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The Way We Live Now

by Anthony Trollope

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,636564,746 (4.19)4 / 257
'Trollope did not write for posterity,' observed Henry James. 'He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket.' Considered by contemporary critics to be Trollope's greatest novel, The Way We Live Now is a satire of the literary world of London in the 1870s and a bold indictment of the new power of speculative finance in English life. 'I was instigated by what I conceived to be the commercial profligacy of the age,' Trollope said. His story concerns Augustus Melmotte, a French swindler and scoundrel, and his daughter, to whom Felix Carbury, adored son of the authoress Lady Carbury, is induced to propose marriage for the sake of securing a fortune. Trollope knew well the difficulties of dealing with editors, publishers, reviewers, and the public; his portrait of Lady Carbury, impetuous, unprincipled, and unswervingly devoted to her own self-promotion, is one of his finest satirical achievements. His picture of late-nineteenth-century England is a portrait of a society on the verge of moral bankruptcy. In The Way We Live Now Trollope combines his talents as a portraitist and his skills as a storyteller to give us life as it was lived more than a hundred years ago.… (more)
  1. 10
    Money by Émile Zola (littlegreycloud)
    littlegreycloud: Augustus Melmotte, Aristide Saccard, Bernie Madoff: plus ça change...
  2. 00
    Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (morryb)
  3. 00
    The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (Crypto-Willobie)
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» See also 257 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Trollope's great novel makes fun of the society of late 19th century London's so-called fashionable, well-to-do and titled class. The pretensions are ridiculous, and all the people pretending to have money and struggling to marry money and titles makes for a merry circus in the social scene. One example of a family who is struggling to make ends meet while trying outwardly to show that they have plenty of money is the family of Lord Longestaffe. The younger daughter is desperate to catch a husband with a title and money, but this 29-year-old "old maid" has been informed by her father that he can no longer afford to keep taking the family up to the London townhouse for'the season.' how is she supposed to catch a husband? Her father receives an invitation for Georgiana to stay with Me Melmotte's family for the season, as his family will be renting the Longestaffe's family's townhouse. Georgiana is disgusted at the thought of staying with a family of such lower social class than her own, and the spoiled thing complains bitterly to her mother, before begrudgingly accepting the invitation.
P.169:
" 'of course I am anxious. What other chance have I, mamma? And, oh dear, I am so tired of it! Pleasure, indeed! Papa talks of pleasure. If Papa had to work half as hard as I do, I wonder what he'd think of it. I suppose I must do it. I know it will make me so ill that I shall almost die under it. Horrid, horrid people! And papa to propose it, who has always been so proud of everything - who used to think so much of being with the right set.'
P.196:
"but miss longestaffe already perceived that her old acquaintances were changed in their manner to her. She had written to her dear friend Lady Monogram, whom she had known intimately as Miss Triplex, and whose marriage to a Sir Damask Monogram had been Splendid preferment, telling how she had been kept down in Suffolk at the time of her friend's last party, and how she had been driven to consent to return to London as the guest of Madame Melmotte. She hoped her friend would not throw her off on that account. She had been very affectionate, with a poor attempt at fun, and rather humble. Georgiana Longestaffe had never been humble before, but the Monograms were people so much thought of and in such an excellent set! She would do anything rather than lose the Monograms. But it was of no use. She had been humble in vain, for Lady Monogram had not even answered her note. 'she never really cared for anybody but herself,' Georgiana said in her wretched solitude. Then, too, she had found that Lord NidderDale's manner to her had been quite changed. She was not a fool, and could read these signs with sufficient accuracy. There had been little flirtations between her and Nidderdale -- meaning nothing, as everyone knew that now Nidderdale must marry money; but in none of them had he spoken to her as he spoke when he met her in Madame MelMotte's drawing room. She could see it in the faces of people as they greeted her in the park - especially in the faces of the men. She had always carried herself with a certain high demeanor, and had been able to maintain it. All that was now gone from her, and she knew it. Though the thing was as yet but a few days old she understood that others understood that she had degraded herself. 'what's this all about?' Lord Grasslough had said to her, seeing her come into a room behind Madame Melmotte. She had simpered, had tried to laugh, and had then turned away her face. 'impudent scoundrel!' she said to herself, knowing that a fortnight ago he would not have dared to address her in such a tone."

