Synopses & Reviews
In this world of bribes and vendettas, swindling and suicide, in which heiresses are won like gambling stakes, Trollope's characters embody all the vices: Lady Carbury, a 43-year-old coquette, 'false from head to foot'; her son Felix, with the 'instincts of a horse, not approaching the higher sympathies of a dog'; and Melmotte, the colossal figure who dominates the book, a 'horrid, big, rich scoundrel...a bloated swindler...a vile city ruffian'.
This novel is about a society riddled with corruption - literary, financial, and moral. It is a portrait of a country heedlessly riding the crest of an irresponsible economic boom and contains, in the figure of the dishonest financier Melmotte, one of Trollope's vivid characterisations.
"Trollope did not write for posterity," observed Henry James. "He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket."
Considered by contemporary critics to be Trollope's greatest novel, The Way We Live Now is a satire of the literary world of London in the 1870s and a bold indictment of the new power of speculative finance in English life. "I was instigated by what I conceived to be the commercial profligacy of the age," Trollope said.His story concerns Augustus Melmotte, a French swindler and scoundrel, and his daughter, to whom Felix Carbury, adored son of the authoress Lady Carbury, is induced to propose marriage for the sake of securing a fortune. Trollope knew well the difficulties of dealing with editors, publishers, reviewers, and the public; his portrait of Lady Carbury, impetuous, unprincipled, and unswervingly devoted to her own self-promotion, is one of his finest satirical achievements.
His picture of late nineteenth century England is of a society on the verge of moral bankruptcy, where the traditional virtues of Tory squirearchy, represented by Roger Carbury, prove to be no match for the financial genius of Augustus Melmotte. In The Way We Live Now Trollope combines his talents as a portraitist and his skills as a storyteller to give us life as it was lived more than a hundred years ago.
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About the Author
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was born in London to a bankrupt barrister father and a mother who, as a well-known writer, supported the family. Trollope enjoyed considerable acclaim both as a novelist and as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. He published more than forty novels and many short stories that are regarded by some as among the greatest of nineteenth-century fiction.
Frank Kermode is among our greatest contemporary critics. He has written and edited many works, among them The Sense of Ending and Shakespeares Language.