on 20 November 2008
Having read (and greatly enjoyed) all Barsetshire- and Palliser-novels, I turned to 'He knew he was right' with high hopes, and I am glad to say I was not disappointed. Trollope has written 'lighter', more optimistic novels but he demonstrates here that he can handle darker themes just as well.
The main plot concerns the marriage between Louis Trevelyan and Emily Rowley. He is a wealthy gentleman without near relatives, she is the eldest daugther of Sir Marmaduke Rowley, the (rather impoverished) governor of the Mandarin Islands. When Louis and Emily marry everything seems perfect bliss but before long troubles begin. Emily strikes up a friendship with a certain Colonel Osborne and, although he is a friend of her father and many years her senior, Louis objects and makes increasing demands upon Emily to stop seeing Colonel Osborne. But Emily argues that, since Colonel Osborne is to her nothing more than a friend, she fails to see why she should stop seeing him (although - to be fair - Colonel Osborne from his side rather enjoys the attentions of so young a lady).
One thing leads to another and Louis takes ever more desperate steps, slowly but surely isolating him from all his friends and relatives. In a way he knows he is wrong in suspecting Emily, but at the same time he is unable to make amends. Once he has set his course he cannot turn back.
As this marriage is breaking up, several others are on the make: Emily's sister Nora rejects the proposal of Mr. Glascock (the future Lord Peterborough, and as such extremely wealthy) because she has fallen in love with the virtually penniless Hugh Stanbury, while Stanbury's sister Dorothy is courted by the Reverend Gibson who in fact has a previous attachment to another girl...
In a word, there's plenty of love-trouble in the novel, and although for most characters everything works out for the best in the end (it usually does in a Trollope-novel, doesn't it?) it definitely does not for Louis and Emily. I found their relationship a wonderful study in the importance (and difficulty) of communication between man and wife, and Louis Trevelyan himself is impressively depicted (in all his misery, for sure).
As I said at the beginning, not a very uplifting novel, but a very good one nonetheless!
on 10 January 2014
Well written, good story, lots of characters to follow & to love & hate, it's not all depressing stuff, there is a fair bit of comedy too. This is the second time I've read it, the first was about 10 years ago. I had spent the last 7 going into bookshops trying to get hold of a copy but they seem to have someting against Trollope. I got a Kindle for Christmas and my problem was solved in a couple of minutes, delivery obviously wasn't an issue.
I would DEFINITELY pay more for a text because of the added value:
1) It goes back to the Text Trollope approved of, not some biased turn of the century's editors fiddled with version.
2) the notes in the back explain words that now have a different meaning. E.g. (It might be from another Trollope book I have read, but it is typical of notes in Trollope books) -Spud- this was a potato as far as I knew, but a character was prodding the ground with it, who knew the Victorian land owner used to have a pointy ended stick to test soil condition with that ia also called a spud. The paragraph would have been impossible to understand without the help of the notes.
3) the introduction is helpful for all sorts of reasons, for example explaining context, reminding you the date divorce (although a limited form maybe) became possible without being super rich, and lot's of other things.
I will re-read it in another few years, my life perspective throws up new aspects I missed before and will again I'm sure.
Well worth the extra cost.
Like Dickens' works, every few years I seem to work my way through Anthony Trollope's books again. They are like old friends - you return to them every so often, and every time you enjoy them afresh. This work of Trollope's is one which seems like a very modern novel - the main protagonist, Louis Trevalyan, attempts to instruct his young wife as to the impropriety of her continuing to receive as visitor an older man, who has long been an acquaintance of her father, but who seems to have a reputation for dallying with young married women. In the England of the 1860s of which Trollope writes, this kind of social mistake could be a very serious matter indeed, and Trevalyan attempts to right this before it becomes a disaster for all concerned. Unfortunately, his wife has very determined views of her own, and their inability to reconcile their views or to meet each other halfway is destined to have deep ramifications for all in the family, and their wider social circle.
