Fiction — eBook. Project Gutenberg, 2010. Originally published 1874. 682 pgs. Free download.
Written in 1871 but not published until 1874, Trollope’s novel receives its title from the name of the protagonist. Anna’s mother, Josephine, was married to the Earl Lovel but soon after their union he tells her he has a wife living in Italy, which made their marriage is invalid and their unborn daughter illegitimate.
Josephine moves out of the Earl’s home, calls herself Mrs. Murray, and befriends the local tailor, Thomas Thwaite. Mr. Thwaite believes that she is rightfully the Countess Lovel and loans her the funds to mount her legal campaign.
“It is your name, and you cannot be rid of it. It is yours of right, as my name has been mine of right; and not to assert it, not to live up to it, not to be proud of it, would argue incredibly baseness.” (pg. 129)
After the Earl’s death, however, the Countess insists upon the marriage of her daughter to the new Earl Lovel in order to restore her daughter’s name and her access to the Earl’s funds. Lady Anna, though, as accepted the proposal of the tailor’s son, Daniel Thwaite, and the revelation of this proposal derails the plans of both the Countess and the new Earl.
“It was all very well that lawyers should look upon her as an instrument, as a piece of goods that might now, from the accident of her ascertained birth, be made of great service to the Lovel family. Let her be the lord’s wife, and everything would be right for everybody. It had been very easy to say that! But she had a heart of her own, — a heart to be touched, and won, and given away, — and lost. The man who had been so good to them had sought for his reward, and had got it, and could not now be defrauded. Had she been dishonest she would not have dared to defraud him; he she dared, she would not have been so dishonest.” (pg. 145)
Honestly, had this book been published in the twenty-first century, I would have labeled it as chick-lit. Well-written chick-lit but chick-lit nonetheless. Because the book was published in 1874, however, I was more attuned to the commentary on Victorian society – marriage for power/money instead of love, importance placed upon socializing with the ‘appropriate’ class, importance placed upon name and title. Isn’t it funny how outside knowledge can affect our reading of a book?
That’s not to say I did not enjoy Trollope’s tale. I did. I read chapters of the book at breakfast and snuck peeks at pages in between classes. The book may not be the most ground breaking piece of Victorian literature, but I enjoyed myself very much and certainly plan to read more books by Trollope.