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This was the new metropolitan disease Trollope set out brilliantly to expose in The Way We Live Now. His milieux are the City's financial institutions, London's exclusive West End squares and drones' clubs populated by languorous aristocrats, all offering rich pickings for the unscrupulous speculator, whether in the marriage or the money market. Among the unscrupulous are the hack-writer Lady Carbury, her son Felix and, above all, Melmotte, a financier of uncertain origins and Napoleonic ruthlessness, energy and charm, whose dramatic rise and fall dominates the novel.
The Way We Live Now, unpopular on its first appearance in 1874-5, is now widely recognized as Trollope's masterpiece. An unorthodox satire with a happy ending, it explores decadence and change in what Frank Kermode calls 'a world increasingly more congenial to the speculator than to the gentleman'.
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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.
Frank Kermode is among our greatest contemporary critics. He has written and edited many works, among them The Sense of Ending and Shakespeares Language.