1815: Anthony Trollope - Palliser series VI: The Duke's Children
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I was discouraged when one of my favorite Trollope characters, Lady Glencora, dies unexpectedly in the first chapter of this, the last of the Palliser series. But gradually I warmed to the story of the Duke's challenges in the mostly unfamiliar role of shepherding his almost-grown children to full adulthood.
Lord Silverbridge, the eldest, has been expelled from Oxford for a prank, is involved with an unsavory character who co-owns a race horse with him, and espouses conservative politics and seeks to get elected to Parliament from the local district as a conservative (his father, who had been the prime minister, had always been a liberal). His father wants him to settle down and get married, and is relieved when he mentions his intention to marry Lady Mabel Grex. But she turns him down (although she actually comes to want to marry him), and Silverbridge falls in love with an American girl, Isabel Bocassen, whose father is studying at the British Library.
Lady Mary, the next child, has fallen in love with Silverbridge's closest friend, Francis (Frank) Treager, who is completely unsuitable, according to the Duke's way of thinking, because he has no money and no title. Much of the novel is devoted to Mary's pining away for Treager and her "obstinate" refusal to consider any other suitor. Gerald, the youngest, gets kicked out of Cambridge, runs up a huge gambling debt, and ultimately is admitted to Oxford. He gets the shortest shrift, the novel basically being about Silverbridge and Mary.
Of course, as in any Trollope novel, there are subplots, but this book, of all that I've read so far, makes least use of them. The book is basically about how the Duke comes to accept his children's marriage choices, influenced by several others including the always delightful Mrs. Finn, largely because he comes to realize that he wants to see them happy. But it is also about the difference between English and American attitudes towards marriage, the role of women and the need for poor women to marry someone with money even if they love someone poor, horse racing, and hunting.
I am sorry to leave the Pallisers; next up the Barsetshires.
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