I sometimes wonder if Trollope's works would be a bit more accessible if they didn't (some of them, anyway) have such odd titles - He Knew He Was Right is an odd title for a novel of any time, as is The Way We Live Now, or An Old Man's Love. Books like R S Surtees' Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities, or Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour virtually seem to shout at you from the shelves to be taken down and read, whereas some of Trollope's works seem to deny any kind of definition as to what they might even be about. It's a shame, as I have long found Anthony Trollope's works to be hugely rewarding reads - the Barchester Novels and the Palliser series are, in my opinion, among the best works in the English language.
He Knew He Was Right is a great novel and a great example of Trollope's wonderful writing, defining and presenting to the reader penetrating insights into men and women's inner lives, emotions, thoughts - this is one of the things that Trollope does so well - while little in the way of action occurs, the novels are deep studies of the inner workings of people's lives - and in a time and place which is only history to us today.
At well over 700 pages this novel requires the reader to commit to it from the start, and that's not hard to do - the characters are compelling and the narrative beautifully drawn from start to finish. Totally recommended.
on 19 June 2008
This is generally reckoned as Trollope's finest novel, at least outside the Barchester and Palliser series, though it is rather less well-known than any of them. I can't say I have read enough of Trollope's prodigious output to be sure of that, but it is certainly a very fine and enjoyable novel, to compare with Vanity Fair and the best of Dickens.
Like many of Trollope's and Dickens' novels, it was published in instalments in a magazine, and an episodic structure results, although Trollope did not favour the end-of-chapter cliffhangers that Dickens used. No doubt Trollope's need to supply sufficient copy explains why this novel stretches to over 900 pages in this edition: and also explains why it has such substantial sub-plots. But it is the richness, variety and attention given to these sub-plots that so enhance this novel's satisfying complexity and enjoyability. At times the sub-plots seem to have developed too much a life of their own, overshadowing the main plot perhaps, but on the whole they are well integrated.
The main plot concerns Louis Trevelyan, a gentleman of independent means, who marries Emily, the eldest daughter of the colonial governor of some remote tropical islands, Sir Marmaduke Rowley. The second daughter, Nora, also comes to live with Trevelyan in London, as was common in those days. Having been brought up outside London, Emily is rather naive: she is unaware of the rakish reputation of her godfather Colonel Osborne; and she does not realise that in London it is insufficient to be proper, one has to be seen to be proper. Accordingly she allows Osborne to visit more often than is good for her and her husband's reputations. Trevelyan attempts to prevent this, but in doing so overreacts hamfistedly. From Emily's indignant response to this, Trevelyan wrongly infers that there is more to the liaison than the reality. The disagreements go from bad to worse, resulting in a separation. As Trevelyan's perception becomes further detached from reality, he engages a private detective, Bozzle, a fine comic creation, to watch on Osborne and his wife, and to try and obtain custody of his son from Emily.
The main sub-plot, itself substantial enough for a novel, (indeed very reminiscent of a Barchester novel) revolves around Jemima Stanbury, an elderly and wealthy spinster living in Exeter with her niece, Dorothy Stanbury. If the main plot is a tragedy, this plot is romantic and comical. Miss Stanbury is often described as Trollope's finest comic character, being dragonish with a tendency to try and plan the lives of her relatives and friends in directions they do not wish to follow. The connection to the main plot is through her nephew Hugh Stanbury, a journalist friend of Trevelyan's, who is asked to place Emily in a safe place with Stanbury's family in a small Devon village, and who falls in love with Nora. But there is also much concerning the wider romantic intrigues in Miss Stanbury's circle, and the feud between Miss Stanbury and the Brooke family from whom she inherited her money. A particularly witty comic device in the novel, mainly deriving from this plot, is the repeated occurrence of young women turning down advantageous or desirable marriage offers. Bozzle's tracking of Osborne to Devon as he seeks to visit Emily is another fine comic scene, climaxing when Stanbury runs into both Osborne and Bozzle at Exeter station.
A second romantic subplot surrounds the fabulously wealthy Charles Glascock, who falls in love with, and is turned down by, Nora Rowley. He moves on to Italy, where his father, Lord Peterborough, is dying. On the way he encounters a declining Trevelyan who has come to escape his torment, and a fascinating young American woman. The Rowley family later come out to Florence, ostensibly to try and reason with Trevelyan, but also to tempt Nora into accepting Glascock.
