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Domestic manners of the Americans by Francis…

Domestic manners of the Americans (original 1832; edition 1984)

by Francis Trollope, Richard Mullen

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349931,317 (3.74)49
Title:Domestic manners of the Americans
Authors:Francis Trollope
Other authors:Richard Mullen
Info:Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1984
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, travel, read in 2012

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Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope (1832)

  1. 10
    Fanny, A Fiction by Edmund White (thorold)
    thorold: Edmund White's historical novel explores the background to Mrs Trollope's American journey

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This book is a fantastic rant from a European (British) lady who visits the new(ish) lands of America and who doesn't much like the people she meets. It is the early-mid 1800s and Americans are proud of their independence, they are proud of their equality and freedom, and they want to keep it that way. Mrs Trollope however, sees uncouth and uncultured ways wherever she goes. Although she many times absolutely loves the picturesque and dramatic natural scenery, she cannot abide by the way that the Americans are.

She describes in great depth how far people will go to avoid thanking someone, or how most people seem too above menial work to be her maid or cleaner, and how everybody continually evokes this notion of equality when doing so. She picks to shreds the inconsistency with this notion and the existence of slaves, and the treatment of Native Americans. And she dislikes thoroughly the dress, facial expressions, and vernacular of the American women....they are not at all like they should be, in her mind. I loved reading this, the language was so beautiful, sometimes you were sure she must be paying a compliment with using such pretty language, but the message was passive/aggressive and very clear- Americans really ought to be more European.

It was funny to read, but also did lay out a lot of the foundations of how a new society consolidates. It is fascinating to consider the trajectory of American culture from this time onwards. She points out the obscene way that people are obsessed with making money (if only she could see the world now!), and the hypocrisy of religions that preach freedom and fairness so fervently while condoning slavery and lining their own pockets first. Although her ranty style is clearly opinionated, I liked her bold statements and have enough brain matter to consider for myself what her biases were or might have been. The book said as much about her and her lifestyle as it did about the Americans'. A rollicking good, if somewhat flowery, read. ( )
4 vote Ireadthereforeiam | Apr 28, 2016 |
Read during Summer 2007

Although there was some enjoyment in seeing how much more in a froth Mrs. Trollope could put herself, eventually it just became tiresome. Despite the fulsome introduction that we shoudl all know Mrs. Trollope's works better, I mostly found her an unbearable snob. I found a quote by her son, Anothny Trollope to the effect of 'Mrs. Trollope is a keen observer but she understands little.' I think that sums it up. If it isn't as she would do it in England, it is wrong. She does have praise for some areas of natural beauty and a few occassional people but otherwise finds very little of merit. The book is mainly sweeping critisms, interspersed with asides of her own cultural and moral superiorty. I'm not suprised it was badly received in the USA; it has that smug air of someone who is insufferably rude under the guise of "for your own good." Looking forward to a nice novel next on my to read list.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
I take book suggestions from all sorts of sources. In the case of Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope, the recommendation came tucked into The Cat Who Robbed a Bank by Lilian Jackson Braun. Trollope's book was featured in a game of twenty questions that piqued my interest.

Frances Trollope, mother of Anthony Trollope, and author of twenty-five novels, as well as travelogues, got the writing bug during her stay in the United States with three of her six children. The idea behind the trip was two fold — take a break from marital issues and rebuild some of the waning family fortune.

The Trollops landed in New Orleans and from there traveled north via a commune in Tennessee to Cincinnati and later other urban centers in the area. Throughout her journey she remarked on the people she met, the mode of transportation, the weather, the food and pretty much anything else that either intrigued her or pissed her off.

As this was the early days of United States and things were still pretty damn rural even in the big cities (note her descriptions of pigs as garbage disposal units), she of well established Britain, took her visits as something of an adventure into untamed, barbaric lands.

Her travelog inspired Edmund White to pen Fanny: A Fiction. If I am to keep following the thread of recommendations from Braun to Trollop to White, I suppose I should read his book too. It is now on my wishlist to read as time permits. ( )
  pussreboots | Feb 27, 2014 |
I never saw any people who appeared to live so much without amusement as the Cincinnatians. Billiards are forbidden by law, so are cards. To sell a pack of cards in Ohio subjects the seller to a penalty of fifty dollars. They have no public balls, excepting, I think, six, during the Christmas holidays. They have no concerts. They have no dinner parties.
They have a theatre, which is, in fact, the only public amusement of this triste little town; but they seem to care little about it, and either from economy or distaste, it is very poorly attended. Ladies are rarely seen there, and by far the larger proportion of females deem it an offence against religion to witness the representation of a play. It is in the churches and chapels of the town that the ladies are to be seen in full costume; and I am tempted to believe that a stranger from the continent of Europe would be inclined, on first reconnoitering the city, to suppose that the places of worship were the theatres and cafes of the place.

