The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now


In this world of bribes and vendettas, swindling and suicide, in which heiresses are won like gambling stakes, Trollope's characters embody all the vices: Lady Carbury, a 43-year-old coquette, 'false from head to foot'; her son Felix, with the 'instincts of a horse, not approaching the higher sympathies of a dog'; and Melmotte, the colossal figure who dominates the book, a 'horrid, big, rich scoundrel...a bloated swindler...a vile city ruffian'.


In December 1872, Anthony Trollope returned to England. Braced by a year and a half in the colonies, he found the moral stench of London intolerable. Like some enraged father he resolved to horsewhip a generation grown delinquent in his absence. He justified The Way We Live Now's corrective fury in a passage written the following year and published posthumously in his Autobiography:

a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel. Instigated, I say, by some such reflexions as these, I sat down in my new house to write The Way We Live Now.* And as I had ventured to take the whip of the satirist into my hand, I went beyond the iniquities of the great speculator who robs everybody, and made an onslaught also on other vices,--on the intrigues of girls who want to get married, on the luxury of young men who prefer to remain single, and on the puffing propensities of authors who desire to cheat the public into buying their volumes.*

Always a ready writer, indignation brought Trollope's creativity to boiling point. The novel was conceived in Spring 1873 and its 425,000 words (it is probably the longest of his works) were composed in two rapid bursts, over the rest of the year.

The Way We Live Now was Trollope's 33rd novel and . . .

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