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The American Senator (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 9 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (9 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537631
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was born in London to a bankrupt barrister father and a mother who, as a well-known writer, supported the family. Trollope enjoyed considerable acclaim both as a novelist and as a senior civil servant in the Post Office. He published more than forty novels and many short stories that are regarded by some as among the greatest of nineteenth-century fiction.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bookelephant on 5 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
The picture given as a cover to this edition is really a better representation of the heart of the book than the title Trollope gave it. In eulogising the English countryside, and conveying to those of us who will never hunt, even over modern countryside, the passionate joys of that pastime it stands with his best works. It also boasts perhaps the best of Trollope's bad girls - Arabella Trefoil, a heartless beauty determined to sell herself to best advantage, even at the price of sending a man who really does love her to an early grave (and whose reward is to end up with a less distinguished husband than either the man she wants or the man she throws over). The American Senator Elias Gotobed (who also has a bit part in the Duke's Children) is really a plot device serving two purposes. The first is to be the eyes of the reader, in that because he is an observer Trollope has an excuse for the unusually full descriptions of English country life which are the strength of the book. The second (less worthy) device is that he is a butt for English humour. Trollope of course came from a family who were less than polite about the Americans (see his mother's famous "The Domestic Manners of the Americans"), and as so often he portrays his US character as lacking the sensibility to appreciate the finer points of English life, and making criticisms which must amuse and annoy the English reader in roughly equal measure. For good measure here he makes Gotobed a hypocrite - as soon as he returns to the US he overflows with praise of all things English ...
Meanwhile in the background the worthy but impoverished heir and his worthy but impoverished love stay true to each other and reap the reward of wealth and happiness in due course.
I believe some people regard this as one of Trollope's finest books. I can't remotely subscribe to this view - but if you enjoy Trollope, it is definitely worth a read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'The American Senator' is the eighteenth novel by Anthony Trollope I've read over the last 2 or 3 years, and I must confess I simply cannot get enough of him. It is in all probability not one of his 'great' novels such as Barchester Towers (Oxford World's Classics), The Duke's Children (Oxford World's Classics) or The Way We Live Now (Penguin Classics) but if you are partial to Trollope you will greatly enjoy 'The American Senator' too, and if you're new to Trollope it will give you a perfect sample of what to expect in his other novels. In 'The American Senator' Trollope demonstrates superbly those qualities that keep me coming back to him.

I mentioned a 'mixed bag' in the title of my review because in fact Trollope interweaves 3 story-lines which are only loosely connected, though all of them are (largely) set in the rural village of Dillsborough during one winter. First of all there is Mr. Gotobed, the American senator of the book's title, who is on a visit to England and observes all aspects of English (country) life: all sorts of people (nobles and their tenants, curates, innkeepers, huntsmen, ...) in all sorts of aspects of their lives. Secondly, there is the story of John Morton, diplomat and friend of Mr. Gotobed, who is engaged to Mrs. Arabella Trefoil. She, however, considers herself engaged to him only insofar as she is not yet sure that she will be able to induce the local magnate, Lord Rufford, to propose to her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stracs VINE VOICE on 5 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the 9th Trollope I have read this year, having fallen in love initially with the Barset novels. Whilst this is by no means his best work, Trollope's very best is such a high standard that even his "second-rate" novels are really fine examples of his craft and well worth reading.

The American Senator of the title is actually not the main focus of the story, but more a vehicle through whose eyes Trollope exposes the highs and lows of British life of the period and indeed some of the flaws which exist in our society even now. The Senator, the wonderfully named Elias Gotobed, is paying a visit to Britain to study British society, and whilst here ruffles the feathers of the great and good of British society. There are certain parts of the novel where the Senator's expostulations are clearly a diatribe of Trollope's own grievances with British society, and indeed these areas are some of the weakest in the novel, but they are small and interspersed with some very funny instances of the Senator committing numerous faux pas.

However, the main thrust of the novel actually comes with a number of the characters who the Senator encounters on his visit. The "heroine" of the novel is Mary Masters, one of the sweet young things who Trollope creates, though thankfully not as annoying as his most famous example of this type of character, the Pollyanna-ish Lily Dale. Mary has become like a surrogate daughter to Lady Ushant and falls in love with her nephew Reginald Morton. Meanwhile, she is being courted by Larry Twentyman, a local farmer and fine young man who, despite his desperate and repeated attempts which are encouraged in particular by Mary's stepmother, fails to capture Mary's heart.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This book is too good not to have more reviews, so I wrote one. 31 May 2011
By Trebor Torque - Published on
Format: Paperback
A great story of diverse single faceted, well-drawn characters: a gracious old lady and a spiteful old lady, an avaricious mother with a man-hunting daughter, a carefree but hunted Lord, a learned aristocrat, a woman pushing her step daughter to marry, a man whose love is not returned, fox hunts, a lawsuit and lots and lots of rumors. A book which contains almost everything and it's all well done. To top it off there is even an American Senator who comments (hilariously) about the inconsistency of British life, law and religion.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Brilliant Novel! 18 Jun. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
When Anthony Trollope's mother discovered that nobody was going to help her support her numerous family, she came up with a great scheme. She started traveling to the US and writing travel books that ridiculed the Americans. Colonizers love hearing how crappy the lives of their former colonies are after they win independence, so Mrs. Trollope's books sold well.

