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Autobiography of Anthony Trollope by Anthony Trollope

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In all this human nature must be the novel-writer's guide. No doubt
effective novels have been written in which human nature has been
set at defiance. I might name Caleb Williams as one and Adam Blair
as another. But the exceptions are not more than enough to prove
the rule. But in following human nature he must remember that he does
so with a pen in his hand, and that the reader who will appreciate
human nature will also demand artistic ability and literary aptitude.

The young novelist will probably ask, or more probably bethink
himself how he is to acquire that knowledge of human nature which
will tell him with accuracy what men and women would say in this
or that position. He must acquire it as the compositor, who is to
print his words, has learned the art of distributing his type--by
constant and intelligent practice. Unless it be given to him to
listen and to observe,--so to carry away, as it were, the manners
of people in his memory as to be able to say to himself with assurance
that these words might have been said in a given position, and that
those other words could not have been said,--I do not think that
in these days he can succeed as a novelist.

And then let him beware of creating tedium! Who has not felt the
charm of a spoken story up to a certain point, and then suddenly
become aware that it has become too long and is the reverse of
charming. It is not only that the entire book may have this fault,
but that this fault may occur in chapters, in passages, in pages,
in paragraphs. I know no guard against this so likely to be effective
as the feeling of the writer himself. When once the sense that the
thing is becoming long has grown upon him, he may be sure that it
will grow upon his readers. I see the smile of some who will declare
to themselves that the words of a writer will never be tedious to
himself. Of the writer of whom this may be truly said, it may be
said with equal truth that he will always be tedious to his reader.



In this chapter I will venture to name a few successful novelists
of my own time, with whose works I am acquainted; and will endeavour
to point whence their success has come, and why they have failed
when there has been failure.

I do not hesitate to name Thackeray the first. His knowledge of
human nature was supreme, and his characters stand out as human
beings, with a force and a truth which has not, I think, been
within the reach of any other English novelist in any period. I know
no character in fiction, unless it be Don Quixote, with whom the
reader becomes so intimately acquainted as with Colonel Newcombe.
How great a thing it is to be a gentleman at all parts! How we
admire the man of whom so much may be said with truth! Is there
any one of whom we feel more sure in this respect than of Colonel
Newcombe? It is not because Colonel Newcombe is a perfect gentleman
that we think Thackeray's work to have been so excellent, but
because he has had the power to describe him as such, and to force
us to love him, a weak and silly old man, on account of this grace
of character. It is evident from all Thackeray's best work that he
lived with the characters he was creating. He had always a story
to tell until quite late in life; and he shows us that this was
so, not by the interest which be had in his own plots,--for I doubt
whether his plots did occupy much of his mind,--but by convincing
us that his characters were alive to himself. With Becky Sharpe,
with Lady Castlewood and her daughter, and with Esmond, with
Warrington, Pendennis, and the Major, with Colonel Newcombe, and
with Barry Lynon, he must have lived in perpetual intercourse.
Therefore he has made these personages real to us.

Among all our novelists his style is the purest, as to my ear it is
also the most harmonious. Sometimes it is disfigured by a slight
touch of affectation, by little conceits which smell of the oil;--but
the language is always lucid. The reader, without labour, knows what
he means, and knows all that he means. As well as I can remember,
he deals with no episodes. I think that any critic, examining
his work minutely, would find that every scene, and every part of
every scene, adds something to the clearness with which the story
is told. Among all his stories there is not one which does not
leave on the mind a feeling of distress that women should ever
be immodest or men dishonest,--and of joy that women should be so
devoted and men so honest. How we hate the idle selfishness of
Pendennis, the worldliness of Beatrix, the craft of Becky Sharpe!--how
we love the honesty of Colonel Newcombe, the nobility of Esmond,
and the devoted affection of Mrs. Pendennis! The hatred of evil
and love of good can hardly have come upon so many readers without
doing much good.

Late in Thackeray's life,--he never was an old man, but towards the
end of his career,--he failed in his power of charming, because he
allowed his mind to become idle. In the plots which he conceived,
and in the language which he used; I do not know that there is any
perceptible change; but in The Virginians and in Philip the reader
is introduced to no character with which he makes a close and undying
acquaintance. And this, I have no doubt, is so because Thackeray
himself had no such intimacy. His mind had come to be weary of
that fictitious life which is always demanding the labour of new
creation, and he troubled himself with his two Virginians and his
Philip only when he was seated at his desk.

At the present moment George Eliot is the first of English novelists,
and I am disposed to place her second of those of my time. She
is best known to the literary world as a writer of prose fiction,
and not improbably whatever of permanent fame she may acquire will
come from her novels. But the nature of her intellect is very far
removed indeed from that which is common to the tellers of stories.
Her imagination is no doubt strong, but it acts in analysing rather
than in creating. Everything that comes before her is pulled
to pieces so that the inside of it shall be seen, and be seen if
possible by her readers as clearly as by herself. This searching
analysis is carried so far that, in studying her latter writings,
one feels oneself to be in company with some philosopher rather
than with a novelist. I doubt whether any young person can read
with pleasure either Felix Holt, Middlemarch, or Daniel Deronda.
I know that they are very difficult to many that are not young.

Her personifications of character have been singularly terse and
graphic, and from them has come her great hold on the public,--though
by no means the greatest effect which she has produced. The lessons
which she teaches remain, though it is not for the sake of the
lessons that her pages are read. Seth Bede, Adam Bede, Maggie and
Tom Tulliver, old Silas Marner, and, much above all, Tito, in Romola,
are characters which, when once known, can never be forgotten. I
cannot say quite so much for any of those in her later works, because
in them the philosopher so greatly overtops the portrait-painter,
that, in the dissection of the mind, the outward signs seem to
have been forgotten. In her, as yet, there is no symptom whatever
of that weariness of mind which, when felt by the reader, induces
him to declare that the author has written himself out. It is not
from decadence that we do not have another Mrs. Poyser, but because
the author soars to things which seem to her to be higher than Mrs.

It is, I think, the defect of George Eliot that she struggles too
hard to do work that shall be excellent. She lacks ease. Latterly
the signs of this have been conspicuous in her style, which has always
been and is singularly correct, but which has become occasionally
obscure from her too great desire to be pungent. It is impossible
not to feel the struggle, and that feeling begets a flavour
of affectation. In Daniel Deronda, of which at this moment only a
portion has been published, there are sentences which I have found
myself compelled to read three times before I have been able to
take home to myself all that the writer has intended. Perhaps I
may be permitted here to say, that this gifted woman was among my
dearest and most intimate friends. As I am speaking here of novelists,
I will not attempt to speak of George Eliot's merit as a poet.

There can be no doubt that the most popular novelist of my
time--probably the most popular English novelist of any time--has
been Charles Dickens. He has now been dead nearly six years, and the
sale of his books goes on as it did during his life. The certainty
with which his novels are found in every house--the familiarity of
his name in all English-speaking countries--the popularity of such
characters as Mrs. Gamp, Micawber, and Pecksniff, and many others
whose names have entered into the English language and become
well-known words--the grief of the country at his death, and the
honours paid to him at his funeral,--all testify to his popularity.
Since the last book he wrote himself, I doubt whether any book
has been so popular as his biography by John Forster. There is
no withstanding such testimony as this. Such evidence of popular
appreciation should go for very much, almost for everything,
in criticism on the work of a novelist. The primary object of a
novelist is to please; and this man's novels have been found more
pleasant than those of any other writer. It might of course be
objected to this, that though the books have pleased they have been
injurious, that their tendency has been immoral and their teaching
vicious; but it is almost needless to say that no such charge has
ever been made against Dickens. His teaching has ever been good.
From all which, there arises to the critic a question whether, with
such evidence against him as to the excellence of this writer, he
should not subordinate his own opinion to the collected opinion of
the world of readers. To me it almost seems that I must be wrong
to place Dickens after Thackeray and George Eliot, knowing as I do
that so great a majority put him above those authors.

My own peculiar idiosyncrasy in the matter forbids me to do so. I
do acknowledge that Mrs. Gamp, Micawber, Pecksniff, and others have
become household words in every house, as though they were human
beings; but to my judgment they are not human beings, nor are any
of the characters human which Dickens has portrayed. It has been
the peculiarity and the marvel of this man's power, that he has
invested, his puppets with a charm that has enabled him to dispense
with human nature. There is a drollery about them, in my estimation,
very much below the humour of Thackeray, but which has reached the
intellect of all; while Thackeray's humour has escaped the intellect
of many. Nor is the pathos of Dickens human. It is stagey and
melodramatic. But it is so expressed that it touches every heart
a little. There is no real life in Smike. His misery, his idiotcy,
his devotion for Nicholas, his love for Kate, are all overdone and
incompatible with each other. But still the reader sheds a tear.
Every reader can find a tear for Smike. Dickens's novels are like
Boucicault's plays. He has known how to draw his lines broadly, so
that all should see the colour.

He, too, in his best days, always lived with his characters;--and
he, too, as he gradually ceased to have the power of doing so,
ceased to charm. Though they are not human beings, we all remember
Mrs. Gamp and Pickwick. The Boffins and Veneerings do not, I think,
dwell in the minds of so many.

Of Dickens's style it is impossible to speak in praise. It is jerky,
ungrammatical, and created by himself in defiance of rules--almost
as completely as that created by Carlyle. To readers who have taught
themselves to regard language, it must therefore be unpleasant. But
the critic is driven to feel the weakness of his criticism, when
he acknowledges to himself--as he is compelled in all honesty to
do--that with the language, such as it is, the writer has satisfied
the great mass of the readers of his country. Both these great
writers have satisfied the readers of their own pages; but both
have done infinite harm by creating a school of imitators. No young
novelist should ever dare to imitate the style of Dickens. If such
a one wants a model for his language, let him take Thackeray.

Bulwer, or Lord Lytton,--but I think that he is still better known
by his earlier name,--was a man of very great parts. Better educated
than either of those I have named before him, he was always able to
use his erudition, and he thus produced novels from which very much
not only may be but must be learned by his readers. He thoroughly
understood the political status of his own country, a subject
on which, I think, Dickens was marvellously ignorant, and which
Thackeray had never studied. He had read extensively, and was always
apt to give his readers the benefit of what he knew. The result
has been that very much more than amusement may be obtained from
Bulwer's novels. There is also a brightness about them--the result
rather of thought than of imagination, of study and of care, than
of mere intellect--which has made many of them excellent in their
way. It is perhaps improper to class all his novels together, as
he wrote in varied manners, making in his earlier works, such as
Pelham and Ernest Maltravers, pictures of a fictitious life, and
afterwards pictures of life as he believed it to be, as in My Novel
and The Caxtons. But from all of them there comes the same flavour
of an effort to produce effect. The effects are produced, but it
would have been better if the flavour had not been there.

I cannot say of Bulwer as I have of the other novelists whom I have
named that he lived with his characters. He lived with his work,
with the doctrines which at the time he wished to preach, thinking
always of the effects which he wished to produce; but I do not
think he ever knew his own personages,--and therefore neither do
we know them. Even Pelham and Eugene Aram are not human beings to
us, as are Pickwick, and Colonel Newcombe, and Mrs. Poyser.

In his plots Bulwer has generally been simple, facile, and successful.
The reader never feels with him, as he does with Wilkie Collins,
that it is all plot, or, as with George Eliot, that there is no plot.
The story comes naturally without calling for too much attention,
and is thus proof of the completeness of the man's intellect. His
language is clear, good, intelligible English, but it is defaced
by mannerism. In all that he did, affectation was his fault.

