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The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
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The Eustace Diamonds

by Anthony Trollope

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Palliser Novels (3)

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[Preface to Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1940:]

I suggested that you should read The Eustace Diamonds rather than Barchester Towers, which is Trollope’s best-known novel, because it is complete in itself. It seemed to me that really to appreciate Barchester Towers you would have to read the series of which it is part. Neither the motives of the characters nor the results of their activities are quite clear unless you read the novels that come before and after, and I did not think that Trollope was important enough, keeping in view my object of asking you to read books which would be pleasant and profitable, to justify me in asking you to read half a dozen closely printed volumes. And I remembered that there was in Barchester Towers a good deal of that caricature which to us now seems a tiresome feature of Victorian fiction. But now that I have read The Eustace Diamonds once more, I should recommend you even with these slight drawbacks to read the more celebrated book.

The Eustace Diamonds is by way of being a detective story and it has two very ingenious surprises, but it is told at inordinate length. We have learnt a good deal about the manner of writing fiction of this kind since then, and a modern writer could have made a much better story of it by compressing it into three hundred pages. The characters are soundly observed, but not very interesting, and most of them are the stock figures of Victorian fiction. You have the impression that Trollope was trying to write the sort of novel that was bringing Dickens so much success, and not making a very good job of it. The most human character is Lizzie Eustace, but Trollope had apparently, or at least wished his readers to have, so great an antipathy for her that he treats her unfairly, and just as when a lawyer browbeats a prisoner in court your sympathies regardless of his crime go out to him, so you feel that Lizzie wasn’t really so much worse than anybody else and therefore scarcely deserved the hard knocks the author has given her. The novel can, however, be read without difficulty, and for anyone interested in Victorian England there is a good deal of entertainment to be got by observing the manners and customs of that long-past day. This is cold commendation. But though I advise you in place of The Eustace Diamonds to read Barchester Towers, I am constrained to add that you would be unwise to expect too much from it.

The merit of Trollope has of late years been somewhat exaggerated. For a generation he was almost forgotten, and when he was rediscovered, having in the interval acquired the charm of a period piece, greater praise was awarded him than he deserves. He was an honest and industrious craftsman with a considerable power of observation. He had some gift of pathos and he could tell a straightforward story in a straightforward, though terribly diffuse, way; but he had neither passion, wit nor subtlety. He had no talent for revealing a character or resuming the significance of an episode in a single pregnant phrase. His interest now lies in his unaffected, accurate and sincere portrayal of a state of society which has perished.
  WSMaugham | Jun 14, 2015 |
Lizzie Eustace marries a dying man for his money and then schemes to keep control of a diamond necklace which is rightfully a family piece, rather than her personal property. The necklace is stolen and Lizzie lies and schemes away. The third in the Palliser/political series, there is very little politics (although what little there is includes attempts to introduce decimal currency) and not much of the Pallisers either. Lizzie is a wonderful baddie and I am giving this five stars despite a) the obligatory hunting chapters, b) plenty of anti-semitism and c) the fact that I think Lucy should have told Frank where to go. ( )
  pgchuis | Jun 5, 2015 |
In this novel, the third in Trollope's Palliser series, the Pallisers (and politics, for that matter) barely make an appearance, but when Lady Glencora and her crowd enter they bring a breath of fresh air to a book largely filled with grasping, greedy, scheming, and unpleasant characters.

As the novel opens, Lizzie Greystock, a "clever" girl who loves jewelry, marries Sir Florian Eustace, who soon dies, leaving her, for her lifetime, a castle in Scotland and the income from his land. But did he, or indeed could he, leave her the Eustace diamonds, a spectacular necklace which Lizzie has some unscrupulous jewelers value at 10,000 pounds, or are they an heirloom or the property of his estate, either of which means they would belong to Sir Florian's posthumous son? On this question, the first part of the novel turns, as Lizzie stoutly claims Florian gave them to her (indeed, put them around her neck!), but Mr. Camperdown, the lawyer for the Eustaces, and others, believe them to be an heirloom. After a decent interval, Lizzie becomes engaged to Lord Fawn (who readers of Phineas Finn will remember), who instructs her to return the diamonds to Mr. Camperdown for safe-keeping while the matter is resolved. Needless to say, Lizzie refuses, and begins to set her sights on other possible husbands. As Trollope tells us, and as we see for ourselves, Lizzie is a liar, not very good much of the time, but a liar through and through.

