This is the perfect time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Anthony Trollope's birth, and give my Top Ten Reasons to Read Anthony Trollope.
1. Read Trollope for the panoramic view. Victorians perfected the novel with the large canvas, but Trollope is particularly good at capturing the many levels of class and social status that existed in 19th century England, whether among the Church of England or the Parliament.
2. Read Trollope for the moral tension and examination of conscience: many of Trollope's characters are good men or good women trapped in a moral quandary. Trollope is attuned to the finest nuances of conscience. He has his villains too--cads, bounders, scoundrels, wastrels, and knaves.
3. Read Trollope for the city of Barchester and the county of Barsetshire. Trollope creates a cathedral city, recurring characters like the Archdeacon Theophilus Grantly, and enough characters and incidents to fill six novels. One of the pleasures of Trollope is getting to know characters over a whole series of books.
4. Read Trollope for the politics. While the Barsetshire novels focus on life in a cathedral city, and the dramas and daily lives of the clergy, the Palliser novels focus on political life in Victorian England.
5. Read Trollope for his insights into power, money, love, and social class. Although Trollope's novels are set in Victorian England, the struggles over power, money. class, and love can feel strangely contemporary.
6. Read Trollope for his women. Although Trollope doesn't completely transcend the ideas and attitudes of his time, his female characters are portrayed with great sympathy. Trollope created some unforgettable women, such as Lady Glencora Palliser, Duchess of Omnium and Madame Max Goesler.
7. Read Trollope because you'll never run out of books. Trollope published 47 novels as well as travel books and short story collections. His impressive work ethic is almost unmatched in literature. If you like setting goals, try reading every novel Trollope published.
8. Read Trollope because he is entertaining. There is a resurgence in Trollope's popularity, and while he has been considered a slightly guilty pleasure by some, there's nothing wrong with reading a book because it is entertaining--and Trollope's books are that.
9. Read Trollope for his humor and his irony. Gossip, back-biting, social climbing, and hypocrisy are all here. And Trollope has fun with names: a poor curate with a large family is Mr. Quiverful, a bishop's wife who is a tyrant and a bully is called Mrs. Proudie.
10. Read Trollope because sometimes he is great. Although Trollope's novels are not all great, I would argue that some (The Way We Live Now, for example) reach a level of artistry that could be called great. Trollope creates a world that is sometimes startlingly like out own. Above all, it is about the characters, who are memorable, complex, and real.
Anthony Trollope created an imaginative world that is satisfyingly large, complex, and compelling. There are more than ten reasons to read Trollope, but really, you only need one.