How shall I speak of my dear old friend Charles Lever, and
his rattling, jolly, joyous, swearing Irishmen. Surely never did
a sense of vitality come so constantly from a man's pen, nor from
man's voice, as from his! I knew him well for many years, and
whether in sickness or in health, I have never come across him
without finding him to be running over with wit and fun. Of all the
men I have encountered, he was the surest fund of drollery. I have
known many witty men, many who could say good things, many who
would sometimes be ready to say them when wanted, though they would
sometimes fail;--but he never failed. Rouse him in the middle of
the night, and wit would come from him before he was half awake.
And yet he never monopolised the talk, was never a bore. He would
take no more than his own share of the words spoken, and would yet
seem to brighten all that was said during the night. His earlier
novels--the later I have not read--are just like his conversation.
The fun never flags, and to me, when I read them, they were never
tedious. As to character he can hardly be said to have produced
it. Corney Delaney, the old manservant, may perhaps be named as an

Lever's novels will not live long,--even if they may be said to
be alive now,--because it is so. What was his manner of working I
do not know, but I should think it must have been very quick, and
that he never troubled himself on the subject, except when he was
seated with a pen in his hand.

Charlotte Bronte was surely a marvellous woman. If it could be
right to judge the work of a novelist from one small portion of
one novel, and to say of an author that he is to be accounted as
strong as he shows himself to be in his strongest morsel of work,
I should be inclined to put Miss Bronte very high indeed. I know
no interest more thrilling than that which she has been able to
throw into the characters of Rochester and the governess, in the
second volume of Jane Eyre. She lived with those characters, and
felt every fibre of the heart, the longings of the one and the
sufferings of the other. And therefore, though the end of the book
is weak, and the beginning not very good, I venture to predict that
Jane Eyre will be read among English novels when many whose names
are now better known shall have been forgotten. Jane Eyre, and
Esmond, and Adam Bede will be in the hands of our grandchildren,
when Pickwick, and Pelham, and Harry Lorrequer are forgotten;
because the men and women depicted are human in their aspirations,
human in their sympathies, and human in their actions.

In Vilette, too, and in Shirley, there is to be found human life as
natural and as real, though in circumstances not so full of interest
as those told in Jane Eyre. The character of Paul in the former of
the two is a wonderful study. She must herself have been in love
with some Paul when she wrote the book, and have been determined to
prove to herself that she was capable of loving one whose exterior
circumstances were mean and in every way unprepossessing.

There is no writer of the present day who has so much puzzled
me by his eccentricities, impracticabilities, and capabilities as
Charles Reade. I look upon him as endowed almost with genius, but
as one who has not been gifted by nature with ordinary powers of
reasoning. He can see what is grandly noble and admire it with
all his heart. He can see, too, what is foully vicious and hate
it with equal ardour. But in the common affairs of life he cannot
see what is right or wrong; and as he is altogether unwilling to be
guided by the opinion of others, he is constantly making mistakes
in his literary career, and subjecting himself to reproach which he
hardly deserves. He means to be honest. He means to be especially
honest,--more honest than other people. He has written a book
called The Eighth Commandment on behalf of honesty in literary
transactions,--a wonderful work, which has I believe been read by
a very few. I never saw a copy except that in my own library, or
heard of any one who knew the book. Nevertheless it is a volume
that must have taken very great labour, and have been written,--as
indeed he declares that it was written,--without the hope of
pecuniary reward. He makes an appeal to the British Parliament and
British people on behalf of literary honesty, declaring that should
he fail--"I shall have to go on blushing for the people I was born
among." And yet of all the writers of my day he has seemed to me
to understand literary honesty the least. On one occasion, as he
tells us in this book, he bought for a certain sum from a French
author the right of using a plot taken from a play,--which he
probably might have used without such purchase, and also without
infringing any international copyright act. The French author not
unnaturally praises him for the transaction, telling him that he
is "un vrai gentleman." The plot was used by Reade in a novel; and
a critic discovering the adaptation, made known his discovery to
the public. Whereupon the novelist became angry, called his critic
a pseudonymuncle, and defended himself by stating the fact of his
own purchase. In all this he seems to me to ignore what we all mean
when we talk of literary plagiarism and literary honesty. The sin
of which the author is accused is not that of taking another man's
property, but of passing off as his own creation that which he
does not himself create. When an author puts his name to a book he
claims to have written all that there is therein, unless he makes
direct signification to the contrary. Some years subsequently there
arose another similar question, in which Mr. Reade's opinion was
declared even more plainly, and certainly very much more publicly.
In a tale which he wrote he inserted a dialogue which he took from
Swift, and took without any acknowledgment. As might have been
expected, one of the critics of the day fell foul of him for this
barefaced plagiarism. The author, however, defended himself, with
much abuse of the critic, by asserting, that whereas Swift had
found the jewel he had supplied the setting;--an argument in which
there was some little wit, and would have been much excellent truth,
had he given the words as belonging to Swift and not to himself.

The novels of a man possessed of so singular a mind must themselves
be very strange,--and they are strange. It has generally been his
object to write down some abuse with which he has been particularly
struck,--the harshness, for instance, with which paupers or lunatics
are treated, or the wickedness of certain classes,--and he always,
I think, leaves upon his readers an idea of great earnestness
of purpose. But he has always left at the same time on my mind so
strong a conviction that he has not really understood his subject,
that I have ever found myself taking the part of those whom he has
accused. So good a heart, and so wrong a head, surely no novelist
ever before had combined! In storytelling he has occasionally been
almost great. Among his novels I would especially recommend The
Cloister and the Hearth. I do not know that in this work, or in any,
that he has left a character that will remain; but he has written
some of his scenes so brightly that to read them would always be
a pleasure.

Of Wilkie Collins it is impossible for a true critic not to speak
with admiration, because he has excelled all his contemporaries in
a certain most difficult branch of his art; but as it is a branch
which I have not myself at all cultivated, it is not unnatural
that his work should be very much lost upon me individually. When
I sit down to write a novel I do not at all know, and I do not very
much care, how it is to end. Wilkie Collins seems so to construct
his that he not only, before writing, plans everything on, down to
the minutest detail, from the beginning to the end; but then plots
it all back again, to see that there is no piece of necessary
dove-tailing which does not dove-tail with absolute accuracy. The
construction is most minute and most wonderful. But I can never
lose the taste of the construction. The author seems always to be
warning me to remember that something happened at exactly half-past
two o'clock on Tuesday morning; or that a woman disappeared from
the road just fifteen yards beyond the fourth mile-stone. One is
constrained by mysteries and hemmed in by difficulties, knowing,
however, that the mysteries will be made clear, and the difficulties
overcome at the end of the third volume. Such work gives me no
pleasure. I am, however, quite prepared to acknowledge that the
want of pleasure comes from fault of my intellect.

There are two ladies of whom I would fain say a word, though I feel
that I am making my list too long, in order that I may declare how
much I have admired their work. They are Annie Thackeray and Rhoda
Broughton. I have known them both, and have loved the former almost
as though she belonged to me. No two writers were ever more
dissimilar,--except in this that they are both feminine. Miss
Thackeray's characters are sweet, charming, and quite true to human
nature. In her writings she is always endeavouring to prove that
good produces good, and evil evil. There is not a line of which
she need be ashamed,--not a sentiment of which she should not be
proud. But she writes like a lazy writer who dislikes her work,
and who allows her own want of energy to show itself in her pages.

Miss Broughton, on the other hand, is full of energy,--though
she too, I think, can become tired over her work. She, however,
does take the trouble to make her personages stand upright on the
ground. And she has the gift of making them speak as men and women
do speak. "You beast!" said Nancy, sitting on the wall, to the man
who was to be her husband,--thinking that she was speaking to her
brother. Now Nancy, whether right or wrong, was just the girl who
would, as circumstances then were, have called her brother a beast.
There is nothing wooden about any of Miss Broughton's novels; and
in these days so many novels are wooden! But they are not sweet-savoured
as are those by Miss Thackeray, and are, therefore, less true to
nature. In Miss Broughton's determination not to be mawkish and
missish, she has made her ladies do and say things which ladies
would not do and say. They throw themselves at men's heads, and
when they are not accepted only think how they may throw themselves
again. Miss Broughton is still so young that I hope she may live
to overcome her fault in this direction.

There is one other name, without which the list of the best known
English novelists of my own time would certainly be incomplete,
and that is the name of the present Prime Minister of England. Mr.
Disraeli has written so many novels, and has been so popular as a
novelist that, whether for good or for ill, I feel myself compelled
to speak of him. He began his career as an author early in life,
publishing Vivian Grey when he was twenty-three years old. He was
very young for such work, though hardly young enough to justify the
excuse that he makes in his own preface, that it is a book written
by a boy. Dickens was, I think, younger when he wrote his Sketches
by Boz, and as young when he was writing the Pickwick Papers. It
was hardly longer ago than the other day when Mr. Disraeli brought
out Lothair, and between the two there were eight or ten others.
To me they have all had the same flavour of paint and unreality.
In whatever he has written he has affected something which has been
intended to strike his readers as uncommon and therefore grand.
Because he has been bright and a man of genius, he has carried his
object as regards the young. He has struck them with astonishment
and aroused in their imagination ideas of a world more glorious,
more rich, more witty, more enterprising, than their own. But the
glory has been the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth has been
a wealth of tinsel. The wit has been the wit of hairdressers, and
the enterprise has been the enterprise of mountebanks. An audacious
conjurer has generally been his hero,--some youth who, by wonderful
cleverness, can obtain success by every intrigue that comes to
his hand. Through it all there is a feeling of stage properties,
a smell of hair-oil, an aspect of buhl, a remembrance of tailors,
and that pricking of the conscience which must be the general
accompaniment of paste diamonds. I can understand that Mr. Disraeli
should by his novels have instigated many a young man and many a
young woman on their way in life, but I cannot understand that he
should have instigated any one to good. Vivian Grey has had probably
as many followers as Jack Sheppard, and has led his followers in
the same direction.

Lothair, which is as yet Mr. Disraeli's last work, and, I think,
undoubtedly his worst, has been defended on a plea somewhat similar
to that by which he has defended Vivian Grey. As that was written
when he was too young, so was the other when he was too old,--too
old for work of that nature, though not too old to be Prime Minister.
If his mind were so occupied with greater things as to allow him to
write such a work, yet his judgment should have sufficed to induce
him to destroy it when written. Here that flavour of hair-oil,
that flavour of false jewels, that remembrance of tailors, comes
out stronger than in all the others. Lothair is falser even than
Vivian Grey, and Lady Corisande, the daughter of the Duchess, more
inane and unwomanlike than Venetia or Henrietta Temple. It is the
very bathos of story-telling. I have often lamented, and have as
often excused to myself, that lack of public judgment which enables
readers to put up with bad work because it comes from good or from
lofty hands. I never felt the feeling so strongly, or was so little
able to excuse it, as when a portion of the reading public received
Lothair with satisfaction.