One of the Longestaffe's neighbors, down in Suffolk, was Squire Carbury. He is cousin to Hetta Carbury, to her mother Lady Carbury, and to Hetta's brother, Sir Felix Carbury. Squire Carbury had mentored a young man named Paul Montague, who had shares in the Pacific Railroad Company, and Paul had facilitated the introduction to Mr Melmotte of this grand speculating plan. Once Paul Montague meets Hetta Carbury, he falls in love with her, but as Squire Carbury has let him know that he himself loves Hetta, and desires to marry her, Paul is reluctant to let Hetta know his feelings. But Paul has a skeleton in his closet that complicates his plan for Hetta. Mrs Hurtle, a divorced American who he met, and wooed on shipboard, has followed him to England, and shows up in London, expecting him to marry her. Since hearing some racy gossip about Mrs Hurtle's past, he has come down with cold feet, and no longer wants to marry her. But he's too much of a coward to tell her the truth, and thinks he can let her down gently. Meanwhile, she expects him to take her all about London, and treat her like his fiancee. She says...
P.200:
" 'how are they changed? I am two years older, if you mean that.' as she said that she looked round at the glass as though to see whether she was become so Haggard with age as to be unfit to become this man's wife. She was very lovely, with the kind of beauty which we seldom see now. In these days men regard the form and outward lines of a woman's face and figure more than either the color or the expression, and women fit themselves to men's eyes. With padding and false hair without limit a figure may be constructed of almost any dimensions. The sculptors who construct them, male and female, hairdressers and milliners, are very skilful, and figures are constructed of noble dimensions, sometimes with voluptuous expansion, sometimes with classic reticence, sometimes with disheveled negligence which becomes very disheveled indeed when long out of the sculptor's hands. Colors indeed are added, but not the colors which we used to love. The taste for flesh and blood has for the day given place to an appetite for coarse hair and Pearl powder."

Lady Carberry believes her son Sir Felix to be the most beautiful young man in the whole world, and desires for him a marriage to a titled woman with a fortune. She is a very low, contemptible woman, who has let her spoiled rotten son take every penny from her, and who so continues to take her money that they are all headed for the workhouse. Marie Melmotte, though she is not titled, is the daughter of the Great Speculator Melmotte, and so is known to possess a fortune. Lady Carbury desires Sir Felix to secure the engagement of himself to Marie, which he is reluctant to do, as he prefers to be a Playboy, and play cards in his club all night. Mr Melmotte also does not desire this match, as he wants his daughter to marry a title, Lord NidderDale, whose family is impoverished, but Melmotte believes this will secure his respectability in London society. He visits Lady Carbury at her "Tuesday night literary" salon, and tells her that Sir Felix must withdraw any idea of a match with Marie. If he does this, Mr Melmotte's will help Sir Felix with making some money.
P.232:
"There was very much to be considered in this. She did not doubt that Felix might be 'made' by mr. Melmotte's City influences, but then any perpetuity of such making must depend on qualifications in her son which she feared that he did not possess. The wife without the money would be terrible! That would be absolutely ruin! There could be no escape then; no hope. There was an appreciation of real tragedy in her heart as she contemplated the position of Sir Felix married to such a girl as she supposed Marie Melmotte to be, without any means of support for either of them but what she could supply. It would kill her. And for those young people, there would be nothing before them but beggary and the workhouse. As she thought of this she trembled with true maternal instincts. Her beautiful boy -- So glorious with his outward gifts, so fit, as she thought him, for all the graces of the grand world! Though the ambition was vilely ignoble, the mother's love was noble and disinterested."

