How Frances Got Her Groove Back
Upon reading Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope, the readers are introduced to a woman named Frances who expects to find American society similar to that of England. As she describes Americans as an uncultured, illiterate nation without the proper manners of a civilized nation, the reader beings to wonder; just who is Frances Trollope and what qualifies her to make such descriptions?
Frances was born near Bristol, England in 1779, the middle child of William and Frances Milton. Her father was the Vicar for the city who home educated young Frances in languages, the arts, and the classics. In 1809, after her father remarried, she moved away to live with her brother in London. It was there that she met a barrister, Thomas Trollope, and fell in love with him. Within a year she and Thomas were married. The Trollopes had seven children within an eight year time span.
After Thomas failed as a barrister, he then decided to try his hand at farming, taking over the enormous task of managing a 160 acre farm. Being as he had no experience at farming, the family soon ended up heavily in debt when Thomas failed at this endeavor as well. At this point, Frances and her husband decided to travel to America in hopes of saving the family’s finances and giving their children a better future. So Frances, Thomas, and three of their children set sail in 1827 to meet up with Frances Wright, a friend of Ms. Trollope’s, and establish a community called New Hope outside of Memphis, Tennessee.
But this adventure also turned out to be a flop; Frances described the new community as a malaria infested swamp. The Trollopes left Tennessee behind and set their new destination towards Cincinnati in 1828. While here, Frances decided to open a shop that would sell finer things from England to the uncivilized citizens of America, as an attempt to bring English society to them. The goal was to be more than just a shop; the building would also house a saloon, coffee house, exhibition gallery, and a ballroom. Construction began on the four-story building in 1829, but the Trollopes were forced to abandon the project before it was completed due to financial strains. The building stood until 1881 when it was torn down, and was commonly referred to as “Trollope’s Folly.”
By 1831, the Trollopes had left the United States and returned to England. After their return, Frances decided to write about their trip across the pond and their experiences while in America, and in 1832 Domestic Manners of the Americans was published. The book was an enormous success, so much so in fact that Frances earned more than enough money to pay back all of the family’s debt. This success helped launch Frances’s career as an author. She went on to write many novels, some about her traveling experiences. Frances also wrote about social and political problems within English and American society. One such novel was about slavery in American, and served as a precursor to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As a result of this, Frances was also able to provide a better future to her children; indeed, two of her sons followed in her footsteps and became well-known authors as well.
“Domestic Manners of the Americans by Mrs. Frances Trollope.” LiBlog: the blog of UC Libraries. University of Cincinnati Libraries. Web. 4 Dec 2013. < http://www.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/2011/08/09/domestic-manners-of-the-americans-by-mrs-frances-trollope/>
Krueger, Christine, and George Stade. Encyclopedia of British Writers, 19th and 20th Centuries. New York: Facts on File, 2003. 345-347. Print.
Simkin, John. “Frances Trollope: Biography.” Spartacus Educational. Spartacus Educational. Web. 4 Dec 2013. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/IRtrollope.htm>.
Trollope, Frances. “Domestic Manners of the Americans.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 4th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 1749-1752. Print.
Trollopes Bazzar. N.d. Graphic. University of Cincinnati Libraries, Cincinnati. Web. 4 Dec 2013. < http://www.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/trollopes-bazaar_2.jpg>