When Anthony Trollope became a famous writer, he decided to atone for his mother's sin of writing about a British person traveling in the US and feeling stunned by the American barbarity. He wrote The American Senator, a novel about an American traveling in England and criticizing the barbarity of many of the British institutions (the fox hunt, the rigidity of the class system, the House of the Lords, the sale of priesthoods in the C of E, etc.) The American is so earnest, sincere and eager to improve the universe that he becomes a very endearing character. With a complete lack of regard for social conventions, the senator goes on and on diligently explaining to people how completely messed up their lives are.

Even though the novel is named after him, the American senator is a secondary character in the book. The main thrust of the novel is profoundly feminist. Trollope shows how tragic the reality of women from "good families" (meaning middle-class and aristocratic) was in mid-XIXth century England. All they are good for is to get married. There is absolutely no other area that might require their talents and energy than snagging a husband. The novel portrays in heartbreaking detail how an entire family bullies a miserable young woman into marrying a man she doesn't desire.

One of the female protagonists of the novel manages to preserve the belief that only she has the right to decide what to do with her life. Another female character, however, interiorizes the idea that her only goal in life should be exchanging her body and freedom for a wedding vow. This is an even more tragic case because here we see a woman who doesn't even struggle against this vision of herself as essentially worthless, a burden that needs to be handed over as soon as possible to some jerk who does her the huge favor of marrying her.

Trollope is great at creating complex stories with multiple plot lines and keeping all of these complex twists of the plot under control. This is better than any mystery novel, no matter how fascinating. The American Senator is a psychological thriller of incredible value.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
One of Trollope's funniest books 27 April 2011
By Evelina - Published on
Format: Paperback
as well as a good example of his values. A very good book.

To contemporary Americans, the book is surprising because we are used to an anti-American viewpoint from the English. This is a book that looks at the English critically from the vantage point of an American Senator, Elias Gotobed from the state of Mikewa.

The Senator has come to England as the guest of a wealthy upper class Englishman, a landed squire. The Senator looks around and finds lot of things that seem strange and unreasonable to him. One very funny part has him inquiring into how an English parson gets to be one. Through relentless questioning, the Senator uncovers that piety and even learning don't matter that much. What matters is connections and money. The vicar does not do much work. The poor curate does most of the work for far less pay. The Senator ruthlessly gets his hosts to reveal all this. He of course annoys and even enrages the English. But not for one moment does he make one English person think that anything at all should be different.

Fox hunters destroy the geese of a poor farmer. The farmer proceeds to sue the Lord in charge of the hunt. No one in the upper class, middle class, or even the poor class have any sympathy for the farmer. The Senator sides with the farmer thinking it is irrational to allow fox hunters to destroy property. But to the English, that is the way things are. It is tradition that the hunters follow the fox wherever it goes. The farmer, after all, is compensated. He should not object to his land being overrun. No one can explain to the Senator why the fox hunters should be allowed to do this, except that "this is how we do it." The farmer is dirty, ignorant, possessed of a low cunning, not even honest. Even the Senator cannot like him but he defends him.

In the end, the Senator makes a speech that results in him having to be spirited out of the hall for his safety. We are told that he returns to the US and holds forth on the faults of his native land, with as much effect. He is a Don Quixote, flinging at windmills.

Trollope praises the Senator as a good and worthy man. Trollope shares his criticisms of English irrationality. At one point, someone tells the Senator he has no right to say anything. The Senator points out that the English have plenty of negative things to say about the US. But in the end, Trollope upholds the English way, not because he thinks the Senator is wrong, but that he sees that some things matter more than strict rationality, like tradition and a way of life. Yes, it is unreasonable to favor the well born over the not well born, it is unfair, but it should continue. Because there is value in rule by the well born. They carry forth certain values, which matter to nearly all Englishmen. Those malcontents who don't agree are wrong. Every system has unavoidable defects, Trollope seems to be saying. The defects of his system are preferable to the unavoidable defects that would accompany a more "rational" system.