Though Melmotte is seen in high society, still he is a speculating scoundrel, and not respected. Trollope gives an example of the kind of thinking that changed the course of our own soon-to-be 3rd-world, shithole country, from a young country that had a chance to be a great and true democracy, to what it is not 250 years after its birth...
P.423-4:
" 'you think Melmotte will turn out a failure.'
'a failure! Of course he's a failure, whether rich or poor - a miserable imposition, a hollow vulgar fraud from beginning to end - too insignificant for you and me to talk of, were it not that his position is a sign of the degeneracy of the age. What are we coming to when such as he is an honored guest at our tables?'
'at just a table here and there,' suggested his friend.
'no; -- it is not that. You can keep your house free from him, and so can I mine. But we set no example to the nation at large. They who do set the example go to his feasts, and of course he is seen at theirs in turn. And yet these leaders of the fashion know -- at any rate they believe -- that he is what he is because he has been a swindler greater than other swindlers. What follows as a natural consequence? Men reconcile themselves to swindling. Though they themselves mean to be honest, dishonesty of itself is no longer odious to them. Then there comes the jealousy that others should be growing rich with the approval of all the world -- and the natural aptitude to do what all the world approves. It seems to me that the existence of a MelMotte is not compatible with the wholesome state of things in general.' "


( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
This one took me a while to finish, but I really enjoyed it. I would consider this one of Trollope's best stand alone novels. Many of his common themes make an appearance. I'm always particularly struck by how the misbehavior of the wealthy with their money was apparently as much of an issue back in the 1800s as it is today.

Central to this novel is the Melmotte family. The father is a wealthy financier type who has zero social standing. And is apparently more of a swindler than an actual businessman. His daughter attracts several men with the promise of her father's wealth, but her choice (a poor one!) is not to her father's taste. We also meet several young men who are stringing along one woman that they prefer to marry and one woman who they are more in love (or lust) with. And Lady Carbury, an author and mother of two of the adult children struggling with their love lives and money. And Roger Carbury who holds the money in the family but is out of luck in the love department.

It's really amazing that Trollope can convincingly keep track of all of these characters and plot lines and satisfactorily tie it all up in the end. I'm glad he wrote so many novels, because I really enjoy them. ( )
  japaul22 | Oct 6, 2022 |
Amazon says that this stand-alone is " widely acknowledged to be the masterpiece of Trollope's prolific Victorian career." I would definitely put it at or near the top of my favorites of Trollope (though I have only begun to scratch the surface of his works). This is also a very relevant book for our time with one of its major themes/plot lines being how a financial wheeler-dealer/con artist is able to scam the denizens of society and government.

The book is chock-full of characters and plot-lines. It opens with Lady Carbury, who left in straitened circumstances has taken to writing potboilers to keep up the family finances. Her overriding purpose is to secure good marriages for her children, particularly for her ne'er-do-well son Felix who has squandered his inheritance on gambling and drinking. The potential mate she has chosen for Felix is Marie, the daughter of the great financier Augustus Melmotte. Melmotte, a Bernie Maddoff-like character, is suppposedly fabulously wealthy, but behind the scenes of his financial manipulations his suppposed wealth is only a paper facade. His sole function is to get people to invest in a great American railroad, not to actually build the railroad, but to to obtain the funds to entice more investors. Politics does not escape Trollope's wit, either, as Melmotte's supposed wealth earns him a seat in parliament.

The book sets forth a vast panorama of Victorian society and highlights its avarice and obsession with money. It satirizes the literary world and publishers, class divisions, gender stereotypes, political systems and much more. The book is on The Guardian's 100 Best Novels in English. I loved it. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Sep 17, 2022 |
A long but satisfying read that comes alive with the narrator. Although probably a typical Victorian novel it doesn't end in a typical Victorian way. ( )
  charlie68 | Apr 22, 2022 |
“Nadie que se relacionara con Herr Vossner había supuesto nunca que fuera un hombre honrado, pero como ladrón había sido tan agradable que incluso los que más habían sufrido su rapacidad lamentaban su ausencia con una ternura que casi orillaba con el amor.“

