Early Life and Background:
Frances Trollope (1780-1863) was an English novelist, writer, and social critic. She is best known for her works of fiction and travel literature, as well as her strong opinions on societal issues of her time. She was born on March 10, 1780, in Stapleton, Bristol, England. She was the daughter of a clergyman and grew up in a fairly well-educated and religious household. In 1809, she married Thomas Anthony Trollope, a lawyer, and they had several children together, including the famous novelist Anthony Trollope.
Frances Trollope began her writing career relatively late in life. Her first novel, “The Refugee in America,” was published in 1832. However, it was her subsequent works that garnered her more attention and controversy. One of her most well-known novels is “Domestic Manners of the Americans,” published in 1832. In this work, she presented a critical and often satirical view of American society and customs, based on her travels and observations during her time in the United States. Her other works include: “Paris and the Parisians” (1835): This travelogue offers Trollope’s observations on Parisian society and culture. Similar to her earlier work on America, she provides a critical and often satirical portrayal of French manners and customs. The novel “Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw: or, Scenes on the Mississippi” (1836) is set in the United States and follows the adventures of an Englishman traveling down the Mississippi River. It provides a glimpse into the American society and culture of the time. Her novel “The Vicar of Wrexhill” (1837) is a social satire that deals with issues of hypocrisy and moral decay within the Church of England. It was somewhat controversial upon its publication due to its critical treatment of clergy and religion. “Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy” (1840) is one of Trollope’s attempts to address social issues through fiction. It depicts the harsh conditions of child labor in English factories and the struggles of the working class. “The Life and Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy” (1840) is a revised and expanded version of her earlier novel “Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy,” and it further explores the plight of child laborers. Then her novel “One Fault” (1840) delves into themes of marital discord, morality, and societal expectations. “The Widow Barnaby” series is a series of novels that follows the adventures and misadventures of a widow, Mrs. Barnaby, as she navigates various situations. The series includes titles like “The Widow Barnaby,” “The Widow Married,” and “The Widow and the Marquess.”
Trollope’s writing style was often witty and sharp, and she had a knack for vividly depicting characters and scenes. While she achieved some success as a novelist, her most lasting legacy lies in her travel writing and her candid observations of social and cultural norms. Her works often combined fictional storytelling with social commentary, reflecting her keen observations and critiques of the world around her. While some of her novels may have faded from popular memory, they collectively offer a multifaceted perspective on 19th-century society and culture.
Social Criticism and Controversy:
Frances Trollope was known for her outspoken opinions on a variety of social and political issues of her time. She was critical of slavery, advocating for its abolition, and was also an advocate for women’s rights. Her writings often addressed matters of class, manners, and societal conventions. While some readers appreciated her frankness and wit, her views also attracted criticism and controversy.
Frances Trollope’s contributions to literature and social criticism have left a mark on both fields. Her observations of American society, despite being criticized by some at the time, offer valuable insights into the early 19th-century United States. Her works have continued to be studied by historians, sociologists, and literary scholars interested in understanding the cultural dynamics of the era.
Frances Trollope passed away on October 6, 1863, in Florence, Italy, at the age of 83. While her novels might not be as widely read today as some of her contemporaries, her writings remain an important part of the literary and social discourse of the 19th century.