At the same time, Trollope tells us the story of Lucy Morris, who is everything that Lizzie is not: honest, hard-working, plain, without a suspicious bone in her body. (Lucy is, in fact, a boring character, not one of Trollope's excellent female creations.) She works as a governess for the Fawn family (Lord Fawn's mother and bevy of sisters, all of whom love Lucy) and is in love with Frank Greystock, a cousin of Lizzie's. She and Lizzie had formerly been friends, but Lucy and she grow distant because of Lizzie's grasping ways. Eventually, Frank proposes to Lucy, and she of course is ecstatic. However, Lizzie and Frank are very close; she turns to Frank for advice, and more, as she begins to think of him as a future husband. Frank needs money, and Lucy can offer him none, while Lizzie has her 4000 pound annual income.

Once the stage is set, a lot of action ensues, including two attempts, one successful, to steal the diamonds. There are a lot of complications, because everyone at first believes the first, dramatic, attempt was itself successful, and Lizzie does nothing to deny this, even though she had taken the necklace out of the iron box in which she kept it. Ultimately, she tells the truth to another potential suitor, Lord George, who she thinks of as her "corsair" (Lizzie longs for poetry and romance in her life, but has only the slimmest acquaintance with the poetry she reads and keeps with her).

This being Trollope, there are lots of secondary characters and subplots, including the vile Mrs. Carbuncle who is first a guest at Lizzie's Scottish castle and then allows Lizzie to live with her in London (for a price). Mrs. Carbuncle is trying to marry off her niece, Lucinda, who is my favorite new character in the book, for she is lively and has a mind of her own; this attempt, which Lucinda rejects strenuously, ends tragically. Then there is Mr. Emilius, a most prominent preacher who, rumor has it, started life in eastern Europe as a Jew, and not only converted but became an Anglican minister; he, like many of the other characters, schemes after his own advancement. The various policemen investigating the burglaries, and the burglars themselves, provide an enjoyable subplot as well, but there are way too many characters for me to discuss them all here.

In this novel, Trollope explores truth and deception, as well as the need to marry for money (even the few likable characters take this for granted), the power that men hold over women since women basically have no rights (in this sense, Lizzie has few options, although she certainly tricks and schemes her way in the world), and the way society accommodates to this. In fact, the men in this novel all have serious flaws, perhaps even more than the women, but society accepts this and castigates the women.

I cannot avoid noting the antisemitism in this novel, obviously a reflection of the times, but more apparent in this book than in others by Trollope I've read. Mr. Emilius, an obviously seedy character, was born Jewish, and the dishonest jewelers are referred to as Jews, among other antisemitic references. It is unpleasant, but of course antisemitism itself is more unpleasant, and dangerous too.

All in all, I didn't like this book as much as others by Trollope that I've read, but it certainly raised some interesting issues.
3 vote rebeccanyc | Apr 26, 2015 |
My, this old classic turned out to be far more controversial than I would have anticipated.

Like most of Trollope's work, this is a long book. I think reading it pays off, though, if one has any interest in Victorian life in the 1860's era. Most of the characters are less than admirable and keep their eyes directly on the main chance (in this case, money; social and political position runs second to financial concerns).

Lizzie, our main character, is a selfish and quite stupid woman who will lie, and lie badly, when the truth would serve her better. The plot revolves around some diamonds that Lizzie insists are hers, although others think they belong to the estate of her late husband. It's a bit complicated to explain, but the situation is quite clear within the novel.

Lizzie is advised by her cousin Frank and several others, but she makes her own decisions, all of them bad. Sounds dreadful, doesn't it?

And yet I found the book to have an undercurrent of almost bitter irony, inviting the reader to laugh at the machinations of the characters, most of which come to naught.

This novel is quite a change from the Barsetshire stories, but is refreshing in its complete lack of sentimentality.y, this old classic turned out to be far more controversial than I would have anticipated.

Like most of Trollope's work, this is a long book. I think reading it pays off, though, if one has any interest in Victorian life in the 1860's era. Most of the characters are less than admirable and keep their eyes directly on the main chance (in this case, money; social and political position runs second to financial concerns).

