An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope was published in 1879. That was a bit of a surprise to me as it read more like something which he would have written in his earlier years. It seems that it was actually written in 1870 but was held back from publication then. So far this is the Trollope which I’ve found to be the least enjoyable, but at least it is a slim volume.
The setting is Ireland and an English country estate called Scroope. Fred Neville is the heir to the estate and earldom after his uncle’s only son died prematurely, the son had been a bit of a waster who married a prostitute and broke his aristocratic parents’ hearts.
It’s expected that Fred will do the right thing and marry into the aristocracy, someone from his own class and religion, but Fred has a different idea. Whilst his regiment is in Ireland he starts up a liason with completely the wrong sort of girl. Kate O’Hara lives in a teeny cottage above a cliff, she lives there with her mother and their only friend is a Roman Catholic priest. Fred promises to marry her and on the strength of that promise Kate ends up in big trouble.
Trollope always has something to say in his novels, other than just the story, he was very much for women having equality with men and often wrote about prejudices and unfairness in society. Here are a few excerpts:
There are women, who in regard to such troubles as now existed at Ardkill Cottage, always think that the woman should be punished and that the man should be assisted to escape. The hardness of heart of such women, – who in all other views of life are perhaps tender and soft natured, – is one of the marvels of our social system.
and … in her heart of hearts she approved of a different code of morals for men and women. That which merited instant, and as regarded this world, perpetual condemnation in a woman, might in a man be easily forgiven.
Trollope was obviously aware of the prejudice against Irish people as his uncle and aunt are appalled at the thought of him being mixed up with a poor Irish Catholic. Mind you Trollope’s Irish blood doesn’t seem to have held him back in his very successful Post Office/Civil Service career.
I read this one for the Classics Club.