The pillar box and Costa Rica

What is the unlikely connection between the pillar (post) box almost opposite Mum’s house and Costa Rica?

The answer is Victorian author Anthony Trollope (see here), whose novel “The way we live now” has been a favorite of mine for many years.

Trollope spent years working for the Postal Service and is credited with introducing the world-famous red pillar box. He also traveled to the Caribbean and Central America and wrote about the experience. I am trying to obtain a copy of his book “The West Indies and the Spanish Main,” which should make interesting reading.

The blurb for the book reads:

“Coping with ill-iced claret, rotten walnuts, and withered apples, British Postal Service employee and successful Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope sailed aboard the Atrato from the English port of Southampton to Kingston, Jamaica, in November, 1858 to survey land and conclude treaties in the West Indies and Central America for the English government. In the course of his extended sojourn, he also wrote a book — not about official business but rather about the islands he visited and the people he met; about breathtaking landscapes, exotic foods, the tropical climate, earthquakes, Panamanian railroads, Cuban cigars, racial hierarchies, and colonial customs.”

In his letters, Trollope had the following to say about San José:

“On the central plain of that portion of Central America which is called Costa Rica stands the city of San Jose. It is the capital of the Republic – for Costa Rica is a Republic – and, for Central America, is a town of some importance. It is in the middle of the coffee district, surrounded by rich soil on which the sugar-cane is produced, is blessed with a climate only moderately hot, and the native inhabitants are neither cut-throats nor cannibals. It may be said, therefore, that by comparison with some other spots to which Englishmen and others are congregated for the gathering together of money, San Jose may be considered as a happy region; but, nevertheless, a life there is not in every way desirable. It is a dull place, with little to interest either the eye or the ear. Although the heat of the tropics is but little felt there on account of its altitude, men and women become too lifeless for much enterprise. There is no society. There are a few Germans and a few Englishmen in the place, who see each other on matters of business during the day; but, sombre as life generally is, they seem to care little for each other’s company on any other footing. I know not to what point the aspirations of the Germans may stretch themselves, but to the English the one idea that gives salt to life is the idea of home. On some day, however distant it may be, they will once more turn their faces towards the little northern island, and then all will be well with them.”

At least he liked the weather. “No climate can, I imagine, be more favorable to fertility and to man’s comfort at the same time than that of the interior of Costa Rica.”

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