Frances Milton Trollope

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Oil on canvas of Frances Trollope by Auguste Hervieu, circa 1832

Frances Milton Trollope (10 March 1779 – 6 October 1863) was an English novelist and writer who published as Mrs. Trollope or Mrs. Frances Trollope. Her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) has been the best known. She also published social novels: one against slavery said to have influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe, the first industrial novel, and two anti-Catholic novels that used a Protestant position to examine self-making. Some recent scholars note how modernist critics exclude women writers such as Frances Trollope from serious consideration.[1] The New Monthly Magazine in 1839 claimed, "No other author of the present day has been at once so read, so much admired, and so much abused".[2] Two of her sons, Thomas Adolphus and Anthony, became writers.[3] Her daughter-in-law Frances Eleanor Trollope (née Ternan), second wife of Thomas Adolphus Trollope, was also a novelist.


Born at Stapleton, Bristol, Frances Milton at the age of 30 married Thomas A. Trollope, a barrister, on 23 May 1809 at Heckfield, Hampshire. They had four sons and three daughters, and he struggled with financial misfortune.[4]

In 1827, Frances Trollope took her family to Fanny Wright's utopian community, Nashoba Commune, in the United States. This community soon failed, and she ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio with her sons. Although she tried to find ways to support herself, they were unsuccessful. She encouraged the sculptor Hiram Powers to do Dante Alighieri's Commedia in waxworks. After her return to England, she began writing to support her family.[3]

Two sons also became writers: her eldest surviving son, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, wrote mostly histories: The Girlhood of Catherine de Medici, History of Florence, What I Remember, Life of Pius IX, and some novels. Her fourth son Anthony Trollope became the better known and received novelist, establishing a strong reputation, especially for his serial novels such as those set in the fictional county of Barsetshire, and his political series known as the Palliser novels.

Writing career[edit]

Grandon, Monken Hadley. Home to Fanny and Anthony 1836-38.

On her return to England, Trollope began writing and gained notice with her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). She gave an unfavourable and, in the opinions of partisans of America, exaggerated account of the subject. [3] She was thought to reflect the disparaging views of American society allegedly commonplace at that time among English people of the higher social classes. Her novel, The Refugee in America (1832), expressed similar views, prompting Catherine Maria Sedgwick to respond that "Mrs Trollope, though she has told some disagreeable truths, has for the most part caricatured till the resemblance is lost".[5]

Next came The Abbess (1833), an anti-Catholic novel, as was Father Eustace (1847). While they borrowed from Victorian Gothic conventions, the scholar Susan Griffin notes that Trollope wrote a Protestant critique of Catholicism that also expressed "a gendered set of possibilities for self-making", which has been little recognised by scholars. She noted that "Modernism's lingering legacy in criticism meant overlooking a woman's nineteenth century studies of religious controversy."[6]

Trollope wrote more travel works, such as Belgium and Western Germany in 1833 (1834), Paris and the Parisians in 1835 (1836), and Vienna and the Austrians (1838).[7] Among those with whom she became acquainted in Brussels was the future novelist Anna Harriett Drury.

She received more attention during her lifetime for what are considered several strong novels of social protest: Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (1836) was the first anti-slavery novel, influencing the American Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy[8] began publication in 1840 and was the first industrial novel to be published in Britain. Other socially conscious novels included The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837 / Richard Bentley, London, 3 volumes), which took on corruption in the Church of England and evangelical circles. Possibly her greatest work is the Widow Barnaby trilogy (1839–1855) which includes the first ever sequel[9]; although Michael Sadleir considered the skilful set-up of Petticoat Government [1850], with its cathedral city, clerical psychology and domineering female, as something of a formative influence on her son's Barchester Towers and especially Mrs Proudie.[10]

In later years Frances Trollope continued to write novels and books on miscellaneous subjects, writing in all over 100 volumes. Trollope was considered to have powers of observation and a sharp and caustic wit, but her prolific production and the rise of modernist criticism caused her works to be overlooked in the twentieth century. Few of her books are now read, but her first and two others are available on Project Gutenberg.[11]

After the death of her husband and daughter, in 1835 and 1838 respectively, Trollope relocated to Florence, Italy, having lived briefly at Carleton, Eden in Cumbria, but finding that (in her son Tom's words) "the sun yoked his horses too far from Penrith town."[12] One year, she invited Theodosia Gallow to be her house-guest. Gallow married her son, Thomas Adolphus, and the three lived together until Trollope's death in 1863.[13] She was buried near four other members of the Trollope household in the English Cemetery of Florence.[14]

Major works[edit]

  • Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832)
  • Belgium and Western Germany in 1833 (1834)
  • Paris and the Parisians in 1835 (1836)
  • The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw; or Scenes on the Mississippi (1836) [3]
  • The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837)
  • Frances Trollope (1838), Vienna and the Austrians, London: R. Bentley, OCLC 2431804 + v.2
  • The Widow Barnaby (1839)
  • The Widow Married; A Sequel to the Widow Barnaby (1840)
  • The Life and Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (1840)
  • A visit to Italy (1842)
  • The Barnabys in America, or Adventures of the Widow Wedded (1843)
  • Jessie Phillips: A Tale of the Present Day (1844)
  • Travels and Travelers : A Series of Sketches (1846)
  • The Lottery of Marriage (1849)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicola Diane Thompson, Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  2. ^ Quoted in M. Sadleir, Trollope: a commentary (London, 1945) p. 112
  3. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ Frances Eleanor Trollope, "Frances Trollope Her Life and Literary Work from George III to Victoria, Vol. One", (Bentley and Son, 1895) p.42 [1]
  5. ^ Quoted in M. Sadleir, Trollope: a commentary (London, 1945) p. 101
  6. ^ Susan M. Griffin, "Revising the Popish Plot: Frances Trollope's 'The Abbess' and 'Father Eustace'", Victorian Literature and Culture, 2003, p. 279, JSTOR, accessed 24 February 2011
  7. ^ The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Volume 4; Volumes 1800–1900, Cambridge University Press, 2000
  8. ^ "Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy". Archived from the original on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  9. ^ "Literary Encyclopedia | The Widow Married; A Sequel to the Widow Barnaby". Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  10. ^ M. Sadleir, Trollope (Constable 1945) p. 157
  11. ^ [2].
  12. ^ Quoted in G. Lindop, A Literary Guide to the Lake District (London 1993) p. 135.
  13. ^ Krueger, Christine L. et al, eds. (2003). "Trollope, Frances Milton (1779–1863)". Encyclopedia of British Writers: 19th and 20th Centuries. Infobase Publishing. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-8160-4670-6.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2012.


Further reading[edit]

  • Brenda Ayres (2002). Frances Trollope and the Novel of Social Change. Greenwood P. ISBN 0-313-31755-0.
  • E. Bigland, (1953) The Indomitable Mrs Trollope
  • Teresa Ransom (1995). Fanny Trollope. Alan Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1269-3.
Historical fiction

External links[edit]