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Can You Forgive Her?
Introduction by Professor David Skilton
739 pages 40 original illustrations by Phiz (Hablot Knight-Browne) and others.
On rare occasions in literature, a novelist creates a character who comes to dominate a book, almost accidentally. Such a character is Lady Glencora Palliser, who, with her husband and lover, come, almost at the end of the first volume, to the rescue of the rather pedestrian novel which Trollope had till then been making out of his failed play, The Noble Jilt. The plot needed rescue. Henry James remarked of his heroine, Alice Vavasor, who finds it difficult to choose between an unreliable cousin with an evil streak, and a patently upright and patient gentleman, 'that he could forget her, too, for that matter'. In fact, she jilts both her admirers twice, and ends up by marrying the gentleman. Twined round this story in counterpoint are the mildly comic affairs of the Widow Greenow (whom most of us will forget): and the marital fortunes of the Pallisers. In fact, the Pallisers had first appeared in The Small House at Allington, written three years earlier. Barely a couple of pages show us the somewhat wooden Plantagenet being rebuffed by the equally wooden but virtuous Lady Dumbello, to the dismay of his family, and in particular its head, the Duke of Omnium. 'As we shall not have space to return to his affairs in this little history', Trollope swiftly marries him in an off-hand paragraph to the lively blue-eyed Lady Glencora MacCluskie, whose liaison with the unsuitable Burgo Fitzgerald has been worrying her guardians. This tidy arrangement seems final. 'We will hope that Lady Glencora was satisfied', says the narrator. Trollope shows us, unmistakably, how very far from satisfied a spirited girl may be with a good but insensitive husband, when the sexual side of such an arrangement is less happy than it should be. In putting this predicament unambiguously to a conventional Victorian audience, he was walking on dangerous ground. He did it brilliantly. And if he produces a happy ending, there is no doubting the reality of the characters he invented. 'They have served me', he said of the Pallisers, 'as safety valves to deliver my soul'.
Publication Price: £38.00/$76.00.
Introduction by Enoch Powell
631 pages 20 original illustrations by Sir John Millais
Phineas Finn is a handsome, clever and ambitious young man, the only son of a capable but not over-endowed Irish country doctor. Through his father's long friendship with one of his patients, Lord Tulla, he gets the offer of a pocket borough in Galway. His life is transformed. Not for him a slow decline in the Irish bogs, or a dreary slog as a barrister round the Irish circuits. He is at once in London: and his charm and quick mind and his social success lead him from one good contact to another. But if his brain is cool and resourceful, his heart is ever susceptible. He has already left behind a secret fiancée in his home town. But almost immediately he is dallying with the rich and influential Lady Laura Standish. She falls in love with him: he fails for once to seize his chance, and she marries instead a rich, but unlikable landowner, Robert Kennedy - an arrangement which rapidly proves a disaster, since they are simply incompatible. Yet, within weeks, the unperceptive Phineas is seeking her help in his courtship of another charming young heiress, Lady Violet Effingham. This affair is to lead him in the end to a duel with his friend, and Lady Laura's brother, the wild Lord Chiltern. Unabashed, he next has a tilt at a widowed millionairess, Madame Max Goesler, who offers him her hand and her fortune. Agonizingly tempted, he refuses her, unable to break the secret promise he has never acknowledged. By now a rising young politician (despite the complications of his love life) Phineas becomes a Junior Minister at The Treasury, only for his whole career to come to grief in the steamy morass of the Irish question, which brings down the government, and incidentally, abolishes his seat. 'I cannot tell you how sad this makes me', says Mr Monk, the retiring Prime Minister, 'I try to shake off the melancholy', replies Phineas 'but it gets the better of me just at present'. In that depressed mood, he returns to Ireland, and his long abandoned Mary, who knows much of his political rise and fall, but, luckily, nothing of his erratic love life.
Publication Price: £38.00/$76.00
The Eustace Diamonds
Introduction by P. D. James
"I have long known, Mr Trollope, your churchmen and churchwomen. May I congratulate you on the same happy lightness of touch in the portrait of your new adventuress? said Disraeli (not a great reader of other men's novels), on meeting Trollope at Lord Stanhope's dinner table. The sparkling book referred to earned the author an advance of £1,250. The publisher had a bargain. It secured for him one of the most entertaining, worthless, attractive women in the history of the novel: the totally amoral Lizzie Eustace. With her came one of Trollope's best plots: and some of his most devastatingly ironic portraits. For instance, Lord Fawn: the impoverished politician with an impregnable estimate of his own (and his dreadful family's) worth: but with none of the resources of wit or wealth to back it - truly a Wet before his time. Trollope's ingenious story revolves around the immensely valuable and spectacular necklace Lizzie inherited from the rich, ailing baronet she married for his money, and quickly killed with her indifference. Entailed to her son and heir, she appropriates it as her own, with a view to pawning it or selling it as fast as she can. Only the energetic, persistent, and resolute efforts of the Eustace family's solicitor stand between her and success. Totally unscrupulous, she is at the same time casting around to entrap another husband to keep her in the style to which so rapidly she has become accustomed. Indeed, she pursues several simultaneously, scattering promises like confetti, with a flash of "her eyes, in which she herself thought the lustre of her beauty lay", as Trollope tells us, and which were "blue and clear, bright as cerulean waters." It is a lucky reader who comes fresh to this compelling tour-de-force.
