Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 · Books

Reading Goals 2015: Twelfth Book Review

I did it; in the nick of time at that! I finished twelve books (and even several more) in the twelve categories of the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2015. The final book I read was An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope from the nonfiction classic category.

I was introduced to Trollope through the Reading Challenge this year. And once introduced he is my new best friend. I have enjoyed all four of the books (The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, The Way We Live Now) I have read by him this year, and look forward to reading many more. He was a prolific writer having written novels, short stories, and nonfiction.

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

Trollope wrote his autobiography not to give the reader personal details of his private life, but rather to tell the story of his literary career, from its humble beginnings up until he had attained a measure of fame.  As with most authors, it took some time with several false starts before he was discovered, but once discovered he became a very popular best selling author in Victorian England.

Trollope was intent about writing. He set goals for himself to write so many words per day, three hours every morning, and even paid a servant to awaken him each morning with coffee. And this was while he still worked full time for the Postal Service!

He took his writing very seriously believing an author should be imparting lessons of virtue.

“The writer of stories must please, or he will be nothing. And he must teach whether he wish to teach or no. How shall he teach lessons of virtue and at the same time make himself a delight to his readers? That sermons are not in themselves often thought to be agreeable we all know. Nor are disquisitions on moral philosophy supposed to be pleasant reading for our idle hours. But the novelist, if he have a conscience, must preach his sermons with the same purpose as the clergyman, and must have his own system of ethics.”

He knew the character’s flaws would speak for themselves and the reader would understand cause and effect and see the connections between actions and consequences.

“When men in their pages have been described as dishonest and women as immodest, have they not ever been punished? It is not for the novelist to say, baldly and simply: “Because you lied here, or were heartless there, because you Lydia Bennet forgot the lessons of your honest home, or you Earl Leicester were false through your ambition, or you Beatrix loved too well the glitter of the world, therefore you shall be scourged with scourges either in this world or in the next;” but it is for him to show, as he carries on his tale, that his Lydia, or his Leicester, or his Beatrix, will be dishonoured in the estimation of all readers by his or her vices.”

He traveled widely, five times to the United States, to Australia to visit his son who was a shepherd, hunted regularly, sought a seat in the House of Commons (and lost), and was personal friends with George Eliot, William Thackeray, and Wilkie Collins, of whom he had the very highest regard for Thackeray.

“I do not hesitate to name Thackeray the first. His knowledge of human nature was supreme, and his characters stand out as human beings, with a force and a truth which has not, I think, been within the reach of any other English novelist in any period.”

High praise indeed! A Thackeray novel will definitely be included in my 2016 reading.

In the last chapter of his autobiography he listed all of the books he had written along with the money he had earned from publication. And then he adds this:

 

“It will not, I am sure, be thought that, in making my boast as to quantity, I have endeavoured to lay claim to any literary excellence.”  

 and

“I do not think it probable that my name will remain among those who in the next century will be known as the writers of English prose fiction…”

Anthony Trollope was a modest man.

An Autobiography was published after his death, with the preface to it written by his son. He filled in some of the blanks of his father’s later years, the years between the finished autobiography and his death. In addition to the books Trollope listed in the last chapter, his son added thirteen additional titles of published works.

Unfortunately his popularity declined after the autobiography was published. But today there is a resurgence in the popularity of Anthony Trollope. He’s been “discovered” again.

I hope you have discovered Anthony Trollope, or will very soon.

I’ll end my review with a few quotes.

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?”

~ ~ ~

“I have no ambition to surprise my reader. Castles with unknown passages are not compatible with my homely muse.” 

~ ~ ~

“No man thinks there is much ado about nothing when the ado is about himself.” 

~ ~ ~

“When a man gets into his head an idea that the public voice calls for him, it is astonishing how great becomes his trust in the wisdom of the public.”

~ ~ ~

“I think the greatest rogues are they that talk most of their honesty.” 

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One thought on “Reading Goals 2015: Twelfth Book Review

  1. Beautiful.

    I'm so so so proud of you for completing the challenge on time.

    I am going to read your overview, and I'm excited to see your challenge tweaks for 2016. Your plan of 18 books or so is grand. Every year I want to read less and more meaningfully. As long as rich titles are present among the Scriptures reading we do, life is good.

    Like

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