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Autobiography of Anthony Trollope by Anthony Trollope

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Autobiography of Anthony Trollope

By 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.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope




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 œ400 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 œ17, 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.




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 œ90 a year, and on that I was to live
in œondon, 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 œ90 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, œ12, 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 œ4. For that and for the original
amount of the tailor's bill, which grew monstrously under repeated
renewals, I paid ultimately something over œ200. 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 œ90 per annum. I remained seven years in the General Post
Office, and when I left it my income was œ140. 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 œ100 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 œ400. This was the first good fortune
of my life.




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 œ200 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 œ100 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 œ400 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,

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