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Frances Milton Trollope, also known as Fanny Trollope (10 March 1779 – 6 October 1863), was an English novelist and writer who published as Mrs. Trollope or Mrs. Frances Trollope. Her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) has been the best known. She also published social novels: one against slavery said to have influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe, the first industrial novel, and two anti-Catholic novels that used a Protestant position to examine self-making. Some recent scholars note how modernist critics exclude women writers such as Frances Trollope from serious consideration. In 1839, The New Monthly Magazine claimed, "No other author of the present day has been at once so read, so much admired, and so much abused".
Two of her sons, Thomas Adolphus and Anthony, became writers. Her daughter-in-law Frances Eleanor Trollope (née Ternan), second wife of Thomas Adolphus Trollope, was also a novelist.
Born at Stapleton, Bristol, Frances was the third daughter and middle child of the Reverend William Milton and Mary, née Gresley. Frances's mother died in childbirth when Frances was five years old. Her father was remarried to Sarah Partington of Clifton in 1800. She was baptised at St Michael's, Bristol, on 17 March 1779. As a child, Frances read a great amount of English, French and Italian literature. She and her sister later moved to Bloomsbury, London, in 1803 to live with their brother, Henry Milton, who was employed in the War Office.
In London, she met Thomas Anthony Trollope, a barrister, and at the age of 30, married him on 23 May 1809 in Heckfield, Hampshire. They had four sons and three daughters: Thomas Adolphus, Henry, Arthur, Emily (who died in a day), Anthony, Cecilia and Emily. When The Trollopes moved to a leased farm at Harrow-on-the-Hill in 1817, they faced financial struggles for lack of agricultural expertise. This was where Frances gave birth to her last two children  Two of her sons also became writers. Her eldest surviving son, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, wrote mostly histories: The Girlhood of Catherine de Medici, History of Florence, What I Remember, Life of Pius IX, and some novels. Her fourth son Anthony Trollope became a well-known and received novelist, establishing a strong reputation, especially for his serial novels, such as those set in the fictional county of Barsetshire, and his political series the Palliser novels. Despite producing six living children, their marriage was reputedly unhappy.
Soon after the move to the leased farm, her marital and financial strains led Frances to seek companionship and aid from Fanny Wright, ward of the French hero Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. In 1824 she visited La Grange, Lafayette's estate in France. Over the next three years, she made several other visits to France and was inspired to take an American excursion with Wright. Frances thought of America as a simple economic venture and figured that she could save money by sending her children through Wright's communal school, as Wright had planned to reform the education of African American children and the formerly enslaved on their property in Tennessee. In 1827, Frances Trollope took most of her family to Fanny Wright's utopian community, Nashoba Commune, in the United States. Her husband and remaining family followed shortly after.
Arriving in the United States four years earlier than her husband, she was able to develop an intimate relationship with Auguste Hervieu, a collaborator in her venture, and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio with her sons after the community failed. She also encouraged the sculptor Hiram Powers to do Dante Alighieri's Commedia in waxworks.
Nonetheless, all the ways she tried to support herself in America were unsuccessful. She found the cultural climate uninteresting and came to resent democracy. Furthermore, after her venture failed, her family was more in debt than when she had migrated there – forcing her and her family to move back to England in 1831.
From her return at the age of 50 until her death, her need of an income for her family and escape her debts led her to begin writing novels, memoirs of her travels, and other shorter pieces, while travelling around Europe. She became well acquainted with elites and figures of Victorian literature including Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Joseph Henry Green and R. W. Thackeray (a relative of William Makepeace Thackeray). She wrote 40 books: six travelogues, 35 novels, countless controversial articles, and poems. In 1843, Frances visited Italy and eventually moved to Florence permanently.
Trollope already gained notice with her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). She gave an unfavourable, and in the opinions of America's partisans, an exaggerated account. Her novel, The Refugee in America (1832), expressed similar views, prompting Catherine Maria Sedgwick to respond that "Mrs. Trollope, though she has told some disagreeable truths, has for the most part caricatured till the resemblance is lost." She was thought to reflect the disparaging views of American society that were allegedly commonplace at that time among English people of the higher social classes.
Later Trollope wrote further travel works, such as Belgium and Western Germany in 1833 (1834), Paris and the Parisians in 1835 (1836), and Vienna and the Austrians (1838). Among those with whom she became acquainted in Brussels was the future novelist Anna Harriett Drury.
Next came The Abbess (1833), an anti-Catholic novel, as was Father Eustace (1847). While both borrowed from Victorian Gothic conventions, the scholar Susan Griffin notes that Trollope wrote a Protestant critique of Catholicism that also expressed "a gendered set of possibilities for self-making", which has been little recognised by scholars. She noted that "Modernism's lingering legacy in criticism meant overlooking a woman's nineteenth century studies of religious controversy."
Trollope received more attention in her lifetime for what are considered several strong novels of social protest: Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (1836) was the first anti-slavery novel, influencing the American Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). It focuses on two powerful families – one that strongly encourages slavery and another that strongly opposes it and provides sanctuary for slave refugees. It antagonizes pro-slavery characters, making them appear foolish and uncultured. Frances also brings out her idea of a stereotypical American by drawing certain characters as shrewd, convincing, sly and greedy.
Published in 1840, Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy was the first industrial novel to be published in Britain, inspired by Frances's visit to Manchester in 1832, where she examined the conditions of children employed in the textile mills. The story of a factory boy who is rescued by a wealthy benefactor at first, but later returns to the mills, illustrates the misery of factory life and suggests that private philanthropy alone will not solve the widespread misery of factory employment. Other socially conscious novels of hers include The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837, Richard Bentley, London, 3 volumes), which took on the issue of corruption in the Church of England and evangelical circles. Possibly her greatest work is the Widow Barnaby trilogy (1839–1855), which includes the first ever sequel. In particular, Michael Sadleir considers the skilful set-up of Petticoat Government , with its cathedral city, clerical psychology and domineering female, as something of a formative influence on her son's elaborate and colourful cast of characters in Barchester Towers, notably Mrs Proudie.
In later years Frances Trollope continued to write novels and books on miscellaneous subjects – in all over 100 volumes. In her own time, she was considered to have acute powers of observation and a sharp and caustic wit, but her prolific production coupled with the rise of modernist criticism caused her works to be overlooked in the 20th century. Few of her books are now read, but her first and two others are available on Project Gutenberg.
After the death of her husband and daughter, in 1835 and 1838 respectively, Trollope relocated to Florence, Italy, having lived briefly at Carleton, Eden in Cumbria, but finding that (in her son Tom's words) "the sun yoked his horses too far from Penrith town." One year, she invited Theodosia Garrow to be her house guest. Garrow married her son, Thomas Adolphus, and the three lived together until Trollope's death in 1863. She was buried near four other members of the Trollope household in the English Cemetery of Florence.
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