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- Autobiography of Anthony Trollope - 40/46 -


would amount almost to a falsehood. I could not write truly of myself without saying that such a friend had been vouchsafed to me. I trust she may live to read the words I have now written, and to wipe away a tear as she thinks of my feeling while I write them.

I was absent on this occasion something over three months, and on my return I went back with energy to my work at the St. Paul's Magazine. The first novel in it from my own pen was called Phineas Finn, in which I commenced a series of semi-political tales. As I was debarred from expressing my opinions in the House of Commons, I took this method of declaring myself. And as I could not take my seat on those benches where I might possibly have been shone upon by the Speaker's eye, I had humbly to crave his permission for a seat in the gallery, so that I might thus become conversant with the ways and doings of the House in which some of my scenes were to be placed. The Speaker was very gracious, and gave me a running order for, I think, a couple of months. It was enough, at any rate, to enable me often to be very tired,--and, as I have been assured by members, to talk of the proceedings almost as well as though Fortune had enabled me to fall asleep within the House itself.

In writing Phineas Finn, and also some other novels which followed it, I was conscious that I could not make a tale pleasing chiefly, or perhaps in any part, by politics. If I write politics for my own sake, I must put in love and intrigue, social incidents, with perhaps a dash of sport, for the benefit of my readers. In this way I think I made my political hero interesting. It was certainly a blunder to take him from Ireland--into which I was led by the circumstance that I created the scheme of the book during a visit to Ireland. There was nothing to be gained by the peculiarity, and there was an added difficulty in obtaining sympathy and affection for a politician belonging to a nationality whose politics are not respected in England. But in spite of this Phineas succeeded. It was not a brilliant success,--because men and women not conversant with political matters could not care much for a hero who spent so much of his time either in the House of Commons or in a public office. But the men who would have lived with Phineas Finn read the book, and the women who would have lived with Lady Laura Standish read it also. As this was what I had intended, I was contented. It is all fairly good except the ending,--as to which till I got to it I made no provision. As I fully intended to bring my hero again into the world, I was wrong to marry him to a simple pretty Irish girl, who could only be felt as an encumbrance on such return. When he did return I had no alternative but to kill the simple pretty Irish girl, which was an unpleasant and awkward necessity.

In writing Phineas Finn I had constantly before me the necessity of progression in character,--of marking the changes in men and women which would naturally be produced by the lapse of years. In most novels the writer can have no such duty, as the period occupied is not long enough to allow of the change of which I speak. In Ivanhoe, all the incidents of which are included in less than a month, the characters should be, as they are, consistent throughout. Novelists who have undertaken to write the life of a hero or heroine have generally considered their work completed at the interesting period of marriage, and have contented themselves with the advance in taste and manners which are common to all boys and girls as they become men and women. Fielding, no doubt, did more than this in Tom Jones, which is one of the greatest novels in the English language, for there he has shown how a noble and sanguine nature may fall away under temptation and be again strengthened and made to stand upright. But I do not think that novelists have often set before themselves the state of progressive change,--nor should I have done it, had I not found myself so frequently allured back to my old friends. So much of my inner life was passed in their company, that I was continually asking myself how this woman would act when this or that event had passed over her head, or how that man would carry himself when his youth had become manhood, or his manhood declined to old age. It was in regard to the old Duke of Omnium, of his nephew and heir, and of his heir's wife, Lady Glencora, that I was anxious to carry out this idea; but others added themselves to my mind as I went on, and I got round me a circle of persons as to whom I knew not only their present characters, but how those characters were to be affected by years and circumstances. The happy motherly life of Violet Effingham, which was due to the girl's honest but long-restrained love; the tragic misery of Lady Laura, which was equally due to the sale she made of herself in her wretched marriage; and the long suffering but final success of the hero, of which he had deserved the first by his vanity, and the last by his constant honesty, had been foreshadowed to me from the first. As to the incidents of the story, the circumstances by which these personages were to be affected, I knew nothing. They were created for the most part as they were described. I never could arrange a set of events before me. But the evil and the good of my puppets, and how the evil would always lead to evil, and the good produce good,--that was clear to me as the stars on a summer night.

