Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Anthony Trollope “Ralph. the Heir”

I love Anthony Trollope. He is certainly among my top ten authors. I found this one at the flea market a couple of weeks ago and have been dying to start it. The problem is that his books are un-put-downable. It is not the plot so much as the style of writing that makes one want to carry on until, all too soon, the 731 pages are read.

Ralph the Heir was originally published in 1871. The novel moves from country estates to London clubs, with property, illegitimacy and inheritance behind the character studies. The style of life may have changed somewhat in 130 years but the character delineation is as accurate now as it ever was.

ANTHONY TROLLOPE (1815-1882), the son of a failing barrister, was brought up an awkward and unhappy youth amidst debt and deprivation. His first novel appeared in 1847 when he had established himself in a successful civil service career in the Post Office. He became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of Trollope's best-loved works, known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire; he also wrote penetrating novels on political, , social, and gender issues and conflicts of his day. Another brilliant series is the six Palliser novels. In all he wrote 47 novels and 16 other books. I have read the Barsetshire and Palliser novels and a couple of others but the lesser known works are hard to get hold of nowadays.

Chronicles of Barsetshire
1. The Warden (1855)
2. Barchester Towers (1857)
3. Doctor Thorne (1858)
4. Framley Parsonage (1860)
5. The Small House at Allington (1864)
6. The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867)
The Barsetshire Novels (omnibus) (1906)

1. Can You Forgive Her? (1864)
2. Phineas Finn (1869)
3. The Eustace Diamonds (1872)
4. Phineas Redux (1874)
5. The Prime Minister (1876)
6. The Duke's Children (1880)

The other three I have read are “Miss MacKenzie” (1865); “He Knew He Was Right” (1869) ; and “Cousin Henry” (1879).

By the mid- 1860s, Trollope had reached a fairly senior position within the Post Office hierarchy. Postal history credits him with introducing the pillar box (the ubiquitous bright red mail-box) in the UK – but in fact the boxes were painted green until later in the Victorian era. He left the Post Office in 1867.

Some quotes from 'Ralph, the Heir':-
“He was a man with prejudices, - kindly, gentlemanlike, amiable prejudices.”

“But he had no such hope. Clarissa had given him thrice that answer, which of all answers is the most grievous to the true-hearted lover. ‘She felt for him unbounded esteem, and would always regard him as a friend.’ A short decided negative, or a doubtful no, or even an indignant repulse, may be changed, may give way to second convictions, or to better acquaintance, or to altered circumstances, or even simply to perseverance. But an assurance of esteem and friendship means, and can only mean, that the lady regards her lover as she might do some old uncle or patriarchal family connection, whom, after a fashion, she loves, but who can never be to her the one creature to be worshipped above all others.”

“We may almost say that a man is only as strong as his weakest moment.”

“It was a foul, rainy, muddy, sloppy morning, without a glimmer of sun, with that thick, pervading, melancholy atmosphere which forces for the time upon imaginative men a conviction that nothing is worth anything.”


  1. www.kessinger.net has nearly all the titles in print in trade paperback form. I belong to an online discussion group, trollope@yahoogroups.com that is working its way through the books, and I can almost always find the current book under discussion from Kessinger. They've only failed me once or twice. We discussed Ralph the Heir a few months ago. It will not make my list of top 10 Trollope novels, but it has much to recommend it as a character study.

  2. Trollope lovers have a way of finding one another. I am currently reading Phineas Redux. I blog about books at bibliophiliac-bibliophiac.blogspot.com. I am a full-time English teacher and part-time passionate blogger.


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