27 August 2014

Anthony Trollope’s Australian odyssey revealed

Trollope cartoon In a new book looking at the travels “down-under” of Anthony Trollope, one of the Victorian era’s greatest authors, the University of South Australia’s Dr Nigel Starck reveals that the cult of celebrity was alive and well in Australia in the 1870s.

When the prolific 19th century author visited, he was the first celebrity in popular culture to tour the Australasian colonies.

“Trollope was an extremely popular author and the most prolific novelist of his time, so people were excited that he was touring and hopeful he would take away a good impression of the colonies,” Dr Starck says.

“His 1871 voyage on Brunel’s liner SS Great Britain took him 64 days and his journey resulted in a volume about Australia and New Zealand that was applauded by The Times of London but widely criticised in the colonial press.”

As Dr Starck reveals in the book, The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey, Trollope pulled no punches in his writing.

“Trollope accused Australians and New Zealanders alike of being braggarts, a charge that provoked a savage response from local newspapers,” Dr Starck says.

“His journey from 1871 and 1872 was the toughest he would endure in his worldwide adventures: travelling by stage coach and horse-drawn buggy along makeshift tracks in the forest; in one instance, literally hauling himself up a mountain by clinging to his mount’s tail and, in another, having to dig the coach out of the Otago snow; sleeping under the sky; staying at crude hotels on the goldfields.

“He saw and experienced more than most and certainly had strong views about what he found.”

With the bicentenary of Trollope’s birth to be celebrated in 2015, publishing houses are lining up to assess his long and productive career.

The First Celebrity (published by Lansdown Media, UK) supplies a fresh reflection on what Trollope saw and wrote.

Dr Nigel Starck “The mix of acclamation and condemnation that Trollope provoked; his encounters with gold prospectors, Indigenous Australians and New Zealanders, pioneers and convicts all feature in the book,” Dr Starck says.

“We also discover that Trollope’s son, who was a sheep farmer in Australia, inspired one of Trollope’s novels and that the ancient Trollope family baronetcy has been inherited by Trollope’s Australian descendants after misadventure and misfortune elsewhere in the extended family. This title is held today by one of the author’s great-great-grandsons, a Sydney schoolteacher. 

“It’s a rollicking tale and one with many twists and turns, but in its way, Trollope’s writings from that journey are an early instance of investigative journalism and one that is wonderfully revealing about Australia’s emerging society.”

The First Celebrity, with a foreword by Joanna Trollope, adds an important dimension to the Australian and New Zealand literary canon. It will be launched in Adelaide on September 25.

The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australasian Odyssey by Nigel Starck (published by Lansdown Media) ISBN 978-0-9573570-1-3, 207 pages, RRP $29.95 

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: 08 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au


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