xxxxxThe English novelist Anthony Trollope published The Warden in 1855, the first in a series of novels based upon middle-class life in the imaginary cathedral city of Barchester. These chronicles included Barchester Towers published in 1857, Doctor Thorne in 1858 and The Last Chronicle of Barset in 1867, and dealt in the main with clerical and religious matters. A second series, the Palliser novels, concentrated on political rather than social issues, and produced novels such as Phineas Finn of 1869, and The Prime Minister of 1876. These and individual works such as Orley Farm in 1861 and He Knew he was Right of 1868, were noted for their attention to detail, and their in-depth character studies. Despite the fact that he had a full-time job with the post office until 1867, he wrote no less than 47 novels, many articles and short stories, and a large number of travel books, based on his travels around the world. His Autobiography, published after his death in 1883, was a candid account of his working life as a writer.


(G3c, G4, W4, Va, Vb, Vc)


Trollope: by the British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), 1864 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Macaulay: detail, by the Scottish portrait painter Sir Francis Grant (1803-1878), 1853 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Trevelyan: print by the London photographic studio of William and Daniel Downey, published by Cassell & Company in Downeys’ The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of 1893 – National Portrait Gallery, London.

xxxxxIt was in 1855 that the English writer Anthony Trollope wrote The Warden and began a series of varied novels centred around the imaginary cathedral city of Barchester. This series, which gave an extraordinary detailed account of middle class society in the provinces, included Barchester Towers of 1857, Doctor Thorne of 1858, The Small House at Allington of 1864, and The Last Chronicle of Barset in 1867. A second series, begun in 1864 and known as the Palliser novels, concentrated on political rather than social issues, and produced such novels as Phineas Finn, published in 1869, The Eustace Diamonds in 1873, The Prime Minister in 1876, and The Duke's Children in 1880. Trollope was a prolific writer, despite the fact that he held down a full time job for much of his life. In addition to his 47 novels, he frequently contributed to periodicals, and wrote a large number of travel books and short stories.

xxxxxTrollope was born in London. His father was a one-time barrister, and his mother, Frances Trollope, was a popular novelist. His school days at Winchester and Harrow were not happy ones, and his first job in 1834, a clerk in London’s general post office, gave him little satisfaction. In 1841, however, he was sent to Ireland as a postal surveyor, and this started him off on a successful career. He married in 1844, and for a time he and his wife lived at Clonmel in Tipperary. It was here that he began writing. His first novel, The Macdermots of Bally Cloran, was produced in 1847 and had a decidedly Irish theme.

xxxxxHis Barchester Chronicles, his best known work, recorded in rich, faithful detail the sheltered, genteel life of the middle classes in Victorian England, concentrating at first on clerics and religious matters, and then moving to an examination of personal relationships amid the gentlefolk and prosperous landowners of a fictitious cathedral city. Each novel had its own particular theme and thus contributed in its own way to an all round appreciation of the society he had under the microscope. These works proved popular in their time, and they provide today a fascinating insight into a comfortable, prosperous way of life that has long since disappeared.  

xxxxxTrollope returned to London in 1859, and after retiring from his civil service post in 1867, tried to enter parliament as a Liberal the following year. He was not successful, and it was perhaps for that reason that he continued with his series of parliamentary novels, begun with Can You Forgive Her? in 1864. In these works he stayed in the same milieu as that of the Barchester Chronicles, but immersed himself in the world of politics and property through the fortunes of the Pallisers, an aristocratic family, and the nouveau riche Phineas Finn. These realistic novels of political life were played out against the workings of the British parliamentary system.

xxxxxAnd in fairness to Trollope, these novels provided much more than a careful and, at times, gently sardonic commentary on a particular section of Victorian society. Though written in a plain style, they provided a study in depth of a gallery of varied characters, not only in his chronicle novels, but also in his individual works, such as his Orley Farm of 1861, He Knew he was Right of 1868, Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite of 1870, and his later work, Kept in the Dark, of 1882.

xxxxxDuring his retirement he travelled widely, and this provided the material for travel books on the West Indies, North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Also worthy of mention is his social satire entitled The Way We Live Now. Published in 1875, it highlighted and deplored the decline in moral standards. His Autobiography, published after his death in 1883, was a candid account of his working life as a writer. His health failed him in his last few years, and he lived them out in a village in Sussex. He died in London after suffering a stroke.


xxxxxIncidentally, we are told that in order to produce such an abundance of novels he got up early every morning and wrote for three hours before going to work. He planned to write about 3,000 words in that time! ……

xxxxx……  As a surveyor’s clerk in the Post Office, Trollope played a prominent part in the introduction of the pillar box, first erected in Jersey in 1852 and then at Botchergate in Carlisle, England, the following year. Thexidea had been put forward earlier by Rowland Hill (1795-1879) - the Post Office official who had introduced the world’s first adhesive stamp, the Penny Black, in 1840 - but at that time it was never put into practice.


