Victorian Readalong Q3: Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

KeskusteluClub Read 2022

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Victorian Readalong Q3: Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

heinäkuu 21, 2022, 12:13 pm

Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

Written in 1871, initially serialized in the Fortnightly Review and Australasian in 1873-1874 and finally published as a book in 1874.

If you are reading, let us know what you think about it (and if you plan to but had not started yet, what do you expect?)

heinäkuu 28, 2022, 8:59 pm

>1 AnnieMod: Just saw this, apropos of updating cover of my book. Will start tonight!

heinäkuu 29, 2022, 9:32 pm

85 pages in. Enjoying greatly. Is anyone else reading along?

heinäkuu 30, 2022, 2:00 am

>3 booksaplenty1949: I will be reading Lady Anna, probably in late August or September, after I finish Hester.

heinäkuu 30, 2022, 5:25 am

I'm reading this one--it's going pretty fast.

elokuu 2, 2022, 9:09 pm

>5 DieFledermaus: Yes, quite the page-turner, despite the fact that the class struggle which informs the plot seems extremely remote. But at the half-way point still quite unsure how it will all pan out.

elokuu 7, 2022, 9:25 am

>5 DieFledermaus: Finished. Found it quite a page-turner despite being totally unable to relate to the visceral resistance to the idea of an aristocratic woman marrying a tailor. It was treated as a form of miscegenation—-not by Trollope, of course, but by most of the characters in the novel. So strange.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2022, 1:57 pm

Warning: *Spoilers ahead*

I finished Lady Anna, which was a re-read for me, although I only remembered that I had enjoyed the book, but remembered next to nothing about the plot.

Trollope sets up a somewhat complicated premise right at the beginning. Set in the 1830s, Lady Anna is the daughter of the Earl of Lovel and his wife Lady Lovel. The Earl left the family when Anna was small, claiming he was married to someone else prior to marrying Lady Lovel. Lady Lovel and Anna are left barely able to exist, and are treated with kindness and provided money by their neighbor, Thomas Thwaite, a tailor. Anna grows up playing and learning to love Daniel, the tailor's son, and they become secretly pledged to one another.

The main story opens when Anna is aged 20; eventually her mother's marriage to the Earl is proved legitimate; the Earl dies; and the main crux of the story begins, as the Earl's will and his vast fortune are determined. Anna is the only child of the Earl, but his title will automatically revert to a distant young male cousin. The story now follows as to who will get this fortune--the daughter Anna or the new young Earl. Trollope includes a court scene and eventually it appears that the money will go to Lady Anna.

The heart of the novel (and our true main character), however, is focused on Anna's mother, now the acknowledged Countess Lovel; in this respect it is similar to Hester, in which it is Hester's aunt, Catherine Vernon, who is the focus of Oliphant's story. Countess Lovel is determined for Anna to marry the new young Earl and is incensed at Anna's refusal to give up the tailor's son. Trollope expertly shows Countess Lovel's thought process and her arguments seem reasonable: combine the title with the wealth in marriage. But Trollope brilliantly portrays how this mother's obsession turns slowly into madness, and the final terrible result of that madness. I was immediately struck with the likeness to two similar characters in Trollope: Louis Trevelyan in He Knew He Was Right and Robert Kennedy in the Palliser series.

Anna has a terrible choice before her: either she goes along with her mother (and the lawyers and society) to marry her cousin the Earl (and possibly repeat her mother's own fate!); OR she stays true to her promise to Daniel Thwaite, the tailor's son. Both young men, as portrayed by Trollope, have their issues--the Earl is kind but idle and aimless, while Thwaite is rigid and somewhat domineering, but hard-working and loyal to Anna, with or without a fortune. It is the Countess's final act of madness that secures Anna to choose Daniel Thwaite.

The Countess now perceives her fate as doomed--without her daughter well-married, she is "lost" to society and retires to a life in isolation. And as "Radical" as Daniel Thwaite proclaims to be and supposedly not interested in money, yet in the end, when given the choice to give Anna legal independent control of her wealth, Daniel asserts his right through marriage to control all of Anna's property. Thwaite and Anna's only choice for freedom from the restrictions of class is to leave England for Australia--to a new society that will perhaps accept them as they are.

One of the things I love about Trollope, and on display here, is how he can provide multiple sides to a question or problem. It is like he is turning these problems over and over in our minds: the good, the bad, the reasonable, the unacceptable, the possible, the probable outcome. When portraying women in society, he shows how both Countess Lovel and Lady Anna were severely restricted in their choices. They must marry, and they must strive to marry as well as can be expected for their rank, or they suffer consequences. By the time of this writing in the 1870s, marrying for love was more acceptable, perhaps in small part due to Trollope's own novels like Lady Anna.

syyskuu 22, 2022, 10:00 am

My ideas on Lady Anna from my thread in July

Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
first published in serial form in the Fortnightly Review from April 1873 to April 1874, then in book form in 1874

What do you do on an eight week voyage from England to Australia? If you're Anthony Trollope, you write a novel. That novel was Lady Anna. Once again, Trollope addresses the questions of marriage, money, and class, separately and in combination. It's not a dry predictable drone though; there is humour here too, especially when he feels his characters are taking themselves too seriously.

The woman who insisted on calling herself Countess Lovel, had been abandoned by the Earl shortly after their marriage. She was subsequently thrown out of their home penniless, with her infant daughter. Worse, the Earl announced he already had a wife in Sicily , so that theirs was no real marriage.

