rollope's Clergymen of the Church of England is not merely a collection of essays, but a collection of character portraits. Trollope is first and foremost a novelist; a novelist who thrives on characterization. However, Trollope's characterization ultimately reveals his religious leanings. Thus, the clerical portraits of Clergymen help the reader understand Trollope as a writer and as a thinker. As Ruth apRoberts points out, "These Clergymen essays may be particularly important, offering at times the discursive formulation of many ideas and attitudes that shape his art" (13). These essays allow the reader to understand Trollope's view of the Church of England in its structural form and the individuals who constitute it.
To understand the essays and Trollope's attitude towards Church reform, one must place them in the context provided by Trollope's own religious changing beliefs and the influences upon them. He seems to have first been an adherent of High Church Anglicanism. The High Church, often characterized as "high and dry" to Trollope's annoyance, placed great emphasis on a restrained style of worship, the Sacraments, and the Prayer Book (Mullen and Munson 78). Trollope's parents were proponents of maintaining High Church traditions, and Trollope's tutor at Harrow, Harry Drury, was arguably influential in forming Trollope's allegiance to the High Church (Hall 15). Trollope's dim view of the Low Church Evangelical movement was certainly colored by his mother's hatred of J.W. Cunningham, the Evangelical Vicar of Harrow, who refused to allow a public burial for Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter.
When Trollope was in his late-teens and early twenties, the Oxford Movement gained momentum. Edward Pusey and John Keble began publishing their series of Tracts. They emphasized bringing back much that had been lost when the Church divorced itself from Rome (Pool 120). Trollope, an early mild supporter of the Oxford Movement, did not fully support its quasi-Catholic sentiments and later shied away from it (Mullen and Munson 79). He definitely disliked its extremism. His sister Cecilia had become a Puseyite during her fight with tuberculosis (Hall 118), and Trollope was much impressed with her devotion; it is safe to assert that Trollope felt the appeal of the ritual of ceremony in the High Church to a great extent. His experiences in Ireland also brought him into a closer sympathy with the Roman Catholic Church. However, he was hardly ready to follow Newman to Rome!
In fact, Trollope increasingly moved towards the kind of liberalism in religion that Newman and Keble so hated. The novelist was likely influenced by Essays & Reviews, one of the few theological works he owned (Mullen and Munson 153). He was certainly impressed with Rt. Rev. John William Colenso, Bishop of Natal, a Victorian liberal churchman and a hero to Trollope. The furor created by Colenso's writing fascinated Trollope, who actually contributed to Colenso's court costs in defense of his bishopric (Mullen and Munson 95).
Clergymen of the Church of England deals not only with the crisis of faith in the Church but with the crisis of structural reform. The Ecclesiastical Commission created by Sir Robert Peel in 1835 initiated the administrative reform of the Church of England, but Trollope felt it had not gone far enough in redressing the evils of unequal pay (Mayne xv).
The essays are naturally colored by Trollope's view of Anglicanism in its dogma and practices. His negative childhood view of Evangelicals and his living in Ireland as an adult took him to a middle ground. He could not follow the simple certainty of Irish Catholicism or the extremity of Anglican Evangelicalism. Thus, according to Michael Mayne, Trollope's Anglicanism was this: "Tolerance within a broad spectrum of belief and interpretation; a high regard for the individual conscience; moderation in face of extremism; [and] a recognition that truth may sometimes lie in both extremes rather than somewhere in between" (xii). It is this moderate Anglicanism, tending toward a Broad Church view, which shines through the essays.
Clergymen of the Church of England: Overview of Four Sketches
- The Critical Reception of Trollope's Clergymen of the Church of England
- 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