Lizzie, our main character, is a selfish and quite stupid woman who will lie, and lie badly, when the truth would serve her better. The plot revolves around some diamonds that Lizzie insists are hers, although others think they belong to the estate of her late husband. It's a bit complicated to explain, but the situation is quite clear within the novel.

Lizzie is advised by her cousin Frank and several others, but she makes her own decisions, all of them bad. Sounds dreadful, doesn't it?

And yet I found the book to have an undercurrent of almost bitter irony, inviting the reader to laugh at the machinations of the characters, most of which come to naught.

This novel is quite a change from the Barsetshire stories, but is refreshing in its complete lack of sentimentality. ( )
  bohemima | Mar 2, 2015 |
Young Lizzie Greystock has a taste for diamonds and other precious stones. Her brief marriage to Sir Florian Eustace leaves her with a title, an infant heir, and a diamond necklace valued at 10,000 pounds. The Eustace family lawyer, Mr. Camperdown, insists that the diamonds are part of the Eustace estate and must be returned. Lizzie claims that her husband gave the diamonds to her with no strings attached. She enlists her young lawyer cousin, Frank Greystock, to help her fend off Mr. Camperdown. The pretty young widow has a lifetime settlement from her late husband's estate. It's not an enormous amount of money, but it's enough to attract suitors like Lord Fawn and the somewhat disreputable Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. It may even be enough to tempt cousin Frank away from his beloved but penniless Lucy Morris. Trollope lets readers in on a secret that Lizzie's suitors only suspect. Lizzie is a shameless liar.

This will never be among my favorite Trollope novels. Unlike in some of his earlier novels, there is little humor to lighten the tone. Lizzie brings out the worst in her companions. In contrast, Lucy Morris brings out the best in others. There just isn't enough of Lucy in the novel. The first half of the novel hinges primarily on inheritance law that can no longer be assumed to be common knowledge. Things become much more interesting in the second half of the novel after a theft occurs.

I've always maintained that there are worse things than being single. The subplot of Lucinda Roanoke and her engagement to Sir Griffin Tewett could be Exhibit A for this argument. With money running out, Lucinda is forced to accept the first man who asks her to marry him, even though she finds him repulsive.

Even the friendships in the book are based on money. Although the Fawns and Lucy genuinely like each other, Lucy is still an employee in their household. Lizzie's friendship with Mrs. Carbuncle is measured out in pounds and shillings. I'm reminded of the old saying “money can't buy happiness”. If that's the point Trollope intended to make with this novel, he succeeded. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Feb 15, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riley, KennethIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was admitted by all her friends, and also by her enemies, - who were in truth the more numerous and active body of the two, - that Lizzie Greystock had done very well with herself.
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We hear that a man has behaved badly to a girl, when the behaviour of which he has been guilty has resulted simply from want of thought. He has found a certain companionship to be agreeable to him, and he has accepted the pleasure without inquiry. Some vague idea has floated across his brain that the world is wrong in supposing that such friendship cannot exist without marriage, or question of marriage. It is simply friendship. And yet were his friend to tell him that she intended to give herself in marriage elsewhere, he would suffer all the pangs of jealousy, and would imagine himself to be horribly ill-treated! To have such a friend,—a friend whom he cannot or will not make his wife,—is no injury to him. To him it is simply a delight, an excitement in life, a thing to be known to himself only and not talked of to others, a source of pride and inward exultation. It is a joy to think of when he wakes, and a consolation in his little troubles. It dispels the weariness of life, and makes a green spot of holiday within his daily work. It is, indeed, death to her;—but he does not know it.
"To have been always in the right, and yet always on the losing side, always being ruined . . and yet never to lose anything, is pleasant enough. A huge, living, daily increasing grievance that does one no palpable harm, is the happiest possession that a man can have."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441208, Paperback)

The third novel in Trollope’s Palliser series, The Eustace Diamonds bears all the hallmarks of his later works, blending dark cynicism with humor and a keen perception of human nature. Following the death of her husband, Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover, Lord Fawn, declares that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie’s truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate acts.

Revised edition of Trollope's third Palliser novel
Updated Introduction explores Trollope's depiction of a society that worships money and highlights his concerns with truth, honesty, and honor
Includes new suggestions for further reading and explanatory notes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:05 -0400)

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Donated by Sarah Forster (GAP student 2000-2001) (ABB55539).

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