Introduction by Robin Gilmour
628 pages 24 original illustrations by Francis M. Hall
Phineas Finn left Trollope's most romantic hero back at the foot of the ladder, in a state of subdued resignation. This splendid sequel opens seven years later. Phineas is now settled in a humdrum job in Dublin. His first love, Mary Flood Jones, has died in childbirth. His life is at a low ebb when, out of the blue, he receives an open invitation from his former Liberal colleagues to return to the fray. Taking a chance, as always, unencumbered with family, he accepts the challenge. His return is full of drama. First, there is the unresolved problem of Lady Laura Kennedy - now separated from her obsessive and jealous husband, and living abroad with her father. Kennedy believes Phineas is the sole cause of his wife's estrangement, and tries to shoot him. The affair is hushed up: Kennedy sinks rapidly into total madness, and dies. But worse is to follow. Phineas Redux is a corrosive cat's cradle of different shades of jealousy: and Phineas is the focus of most of them. Professional jealousy makes his rival Bonteen into an enemy - jealousy at the Irish puppy whose career is moving altogether too quickly upwards. One night there is a public quarrel at the Club. On his way home Bonteen is murdered. As in a nightmare, Phineas is slowly, almost incredibly, drawn into the web of suspicion; eventually to find himself in the dock, charged with murder. Jealousy, too, inspires Madame Max Goesler, the wealthy and enigmatic widow who secretly loves Phineas. It is her persistence and ingenuity which, in the nick of time, finds the evidence that acquits him. Unnerved by his ordeal, Phineas leaves active politics altogether: and marries the beautiful Madame Max. Justice is served. Jealousy is put to rest.
The Prime Minister
Introduction by Asa Briggs
Plantagenet Palliser is one of Trollope's most marvelously realised creations. Over three different novels, Trollope gives us an extraordinary portrait of a character who is allowed to grow before our eyes: not only to grow up, and eventually to age, but to exhibit clearly the gradual accretions of time and harsh experience. Our first glimpse of him, in The Small House at Allington, shows us an uninteresting automaton in pursuit of an equally unresponsive beauty, Lady Dumbello (Grizelda Grantly). Nothing remarkable there. In Can You Forgive Her?, he is first presented as the dull professional politician, the boring enthusiast for decimal coinage: but we are allowed to see the human side too; and it indeed becomes possible to imagine how the volatile Lady Glencora could become reconciled to him, despite the superficial attractions of Burgo Fitzgerald. In this book, Trollope deliberately set out to show us the professional statesman. 'He should have rank, and intellect, and parliamentary habits ... and he should also have an inextinguishable, inexhaustible love of this country as the ruling principle of his life, and it should so rule him that all other things should be made to give way to it.' It has to be said that they do. The Prime Minister, on its own, is not a great achievement. It has, unusually for Trollope, a rather wooden heroine in Emily Wharton, who is swept off her feet by one of the author's most obviously blatant cads, the dishonest share pusher Ferdinand Lopez, whose main attraction seems to be a dazzling row of white teeth. A determined climber and name dropper, he succeeds in being selected as Parliamentary candidate for the Pallisers' pocket borough, not altogether convincingly. This causes a great deal of unnecessary aggravation for the Prime Minister, who becomes involved in a payment to Lopez to protect Lady Glencora's name and reputation. This comes to light, of course, in the gutter press through the odious Quintus Slide: and the affair is only put to rest by a graceful speech in the House from Phineas Finn. Ferdinand Lopez swiftly comes to a predictably sticky end, committing suicide rather dramatically at Tenway Junction.
The Duke's Children
Introduction by Roy Jenkins
This, the last of the Palliser novels, makes a graceful close to one of the most vivid sagas in English Literature. As so often, Anthony Trollope sets himself a Herculaean task, by disposing of the reader's favourite character, Lady Glencora, by the third page. Her death overwhelms the Duke, though it need not do the same for the reader. For some months she had been with her family in Italy; there she had begun to connive at the mutual passion of her daughter - a strapping and potentially troublesome girl of nineteen - for a handsome twenty-two year old from Cornwall, who is a close friend of her brother, Lord Silverbridge. Her interference in this, without the Duke's knowledge, was the worst of her legacies, and it leads, as her actions before had so often led, into a sea of troubles. Now, however, there is no exuberant Glencora to turn to: the Duke, grievously stricken, has to turn elsewhere, first to Mrs Phineas Finn. We are shown a strong character, who had never realised quite how important his wife had been - not only in the family, but in his own private life. 'It was as though a man should be suddenly called to live without arms or legs. Though he had loved her dearly, he had sometimes been inclined to think, in the exuberance of her spirits, she had been a trouble rather than a support to him...' Despite Mrs Finn's best efforts, the Duke can at first adopt no role except that of the heavy father. Frank Tregear is forbidden to see Lady Mary. Mrs Finn is caught between the two, and has to take all the Duke's anger. This, as the plot develops, leaves him peculiarly vulnerable: cut off from the advice he desperately needs - on how to handle human beings, in this case his own children - and increasingly isolated in a world he has been accustomed to rule. Meanwhile his son, not only compromised by introducing Lady Mary's unwelcome suitor into the family circle, gets himself into an unholy mess with a shifty racing crook, called Major Tifto. All is happily resolved by the end of the book. It is a measure of Trollope's sympathy that he makes the Duke so endearing when at bay: and also totally realistic.
Publication Price: £35.00/$70.00
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©All images and text are the property of the Trollope Society