History of Literature

English literature


Frances Trollope

Frances Trollope (10 March 1780 – 6 October 1863) was an English novelist and miscellaneous writer who published as Mrs. Trollope or Mrs. Frances Trollope. Her detractors diminished her reputation by making the common name used for her the overly familiar and slightly vulgar diminutive Fanny Trollope. Her third son was Anthony Trollope, the well-known novelist. Her eldest son, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, wrote The Girlhood of Catherine de Medici, History of Florence, What I Remember, Life of Pius IX, and some novels.

She was born at Stapleton, Bristol, and in 1809 married Thomas A. Trollope, a barrister, who fell into financial misfortune. She then in 1827 went with her family to Fanny Wright's utopian community, Nashoba Commune, in America. This community soon failed, and she ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the efforts which she made to support herself were unsuccessful, though she encouraged Hiram Powers to do Dante Alighieri's Commedia in waxworks. On her return to England, however, she brought herself into notice by publishing Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), in which she gave an unfavourable and, in the opinions of partisans of America, somewhat exaggerated account of the subject, reflecting the disparaging views of American society allegedly commonplace among English people of the higher social classes at that time; and a novel, The Refugee in America, pursued it on similar lines. Next came The Abbess and Belgium and Western Germany, and other works of the same kind on Paris and the Parisians, and Vienna and the Austrians followed.

Trollope also, however, wrote several strong novels of social protest: Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy began publication in 1840 and was the first industrial novel to be published in Britain. Other socially conscious novels included Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (1836, the first anti-slavery novel, influencing Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin) about the evils of slavery, and The Vicar of Wrexhill, which took on church corruption. Possibly her greatest work is the Widow Barnaby trilogy, which set a pattern followed by Anthony in the frequent use of sequels in his oeuvre.

In later years she continued to write novels and books on miscellaneous subjects, writing in all over 100 volumes. Though possessed of considerable powers of observation and a sharp and caustic wit, such an output was fatal to permanent literary success, and few of her books are now read. She spent the last 20 years of her life at Florence, where she died in 1863, being buried with four other members of the Trollope household in the English Cemetery of Florence.


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