I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Trollope and Ireland: A Talk


The early years of Anthony Trollope’s life – the bicentenary of his birth is next Friday – were inauspicious. His education, at Harrow and Winchester, was a miserable business and his father, who suffered, among other handicaps, that of having an execrable temper, was unable to support his family. Luckily his mother could turn her hand quite successfully to writing. The younger Trollope picked up the debt habit like his father: he was unable to pay the sum of £12 to his tailor, so the affair was passed to a moneylender, in whose hands it fairly quickly grew to £200 (this still happens occasionally with housing debt; the moneylenders are called banks). At work Trollope developed a reputation for unpunctuality and insubordination. The moneylender called frequently on intimidatory visits and poor Trollope began to wonder how long he would last. But salvation, in an unlikely guise, was at hand. The job of postal surveyor’s clerk arose in the fine town of Banagher in the Irish midlands and Trollope volunteered. Nothing, surely, could be worse than where he was. His duties required him to tour Connacht to see what was what and how the natives were managing that great British institution the post office. Not too badly, Trollope thought, and, in spite of the character they were given in London Trollope found he rather liked the natives. “The Irish people did not murder me, nor did they even break my head. I soon found them to be good-humoured, clever—the working classes very much more intelligent than those of England—economical and hospitable.” While staying in the village of Drumsna, Co Leitrim, he wrote his first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, which was published in 1847. John McCourt, the author of the newly published Writing the Frontier: Anthony Trollope between Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press), will be speaking at the new Books Upstairs cafe and literary venue on Trollope and Ireland tomorrow, Sunday, April 19th, at 3pm. Read John McCourt on Trollope’s Irish novels: http://www.drb.ie/essays/not-all-beef-and-ale