Literary criticism in the present day has become a profession,--but
it has ceased to be an art. Its object is no longer that of proving
that certain literary work is good and other literary work is
bad, in accordance with rules which the critic is able to define.
English criticism at present rarely even pretends to go so far as
this. It attempts, in the first place, to tell the public whether
a book be or be not worth public attention; and, in the second
place, so to describe the purport of the work as to enable those
who have not time or inclination for reading it to feel that by a
short cut they can become acquainted with its contents. Both these
objects, if fairly well carried out, are salutary. Though the
critic may not be a profound judge himself; though not unfrequently
he be a young man making his first literary attempts, with tastes
and judgment still unfixed, yet he probably has a conscience in the
matter, and would not have been selected for that work had he not
shown some aptitude for it. Though he may be not the best possible
guide to the undiscerning, he will be better than no guide at all.
Real substantial criticism must, from its nature, be costly, and
that which the public wants should at any rate be cheap. Advice is
given to many thousands, which, though it may not be the best advice
possible, is better than no advice at all. Then that description
of the work criticised, that compressing of the much into very
little,--which is the work of many modern critics or reviewers,--does
enable many to know something of what is being said, who without
it would know nothing.

I do not think it is incumbent on me at present to name periodicals
in which this work is well done, and to make complaints of others
by which it is scamped. I should give offence, and might probably
be unjust. But I think I may certainly say that as some of these
periodicals are certainly entitled to great praise for the manner
in which the work is done generally, so are others open to very
severe censure,--and that the praise and that the censure are
chiefly due on behalf of one virtue and its opposite vice. It is
not critical ability that we have a right to demand, or its absence
that we are bound to deplore. Critical ability for the price we
pay is not attainable. It is a faculty not peculiar to Englishmen,
and when displayed is very frequently not appreciated. But that
critics should be honest we have a right to demand, and critical
dishonesty we are bound to expose. If the writer will tell us what
he thinks, though his thoughts be absolutely vague and useless,
we can forgive him; but when he tells us what he does not think,
actuated either by friendship or by animosity, then there should
be no pardon for him. This is the sin in modern English criticism
of which there is most reason to complain.

It is a lamentable fact that men and women lend themselves to this
practice who are neither vindictive nor ordinarily dishonest. It
has become "the custom of the trade," under the veil of which excuse
so many tradesmen justify their malpractices! When a struggling
author learns that so much has been done for A by the Barsetshire
Gazette, so much for B by the Dillsborough Herald, and, again, so
much for C by that powerful metropolitan organ the Evening Pulpit,
and is told also that A and B and C have been favoured through personal
interest, he also goes to work among the editors, or the editors'
wives,--or perhaps, if he cannot reach their wives, with their
wives' first or second cousins. When once the feeling has come upon
an editor or a critic that he may allow himself to be influenced
by other considerations than the duty h owes to the public, all
sense of critical or of editorial honesty falls from him at once.
Facilis descensus Averni. In a very short time that editorial
honesty becomes ridiculous to himself. It is for other purpose that
he wields the power; and when he is told what is his duty, and what
should be his conduct, the preacher of such doctrine seems to him
to be quixotic. "Where have you lived, my friend, for the last
twenty years," he says in spirit, if not in word, "that you come out
now with such stuff as old-fashioned as this?" And thus dishonesty
begets dishonesty, till dishonesty seems to be beautiful. How nice
to be good-natured! How glorious to assist struggling young authors,
especially if the young author be also a pretty woman! How gracious
to oblige a friend! Then the motive, though still pleasing, departs
further from the border of what is good. In what way can the critic
better repay the hospitality of his wealthy literary friend than
by good-natured criticism,--or more certainly ensure for himself
a continuation of hospitable favours?

Some years since a critic of the day, a gentleman well known then
in literary circles, showed me the manuscript of a book recently
published,--the work of a popular author. It was handsomely bound,
and was a valuable and desirable possession. It had just been given
to him by the author as an acknowledgment for a laudatory review in
one of the leading journals of the day. As I was expressly asked
whether I did not regard such a token as a sign of grace both
in the giver and in the receiver, I said that I thought it should
neither have been given nor have been taken. My theory was repudiated
with scorn, and I was told that I was strait-laced, visionary, and
impracticable! In all that the damage did not lie in the fact of
that one present, but in the feeling on the part of the critic that
his office was not debased by the acceptance of presents from those
whom he criticised. This man was a professional critic, bound by
his contract with certain employers to review such books as were
sent to him. How could he, when he had received a valuable present
for praising one book, censure another by the same author?

While I write this I well know that what I say, if it be ever
noticed at all, will be taken as a straining at gnats, as a pretence
of honesty, or at any rate as an exaggeration of scruples. I have
said the same thing before, and have been ridiculed for saying it.
But none the less am I sure that English literature generally is
suffering much under this evil. All those who are struggling for
success have forced upon them the idea that their strongest efforts
should be made in touting for praise. Those who are not familiar
with the lives of authors will hardly believe how low will be the
forms which their struggles will take:--how little presents will
be sent to men who write little articles; how much flattery may
be expended even on the keeper of a circulating library; with what
profuse and distant genuflexions approaches are made to the outside
railing of the temple which contains within it the great thunderer
of some metropolitan periodical publication! The evil here is not
only that done to the public when interested counsel is given to
them, but extends to the debasement of those who have at any rate
considered themselves fit to provide literature for the public.

I am satisfied that the remedy for this evil must lie in the conscience
and deportment of authors themselves. If once the feeling could be
produced that it is disgraceful for an author to ask for praise,--and
demands for praise are, I think, disgraceful in every walk of
life,--the practice would gradually fall into the hands only of
the lowest, and that which is done only by the lowest soon becomes
despicable even to them. The sin, when perpetuated with unflagging
labour, brings with it at best very poor reward. That work of running
after critics, editors, publishers, the keepers of circulating
libraries, and their clerks, is very hard, and must be very disagreeable.
He who does it must feel himself to be dishonoured,--or she. It
may perhaps help to sell an edition, but can never make an author

I think it may be laid down as a golden rule in literature that
there should be no intercourse at all between an author and his
critic. The critic, as critic, should not know his author, nor the
author, as author, his critic. As censure should beget no anger,
so should praise beget no gratitude. The young author should feel
that criticisms fall upon him as dew or hail from heaven,--which,
as coming from heaven, man accepts as fate. Praise let the author
try to obtain by wholesome effort; censure let him avoid, if
possible, by care and industry. But when they come, let him take
them as coming from some source which he cannot influence, and with
which be should not meddle.

I know no more disagreeable trouble into which an author may plunge
himself than of a quarrel with his critics, or any more useless
labour than that of answering them. It is wise to presume, at any
rate, that the reviewer has simply done his duty, and has spoken
of the book according to the dictates of his conscience. Nothing
can be gained by combating the reviewer's opinion. If the book
which he has disparaged be good, his judgment will be condemned by
the praise of others; if bad, his judgment will he confirmed by
others. Or if, unfortunately, the criticism of the day be in so evil
a condition generally that such ultimate truth cannot be expected,
the author may be sure that his efforts made on behalf of his own
book will not set matters right. If injustice be done him, let him
bear it. To do so is consonant with the dignity of the position
which he ought to assume. To shriek, and scream, and sputter,
to threaten actions, and to swear about the town that he has been
belied and defamed in that he has been accused of bad grammar or a
false metaphor, of a dull chapter, or even of a borrowed heroine,
will leave on the minds of the public nothing but a sense of
irritated impotence.

If, indeed, there should spring from an author's work any assertion
by a critic injurious to the author's honour, if the author be
accused of falsehood or of personal motives which are discreditable
to him, then, indeed, he may be bound to answer the charge. It is
hoped, however, that he may be able to do so with clean hands, or
he will so stir the mud in the pool as to come forth dirtier than
he went into it.

I have lived much among men by whom the English criticism of the day
has been vehemently abused. I have heard it said that to the public
it is a false guide, and that to authors it is never a trustworthy
Mentor. I do not concur in this wholesale censure. There is, of
course, criticism and criticism. There are at this moment one or
two periodicals to which both public and authors may safely look
for guidance, though there are many others from which no spark of
literary advantage may be obtained. But it is well that both public
and authors should know what is the advantage which they have a
right to expect. There have been critics,--and there probably will
be again, though the circumstances of English literature do not
tend to produce them,--with power sufficient to entitle them to
speak with authority. These great men have declared, tanquam ex
cathedra, that such a book has been so far good and so far bad, or
that it has been altogether good or altogether bad;--and the world
has believed them. When making such assertions they have given
their reasons, explained their causes, and have carried conviction.
Very great reputations have been achieved by such critics, but not
without infinite study and the labour of many years.

Such are not the critics of the day, of whom we are now speaking.
In the literary world as it lives at present some writer is selected
for the place of critic to a newspaper, generally some young
writer, who for so many shillings a column shall review whatever
book is sent to him and express an opinion,--reading the book through
for the purpose, if the amount of honorarium as measured with the
amount of labour will enable him to do so. A labourer must measure
his work by his pay or he cannot live. From criticism such as this
must far the most part be, the general reader has no right to expect
philosophical analysis, or literary judgment on which confidence
may be placed. But he probably may believe that the books praised
will be better than the books censured, and that those which are
praised by periodicals which never censure are better worth his
attention than those which are not noticed. And readers will also
find that by devoting an hour or two on Saturday to the criticisms
of the week, they will enable themselves to have an opinion about
the books of the day. The knowledge so acquired will not be great,
nor will that little be lasting; but it adds something to the
pleasure of life to be able to talk on subjects of which others are
speaking; and the man who has sedulously gone through the literary
notices in the Spectator and the Saturday may perhaps be justified
in thinking himself as well able to talk about the new book as
his friend who has bought that new book on the tapis, and who, not
improbably, obtained his information from the same source.

As an author, I have paid careful attention to the reviews which
have been written on my own work; and I think that now I well know
where I may look for a little instruction, where I may expect only
greasy adulation, where I shall be cut up into mince-meat for the
delight of those who love sharp invective, and where I shall find
an equal mixture of praise and censure so adjusted, without much
judgment, as to exhibit the impartiality of the newspaper and its
staff. Among it all there is much chaff, which I have learned bow
to throw to the winds, with equal disregard whether it praises or
blames;--but I have also found some corn, on which I have fed and
nourished myself, and for which I have been thankful.



I will now go back to the year 1867, in which I was still living at
Waltham Cross. I had some time since bought the house there which
I had at first hired, and added rooms to it, and made it for our
purposes very comfortable. It was, however, a rickety old place,
requiring much repair, and occasionally not as weathertight as it
should be. We had a domain there sufficient for the cows, and for
the making of our butter and hay. For strawberries, asparagus, green
peas, out-of-door peaches, for roses especially, and such everyday
luxuries, no place was ever more excellent. It was only twelve
miles from London, and admitted therefore of frequent intercourse
with the metropolis. It was also near enough to the Roothing country
for hunting purposes. No doubt the Shoreditch Station, by which it
had to be reached, had its drawbacks. My average distance also to
the Essex meets was twenty miles. But the place combined as much
or more than I had a right to expect. It was within my own postal
district, and had, upon the whole, been well chosen.

The work that I did during the twelve years that I remained there,
from 1859 to 1871, was certainly very great. I feel confident that
in amount no other writer contributed so much during that time to
English literature. Over and above my novels, I wrote political
articles, critical, social, and sporting articles, for periodicals,
without number. I did the work of a surveyor of the General Post
Office, and so did it as to give the authorities of the department
no slightest pretext for fault-finding. I hunted always at least
twice a week. I was frequent in the whist-room at the Garrick. I
lived much in society in London, and was made happy by the presence
of many friends at Waltham Cross. In addition to this we always
spent six weeks at least out of England. Few men, I think, ever lived
a fuller life. And I attribute the power of doing this altogether
to the virtue of early hours. It was my practice to be at my table
every morning at 5.30 A. M.; and it was also my practice to allow
myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me,
and to whom I paid 5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no
mercy. During all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once
late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. I do not
know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to any
one else for the success I have had. By beginning at that hour I
could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.

