As young adult, Trollope endured seven years of poverty in the General Post Office in London before accepting a better-paying position as postal surveyor in Banagher, Ireland in 1841. The years in Ireland formed the basis of his second career delineating clerical life in small cathedral towns.
Henry Norman, with his friends Alaric and Charley Tudor, all of them in government service, were frequent visitors at the suburban home of Mrs. Woodward and her three daughters. Henry loved Gertrude, the eldest daughter, but she refused him as she loved Alaric. Alaric won by competitive examination a place to which Henry aspired but for which he was unwilling to compete and, when he became engaged to Gertrude, Henry felt doubly aggrieved and bitterly angry.
In a desire to make money quickly, Alaric fell into the hands of Undy Scott, a stockbroker, who induced him to join in several dubious ventures, for one of which he was persuaded to embezzle from a trust fund. He was tried and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
Henry meantime had succeeded to the family estates and was engaged to marry the second Woodward daughter, Linda. He generously aided Gertrude in clearing up her husband's affairs and, on Alaric's release from prison, helped them to emigrate to Australia.
The third clerk, Charley Tudor, spent several profitless years in the Internal Navigation Office, wasting his time and getting into debt. He became involved with the moneylenders, narrowly escaped marriage with a barmaid and completely lost faith in himself.. Alaric's catastrophe, however, brought him to a realization of his danger and, largely through the influence of Katie Woodward, he pulled himself together, secured a better position, and when Katie recovered from a seemingly mortal illness, they were married.
"I return the Three Clerks with our true thanks and appreciation. We both quite agree with you in considering it the best of the three clever novels before the public. [The Warden and Barchester Towers are probably meant.] My husband, who can seldom get a novel to hold him, has been held by all three, and by this the strongest. Also, it has qualities which the others gave no sign of. For instance, I was wrung to tears by the third volume. What a thoroughly man's book it is." - Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mrs. T. A. Trollope, dated Casa Guidi, Fiesole.
From, T. A. Trollope What I Remember. "Trollope lovers will treasure this book for two reasons - the first appearance of Mr. Chaffanbrass, the lawyer, and the picture of Trollope's own early days in London as shown in the story of Charley Tudor.