesting and
amusing that its author has ever written, but it places its subject before
the reader more completely and comprehensively than most autobiographies
do. This, however, is due much less to any direct effort or intention on
the writer's part, than to the unconscious self-revelation which meets the
reader on every page. No narrative could be simpler, less artificial; and
yet, everywhere, we read between the lines, and, so to speak, discover
Anthony Trollope in spite of his efforts to discover himself to us.

The truth appears to be that the youthful Trollope, like a more famous
fellow-novelist, began the world with more kicks than half-pence. His
boyhood, he affirms, was as unhappy as that of a young gentleman could
well be, owing to a mixture of poverty and gentle standing on his father's
part, and, on his own, to "an utter lack of juvenile manhood"--whatever
that may be. His father was a lawyer, who frightened away all his clients
by his outrageous temper, and who encountered one mischance after another
until he landed himself and his family in open bankruptcy; from which they
were rescued, partly by death, which carried away four of them (including
the old gentleman), and partly by Mrs. Trollope, who, at fifty years of
age, brought out her famous book on America, and continued to make a fair
income by literature (as she called it) until 1856, when, being seventy-
six years old, and having produced one hundred and fourteen volumes, she
permitted herself to retire. This extraordinary lady, in her youth,
cherished what her son calls "an emotional dislike to tyrants"; but when
her American experience had made her acquainted with some of the seamy
aspects of democracy, and especially after the aristocracy of her own
country had begun to patronize her, she confessed the error of her early
way, "and thought that archduchesses were sweet." But she was certainly a
valiant and indefatigable woman,--"of all the people I have ever known,"
says her son, "the most joyous, or, at any rate, the most capable of joy";
and he adds that her best novels were written in 1834-35, when her husband
and four of her six children were dying upstairs of consumption, and she
had to divide her time between nursing them and writing. Assuredly, no son
of hers need apprehend the reproach--"_Tydides melior matre_"; though
Anthony, and his brother Thomas Adolphus, must, together, have run her
pretty hard. The former remarks, with that terrible complacency in an
awful fact which is one of his most noticeable and astounding traits, that
the three of them "wrote more books than were probably ever before
produced by a single family." The existence of a few more such families
could be consistent only with a generous enlargement of the British
Museum.

The elder Trollope was a scholar, and to make scholars of his sons was one
of his ruling ideas. Poor little Anthony endured no less than twelve
mortal years of schooling--from the time he was seven until he was
nineteen--and declares that, in all that time, he does not remember that
he ever knew a lesson. "I have been flogged," he says, "oftener than any
other human being." Nay, his troubles began before his school-days; for
his father used to make him recite his infantile tasks to him while he was
shaving, and obliged him to sit with his head inclined in such a manner
"that he could pull my hair without stopping his razor or dropping his
shaving-brush." This is a depressing picture; and there are plenty more
like it. Dr. Butler, the master of Harrow, meeting the poor little
draggletail urchin in the yard, desired to know, in awful accents, how so
dirty a boy dared to show himself near the school! "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," adds his victim, "he did not recognize
me by my face!" But it is comforting to learn, in another place, that
justice overtook the oppressor. "Dr. Butler only lived to be Dean of
Peterborough; but his successor (Dr. Longley) became Archbishop of
Canterbury." There is a great deal of Trollopian morality in the fate of
these two men, the latter of whom "could not have said anything ill-
natured if he had tried."

Black care, however, continued to sit behind the horseman with harrowing
persistence. A certain Dr. Drury (another schoolmaster) punished him on
suspicion of "some nameless horror," of which the unfortunate youngster
happened to be innocent. When, afterward, the latter fact began to be
obvious, "he whispered to me half a word that perhaps he had been wrong.
But, with a boy's stupid slowness, I said nothing, and he had not the
courage to carry reparation farther." The poverty of Anthony's father
deprived the boy of all the external advantages that might have enabled
him to take rank with his fellows: and his native awkwardness and
sensitiveness widened the breach. "I had no friend to whom I could pour
out my sorrows. I was big, awkward and ugly, and, I have no doubt, skulked
about in a most unattractive manner. Something of the disgrace of my
school-days has clung to me all through life. When I have been claimed as
school-fellow 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 estrangement. I was never a coward, but
to make a stand against three hundred tyrants required a moral courage
which I did not possess." Once, however, they pushed him too far, and he
was driven to rebellion. "And then came a great fight--at the end of which
my opponent had to be taken home to be cured." And then he utters the
characteristic wish that some one, of the many who witnessed this combat,
may still be left alive "who will be able to say that, in claiming this
solitary glory of my school-days, I am making no false boast." The lonely,
lugubrious little champion! One would almost have been willing to have
received from him a black eye and a bloody nose, only to comfort his sad
heart. It is delightful to imagine the terrific earnestness of that
solitary victory: and I would like to know what boy it was (if any) who
lent the unpopular warrior a knee and wiped his face.