All those I think who have lived as literary men,--working daily
as literary labourers,--will agree with me that three hours a day
will produce as much as a man ought to write. But then he should
so have trained himself that he shall be able to work continuously
during those three hours,--so have tutored his mind that it shall
not be necessary for him to sit nibbling his pen, and gazing at the
wall before him, till he shall have found the words with which he
wants to express his ideas. It had at this time become my custom,--and
it still is my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient
to myself,--to write with my watch before me, and to require from
myself 250 words every quarter of an hour. I have found that the 250
words have been forthcoming as regularly as my watch went. But my
three hours were not devoted entirely to writing. I always began
my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which
would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing
with my ear the sound of the words and phrases. I would strongly
recommend this practice to all tyros in writing. That their work
should be read after it has been written is a matter of course,--that
it should be read twice at least before it goes to the printers,
I take to be a matter of course. But by reading what he has last
written, just before he recommences his task, the writer will catch
the tone and spirit of what he is then saying, and will avoid the
fault of seeming to be unlike himself. This division of time allowed
me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day,
and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results
three novels of three volumes each in the year;--the precise amount
which so greatly acerbated the publisher in Paternoster Row, and which
must at any rate be felt to be quite as much as the novel-readers
of the world can want from the hands of one man.

I have never written three novels in a year, but by following the
plan above described I have written more than as much as three
volumes; and by adhering to it over a course of years, I have been
enabled to have always on hand,--for some time back now,--one or
two or even three unpublished novels in my desk beside me. Were I
to die now there are three such besides The Prime Minister, half
of which has only yet been issued. One of these has been six years
finished, and has never seen the light since it was first tied up
in the wrapper which now contains it. I look forward with some grim
pleasantry to its publication after another period of six years,
and to the declaration of the critics that it has been the work of
a period of life at which the power of writing novels had passed
from me. Not improbably, however, these pages may be printed first.

In 1866 and 1867 The Last Chronicle of Barset was brought out by
George Smith in sixpenny monthly numbers. I do not know that this
mode of publication had been tried before, or that it answered very
well on this occasion. Indeed the shilling magazines had interfered
greatly with the success of novels published in numbers without
other accompanying matter. The public finding that so much might
be had for a shilling, in which a portion of one or more novels was
always included, were unwilling to spend their money on the novel
alone. Feeling that this certainly had become the case in reference
to novels published in shilling numbers, Mr. Smith and I determined
to make the experiment with sixpenny parts. As he paid me 3000
for the use of my MS., the loss, if any, did not fall upon me. If
I remember right the enterprise was not altogether successful.

Taking it as a whole, I regard this as the best novel I have
written. I was never quite satisfied with the development of the
plot, which consisted in the loss of a cheque, of a charge made
against a clergyman for stealing it, and of absolute uncertainty
on the part of the clergyman himself as to the manner in which the
cheque had found its way into his hands. I cannot quite make myself
believe that even such a man as Mr. Crawley could have forgotten
how he got it, nor would the generous friend who was anxious to
supply his wants have supplied them by tendering the cheque of a
third person. Such fault I acknowledge,--acknowledging at the same
time that I have never been capable of constructing with complete
success the intricacies of a plot that required to be unravelled.
But while confessing so much, I claim to have portrayed the mind
of the unfortunate man with great accuracy and great delicacy. The
pride, the humility, the manliness, the weakness, the conscientious
rectitude and bitter prejudices of Mr. Crawley were, I feel, true
to nature and well described. The surroundings too are good. Mrs.
Proudie at the palace is a real woman; and the poor old dean dying
at the deanery is also real. The archdeacon in his victory is very
real. There is a true savour of English country life all through
the book. It was with many misgivings that I killed my old friend
Mrs. Proudie. I could not, I think, have done it, but for a resolution
taken and declared under circumstances of great momentary pressure.

It was thus that it came about. I was sitting one morning at work
upon the novel at the end of the long drawing-room of the Athenaeum
Club,--as was then my wont when I had slept the previous night in
London. As I was there, two clergymen, each with a magazine in his
hand, seated themselves, one on one side of the fire and one on
the other, close to me. They soon began to abuse what they were
reading, and each was reading some part of some novel of mine. The
gravamen of their complaint lay in the fact that I reintroduced
the same characters so often! "Here," said one, "is that archdeacon
whom we have had in every novel he has ever written." "And here,"
said the other, "is the old duke whom he has talked about till
everybody is tired of him. If I could not invent new characters, I
would not write novels at all." Then one of them fell foul of Mrs.
Proudie. It was impossible for me not to hear their words, and
almost impossible to hear them and be quiet. I got up, and standing
between them, I acknowledged myself to be the culprit. "As to Mrs.
Proudie," I said, "I will go home and kill her before the week is
over." And so I did. The two gentlemen were utterly confounded,
and one of them begged me to forget his frivolous observations.

I have sometimes regretted the deed, so great was my delight in
writing about Mrs. Proudie, so thorough was my knowledge of all the
shades of her character. It was not only that she was a tyrant,
a bully, a would-be priestess, a very vulgar woman, and one who
would send headlong to the nethermost pit all who disagreed with
her; but that at the same time she was conscientious, by no means
a hypocrite, really believing in the brimstone which she threatened,
and anxious to save the souls around her from its horrors. And as
her tyranny increased so did the bitterness of the moments of her
repentance increase, in that she knew herself to be a tyrant,--till
that bitterness killed her. Since her time others have grown up
equally dear to me,--Lady Glencora and her husband, for instance;
but I have never dissevered myself from Mrs. Proudie, and still
live much in company with her ghost.

I have in a previous chapter said how I wrote Can You Forgive Her?
after the plot of a play which had been rejected,--which play had
been called The Noble Jilt. Some year or two after the completion
of The Last Chronicle, I was asked by the manager of a theatre to
prepare a piece for his stage, and I did so, taking the plot of
this novel. I called the comedy Did He Steal It? But my friend the
manager did not approve of my attempt. My mind at this time was
less attentive to such a matter than when dear old George Bartley
nearly crushed me by his criticism,--so that I forget the reason
given. I have little doubt but that the manager was right. That
he intended to express a true opinion, and would have been glad to
have taken the piece had he thought it suitable, I am quite sure.

I have sometimes wished to see during my lifetime a combined
republication of those tales which are occupied with the fictitious
county of Barsetshire. These would be The Warden, Barchester
Towers, Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, and The Last Chronicle
of Barset. But I have hitherto failed. The copyrights are in the
hands of four different persons, including myself, and with one of
the four I have not been able to prevail to act in concert with the
others. [Footnote: Since this was written I have made arrangements
for doing as I have wished, and the first volume of the series will
now very shortly be published.]

In 1867 I made up my mind to take a step in life which was not
unattended with peril, which many would call rash, and which, when
taken, I should be sure at some period to regret. This step was
the resignation of my place in the Post Office. I have described
how it was that I contrived to combine the performance of its duties
with my other avocations in life. I got up always very early; but
even this did not suffice. I worked always on Sundays,--as to which
no scruple of religion made me unhappy,--and not unfrequently I
was driven to work at night. In the winter when hunting was going
on, I had to keep myself very much on the alert. And during the
London season, when I was generally two or three days of the week
in town, I found the official work to be a burden. I had determined
some years previously, after due consideration with my wife, to
abandon the Post Office when I had put by an income equal to the
pension to which I should be entitled if I remained in the department
till I was sixty. That I had now done, and I sighed for liberty.

The exact time chosen, the autumn of 1867, was selected because I
was then about to undertake other literary work in editing a new
magazine,--of which I shall speak very shortly. But in addition to
these reasons there was another, which was, I think, at last the
actuating cause. When Sir Rowland Hill left the Post Office, and
my brother-in-law, Mr. Tilley, became Secretary in his place, I
applied for the vacant office of Under-Secretary. Had I obtained
this I should have given up my hunting, have given up much of my
literary work,--at any rate would have edited no magazine,--and
would have returned to the habit of my youth in going daily to the
General Post Office. There was very much against such a change in
life. The increase of salary would not have amounted to above 400
a year, and I should have lost much more than that in literary
remuneration. I should have felt bitterly the slavery of attendance
at an office, from which I had then been exempt for five-and-twenty
years. I should, too, have greatly missed the sport which I loved.
But I was attached to the department, had imbued myself with a
thorough love of letters,--I mean the letters which are carried by
the post,--and was anxious for their welfare as though they were
all my own. In short, I wished to continue the connection. I did
not wish, moreover, that any younger officer should again pass over
my head. I believed that I bad been a valuable public servant,
and I will own to a feeling existing at that time that I had not
altogether been well treated. I was probably wrong in this. I had
been allowed to hunt,--and to do as I pleased, and to say what
I liked, and had in that way received my reward. I applied for
the office, but Mr. Scudamore was appointed to it. He no doubt
was possessed of gifts which I did not possess. He understood
the manipulation of money and the use of figures, and was a great
accountant. I think that I might have been more useful in regard
to the labours and wages of the immense body of men employed by
the Post Office. However, Mr. Scudamore was appointed; and I made
up my mind that I would fall back upon my old intention, and leave
the department. I think I allowed two years to pass before I took
the step; and the day on which I sent the letter was to me most

The rule of the service in regard to pensions is very just. A man
shall serve till he is sixty before he is entitled to a pension,--unless
his health fail him. At that age he is entitled to one-sixtieth of
his salary for every year he has served up to forty years. If his
health do fail him so that he is unfit for further work before the
age named, then he may go with a pension amounting to one-sixtieth
for every year he has served. I could not say that my health had
failed me, and therefore I went without any pension. I have since
felt occasionally that it has been supposed that I left the Post
Office under pressure,--because I attended to hunting and to my
literary work rather than to postal matters. As it had for many
years been my ambition to be a thoroughly good servant to the public,
and to give to the public much more than I took in the shape of
salary, this feeling has sometimes annoyed me. And as I am still
a little sore on the subject, and as I would not have it imagined
after my death that I had slighted the public service to which I
belonged, I will venture here to give the reply which was sent to
the letter containing my resignation.

October 9th, 1867.

"Sir,--I have received your letter of the 3d inst., in which you
tender your resignation as Surveyor in the Post Office service, and
state as your reason for this step that you have adopted another
profession, the exigencies of which are so great as to make you
feel you cannot give to the duties of the Post Office that amount
of attention which you consider the Postmaster-General has a right
to expect.

"You have for many years ranked among the most conspicuous members
of the Post Office, which, on several occasions when you have been
employed on large and difficult matters, has reaped much benefit
from the great abilities which you have been able to place at its
disposal; and in mentioning this, I have been especially glad to
record that, notwithstanding the many calls upon your time, you
have never permitted your other avocations to interfere with your
Post Office work, which has been faithfully and indeed energetically
performed." (There was a touch of irony in this word "energetically,"
but still it did not displease me.)

"In accepting your resignation, which he does with much regret,
the Duke of Montrose desires me to convey to you his own sense of
the value of your services, and to state how alive he is to the
loss which will be sustained by the department in which you have
long been an ornament, and where your place will with difficulty
be replaced.

(Signed) "J. TILLEY."

