Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Way We Live Now: Anthony Trollope

Trollope was a conservative but...

It takes one to know one...

The Tories in The Way We Live Now are a sorry bunch- ignorant, bigoted, lazy, materialistic. They'd sell their grannies to make an easy buck, but since grannies aren't particularly saleable they sell their sons and daughters instead. When someone comes along with a bit of a talent in the money-making line they prostrate themselves at his feet- even though he's obviously a wrong'un. The swindler- Melmotte- is a brute, but at least he has energy- which they singularly lack- and there's something Napoleonic about his trajectory from gutter to gutter by way of the highest reaches of society. They, the conservatives grandees, are brutal too- under their craquelure of breeding- but also utterly feeble- in head, heart and hand. They despise trade and hate Jews- but if a Jewish merchant punts money their way they'll scoop it up- while reserving the right to sneer at him behind his back. They sit on their estates- if they're old- and plot their dynastic marriages- or in their clubs- if they're young- and gamble their money away. Typical of the younger sort is Sir Felix Carbury- a man so enervated that he flunks his elopement with an heiress who could solve his money worries even though the girl has made all the arrangements for him.

Good conservatives do exist- staunch, old squirearchical types like Roger Carbury- but their day is over- and positioning yourself so that you're always looking backwards at a day that is over condemns you to futility and pathos. His protégé gets into a relationship with a energetic American widow- a woman with a past in the Wild West, where she shot a would-be rapist dead- and he does all he can to discourage and thwart the love match because, my boy, consider her antecedents...


P.S. The first sentence of this post is untrue. Trollope was actually a Liberal. My mistake. He did, however, describe himself as "a conservative Liberal"...

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