August 3rd, 2011


The Autobiography of Anthony Trollope

I’d enjoyed my recent re-read of The Warden and Barchester Towers so I got another free download, of Trollope’s autobiography. He made it clear it was to be published only after his death but it contains no startling revelations. I admit I found it hard going. The early part of the book is almost a misery memoir about the hardships of his early life and his dissolute habits as a young man. Just what these bad habits were, apart from getting into debt, he doesn’t say. His lucky break was of course landing a job in the Post Office; very lowly at first then rising to considerable responsibility. This perhaps explains his otherwise bizarre opposition to the introduction of civil service entry exams. From the start he intended to be a writer and set about it in a very businesslike way. It’s this page and penny counting which has in the past brought scorn upon him from those who prefer artists to starve. As he says, he couldn’t have lived off his pen alone, so needed to find a way of writing while working. And did he! He wrote on coaches, on trains, on ships, he wrote every spare minute he had in order to keep up the daily word count he’d set himself.

When I have commenced a new book, I have always prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried it on for the period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work. In this I have entered, day by day, the number of pages I have written, so that if at any time I have slipped into idleness for a day or two, the record of that idleness has been there, staring me in the face, and demanding of me increased labour, so that the deficiency might be supplied.

I had long since convinced myself that in such work as mine the great secret consisted in acknowledging myself to be bound to rules of labour similar to those which an artisan or a mechanic is forced to obey.

I think other prolific and successful writers such as PG Wodehouse would have agreed with that.

not Trollope
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