Readers will no doubt think that this is official flummery; and
so in fact it is. I do not at all imagine that I was an ornament
to the Post Office, and have no doubt that the secretaries and
assistant-secretaries very often would have been glad to be rid of
me; but the letter may be taken as evidence that I did not allow
my literary enterprises to interfere with my official work. A man
who takes public money without earning it is to me so odious that
I can find no pardon for him in my heart. I have known many such,
and some who have craved the power to do so. Nothing would annoy
me more than to think that I should even be supposed to have been
among the number.

And so my connection was dissolved with the department to which
I had applied the thirty-three best years of my life;--I must not
say devoted, for devotion implies an entire surrender, and I certainly
had found time for other occupations. It is however absolutely true
that during all those years I had thought very much more about the
Post Office than I had of my literary work, and had given to it a
more unflagging attention. Up to this time I had never been angry,
never felt myself injured or unappreciated in that my literary
efforts were slighted. But I had suffered very much bitterness on
that score in reference to the Post Office; and I had suffered not
only on my own personal behalf, but also and more bitterly when I
could not promise to be done the things which I thought ought to be
done for the benefit of others. That the public in little villages
should be enabled to buy postage stamps; that they should have
their letters delivered free and at an early hour; that pillar
letter-boxes should be put up for them (of which accommodation
in the streets and ways of England I was the originator, having,
however, got the authority for the erection of the first at St.
Heliers in Jersey); that the letter-carriers and sorters should not
be overworked; that they should be adequately paid, and have some
hours to themselves, especially on Sundays; above all, that they
should be made to earn their wages and latterly that they should
not be crushed by what I thought to be the damnable system of
so-called merit;--these were the matters by which I was stirred to
what the secretary was pleased to call energetic performance of my
duties. How I loved, when I was contradicted,--as I was very often
and, no doubt, very properly,--to do instantly as I was bid, and then
to prove that what I was doing was fatuous, dishonest, expensive,
and impracticable! And then there were feuds--such delicious feuds!
I was always an anti-Hillite, acknowledging, indeed, the great thing
which Sir Rowland Hill had done for the country, but believing him
to be entirely unfit to manage men or to arrange labour. It was a
pleasure to me to differ from him on all occasions;--and, looking
back now, I think that in all such differences I was right.

Having so steeped myself, as it were, in postal waters, I could not
go out from them without a regret. I wonder whether I did anything
to improve the style of writing in official reports! I strove to
do so gallantly, never being contented with the language of my own
reports unless it seemed to have been so written as to be pleasant
to be read. I took extreme delight in writing them, not allowing
myself to re-copy them, never having them re-copied by others, but
sending them up with their original blots and erasures,--if blots
and erasures there were. It is hardly manly, I think, that a
man should search after a fine neatness at the expense of so much
waste labour; or that he should not be able to exact from himself
the necessity of writing words in the form in which they should be
read. If a copy be required, let it be taken afterwards,--by hand
or by machine, as may be. But the writer of a letter, if he wish his
words to prevail with the reader, should send them out as written
by himself, by his own hand, with his own marks, his own punctuation,
correct or incorrect, with the evidence upon them that they have
come out from his own mind.

And so the cord was cut, and I was a free man to run about the
world where I would.

A little before the date of my resignation, Mr. James Virtue, the
printer and publisher, had asked me to edit a new magazine for
him, and had offered me a salary of 1000 a year for the work over
and above what might be due to me for my own contributions. I had
known something of magazines, and did not believe that they were
generally very lucrative. They were, I thought, useful to some
publishers as bringing grist to the mill; but as Mr. Virtue's business
was chiefly that of a printer, in which he was very successful,
this consideration could hardly have had much weight with him. I
very strongly advised him to abandon the project, pointing out to
him that a large expenditure would be necessary to carry on the magazine
In accordance with my views,--that I could not be concerned in it
on any other understanding, and that the chances of an adequate
return to him of his money were very small. He came down to Waltham,
listened to my arguments with great patience, and the told me that
if I would not do the work he would find some other editor.

Upon this I consented to undertake the duty. My terms as to salary
were those which he had himself proposed. The special stipulations
which I demanded were: firstly, that I should put whatever I pleased
into the magazine, or keep whatever I pleased out of it, without
interference; secondly, that I should, from month to month, give
in to him a list of payments to be made to contributors, and that
he should pay them, allowing me to fix the amounts; and, thirdly,
that the arrangement should remain in force, at any rate, for two
years. To all this he made no objection; and during the time that
he and I were thus bound together he not only complied with these
stipulations, but also with every suggestion respecting the magazine
that I made to him. If the use of large capital, combined with wide
liberality and absolute confidence on the part of the proprietor,
and perpetual good humour, would have produced success, our magazine
certainly would have succeeded.

In all such enterprises the name is the first difficulty. There
is the name which has a meaning and the name which has none--of
which two the name that has none is certainly the better, as it
never belies itself. The Liberal may cease to be liberal, or The
Fortnightly, alas! to come out once a fortnight. But The Cornhill
and The Argosy are under any set of circumstances as well adapted
to these names as under any other. Then there is the proprietary
name, or, possibly, the editorial name, which is only amiss because
the publication may change hands. Blackwood's has, indeed, always
remained Blackwood's, and Fraser's, though it has been bought and
sold, still does not sound amiss. Mr. Virtue, fearing the too
attractive qualities of his own name, wished the magazine to be
called Anthony Trollope's. But to this I objected eagerly. There
were then about the town,--still are about the town,--two or three
literary gentlemen, by whom to have had myself editored would
have driven me an exile from my country. After much discussion, we
settled on St. Paul's as the name for our bantling--not as being
in any way new, but as enabling it to fall easily into the ranks
with many others. If we were to make ourselves in any way peculiar,
it was not by our name that we were desirous of doing so.

I do not think that we did make ourselves in any way peculiar,--and
yet there was a great struggle made. On the part of the proprietor,
I may say that money was spent very freely. On my own part, I
may declare that I omitted nothing which I thought might tend to
success. I read all manuscripts sent to me, and endeavoured to judge
impartially. I succeeded in obtaining the services of an excellent
literary corps. During the three years and a half of my editorship
I was assisted by Mr. Goschen, Captain Brackenbury, Edward Dicey,
Percy Fitzgerald, H. A. Layard, Allingham, Leslie Stephen, Mrs.
Lynn Linton, my brother, T. A. Trollope, and his wife, Charles
Lever, E. Arnold, Austin Dobson, R. A. Proctor, Lady Pollock, G.
H. Lewes, C. Mackay, Hardman (of the Times), George Macdonald, W.
R. Greg, Mrs. Oliphant, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Leoni Levi, Dutton
Cook--and others, whose names would make the list too long. It
might have been thought that with such aid the St. Paul's would have
succeeded. I do not think that the failure,--for it did fail,--arose
from bad editing. Perhaps too much editing might have been the
fault. I was too anxious to be good, and did not enough think of
what might be lucrative.

It did fail, for it never paid its way. It reached, if I remember
right, a circulation of nearly 10,000--perhaps on one or two occasions
may have gone beyond that. But the enterprise had been set on foot
on a system too expensive to be made lucrative by anything short of
a very large circulation. Literary merit will hardly set a magazine
afloat, though, when afloat, it will sustain it. Time is wanted--or
the hubbub, and flurry, and excitement created by ubiquitous
sesquipedalian advertisement. Merit and time together may be
effective, but they must be backed by economy and patience.

I think, upon the whole, that publishers themselves have been the
best editors of magazines, when they have been able to give time
and intelligence to the work. Nothing certainly has ever been done
better than Blackwood's. The Cornhill, too, after Thackeray had
left it and before Leslie Stephen had taken it, seemed to be in
quite efficient hands--those hands being the hands of proprietor
and publisher. The proprietor, at any rate, knows what he wants and
what he can afford, and is not so frequently tempted to fall into
that worst of literary quicksands, the publishing of matter not for
the sake of the readers, but for that of the writer. I did not so
sin very often, but often enough to feel that I was a coward. "My
dear friend, my dear friend, this is trash!" It is so hard to speak
thus--but so necessary for an editor! We all remember the thorn
in his pillow of which Thackeray complained. Occasionally I know
that I did give way on behalf of some literary aspirant whose work
did not represent itself to me as being good; and as often as I did
so, I broke my trust to those who employed me. Now, I think that
such editors as Thackeray and myself,--if I may, for the moment, be
allowed to couple men so unequal,--will always be liable to commit
such faults, but that the natures of publishers and proprietors
will be less soft.

Nor do I know why the pages of a magazine should be considered to
be open to any aspirant who thinks that he can write an article,
or why the manager of a magazine should be doomed to read all that
may be sent to him. The object of the proprietor is to produce
a periodical that shall satisfy the public, which he may probably
best do by securing the services of writers of acknowledged ability.



Very early in life, very soon after I had become a clerk in St.
Martin's le Grand, when I was utterly impecunious and beginning
to fall grievously into debt, I was asked by an uncle of mine, who
was himself a clerk in the War Office, what destination I should
like best for my future life. He probably meant to inquire whether
I wished to live married or single, whether to remain in the Post
Office or to leave it, whether I should prefer the town or the
country. I replied that I should like to be a Member of Parliament.
My uncle, who was given to sarcasm, rejoined that, as far a he knew,
few clerks in the Post Office did become Members of Parliament. I
think it was the remembrance of this jeer which stirred me up to
look for a seat as soon as I had made myself capable of holding one
by leaving the public service. My uncle was dead, but if I could
get a seat, the knowledge that I had done so might travel to that
bourne from whence he was not likely to return, and he might there
feel that he had done me wrong.

Independently of this, I have always thought that to sit in the
British Parliament should be the highest object of ambition to
every educated Englishman. I do not by this mean to suggest that
every educated Englishman should set before himself a seat in
Parliament as a probable or even a possible career; but that the man
in Parliament has reached a higher position than the man out,--that
to serve one's country without pay is the grandest work that a man
can do,--that of all studies the study of politics is the one in
which a man may make himself most useful to his fellow-creatures,--and
that of all lives, public political lives are capable of the highest
efforts. So thinking,--though I was aware that fifty-three was too
late an age at which to commence a new career,--I resolved with
much hesitation that I would make the attempt. Writing now at an
age beyond sixty, I can say that my political feelings and convictions
have never undergone any change. They are now what they became when
I first began to have political feelings and convictions. Nor do I
find in myself any tendency to modify them as I have found generally
in men as they grow old. I consider myself to be an advanced, but
still a Conservative-Liberal, which I regard not only as a possible,
but as a rational and consistent phase of political existence.
I can, I believe, in a very few words, make known my political
theory; and, as I am anxious that any who know aught of me should
know that, I will endeavour to do so.

It must, I think, be painful to all men to feel inferiority. It should,
I think, be a matter of some pain to all men to feel superiority,
unless when it has been won by their own efforts. We do not
understand the operations of Almighty wisdom, and are, therefore,
unable to tell the causes of the terrible inequalities that
we see--why some, why so many, should have so little to make life
enjoyable, so much to make it painful, while a few others, not
through their own merit, have had gifts poured out to them from
a full hand. We acknowledge the hand of God and His wisdom, but
still we are struck with awe and horror at the misery of many of
our brethren. We who have been born to the superior condition,--for,
in this matter, I consider myself to be standing on a platform with
dukes and princes, and all others to whom plenty and education and
liberty have been given,--cannot, I think, look upon the inane,
unintellectual, and tossed-bound life of those who cannot even
feed themselves sufficiently by their sweat, without some feeling
of injustice, some feeling of pain.

