Fanny Trollope, mother of famed Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, was famous in her own right for her snobby travel books like Domestic Manners of the Americans and nearly three dozen novels hastily written to feed her family. Pamela Neville-Sington, editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Fanny's Domestic Manners, gives away her take on this richly amusing life in her book's subtitle, The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman. As with a Defoe heroine, Moll Flanders, or the like, Fanny Trollope's rollicking sense of fun, witty tongue, and feel for Victorian comedy--sometimes verging on the grotesque--is preserved in this book.
Referring to one of her own books as "six hundred pages of griffonage"--or care, illegible handwriting--Fanny's own life was a different matter. She made arch observations when her brother insisted on eating soup for dinner against a doctor's orders and died as a result, and she herself wrote into her will that one of her veins was to be opened after death, and if she didn't react, it would prove that she was indeed dead. Contemporaries may have scorned her--Thackeray, although he read her books, said that she should stick to making puddings--and her own son Anthony disliked what she wrote, but as Neville-Sington aptly points out, he might have referring to Mom when he wrote of one character in a novel: "I do not know that she was at all points a lady, but had Fate willed it she would have been a thorough gentleman." A fun read and perfect gift item for admirers of British literary Victoriana. --Benjamin Ivry