The Duke's Children

The Duke's Children

The Duke's Children

The Duke's Children

Excerpt

The Duke's Children has two shapes, or actions: it closes a circle, and opens outwards. From the first sentence of the novel, which abruptly lets us know of Glencora's death and of the loneliness of 'our old friend' the Duke of Omnium, an affectionate familiarity with these characters is assumed. The reader of the last of the Palliser novels is meant to know the earlier books, to be shocked at the loss of Glencora and concerned for the Duke in his widowed state. But The Duke's Children's dependence on the earlier books is not a sentimental or a lazy one, cosily inviting the reader's sympathy. Its relation to past history is, rather, ironic and disturbing. Palliser's attempt to prevent his daughter Mary from marrying Tregear, 'a commoner without an income', and to arrange an aristocratic match for her instead, re-enacts the circumstances of his own arranged marriage to Glencora in Can You Forgive Her? That Glencora, before her death, should have encouraged the handsome Frank Tregear, seems to Palliser a 'posthumous infidelity' which bitterly recalls to him her own romantic, renounced love for Burgo Fitzgerald. Mary's resistance (stronger than Glencora's) to pressure and parental authority forces Palliser to reinterpret his own marriage. He is made to ask himself whether Glencora had always loved Burgo, and whether she might not have been happier had she married him. Trollope's great strength is his authenticity of characterization, and this is particularly so with the slowly, soundly developing presentation of Palliser. The psychological details of his response to Mary's rebellion -- for instance that his retrospective jealousy makes him more cruel to her than his official, social reasons for disliking Tregear seem to . . .

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