This consciousness of wrong has induced in many enthusiastic but
unbalanced minds a desire to set all things right by a proclaimed
equality. In their efforts such men have shown how powerless they
are in opposing the ordinances of the Creator. For the mind of the
thinker and the student is driven to admit, though it be awestruck
by apparent injustice, that this inequality is the work of God.
Make all men equal to-day, and God has so created them that they
shall be all unequal to-morrow. The so-called Conservative, the
conscientious, philanthropic Conservative, seeing this, and being
surely convinced that such inequalities are of divine origin, tells
himself that it is his duty to preserve them. He thinks that the
preservation of the welfare of the world depends on the maintenance
of those distances between the prince and the peasant by which he
finds himself to be surrounded; and, perhaps, I may add, that the
duty is not unpleasant, as he feels himself to be one of the princes.

But this man, though he sees something, and sees that very clearly,
sees only a little. The divine inequality is apparent to him, but
not the equally divine diminution of that inequality. That such
diminution is taking place on all sides is apparent enough; but it
is apparent to him as an evil, the consummation of which it is his
duty to retard. He cannot prevent it; and, therefore, the society
to which he belongs is, in his eyes, retrograding. He will even,
at times, assist it; and will do so conscientiously, feeling that,
under the gentle pressure supplied by him, and with the drags and
holdfasts which he may add, the movement would be slower than it
would become if subjected to his proclaimed and absolute opponents.
Such, I think, are Conservatives; and I speak of men who, with the
fear of God before their eyes and the love of their neighbours warm
in their hearts, endeavour to do their duty to the best of their

Using the term which is now common, and which will be best understood,
I will endeavour to explain how the equally conscientious Liberal
is opposed to the Conservative. He is equally aware that these
distances are of divine origin, equally averse to any sudden
disruption of society in quest of some Utopian blessedness; but he
is alive to the fact that these distances are day by day becoming
less, and he regards this continual diminution as a series of
steps towards that human millennium of which he dreams. He is even
willing to help the many to ascend the ladder a little, though he
knows, as they come up towards him, he must go down to meet them.
What is really in his mind is,--I will not say equality, for the
word is offensive, and presents to the imagination of men ideas of
communism, of ruin, and insane democracy,--but a tendency towards
equality. In following that, however, he knows that he must be
hemmed in by safeguards, lest he be tempted to travel too quickly;
and, therefore, he is glad to be accompanied on his way by the
repressive action of a Conservative opponent. Holding such views,
I think I am guilty of no absurdity in calling myself an advanced
Conservative-Liberal. A man who entertains in his mind any
political doctrine, except as a means of improving the condition
of his fellows, I regard as a political intriguer, a charlatan,
and a conjurer--as one who thinks that, by a certain amount of wary
wire-pulling, he may raise himself in the estimation of the world.

I am aware that this theory of politics will seem to many to be stilted,
overstrained, and, as the Americans would say, high-faluten. Many
will declare that the majority even of those who call themselves
politicians,--perhaps even of those who take an active
part in politics,--are stirred by no such feelings as these, and
acknowledge no such motives. Men become Tories or Whigs, Liberals
or Conservatives, partly by education,--following their fathers,--partly
by chance, partly as openings come, partly in accordance with the
bent of their minds, but still without any far-fetched reasonings
as to distances and the diminution of distances. No doubt it is
so; and in the battle of politics, as it goes, men are led further
and further away from first causes, till at last a measure is opposed
by one simply because it is advocated by another, and Members of
Parliament swarm into lobbies, following the dictation of their
leaders, and not their own individual judgments. But the principle
is at work throughout. To many, though hardly acknowledged, it is
still apparent. On almost all it has its effect; though there are
the intriguers, the clever conjurers, to whom politics is simply
such a game as is billiards or rackets, only played with greater
results. To the minds that create and lead and sway political
opinion, some such theory is, I think, ever present.

The truth of all this I had long since taken home to myself. I had
now been thinking of it for thirty years, and had never doubted.
But I had always been aware of a certain visionary weakness about
myself in regard to politics. A man, to be useful in Parliament,
must be able to confine himself and conform himself, to be satisfied
with doing a little bit of a little thing at a time. He must
patiently get up everything connected with the duty on mushrooms,
and then be satisfied with himself when at last he has induced
a Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he will consider the
impost at the first opportunity. He must be content to be beaten
six times in order that, on a seventh, his work may be found to
be of assistance to some one else. He must remember that he is one
out of 650, and be content with 1-650th part of the attention of
the nation. If he have grand ideas, he must keep them to himself,
unless by chance, he can work his way up to the top of the tree.
In short, he must be a practical man. Now I knew that in politics
I could never become a practical man. I should never be satisfied
with a soft word from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but would
always be flinging my overtaxed ketchup in his face.

Nor did it seem to me to be possible that I should ever become a
good speaker. I had no special gifts that way, and had not studied
the art early enough in life to overcome natural difficulties. I
had found that, with infinite labour, I could learn a few sentences
by heart, and deliver them, monotonously indeed, but clearly. Or,
again, if there were something special to be said, I could say it
in a commonplace fashion--but always as though I were in a hurry,
and with the fear before me of being thought to be prolix. But I
had no power of combining, as a public speaker should always do,
that which I had studied with that which occurred to me at the
moment. It must be all lesson,--which I found to be best; or else
all impromptu,--which was very bad, indeed, unless I had something
special on my mind. I was thus aware that I could do no good by
going into Parliament--that the time for it, if there could have
been a time, had gone by. But still I had an almost insane desire
to sit there, and be able to assure myself that my uncle's scorn
had not been deserved.

In 1867 it had been suggested to me that, in the event of a dissolution,
I should stand for one division of the County of Essex; and I had
promised that I would do so, though the promise at that time was
as rash a one as a man could make. I was instigated to this by the
late Charles Buxton, a man whom I greatly loved, and who was very
anxious that the county for which his brother had sat, and with
which the family were connected, should be relieved from what he
regarded as the thraldom of Toryism. But there was no dissolution
then. Mr. Disraeli passed his Reform Bill, by the help of the
Liberal member for Newark, and the summoning of a new Parliament
was postponed till the next year. By this new Reform Bill Essex
was portioned out into three instead of two electoral divisions,
one of which,--that adjacent to London,--would, it was thought,
be altogether Liberal. After the promise which I had given,
the performance of which would have cost me a large sum of money
absolutely in vain, it was felt by some that I should be selected
as one of the candidates for the new division--and as such I was
proposed by Mr. Charles Buxton. But another gentleman, who would
have been bound by previous pledges to support me, was put forward
by what I believe to have been the defeating interest, and I had
to give way. At the election this gentleman, with another Liberal,
who had often stood for the county, was returned without a contest.
Alas! alas! They were both unseated at the next election, when the
great Conservative reaction took place.

In the spring of 1868 I was sent to the United States on a postal
mission, of which I will speak presently. While I was absent the
dissolution took place. On my return I was somewhat too late to
look out for a seat, but I had friends who knew the weakness of my
ambition; and it was not likely, therefore, that I should escape
the peril of being put forward for some impossible borough as to
which the Liberal party would not choose that it should go to the
Conservatives without a struggle. At last, after one or two others,
Beverley was proposed to me, and to Beverley I went.

I must, however, exculpate the gentleman who acted as my agent, from
undue persuasion exercised towards me. He was a man who thoroughly
understood Parliament, having sat there himself--and he sits there
now at this moment. He understood Yorkshire,--or, at least, the
East Riding of Yorkshire, in which Beverley is situated,--certainly
better than any one alive. He understood all the mysteries of
canvassing, and he knew well the traditions, the condition, and the
prospect of the Liberal party. I will not give his name, but they
who knew Yorkshire in 1868 will not be at a loss to find it. "So,"
said he, "you are going to stand for Beverley?" I replied gravely
that I was thinking of doing so. "You don't expect to get in?" he
said. Again I was grave. I would not, I said, be sanguine, but,
nevertheless, I was disposed to hope for the best. "Oh, no!"
continued he, with good-humoured raillery, "you won't get in. I
don't suppose you really expect it. But there is a fine career open
to you. You will spend 1000, and lose the election. Then you will
petition, and spend another 1000. You will throw out the elected
members. There will be a commission, and the borough will be
disfranchised. For a beginner such as you are, that will be a great
success." And yet, in the teeth of this, from a man who knew all
about it, I persisted in going to Beverley!

The borough, which returned two members, had long been represented
by Sir Henry Edwards, of whom, I think, I am justified in saying
that he had contracted a close intimacy with it for the sake of
the seat. There had been many contests, many petitions, many void
elections, many members, but, through it all, Sir Henry had kept
his seat, if not with permanence, yet with a fixity of tenure next
door to permanence. I fancy that with a little management between
the parties the borough might at this time have returned a member
of each colour quietly; but there were spirits there who did not
love political quietude, and it was at last decided that there
should be two Liberal and two Conservative candidates. Sir Henry
was joined by a young man of fortune in quest of a seat, and I was
grouped with Mr. Maxwell, the eldest son of Lord Herries, a Scotch
Roman Catholic peer, who lives in the neighbourhood.

When the time came I went down to canvass, and spent, I think, the
most wretched fortnight of my manhood. In the first place, I was
subject to a bitter tyranny from grinding vulgar tyrants. They were
doing what they could, or said that they were doing so, to secure
me a seat in Parliament, and I was to be in their hands, at any
rate, the period of my candidature. On one day both of us, Mr.
Maxwell and I, wanted to go out hunting. We proposed to ourselves
but the one holiday during this period of intense labour; but I
was assured, as was he also, by a publican who was working for us,
that if we committed such a crime he and all Beverley would desert
us. From morning to evening every day I was taken round the lanes
and by-ways of that uninteresting town, canvassing every voter,
exposed to the rain, up to my knees in slush, and utterly unable
to assume that air of triumphant joy with which a jolly, successful
candidate should he invested. At night, every night I had to
speak somewhere,--which was bad; and to listen to the speaking of
others,--which was much worse. When, on one Sunday, I proposed to
go to the Minster Church, I was told that was quite useless, as
the Church party were all certain to support Sir Henry! "Indeed,"
said the publican, my tyrant, "he goes there in a kind of official
profession, and you had better not allow yourself to be seen in the
same place." So I stayed away and omitted my prayers. No Church of
England church in Beverley would on such an occasion have welcomed
a Liberal candidate. I felt myself to be a kind of pariah in the
borough, to whom was opposed all that was pretty, and all that was
nice, and all that was--ostensibly--good.

But perhaps my strongest sense of discomfort arose from the conviction
that my political ideas were all leather and prunella to the men
whose votes I was soliciting. They cared nothing for my doctrines,
and could not be made to understand that I should have any. I had
been brought to Beverley either to beat Sir Henry Edwards,--which,
however, no one probably thought to be feasible,--or to cause him
the greatest possible amount of trouble, inconvenience, and expense.
There were, indeed, two points on which a portion of my wished-for
supporters seemed to have opinions, and on both these two points
I was driven by my opinions to oppose them. Some were anxious for
the Ballot,--which had not then become law,--and some desired the
Permissive Bill. I hated, and do hate, both these measures, thinking
it to be unworthy of a great people to free itself from the evil
results of vicious conduct by unmanly restraints. Undue influence
on voters is a great evil from which this country had already done
much to emancipate itself by extending electoral divisions and by
an increase of independent feeling. These, I thought, and not secret
voting, were the weapons by which electoral intimidation should be
overcome. And as for drink, I believe in no Parlimentary restraint;
but I do believe in the gradual effect of moral teaching and
education. But a Liberal, to do any good at Beverley, should have
been able to swallow such gnats as those. I would swallow nothing,
and was altogether the wrong man.

