Nathaniel Hawthorne famously commented that Anthony Trollope’s quintessentially English novels were written on the “strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale … these books are just as English as a beef-steak.” In like mode, Irish critic Stephen Gwynn said Trollope was “as English as John Bull.” But unlike the other great Victorian English writers, Trollope became Trollope by leaving his homeland and making his life across the water in Ireland, and achieving there his first successes there in both his post office and his literary careers.
Finding Trollope is one of the great pleasures of life. Unlike other Victorian authors Trollope is little studied in schools, so every reader comes to him by a different path. It might be a recommendation by a friend, listening to a radio adaptation or watching a TV production that leads to the discovery of Trollope and his world. I stumbled across Trollope in the early 1990s. I had recently graduated, moved to London and found myself working in a bookshop.
A friend has recommended a new novel to you. You save it for the holiday and then, sitting out in the sun and feeling relaxed, you start reading. And something strange happens: the little black signs on the page before your eyes draw you into a world that has nothing to do with the sights and sounds of your surroundings, which quickly fade from your consciousness. Your thoughts are shaped by ideas that are not yours, your feelings are stirred by unfamiliar emotional currents, and your mind is populated by newly-minted images.
With Greek tragedies filling major venues in London in recent months, I have been daydreaming about awarding my personal ancient Greek Oscars, to be called “Golden Nikes” (pedantic footnote: Nike was the Goddess of Victory, not of Trainers). There has been Medea at the National Theatre, Electra (Sophocles’ one) at the Old Vic, and Antigone, just opened at the Barbican. There are yet more productions lined up for The Globe, Donmar and RSC.
The date-line is 2014. An outbreak of a deadly disease in a remote region, beyond the borders of a complacent Europe. Local deaths multiply. The risk does not end with death, either, because corpses hold the highest risk of contamination and you must work to contain their threat. All this is barely even reported at first, until the health of a Western visitor, a professional man, breaks down.
Hip hop has increasingly influenced a new generation of American poets. For instance, the current issue of Poetry excerpts poems and essays from the recently published anthology, The BreakBeat Poets, edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall. In the anthology’s introduction, Marshall asserts: “This is the story of how generations of young people reared on hip-hop culture and aesthetics took to the page and poem and microphone to create a movement in American letters in the tradition of the Black Arts, Nuyorican, and Beat generations and add to it and innovate on top.”
Fifteen years ago, not long after publishing Anthology of Modern American Poetry with Oxford, I began to receive the typical mix of complimentary and complaining letters. In the latter category, faculty members wanted to know why a favorite poem or poet was left out and some poets who were not included wrote pointed letters to let me know they weren’t happy with the fact. But one poet, William Heyen, took a different approach.
Next week, 24 April 2015 marks the bicentenary of one of Britain’s great novelists, Anthony Trollope. He was an extremely prolific writer, producing 47 novels, as well as a great deal of non-fiction, in his lifetime. He also worked for the Post Office, and introduced the pillar box to Britain. So, do you think you know Anthony Trollope? Test your knowledge with our Trollope bicentenary quiz.
There were many books on vampires before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Early anthropologists wrote accounts of the folkloric vampire — a stumbling, bloated peasant, never venturing far from home, and easily neutralized with a sexton’s spade and a box of matches. The literary vampire became a highly mobile, svelte aristocratic rake with the appearance of the short tale The Vampyre in 1819.
The first female Juliet appears to have been Mary Saunderson, to Henry Harris’s Romeo in 1662 when her future husband, Thomas Betterton, played Mercutio. Later she acted admirably as Ophelia and Lady Macbeth but nothing I have read characterizes her as great. Elizabeth Barry (c.1658–1713) succeeded her as Betterton’s leading lady, excelling in pathetic roles and achieving her greatest successes in the heroic tragedies of her own time.
Jacob Tonson the elder (1656-1736) was, as has long been recognized, one of the most influential and pioneering booksellers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and, as such, is the subject of four major biographies of the past hundred years. The leading publisher of his day, Tonson published writers such as Joseph Addison, Aphra Behn, William Congreve, John Dryden, Laurence Echard, John Gay, John Oldmixon, Alexander Pope, Matthew Prior, Nicholas Rowe, Richard Steele, George Stepney, and John Vanbrugh.
Anthony Trollope. Safe, stodgy, hyper-Victorian Anthony Trollope, the comfort reading of the middle classes. As his rival and admirer Henry James said after his death ‘With Trollope we were always safe’. But was he really the most respectable of Victorian novelists?
Although occultists like the antiquarian Montague Summers would like to claim that the belief in vampires is global and transhistorical (and therefore probably true), the vampire is a thoroughly modern being. Like the Gothic genre itself, stories of vampires emerge in the Age of Enlightenment, as instances of primitive superstition that help define the rational scepticism of northern, Protestant Europe.
The last three decades have seen arguably the most fertile periods in the history of children’s literature, across the field. The phenomenon that is Harry Potter, the rise of YA, and books that tackle difficult subjects for younger readers are just a few examples of the material included in the new edition of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature by Daniel Hahn.
Stanley Wells’ latest book, Great Shakespeare Actors, offers a series of beautifully written, illuminating, and entertaining accounts of many of the most famous stage performers of Shakespeare from his time to ours. In a video interview, Wells revealed some of the ‘lesser’ remembered actors of the past he would have loved to have seen perform live on stage. The edited transcript below offers an insight into three of these great Shakespeare actors.
One of the more affordable forms in which it is possible to acquire the manuscript signatures of Victorian writers today is the used cheque. Quantities of these minor, sometimes biographically revealing, documents left the archives of banks and went onto the open market in the 1990s; they now circulate through the catalogues of manuscript dealers and in the online pages of eBay, some of them leaving traceable e-narratives of their patterns of ownership.