Anthony Trollope 1st Pub:1862 This ed: (a replica reprint )Dover 1981 320pp
Illustrations by John Everett Millais
“It is not true that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet”
Ha Ha – all my esteemed literary readers will laugh along with me I am sure. I read this book because a) I do so love a good Victorian melodrama and b) I thought it was by one on my favourite authors – you know, that guy who wrote ‘Vanity Fair’ one of my favourite all time books. *Ha Ha* I can hear you all laughing now – imagine getting Trollope mixed up with Thackeray. Anthony with William Makepeace – I chortle still.
This was still a very enjoyable read – despite it having come to my bedside table under false pretences. A dense courtroom drama – perhaps not for the nervous beginner - revenge, love, retribution, lawyers, goodness and badness and several sweet romantic sub plots.
I think there is a vision of Victorian England as being very moralistic and hypocritical – fundamentalist even – in its views of right and wrong. I am sure that was true in the majority of cases, but books such as this delve deeply into the complex human psyche and no one is allowed to be simply all good and all bad. Our heroine, Lady Emily Mason should be a criminal but many work to save her from this fate – feelings of lawyerly professional pride or friendship or an innate sense of justice inspire them but in the end, Trollope asks us, who can be said to be good and who bad? Who should judge? And who decides the standards that we judge by?
Sitting somewhere between the serious social commentary of Elizabeth Gaskell and the more sugar-coated Dickens, despite not being by Thackeray, this novel is definitely worth the effort.