I knew, from the commencement of my candidature, how it would be.
Of course that well-trained gentleman who condescended to act as
my agent, had understood the case, and I ought to have taken his
thoroughly kind advice. He had seen it all, and had told himself
that it was wrong that one so innocent in such ways as I, so
utterly unable to fight such a battle, should be carried down into
Yorkshire merely to spend money and to be annoyed. He could not
have said more than he did say, and I suffered for my obstinacy. Of
course I was not elected. Sir Henry Edwards and his comrade became
members for Beverley, and I was at the bottom of the poll. I paid
400 for my expenses, and then returned to London.

My friendly agent in his raillery had of course exaggerated the
cost. He had, when I arrived at Beverley, asked me for a cheque
for 400, and told me that that sum would suffice. It did suffice.
How it came to pass that exactly that sum should be required I never
knew, but such was the case. Then there came a petition,--not from
me, but from the town. The inquiry was made, the two gentlemen
were unseated, the borough was disfranchised, Sir Henry Edwards
was put on his trial for some kind of Parliamentary offence and
was acquitted. In this way Beverley's privilege as a borough and
my Parliamentary ambition were brought to an end at the same time.

When I knew the result I did not altogether regret it. It may be
that Beverley might have been brought to political confusion and
Sir Henry Edwards relegated to private life without the expenditure
of my hard-earned money, and without that fortnight of misery; but
connecting the things together, as it was natural that I should
do, I did flatter myself that I had done some good. It had seemed
to me that nothing could be worse, nothing more unpatriotic, nothing
more absolutely opposed to the system of representative government,
than the time-honoured practices of the borough of Beverley. It had
come to pass that political cleanliness was odious to the citizens.
There was something grand in the scorn with which a leading Liberal
there turned up his nose at me when I told him that there should
be no bribery, no treating, not even a pot of beer on one side.
It was a matter for study to see how at Beverley politics were
appreciated because they might subserve electoral purposes, and
how little it was understood that electoral purposes, which are in
themselves a nuisance, should be endured in order that they may
subserve politics. And then the time, the money, the mental energy,
which had been expended in making the borough a secure seat for
a gentleman who had realised the idea that it would become him to
be a member of Parliament! This use of the borough seemed to be
realised and approved in the borough generally. The inhabitants
had taught themselves to think that it was for such purposes that
boroughs were intended! To have assisted in putting an end to this,
even in one town, was to a certain extent a satisfaction.



In the spring of 1868,--before the affair of Beverley, which,
as being the first direct result of my resignation of office, has
been brought in a little out of its turn,--I was requested to go
over to the United States and make a postal treaty at Washington.
This, as I had left the service, I regarded as a compliment, and
of course I went. It was my third visit to America, and I have made
two since. As far as the Post Office work was concerned, it was
very far from being agreeable. I found myself located at Washington,
a place I do not love, and was harassed by delays, annoyed by
incompetence, and opposed by what I felt to be personal and not
national views. I had to deal with two men,--with one who was a
working officer of the American Post Office, than whom I have never
met a more zealous, or, as far as I could judge, a more honest
public servant. He had his views and I had mine, each of us having
at heart the welfare of the service in regard to his own country,--each
of us also having certain orders which we were bound to obey. But
the other gentleman, who was in rank the superior,--whose executive
position was dependent on his official status, as is the case with
our own Ministers,--did not recommend himself to me equally. He
would make appointments with me and then not keep them, which at
last offended me so grievously, that I declared at the Washington
Post Office that if this treatment were continued, I would write
home to say that any further action on my part was impossible. I
think I should have done so had it not occurred to me that I might
in this way serve his purpose rather than my own, or the purposes
of those who had sent me. The treaty, however, was at last made,--the
purport of which was, that everything possible should be done, at
a heavy expenditure on the part of England, to expedite the mails
from England to America, and that nothing should be done by America
to expedite the mails from thence to us. The expedition I believe
to be now equal both ways; but it could not be maintained as it is
without the payment of a heavy subsidy from Great Britain, whereas
no subsidy is paid by the States. [Footnote: This was a state of
things which may probably have appeared to American politicians
to be exactly that which they should try to obtain. The whole
arrangement has again been altered since the time of which I have

I had also a commission from the Foreign Office, for which I had
asked, to make an effort on behalf of an international copyright
between the United States and Great Britain,--the want of which is
the one great impediment to pecuniary success which still stands
in the way of successful English authors. I cannot say that I have
never had a shilling of American money on behalf of reprints of my
work; but I have been conscious of no such payment. Having found
many years ago--in 1861, when I made a struggle on the subject,
being then in the States, the details of which are sufficiently
amusing [Footnote: In answer to a question from myself, a certain
American publisher--he who usually reprinted my works--promised me
BEFORE HE HAD DONE SO, he would not bring out a competing edition,
though there would be no law to hinder him. I then entered into an
agreement with another American publisher, stipulating to supply
him with early sheets; and he stipulating to supply me a certain
royalty on his sales, and to supply me with accounts half-yearly.
I sent the sheets with energetic punctuality, and the work was
brought out with equal energy and precision--by my old American
publishers. The gentleman who made the promise had not broken his
word. No other American edition had come out before his. I never
got any account, and, of course, never received a dollar.]--that
I could not myself succeed in dealing with American booksellers, I
have sold all foreign right to the English publishers; and though
I do not know that I have raised my price against them on that
score, I may in this way have had some indirect advantage from
the American market. But I do know that what the publishers have
received here is very trifling. I doubt whether Messrs. Chapman &
Hall, my present publishers, get for early sheets sent to the States
as much as 5 per cent. on the price they pay me for my manuscript.
But the American readers are more numerous than the English, and
taking them all through, are probably more wealthy. If I can get
1000 for a book here (exclusive of their market), I ought to be
able to get as much there. If a man supply 600 customers with shoes
in place of 300, there is no question as to such result. Why not,
then, if I can supply 60,000 readers instead of 30,000?

I fancied that I knew that the opposition to an international
copyright was by no means an American feeling, but was confined to
the bosoms of a few interested Americans. All that I did and heard
in reference to the subject on this further visit,--and having
a certain authority from the British Secretary of State with me I
could hear and do something,--altogether confirmed me in this view.
I have no doubt that if I could poll American readers, or American
senators,--or even American representatives, if the polling could
be unbiassed,--or American booksellers, [Footnote: I might also say
American publishers, if I might count them by the number of heads,
and not by the amount of work done by the firms.] that an assent
to an international copyright would be the result. The state of
things as it is is crushing to American authors, as the publishers
will not pay them a liberal scale, knowing that they can supply
their customers with modern English literature without paying for
it. The English amount of production so much exceeds the American,
that the rate at which the former can be published rules the
market. it is equally injurious to American booksellers,--except
to two or three of the greatest houses. No small man can now acquire
the exclusive right of printing and selling an English book. If
such a one attempt it, the work is printed instantly by one of the
leviathans,--who alone are the gainers. The argument of course is,
that the American readers are the gainers,--that as they can get
for nothing the use of certain property, they would be cutting their
own throats were they to pass a law debarring themselves from the
power of such appropriation. In this argument all idea of honesty
is thrown to the winds. It is not that they do not approve of
a system of copyright,--as many great men have disapproved,--for
their own law of copyright is as stringent as is ours. A bold
assertion is made that they like to appropriate the goods of other
people; and that, as in this case, they can do so with impunity,
they will continue to do so. But the argument, as far as I have been
able to judge, comes not from the people, but from the bookselling
leviathans, and from those politicians whom the leviathans are able
to attach to their interests. The ordinary American purchaser is
not much affected by slight variations in price. He is at any rate
too high-hearted to be affected by the prospect of such variation.
It is the man who wants to make money, not he who fears that he may
be called upon to spend it, who controls such matters as this in
the United States. It is the large speculator who becomes powerful
in the lobbies of the House, and understands how wise it may
be to incur a great expenditure either in the creation of a great
business, or in protecting that which he has created from competition.
Nothing was done in 1868,--and nothing has been done since (up to
1876). A Royal Commission on the law of copyright is now about to
sit in this country, of which I have consented to be a member; and
the question must then be handled, though nothing done by a Royal
Commission here can effect American legislators. But I do believe
that if the measure be consistently and judiciously urged, the
enemies to it in the States will gradually be overcome. Some years
since we had some quasi private meetings, under the presidency of
Lord Stanhope, in Mr. John Murray's dining-room, on the subject of
international copyright. At one of these I discussed this matter of
American international copyright with Charles Dickens, who strongly
declared his conviction that nothing would induce an American to
give up the power he possesses of pirating British literature. But
he was a man who, seeing clearly what was before him, would not
realise the possibility of shifting views. Because in this matter
the American decision had been, according to his thinking, dishonest,
therefore no other than dishonest decision was to be expected from
Americans. Against that idea I protested, and now protest. American
dishonesty is rampant; but it is rampant only among a few. It
is the great misfortune of the community that those few have been
able to dominate so large a portion of the population among which
all men can vote, but so few can understand for what they are

Since this was written the Commission on the law of copyright has
sat and made its report. With the great body of it I agree, and
could serve no reader by alluding here at length to matters which
are discussed there. But in regard to this question of international
copyright with the United States, I think that we were incorrect
in the expression of an opinion that fair justice,--or justice
approaching to fairness,--is now done by American publishers to
English authors by payments made by them for early sheets. I have
just found that 20 was paid to my publisher in England for the
use of the early sheets of a novel for which I received 1600 in
England. When asked why he accepted so little, he assured me that
the firm with whom he dealt would not give more. "Why not go to
another firm?" I asked. No other firm would give a dollar, because
no other firm would care to run counter to that great firm which
had assumed to itself the right of publishing my books. I soon after
received a copy of my own novel in the American form, and found
that it was published for 7 1/2d. That a great sale was expected
can be argued from the fact that without a great sale the paper and
printing necessary for the republication of a three-volume novel
could not be supplied. Many thousand copies must have been sold.
But from these the author received not one shilling. I need hardly
point out that the sum of 20 would not do more than compensate
the publisher for his trouble in making the bargain. The publisher
here no doubt might have refused to supply the early sheets, but
he had no means of exacting a higher price than that offered. I
mention the circumstance here because it has been boasted, on behalf
of the American publishers, that though there is no international
copyright, they deal so liberally with English authors as to make
it unnecessary that the English author should be so protected.
With the fact of the 20 just brought to my knowledge, and with the
copy of my book published at 7 1/2d. now in my hands, I feel that
an international copyright is very necessary for my protection.

