Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), was an English Victorian writer who was perhaps more
prolific than successful, who, it seems was educated by the school of hard knocks, and whose life was as colorful and at the same time ordinary as the
characters he created. However, having said that, his books are still read now, nearly 150 years later, and his audience is perhaps even more intrigued with
his works than during his lifetime, not an altogether unusual situation. There is a Trollope Society in both the U.K. and the U.S.. And, it isn't that he was
not a successful writer in his life—he was able to support his family through it, yet it appears that he had a tendency to leave bits of bad energy wherever
he went, and he was certainly not a stranger to failure.
His father was a barrister, a failure at farming, and lost an expected inheritance. This quote from Wikipedia referring to Trollope's father, sums up much of young Anthony's struggles in early life, which he later expressed through his novels:
As a son of landed gentry, he wanted his sons to be raised as gentlemen and to attend Oxford or Cambridge. Anthony Trollope suffered much misery in his boyhood owing to the disparity between the privileged background of his parents and their comparatively small means.
Trollope drew from this and his other life experiences, his novels revolving
around social, political, and gender issues, including struggles with poverty. This novel is a little of all of the above. It is the first of his works I have
ever read, and I promise, you will be seeing many more reviews by this writer in the future. Project Gutenberg has available most if not all of his works,
including this one and the two series he wrote. I can't say this novel is filled with fast-paced excitement, but it thoroughly grabbed my attention, and
I read it very quickly because I was unable to set it down.
The plot is very simple; in fact it can be described in a few sentences: Sir Harry Hotspur's beloved son, his heir, has died, leaving him a beloved daughter, and a scoundrel of a cousin, who also bears the name Hotspur. It is an extremely important issue that the Hotspur name should continue. Though Harry plans to leave his estate to his daughter, he also wants her to marry, and though he has one young eligible man in mind, who has agreed to take on the Hotspur name, the easiest way of solving the dilemma is that Emily should marry Cousin George.
Captain George Hotspur, however, has a less than squeaky-clean reputation. Harry struggles with this, although the young man is well-liked, charming, and handsome. He goes against his better judgment in allowing this man into his house, and worse yet, allowing Emily to believe that he is an eligible mate for her.
The story-line really doesn't move forward, but revolves around the issue of George and his ungentlemanly behavior. The bulk of the story is in the discovery, unfortunately too late, of just how wicked this man is. Unfortunately, because Emily has already fallen in love with him. Though George is considered a blackguard by many, to Emily, he is a black sheep who may be washed white by the proper care and guidance. That, however, is not to be.
While we don't get much in the way of action, we do get a number of intense character studies. Sir Harry, at first believes that his estate, and where it will end up after he is gone, is of prime importance. He learns the hard way that his priorities have been incorrect, when he realizes the irreversible damage that has been done to his precious daughter by using her as a means to achieve his goal.
And his daughter, Emily, is a stubborn one—very much a Hotspur at heart. The two, father and daughter, become pitted against each other, and Sir Harry submits to her even when he knows the decision is wrong rather than lose her love.
But perhaps the most fascinating character is George Hotspur. One is amazed at how horrible this man is, while to all the world he is charming and welcome company in social circles. As Sir Harry finally is forced to do some serious investigating, through the service of his attorney, we become aghast at the acts he has committed, actually bordering on criminal behavior, and his only concern is to stay out of jail, away from his creditors, and to make damned sure he marries his wealthy cousin. He is addicted to gambling, addicted to alcohol, addicted to racehorses, plus he has another woman. And then he is found cheating at cards. These are not acceptable criteria to win him the hand of Emily, though she has accepted before her father had been consulted, and long after the point when Sir Harry would even consider him as a son-in-law.
We struggle, too as we anguish over the struggle between Emily and her father, hoping that under no circumstances will George ever be permitted to win his goal of this strong yet naïve young lady. And we cringe in horror as the whole truth about George, an utterly useless, vulgar, and conscience-less member of the human race becomes fully revealed.
This novel is not complicated reading at all, which totally absorbs its audience into the lives of the characters. We find ourselves caring very much about the outcome of the situation, which, to me is always the mark of a good book. Highly recommended reading, and you can download it for free at Project Gutenberg on the Anthony Trollope page.
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