on 28 August 1999
Though it's been 170 years since Frances Trollope visited the fledgling United States, most of what she wrote still applies; the American character does not appear to have changed all that much in the intervening centuries. As a sophisticated, somewhat snobbish Englishwoman, Trollope appreciated the American virtues, such as they were, but had little patience with many American customs. These included a pervasive obsession with money and a callous indiference towards the cruelty of slavery. More than anything, however, this book is a pleasure to read, elegantly written and lucidly expressed. Only quotes can do her justice: "All the freedom that is enjoyed in America, beyond what is enjoyed in England, is enjoyed solely by the disorderly at the expense of the orderly."
"It is not among the higher classes that the possession of slaves produces the worst effects. Among the poorer class of landholders, who are often as profoundly ignorant as the negroes they own, the effect of this plenary power over males and females is most demoralising; and the kind of coarse, not to say brutal, authority which is exercised, furnishes the most disgusting moral spectacle I ever witnessed."
"The first book I bought in America was The Chronicles of the Canongate. On asking the price, I was agreeably surprised to hear a dollar and a half named, being about one-sixth of what I used to pay for its fellows in England; but on opening the grim pages, it was long before I could again call them cheap. To be sure, the pleasure of a bright well-printed page ought to be quite lost sight of in the glowing, galloping, bewitching course that the imagination sets out upon with a new Waverly novel; ant so it was with me till I felt the want of it; and then I am almost ashamed to confess how often, in turning the thin dusky pages, my poor earth-born spirit paused in its pleasure, to sigh for hot-pressed wire-wove."
on 9 February 2010
This book is superb. A frank if somewhat biased view of Americans between 1828 and 1831 from New Orleans to New York. There is very little Fanny Trollope does not touch on, describing natural scenery, raw progress, family customs and personal habits. She experienced and examined religious beliefs and customs and comments on them with asperity but her particular aim is to describe the American character. She is scornful of the effect and consequences of the Declaration of Independence on the national type and disgusted by American hypocrisy.
However while critical she is generous in acknowledging the friendship she was offered and shares her enjoyment of new experiences and grand scenery. This book is everything I was expecting: witty, intelligent and not unkind.
on 22 December 2009
A fascinating travel book written by Anthony Trollope's mother, who went initially to America to escape debts and a difficult marriage. Fanny wasn't very complimentary about the manners of the Americans she met, particularly the men, but, like all good travel books, it conjures up an evocative picture of what it was like to be in that place at that particular time.
on 1 January 2012
This cheerfully impertinent book is a travel diary of Frances Trollope, mother of the novelist Anthony Trollope, during her travels in the United States in the late 1820s. While tart and condescending, it is also an interesting document about the early republic, filled with descriptions of towns, customs, manners, and politics.
Mrs. Trollope had no love for America and its rough, democratic citizens, although she made some shrewd observations. She was repulsed by the institution of slavery, and her story of comforting an ill young slave to the disgust of a little white Virginian girl of the same age rings true.
On the whole her disdain for Americans was that they were not English, nor seemed to wish to be. Mrs. Trollope gave her highest praise to the Canadian children who came to the shore when she travelled by boat up the Saint Lawrence River to give deep bows and curtsies, something she considered far more proper than American handshakes.
Mrs. Trollope is witty and observant, and if her perspective is skewed by her birth and circumstances, it is a refreshing antidote to purely American perspectives which saw only the good and glossed over the troubling.
on 23 May 2011
In the 1820s and 30s, with the transatlantic transportation becoming gradually accessible, European visitors to the US including British writers increased in number. Ms Trollope's travelogue is one of the many similar books published during this period dealing with how the "new experiment" on the American continent is proceeding. As a conservative skeptic she consistently criticizes American democracy and the people's naive or blind support of their government. Particularly interesting to a Japanese reader, is her "personal attack" on Thomas Jefferson who, according to her, "loved" young slave girls. Ms Trollope refers to this alleged miscegenation several times in the book. This "scandal" of the founding father caused discussions in the US even recently, but many people in the early 19th century were already familiar with Jefferson's "weakness" towards his fascinating "belongings." Mark Twain liked this book so much, even applauded it in Life on the Mississippi. I would have been happy if I could have known how Twain responded to such a discrediting piece of news to his beloved America!