Thomas Babington Macaulay


xxxxxIt was in the year of 1855 that the third and fourth volumes of The History of England were published, the works of the English historian and politician Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859). He produced the first two volumes in 1849, beginning from the accession of James II, and intended to take the history up to his own time, but he died before completing the reign of William III, and the final volume was edited by his sister Hannah Trevelyan and published in 1861. Although often criticised for being biased - he was a staunch Whig and it showed - Macaulay’s History had a huge circulation at home and in the United States, and was eventually translated into ten or more languages.

xxxxxThe work was popular not so much for its historical content - valuable though that was - as for the admiral style in which it was written. Indeed, it has come to be regarded as one of the great works of English literature, and such was its appeal that Macaulay’s Whig (and Protestant) interpretation of history - based on the liberal values achieved by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - had a marked influence on the teaching of history well into the 20th century. As an historian, he made no conscious effort to be impartial, but he produced a vivid and detailed glimpse into the past, wrote in a clear, narrative style, and had the rare ability to sum up a character or an event in a few well-chosen words.

xxxxxMacaulay was born at Rothley Temple in Leicestershire, the son of Zachary Macaulay, an ardent supporter of William Wilberforce in his fight for the abolition of the slave trade. The eldest of nine children and highly intelligent, he had written an outline of world history and a narrative poem entitled The Battle of Cheviot by the age of eight. After attending a private school, he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to study law, and it was while there that he wrote his essay on Milton for The Edinburgh Review, the first of many articles he produced for this renowned journal. In 1830 he entered parliament as member for Calne in Wiltshire. A strong supporter of the Whig party, he soon made his name as a powerful and eloquent speaker in the cause of reform, arguing for religious toleration and the extension of the franchise.

xxxxxDuring the mid-1830s he served for four years in British India and, once again, he made his presence felt. As a member of the governor’s council he revised the country’s penal code, and he played a part in establishing an educational system on British lines. He returned to England in 1839 where, as member for Edinburgh, he served as secretary of war until 1841. Nonetheless, he continued with his writing. In 1842 he completed his Lays of Ancient Rome, poems retelling the legends of the Roman Republic, and the following year he published his three-volume work entitled Critical and Historical Essays, a collection which clearly showed his promise as a brilliant and entertaining historian.

xxxxxIt was after this that, putting aside his political interests, he began the slow, painstaking task of writing his history of England.  In 1852 he was again voted into Parliament, but by then his health was failing and it was with some difficulty that he completed his fourth volume in 1855. The following year he left his house in Piccadilly, his home since 1840, and moved to Campden Hill on the outskirts of London. He was created Baron Macaulay of Rothley in 1857, and died two years later with the last volume of his history recording events up to 1702, a date which, regrettably, fell well short of his intended closure of 1820. Macaulay knew nothing of art or music, and showed little interest in science and technology, but he had a brilliant command of literature, and he was an historian of exceptional talent. In bringing to life the major events of history, he ranks alongside his fellow Englishman Edward Gibbon for the width of his knowledge, - and perhaps stands a little in front of him for the enthusiastic, colourful and pithy way in which he did so.

xxxxxIncidentally, as a politician Macaulay was a forthright orator who knew his own mind and  gained a reputation for a man who would rather talk than listen. The English writer and wit Sydney Smith - one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review  - once commented: “He has occasional flashes of silence that make his conversation perfectly delightful”, and the British prime minister William Melbourne at one time remarked: “I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything”! ……


xxxxx……  Although Macaulay’s History was widely read, the particular view of English history he made popular - often produced at the expense of impartiality - was heavily criticised by some notable observers of the day, including the social critics Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold. ……

xxxxx…… The English historian and politician George Otto Trevelyan (1838-1928) wrote The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, his maternal uncle, in 1876. The only son of Sir Charles Trevelyan, he attended Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, and then spent some years as a civil servant in India. He became a member of parliament in 1865, and twice served as Secretary of State for Scotland. During his time in India he wrote Cawnpore, an account of the massacre there during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. His other works included The Early History of Charles James Fox, of 1888, and his three-volume History of the American Revolution, begun in 1899 and completed in 1905.

xxxxxIt was in 1855 that the third and fourth volumes of The History of England were published, the work of the English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859). He died before completing the reign of William III, and the final volume was published after his death in 1861. Macaulay’s History proved extremely popular, especially in Britain and the United States, due in large part to its literary style. Indeed, it came to be regarded as one of the great works of English literature. Writing as an ardent Whig, the work was regarded as biased, but it provided a vivid and detailed glimpse into the past, and was written in a clear, pithy style. Such was its appeal that his interpretation of history, centred around the Glorious Revolution of 1688, influenced the teaching of history well into the 20th century. Macaulay was also a noted politician and a brilliant orator. He spoke out in favour of political reform and religious toleration, and for four years he served with distinction in British India. Among his other works were a number of poems, including his Lays of Ancient Rome, and a large collection of essays on literature and history.