FANNY TROLLOPE: The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman by Pamela Neville-Sington

FANNY TROLLOPE: The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title may smack of an Erica Jong novel, but this is a biography of the courageous and tender woman best remembered as mother of 19th-century novelist Anthony Trollope. Fanny Trollope herself was a bestselling author of six travel books and 35 novels. She was a contemporary of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Robert and Elizabeth Browning, among others. She wrote for money, according to Neville-Sington, because her husband's failing efforts at law and agriculture cast her as the breadwinner of the family. Born in 1779, Fanny didn't marry until she was 29; she had six children within the next nine years. When her son Arthur and her father died within months of each other, and her marriage began unraveling from the impact of her husband's erratic and angry moods, Fanny packed up three children and set off for America, where she experimented with a series of businesses, including a wax works. Returning to England, she wrote a book about her experiences (Domestic Manners of the Americans, for a recent edition of which Neville-Sington has written an introduction), her first bestseller. For the next decade, she struggled against debt and more tragedy: a son, her husband, and her younger daughter died in rapid succession. Still, she continued to turn out increasingly popular novels and travel books, waking before dawn to write. Her fiction included both novels of manners and attacks against social ills (slavery, child labor). Critics considered her sharp and funny (""her vulgarity is sublime,"" wrote one). Sons Tom and Anthony both became writers, with Anthony, of course, surpassing his mother in reputation. Fanny died in Italy at 84, her last book published only a few years earlier. The author borrows heavily from both Fanny and Anthony's novels to flesh out the contours of their lives. Fanny's humor, warmth, and adventurous spirit are evident in all her writing, be it fiction or a thank-you note.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1998
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Viking