Anthony Trollope

Thank you for writing your novels.

I know you get a bad rap for writing commercially - churning out novels only for money's sake. You sat down at your desk every morning, wrote your daily page quota, and then popped off to work at the Post Office. You wrote SO many novels, I'm sure some filler was unavoidable. You wrote what, eighty novels?

But the good ones are GREAT, and discovering them over the last decade has been such a pleasure.

Your two great series - the Barsetshire and Palliser novels - are a delight, and you seem to be able to generate an endlessly varied texture of drama within a pretty constrained framework. Rich people visit each others' houses, plot and scheme in Parliament, meet and marry for love or money, and go hunting a lot. Somebody's blurb on some book of yours described you as a giant who scooped up a section of England and put it under glass, presenting this absolutely lifelike diorama of tiny, perfect humans for our inspection.

I often tell people that reading your novels is like watching the TV show Downton Abbey: rich people having low-stakes problems, where you know you're going to enjoy spending time with the characters, and nothing truly bad will happen. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but that's a real, honest pleasure I take in your work. A huge pile of reading that I can enjoy, and know exactly what I'm going to get. That's a treasure.

But not always! Besides the lightness of much of the work, there's so much real human drama. I was absolutely crushed by the last Palliser book, with the Duke widowed and isolated, struggling and failing to connect with his children because his sense of duty and propriety stops him. Brutal!

I really, really enjoy your long sentences. I'm sure it's hurt my own writing style here, 150 years later, when sentences of that length are entirely innapropriate. But you're SO good at adding drama or humor through the structure and wit of a long pile-up of clauses.

I also find your authorial insertions delightful. I love it when you are in the thick of some action, and pause it to pop in to remind the reader that it's you, you're an author, and you're crafting this experience for us.

So thanks Tony - for the dozen or so I've read so far, and the dozens more I have to look forward to. Can I call you Tony?

January 6, 2024


This is Matt Kirkland's corrective project for 2024: learn how to write thank you notes. I'm warming up by writing to dead people.