Saturday, April 16, 2011


An Autobiography - Anthony Trollope

Trollope wrote this book six years before his death with instructions for publication after his death. It is not a book that discloses any scandal that he would not have wished published while he was alive, but he did express some opinions that he probably thought would be better kept until after his death.

As a primer for beginning writers, the book is full of good advice. Once Trollope decided to write, he set himself a certain number of pages per day, and even a set number (250) words to the page. He wrote a book and then started on another, sometimes he had two or three in process at once. He did all this while working full time for the post office as a inspector until he was fifty-five, when he had saved enough money to devote his life entirely to writing. He has many other interesting insights on how to write and what to write. One is the idea that the writer must have a "story to tell not tell a story" and another: "Of all needs a book has the chief need is that it be readable."

He allots three short chapters to the miseries of his first 26 years, but with little self-pity, simply as statement of fact, and the chapter devoted to his mother is one of praise for her saving the family by taking up writing in her fifties. His first seven years with the post office were dreary, but once he became a postal inspector, first in Ireland, later in England, he actually liked his work, and became devoted to his mission of establishing a fast postal service. He was responsible for the establishment of post boxes on the streets so people could mail letters at any time of day!

His comments on his books are particularly interesting as he is dismissive of many, some of which were more popular with readers and critics than with him. He praises others, some of which the critics did not appreciate. He clearly lets neither praise nor criticism keep him from his appointed task - to write continually. It is at the end of the book that we understand that his writing was not a task however, but the essence of his life.

He states: "For what remains to me of life I trust for my happiness still chiefly to my working--hoping that when the power of work be over with me, God may be pleased to take me from a world in which, according to my view, there can be no joy; secondly to the love of those who love me; and then to my books. That I can read and be happy while I am reading is a great blessing. Could I remember, as some men do, what I read. I should have been able to call myself an educated man. But that power I have never possessed. Something is always left,--something dim and inaccurate,-but still something sufficient to preserve the taste for more. I am inclined to think that is so with most readers." (I am inclined to agree!)

For readers of Trollope and for writers, this is a gem.

Virtual library, Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Sounds delightful, Sarah and your review is so well written ~ do you consider writing the essence of your life? a bit?