The Real Thing: Beverley and Ralph the Heir

  • John Halperin


One day when Trollope was in his early twenties, his uncle, Henry Milton, a clerk in the War Office, asked him what he wanted to be. Trollope said that his greatest ambition was to become a member of Parliament. Uncle Henry replied, with more than a touch of sarcasm, that few clerks in the Post Office became Members of Parliament. “It was the remembrance of this jeer which stirred me up to look for a seat as soon as I had made myself capable of holding one by leaving public service,” Trollope writes in the Autobiography (p. 250). Uncle Henry by then was long dead, and clearly Trollope’s motivation was not so frivolous. His passion to stand well in his own eyes — to be more than people, especially relatives, thought him — never deserted him. But much more important was his feeling — as we know, but it will bear repeating — that a seat in Parliament “should be the highest object of ambition to every educated Englishman.”


Real Thing Royal Commission Parliamentary Election Liberal Party Municipal Election 


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  1. 1.
    See the Stebbinses, p. 258; Sadleir, p. 302; Lance O. Tingay, “Trollope and the Beverley Election,” NCF, 5, No. 1 (June 1950), 23; Escott, p. 248; Briggs, p. 100; and Booth, p. 74. Mr Tingay, incidentally, now writes tennis reports for the Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Thomas Adolphus Trollope, What I Remember (New York, 1888), p. 362. By one of the strange coincidences that pop up now and then among literary people and their relations — especially in the nineteenth century — Frances Trollope, Tom’s second wife, was the sister of Dickens’s mistress, Ellen Ternan.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Escott, pp. 249–50; large chunks of the speeches are reprinted in Tingay, 23–39 (Trollope’s election address is also reprinted — alone but in its entirety — by Pope-Hennessy, p. 258); Booth, pp. 75 and 80; and James Bryce, Studies in Contemporary Biography (New York, 1927), p. 121. Trollope’s speech is reprinted in the “Eastern Question Report of the National Conference at St. James’s Hall, London, 8 December 1876,”pp. 19–21. The phrase quoted just below in the text from Pollard appears on p. 8.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    The best sources of information about this incident are the Stebbinses, p. 285, whose general account of it mine chiefly depends upon; Bradford A. Booth, “Trollope, Reade, and Shilly-Shally,” TT, 1 (March 1947), 45–54, and 2 (June 1947), 43–51; and letters written by Trollope to George Smith (20 May 1872, dated from Melbourne; see Letters, pp. 292–3) and John Hollingshead (14 March 1873; Letters, p. 305).Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    Booth, p. 118. He also points out that at the time Trollope wrote Ralph the Heir he seemed to have no special interest in Bacon, the subject of Sir Thomas’s never-to-be-completed biography (not Dr Johnson, as Curtis Brown says, p. 67). In 1879, however, Trollope was given by his son a new edition of Bacon’s essays, which he carefully annotated. See Michael Sadleir, “Trollope and Bacon’s Essays,” NCF, 1 (Summer 1945), 21–34. Polhemus (cited in the text just below) discusses Sir Thomas on p. 171. Both Sadleir and Cockshut instinctively saw some of Trollope in Sir Thomas Underwood, though neither of them took the connection as far as I do.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Halperin 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Halperin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaUSA

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