Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble

  • BuyAnthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form by Frederik Van Dam
    Edinburgh, 180 pp, £70.00, January 2016, ISBN 978 0 7486 9955 1

For a long time Anthony Trollope was remembered as the civil servant who introduced the pillar box to Britain and wrote fiction in three-hour stints before breakfast, sitting in front of a clock to make sure he produced 250 words every 15 minutes. Most had heard of Barchester Towers, but few read it, and the rest was forgotten. Three-volume, double-plot novels about people in crinolines, gaiters and stovepipe hats had had their day, especially when their author was reputed less for quality than quantity, and more for observation than vision. But in 1927, 45 years after Trollope’s death, Michael Sadleir published a reassessment. He argued that Trollope was a writer with the rare gift of being able to produce memorable books without writing memorable sentences, and probe depths without seeming to move beyond the surface. Interest revived; the books were reprinted; academia took them up. Trollope made it into the canon and finally into Westminster Abbey, where a plaque was unveiled in 1993.

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