After he got through his school-days, his family being then abroad, he had
an offer of a commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment; and he might
have been a major-general or field-marshal at this day had his schooling
made him acquainted with the French and German languages. Being, however,
entirely ignorant of these, he was obliged to study them in order to his
admission; and while he was thus employed, he received news of a vacant
clerkship in the General Post-Office, with the dazzling salary of £90 a
year. Needless to say that he jumped at such an opening, seeing before him
a vision of a splendid civil and social career, at something over twenty
pounds a quarter. But London, even fifty years ago, was a more expensive
place than Anthony imagined. Moreover, the boy was alone in the wilderness
of the city, with no one to advise or guide him. The consequence was that
these latter days of his youth were as bad or worse than the beginning. In
reviewing his plight at this period, he observes: "I had passed my life
where I had seen gay things, but had never enjoyed them. There was no
house in which I could habitually see a lady's face or hear a lady's
voice. At the Post-Office I got credit for nothing, and was reckless. I
hated my work, and, more than all, I hated my idleness. Borrowings of
money, sometimes absolute want, and almost constant misery, followed as a
matter of course. I Had a full conviction that my life was taking me down
to the lowest pits--a feeling that I had been looked upon as an evil, an
encumbrance, a useless thing, a creature of whom those connected with me
had to be ashamed. Even my few friends were half-ashamed of me. I
acknowledge the weakness of a great desire to be loved--a strong wish to
be popular. No one had ever been less so." Under these circumstances, he
remarks that, although, no doubt, if the mind be strong enough, the
temptation will not prevail, yet he is fain to admit that the temptation
prevailed with him. He did not sit at home, after his return from the
office, in the evening, to drink tea and read, but tramped out in the
streets, and tried to see life and be jolly on £90 a year. He borrowed
four pounds of a money-lender, to augment his resources, and found, after
a few years, that he had paid him two hundred pounds for the
accommodation. He met with every variety of absurd and disastrous
adventure. The mother of a young woman with whom he had had an innocent
flirtation in the country appeared one day at his desk in the office, and
called out before all the clerks, "Anthony Trollope, when are you going to
marry my daughter?" On another occasion a sum of money was missing from
the table of the director. Anthony was summoned. The director informed him
of the loss--"and, by G--!" he continued, thundering his fist down on the
table, "no one has been in the room but you and I." "Then, by G--!" cried
Anthony, thundering _his_ fist down upon something, "you have taken it!"
This was very well; but the thing which Anthony had thumped happened to
be, not a table, but a movable desk with an inkstand on it, and the ink
flew up and deluged the face and shirt-front of the enraged director.
Still another adventure was that of the Queen of Saxony and the Half-
Crown; but the reader must investigate these matters for himself.

So far there has been nothing looking toward the novel-writer. But now we
learn that from the age of fifteen to twenty-six Anthony kept a journal,
which, he says, "convicted me of folly, ignorance, indiscretion, idleness,
and conceit, but habituated me to the rapid use of pen and ink, and taught
me how to express myself with facility." In addition to this, and more to
the purpose, he had formed an odd habit. Living, as he was forced to do,
so much to himself, if not by himself, he had to play, not with other
boys, but with himself; and his favorite play was to conceive a tale, or
series of fictitious events, and to carry it on, day after day, for months
together, in his mind. "Nothing impossible was ever introduced, or
violently improbable. I was my own hero, but I never became a king or a
duke, still less an AntinoŁs, or six feet high. But I was a very clever
person, and beautiful young women used to be very fond of me. I learned in
this way to live in a world outside the world of my own material life."
This is pointedly, even touchingly, characteristic. Never, to the day of
his death, did Mr. Trollope either see or imagine anything impossible, or
violently improbable, in the world. This mortal plane of things never
dissolved before his gaze and revealed the mysteries of absolute Being;
his heavens were never rolled up as a scroll, and his earth had no bubbles
as the water hath. He took things as he found them; and he never found
them out. But if the light that never was on sea or land does not
illuminate the writings of Mr. Trollope, there is generally plenty of that
other kind of light with which, after all, the average reader is more
familiar, and which not a few, perhaps, prefer to the transcendental
lustre. There is no modern novelist who has more clearly than Trollope
defined to his own apprehension his own literary capabilities and
limitations. He is thoroughly acquainted with both his fortes and his
foibles; and so sound is his good sense, that he is seldom beguiled into
toiling with futile ambition after effects that are beyond him. His proper
domain is a sufficiently wide one; he is inimitably at home here; and when
he invites us there to visit him, we may be sure of getting good and
wholesome entertainment. The writer's familiarity with his characters
communicates itself imperceptibly to the reader; there are no difficult or
awkward introductions; the toning of the picture (to use the painter's
phrase) is unexceptionable; and if it be rather tinted than colored, the
tints are handled in a workmanlike manner. Again, few English novelists
seem to possess so sane a comprehension of the modes of life and thought
of the British aristocracy as Trollope. He has not only made a study of
them from the observer's point of view, but he has reasoned them out
intellectually. The figures are not vividly defined; the realism is
applied to events rather than to personages: we have the scene described
for us but we do not look upon it. We should not recognize his characters
if we saw them; but if we were told who they were, we should know, from
their author's testimony, what were their characteristic traits and how
they would act under given circumstances. The logical sequence of events
is carefully maintained; nothing happens, either for good or for evil,
other than might befall under the dispensations of a Providence no more
unjust, and no more far-sighted, than Trollope himself. There is a good
deal of the _a priori_ principle in his method; he has made up his mind as
to certain fundamental data, and thence develops or explains whatever
complication comes up for settlement. But to range about unhampered by any
theories, concerned only to examine all phenomena, and to report
thereupon, careless of any considerations save those of artistic
propriety, would have been vanity and striving after wind to Trollope, and
derivatively so, doubtless, to his readers.

