Victorian Literature Anthony Trollope
Melissa Raines
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0069


Anthony Trollope (b. 24 April 1815–d. 6 December 1882) was a successful Victorian novelist and one of the most prolific writers of his time. His most famous works are his six Barsetshire novels, published between 1855 and 1867, and his six Palliser novels, published between 1864 and 1880. He wrote forty-seven novels in total, addressing many of the vital social and political issues of the 19th century. He is particularly known for his creation of intricate fictional communities; his vivid, socially driven characterization; and his use of a language that clearly and simply transfers his realistic vision to the reader. He also wrote short stories, literary reviews, and travel essays, as well as other nonfiction. His own detailed description of the regimented writing process that allowed for his amazing productivity actually did much to disparage views of the artistry of his work in the decades after his death. His almost mechanical approach to writing was, however, accompanied by intensely imaginative preparatory periods that, by Trollope’s own admission, began as escapism for him when he was a troubled adolescent and young man. These methods are now seen as fundamental to his style of realism. His literary reputation survived its initial dip in popularity, and scholarly interest in the novelist reached something of a peak between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s; a recent increase is also due to his bicentenary. His complex attitudes toward questions of women’s place in society and female sexuality, his situational approach to morality, and his personal and literary interest in politics have long been popular areas of study. Trollope’s representation of the relationship between Britain and Ireland—the country where he lived and worked as a young man and the subject of five of his novels—has also become an important area of scholarly focus and has possibly been the inspiration for other, more globally focused post-colonial research.

General Overviews

The sheer quantity of Trollope’s writing lends itself to general overviews of his work, which often are useful introductions to both the author and his fiction. Many date from the 1970s and 1980s, when Trollope studies saw something of a revival owing to the centenary of his death. Trollope scholars attempting a broad approach often prefer to combine biographical and literary study, and Cockshut 1955, Terry 1977, Pollard 1978, and Overton 1982 use this method, giving the reader a look at the man and his work simultaneously. Kincaid 1977 has the strongest literary focus of the overviews and is essential reading for any Trollope scholar. Bareham 1980 and Halperin 1982 also cover a large amount of material, but with the naturally more specific depth of individual essays collected under a wide-ranging theme. The most recent selection, Dever and Niles 2010, is invaluable both as a literature review and as an exploration of some of the key areas of interest in Trollopian studies.

  • Bareham, Tony, ed. Anthony Trollope. London: Vision, 1980.

    An essay collection that focuses on showing Trollope’s strengths as a writer and finding connections between his style and that of other Victorian novelists.

  • Cockshut, A. O. J. Anthony Trollope: A Critical Study. London: Collins, 1955.

    Essentially a literary biography, but one in which the strength is in analysis of the novels. Interestingly demands recognition of Trollope as a “more introspective” novelist than he is often given credit for being and provides excellent analysis of the later works in particular.

  • Dever, Carolyn, and Lisa Niles, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Anthony Trollope. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    A guide concerned with the almost binary aspects of Trollope work that provides a comprehensive overview of key areas in Trollope research. More traditional topics receive attention, but there is also coverage of the short fiction, sensational aspects of Trollope’s realism, sexuality and queer theory, and the global concerns that arise through both the novels and travel writing.

  • Halperin, John, ed. Trollope Centenary Essays. London: Macmillan, 1982.

    A selection of essays by various esteemed Trollope scholars, addressing several key topics in relation to the author, such as his Autobiography, his time in Ireland, and his unique writing process.

  • Kincaid, James. The Novels of Anthony Trollope. Oxford: Clarendon, 1977.

    An ambitious and engaging work that discusses Trollope’s major novels and touches on much of the lesser-known fiction. Focuses on the role of the sometimes invasive Trollopian narrator, as well as the author’s dedication to character development and frequent sidelining of plot, arguing that Trollope’s works are a stylistic bridge between novelistic conventions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Overton, Bill. The Unofficial Trollope. Brighton, UK: Harvester, 1982.

    A detailed overview, combining biographical information and literary analysis in an attempt to reveal the duality of Trollope as a writer and to show complexity beneath what is often seen as conventional.

  • Pollard, Arthur. Anthony Trollope. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

    Touches briefly on most of Trollope’s novels, providing an excellent overview of the author’s career while stressing his essential conservatism. There is little space for detailed analysis, but the book is a good starting point for new Trollope scholars.

  • Terry, R. C. Anthony Trollope: The Artist in Hiding. London: Macmillan, 1977.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-03382-9

    Carefully combines sensitive close reading of Trollope’s prose with an excellent knowledge of biographical and historical context.

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