Larry is in love with Mary. But he is beneath her. He is not fitted to mate with her, that is how the author puts it, although he is a fine honest true fellow. He must know his place. Every man must fill his sphere, Trollope seems to be saying. Some can rise out of it, that opportunity does exist. But if they can't they must live as best they can, as well and as honestly and honorably as they can where they are. Trollope sees no degradation in obeisance or traditional deference to traditional authority.

There is also the marriage mart and the desperate attempts of Arabella to marry the rich Lord Rufford. Trollope is sympathetic to her but also critical. Better to love honestly and marry poor he believes, that to run after riches, to lie and plot and to strive to "capture" a titled husband. Arabella's machinations are fascinating, almost as much as Scarlett O'Haras. Arabella is a great creation. At one point, she thinks to herself how unfair it is that she must work so hard to get a proposal out of this Lord, who is ignorant, self satisfied and far less clever than she is. Yes it is unfair, Trollope says, but he does not say such things should change.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A satisfying novel of the English countryside 4 Mar. 2012
By JAD - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many romances and near-romances fill this satisfying novel of the English countryside of the 1870s. We go to a smallish town in a fictitious county, Dillsborough, and there meet all of the residents whose lives will interact and intertwine. The old squire, Morton by name, now long gone, has left not much of a family, but only enough for there to be several men of promise, John Morton and Reginald Morton, whose lives are the subject of the locals' thoughts and conversation. Both young men are not well known; since they have lived much of their lives abroad, Reginald on the Continent and John in Washington DC. They are both represented by elderly women who have not spoken to each other for twenty years or more. In addition we meet several local lawyers, Mr. Masters and his family chief among them, some yeomen farmers, the innkeeper, the vicar and his curate, and other neighbors, and are introduced to their hopes, dreams and rivalries.

There is lots of good foxhunting to be had, described in detail; one of the ongoing plots has to do with this sport, which was Trollope's delight. This also draws into the story the local aristocrat, Lord Rufford, whose chief joy in life is fox hunting.

Into this mix, we add several outsiders whose personalities do not quite fit any of the niches of country life. One of Trollope's most interesting young women, Lady Arabella Trefoil, who is not in the first bloom of youth, descends on the village. Lady Arabella appears along with her stentorian mother Lady Augustus, husband-seeking. One young man is already safely in the bag; nonetheless, they go casting about for bigger fish. Will or won't Lady Arabella end up with the prize catch? Much of the story revolves around her schemes to do so, which skirt the boundaries of decorum. And while the reader may not identify with Arabella, one can certainly enjoy and appreciate the humor and pathos of Trollope's depiction of a woman who is desperate to find a mate before it is too late.

John Morton, while in America, has latched on to an American original, by the name of Senator Gotobed, who has returned with him and offers an opinion on every subject, freely, with various and sundry, to the amazement and consternation of all. He is convinced that everything in America is better than in Britain and makes no bones about it, offending his hosts right and left with his blustery ways. In the person of the American Senator, Trollope is free to make brilliant observations about and criticisms of contemporary British life that might not have gone down at all well, had the character not been from the U.S.A.

Another budding romance, between the lawyer's eldest daughter, Mary Masters, and her would be swain, Larry Twentyman, carries the reader through much of the story. The contrast between Larry's ardent suit of Mary, and Arabella's matrimonial schemes, highlights the degrees of difference in these women's hearts, from being "true" to being "fickle" or at least, open for the big chance.

In addition to the fox hunt chapters there is at least one glittering ball, some additional visits to the refined air of a sprawling Ducal estate (where Trollope's beloved Lady Glencora Palliser makes an appearance), indiscrete carriage rides, flying trips to and from London by train, an untimely death or two, funerals and the reading of a will, amid which are many satisfying twists of plot.

As with many Trollope novels, the picture that is painted is both sweeping and detailed. The interior thoughts of some of the main characters are so perfectly presented that it is clear Trollope knows these men and women through and through. They are not so much characters as flesh and blood people, and many of them are surprisingly similar to people you know. This long, three volume novel is a satisfying leisurely read that will be appreciated by longtime Trollope fans or newcomers to his masterful prose and wisdom concerning all matters of the human heart. Now, all it needs is a well-funded adaptation by Masterpiece Theater with the kind of produciton values of Downton Abbey... Anyone...? Anyone...?
The characters are wonderful, especially Arabella Trefoil with her cunning and determination ... 13 Nov. 2014
By Eleanor Bellett - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is almost the last book written by Trollope before he died. I have not yet completed it, but am enjoying it immensely. The characters are wonderful, especially Arabella Trefoil with her cunning and determination to marry well - so funny. The visiting American senator is constantly amazed and perplexed at the ways of the English, especially the relationship between the upper and lower classes - a sly reply perhaps to the book on the manners of the Americans written years before by Trollope's mother, Fanny, which offended many Americans at the time.
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