Considered in the abstract, it is a curious question what makes his novels
interesting. The reader knows, in a sense, just what is in store for him,
--or, rather, what is not. There will be no astonishment, no curdling
horror, no consuming suspense. There may be, perhaps, as many murders,
forgeries, foundlings, abductions, and missing wills, in Trollope's novels
as in any others; but they are not told about in a manner to alarm us; we
accept them philosophically; there are paragraphs in our morning paper
that excite us more. And yet they are narrated with art, and with dramatic
effect. They are interesting, but not uncourteously--not exasperatingly
so; and the strangest part of it is that the introductory and intermediate
passages are no less interesting, under Trollope's treatment, than are the
murders and forgeries. Not only does he never offend the modesty of
nature,--he encourages her to be prudish, and trains her to such evenness
and severity of demeanor that we never know when we have had enough of
her. His touch is eminently civilizing; everything, from the episodes to
the sentences, moves without hitch or creak: we never have to read a
paragraph twice, and we are seldom sorry to have read it once.

Amusingly characteristic of Trollope is his treatment of his villains. His
attitude toward them betrays no personal uncharitableness or animosity,
but the villain has a bad time of it just the same. Trollope places upon
him a large, benevolent, but unyielding forefinger, and says to us:
"Remark, if you please, how this inferior reptile squirms when pressure is
applied to him. I will now augment the pressure. You observe that the
squirmings increase in energy and complexity. Now, if you please, I will
bear down yet a little harder. Do not be alarmed, madam; the reptile
undoubtedly suffers, but the spectacle may do us some good, and you may
trust me not to let him do you any harm. There!--Yes, evisceration by
means of pressure is beyond question painful; but every one must have
observed the benevolence of my forefinger during the operation; and I
fancy even the subject of the experiment (were he in a condition to
express his sentiments) would have admitted as much. Thank you, ladies and
gentlemen. I shall have the pleasure of meeting you again very shortly.
John, another reptile, please!" Upon the whole, it is much to Trollope's
credit that he wrote somewhere about fifty long novels; and to the credit
of the English people that they paid him three hundred and fifty thousand
dollars for these novels--and read them!

