From Postmarks to Literary Professionalism in Anthony Trollope’s John Caldigate

  • Laura Rotunno
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


While John Caldigate’s April 1878 to June 1879 serialization in Blackwood’s Magazine preceded the Post Office’s most publicized disgrace, the 1889 Cleveland Street scandal, by ten years, the novel met a population well acquainted with inefficient, sometimes even criminal, postal servants, with high-ranking postal officials who had been accused of misappropriating funds, and with a slew of high and low postal officers who made themselves privy to the contents of private correspondence. Anthony Trollope himself, 33-year veteran of the Post Office, openly admitted the low regard in which the public held civil servants in general. He acknowledged that many believed that government offices ‘receive their recruits’ from the ‘idle, the weak in mind, the infirm in body, the unambitious, the jolterheads, the ne’er-do-wells, the puny, and the diseased’ and that ‘in the civil service … the idle drone enjoys as much honey as the busy bee’.1 Trollope enumerated the public’s convictions: ‘that clerks in public offices did not do their work; that inefficient young men were appointed … [and that] little was done to make them … effective’.2 Into this hostile climate, Trollope’s John Caldigate introduced Samuel Bagwax: postal servant turned hero.


Civil Service Postal Servant Liberal Ideal Literary Professional Open Competition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    David Pearson and Ellen Moody both offer examinations of Trollope’s use of letters in his novels; see David Pearson, ‘“The Letter Killeth”: Epistolary Purposes and Techniques in Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction 37.3 (December 1982): 396–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 6.
    Michael Sadleir, Trollope: A Commentary (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Co., 1947), 420Google Scholar
  3. Richard Mullen, Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World (London: Duckworth, 1990), 87–8Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    James R. Kincaid, The Novels of Anthony Trollope (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 244.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    See R. H. Super, Trollope in the Post Office (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981), 18–19Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    Magali Sarfatti Larson, The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 58Google Scholar
  7. 28.
    W. J. Reader, Professional Men: The Rise of the Professional Classes in Nineteenth-Century England (London: Cox & Wyman, 1966), 203.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Harold Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880 (New York: Routledge, 1989), 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 34.
    Anthony Trollope, ‘Novel-Reading’, Nineteenth Century 5.23 (January 1879): 24–43Google Scholar
  10. 39.
    Trollope’s Australia-inspired writings were accused of celebrating his own moral and political ideals and himself rather than giving a fair view of Australia. Jill Felicity Durey counters such criticism, asserting that these novels explored issues of extreme import for modern Australia, specifically ‘equal opportunities; social relations; gender; race; and political independence’; Jill Felicity Durey, ‘Modern Issues: Anthony Trollope and Australia’, Antipodes 21.2 (2007): 170–6Google Scholar
  11. 41.
    LeeAnne M. Richardson, New Woman and Colonial Adventure Fiction in Victorian Britain: Gender, Genre, and Empire (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006), 1.Google Scholar
  12. 42.
    Nicholas Birns, ‘The Empire Turned Upside Down: The Colonial Fictions of Anthony Trollope’, Ariel 27.3 (1996): 7–23Google Scholar
  13. 43.
    Many contemporary readers would have linked this novel’s plot to one of the era’s most sensationalized cases, the Tichborne case. That infamous scandal included its own imposter from Australia eager to seize another’s inheritance, and who, like Euphemia, inspired heated legal proceedings — in fact, multiple trials in 1871 and 1873 — that ultimately did not find in his favor. R. C. Terry and Kate Thomas discuss the connections between John Caldigate and the Tichborne case; see R. C. Terry, Introduction, John Caldigate by Anthony Trollope (London: Trollope Society, 1995), ix–xviGoogle Scholar
  14. 56.
    Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Government in a Liberal Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 157.Google Scholar
  15. 58.
    Arnold Bennett, Books and Persons: Being Comments on a Past Epoch, 1908–1911 (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1917)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Laura Rotunno 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Rotunno
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State AltoonaUSA

Personalised recommendations