Lady Laura Standish is the best character in Phineas Finn and its sequel Phineas Redux,--of which I will speak here together. They are, in fact, but one novel though they were brought out at a considerable interval of time and in different form. The first was commenced in the St. Paul's Magazine in 1867, and the other was brought out in the Graphic in 1873. In this there was much bad arrangement, as I had no right to expect that novel readers would remember the characters of a story after an interval of six years, or that any little interest which might have been taken in the career of my hero could then have been renewed. I do not know that such interest was renewed. But I found that the sequel enjoyed the same popularity as the former part, and among the same class of readers. Phineas, and Lady Laura, and Lady Chiltern--as Violet had become--and the old duke,--whom I killed gracefully, and the new duke, and the young duchess, either kept their old friends or made new friends for themselves. Phineas Finn, I certainly think, was successful from first to last. I am aware, however, that there was nothing in it to touch the heart like the abasement of Lady Mason when confessing her guilt to her old lover, or any approach in delicacy of delineation to the character of Mr. Crawley.

Phineas Finn, the first part of the story, was completed in May, 1867. In June and July I wrote Linda Tressel for Blackwood's Magazine, of which I have already spoken. In September and October I wrote a short novel, called The Golden Lion of Granpere, which was intended also for Blackwood,--with a view of being published anonymously; but Mr. Blackwood did not find the arrangement to be profitable, and the story remained on my hands, unread and unthought of, for a few years. It appeared subsequently in Good Words. It was written on the model of Nina Balatka and Linda Tressel, but is very inferior to either of them. In November of the same year, 1867, I began a very long novel, which I called He Knew He Was Right, and which was brought out by Mr. Virtue, the proprietor of the St. Paul's Magazine, in sixpenny numbers, every week. I do not know that in any literary effort I ever fell more completely short of my own intention than in this story. It was my purpose to create sympathy for the unfortunate man who, while endeavouring to do his duty to all around him, should be led constantly astray by his unwillingness to submit his own judgment to the opinion of others. The man is made to be unfortunate enough, and the evil which he does is apparent. So far I did not fail, but the sympathy has not been created yet. I look upon the story as being nearly altogether bad. It is in part redeemed by certain scenes in the house and vicinity of an old maid in Exeter. But a novel which in its main parts is bad cannot, in truth, be redeemed by the vitality of subordinate characters.

This work was finished while I was at Washington in the spring of 1868, and on the day after I finished it, I commenced The Vicar of Bullhampton, a novel which I wrote for Messrs. Bradbury & Evans. This I completed in November, 1868, and at once began Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, a story which I was still writing at the close of the year. I look upon these two years, 1867 and 1868, of which I have given a somewhat confused account in this and the two preceding chapters, as the busiest in my life. I had indeed left the Post Office, but though I had left it I had been employed by it during a considerable portion of the time. I had established the St. Paul's Magazine, in reference to which I had read an enormous amount of manuscript, and for which, independently of my novels, I had written articles almost monthly. I had stood for Beverley and had made many speeches. I had also written five novels, and had hunted three times a week during each of the winters. And how happy I was with it all! I had suffered at Beverley, but I had suffered as a part of the work which I was desirous of doing, and I had gained my experience. I had suffered at Washington with that wretched American Postmaster, and with the mosquitoes, not having been able to escape from that capital till July; but all that had added to the activity of my life. I had often groaned over those manuscripts; but I had read them, considering it--perhaps foolishly--to be a part of my duty as editor. And though in the quick production of my novels I had always ringing in my ears that terrible condemnation and scorn produced by the great man in Paternoster Row, I was nevertheless proud of having done so much. I always had a pen in my hand. Whether crossing the seas, or fighting with American officials, or tramping about the streets of Beverley, I could do a little, and generally more than a little. 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. A shoemaker when he has finished one pair of shoes does not sit down and contemplate his work in idle satisfaction. "There is my pair of shoes finished at last! What a pair of shoes it is!" The shoemaker who so indulged himself would be without wages half his time. It is the same with a professional writer of books. An author may of course want time to study a new subject. He will at any rate assure himself that there is some such good reason why he should pause. He does pause, and will be idle for a month or two while he tells himself how beautiful is that last pair of shoes which he has finished! Having thought much of all this, and having made up my mind that I could be really happy only when I was at work, I had now quite accustomed myself to begin a second pair as soon as the first was out of my hands.

CHAPTER XVIII

"THE VICAR OF BULLHAMPTON"--"SIR HARRY HOTSPUR"--"AN EDITOR'S TALES"--"CAESAR"

In 1869 I was called on to decide, in council with my two boys and their mother, what should be their destination in life. In June of that year the elder, who was then twenty-three, was called to the Bar; and as he had gone through the regular courses of lecturing tuition and study, it might be supposed that his course was already decided. But, just as he was called, there seemed to be an opening for him in another direction; and this, joined to the terrible


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