Anthony Trollope at Christmas

By Mullen, Richard | Contemporary Review, December 1992 | Go to article overview

Anthony Trollope at Christmas

Mullen, Richard, Contemporary Review

|Asirloin of beef a foot and a half broad, a turkey as big as an ostrich, a plum-pudding bigger than the turkey and two or three dozen mince-pies' -- that was Anthony Trollope's menu for a perfect Christmas dinner. This rousing evocation of a truly English feast helps to explain Trollope's ever-increasing popularity with the Prime Minister as his best known reader. Contemporary Review takes some pride in seeing Trollope's advancement to his proper place in English literature; after all he was the principal founder of The Fortnightly, which is now incorporated into the Contemporary Review. Several publishers are producing reprints of almost all his 47 novels and the Trollope Society is bringing out a complete edition. In March, a plaque to Trollope's memory will be dedicated in Westminster Abbey.

Christmas is an appropriate time to read Trollope. The Victorian novelists popularised most of our Christmas customs. Everyone knows about Dickens and Christmas. But what about his contemporary, Trollope, who now bids fair to overtake him in the popularity stakes? Settle down with a Trollope novel in front of a good Christmas fire and the cares, confusions and absurdities of the twentieth century vanish into the flames. Cold and damp dissolve as you drift into a Barsetshire rectory or perhaps leap across a fence on a fictional fox hunt.

Trollope's literary success came slowly. Because he was both an author and an important official at the Post Office he had to follow a careful schedule which required a set number of pages each day. By this method he was able to write over 60 books. In the 1860s his wealth from writing provided a pleasant country house in Hertfordshire, Waltham House, which was well stocked with food, wine and servants. Success also gave full rein to his love of hospitality, particularly at Christmas. Every bedroom was full of guests, |young folk and folk who are not so very young'. They often stayed for a week.

Christmas began like any other day for Trollope. At dawn guests could hear the footsteps of Barney, the old Irish servant, who came up the stairs with a cup of coffee to awaken his master. If Trollope failed to heed this call, Barney was entitled to an extra five shillings in wages. After dressing and lighting a fire Trollope settled down to his current novel. Sometimes Christmas could delay even his rigid schedule. On 25 December, 1865 he only managed to write three pages of his novel Nina Balatka, a novel set in Prague with the rather un-Trollopian plot, the love of a Catholic girl for a Jewish merchant. His schedule called for four pages each day, but he made it up in the next few days and finished the book on New Year's Eve less than two months after starting it. Once he had put aside his current fiction, he was still not finished with his daily writing. Even on Christmas day, there were letters to publishers or to people who had complained about the postal service. On his first Christmas at Waltham House, he wrote to one publisher saying that he had been over-paid by 3 [pounds]. It is unlikely that any other writer in history ever wrote such a letter on Christmas!

Part of Trollope's Christmas morning would be spent at church. Because he did not shout about his deep Christian faith, many people have failed to see that it underpinned his whole life. Those who knew Trollope well, such as his vicar or his friend George Eliot knew that he was a devout Anglican with moderately high church views. In his last Christmas tale Not if I Know it, published a few weeks after his death, he described his attitude towards the Communion Service: it was, he wrote, |more powerful with its thoughts than its words'.

When he came back from church, he could entertain his guests. Like most people, his Christmas celebrations were based on his recollections of his youth. Thus he had little interest in Christmas trees, which were only popularised when he was in his thirties. From his mother, who was also a successful novelist, Trollope inherited the idea that roast beef and Christmas pudding were the essential ingredients of the holiday meal. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Anthony Trollope at Christmas


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.