ccording to Trollope's Autobiography, he wrote Clergymen of the Church of England for serial publication in The Pall Mall Gazette, which his friend George Smith founded in 1865 (181). The collection of ten essays originally appeared anonymously under the title "Clerical Sketches" between November 20, 1865 and January 25, 1866. Chapman & Hall then published in volume form on March 30, 1866 under the title Clergymen of the Church of England by Anthony Trollope (Mullen and Munson 92).
The reviews were not favorable. The reviewers argued that Trollope was an "outsider," a lay person writing about clerical reform. Henry Alford, Dean of Canterbury and a Greek scholar, claimed in the Contemporary Review that Trollope was "almost entirely ignorant" of the clergy and accused him of having a "hair-dresser's estimate of mankind" (242). Alford, as a Dean, may well have resented Trollope's implication that the Dean's duties were extremely undemanding: "Let him reside and show himself," Trollope wrote, "and the city which he graces by his presence will hardly demand from him other services" (Clergymen 33). Trollope, who was shocked at the vituperative review, later wrote in his Autobiography:
There was . . . a set of clerical sketches, which was considered to be of sufficient importance to bring down upon my head the critical wrath of a great dean of that period. The most ill-natured review that was ever written upon any work of mine appeared in the Contemporary Review with reference to these clerical sketches. The critic told me I did not understand Greek. . . . It is much to read Greek with ease, but it is not disgraceful to be unable to do so. (182-3)
Trollope's cryptic comment is delightfully subtle. Trollope's attempt was not to "understand Greek," i.e., to have a pretense to scholarship, but to address pragmatic concerns about the Church's future as an institution.
An Anglican paper, The Guardian, also attacked Trollope's comments on curates' low income. It was "unworthy of Mr. Trollope" to "endorse a popular error" (620). However, Trollope was soon to be shown correct. Within weeks of The Guardian's negative review of Clergymen, curates were writing in to show that Trollope had got it right! In July 1866, The Guardian published a letter from Reverend J. Altham, a rural curate who declared that his situation was precisely what Trollope described (Booth 27).
These essays appeared a few months before Trollope began The Last Chronicle of Barset (Mayne vii). By this point, the novelist had experimented with various characters representing positions within the Church. However, his views had not been put forth with such vigor, and his narrative focus was on the individual and not specifically on the institution. These essays smack of reform with a much stronger hand than do the novels.
Trollope's reputation was established as a fiction writer who could draw accurate portraits of clerics. However, later, in his Autobiography, he freely acknowledged his lay status. "I may as well declare at once that no one at their commencement could have had less reason than myself to presume himself to be able to write about clergymen" (85). In spite of Trollope's admission, these essays show him to be extremely knowledgeable.
Clergymen of the Church of England: Overview of Four Sketches
- Trollope's Clergymen of the Church of England and His Own Beliefs
- Church Reform and Trollope's Clergymen of the Church of England
apRoberts, Ruth. Introduction. Clergymen of the Church of England. By Anthony Trollope. 1866. Leicester: Leicester U P, 1974. 9-49.
Alford, Henry. "Mr. Anthony Trollope and the English Clergy." Rev. of Clergymen of the Church of England, by Anthony Trollope. The Contemporary Review. June 1866: 240-262.
Booth, Bradford Allen. Anthony Trollope: Aspects of His Life and Art. London: Hulton, 1958.
Rev. of Clergymen of the Church of England, by Anthony Trollope. The Guardian 6 June 1866: 620.
Hall, N. John. Trollope: A Biography. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1991.
Mayne, Michael. Introduction. Clergymen of the Church of England. By Anthony Trollope. 1866. London: Trollope Society, 1998. vii-xix.
Mullen, Richard and James Munson. The Penguin Companion to Trollope. London: Penguin, 1996.
Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. New York: Simon, 1993.
Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography. 1883. London: Penguin, 1993.
____. Clergymen of the Church of England. 1866. London: Trollope Society, 1998.
Last modified 30 November 2004