Anthony Trollope: Autobiography of Anthony Trollope


I at once went to work, and in three months from that day the little book had been written. I began by reading through the Commentaries twice, which I did without any assistance either by translation or English notes. Latin was not so familiar to me then as it has since become,--for from that date I have almost daily spent an hour with some Latin author, and on many days many hours. After the reading what my author had left behind him, I fell into the reading of what others had written about him, in Latin, in English, and even in French,--for I went through much of that most futile book by the late Emperor of the French. I do not know that for a short period I ever worked harder. The amount I had to write was nothing. Three weeks would have done it easily. But I was most anxious, in this soaring out of my own peculiar line, not to disgrace myself. I do not think that I did disgrace myself. Perhaps I was anxious for something more. If so, I was disappointed.

The book I think to be a good little book. It is readable by all, old and young, and it gives, I believe accurately, both an account of Caesar's Commentaries,--which of course was the primary intention,--and the chief circumstances of the great Roman's life. A well-educated girl who had read it and remembered it would perhaps know as much about Caesar and his writings as she need know. Beyond the consolation of thinking as I do about it, I got very little gratification from the work. Nobody praised it. One very old and very learned friend to whom I sent it thanked me for my "comic Caesar," but said no more. I do not suppose that he intended to run a dagger into me. Of any suffering from such wounds, I think, while living, I never showed a sign; but still I have suffered occasionally. There was, however, probably present to my friend's mind, and to that of others, a feeling that a man who had spent his life in writing English novels could not be fit to write about Caesar. It was as when an amateur gets a picture hung on the walls of the Academy. What business had I there? Ne sutor ultra crepidam. In the press it was most faintly damned by most faint praise. Nevertheless, having read the book again within the last month or two, I make bold to say that it is a good book. The series, I believe, has done very well. I am sure that it ought to do well in years to come, for, putting aside Caesar, the work has been done with infinite scholarship, and very generally with a light hand. With the leave of my sententious and sonorous friend, who had not endured that subjects which had been grave to him should be treated irreverently, I will say that such a work, unless it be light, cannot answer the purpose for which it is intended. It was not exactly a schoolbook that was wanted, but something that would carry the purposes of the schoolroom even into the leisure hours of adult pupils. Nothing was ever better suited for such a purpose than the Iliad and the Odyssey, as done by Mr. Collins. The Virgil, also done by him, is very good; and so is the Aristophanes by the same hand.

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