The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope

The Belton Estate was first published in serial form in 1865 and for some reason seems to have been quite neglected over the years. I have to say that I really enjoyed it and it was a very quick read for me.

It’s another story featuring that dastardly thing – an entailed estate. Belton Estate is owned by Mr Amedroz, a widower with a grown up son and daughter, so the entailment shouldn’t be a problem. However, the son Charles has been indulged and spoiled by his father and after spending all of his father’s money and leaving nothing for his sister Clara’s future – and being the selfish, self pitying swine that he is, he commits suicide.

Clara is now in dire straits with no money and an ailing elderly father. When her father dies she’ll be penniless and homeless as the estate passes on to a distant cousin Will Belton. Clara fancies herself to be in love with Captain Frederic Aylmer who is a relative by marriage and a Member of Parliament (usually a bad sign), so when Will Belton, an honest, shy and gentle chap falls in love with Clara she turns his offer of marriage down. Silly Clara, but it had to be done, for the sake of the book.

Clara’s father is sure that the wealthy Mrs Winterfield who is Clara’s aunt by marriage will provide for Clara in her will and so thinks that he has nothing to worry about but Clara knows that her aunt is going to leave her estate and money to Captain Aylmer.

Eventually Captain Aylmer proposes marriage to Clara and she accepts but it isn’t long before she is comparing him with Will Belton and as Frederic is a cold man who never seems to be able to behave the way a fiance should to her, things begin to cool.

When Clara’s father dies she goes to stay with her prospective in-laws, whom she hasn’t met before and it’s obvious that Frederic’s mother and sister are dead against him marrying Clara.

That’s as far as I’m going with the story, because I don’t want to spoil it for people who might want to read it. Previously I’ve read The Barchester Chronicles, and I loved those books, so funny. Trollope must have known a fair amount of ghastly women in his time because he writes them so well. Mrs Proudie, the bishop’s wife, is wonderful in her awfulness.

But what struck me about The Belton Estate is that my copy had originally belonged to my mother-in-law. We inherited it along with a bookcase full of books so I’m fairly sure that she read it. We’ve been married for over 34 years and it’s taken me till now to discover who my mother-in-law took as her role model. It was the tyrranical Lady Aylmer of course, Frederic’s mother!

Charles Dickens often wrote about the conditions that poor people had to suffer, because he had been there himself and presumably hoped that he could help by writing about the inequality of life. Trollope, who was of a different class seems to have been trying to do much the same thing for the women of his own class who were put in a difficult position by entails. He’s also very sympathetic to women who were often harshly judged for what would be seen as a small misdemeanour if committed by a man. It seems to have taken another 20 years for entails to be abolished, by the Reform Bill of 1885.

Anyway, I recommend The Belton Estate as a good read, especially if you’re a bit wary of Anthony Trollope’s work.

14 thoughts on “The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope

  1. This sounds really good — yet another Trollope to add to my to-read list! I’m reading Barchester Towers right now and I agree about Mrs. Proudie. She is so wonderful in her awfulness! Well put. But I can’t decide if Trollope really felt sorry for women or disliked them. Quite a few of his female characters are pretty awful.

    • Karen,
      Well I suppose the fact is that there are some fairly horrible women in the world and they are probably more interesting to write about, it just isn’t so great when you meet up with them in real life. Actors always seem to love playing the baddies – it’s much more fun, I think it could be the same for writers too.
      In the 1970s I knew a woman who was a bishop’s wife (my husband’s family is very churchy) and she was Mrs Proudie exactly, I couldn’t believe it when I read the books. I often wondered if she had read them, but she probably wouldn’t have recognised herself anyway!

  2. I love Anthony Trollope and have read nine of his novels, including all the Barsetshire novels and his autobiography. Have you read his autobiography? He was pretty interesting. And amazingly prolific, considering how busy his life was. I’m glad he wrote so many books because there are always more to read!
    Have you read any of Angela Thirkell’s novels? They are also set in Trollope’s Barsetshire and bring some of his characters’ descendants into the 1900s. They tend to be lighter and less dramatic.

    • Joan,
      I haven’t read his autobiography or Angela Thirkell’s novels, I’ll have to hunt them down. I’ve only read the Barsetshire ones, Dr Thorne and The Small House at Allington, but I’ve enjoyed them all. I think the only other one which I actually have is The Claverings, so I suppose that will be the next one that I read. Have you read it? The Thirkell books sound interesting.

  3. Another one to look out for, I’ve very much enjoyed this review. Discovering Trollope this year has been such a pleasure and I’m really enjoying this circuit to find out more about some I’ve hardly heard of!

    • Desperate Reader,
      I’m sure that you’ll really enjoy The Belton Estate. I know that some people find Trollope to be really dull but so far I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read of his, especially The Barsetshire novels. The circuit has really encouraged me to read writers that I would never have thought of reading before, and it’s a good way of finding bookish blogs!

  4. I read The Belton Estate back in 1987. I have The Claverings, but I haven’t read it yet. I buy Trollope when I see his books in used book stores or at discounters, so I have a bunch of them waiting to be read. I think there are about 50 altogether, so I suppose, now that I’m 58, I could start reading more of them without worrying I’ll run out!
    Oxford University Press also has a companion to Trollope book which is filled with information. I bought it very inexpensively from a mail order discounter several years ago. A friend in France is also a Trollope fan and I offer to give him the companion, but he prefers to just read the novels.
    Thirkell’s books are shorter and, as I said, lighter. I find them calming and often read them when I’m feeling stressed.

    • Joan,

      I’m definitely reading The Claverings in 2011 – maybe we could read it together! I hadn’t realised that Trollope had written so many books, as I’m now 51 it’s about time I got stuck into reading them all. I love second-hand book shops. I always seem to find absolute treasures in them so it’s so much more exciting than a normal bookshop which has books that are still in print and are usually just recently published, and of course second-hand is cheaper! The Thirkell books sound like good comfort ones.

  5. I really enjoyed your insights into this book, Trollope, and the comparison to Dickens–interesting observation.

    >Trollope must have known a fair amount of ghastly women in his time because he writes them so well.

    This made me laugh, and did the comment about your mother-in-law!

    When I was reading my Trollope for the Circuit, I was thinking about how Trollope’s choices for plots were so different from modern authors’–I can’t imagine a contemporary novel today being written about clerical duties and entails, unless they were motives for murder, but Trollope, et al wrote compelling stories about mundane legal issues.

    • JaneGS,
      If Trollope had met my mother-in-law and used her as ‘copy’, reviewers would have said that she was too far-fetched in her ghastliness to be believable. But it’s history, and I survived it!

      Yes, it takes some talent to be able to write about clerical duties and the like and still make readers want to turn the pages. It’s years since I read any Barbara Pym books, but I think she did a similar sort of thing, writing entertaining books about village life, and I remember a horrible vicar. But you’re right, books like that probably wouldn’t get published nowadays.

    • Rebecca,

      How times change! I’m hoping to be able to get around to the Palliser series soon. I’ve got so much catching up to do.
      Thank you for all your hard work. I really enjoy The Classic Circuit.

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