They among Englishmen who best love and most admire the United
States, have felt themselves tempted to use the strongest language
in denouncing the sins of Americans. Who can but love their personal
generosity, their active and far-seeking philanthropy, their love
of education, their hatred of ignorance, the general convictions
in the minds of all of them that a man should be enabled to walk
upright, fearing no one and conscious that he is responsible for
his own actions? In what country have grander efforts been made by
private munificence to relieve the sufferings of humanity? Where
can the English traveller find any more anxious to assist him than
the normal American, when once the American shall have found the
Englishman to be neither sullen nor fastidious? Who, lastly, is
so much an object of heart-felt admiration of the American man and
the American woman as the well-mannered and well-educated Englishwoman
or Englishman? These are the ideas which I say spring uppermost
in the minds of the unprejudiced English traveller as he makes
acquaintance with these near relatives. Then he becomes cognisant
of their official doings, of their politics, of their municipal
scandals, of their great ring-robberies, of their lobbyings and
briberies, and the infinite baseness of their public life. There
at the top of everything he finds the very men who are the least
fit to occupy high places. American public dishonesty is so glaring
that the very friends he has made in the country are not slow
to acknowledge it,--speaking of public life as a thing apart from
their own existence, as a state of dirt in which it would be an
insult to suppose that they are concerned! In the midst of it all
the stranger, who sees so much that he hates and so much that he
loves, hardly knows how to express himself.

"It is not enough that you are personally clean," he says, with
what energy and courage he can command,--"not enough though the
clean outnumber the foul as greatly as those gifted with eyesight
outnumber the blind, if you that can see allow the blind to lead
you. It is not by the private lives of the millions that the outside
world will judge you, but by the public career of those units whose
venality is allowed to debase the name of your country. There never
was plainer proof given than is given here, that it is the duty of
every honest citizen to look after the honour of his State."

Personally, I have to own that I have met Americans,--men, but more
frequently women,--who have in all respects come up to my ideas of
what men and women should be: energetic, having opinions of their
own, quick in speech, with some dash of sarcasm at their command,
always intelligent, sweet to look at (I speak of the women), fond
of pleasure, and each with a personality of his or her own which
makes no effort necessary on my own part in remembering the difference
between Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Green, or between Mr. Smith and Mr.
Johnson. They have faults. They are self-conscious, and are too
prone to prove by ill-concealed struggles that they are as good as
you,--whereas you perhaps have been long acknowledging to yourself
that they are much better. And there is sometimes a pretence at
personal dignity among those who think themselves to have risen
high in the world which is deliciously ludicrous. I remember two
old gentlemen,--the owners of names which stand deservedly high
in public estimation,--whose deportment at a public funeral turned
the occasion into one for irresistible comedy. They are suspicious
at first, and fearful of themselves. They lack that simplicity of
manners which with us has become a habit from our childhood. But
they are never fools, and I think that they are seldom ill-natured.

There is a woman, of whom not to speak in a work purporting to be
a memoir of my own life would be to omit all allusion to one of
the chief pleasures which has graced my later years. In the last
fifteen years she has been, out of my family, my most chosen friend.
She is a ray of light to me, from which I can always strike a spark
by thinking of her. I do not know that I should please her or do
any good by naming her. But not to allude to her in these pages
would amount almost to a falsehood. I could not write truly of
myself without saying that such a friend had been vouchsafed to me.
I trust she may live to read the words I have now written, and to
wipe away a tear as she thinks of my feeling while I write them.

I was absent on this occasion something over three months, and
on my return I went back with energy to my work at the St. Paul's
Magazine. The first novel in it from my own pen was called Phineas
Finn, in which I commenced a series of semi-political tales. As I
was debarred from expressing my opinions in the House of Commons,
I took this method of declaring myself. And as I could not take my
seat on those benches where I might possibly have been shone upon
by the Speaker's eye, I had humbly to crave his permission for a
seat in the gallery, so that I might thus become conversant with
the ways and doings of the House in which some of my scenes were
to be placed. The Speaker was very gracious, and gave me a running
order for, I think, a couple of months. It was enough, at any rate,
to enable me often to be very tired,--and, as I have been assured
by members, to talk of the proceedings almost as well as though
Fortune had enabled me to fall asleep within the House itself.

In writing Phineas Finn, and also some other novels which followed
it, I was conscious that I could not make a tale pleasing chiefly,
or perhaps in any part, by politics. If I write politics for my
own sake, I must put in love and intrigue, social incidents, with
perhaps a dash of sport, for the benefit of my readers. In this
way I think I made my political hero interesting. It was certainly
a blunder to take him from Ireland--into which I was led by the
circumstance that I created the scheme of the book during a visit
to Ireland. There was nothing to be gained by the peculiarity, and
there was an added difficulty in obtaining sympathy and affection
for a politician belonging to a nationality whose politics are not
respected in England. But in spite of this Phineas succeeded. It
was not a brilliant success,--because men and women not conversant
with political matters could not care much for a hero who spent
so much of his time either in the House of Commons or in a public
office. But the men who would have lived with Phineas Finn read the
book, and the women who would have lived with Lady Laura Standish
read it also. As this was what I had intended, I was contented. It
is all fairly good except the ending,--as to which till I got to
it I made no provision. As I fully intended to bring my hero again
into the world, I was wrong to marry him to a simple pretty Irish
girl, who could only be felt as an encumbrance on such return. When
he did return I had no alternative but to kill the simple pretty
Irish girl, which was an unpleasant and awkward necessity.

In writing Phineas Finn I had constantly before me the necessity
of progression in character,--of marking the changes in men and
women which would naturally be produced by the lapse of years. In
most novels the writer can have no such duty, as the period occupied
is not long enough to allow of the change of which I speak. In
Ivanhoe, all the incidents of which are included in less than a
month, the characters should be, as they are, consistent throughout.
Novelists who have undertaken to write the life of a hero or heroine
have generally considered their work completed at the interesting
period of marriage, and have contented themselves with the advance
in taste and manners which are common to all boys and girls as
they become men and women. Fielding, no doubt, did more than this
in Tom Jones, which is one of the greatest novels in the English
language, for there he has shown how a noble and sanguine nature
may fall away under temptation and be again strengthened and made
to stand upright. But I do not think that novelists have often
set before themselves the state of progressive change,--nor should
I have done it, had I not found myself so frequently allured back
to my old friends. So much of my inner life was passed in their
company, that I was continually asking myself how this woman would
act when this or that event had passed over her head, or how that
man would carry himself when his youth had become manhood, or
his manhood declined to old age. It was in regard to the old Duke
of Omnium, of his nephew and heir, and of his heir's wife, Lady
Glencora, that I was anxious to carry out this idea; but others added
themselves to my mind as I went on, and I got round me a circle of
persons as to whom I knew not only their present characters, but
how those characters were to be affected by years and circumstances.
The happy motherly life of Violet Effingham, which was due to the
girl's honest but long-restrained love; the tragic misery of Lady
Laura, which was equally due to the sale she made of herself in her
wretched marriage; and the long suffering but final success of the
hero, of which he had deserved the first by his vanity, and the
last by his constant honesty, had been foreshadowed to me from
the first. As to the incidents of the story, the circumstances by
which these personages were to be affected, I knew nothing. They
were created for the most part as they were described. I never
could arrange a set of events before me. But the evil and the good
of my puppets, and how the evil would always lead to evil, and the
good produce good,--that was clear to me as the stars on a summer

Lady Laura Standish is the best character in Phineas Finn and its
sequel Phineas Redux,--of which I will speak here together. They
are, in fact, but one novel though they were brought out at a
considerable interval of time and in different form. The first was
commenced in the St. Paul's Magazine in 1867, and the other was
brought out in the Graphic in 1873. In this there was much bad
arrangement, as I had no right to expect that novel readers would
remember the characters of a story after an interval of six years,
or that any little interest which might have been taken in the
career of my hero could then have been renewed. I do not know that
such interest was renewed. But I found that the sequel enjoyed the
same popularity as the former part, and among the same class of
readers. Phineas, and Lady Laura, and Lady Chiltern--as Violet
had become--and the old duke,--whom I killed gracefully, and the
new duke, and the young duchess, either kept their old friends or
made new friends for themselves. Phineas Finn, I certainly think,
was successful from first to last. I am aware, however, that there
was nothing in it to touch the heart like the abasement of Lady
Mason when confessing her guilt to her old lover, or any approach
in delicacy of delineation to the character of Mr. Crawley.

Phineas Finn, the first part of the story, was completed in
May, 1867. In June and July I wrote Linda Tressel for Blackwood's
Magazine, of which I have already spoken. In September and October
I wrote a short novel, called The Golden Lion of Granpere, which
was intended also for Blackwood,--with a view of being published
anonymously; but Mr. Blackwood did not find the arrangement to be
profitable, and the story remained on my hands, unread and unthought
of, for a few years. It appeared subsequently in Good Words. It
was written on the model of Nina Balatka and Linda Tressel, but
is very inferior to either of them. In November of the same year,
1867, I began a very long novel, which I called He Knew He Was
Right, and which was brought out by Mr. Virtue, the proprietor of
the St. Paul's Magazine, in sixpenny numbers, every week. I do not
know that in any literary effort I ever fell more completely short
of my own intention than in this story. It was my purpose to create
sympathy for the unfortunate man who, while endeavouring to do
his duty to all around him, should be led constantly astray by his
unwillingness to submit his own judgment to the opinion of others.
The man is made to be unfortunate enough, and the evil which he
does is apparent. So far I did not fail, but the sympathy has not
been created yet. I look upon the story as being nearly altogether
bad. It is in part redeemed by certain scenes in the house and
vicinity of an old maid in Exeter. But a novel which in its main
parts is bad cannot, in truth, be redeemed by the vitality of
subordinate characters.

This work was finished while I was at Washington in the spring of
1868, and on the day after I finished it, I commenced The Vicar of
Bullhampton, a novel which I wrote for Messrs. Bradbury & Evans.
This I completed in November, 1868, and at once began Sir Harry
Hotspur of Humblethwaite, a story which I was still writing at the
close of the year. I look upon these two years, 1867 and 1868, of
which I have given a somewhat confused account in this and the two
preceding chapters, as the busiest in my life. I had indeed left
the Post Office, but though I had left it I had been employed by
it during a considerable portion of the time. I had established the
St. Paul's Magazine, in reference to which I had read an enormous
amount of manuscript, and for which, independently of my novels, I
had written articles almost monthly. I had stood for Beverley and
had made many speeches. I had also written five novels, and had
hunted three times a week during each of the winters. And how happy
I was with it all! I had suffered at Beverley, but I had suffered
as a part of the work which I was desirous of doing, and I had gained
my experience. I had suffered at Washington with that wretched
American Postmaster, and with the mosquitoes, not having been able
to escape from that capital till July; but all that had added to
the activity of my life. I had often groaned over those manuscripts;
but I had read them, considering it--perhaps foolishly--to be a
part of my duty as editor. And though in the quick production of my
novels I had always ringing in my ears that terrible condemnation
and scorn produced by the great man in Paternoster Row, I
was nevertheless proud of having done so much. I always had a pen
in my hand. Whether crossing the seas, or fighting with American
officials, or tramping about the streets of Beverley, I could do a
little, and generally more than a little. I had long since convinced
myself that in such work as mine the great secret consisted
in acknowledging myself to be bound to rules of labour similar to
those which an artisan or a mechanic is forced to obey. A shoemaker
when he has finished one pair of shoes does not sit down and
contemplate his work in idle satisfaction. "There is my pair of
shoes finished at last! What a pair of shoes it is!" The shoemaker
who so indulged himself would be without wages half his time. It
is the same with a professional writer of books. An author may of
course want time to study a new subject. He will at any rate assure
himself that there is some such good reason why he should pause.
He does pause, and will be idle for a month or two while he tells
himself how beautiful is that last pair of shoes which he has
finished! Having thought much of all this, and having made up my
mind that I could be really happy only when I was at work, I had
now quite accustomed myself to begin a second pair as soon as the
first was out of my hands.



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