Near the end of the book, the author devotes some time to discussing American reactions to a book by Captain Basil Hall, commenting on their inability to tolerate the slightest criticism of their country, and how it seemed as if everyone in the country had bought the book and was enraged at the calumnies of that despicable author. As I read this, I was picturing Fanny Trollope with dollar signs in her eyes and the sound of cash registers ringing (much like Scrooge McDuck in the cartoons). I am sure that she thought about her opinions on the uncouth citizens of American, with their constant spitting, strange ideas of how to run hotels and lack of enthusiasm for anything except politics and making money, and realised that she was perfectly capable of writing in bitchy, condescending and scornful tones, so why shouldn't she write a book that would infuriate the American public and make herself just as much money as Captain Hall had.

The Chatham is so utterly condemned by bon ton, that it requires some courage to decide upon going there; nor do I think my curiosity would have penetrated so far, had I not seen Miss Mitford's Rienzi advertised there. It was the first opportunity I had had of seeing it played, and spite of very indifferent acting, I was delighted. The interest must have been great, for till the curtain fell, I saw not one quarter of the queer things around me: then I observed in the front row of a dress-box a lady performing the most maternal office possible; several gentlemen without their coats, and a general air of contempt for thedecencies of life, certainly more than usually revolting.

This is actually a very readable book, as Fanny's bitchiness and condescension when discussing the people and their way of life contrasts with her descriptions of the beauties of the mountains, rivers, waterfalls and autumn foliage. And her scorn can cut to the heart of things when she compares the Americans' constant lauding of their freedom with their acceptance of slavery and the breaking of every legal agreement made with the Native Americans.

Had I, during my residence in the United States, observed any single feature in their national character that could justify their eternal boast of liberality and the love of freedom, I might have respected them, however much my taste might have been offended by what was peculiar in their manners and customs. But it is impossible for any mind of common honesty not to be revolted by the contradictions in their principles and practice. They inveigh against the governments of Europe, because, as they say, they favour the powerful and oppress the weak. You may hear this declaimed upon in Congress, roared out in taverns, discussed in every drawing-room, satirized upon the stage, nay, even anathematized from the pulpit: listen to it, and then look at them at home; you will see them with one hand hoisting the cap of liberty, and with the other flogging their slaves. You will see them one hour lecturing their mob on the indefeasible rights of man, and the next driving from their homes the children of the soil, whom they have bound themselves to protect by the most solemn treaties. ( )
2 vote isabelx | Jan 17, 2014 |
I think the only thing in America that really impressed Mrs. Trollope (in a good way, at least), was Niagara Falls. And she had a very sharp tongue indeed. ( )
  SusannainSC | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frances Trollopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Michie, Elsie B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140435611, Paperback)

"I am convinced there is no writer who has so well and accurately (I need not add, so entertainingly) described [America] ... as you have done"—Dickens to Fanny Trollope, 1842

When Fanny Trollope set sail for America in 1827, she took with her three of her children and a young French artist. She left behind her son Anthony, growing debts and a husband going slowly mad from mercury poisoning. But her hopes of joining a Utopian community of emancipated slaves were soon dashed, and she and her children were forced to live by their wits in Cincinnati, then a booming frontier town on the Ohio River. What followed was a tragicomedy of illness, scandal and failed business ventures that left them destitute.

Nevertheless, on her return to England, Fanny turned her misfortunes into a remarkable book. Domestic Manners was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. A masterpiece of nineteenth-century travel-writing, it is also a timeless satire on a society torn between high ideals and human frailties. It remains as perceptive and funny today as it was when it was first published.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Frances Trollope, mother of the great Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, wrote more than 40 books in her lifetime, including landmark novels dealing with important social issues. She is best known today, however, for this witty, entertaining, and controversial account of American life and culture. Published in 1832, this book presents a lively portrait of early nineteenth-century America as observed by a woman of rare intelligence and keen perception. The author left no stone unturned, commenting on American dress, food, speech, politics, manners, customs, the landscape, architecture, and more.… (more)

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