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Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Trollope’

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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Beware Usen’t To

January 28, 2014 | by

Constance_Charpentier_-_Melancholy_-_WGA04799

This is what happens when you use usen’t to. Constance Charpentier, Melancholy, 1801, oil on canvas.

At ten every morning, Garner’s Usage Tip lands in my inbox—I’m sure Garner could suggest a less clunky formulation for “in my inbox”—providing a quick bit of unfussy, eminently sensible grammatical advice. There are worse things to look forward to.

Yesterday’s installment was the third in a scintillating four-part series on used to, which gets pretty spicy, as far as grammar goes. Fun fact: the contracted form of used not to is usen’t to, which has been, despite its pleasant lilt, almost wholly displaced by didn’t use to.

You could try to bring it back into style, but apart from sounding pretentious—which you would—you’d run the risk of becoming very miserable. Take a look at usen’t to as it appears throughout literature and you’ll see: it’s almost always used in the context of a total bummer. See below for examples from Forster, Trollope, Beckett, et al., none of which make the sun shine any brighter.

Please, if you can find any positive instance of usen’t to, direct me to it. Otherwise I’m inclined to offer a warning: abstain from this phrase, or you’re liable to be plunged into cafard, parochialism, censoriousness, or just sort of a downer mood. Read More »

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Literary NFL, and Other News

February 5, 2013 | by

Literary_Football

  • “The Ravens’ lack of interest thus far in supporting the city’s literary legacy is a travesty.” The Super Bowl doesn’t help Poe!
  • “Ladies and gentlemen, your Literary National Football League.” (And more!)
  • Speaking of (sort of) fictional characters inspired by real people... 
  • Doodling and Neuroscience 101. Half of this sounds doable.
  • “Anthony Trollope, before he set off for his job at the GPO every day, would write three thousand words between 5:30 and 8:30 A. M.. He kept his watch in front of him so he could achieve two hundred fifty words each quarter-hour. If he finished one novel before 8:30, he would instantly start the next one.” Don’t worry: not all writers’ word-counts are this demoralizing inspiring. 
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    Staff Picks: Trollope, Švankmajer, and Trevor

    January 7, 2011 | by

    Over the break I read what is now my very favorite Trollope novel, and the one I was saddest to finish: Framley Parsonage. I’m coming down off it with DeLillo’s Running Dog, Henry Petroski’s history of the bookshelf, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. —Lorin Stein

    I watched Jan Švankmajer’s Little Otik and Alice in one night; both films are hilarious and nightmarish. Švankmajer is best known for his use of stop-motion and his exaggerated and bizarre sound editing, which reminds me a bit of David Lynch. I love the dialogue of his characters, especially that of the young girl in Little Otik, Alžbětka, who is perfectly vulgar. —Natalie Jacoby

    I have been enjoying William Trevor’s Selected Stories for that moment of calm at the end of each day. I’m about a quarter way through the enormous book, but my favorite story is still the first, “The Piano Tuner’s Wives.” It begins: “Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old. There was a little more to it than that, because in choosing Violet to be his wife the piano tuner had rejected Belle, which was something everyone remembered when the second wedding was announced.” —Thessaly La Force

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