But his success as a man of letters was still many years in the future.
After seven years in the London office, he went to Ireland as assistant
surveyor, and thenceforward he began to enjoy his business, and to get on
in it. He was paid sixpence a mile, and he would ride forty miles a day.
He rode to hounds, incidentally, whenever he got a chance, and he kept up
the practice, with enthusiasm, to within a few years of his death. "It
will, I think, be accorded to me," he says, "that I have ridden hard. I
know very little about hunting; I am blind, very heavy, and I am now old;
but I ride with a boy's energy, hating the roads, and despising young men
who ride them; and I feel that life cannot give 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." Riding, working, having a jolly
time, and gradually increasing his income, he lived until 1842, when he
became engaged; and he was married on June 11, 1844. "I ought to name that
happy day," he declares, "as the commencement of my better life." It was
at about this date, also, that he began and finished, not without delay
and procrastination, his first novel. Curiously enough, he affirms that he
did not doubt his own intellectual sufficiency to write a readable novel:
"What I did doubt was my own industry, and the chances of a market."
Never, surely, was self-distrust more unfounded. As for the first novel,
he sent it to his mother, to dispose of as best she could; and it never
brought him anything, except a perception that it was considered by his
friends to be "an unfortunate aggravation of the family disease." During
the ensuing ten years, this view seemed to be not unreasonable, for, in
all that time, though he worked hard, he earned by literature no more than
£55. But, between 1857 and 1860, he received for various novels, from £100
to £1000 each; and thereafter, £3000 or more was his regular price for a
story in three volumes. As he maintained his connection with the post-
office until 1867, he was in receipt of an income of £4500, "of which I
spent two-thirds and put by one." We should be doing an injustice to Mr.
Trollope to omit these details, which he gives so frankly; for, as he
early informs us, "my first object in taking to literature was to make an
income on which I and those belonging to me might live in comfort." Nor
will he let us forget that novel-writing, to him, was not so much an art,
or even a profession, as a trade, in which all that can be asked of a man
is that he shall be honest and punctual, turning out good average work,
and the more the better. "The great secret consists in"--in what?--why,
"in acknowledging myself to be bound to rules of labor similar to those
which an artisan or mechanic is forced to obey." There may be, however,
other incidental considerations. "I have ever thought of myself as a
preacher of sermons, and my pulpit as one I could make both salutary and
agreeable to my audience"; and he tells us that he has used some of his
novels for the expression of his political and social convictions. Again--
"The novelist must please, and he must teach; a good novel should be both
realistic and sensational in the highest degree." He says that he sees no
reason why two or three good novels should not be written at the same
time; and that, for his own part, he was accustomed to write two hundred
and fifty words every fifteen minutes, by the watch, during his working
hours. Nor does he mind letting us know that when he sits down to write a
novel, he neither knows nor cares how it is to end. And finally, one is a
little startled to hear him say, epigrammatically, that a writer should
not have to tell a story, but should have a story to tell. Beyond a doubt,
Anthony Trollope is something of a paradox.

The world has long ago passed its judgment on his stories, but it is
interesting, all the same, to note his own opinion of them; and though
never arrogant, he is generally tolerant, if not genial. "A novel should
be a picture of common life, enlivened by humor and sweetened by pathos. I
have never fancied myself to be a man of genius," he says; but again, with
strange imperviousness, "A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the
labors of a spasmodic Hercules." Beat them, how? Why, in quantity. But how
about quality? Is the travail of a work of art the same thing as the
making of a pair of shoes? Emerson tells us that--


"Ever the words of the gods resound,
But the porches of man's ear
Seldom, in this low life's round,
Are unsealed, that he may hear."


No one disputes, however, that you may hear the tapping of the cobbler's
hammer at any time.

To the view of the present writer, how much good soever Mr. Trollope may
have done as a preacher and moralist, he has done great harm to English
fictitious literature by his novels; and it need only be added, in this
connection, that his methods and results in novel-writing seem best to be
explained by that peculiar mixture of separateness and commonplaceness
which we began by remarking in him. The separateness has given him the
standpoint whence he has been able to observe and describe the
commonplaceness with which (in spite of his separateness) he is in vital
sympathy.

But Trollope the man is the abundant and consoling compensation for
Trollope the novelist; and one wishes that his books might have died, and
he lived on indefinitely. It is charming to read of his life in London
after his success in the _Cornhill Magazine_. "Up to that time I had lived
very little among men. It was a festival to me to dine at the 'Garrick.' I
think I became popular among those with whom I associated. I have ever
wished to be liked by those around me--a wish that during the first half
of my life was never gratified." And, again, in summing up his life, he
says: "I have betrayed no woman. Wine has brought to me no sorrow. It has
been the companionship, rather than the habit of smoking that I loved. I
have never desired to win money, and I have lost none. To enjoy the
excitement of pleasure, but to be free from its vices and ill-effects--to
have the sweet, and to leave the bitter untasted--that has been my study.
I will not say that I have never scorched a finger; but I carry no ugly
wounds."

A man who, at the end of his career, could make such a profession as this
--who felt the need of no further self-vindication than this--such a man,
whatever may have been his accountability to the muse of Fiction, is a
credit to England and to human nature, and deserves to be numbered among
the darlings of mankind. It was an honor to be called his friend; and what
his idea of friendship was, may be learned from the passage in which he
speaks of his friend Millais--with the quotation of which this paper may
fitly be concluded:--

"To see him has always been a pleasure; his voice has always 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."

Julian Hawthorne

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