Money and Marriage in Cumbria
I am devoted and I mean DEVOTED to Anthony Trollope. I think he was one the best authors of English Literature ever and one of the brightest stars of Victorian England, which anyway had a glittering constellation, when it came to Literature! Any chance of reading his work,I grab at and it’s a pity that some of his non Barsetshire – Palliser novels are not easily accessible in my geography. About a year ago, Jane who is equally, if not more devoted to Trollope posted a review about Lady Anna, one of Trollope’s standalone novels. I have been planning to read it since then; the fact it nicely fit in to my Reading England project made me even more eager to get on with it. However time and availability have been challenging and though I even bought a Kindle edition in December, but could not read it until a couple of days ago.
Lady Anna is the story of Anna Lovel, the daughter of Earl Lovel and Countess Lovel. The Countess had married the Earl despite his evil reputation, because of the his title and wealth. The wicked Earl soon showed his wicked colors and within a few months following his marriage, he informed the Countess, that their marriage in invalid, as he was previously married to an Italian lady. He then left for Italy and the Countess was left proving the validity of her marriage vows and the legitimacy of their daughter, Lady Anna. In this struggle, she has no support from either her own family or the Lovels, who considered her actions as ambitious and proud. Her only champion was a tailor with socialist beliefs, Thomas Thwaite and it was he who gave the Countess and her daughter shelter and financial support when they had no one. In such a state of things, the Earl dies and leaves behind no will.His title and the estate associated with the title in Cumberland is now made over to a distant cousin, a young Frederick Lovel. However, the bulk of his large fortune is personal property, and thus not attached to the title will go to his heir, however who this heir is, is the question – the young Earl? Lady Anna? The lady in Italy claiming to be his wife. Thus begins another round of court cases and legalities under the auspices of Sir William Patterson, the Solicitor General. The Solicitor is a true blue gentleman and wants to do the right thing for both the Earl and the Countess, therefore he proposes a marriage between the cousins, Lady Anna and young Earl Lovel, that way the money and the title all stay among the rightful parties as well giving Countess and Lady Anna absolute acceptability as legitimate wife and daughter of the dead Earl, especially since this recognition will come from the remaining Lovel family, following the marriage! The idea is received by much approbation by the Countess who cannot think of a better match for her beloved daughter than the young Earl. The young Earl though initially hesitant about marrying a girl whose legitimacy was contested is soon enamored of the beautiful and well mannered Lady Anna. But there is a hitch in this plan – Lady Anna has secretly betrothed her self to David Thwaite, the son of the Thomas Thwaite, a decent and well read man, who is however a tailor by profession. Thus arises the complication of marrying for love versus marrying for money and title. Should one give up on the person, who was their dearest friend during the harshest times for a life she was naturally born to and which her mother fought for her entire life, so that Lady Anna got her legal rights? Decisions need to be made and the right thing to be done, but what is the right thing is for Lady Anna to decide!
I liked the book, but did not feel the kind of undiluted love for i feel his other works. The writing is true Trollope – clean, clear and simple moving the tale forward naturally. There is also quintessential egalitarian Trollope rooting for equality of merit instead of equality of birth. There are some wonderful characters that I would have want to see little more off – like Aunt Julia, the aunt to young Earl Lovel and the Solicitor General. However this is where I feel Trollope faltered in his usual brilliance – he set up the character of Aunt Julia as if she was to play a key part and seemed to be a wise and kind matriarch, but she has no presence after the initial chapters! The way the end played out, especially about the settlement of money, made me wonder why did we need the much anticipated court case to begin with. Speaking of the Court case, this again was set up to be a central event in the story, but was more of one of the many episodes of the life and times of the Lovels. I could not really warm up to any of the characters, including the titular Lady Anna, who does show spirit in the end but through book wails and goes “Mamma” at everything. The young Earl was nice and beautiful and that was all to him. Daniel Thwaite, though, I liked more and could understand his self respect and self belief and strength. I also liked the character of Countess Lovel – she is a strong and perhaps a bit obstinate woman who took on the world on her own till she proved her point and I liked the way the Trollope displayed the escalated war between her and Lady Anna and though the Countess, was not always right, I felt more for her than for any other character in the novel. Furthermore, there is too much repetition in the plot – the readers are told atleast 3 times during the novel that had people behaved more gently with Lady Anna, they would have won their point. Several times we go over and over the unfortunate history of Countess Lovel and there is about pages in the middle, where we are stuck in limbo as there is no movement in the narrative. The novel is verbose without telling us anything new or pertinent – the same point is gone over again and again and again!
I liked it, but I cannot help but feel that this is not the best of Trollope.