No creo que Trollope sea un visionario, por lo que deduzco que esta historia, llena de humor por otra parte, del mundo cínico, corrupto e implacable de las finanzas, y todo los que lo rodean, no era algo nuevo a finales del siglo XIX, cuando se escribió la novela. Una obra larga, pero ágil e interesante, cuya energía decae un poquito al final, y que también hace una crítica durísima de la nobleza en la sociedad londinense.
La historia de un estafador con mucho dinero al que incluyen en un negocio ferroviario en EEUU-México que consigue convertir en una burbuja millonaria en la que las acciones se distribuyen, venden y compran, según su iniciativa. Sus supuestos éxitos financieros lo transmutan en una figura imprescindible para la ciudad, y acaba por ganar unas elecciones en las que tanto el partido como la jurisdicción por la que se presenta son decididas a última hora, sin ideología, sin vínculos con nadie, salvo con el comité de banqueros y palanganeros que lo apoyan “con la ausencia de todo el prejuicio de clases por el que el partido se ha hecho famoso desde que se habían introducido las votaciones. Algún liberal desafortunado debería enfrentarse a él, por el bien del partido, pero las apuestas iban a diez contra una a favor de Melmotte.”

Melmotte es el protagonista de la historia, pero a su alrededor se movilizan una serie de pirañas, vagos, inútiles, que buscan dinero fácil para seguir viviendo sin dar palo al agua. Un montón de jóvenes aristócratas y advenedizos que, azuzados por sus padres y madres, sólo muestran interés por negocios fraudulentos e inestables o por la búsqueda de una heredera, aunque sea sin títulos, que le devuelva esplendor monetario a sus títulos nobiliarios. Pura meritocracia. Las mujeres se llevan aquí la peor parte, ya que son moneda de cambio para que todos estos parásitos sigan adelante. Algunas de ellas son los personajes más humanos, compasivos e incluso inteligentes de la obra de Trollope.

La falta de escrúpulos y el desprecio por todos aquellos que los tienen es la tónica en esta sociedad que se nos presenta, no como un asomo de lo que podíamos llegar a tener, sino como un etapa completamente asentada de la que sólo podemos llegar a mejorar. El trabajo de robar a la humanidad en bruto, dice el narrador sobre uno de los personajes en un momento dado, por magníficas representaciones falsas, no era tan solo un deber, sino el placer y la ambición de su vida.

Esa agilidad en la forma de contar, y las diferentes pequeñas historias que rodean a los muchos personajes de la obra, mantienen el interés de una traducción, siento decir, que deja bastante que desear y que nos impide sacarle mucho más partido a la obra. La ristra de apellidos que seguramente tienen un sentido satírico, como el de Lady Monogram, de soltera Julia Triplex o la Familia Primero, lo perdemos en el caso de Mr. Ramsbottom, la señora Pipkin, Flatfleece o Cohenlupe. Además entiendo que para una editorial pequeña es muy costoso publicar un libro como este y casi imposible llegar a una segunda edición pero, a pesar de su valentía, deberían ser más cuidadosos con las erratas. ( )
  Orellana_Souto | Jul 27, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brooks, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacques, RobinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Osborne, HughNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, TimothyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street.
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In the City Mr. Melmotte's name was worth any money,-though his character was perhaps worth but little.
As for Felix,—he had grovelled in the gutters as to be dirt all over. Nothing short of the prolonged sufferings of half a life could cleanse him.
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'Trollope did not write for posterity,' observed Henry James. 'He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket.' Considered by contemporary critics to be Trollope's greatest novel, The Way We Live Now is a satire of the literary world of London in the 1870s and a bold indictment of the new power of speculative finance in English life. 'I was instigated by what I conceived to be the commercial profligacy of the age,' Trollope said. His story concerns Augustus Melmotte, a French swindler and scoundrel, and his daughter, to whom Felix Carbury, adored son of the authoress Lady Carbury, is induced to propose marriage for the sake of securing a fortune. Trollope knew well the difficulties of dealing with editors, publishers, reviewers, and the public; his portrait of Lady Carbury, impetuous, unprincipled, and unswervingly devoted to her own self-promotion, is one of his finest satirical achievements. His picture of late-nineteenth-century England is a portrait of a society on the verge of moral bankruptcy. In The Way We Live Now Trollope combines his talents as a portraitist and his skills as a storyteller to give us life as it was lived more than a hundred years ago.

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