Anthony Trollope Down Under

Anthony Trollope – author of 47 novels – was the rst celebrity in popular culture to visit Australia and New Zealand.

Anthony Trollope – author of 47 novels – was the first celebrity in popular culture to visit Australia and New Zealand. For nearly 18 months in the early 1870s, at the peak of his literary fame, he explored the Australasian colonies by stage coach, trains, steamships, and (as a passionate foxhunting man) on horseback. His 1873 memoir inspired by those adventures, Australia and New Zealand, was subsequently described by The Times as “the best account” of those colonies “yet published”. Now, to mark the forthcoming bicentenary of Trollope’s birth, the Adelaide author Nigel Starck reveals the full story in his new book The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey (published by Lansdown Media UK). Although Trollope enthused about the virtues of immigration, he also accused Australians (especially those in Melbourne) of being braggarts and, as a result, found himself castigated by the colonial press. This extract from The First Celebrity begins with Trollope’s observations on Adelaide, where he had arrived, by coastal steamer from Albany and after sleeping rough in the bush, in the autumn of 1872: When the Alexandra delivered him to South Australia, Trollope was ready for some renewed clubmanship. He achieved entrée consequently to the potted palms and antimacassars of the Adelaide Club, enjoying the companionship of the pastoralist and politician Thomas Elder, who supplied accommodation at his mansion in the foothills. Welcoming the “eminent novelist”, The South Australian Register said it expected “a very different picture of colonial life, manners, and resources” from that recorded by “disappointed adventurers and shallow tourists”. It floated the hope too that he would give a public lecture. Although the newspaper would be disappointed in that respect, its wishes were subsequently met – if not entirely to the pleasure of its readers – in the depth of reporting that Trollope devoted to the colony of South Australia. There was nothing shallow about it. In a stay of a little over five weeks, he was able to tour widely, often through Thomas Elder’s patronage. They even became lost on one sortie into the pastoralist’s more remote northerly properties, finding shelter at a farmhouse occupied temporarily by an explorer (probably Ernest Giles) whose tranquil confidence and resolve caused Trollope to liken him in his memoir to “Marco Polo … or a Livingstone”. An inspection of the copper mining townships north of Adelaide resulted in another such mishap, as Trollope would recall in his travel book: On our return journey we were absolutely lost in the bush – coach, coachman, horses, mails, passengers and all. … At last we found ourselves on the seashore … [and although] no one could say what sea it was, I felt that the adventure was almost more than interesting. Back in the colony’s capital, Trollope attended parliamentary debates. In print, he would dismiss as trivial the subject matters before the house: they included argument on the lighting of horse-drawn cabs and on whether a bishop should be entitled to certain matters of etiquette at social gatherings. As a postal official of long standing, he looked around the new post office (writing that it was “a beautiful building”, if somewhat deficient  in its mail-handling capacities); sampled the wine (“heady”, was his verdict); and was appalled at the state of the River Torrens. At the time of Trollope’s visit, it had long suffered abuse through being used both as a source of water supply and as an open sewer. “Anything in the guise of a river more ugly than the Torrens it would be impossible either to see or to describe,” he wrote. The unfortunate watercourse aside, Adelaide, with its extensive parklands and generous “appliances of humanity”, succeeded in leaving a favourable impression on Trollope: “No city in Australia,” he declares in Australia and New Zealand, “gives one more fixedly the idea that Australian colonization has been a success, than does the city of Adelaide”. Baronetcy postscript His younger son, Frederic, established himself as an inspector with the NSW Lands Department after an unsuccessful flirtation with sheep farming. He and his wife, Susannah, had eight children. The family baronetcy, created in 1642 but in Anthony Trollope’s time sequestered within other branches of the family, would eventually come to Australia – after death in war and misfortunes elsewhere. Frederic’s third son (a Sydney bank manager, also named Frederic) succeeded to the title in 1937. The baronetcy has remained in Australia ever since. It is at present held by Sir Anthony Trollope, 17th Baronet (great-greatgrandson of the novelist), a schoolteacher who lives at Windsor NSW. It survives as a satisfying epilogue to the memoirs and philosophy of Anthony Trollope, tireless traveller, inveterate adventurer, and the first celebrity to visit Australasia. Excerpt from The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey by Nigel Starck. pub. Lansdown Media UK; 209 pages. RRP $29.95. The book will be launched by Sir Anthony Trollope at the Friends of the University of Adelaide Library meeting, Thursday September 25, Barr Smith Library, 6pm  

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