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Anthony Trollope, Postman Detective

April 29, 2014 | by

Anthony_Trollope

This man could ride like the wind. A cartoon portrait of Anthony Trollope by Frederick Waddy, 1872.

Anthony Trollope’s novels made him a household name in Victorian England. But reliable sources have told the Daily that Trollope was more than a top-rate writer: he was also an extraordinary postal worker.

Anthony’s older brother, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, has the inside poop. The elder Trollope, born today in 1810, wrote a memoir called What I Remember. (It ran to three volumes, suggesting he was not an amnesiac.) The first volume finds him recounting the daring exploits of his younger brother, who, in his days as a courier, once took justice into his own hands:

He had visited the office of a certain postmaster in the southwest of Ireland … and had observed him in the course of his interview carefully lock a large desk in the office. Two days afterwards there came from headquarters an urgent inquiry about a lost letter, the contents of which were of considerable value … There was no conveyance to the place where my brother determined his first investigations should be made till the following morning. But it did not suit him to wait for that, so he hired a horse, and, riding hard, knocked up the postmaster whom he had interviewed, as related, a couple of days before, in the small hours. Possibly the demeanour of the man in some degree influenced his further proceedings. Be this as it may, he walked straight into the office, and said, “Open that desk!” The key, he was told, had been lost for some time past. Without another word he smashed the desk with one kick, and—there found the stolen letter!

Yes, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed that courier from the swift delivery of honesty and virtue. Even abroad, Trollope was such a fastidious, reliable postman that not even a sore bottom could keep him down, his brother writes:

I have heard from him so many good stories of his official experiences, that I feel myself tolerably competent to write a volume of “Memoirs of a Post Office Surveyor.” But for the present I must content myself with one other of his adventures. He had been sent to South America to arrange some difficulties about postal communication in those parts which our authorities wished to be accomplished in a shorter time than had been previously the practice. There was a certain journey that had to be done by a mounted courier, for which it was insisted that three days were necessary, while my brother was persuaded it could be done in two. He was told that he knew nothing of their roads and their horses, &c. “Well,” said he, “I will ask you to do nothing that I, who know nothing of the country, and can only have such a horse as your post can furnish me, cannot do myself. I will ride with your courier, and then I shall be able to judge." And at daybreak the next morning they started. The brute they gave him to ride was of course selected with a view of making good their case, and the saddle was simply an instrument of torture. He rode through that hot day and kept the courier to his work in a style that rather astonished that official. But at night, when they were to rest for a few hours, Anthony confessed that he was in such a state that he began to think that he should have to throw up the sponge, which would have been dreadful to him. So he ordered two bottles of brandy, poured them into a wash-hand basin, and sat in it. His description of the agonising result was graphic! But the next day, he said, he was able to sit in his saddle without pain, did the journey in the two days, and carried his point.

 

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