The friendless Countess insisted for twenty years that she was the lawful wife and his daughter was the Lady Anna, much to the scorn of those around. The Countess was given shelter and money by the tailor Thomas Thwaite. Anna and young Daniel Thwaite grew up together and in their late teens became engaged secretly. Then the Earl died. His title went to a nephew. His huge monetary assets had to be allocated somewhere. The nephew's family naturally felt he was the rightful beneficiary; the Countess believed the Lady Anna was.

So began a battle with many twists and turns through the legal system. If the Countess's marriage had not been legitimate, the Lady Anna would be a bastard as most already believed, and would inherit nothing. If the marriage had been legitimate, the Lady Anna would be the rightful legatee when she came of age.

Trollope skilfully presents the lawyers' machinations on both sides, and presents a Solicitor -General who ranks as one of the best characters in the book for his admirable ability to be all things to all concerned.

If the Lady Anna was legitimate and an heiress though, how could she possibly marry a tailor's son? Daniel considered himself a Radical and would have nothing to do with the Lovel family, giving Trollope the opportunity to explore hereditary titles and wealth. Then there was the thorny question of whether or not an engagement could be broken, something that seemed to be alright for a man to do, but not for a woman.

Although Lady Anna is the title of the book, it is really the Countess who steals the novel. She is forceful, focussed, and relentless in her pursuit of what she wants. Lovel family politics were nothing to her. This was a woman with nothing to lose. How was it all resolved? - no spoilers here.

syyskuu 22, 2022, 10:22 am

Hopping on the bandwagon, since I finished it the other day as well. I tried not to read what >8 kac522: and >9 SassyLassy: wrote before posting:

Lady Anna (1874) by Anthony Trollope (UK, 1815-1882)


This is mid-period Trollope, written in 1871 during a sea-voyage to Australia and published in book form three years later. It's a fairly lightweight novel, built around a small number of characters and a single main plot idea, and appeared shortly before the much more substantial and complex The way we live now.

The essence of the story is that the twenty-year-old heiress Lady Anna Lovel wants to marry her childhood friend Daniel Thwaite, to whom she's been secretly engaged for a long time, whilst her mother and everyone else around her wants her to marry her cousin Frederick, who has inherited the title of Earl Lovel, but not the money that goes with it. This is all complicated by the way Anna's evil father, the previous Earl Lovel, has tried to disinherit her and her mother by claiming that his marriage to Anna's mother was legally invalid. As a result, they spent Anna's childhood in litigation, poverty and social obscurity, their only real friends Daniel and his father, a Keswick tailor.

Cue two of Trollope's favourite ways to develop a story: legal quirks and stubbornness.

Trollope's most famous legal-quirk novel, The Eustace diamonds, was written very shortly before this one. In this case, the lawyers (on all sides) are benevolent, competent and professional, but the law itself is built so as to make things as difficult as possible for a woman whose husband (living or dead) doesn't want to support her. The only bright side is that it makes things even more difficult for the Earl's other discarded mistresses, who are all Italian and therefore not regarded as reliable witnesses.

Stubbornness is a difficult way to develop a story, since it requires having a character that doesn't change in any important way for long stretches of the plot, but it's a bit of a Trollope trademark. It's most usually middle-aged men who deploy it — see The last chronicle of Barset or He knew he was right, for instance — but this time we have a long, drawn out stalemate between Anna and her mother, who are both equally stubborn. The Countess can't admit the idea of her daughter marrying a tradesman, especially after all the humiliation and suffering she has endured to secure her own title; Anna can't admit the idea of breaking her promise to Daniel. Something has to give somewhere, but it takes a surprisingly long time before Trollope allows the story to reach its inevitable crisis.

Not Trollope at his best, but pretty good by anyone else's standards.

syyskuu 22, 2022, 10:29 am

>8 kac522: >9 SassyLassy: >10 thorold: — I have to admit that the actual form of the dénouement took me completely by surprise. Nobody expects the dowager countess to pull out a gun!

syyskuu 22, 2022, 10:42 am

>10 thorold: Good point about the quirky law and competent Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile here.

syyskuu 23, 2022, 5:51 pm

>9 SassyLassy: On the contrary, an Englishman who tried to unilaterally break off an engagement could be sued for “breach of promise,” whereas a woman could freely change her mind, at least as far as the law was concerned. The threat of a breach of promise suit is the main plot point in Henry James’s The Spoils of Poynton. According to Wikipedia this tort was not abolished in England until 1971.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 24, 2022, 4:34 pm

>13 booksaplenty1949: …and getting a little bit off topic, it’s also one of the main plot rules in P G Wodehouse(*): any young man who somehow or other gets engaged to the wrong girl can’t honourably break that engagement himself, but — with or without the help of Jeeves — has to create a situation in which she sends him packing on her own initiative.

(*) who grew up in Victorian England, even if he didn’t quite start writing until after the Queen’s death.

syyskuu 25, 2022, 3:47 pm

>13 booksaplenty1949: I probably should have been more clear. The "thorny question as to whether or not an engagement could be broken", was meant in a social sense, not a legal sense. Women who broke engagements, unless they were wealthy and /or titled, did not fare well in the marriage market post break.

>14 thorold: Not at all off topic + I think you've managed to get me interested in Wodehouse!

syyskuu 26, 2022, 9:38 am

>15 SassyLassy: I doubt that it was any more socially acceptable than it was legally acceptable for a man to unilaterally break off an engagement. Otherwise such a law would not have existed.

syyskuu 26, 2022, 9:52 pm

>9 SassyLassy: Nice commentary!