Late in the book, when it finally looks like the certain resolutions are inevitable, Trollope addresses the reader to suggest that in fact the resolutions will turn sour, and Stanbury will turn out to be Glascock's lost elder brother, so robbing him of his fortune. It is obvious to the reader that none of this will happen. Trollope is clearly satirising and distancing himself from Dickens, since twists and implausible coincidences are very much part of the Dickens genre. It is reminiscent of a similar passage in Barchester Towers, where Trollope addresses the reader (this time accurately) to reassure them in advance that Miss Harding will not marry the awful Rev. Slope. In Trollope novels, people do mainly do what you expect of them, and contrived devices are avoided. The interest lies in how they do it, and in the study of character on the way. Perhaps the final ending of this novel is a bit happy-ever-after (though really not quite), but it could hardly be otherwise. And 900 pages is quite the right length for it.
John Sutherland's extended footnotes add considerably to one's appreciation and enjoyment of this book, since Trollope refers to many contemporary matters which would otherwise be quite missed by most readers.
on 10 April 2015
Reading Trollope is rather like being a child again, in the company of an all-protective omniscient and gentle adult. This is one of Trollope’s very long novels that wanders through the delightful paths of his gentle prose and observation. It is not a tale to shake nations but focuses on the marital problems between the Trevelyans. Louis Trevelyan opposes his young wife’s continued friendship with Colonel Osborne – a fifty-something friend of her father’s. Osborne delights in acting the mature Lothario, and even though Emily Trevelyan has no intention of breaking her marriage vows, she is a spirited creature who resents her husband’s jealous criticism of her seemingly inappropriate or inconsiderate behaviour. From this point, the relationship quickly deteriorates; both sides are inflexible and intolerant, though the husband descends into an Othello-like pit of irrational jealousy. Although the novel narrates this tale of marital discord, as is ever the case with Trollope’s novels there are quite a few other subsidiary tales to engage the reader – and these, too, are mostly concerned with the marriage question and relationships, and competition between the sexes. Indeed, as the novel progresses, these secondary plots seem to be taking over the main narrative, probably because the story of the Trevelyan’s marital discord does not really develop for a large portion of the book in the middle of the plot.
This is generally not considered to be one of his better novels by the legion of Trollope’s admirers; indeed the pace is fairly slow and the plot is expounded in intimate, compelling detail. But nevertheless, it is thoroughly engaging for all that, and Trollope demonstrates his acute understanding of human affairs. The tale meanders and then one gets that typically wonderful Trollopian intervention, which is almost post-modern. He discusses the reader’s expectations about the approaching marriages as the book enters the final stages, and then proceeds to give the reader a number of possible, mostly highly unlikely unions in the plot that would be conversant with the sensational novels of the period. As an authorial device, it seems simple to do, but the effect is perfect, somehow.
on 18 January 2014
Trollope at his best. Worth to read 900 pages which are never boring. Very good writing, unforgetable characters, a good story.
It was all done on the XIX century.
on 16 October 2015
Very readable, lot of Victorian social history if you are aware of it because Trollope was writing of contemporary life. Interesting characters and good psychologically interesting main theme. Shows first stirrings towards equality for women. Spoiled by very rapid ending, all the themes neatly tied up in one chapter and sentimental end to main story and you finish reading disappointed.
on 29 April 2015
The central tale of tragic obsessive jealousy is less interesting than the wide account of the lives of young and old in England in the 1860,s, the
Limits on a woman's freedom, the restless search for a position in the world for women who were not allowed to work, but could only achieve significance through marriage. Love and money were always the twin motives .
on 16 January 2015
I loved this book! Trollope crafts his characters so well. I found myself getting frustrated and wanted to give some of them a good shake until I reminded myself it was just a novel. As fresh and funny now as when it was first written.
on 11 February 2016
A very large book with the usual Trollopian Excursions but remarkable for the sympathy he has for women and their rights (or lack of them) in the period
One of his best IMHO