Ralph The Heir, written late in Antony Trollope's life, is not as well known as his Palliser or Barchester novels, and this is a great shame. To my mind his talents are on display here in all their mature glory; his penetrating observation of human motive and weakness, combined with a raucous, convaluted storyline and a wicked sense of humor. Trollope knows people through and through, and it is no small thing that he refuses here to make even his villain a monster. In true Trollope form, Ralph who is the heir (there are two Ralphs and two heirs) is in embarrased circumstances. Having spent a rather idle life waiting for his uncle to die so that he might inherit (and with the old squire hale at sixty, this will not likely happen soon), Ralph finds himself in debt up to his eyeballs...or perhaps his hand-tooled hunting boots. With a stable of hunters and a fierce riding breeches habit, Ralph must do something, but what? Just what Ralph does, and how it touches the whole pantheon within his circle (and a few decidedly outside it!) gently underlines Trollope's deep concerns for his time: just what is a gentleman? What, indeed, is nobility in man and woman? And how are we so often willfully blinkered by love, loyalty, ambition, and hate? There are several storylines in Ralph The Heir, and the author does not disappoint those who delight in watching him tie all these delicious tales together in almost Seinfeldian fashion. Parliament figures prominently and the election (or rather the attempt at an election) of a principal character is so marvelously portrayed, so wicked, it alone is worth the price of the book. Trollope is a gem. Gentle, kindly in his characters, he truly loves people and when he laughs at them, I rather think he is laughing also at himself. Enjoy this; it's one of Trollope's best.