Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope was first published in 1868. The setting is Nurenberg in Bavaria, I think this is the first book by Trollope that I’ve read which wasn’t set in Britain or Ireland. I really enjoyed this one despite the fact that it was the third book on the trot I’d read which had extreme Presbyterianism/Calvinism as the theme. I’ve been to Bavaria a few times and it’s known for being mainly Roman Catholic (or it was in the past) but I had no idea that Nurenberg was a staunchly Calvinist city.
Linda Tressel is a young woman who sadly was orphaned at a very young age. Her father had had a very prominent position in Nurenberg and they lived in a much admired house in the city – the Red House. Linda inherited the house and her widowed childless aunt came to stay in it, to be Linda’s guardian. Aunt Staubach is a fanatic when it comes to Calvinism and like all such people she only reads the dictatorial and miserable bits of the Bible.
Money wasn’t plentiful so they had a lodger to help finance their life. The lodger Peter Stenimarc happened to have been Linda’s father’s deputy and he had fallen heir to the promoted position that Linda’s father had held. Peter was 52 and so was over 30 years older than Linda. He had an ambition to be the master of the Red House and so proposed marriage to the aunt. She had only been married for two years when her husband had died and she had no intention of remarrying but she thought it would be a good idea if Peter married Linda, and she decided that that was God’s will. Nothing could be better than Linda marrying the man who had been her father’s junior as far as Aunt Staubach was concerned.
Linda is appalled at the prospect of marriage to Peter who is not only 31 years older than her but is fat, bald, except for a few carefully arranged strands of hair and is very far from being love’s young dream.
Linda has a fancy for a young man she has seen from her window, Ludovic Valcarm happens to be a relative of Peter, but he is seen as being a bit of a rebel. He didn’t knuckle down and get on with work at the local council offices as his cousin Peter did, and preferred to work at a local brewery. Worse still he has got himself involved in liberal politics and has been arrested by the police in the past.
Linda’s aunt is horrified at the thought of her niece ending up losing the respect of the inhabitants of Nurenberg and she exerts incredible pressure on Linda to do as God (Aunt Staubach) wishes and marry the ghastly sleazebag that is Peter Stenimarc.
Linda ends up being imprisoned in her own house until she will accept Peter as her husband. Even when she runs away to Augsburg her aunt brings her back and will not relent.
I couldn’t help thinking – for goodness sake Linda tell your aunt where to go – it was Linda’s house after all. But of course Linda’s Calvinist upbringing (brainwashing) had been so strict that she really believed it was her duty to forego any joy in life and do as she was told by her elders.
Linda Tressel isn’t the first Trollope which I’ve read with the subject of young women being married off to much older men. It was obviously a procedure that he really disapproved of and as with all of his writing he was trying to point out social evils, no doubt in the hope that others would begin to see the problem in the same light. He always seemed to be on the side of decent women who got the bad end of a bargain in life. Who wouldn’t love his writing?
I read this one for the Classics Club Challenge.