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QUOTES: Anthony Trollope - The Way We Live Now

From Project Gutenberg

I finished this book - which masterfully paints not only a 19th century con man/speculator but the mechanisms by which people who should know better fall under his spell - just as Lehman Brothers collapsed. The mechanisms today may involve wider circles of both deceivers and dupes, and more complex financial instruments, but the human dynamic has hardly changed. Every MBA should be required to read this book.
The novel also explicitly addreses, to a surprising degree and often with muted indignation, the limits placed on women and their various strategies for resisting or circumventing them. Lady Carbury, her daughter and Marie Melmotte all learn or have learned to assert and assure their own needs; the American Winifred Hurtle lives up to her Dickensian last name, in a portrait drawn with equal parts of admiration and uneasy awe.

The Conservative Party

At the club, the City Conservative world,--which always lunches well,--welcomed Mr Melmotte very warmly.
Melmotte was the conservative candidate for Westminster. It is needless to say that his committee was made up of peers, bankers, and publicans, with all that absence of class prejudice for which the party has become famous since the ballot was introduced among us.
He would be able to open up new worlds, to afford relief to the oppressed nationalities of the over-populated old countries.
A political master, whose eloquence has been employed in teaching us that progress can only be expected from those whose declared purpose is to stand still.


But money was the very breath of Melmotte's nostrils, and therefore his breath was taken for money.
[Some] persons could not refrain from thinking Melmotte to be mighty because he swaggered; and gave their hinder parts to be kicked merely because he put up his toe. We all know men of this calibre,—and how they seem to grow in number.
When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a certain safety in their very diversity and proportions.
Preaching with reference to his commercial transactions the grand doctrine that magnitude in affairs is a valid defence for certain irregularities. A Napoleon, though he may exterminate tribes in carrying out his projects, cannot be judged by the same law as a young lieutenant who may be punished for cruelty to a few negroes.
That which [Fisker] had promised to do he would do, if it was within his power. He was anxious that his bond should be good, and his word equally so. But the work of robbing mankind in gross by magnificently false representations, was not only the duty, but also the delight and the ambition of his life.

Men and Women

Lady Carbury was a handsome woman, and he liked her beauty. He regarded her too as a clever woman; and, because she had flattered him, he had liked her conversation.
Her husband would even strike her,--and the first effort of her mind would be given to conceal the fact from all the world.
Lady Carbury was not faithless. But Sir Carbury became jealous, spoke words which even she could not endure, did things which drove even her beyond the calculations of her prudence,--and she left him. But even this she did in so guarded a way that, as to every step she took, she could prove her innocence. .... after a year's separation they came again together and she remained the mistress of his house till he died. ... But the scandal of her great misfortune had followed her, and some people were never tired of reminding others that in the course of her married life Lady Carbury had run away from her husband, and had been taken back again by the kind-hearted old gentleman.
But he probably omitted to ask himself whether he would have forgiven her very readily had he found that she had been living "nearly three weeks ago" in close intercourse with another lover of whom he had hitherto never even heard the name. But then,—as all the world knows,—there is a wide difference between young men and young women!
And she knew herself to be clever, capable of causing happiness, and mirth and comfort. She had the qualities of a good comrade—which are so much in a woman.
"But when a woman has no one to help her, is she to bear everything without turning upon those who ill-use her? Shall a woman be flayed alive because it is unfeminine in her to fight for her own skin? What is the good of being— feminine, as you call it? Have you asked yourself that?"
"Anyways the girls shouldn't let on as they are running after the gentlemen. A gentlemen goes here and he goes there, and he speaks up free, of course. In my time, girls usen't to do that. But then, maybe, I'm old- fashioned," added Mrs Pipkin.
"Why did he go with you to Lowestoft?"
"Because I asked him,—and because, like many men, he cannot be ill-natured although he can be cruel.."
Nothing perhaps is so efficacious in preventing men from marrying as the tone in which married women speak of the struggles made in that direction by their unmarried friends.

American Women

How full of beauty was the face of that American female,—how rich and glorious her voice in spite of a slight taint of the well- known nasal twang;—
It may, perhaps, be confessed that he was prejudiced against all Americans, looking upon Washington much as he did upon Jack Cade or Wat Tyler; and he pictured to himself all American women as being loud, masculine, and atheistical.
"Or is it that you are afraid to have by your side a woman who can speak for herself,— and even act for herself if some action be necessary?"
The little ridicule she was wont to exercise in speaking of the old country there was ever mixed, as is so often the case in the minds of American men and women, an almost envious admiration of English excellence. To have been allowed to forget the past and to live the life of an English lady would have been heaven to her.
She would appeal to Mrs Hurtle. The woman was odious, abominable, a nasty intriguing American female.

Americans in General

"I don't know how you'll get on among us Americans. We're a pretty rough lot, I guess. Though, perhaps, what you lose in the look of the fruit, you'll make up in the flavour."


Of all reviews, the crushing review is the most popular, as being the most readable.
Now they who are concerned in the manufacture of newspapers are well aware that censure is infinitely more attractive than eulogy.
There was the second purpose of enticing readers by crushing authors,—as crowds used to be enticed to see men hanged when executions were done in public.
"Don't let it end unhappily, Lady Carbury," Mr Loiter had said, "because though people like it in a play, they hate it in a book. And whatever you do, Lady Carbury, don't be historical. Your historical novel, Lady Carbury, isn't worth a—"

General Observations

Perhaps also Roger felt that were he to take up the cudgels for an argument he might be worsted in the combat, as in such combats success is won by practised skill rather than by truth.
[The Bishop, praising financial progress:]
"We build churches much faster than we used to do."
"Do we say our prayers in them when we have built them?" asked the Squire.
"I fancy it doesn't do to make things too easy;—one has to pay so uncommon dear for them."
It is not that Age is ashamed of feeling passion and acknowledging it, but that the display of it is without the graces of which Youth is proud, and which Age regrets.